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Nayantara’s Conversion to Hinduism Opens up Questions on Conversions in India: A Complete Perspective

aumcross.JPGThere is buzz around in the Cineworld on the conversion of the popular SOuth Indian actress, Nayantara (born Diana Mariam Kurien) from Christianity to Hinduism.

This comes after there was word around that Nayantara’s parents were putting extreme pressure on Prabhudeva – the actor whom Nayantara wants to marry – to convert to Christianity.

Nayantara’s parents apparently are strong conservative Christians from the Roman Catholic Church.

Interestingly, after all these months of love affair between Prabhu Deva and Nayantara, it was Nayantara who chose to convert and become a Hindu.

Although it has been painted as a conversion because of marriage to Prabhu Deva, it seems her last movie “Shri Rama Rajyam” and Nayantara’s role in that movie as Sita played a major role in her change of religion.

Nayanthara who plays Sita’s role in the film became emotional on the last day of her shoot and even lay prostrate before all the elders in the unit, including the octogenarian director Bapu.

The conversion was done at the Arya Samaj Temple in Chennai. Arya Samaj is one sect in Hinduism which has an elaborate process called “Shuddi Karma” for bringing people into Hinduism.. It is accompanies with chanting hymns and the Sankeertan Mantra.

Can someone be converted to Hinduism?

Those who discuss Hinduism as a religion in context of other religions, suddenly start creating different benchmarks for Hinduism vis-a-vis other religions. At the Spiritual level, no one can convert anyone into or out of anything. The question remains “you are converting from where to where if there is only one Truth?”.

However, unfortunately, the world doesn’t work on Spiritual terms. It works on narrow and restricted mentalities.

If Nayantara found kindred love with Sita after her role, the fact that she loved Christ until then should not have come in the way of her love now for Ram and Sita. But, given how the Church and Christianity functions, her love couldn’t get any expansion beyond the narrow confines of the definition of Christ as Church had decided about.

And that is the misfortune of her being a Christian. Her love is one-dimensional and defined and dictated by someone else. Unlike a mother who has a second child and shares equal love with both her children, Church forces people to be One-Child Mothers. You only love one child, and if you have another, just throw him out of the window.

In Hinduism, that restriction isn’t there. If I want, I can as fervently love Nanak and Buddha (which I do) as I can love Krishna. My love is not tethered to the dictates of a few clergymen.

By saying that she is a Hindu now, what Nayantara is saying is that she is free to share her love as normally as a mother can do so. She has opened herself up to “receive” the divinity of all those she comes in contact with. Whether it is Nanak, Buddha, Krishna, Sita, Kabir or Christ. She has been set free!

At the Spiritual level, her loving spirit being set free for receiving Universal love, Grace and Divinity is the most significant impact of her conversion.

At the Religious level – which is where most people function – the questions people are asking are:

  • How can someone be converted to Hinduism?
  • Who can do that?

Well, yes, if you have reduced Hinduism to a religion, then quite in keeping with YOUR construct of it all, anyone can be converted into Hinduism as into any other religion. Rishis and Sages didn’t go about campaigning to make their teachings into a “Religion” – it were the others who had this fetish about Religion as some grand idea. If that is the level that we function, and we are ok when people who were into Hinduism convert to other religions, then why suddenly change your parameters for HInduism? In this world of madness, lets get a level playing field, should we?

Either function from your Spiritual intelligence or stop using the pretense of putting Hinduism on some vague and esoteric pedestal when it suits you and then bring it down when you are trashing the Gods and temples and do your own thing whenever you get a chance.

Either no conversion happens in India or it works both ways.

Swami Dayanand Saraswati saw through this pretense and used the Vedas to come up with a precise way to bring about the conversion process. In absence of any other process, this should work just fine. So, just like clergy can convert, so can acharyas in Arya Samaj.

And no, just because you have a Hindu name doesn’t mean you have either the intelligence or the right to usurp what constitutes Hinduism, specially when you have never understood or delved into the very basics. If you do by the inch, but want to assert by the yard, you should be kicked by the foot!!

Debate on Conversion and Hinduism needs to change and be reoriented.

Why is conversion to Christianity or Islam – the way its happening not good?

