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Turning about-face

Will anyone debate the 'ideological conversions' of the Arifs and Heptullas?
PTI | By Dominic Emmanuel, New Delhi
UPDATED ON APR 04, 2004 03:14 PM IST

It was on December 4, 1998, that nearly 12,000 people heard in rapt attention Arif Mohammad Khan’s passionate harangue against the communalisation of politics. His castigation of communal forces then was music to the ears of thousands of Christians gathered at Sansad Marg in Delhi, then protesting against the increasing attacks on Christians in the country.

Fourteen days later, there was a meeting at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) centre where, among others present, were K.S. Sudarshan, not yet RSS chief then, the late Kushabhau Thakre, the then president of the BJP, Narendra Modi, then one of the general secretaries of the BJP, and some Christian leaders led by the late Archbishop Alan de Lastic, the then president of the CBCI. That evening the delegation also met Home Minister L.K. Advani in his North Block office.

The faces of Christian leaders after the meetings were beaming with unbelievable optimism. They believed that things were going to get better for the community and that their protest of December 4, with Arif Khan’s outburst against the BJP leadership, had brought about some ‘conversion’. Their optimism lasted only six days. For, on Christmas eve, all hell broke loose in the Dangs district of Gujarat. The attacks, which averaged five a day for ten days, finally ended but not before Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, after visiting the place, had called for a debate on conversion.

That debate never took place and the attacks on Christians kept increasing. But the Sangh parivar, expert media managers and adept at spreading hatred against minorities through half-truths and lies, did succeed in making ‘conversion’ an issue in the public domain. The meek Christian voice, made weaker by a consistent decline in their numbers over the last four decades, did not cut any ice.

Be it Venkaiah Naidu or Advani, their anti-Christian tirade in the name of conversion continues. The former has gone on record to say that if the BJP wins an absolute majority next time, it would enforce the anti-conversion law in the whole country. “Conversions must stop,” goes the chorus.

But why is no one stopping the ‘mass conversions’ of the Arifs, Heptullahs and Ilyases to the BJP? The public certainly has the right to know the cause for such ideological ‘conversions’. When and, indeed, how did the ideologically communal party become non-communal overnight? Or indeed when did the non-communal Arifs et al become communal? And since the Sangh parivar can think of ‘conversions’ only in terms of ‘allurement, fraudulent means or force’, do they not owe an explanation to the public as to what allurements have been offered or force used for the said ‘conversions’?

And if none of the above is true, will the Khans, Heptullahs, Ilyases, Laxmans, Bangarappas and others come forward to clarify before they embark on their campaign yatras whether they go along with the anti-conversion law or oppose it? If they are for it, how then would they justify their own ‘conversions’ and if they are opposed to it, how come they are becoming part of those who promote it?

But ‘conversion’ from one ideology to the other is not the only issue that the public want to know. Do they, for instance, accept Vajpayee’s conclusions, openly declared in Goa, “If Godhra had not happened, Gujarat would not have happened”? Will these migratory birds, chirping sweetly around their

new-found love, ever ask whether the BJP still dreams of a Hindu Rashtra as propounded by their gurus like Munje, Savarkar, Hedgewar and Golwalkar, where Muslims and Christians can live, demanding no rights and privileges and only as long as the national race (read Hindu) may allow them to do so, and quit this country at the sweet will of the national race? The Final Solution, as Hitler had ordained for lesser races and alien faiths.

The allurements offered by the powers-that- be are so attractive that four Christian priests from Kerala, though non-entities, have also been baptised into the BJP. There are others waiting in the queue.

However, recruiting Christians in their fold is hardly going to take them far. Look at the dismal record of their activities. Christians have been in India for the last 2,000 years, 40 per cent of them are still below the poverty line and an equal number are illiterates.

Despite their alleged ‘allurements, fraudulent means and indeed force’, including 300 years of British rule, and despite all the Christian conspiracies exposed in the media,  their numbers are now down to 2.18 per cent of the nation’s population. Who should want them in their fold? And just for the record, the Dalits, offered allurements by the government to keep them in that oppressive state of serfdom through a few government jobs, lose out even on those if they convert to Christianity or to Islam.

In the meantime, the BJP will certainly harvest a few Muslim and Christian votes with the allurements that are on offer.

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