ONE STEP FORWARD, TWO STEPS BACKWARD

conversion

When Narendra Modi was elected as the Prime Minister of India, I was overjoyed. After all, I had voted for the first time and it had been to bring this epitome of success to power. I wanted a relief from the scams that were continuously being unearthed from the deep, dark recesses of the parties in power. I wanted a relief from politicians running rampant and arresting any innocent citizen for stating their opinions on social networking sites. I wanted a country that would be brought back to its feet with revolutionary economic reforms and renewed vigor in development. I wanted a country free from unnecessary limitations that would curb the democratic authenticity of this country. Thus, I was very happy when the prime minister announced Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (Prime Minister’s People Money Scheme, a scheme for comprehensive financial inclusion), Swaccha Bharat Abhiyaan (Clean Indian Mission, a national level campaign by the Government of India, covering 4041 statutory towns to clean the streets, roads and infrastructure of the country) and admonished ministers who behaved inappropriately.

Lately, the Hindutva leaders have reigned in the attention with the news of religious conversions that are happening all over the country. The Ghar Wapsi (return home) program, that plans to help Christians and Muslims that had earlier converted from Hinduism to reconvert to their original religion, has been set up in different regions. About sixty Dalit Christians reconverted to Hinduism in Kerala, and many other programmes have been setup by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (an Indian right-wing Hindu nationalist non-governmental organization) all over the country to lure in people to reconvert.  Even though it seems like all there is to it is the news of some people converting to a different religion, it fills me with apprehension. It feels as though we are back to rudimentary fundamentals that we were supposed to have left behind a long time ago. One would think that India has come far ahead and that now its priorities lie in developing the country, but what the people of India have to worry about instead is religion based reservations, caste based reservations, and now forcible conversions to Hinduism. Of course, the members of organizations like Vishwa Hindu Parishad, and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (National Volunteer Organization or National Patriotic Organization is a right-wing charitable, educational, volunteer, Hindu nationalist, non-governmental organization) will claim that it is voluntary, and it is high time that we brought back and strengthened Hindu culture, and that muslims and Christians forcibly converted or lured in the poor and the mistreated.

I cannot help but feel cornered and frustrated with what the ruling governments do each time their pressure groups change. Is it not time for us to stop meddling with a person’s beliefs just because she/he doesn’t feel the same?

The Times We Live In

Ten years ago, when I was a little child, when my mother told me that we lived in the Kalyuga the Age of Downfall (The fourth stage of the world development that we are currently in. As the corruption gradually developed wider in the earlier stages), I would screw my face up, and tell her that the world seemed pretty nice to me even though I was not happy with my name, my school, my teachers, and with the neighbor who would pop up at my place each time to take my candy.

Now that I’m a grown-up, it upsets me to accept that this age truly is the Kalyuga. After all, how can one explain barely fifteen year olds getting pregnant or the vulgar songs that play at every night club- be it Hindi or English or the leers a woman gets even if she is wearing a salwar-kameez (an Indian attire worn by majority of women. It is a pair of loose pajamas and a long dress) or eminent politicians advising women to stop going out at night because they are too lazy to do anything about harassment?  The horror of the above list diminishes as the newspapers fill their spaces with gory details of the rape of little children in the most unthinkable ways, of the world fighting for no reason in the name of religion and people from all over the world coming together- not to promote peace or cleanliness- but to terrorize the rest of the world! That is not even the end of it all. How in the world does one explain killing about two hundred innocent children at a sacred institution where they went to grow and bud into better humans? There lie thousands of hopes and wishes and aspirations buried along with the lifeless little bodies of the helpless, never to turn into anything more than hopes and wishes and aspirations. Who are to blame for that? Are we to blame for the selfish leaders of Pakistan who are deluded by the power entrusted to them by the people of Pakistan? Or are we to blame the Taliban? Or are we to blame Lord Krishna for predicting that we were going to live in a gory world?

To me, the people with big guns and by that I mean the terrorists like Taliban and the members of Islamic State seem to be the face of the problem whereas it runs very deep. The village of Ajmal Kasab , the terrorist (of the Lashkar-E-Toiba terrorist group) who was sentenced to death for killing hundreds of innocent citizens of India in the 26/11 attack in Mumbai, cried over him and cursed India. They even pelted stones at the reporters who had gone to cover the story and instead of condemning the horrifying act, they worshipped him.  I still remember the maid who worked at our place in 2008, Zahira, told my mother once that Osama Bin Laden was their God, and that he was the rightful ruler of the world. As astounding as that is, it does not seem to surprise me now. Families tell their sons that they can live in whichever fashion they want to and that the daughters are to stay at home and cover themselves from head to toe. And if they are harassed even after that, well too bad, it is still the girl’s fault because she provoked the “pious” man who can do no wrong. Men recruit little children and train them into doing wrongful things because these children have been taught that it is their duty to kill for religion, or that their families are living in peace and comfort because of what they are doing.

What we are told is what we believe. People are brainwashed and told things that they eventually start believing. It is similar to a little child believing in the tooth-fairy or magic or monsters under the bed. I believe the problem starts at the base, it lies in what we are taught is right. To curb the big problem of terrorism, I believe people must be shown how to interpret situations in a different way than they do right now. People must be educated- in the right manner- in a way that promotes harmony and peaceful living rather than destruction and violence.