Also read:  Whither Goes Pakistan?

Basically, these conversions are harmful to India’s National Interest. And no, its not a fanatic view, but based on hard facts.

Christian Conversion Activities: Let us deal with the Christian conversions first. Tehelka came out with a detailed expose’, where they showed a strong nexus between Christian missionaries and CIA across India.

Cloaked as “Charity Organizations”, NGOs like World Vision as front to conduct subversion in the guise of conversion activities – which are justified in the name of “Religious Freedom”. Sophisticated espionage infrastructure is being laid down in India by the CIA using these NGOs by profiling the demographics, infrastructure and amenities at the ground level. (See “Preparing for the Harvest”

The article detailing the expose warns:

A new mood of aggressive evangelism has been emanating from America. Well-funded, superbly networked, backed by the highest of the land, seized of its moral supremacy, it has India as one of its key targets.

In another article “Those That Shall Deliver”, Tehelka paints the dire picture in further detail, where the evangelists are using methods that have been perfected by Al Qaeda:

The Al Qaeda has “benefitted from a network structure that allows passionate and committed individuals and groups to contribute to a wider purpose (whether for good or ill) with a minimum of co-ordination and administration. Widely seen as an effective antidote to bureaucracy (the corporate equivalent of arthritis), the network has arrived as the organisational structure for a globalising, post-modern world… The persistence of the Al Qaeda network in the face of unrelenting pressure is a case in point.”
– Richard Tiplady, a church-planting strategist, in a paper presented at a conference organised by All Nations Christian College (September 2003) on ‘Survive or Thrive? Is there a future for the mission agency?’

The irony is inescapable. Taking a leaf out of what Tiplady calls “Al Qaeda’s operational mobility”, American missionary organisations are, methodically and very scientifically, planting the Church and recruiting disciples, pincer-style. With George W Bush, a “born again” Christian as the President of United States, the missionary enterprise is in full gear, trying to “save (Indian) souls” and “reach the unreached”.
The modus operandi for evangelical activities is simple, even if scary: Channel exorbitant funds through the eager Bush administration; circumvent the Indian law banning registration of new missionaries by sending “men of God” on tourist visas; use Indians already converted to convert fresh faithfuls. And yes, the underlying message: work relentlessly and patiently.

The picture in its totality is extremely scary. But these articles from Tehelka do not however put the picture in India down holistically. The truth is that these evangelists aren’t merely into religious activities. If one looks at the profiles and the nexus, then one is alarmed at the close and intertwined relationships between these evangelists, high profile politicians and media. The entire network of Religion, Media and Politics is funded by Missionaries and Intelligence Agencies from abroad.

That is one reason why religious conversion issues make such a major talking point to trash India’s “Religious Freedom” indicators. Evangelism is backed by the Governments and they help them as well.

Before one accepts any money for religious work, its important to ask an important question – if someone is sending money to set up Churches in vague places in India, what “Pound of Flesh” will they extract?

Islamic Conversion Activities: Instructive is the quote by Vali Nasr, an authority on Islamic Fundamentalism on the PBS program:

Those interpretations of Islam are being propagated out of schools that receive organizational and financial funding from Saudi Arabia. In fact, I would push it further: that these schools would not have existed without Saudi funding. They would not have proliferated across Pakistan and India and Afghanistan without Saudi funding. They would not have had the kind of prowess that they have without Saudi funding, and they would not have trained as many people without Saudi funding.

To understand how the funding works, one needs to understand the Madrasa system. The Madrasas in South Asia work in a “Hub and Spoke” format. There are “Apex Institutions” – Darul Uloom of Deoband is one of them and the biggest. Most of the madrasas in UP for example aren’t “stand alone” and independent enterprises, but all owe their allegiance to Darul Uloom. Their policies, their belief system, the pedagogy and even the curriculum is decided by the Deoband’s Darul Uloom.

So, Saudis don’t need to fund each and every Madrasa individually. They just fund Darul Uloom and the rest of the system takes care of itself.

