Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Conversions come to Delhi on Christmas day

The conversion row that refuses to die down is now coming closer home with Hindu organisations planning to felicitate converted Muslims from Meerut at a ceremony at Ramlila Maidan on Christmas day.

Youth Congress activists in Noida protest against the BJP and its ideological mentor, RSS, following the alleged forced conversion of around 300 Muslims to Hinduism in Agra earlier this month. (Burhaan Kinu/HT Photo)

The list of invitees includes yoga guru Ramdev, Union minister Harsh Vardhan, BJP leaders Vijay Goel and Meenakshi Lekhi, RSS joint general secretary Krishna Gopal and Baghpat MP Satyapal Singh. Goel confirmed his presence but Vardhan wasn't sure as he had work in Hyderabad.

The event will mark the death anniversary of Swami Shraddhanand, an Arya Samaj member and leader of the Hindu Mahasabha who first popularised mass conversions of Muslims and Christians in the 1920s.

"There will be a march from the spot he was killed in Naya Bazar in Old Delhi to Ramlila Maidan, where a grand rally will be held," a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh leader told HT.

The rally, organised by groups affiliated to the Sangh Parivar and Arya Samaj, is expected to see a crowd of 25,000.

The conversion row, which started with the allegedly forced conversion of 300 Muslims in Agra earlier this month followed by a spate of similar cases across north India, has paralysed Rajya Sabha for most of last week. In the face of the controversy, the RSS had last week directed Sangh groups to defer 'ghar wapsi' (homecoming) programmes planned in UP and elsewhere.

But indicating the Sangh would go ahead with its conversion agenda, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat said on Saturday "those who have lost their way… if they want to return home, we will bring them back", and dared the Opposition to bring a law if it wanted an end to the ceremonies.

Over the weekend, the Vishva Hindu Parishad claimed to have converted 30 Christians in Kerala and over 200 tribal Christians in south Gujarat's Valsad district.

But why choose Christmas to honour Shraddhanand when his death anniversary falls on December 23?

"This has been a practice we have been following. Christmas is a holiday and the rally will be easier due to thin traffic. That's all," said a Sangh leader.

Shraddhanand's conversion ritual - called Shuddhi - involved tonsuring the head and partaking of the five products of the cow. His acerbic articles, propaganda and conversion rhetoric led to much disquiet among Muslims and Christians and also irked Sikhs. He was killed by a Muslim man in 1926.

For the Christmas event, RSS leaders said 100 volunteers would sweep the streets as the rally progresses, in accordance with the government's Swachh Bharat pledge.


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