Filtering out: Hardline Hindu group aims to exclude Muslims from festival

Published: September 26, 2014
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Group's spokesperson accuses young Muslim men of taking part in festival to tempt Hindu girls into converting to Islam. DESIGN: JAHANZAIB HAQUE

Group's spokesperson accuses young Muslim men of taking part in festival to tempt Hindu girls into converting to Islam. DESIGN: JAHANZAIB HAQUE

NEW DELHI: 

A prominent right-wing Hindu group in India warned Muslims and Christians on Thursday not to join in a lively Hindu religious festival this month, in the latest bid by activists to step up segregation in the multi-faith country.

Emboldened by the May election victory of Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi, hardliners in his party and affiliated Hindu groups have been stirring up sentiment against India’s religious minorities in recent months.

“We are warning Muslims and Christians that they should stay away from all our festivals. The Navratri festival is for Hindus only,” Surendra Jain, spokesman for a Hindu group called the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), told Reuters.

The annual, nine-night Navratri Hindu festival began on Thursday. In many parts of the country it is marked by celebrations involving prayer, music and dance among men and women. It is famous for being high-spirited and Christians and Muslims are known to take part.

They also take part in the Holi Hindu spring festival. But this year, Hindu activists plan for the first time to demand identity cards to keep non-Hindus out of festival venues.

“Muslims and Christians do not pray to the Hindu mother goddess so why should they dance and enjoy nightly feasts with us?” Jain said, in accusing young Muslim men of taking part in the festival to tempt Hindu girls into converting to Islam.

Members of the VHP have in the past been accused of instigating communal violence, including riots in the western state of Gujarat in 2002, when Modi was its chief minister. At least 1,000 people were killed, most of them Muslims. The VHP is a radical member of a cluster of right-wing Hindu groups that includes Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

Modi has distanced himself from the anti-Muslim views of some of his supporters.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 26th, 2014.

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Reader Comments (52)

  • Dajjal
    Sep 26, 2014 - 9:25AM

    FINE!!! We wont come and dance with you… But you not getting any EIDI this year!!!

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  • Col Bhutta
    Sep 26, 2014 - 9:46AM

    An end to multi faith concept will become an end to Hindu existence . The beauty of Indian democratic progress in the continent and internationally lies in their tolerance and unity of faiths, by subsiding other religions Hindus are separating themselves so bringing them at the edge of ‘war of religions’. Intolerance in any society takes it to disintegration so ‘Narindra is advised to refrain from taking and promoting such steps.

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  • WB
    Sep 26, 2014 - 9:46AM

    Surendra Jain is a Jain.

    Christians and Muslims have different ways of conversion in India.

    I live stone’s throw away from a church which was attacked and made international headline. I moved here after the attack.

    But I know why it was attacked. They go to houses and tell sick people to convert to Christianity and Jesus would heal them. They would go to poor people and tell them to convert so Jesus could make them rich. They go to troubled people and do the same.

    They give a lot of money which they get from vatican to convert people in the name of charity.

    This is a fact and even Indian Christians know these deceptive ways.

    Muslims do it differently. Muslim men pretend to be all secular and liberal and marry Hindu women and then they’re forced to convert. Muslim men also pretend to be Hindus and marry Hindu women and then convert them.

    The latest one happened to a national level athlete.

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  • Ishan
    Sep 26, 2014 - 10:09AM

    Faking news…

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  • Pakistani
    Sep 26, 2014 - 10:11AM

    And the Indians call us extremists…….Recommend

  • Indian Muslim
    Sep 26, 2014 - 10:44AM

    @WB: Thank you for letting everyone know that you hate both the Christians and Muslims. Enjoy your nightly dance festival, nobody wants in. Cheers.

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  • Hmm
    Sep 26, 2014 - 10:54AM

    I don’t see anything wrong in this .

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  • goldconsumer
    Sep 26, 2014 - 10:57AM

    @WB:
    You guys have learned nothing from our mistakes here in Pakistan.
    Go on. Have your “safronization”
    By the way, FYI its a democratic right of every person to preach his religion. But if the element of force is involved, then it must be condemned. What else is secularism? Choice of faith at your own will.

