Thursday, September 18, 2008

Inducements lure poor to convert

Inducements lure poor to convert
http://indiaview. wordpress. com/
Rishikesh Bahadur Desai
17 Sep 2008

BANGALORE: Raju Gouda of Ucchangi Durga in Davanagere district has
changed his religion twice, but not his name. He was born a
Veerashaiva and converted to Christianity in his 20s.
A few years later, he met VHP volunteers who were involved in
reconversion. He came back to Hinduism after a few meetings with them.
Now, Gouda leads the re-conversion movement.
Similar is the case of many others. "The reconversion movement is
slowly taking root across Karnataka. We have already succeeded in
bringing back over 50,000 converts," said Ga Ra Suresh, who oversees
VHP's Paravarthana movement.
He is convinced that none of the reconverts have gone back to
Christianity. To him, the process is not reconversion. "We call it
mainstreaming, " he added. Paravarthana focuses on the recent convert.

"We are not bothered about Christians who have been converted
centuries ago. They embraced that faith under different
socio-political conditions. Christian beliefs and practices are
ingrained in them. We don't touch them. Our primary targets are those
who have been converted by inducement, or under duress, in recent
decades," Suresh said.
According to him, Protestant para-church organizations like the New
Life institution (that was targeted in Mangalore and Chikmagalur) are
into large-scale illegal conversions. "Such organizations can't be
called churches. They are run by salaried employees whose job is
proselytizing, " he said.
According to him, such people are more likely to become the targets of
attacks by rightist organizations, rather than priests. They choose
particular caste groups in different districts.
In Hyderabad-Karnataka region, they target Madigas (scheduled castes).
In North Karnataka districts like Bijapur and Gadag, they have
converted Lambanis, and in Bagalkot and Dharwad districts, Kurubas
have been converted.
"Most of the time, they use a neo-convert to carry on conversions, " he
said. According to him, converts are induced with land, free education
for children and other gifts like sewing machines. "Most conversions
happen in hospitals. The poor who are denied quality healthcare are
impressed by the way missionary hospitals are run. They become easy
targets," he said.
He does not completely accept the argument that low caste Hindus
convert to escape untouchability and atrocities by the upper castes.
"This is not fully true. There may be some such cases. But escaping
caste-based discrimination is not the only reason behind conversion,"
he said. According to him, caste-based discrimination exists even
among Christians.
"There are separate churches for Dalit Christians. Upper caste
converts don't marry lower caste converts. In fact, several churches
in Kollegal have —— for Dalit Christians and others," he said. The
process of reconversion is simple. Paravarthana volunteers visit the
house of the converts regularly, and convince them of the need to come
back. They are told stories about the achievements of saints and
leaders from lower castes. The volunteers ensure that they regain
pride in their community and Hinduism.
When the family is ready to reconvert, the members are given Ganga jal
or 'gomutra' (cow urine) to drink. A swamiji of the same caste or from
a Veerashaiva mutt visits their house and performs the 'ling dharana'
ritual to bring them back. Most of these families embrace
"They become followers of Basavanna, who had produced saints from all
castes," Suresh said. Paravarathana also seeks the Arya Samaj, which
has been carrying out the Shuddhi reconversion movement for nearly a
century. Arya Samajis perform a small homa and issue a certificate.
This works well for large-scale reconversions.

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