Delhi Diary: Pope's India visit snowballs into controversy

Category: World Affairs Topics: India, Mahatma Gandhi Views: 1230

Is the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), a radical Hindu organization that claims to represent all the Indian Hindus (even if most of them differ with it), ready to apologize for the enormous atrocities committed by the Aryans (forefathers of the Hindus) against the Dravadians, the original inhabitants of India? Hindu scriptures stand testimony to these atrocities.

Is the VHP ready to apologize for the tyrannical acts Hindus committed against Buddhists in India? Or for the loss of thousands of innocent lives and properties of Muslims since Independence of India? Is the VHP ready to apologize for the anti-Sikh riots of 1984 in which thousands of innocent Sikhs, including women and children, were mowed down mercilessly?

If not, the VHP has no business asking Pope John Paul II, who will visit India on November 5, to apologize for the atrocities allegedly committed by the church on the Hindus of Goa four centuries ago or for the "alleged forcible conversion" being carried out by Christian missionaries in independent India.

Successors cannot be held responsible for the atrocities and crimes committed by their ancestors. One is responsible only for one's deeds, and not those of one's forefathers' or anyone else's. The Central Government is in a dilemma as it has declared the Pontiff as a state guest. It is still hopeful that the radical Hindus will not resort to any activity that may cause an international embarrassment.

A VHP leader recently circulated a letter among politicians, demanding that if the Pope is visiting as a religious head, the President and the Prime Minister should not attend his functions. On the other hand, if he is visiting as a state guest, he cannot address as a religious leader. A list of questions to the Pope has also been prepared: Are you visiting India as a religious head of Christianity? Are you visiting as the political head of Rome? Are you going to preach that Christianity is superior to all other religions? Do you accept the Hindu view that all religions are equal? What is your opinion about Mahatma Gandhi? What is your view of what Gandhi said about religious conversions?

Ms. Sadhvi Rithambra, who is famous for giving vent to outbursts against Muslims, has also kicked off a Dharam Jagran Rath Yatra (religious awakening journey) from Goa to Delhi to protest the papal visit. The journey will end in Delhi on November 3. The focus will be on conversions. They will seek an assurance from the Pope that forced conversions will stop.

Although Ms. Rithambra admits that the caste system is the root cause of conversions, she also glorifies the caste system. She explains the basic concept that Brahmin (the upper caste) is the brain of a Hindu, Kshatriya (secondary caste) is the strength, Vaishya (businessmen) is the waist and Shudras (fourth class known as Dalits) is the legs. "But this 'beautiful' concept is being destroyed by people like Mulayam Singh Yadav and Laloo Prasad Yadav (politicians from the so called lower caste) who have politicized it for political gains," she observed.

Now the VHP has realized that Mahatma Gandhi's assassination by a radical Hindu was a mistake. In fact, Gandhi was always in favor of Hindu ideology and opposed conversions. It was Mohandas Karam Chand Gandhi, Father of the Nation, who watered the seeds of the caste system and slavery of Dalits in India. He never wanted the emancipation of Dalits by virtue of converting to Islam or any other religion. If the Poona Pact had not been forged in 1930, the Dalits would have come out of caste system of Hinduism.

Most Indians are unaware of what the Poona Pact is and how Gandhi succeeded in keeping the majority community of lower caste Dalits under the thumb of minority community of upper castes in India. In 1930, it was decided that all communities living in India would
elect their own representatives. Gandhi opposed this and went on a hunger strike insisting that Dalits should not be considered as a separate community. He even risked his life to keep Dalits among Hindus. Hence, now the VHP has begun to glorify Gandhi.

The VHP accusation that Christian missionaries are converting Dalits through forcible means is false. Nobody can be forced to embrace another religion in Independent India. Conversion is clearly related to the wishes of a man, his mind, heart and soul.

If a person, say Christian, takes care of an exploited Dalit man, educates the latter's children, respects his sentiments and guides him to lead a respectful life, is it fair to call such acts as allurements or forcible means? Quite naturally the Dalit will have a soft spot for the Christian religion.

Interestingly, Prof. Subhash Velingkar, state-coordinator of the Sanskrati Raksha Manch (cultural protection front), has admitted that the Pope's visit is just an excuse they have picked up to take up the cudgels against the church. He has also justified all sorts of atrocities on Christians ranging from rape of nuns, burning of the holy Bible, and killing of churchmen and their children.

  Category: World Affairs
  Topics: India, Mahatma Gandhi
Views: 1230

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