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  • Sep 26, 2014 - 10:58AM

    And they say us social conservatism and opposition to most forms of liberalism and socialism…

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  • WB
    Sep 26, 2014 - 11:07AM

    @Indian Muslim:

    Thank you for letting everyone know that you hate the truth. Do you only like lies?

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  • Sep 26, 2014 - 11:15AM

    @WB: And Hindus are sitting and watching all this and protesting peacefully on a road side.. Try to give the other picture of the view as well..

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  • the eddy
    Sep 26, 2014 - 11:35AM

    @Indian Muslim: I being a person of hindu background , condemn these VHP monsters…….Moreover why to go to these stupid Gujju parties……Perhaps Gujarat is indeed a Hindu Pakistn lurking in India……
    @WB Never knew you were a communal man.Certain incidents of evangelizing should not be hyped & made to generalize people…..who share our Khaak & in some cases even Khoon too.
    If bad muslims evangelize , then do not forget that bad hindus too evangelize (eg. so-called ghar-wapsi.

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  • Sep 26, 2014 - 11:38AM

    @WB: The thinking and mindset you carry is the real enemy of Hindu thinking, philosophy and scriptures. Your views are mirror images of Muslims, Christians and Hindus who are no where near true to their faith. No religion teaches deceit,fraud,temptation as these are the instruments of Shaitan, Devil or Rakshas. Another point is, that it is an insult to the girls of India to think and believe that they are so dumb and stupid to be miss guided. So please stop insulting the women of this great country.

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  • Indian
    Sep 26, 2014 - 11:47AM

    @WB
    The Indian constitution protects people right to follow any religion they choose.If someone learns about or voluntarily (not covert or die) embraces a religion [or atheism] with no force involved-you should have no problem with their choice-otherwise you’e just a plain old bigot.Recommend

  • WB
    Sep 26, 2014 - 12:02PM

    @goldconsumer:

    Is it also democratic right of everyone to deceive and force convert?

    Read my comment many times. If you don’t understand come back.

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  • WB
    Sep 26, 2014 - 12:10PM

    @the eddy:

    I did not generalize anyone. I just explained the ways of conversion that Muslims and Christians do.

    Read my comment a million times, I never said, all Muslims or all Christians.’

    And as far as what you think of me? I don’t care for liars.

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  • Heh ?
    Sep 26, 2014 - 12:25PM

    @ WB
    Maybe you should re-read ‘gold consumer’s comment many,many times. What people do openly,you label as ‘deceptive’Recommend

  • @WB
    Sep 26, 2014 - 12:35PM

    @ WB
    Forced conversion in India-its very rare.Forcing a person to convert,is meaningless & wrong. If people like a religion & convert voluntarily- nothing wrong with it-it’s their right to exercise under Indian constitution & saffron fanatics should mind their own business.Seems you have a problem people who convert voluntarily also.Recommend

  • mega
    Sep 26, 2014 - 1:05PM

    First of all there are eccentrics exist in every society. Just like the Muslim cleric in that area of Gujarat who said Navratri a evil festival and Muslims should stay away. So do we stereotype it as the opinion of all Muslims or Hindus? Are we going to listen such loons in some town of Gujarat dictating the state of Gujarat or rest of India? Nope, have we ever? Sorry we are bad at taking orders, specially one with divisive agenda. And why should we? All communities are going to dance with equal vigour just like from ages. These people need som verbal ammunition to keep their organisation-money and business running nothing else. If it’s a public function nobody can stop anyone from participating or one can file a report and drag the person to court.
    @wb for few cases we can’t stereotype whole community.
    @indian Muslim ignore him buddy ;)

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  • Heh ?
    Sep 26, 2014 - 1:13PM

    @WB
    Embracing intolerance & saffron terror in a secular country ? Any Indian can choose to follow whatever tickles his/her fancy.That’s what being an Indian means.If someone teaches me about Shintoism tomorrow & I convert-you are nobody to have a problem with my choices.

