Aligarh bans conversions on Xmas, Sangh unfazed

  • Prashant Jha and Pradeep Saxena, Hindustan Times, Aligarh/Agra
  • Updated: Dec 15, 2014 12:09 IST

Aligarh is set to witness a confrontation on Christmas with the administration saying it won't allow any conversion programme that day and Sangh Parivar affiliates insisting nothing can stop a 'ghar-wapsi' (homecoming) event.

Mohit Agarwal, Aligarh range DIG, held a meeting of senior superintendents of police of four districts in the range on Sunday, instructing them not to give permission for any conversion programme.

The meeting was also aimed at reviewing their intelligence set-ups and identify and act against organisations as well as individuals engaged in persuading people to convert.

The DIG said section 144 had been imposed and under that no such programme could be held. "If any organisation tries to break the law, we will deal with them sternly."

But an undeterred Balraj Doongar, the Bajrang Dal's Uttar Pradesh convenor, said, "The UP government had imposed section 144 before the Muzaffarnagar riots too, but a mahapanchayat was still held. When there are more than 144 people who come together, section 144 becomes meaningless. Hindu society has woken up, and we will hold the programme, come what may."

Doongar is accused of being involved in the 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots that left more than 60 dead and displaced nearly 50,000 people. He was among the first vocal proponents of the 'love jehad' theory in western UP. The Bajrang Dal leader has 15 cases against him, which he calls 'fake'.

From this man comes a staunch defence of the Narendra Modi government, and a commitment that the Aligarh 'ghar-wapsi' (homecoming) programme will take place.

And while the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is careful in maintaining distance after the alleged forced conversion of around 300 Muslims to Hinduism in Agra triggered an uproar in Parliament and drew widespread condemnation from Islamic organisations, there are many in the party who support such events.

"Conversions have happened when Hindus, under the threat of the gun, moved to Islam. Now our brothers and sisters want to come back," Doongar told HT over phone from Meerut.

Stressing that the fresh conversions are voluntary -- a stand reiterated by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) affiliate after the Agra controversy, Doongar said, "Islam is like a jail; you think women want to be in burqas? They want to unchain themselves and since we believe in atithi devo bhava (guests are gods), we will welcome them back."

Doongar's claims, however, are not in sync with the facts on the ground.

Both in Agra and Aligarh, Hindutva activists are believed to be carefully identifying people before conversion events and investing money in bringing them to the Hindu fold.

This came out in the open when a letter written by a Dharma Jagran Manch functionary seeking donation for the cause became public last week.

The Dharma Jagaran Manch is another RSS affiliate and allegedly behind the Agra 'conversions' along with the Bajrang Dal.

The undated letter issued by Rajeshwar Singh, the unit’s kshetra pramukh, claims the ‘homecoming’ exercise has brought back to Hinduism 40,000 people in 20 districts, including 2,000 Muslims, and talks about its aim to ‘reconvert’ one lakh people in 2014.

The letter has also asked for donations of Rs 2 lakh to ‘reconvert’ Christians and Rs 5 lakh for Muslims, explaining that expenses are incurred in such exercises.

But that does not deter the Bajrang Dal. They have other plans.

Ajju Chauhan, who was at the forefront of the Agra 'conversion' episode and is the co-convenor of the organisation, told HT that they were now launching a new campaign: 'Beti bachao, bahu lao (save the daughter, bring a daughter-in-law)'.

Since the Sangh-affiliated outfits claim that Hindu women are 'trapped' by Muslim men, they now want to turn the tables.

When asked if they would welcome Muslim women to Hindu homes, Chauhan said, "Yes, get them and make them Hindus."

Doongar and Chauhan's statements and actions may appear to be that of a fringe group within the Sangh, but their proximity to the BJP is hard to miss.

Doongar praises the Modi government for "bringing down prices, showing China and US their places". When asked if Hindutva issues were being addressed, he said, "It is not a light bulb one can switch on and off. The government is on track and will address all issues."

Others in the group are confident that it is only a matter of time before the ruling Samajwadi Party (SP) is ousted and the BJP returns to power in UP in the 2017 assembly elections.

The BJP, however, officially has nothing to do with their statements or the upcoming Aligarh event.

The party MP from the city, Satish Gautam, told HT, "RSS is a different outfit, BJP is a different outfit. Arya Samaj and Dharma Jagran Manch are different. We have nothing to do with the event on 25th (of December)."

But Gautam added they would object if the SP government disallowed it.

"Ghar-wapsi events have happened in the past as well. They take place in a big public park, with a havan. I don't know why it has been made an issue this time. If the SP wants to draw political mileage out of this, it is very wrong."

Another party leader said all activities that 'awaken the Hindu consciousness' were good for the 'society and the party'.

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