Conversion Is Not Bad, Coercion Is.

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Recently, a group of self-proclaimed leaders of Hinduism claimed to have converted a few poor Muslim families. It was not very far from New Delhi, the capital of India. The rustle of communal politics then made our Parliamentarians bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. They played out a melodrama keeping an eye on their vote bank, be it appeasement to religious minorities or religious majority, as it suits.

Then it was up to their liegemen and running dogs to do justice to their arguments. It was everywhere, social web, print and electronic media. People started recounting how Aurangzeb, the atrocious Mughal ruler, did most of the conversions, from innocent Hindus into Islam centuries ago. They pointed to different incidents of Christian evangelists alluring innocent tribal people into their religion. So, it’s now the time for return!

Well, they are liegemen and running dogs after all. Do not expect more from them. Do not expect better from them. They will not understand. But you?

If Aurangzeb would have his way, then Delhi and neighbouring region would not have any Hindu family. He just could not do. Coercion cannot challenge a religion – history is the proof. It was rather the coastal regions of India where people were exposed to commerce and prosperity of trading with Islamic countries at that time, and adopted the religion. We see greater density of Muslim population in these regions than hinterland.

When imperialistic objective took ground, British formulated doctrine of civilization, commerce and Christianity. But then they did not get much success in India compared to the scale of their achievements in Africa, Australia or elsewhere. Rather we could make our rich heritage, vast literature and ancient civilization pregnable for their understanding and appreciation, and went on to become an exemplar of multi-ethnic society.

So, we know that religion cannot be pushed upon somebody. Mughals could not do it. British simply failed at it. But then, evangelists have exerted influence over people. Reformers have wielded sway over masses. Hope and scope of prosperity, prestige and priority can do it. And it is free for all to discuss and promote their religions. It is exactly in the same way that I can accept or reject any religion in my personal life. I can even adopt a blend of several religious doctrines as my spiritual pursuit demands. I can justifiably invent too, as you see our Babas do, albeit a path for amassing wealth and power.

Nobody must stop conversion; any clamour for anti-conversion is undemocratic and against individual freedom. Nobody must criticize departures from any religious practices at the level of personal freedom. Nobody must discriminate any individual for his or her religious practices. Nobody must coerce another to like or adopt a religion despite how great it is considered by its believers. Conversion is not bad, coercion is.

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