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  • WB
    Sep 26, 2014 - 1:24PM

    @@WB:

    It’s to learn to understand English first before making any comment ever.Recommend

  • WB
    Sep 26, 2014 - 1:25PM

    @mega:

    If you advice someone to ignore me, you should do that first. Isn’t it bigotry to do what you ask others not to?

    Read my comment many times and understand it first.Recommend

  • WB
    Sep 26, 2014 - 1:29PM

    ET

    You purposely allow all personal attacks against me.

    I don’t mind I enjoy it.

    But have the honesty to allow my replies.

    To all the sensible commenters here who are writing moronic idiotic stupid comments, read all my comments and list out with bullet points where have I criticized voluntary conversion.Recommend

  • Rakib
    Sep 26, 2014 - 1:31PM

    (ET: I wonder what you saw wrong in the following) Look at the irony of it all: The traditional folk-dance at “Navrarti” is performed with couple of colourful wooden sticks in hands by both women & men of high energy levels. The wooden sticks as integral props are non-slippery carved wooden pieces that can withstand strong beating from dancers who wield them while fencing stylishly with partners. They are lacquer painted in bright colours & match well with the bright hues of dresses. The now-famous town of Godhara in Gujarat is the biggest centre of manufacturing these sticks. It’s a cottage industry there & literally millions of sticks are exported out of town on all-India basis. Without exception all makers & labour are Muslims!

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  • the eddy
    Sep 26, 2014 - 1:31PM

    @goldconsumer:
    You are as wrong as WB .Who preaches religion?? An evangelist or supremacist , not a normal person who if seeks respect , also knows the importance of giving it back too …..Both evangelism or supremacism are stages of de-evolution towards fundamentalism { Every evangelist seeks to convert but also wants protection from any other evangelist converting your own countrymen}.
    And in turn they create communal hate…..its a race to prove supremacism by these missionaries (Btw Hindus in early 20century creating their own missionaries too).

    You might know Zakir Naik- an infamous Indian…he does not use force but evangelises .Even the Hindu missionaries like Adityanaath too evangelize rather than always use force…..What should we do now?? Defend their right to hate & distort history , facts & preach their myopic faith.

    It has also been this stupidity of evangelism in Pakistan that has left poorer non-Muslims no option but to leave or convert….thus gradual decline in their numbers.

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  • Malatesh
    Sep 26, 2014 - 1:57PM

    VHP do not represent India, its none of their business to comment on who should celebrate and who should not. Unity is the stregth of India, I enjoy Christmas cake, Eid Biriyani and sweets, and distribute sweets on Diwali..

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  • Stranger
    Sep 26, 2014 - 2:25PM

    Hey wheres my comment on this ?Eaten up my ET eh ?

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  • WB
    Sep 26, 2014 - 2:47PM

    @the eddy:

    You seem to be having a real problem understanding here. If so you’re welcome to ask questions instead of making assumptions.

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  • genesis
    Sep 26, 2014 - 4:40PM

    @goldconsumer:
    Try practicing this in say Saudi or any of the gulf nations and see any non muslim can enter Mecca..

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  • genesis
    Sep 26, 2014 - 4:43PM

    @WB:
    Read the papers on change of name columns…you will see Hindu girls converting to Islam and never do you see a Muslim girl or man changing name to Hindu or Christian….

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  • Indian
    Sep 26, 2014 - 4:51PM

    @ the eddy

    I see nothing wrong with ,gold consumer’s opinion. Anyone of any religion can preach religion & teach about it-if its peaceful,no problem.If people hear,learn & choose to convert in good will-No problem,provided the preacher & followers are peaceful citizens. Preaching & spreading good teachings,are not done with hate or superiority-you are wrong about clubbing them together.
    Whats happening in other countries,is not evangelism,since its forced & comes with threats/fear/violence.Recommend

