And on the Broader Scene
WAR OF WORDS
TV channel CNBC telecast a 1 hour episode 'WAR OF WORDS' on Saturday 27th September at 9 p.m. covering the burning topical issue of 'CONVERSIONS'.
Anchored by the well-known KARAN THAPAR (KT) the other panelists were :
BALBIR PUNJ – (BP) - Rajya Sabha MP (Orissa) - BJP
B. J. PANDA – (BJP) - Rajya Sabha MP (Orissa) – Biju Janta Dal
FATHER DOMNIC EMMANUEL – (DE) - Priest
JAVED AKHTAR – (JA) - Well known writer
FALI NARIMAN – (FN) - Constitutional Expert
ABHISHEK SINGHVI – (AS) - Rajya Sabha MP (Rajasthan) – Congress
Gist of the telecast
ON VIOLENCE AGAINST CHRISTIANS
KT : Mr. Punj what do you have to say about the allegations that your party ruled states are encouraging attacks on Christians, for instance in Karnataka it is alleged that policemen are involved in attacks on nuns and churches? Isn't it time for BJP to hang its head in shame?
DE : Not only in Karnataka, but all over Secular Hindu Organizations like the VHP and Bajrang Dal have killed more than 3000 Christians and attacked innumerable churches. Little or no action has been taken by the government.
BP : The Christians have themselves triggered this violence by resorting to indiscriminate conversions and the killing of Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and his associates in Orissa. The Christians are not above the law.
JA : Swamy Laxmanananda Saraswati was killed by Maoists not Christians. The BJP government of Orissa is supporting the BJD. Otherwise how is it that Pravin Tagodia of BJD was permitted to visit the trouble spots in Orissa and also take out a processions when even the Home Minister was not.
BJP : The violence in Orissa has been controlled by the State Government to a great extent. Incidents from Kandhamal are now only sporadic. You must realize that the area is vast – 1000 Sq. Km of Jungle terrain and very difficult for the Police to Patrol. We have asked the Centre for helicopters and Central Reserve Police Force but have got no response. Not permitting Tagodia to participate in the funeral ceremonies would have only escalated the tensions and led to greater violence. Necessary steps are being taken to maintain law and order.
KT : Are you saying Orissa is too big to govern or the centre is not sympathetic?
AS : How come steps are not taken by the state legal machinery whereas organizations which have blessings of BJP state governments take the law into their own hands. Why has no action been taken by legal means in the BJP governed state of MP – where an anti conversion law is in existence since the last 30 years, even in a single case. Why is violence then prevalent – even in that State?
KT : Should Bajrang Dal be banned?
JA : Banning of both SIMI and Bajrang Dal was recommended by 3 states sometime back – how is it that finally only SIMI was banned by the Central Government and not Bajrang Dal.
AS : Banning organizations necessitates a process and the procedure takes time. We have sent advisories to the Orissa and Karnataka State Governments.
KT : You send advisories to only non Congress ruled States – What about Nandigram & Delhi?
AS : Why do you make this into a party debate……
JA : You talk about Gujarat to the BJP and they point out to the 84 riots in Delhi…..
KT : So according to you the BJP ruled state governments have failed in their duty to maintain law and order.
JA : They have not only failed but are in cahoots with organizations like BJD and VHP.
BJP : Banning of VHP or Bajrang Dal is not the solution – organizations can easily reinvent themselves under different names. There is no problem per se between the Christians and Hindus. It is a problem between the church and Hindu organizations who oppose the practice of conversions adopted by the church.
BP : Ban conversions to bring an end to the problem.
FN : I feel depressed and sad listening to this. I am an Indian first and then a constitutional expert. Hindus, Christians, Muslims, Parsis – all of us are Indians first. This debate is only leading to pointing fingers at others and creating ill-will. Let it be a discussion on how to resolve this problem instead of playing the blame game. Under Article 355 of the constitutions it is the duty of the Centre to ensure law and order is maintained in the state. I think powers should be given to the Governors to protect the minorities in the state.
