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Remembering Arya Samaj – A pioneering initiative in reviving Hinduism

Recently, there was an outrage about a village in Andhra Pradesh because it had banned Christian evangelists from entering. The contention here is, that Hindu’s are ‘intolerant’ and ‘regressive’. There is a kind of victim mentality among Hindus who complain against religious conversions. Similarly, among secular-liberals, there is a vehement defence of ‘right to religious freedom’ as it is a fundamental right assured in the constitution.

Article 25(1) of the constitution says : Subject to public order, morality and health and to the other provisions of this Part, all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion

The concerns of right wing regarding fraudulent conversions are real and worth attending to. At the same time, defenders of Hinduism have probably forgotten that they too have the right to propagate and convert people of other faiths to Hinduism using the same fundamental right provided in the constitution. Rather than arguing for a ban on conversions, they must make use of the level playing field provided by the constitution.

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Dayananda Saraswati’s Arya Samaj laid foundations to Hindu Revivalism

The way forward had been shown by Dayananda Saraswati, a Swami who managed to miff Hindus, Muslims and Christians with his mission to revive Hinduism. 10th April is supposed to be the foundation day (another source claims that the foundation day was 7th April) of Arya Samaj. The goal of Arya Samaj was to revive Vedic Hinduism and also help Muslim and Christian converts to return to their parent faith.  On this occassion it is apt to remember the work of Arya Samaj.

Dayananda Saraswati started the Shuddhi movement through which Muslims and Christians could return to their original faith after performing certain rituals. His movement was strongly opposed by Muslims. The Arya Samaj website says the following about the Shuddhi movement.

The first recorded shuddhi of a born Muslim was reported in 1877, when Dayanand Saraswati performed the shuddhi of a Muslim man from Dehra Dun, The first attempts by the Aryas at mass conversions of Muslim groups dates back to 1908, when Arya missionaries began touring certain area of India calling upon newly converts to Islam to renounce Islam which had been forcibly imposed on them. Arya missionaries found that some who claimed to be Muslim but still followed several Hindu customs and beliefs, as their ‘ancestral religion’.

Arya Samaj did excellent work on taking the depressed classes back into the Hindu fold during that period. The Arya Samajis never cut themselves aloof from the main stream of Hindu thought. There was vast difference in the scriptural authorities of these religions as Islam and Christianity claimed divine authority from their Quran and Bible respectively while Vedas of Hinduism didn’t put up such claims until the founder of Arya Samaj, Maharishi Swami Dayananda strived to give the Vedas the similar degree of supernatural authority.

Those who talk of Hindu intolerance must note the fate that an Arya Samaj follower Swami Shraddhanand met for converting Muslims back to Hinduism. He was assassinated by a Muslim man named Abdul Rashid. In stark contrast, the Andhra village has restricted itself only to banning evangelists.

In my opinion, the right wing can very well use the provisions provided in the constitution to its advantage as well. In fact the attempt had got the tag ‘Gharwapsi’, which had met with severe backlash from ‘secular’ brigade.

The hypocrisy of secular gang on Gharwapsi

Whenever the secular gang wants to criticise the ‘Hindutva’ agenda, it does not forget to raise the issue of ‘Gharwapsi’. In an article titled : When all else fails, Yogi Adityanath pushes the Hindutva button, a writer says

Over the past  seven months since he rode to power, the saffron-clad inimitable BJP leader has been coming up with subtle ways of keeping the Hindutva flame alive. Having created much hype with volatile issues like “love jihad”, “ghar wapsi”, “cow slaughter”, with which he skillfully served his political purpose of polarising Hindus.

In another article published in Firstpost another votary of secularism says the following :

However, political analyst and writer Anand Pradhan is against making the “nonsense of ghar vapsi” an agenda of public debates. “Instead of talking about important issues like elimination of poverty, creation of jobs, development and bringing back black money which were the prime minister’s pre-poll promises, we are discussing nonsense like ‘love jihad’ and ‘ghar vapsi’, which are lowering public discourse. It is most unfortunate and even dangerous. All these controversies are being fuelled with an aim to divert people’s attention from the promised development,” he said.

Thus, the liberal logic is, when Hindus try to convert, it is an instrument of polarisation. If other religions try to convert Hindus, it is freedom to propagate one’s religion as per the constitution. This hypocrisy needs to be fought and an active mechanism for converting non-Hindus to Hinduism can be set up in order to bring about a parity between all faiths as far as conversion by free will is concerned.

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