  • Rakib
    Sep 26, 2014 - 4:52PM

    @Indian Muslim: You are right. BTW, if Muslims don’t mingle they show ghetto mentality; if they do they are jihadis! Consider this:- Intricately interwoven relationship among communities & economic considerations matter. I wish I could expand on the story of Muslim craftsmen that make the incredibly beautiful statuettes of Durga during Pooja in Bengal, of Muslim artisan of Godhara that make wooden sticks for the folk dance during Navratri, of the Persian master-craftsmen during Tipu Sultan’s reign who trained toy makers of Channapatna to make wooden toys for exhibiting in the doll-house during Mysore’s Dusshera, of the renowned naadswaram (south Indian shehnai) exponent Clan of Sheikh Chinna Maulana that has a premier place in devotional music the way Ustad Bismillah Khan had a name of respect in Benares, of Christian Nader community from Shivkashi & Tinneveli that manufactures since old the fireworks for Diwali & so on & on. But, how would an uncouth professing boorish Hindutva-ideology care for all that?

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  • the eddy
    Sep 26, 2014 - 4:57PM

    No .u did not understand. The issue here is not about the exploitation of poor people from majority community being exploited by relatively less harmful & feeble Minority fundamentalists but rather the appropriation of the above act by more pernicious & stronger Majority fundamentalists to alienate Indian minorities & further create wedge between communities .

    One should present what majority fundamentalists are doing …ghar-vapsi.

    Nevertheless , I am happy to see that majority of Indians ,here presumably, of Hindu backgrounds have opposed you . Due to the Bengali Renaissance , there is still a significant Indian educated Hindus believe in attacking the regressive ideas of their religion , unlike their Pakistani counterparts who “push the dirt-under mat” by just declaring “conspiracy” or the great cliche “Islam is a peaceful religion” . They stop India from becoming a Hindu Pakistan

    I request ET to publish ,this time I wrote nothing offencive about your faith

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  • Sep 26, 2014 - 5:33PM

    There are two discussion boards that have brought lots of happiness and a sense of pride in the subcontinent. First is about success of India’s mars mission where a large number of people of Pakistan have congratulated India with an open heart and second is this board about Hindu hard line group where a large number of Indians have condemned the move with conviction and reason. Thanks ET for giving us the space to do so.

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  • the eddy
    Sep 26, 2014 - 6:51PM

    @Rakib:
    Good one sir

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  • gp65
    Sep 26, 2014 - 9:32PM

    @Indian Muslim:
    @goldconsumer:

    VHP is not taken seriously by most Hindus just as Indian Muslims ignore arbitrary fatwas by Deobandi ulemas such as Muslim women can only work in segregated workplaces. Any garba organizers have also not indicated they are going to deny entrance to non-Hindus.

    Unlike Pakistan where a professor was branded a blasphemer by his own colleagues and shot dead because he simply stated that Muslim women could marry non-Muslim men – there is no such violence being perpetrated in India when Hindu girls marry Muslim men.

    @Rakib:

    I definitely believe VHP is wrong on this issue and to that extent I agree. This whole love jihad issue was never brought up when Kiran Rao married Amir Khan or Sangeeta Bijlani married Azaruddin or most recently Kareena married Saif Ali Khan. This is because in Bollywood the revese also happens i.e. Muslim women marrying Hindu men. In some communities when they keep their own women covered in burkha, marry Hindu women with the intent of conversion . It is this double standard which is resented and I feel that while this silly reference to love jihad needs to stop, there needs to be introspection on the other side as well.

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  • Rakib
    Sep 26, 2014 - 11:25PM

    @gp65: I had expressed no strong opinion on love jihad (ugh,an unholy coinage) as such. What a low esteem Hindus have of daughters as if they are giddy headed silly things that would merrily get converted just to marry. If true, Hindu parents need to introspect a great deal about the “sanskaar” & upbringing they are providing since this matter has more to do with conservative but wannabe liberal but not so liberal middle class rather than rich Kareena or poor Jhamkudi.

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  • Roshan
    Sep 26, 2014 - 11:34PM

    Gujrati men and women celebrate the navratri festivities by singing and dancing. People of all religions and communities can attend this and there is no restriction for anyone. However, in last couple of years voices were being raised to ban the muslims from entering the dance venue because the dance involved couples and muslims never allow there women to participate in the dance while boys are allowed. Secondly, the same muslim men would later make fun of the women who danced with them and often with religious innuendos. When organisers received complaints they first asked non-hindus to join the festivities as couples and subsequesntly by banning them completely. This is not a blanket ban but by some venues and that too in smaller cities where people are more conservative. In a city there are thousands of such venues while ban was enforced in one or two. People in cities like Mumbai find this absurd to ban muslims or other non hindus because in Mumbai most dance venues get more muslim women than muslim boys.

