‘Ghar wapsi’ (re-conversion) can help eradicate terrorism from the country, a Delhi BJP leader said at an annual event organised to mark the martyrdom of Swami Shraddhanand at Ramlila Maidan on Thursday.
The event, organised by the Arya Kendriya Sabha, had courted controversy after media reports that Muslims who recently converted to Hinduism in UP would be felicitated there. But the Sabha vehemently denied there was any plan to felicitate converts. It had also made clear that the organisation had been observing the event for many decades and that it had nothing to do with any political party.
But not only conversion resonated at the event, a former Imam from Meerut who had converted as Pandit Mahender Pal Arya was felicitated on the stage. But when Arya tried to call other converts to the stage, the organisers stopped him.
“Arya Samaj used to do Shudhi and recently the attempts by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) at ‘ghar wapsi’ were taken in bad light. I believe if this movement will continue, we can eradicate terrorism from our country,” said Shyam Lal Garg, an officer bearer of Delhi unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Arya also addressed the gathering. “People have opposed the ‘shudhi’ movement during that (Swami Shraddhanand’s) time also. It is nothing new,” said Arya, who at the end of his speech tried to invite a Supreme Court lawyer, claiming he had also converted, but the organisers stopped him.
Due to police restrictions on the attendance, only 2,000-3,000 people had gathered at the huge ground in central Delhi. On Wednesday, the police had told the Sabha members that the gathering must not exceed 7,000.
BJP Seniors stay away
Several BJP MPs were to be invited to attend the rally but after rumours that recent converts would be felicitated during Thursday’s rally at Ramlila Maidan, only LK Advani and Delhi BJP president Satish Upadhyay were kept in the official list of invitees.
Both of them did not turn up.
Some, however, pointed out that since party workers were busy observing Good Governance Day, they could not attend the event.
The party dissociated itself from Shyam Lal Garg's remark. “He is also an RSS member and he may have gone there in that capacity. His statement should not be treated as the view of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP),” said a senior BJP leader.
Before the event courted controversy, several BJP leaders were in line to attend the rally to woo Dalits as the community was expected to attend in large numbers.
A day before the event, Satish Upadhyay had praised Swami Shraddhanand. He had said “swami-ji worked against the practice of untouchability through the Arya Samaj”.
A procession was taken out that started from Balidan Bhawan in Naya Bazaar, where Swami Shraddhanand was shot in 1926, and ended at Ramlila Maidan.
“We have gathered to pay tribute to our great Swami-ji who considered ‘character’ as one of the most important treasures for moral and blissful life. If Swami-ji’s ideology would have been implemented, there would have been no rapes and eve-teasing,” said Rajeev Arya, general secretary of Arya Kendriya Sabha.
Dalits were felicitated at the event as they had “benefitted by following Arya Samaj’s ideology”.
“We strongly support the anti-conversion Bill and want to highlight our support to the legislation through such processions,” said Vinay Arya, secretary of Delhi Arya Pratinidhi Sabha.
The 25-lakh strong Dalit community in Delhi had been voting for the Congress but later shifted allegiance to the Bahujan Samaj Party and helped the Mayawati-led party to win two seats in 2008 assembly elections.
“In the 2013 polls, Dalits shifted towards the debutant AAP. The event would have the BJP reach out to the Dalits but because of the controversy we kept away from it,” said a senior Delhi BJP leader.