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Paul Vadakumpadan, Shillong says,
360° VIEW
Shillong, Apr. 16. Earlier when the  Hindu nationalists were in power in India there was frequent talk by political commentators of a hidden agenda.

Now that they are in power again following a convincing election victory, the agenda appears to be less hidden and more open, at least for some sections in the ruling dispensation. Fortunately not everyone in the party  goes along with it.  The slogan is Ban Religious Conversion. Every other type of conversion is allowed. I am reminded of the words of Pope Paul VI, ``Is it then a crime against others` freedom to proclaim with joy a Good News ...And why should only falsehood and error, debasement and pornography have the right to be put before people and often unfortunately imposed on them by the destructive propaganda of the mass media, by the tolerance of legislation, the timidity of the good and the impudence of the wicked?`` (EN 80).

The use of the word conversion is revealing. Here is where the hidden agenda becomes open agenda. There are enough laws in the country to deal with conversion through force or fraud. That is not the point. The real agenda is to ban all conversions, including genuine ones, especially genuine ones, because the forcible ones are rare.  In other words, the model for these extremists is the Islamic state, while boasting of being the world`s largest democracy, with clear provisions in the constitution about what is allowed and what is not allowed. Even the term Hindu state is heard occasionally.

Extremists, whether Islamic, Hindu or even Christian, are remarkably similar. They have similar goals and their means too are similar: violence, atrocities, persecution. That also explains why saints like the Christian Mother Teresa and the Hindu Mahatma Gandhi have more in common with each other, than they have with their own fellow-religionists of the extremist variety.  Genuine religion of all types unites, extremism always divides. Understandably, the Islamic state is the greatest enemy of Islam today.

Going back to conversion, all sensible persons will agree that forcing people to convert is plain nonsense. It does the greatest harm to the religion they are joining. Already in 1975 Pope Paul VI had emphatically stated, ``It would certainly be an error to impose something on the consciences of our brethren. But to propose to their consciences the truth of the Gospel and salvation in Jesus Christ, with complete clarity and with a total respect for the free options which it presents - without coercion, or dishonourable or unworthy pressure, far from being an attack on religious liberty is fully to respect that liberty, which is offered the choice of a way that even non-believers consider noble and uplifting`` (EN 80).  

When extremist leaders and their storm troopers keep chanting the same slogan day in and day out, they are only systematically revealing their hidden agenda. It is now sufficiently open an agenda for people of good will to see and judge. The vast majority of our Hindu brothers and sisters are tolerant and broadminded enough not to fall victim to extremist sloganeering. They have seen too much of the Islamic state to want a Hindu state. This is how India has survived for millennia and will continue to do so for ages to come.


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