    In India, people invite others to their religious festivals. Hindus keep a token fast during ramzan in solidarity with the muslims, muslims come out to play holi and light up their houses and burst crackers on diwali and every community gets a x-mas tree at home. Sensitivity here is that if i invite your family to my house and you always bring only males then after a few occassions either I will invite you only when there are no women in my house or I will stop inviting you. The religious fantatics are using this sensitivity and creating a gap between the communities.

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  • Rajasthani
    Sep 27, 2014 - 12:33AM

    @genesis
    There are two problems in what you have mentioned-
    First, about try doing this in Saudi and gulf countries. Why would Indian citizens care about Saudi/Kuwaiti/ UK rules. They will only question Indian laws and authorities. Second, you should know the difference between common man and people who create communal issues for personal or political motive. A common man can enjoy whichever festival he chooses. People can convert to any religion of their choice. India is a free country with equal rights for all citizen. Its much better then other developing countries. In case of forced conversions by any extremist group, law should take its own course. No one gave authority to extremist groups like VHP to behave as dictators and take laws in own hands.

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  • Rakib
    Sep 27, 2014 - 4:48AM

    @gp65: You said in good faith that “garba organizers have also not indicated they are going to deny entrance to non-Hindus”. It is no longer true. The ancient town of Dhar (fabled Dharapuri, capital of Raja Bhoj of yore) of BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh is now the first one in the country to put up a bold banner banning non-Hindus at the festival venue. This is an achievement of BJP, and their MLA Usha Thakur is now toast of the town. She is testing the waters to check how far can she go in taking liberties. Her long term aim is immortality in history, in Advani/Babri style, by ratcheting up the local controversy of disputed Bhojshala/Kamal Maula mosque. Everything boils down to politics finally.

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  • Indian
    Sep 27, 2014 - 7:44AM

    @ Rajasthani- absolutely 100% correct
    @ Rakib – nice to read.Recommend

  • Roshan
    Sep 27, 2014 - 12:06PM

    @genesis: thats not the fact. while hindus are more tolerant such name changes often appear in newspapers as a woman adopts a muslim name after marrying and converting to islam but when a muslim girl marries a hindu, sikh or a non – muslim, they are not require to undergo a name change and there is no baptism or conversion to hinduism, you only need to just practice the faith and nothing else is required. Hence you dont get to see name changes of muslim women in the newspapers. Looks like you are influenced by the VHP propaganda.

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  • Sep 27, 2014 - 4:50PM

    @Rakib: Admire your views. Regards.

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  • csmann
    Sep 27, 2014 - 9:51PM

    A democracy is being pushed into fascism by trying to divide people,and on the pretext of wrong slogans, as can be seen from so many comments by Indians.Such experiments will only ruin the country.Caste system over the millennia did much harm to the country,and is still rampant despite having been abolished on paper.Adding an ideological hegemony and communalism will only weaken India

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  • Freeman
    Sep 27, 2014 - 10:40PM

    @WB: First, please read the Indian Constitution which was written by a Dr. Ambedkar a dalit. who converted to Buddhism. Does “freedom of religion” have meaning? Second, why do people convert. Perhaps, as you say, deception is being used in some cases. But people are free to deceive and be deceived. It is not your business. Do you complain when politicians you guys vote for deceive? That is far more consequential. If Muslims and Hindus are intermarrying, is that not a good thing as it reduces religious tensions which are often ginned up by right-winger nuts. (And they are nuts!) Third, let’s take Christians and your allegations that they are converting deception. They must be doing a damned good job since their percentage remains around 2 percent after 2000 years of Christian presence in India! Fourth, there are around 900 million Hindus in India alone (not counting the diaspora). How long will it take to convert all of them to either Christianity, Islam, or some other belief system (such as science and technology and rationality) if, to be generous, two million are converted EACH YEAR by those wily Christians and Muslims? You can either believe in democracy and freedom for all or Hindutva and its manufactured ideology of hate and divisiveness. Choose one!

