Ram Gopal, the president of the Dharam Jagran Manch’s Punjab unit, that is leading the “ghar wapsi” (conversion) programme of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in the state spoke to assistant editor Chitleen K Sethi on Tuesday on the activities of the manch, its relationship with the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee, the Shiromani Akali Dal and the BJP:
This ghar wapsi programme in Amritsar, is it politics or religion? Is it because the BJP is in power in the country?
Our work is not dependent on any government. We were doing this even when the BJP was not in power. Governments, be it any government, are interested in playing votebank politics and that does not go along with our activities. We have our team of dedicated workers and we work through our own network. Our motivation is the Hindu religion and we work for Hindustan. In fact, we are generally faced with political opposition than support.
Is this the first such programme organised in Punjab?
The work of the manch in Punjab is not new. It has only come into the limelight today. Last year, we got 2,470 Christian “Balmikis” to become Sikhs. These ghar wapsi programmes were organised in Tanda, Dasuya and Mukerian. We celebrated Balmiki Jayantis in these villages and set up temples for Balmikis.
How does it help the cause of the manch to convert Christians into Sikhs?
Hindus and Sikhs share a common history. Today, Sikhs have a separate identity, but we are bound by flesh and blood. Sikhi ke prachaar se hindutva ko koi khatra nahin (If Sikhism flourishes in Punjab, it is not a threat to Hindusim).
But wherever Christianity and Islam increase their influence it damages both Hinduism and Sikhism.
But is it not the SGPC’s work to get people back into the fold of Sikhism?
The SGPC had initially supported us in the ‘ghar wapsi’ programmes. Bibi Kiranjot Kaur and Daljit Singh Bedi had come for these.
But now the SGPC does not come out openly with us which is unfortunate as there is so much work to do. The SGPC’s prachar committee cannot see what is happening. The SGPC only talks about dharam prachar. We don’t know what they are actually doing.
Why do you think the SGPC withdrew its support?
The SGPC is not an independent body. It cannot go against the decisions taken by its political masters. SGPC kee majboori hai (The SGPC is helpless). Its president Avtar Singh Makkar gave a statement about getting converted Sikhs back into the fold of religion and we supported him. But this movement cannot be limited to newspaper statements. The SAD has also opposed the ghar wapsi programme. These are political people rooted in votebank politics. At the Shaheedi Jor Mela, the chief minister talked about the sacrifice of Guru Teg Bahadur resisting conversion. But giving lectures is not enough. Now also, those who are being taken back into the Sikh fold are among the lower caste Sikhs and Punjab politics is dominated by a single caste.
Who is supporting you in these programmes?
For the balmikis the balmiki samaj helped us. Now the sant samaj is helping us for the ghar wapsi of Mazhabi Sikhs (those from the low castes).
How do you motivate people for ghar wapsi?
We invoke self respect. We create awareness about their history. We associate the Mazhabi Sikhs with the role played by Bhai Jeevan Singh in Sikh history. “Ek baar yeh apne itihaas ke saath jud jaate hain to inko atam glani hoti hai (Once they understand their history, they are filled with guilt).
We don’t give them any money or promise anything else.