It is good that there are many willing to discuss these very topical issues. To convert is actually a question of freedom of conscience of an individual, which is a fundamental Right, like the Right to Life. And the freedom of conscience clearly includes that of religion - including the freedom to change one's religious affiliation: in other words, the freedom of the individual to "convert" from one religion to another. What does this word actually mean?
According to Onelook.com dictionary search, Conversion means: noun:a spiritual enlightenment causing a person to lead a new life.The synonym given is : Transform. According to yourdictionary.com, it means : noun: a converting or being converted; specif.,
a change from lack of faith to religious belief; adoption of a religion
a change from one belief, religion, doctrine, opinion, etc. to another.
Clearly, it is a matter of personal belief, taken by an individual on the basis of some personal conviction. This right cannot not be abrogated without violating the person's freedom of conscience. It is on this basis that the Constituent assembly, while debating the subject of religious freedom in India, included the right to "freely practice, profess, and propagate" one's religion. On what basis is anyone going to violate this constitutional guarantee and fundamental human right?
The violence and political force exercised against those who convert, shows the insecurity of traditional power-blocs who percieve a loss of control and erosion of influence, caused by in the exit of persons belonging to certain depressed sections from the fold of majoritarian religious beliefs. This reaction cannot be supported on any legal, ethical or constitutional grounds.
In fact, this reveals a shockingly sectarian, narrow and violent perception. It is this same perception that is also behind the violent opposition to the young people of major ages making personal choice of marital partner, (especially if they are from different castes or religions) and perpetration of severe violence against the couple including murder by relatives, rape of the woman, etc. To further illustrate, note that the "Sadhvi" Pragya and Babu Bajrangi both had organisations to "rescue" girls who had eloped to marry boys of their choice. The sooner our people give up this kind of narrow outlook the better. After all, India aspires to be a world leader but its image in the comity of nations is not the best, going by the record of severe familial violence, and gender and caste discrimination in our society even among NRIs.
Cynthia Stephen Independent Researcher and writer Bangalore, India
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