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  • Freeman
    Sep 27, 2014 - 10:57PM

    @WB: Since conversions are happening in private (for deception to succeed), how the heck do you know how they are done or whether they are even being done. Are your converted friends telling you that they were “deceived” into Christianity or Islam? By the way, our Hindu religion is different from all Abrahamic religions in two fundamental ways: there is no conversion into Hinduism and no concept of apostasy. Your right-wing pals, ironically, are copying some features of our neighbors in Pakistan: Importing concepts like blasphemy (e.g. death threats against the late Indian patriot-artist MF Hussain that forced him into exile); inventing a national history; supporting sectarian bigotry against other religious groups; conflating biology with ideology (even Indian Christians and Muslims share the same genes with Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Jains); and rolling back the secular and liberal democracy that Jawaharlal Nehru, a Kashmiri Pandit, helped create and lead. If you want to retreat back into some ancient mythical past, fine. But please do not drag the rest of Indians to it.

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  • Freeman
    Sep 27, 2014 - 11:22PM

    @WB: Let’s talk about “truth” a bit. Why are some Hindus being so easily converted to Islam or Christianity? We wont count the ones being converted through deceptive means since, as you say in one your posts, that does not represent ALL conversions. Is there something wrong in the ancient caste system, perhaps, that relegates the lower castes and outcastes (dalits) to continue to be considered less than human in a free democratic society that gives equal rights to all its citizens? Even Ambedkar author of the Indian Constitution, converted to Buddhism as his own religion did not respect his individuality and dignity as a human being. Maybe, WB, instead of blaming those “converters,” look within and try to reform Hinduism so that people do not feel they should convert to be recognized fully for their humanity, equality, and civil rights in their own country. By the way, conversion by deception (if as you say it exists) is not conversion by force or other forms of coercion. People are free to be deceived!

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  • Maula Jatt
    Sep 28, 2014 - 1:53AM

    This the future of India. This is why this country is going to collapse. Any government that goes against Indian Muslims will invite the scorn of the whole Muslim world. India relies on Muslim countries for oil, energy, and trade.

    Issue is not about conversion, intermarriage, or religion, but Hindu fanatics who blame all their problems on Muslims. They are worse than the worst fascists.

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  • csmann
    Sep 28, 2014 - 2:02AM

    @Freeman:
    That is a wonderful analysis of present India.Nobody is holding a gun to somebody’s head to convert. The serviced provided by Christians are completely ignored,the services to those poor people that state and community should provide. That is no coercion or deception.Making an issue of rare cases is going to produce hatreds. Some states like Rajasthan have enacted laws that anybody converting is going to take permission from the state, the same state that ignore the poor people,and suppressed castes.

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  • Rakib
    Sep 28, 2014 - 9:01AM

    The mystery of marriage leading to conversion is no mystery. When a non-Muslim girl is married to a Muslim boy the conversion is for reasons pecuniary in reality, regardless of all the talk of spirituality. Muslim matrimony is a matter of money too. If both parties are not Muslim their progeny will get disinherited from ancestral property & if the husband dies intestate the widow won’t get a farthing from his estate, whatever it may be. In India it’s the Here that matters more immediately than the Hereafter.

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  • iLikeWomen
    Sep 28, 2014 - 9:35AM

    Well I can understand why Hindu fanatics don’t want Muslims to be present where young non-Muslims women are present, but why the xians?? Jesus (the real one, not the Islamic one) actually protected women and gave them dignity!

    What if the Xian participating in the festival happened to be a REAL follower of Jesus?? Why would Hindus be afraid of him dancing around their women?

    Surendra Jain, and all other VHP people, need to give up their bigotry!

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  • Gurion
    Sep 29, 2014 - 9:34AM

    In other news, non-muslims aren’t even allowed into Mecca and self-righteous Pakistanis can’t see four of their own fingers pointing at them.

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