The disconnect could not be more stark — the Centre feting US President Barack Obama, who said that India would succeed if it did not splinter on religious lines, and self-styled supporters of the BJP, like the VHP, continuing their insidious ‘ghar wapsi’ programme.
The latest is in Birbhum, West Bengal, where 100 tribal families have converted to Hinduism just after VHP leader Praveen Togadia held a rally nearby. The state’s ruling TMC has breathed fire and brimstone at this turn of events but the re-converters seem to fear no one, least of all the Centre, which speaks of inclusive growth and is constitutionally bound to uphold religious rights.
Organisations like the VHP and the Bajrang Dal, which claim to speak on behalf of the majority, have embarrassed the NDA and tarnish India’s image. In fact, the BJP’s mentor organisation, the RSS, has also made the government’s work difficult by routinely speaking of making India a Hindu rashtra. If the BJP keeps quiet, there will be suspicion that programmes like ghar wapsi have its tacit support. As for these Right-wing organisations, it must be asked whether there is nothing they can do to better the lot of millions of impoverished Hindus other than carry out re-conversion campaigns. We are yet to hear one word on education or job creation from any of them.
The prime minister has taken great pains to project India as a modern, progressive country, ready to take its place at the high table in all responsible forums. Programmes like ‘ghar wapsi’ sit ill with this vision. The problem is that there has been no public rebuke from the top echelons of the BJP. If a man as articulate as Narendra Modi were to tell such people to stop their activities, chances are they would think twice before embarking on such misadventures. The fact is that they are covering up for their intellectual poverty and unwillingness to do anything that could benefit society. But when they start to engage in activities which could polarise society, they must feel the full might of the law. And for a start, a warning shot should be fired by the government.