ON THE ISSUE OF CONVERSIONS :
KT : Coming to the charge of the arrogant Christian attitude towards Hindus and the denigration of Hindu Gods and Godesses. Why can't you leave people free to choose their Gods or change them? No one has the right to come between me and my God.
BP : As you said no one should come between me and my God but the VATICAN has allotted billions of dollars towards their budget of encouraging conversions.
DE : That is absolutely false. People convert by their own choice. Recently an RSS worker in Orissa – Rakesh Pradhan has recognized Jesus and as you said everyone has the right to change to a Superior faith.
KT : WHO GAVE YOU THE RIGHT TO DECIDE OR JUDGE WHICH FAITH IS SUPERIOR? Doing good service in schools, hospitals, leprosy missions – which we all recognize and appreciate; should not be used to induce and entice people to convert, even out of gratitude. It is exploiting poverty and illiteracy to tempt the downtrodden into conversion by doing good work!
FN : When the Constitution of India was being prepared in 1948/49 there was resistance to the word “Propagate” and the use of the word “practice” was suggested – unfortunately “Freedom to Propagate your religion” was adopted. It is time an amendment be made to replace the word propagate with practice, to make it abundantly clear – legally i.e. FREEDOM TO PRACTISE (not propagate) RELIGION.
JA : If the church was truly resorting to conversions then how is it that between 1991 and 2001 there has been a drop in the Christian population of India from 2.8% to 2.3%. In a country where 50% of population lives below the poverty line we should have seen a large increase.
DE : We manage 20,000 schools and run 6,000 hospitals and orphanages in India – where then are the numbers to support this allegation?
KT : But there has been an increase in the Christian population in the specific troubled areas– like Kandhamal in Orissa has witnessed an increase of 179% in Christian population between 1981 and 2001 whereas the increase has been only 10% in the case of Hindus and 70% in the case of Muslims.
DE : But in this country everyone is free to convert. Kandhamal is a tribal region and it is tribal mentality that when the chief converts, all convert. Why don't you stop the reconversions by Hindus.
KT : What's wrong with that? Why do you protest against Reconversions of converted Hindus back to Hinduism. RECONVERSION is only CONVERSION by a different name.
BJP : The Constitution defends the freedom of every citizen to profess, practice and propagate their religion. This cannot be taken as freedom to encourage conversion. They are taking advantage in tribal areas, of the new manifestation of the decades old ethnic problem prevailing amongst the tribal population – disputes of tribal lands going into the hands of non-tribals.
KT : Should the Church agree in the larger national interests to a 10 to 15 year moratorium period to allow things to cool down – Lets say no conversions for the next 10 years?
DE : NO! Can you agree to a moratorium on your conscience or freedom. Action must be taken against organizations like BJD, VHP who encroach on the freedom of others by causing disturbances on Valentine Day etc.
SUMMING UP :
KT : Why even after 2000 years on Indian Soil is there distrust?
BP : Because of their attitude and attempts of conversion. Take the instance of NEW LIFE CHURCH that runs these beautiful missionary schools distributing SATYA DARSHINI booklets. The state government needs to take firm action against the miscreants.
KT : The booklet 'SATYA DARSHINI' states that the Hindu Gods Brahma, Vishnu, Krishna are victims of lust ……………
DE : It is not the NEW LIFE CHURCH that has published this booklet. It is the work of some other organization and we are not associated with them. They must be condemned, Gods are not to be denigrated.
KT : But two clergymen are behind it and Catholics constitute 70% of Christianity. So how can you disassociate with them? Danish cartoons inflamed the Muslim world – don't you think the Hindus would also protest against this insult
JA : If any organization is rotten by all means, pin it down and take action against it but don't hold the entire Christianity Community responsible.
BP : As far back as 1941, even Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi observed that the church abused Hindu Gods and Goddesses and induced Hindus to conversions! Even the Niyogi Commission Report of 1956 cites instances of the church printing and distributing Christian literature with the objective of encouraging conversions.
KP : We are running out of time and would now give FN the opportunity of having the last word.
FN : THE CHURCH MUST CONDEMN SUCH LITERATURE. HOWEVER THERE SHOULD BE NO VIOLENCE AGAINST CHRISTIANS OR ANY MINORITY COMMUNITY.