Right-wing fringe groups have done more to damage this government than any of its political opponents. From trying to rewrite history to conversions to Hinduism, they have kept the pot boiling and pushed the government into a corner in Parliament. While the government has said it is ready for a discussion, it needs to go beyond this. The latest provocation is the reconversion, as it is being termed, of 57 Muslim families by the Dharma Jagran Samavay Vibhag, an offshoot of the Bajrang Dal and the RSS. The RSS has gone further in saying that 4,000 Christian and 1,000 Muslim families will be converted by Christmas in Bulandshahr, Hathras and Aligarh.
The targets are mainly poor people who are being offered BPL cards, Aadhaar cards and money. In fact, there is allegedly a sum of money being allocated for each conversion. The government cannot afford to allow this communalisation and polarisation to go unchecked. While this may be with an eye on votebanks, it is doing incalculable damage to our secular fabric.
The fact that some Muslim groups have entered the fray and have threatened to reconvert the converted only makes things more complicated and dangerous. This competitive communalism must stop. No cultural or political organisation has the right to convert anyone. It is a matter of faith between the person and his or her clergy.
The BJP came to power on the plank of development, but the right-wing groups associated with it seem singularly focused on religion and culture. It has involved not just the fringe groups but even ministers in the Cabinet who have thought nothing of uttering unacceptable communal sentiments. These words and acts have the potential of causing communal disturbances unless they are nipped in the bud. In fact, anyone trying to convert or reconvert anyone using incentives should be put behind bars.
These people now find themselves in a religious limbo with self-styled custodians of both faiths shunning and threatening them. The government cannot prevaricate on this issue. The BJP has to tell affiliates of its mentor organisation, and the RSS itself, the legal repercussions. Having to deal with the political fallout of such activities by these groups will prevent the government from carrying out the crucial business of governance.