Why is funding of such institutions and othe organizations like Zakir Naik’s Islamic Research FOundation and Peace TV – an issue? Because these organizations incite the Muslims against others and are actively engaging in conversion to their brand of Islam in India. As this article points out:

Dr. Zakir Naik is a 44 year-old Muslim preacher born in India. He has gained a significant international following by establishing a satellite television network, Peace TV, which promotes Wahhabi Islam; it is based in Mumbai/Bombay, Saudi Arabia, and Dubai, and has a supporting organization, the Islamic Research Foundation. Naik has mainly broadcast his message in English as well as Urdu. But Peace TV is an ambitious enterprise that now aims at Albanian Muslims, among others.

Zakir Naik is distinguished by one characteristic: incitement of provocative disdain for any other Muslims than Wahhabis and Pakistani jihadists, as well as other faiths. Incitement, by calling on Muslims to become terrorists and supporting Al-Qaeda, is not protected speech in the UK, Canada, or India.

Naik’s IRF organization is active in many countries and they are also waking upto the mess that it aims to create in their society:

Not only foreign Tablighis but also the movement’s sympathizers within the United States enunciate this goal. The president of the Islamic Research Foundation in Louisville, Kentucky, a strong advocate of Tablighi missionary work, for instance, insists that “if all the Afro-American brothers and sisters become Muslims, we can change the political landscape of America” and “make U.S. foreign policy pro-Islamic and Muslim friendly.”

The question that is critical about Zakir Naik is – where is he getting the funding from? That is a very important question from national security perspective. It is instructive that the Government is busy using all its resources to dig up dirt on Baba Ramdev, but is completely oblivious of something as sinister as Saudi funding behind Zakir Naik.

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What we see in Pakistan today is a direct result of Saudi funding of theological and political activities. In that country, now there are two groups – One which stands up for Islam (strict Wahabi kind) and doesn’t care about Pakistan’s future and the other is the group of Pakistanis who care for their country but cannot get off their religion bandwagon. While the latter is loyal to the country and wants the best for it, the former is only concerned about enforcing Islam, the country be damned.

Brainwashing – the kind that Naik is promoting – is responsible for such a situation in Pakistan. Such brainwashed people do not care if their victims – Shias – are in a mosque or in their homes. They do not care if the other person is Sunni or whoever. If their version of religiosity is not enforced, then death rains.

Such a situation in India is not totally unimaginable. It is a very real possibility. Conversions are a step in that direction, where these organizations create a society large enough to create mayhem and shelter the criminals of those mayhems.

Conclusion

Conversions – both Evangelic and Islamic – should be viewed in the larger context of National Security and Harmony of the society. It is not a statement of intolerance but a statement of fact on the ground. Diversity is useful, and democracy ensures that. But if Democratic systems are used by those who use the guise of “furthering the cause of Diversity” when in fact they are laying the ground-work for extreme intolerance, then the society has both the right and the responsibility to respond to that situation.

Government and the media needs to carry out that responsibility. But unfortunately, both – media and the government in India – have been compromised, and possibly even funded by these extremist elements. What is the role of ordinary citizens in such a scenario?

What should be the main questions of this debate? How should Hinduism – a target of such intolerance respond? One cannot create arbitrary and discriminatory rules for two different frameworks.

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Desh Kapoor

The panache of a writer is proven by the creative pen he uses to transform the most mundane topic into a thrilling story. Desh - the author, critic and analyst uses the power of his pen to create thought-provoking pieces from ordinary topics of discussion. He writes on myriad interesting themes. Read the articles to know more about his views and "drishtikone".

1 thought on “Nayantara’s Conversion to Hinduism Opens up Questions on Conversions in India: A Complete Perspective”

  1. Faith is embeded in heart and mind. Flowers, fire, words are oral and physical presumtions. In Hinduism no one can be converted to high caste BRAHMIN, they are converted as low cast SHUDRAS AS per MANUSMRITI:

    The tongue of Shudra who spoke evil about Brahmin should be cut off (Apastamba Dharma Sutra II/10-26.
    Those who are with stinking conduct they will enter a stinking womb, either the womb of a dog or the womb of a swine or womb of Shudra (Chandogya Upanishad 5-10-7)
    Shudras must be prohibited from hearing, studying Vedas (Brahma Sutras 1.3.9.38)
    More on google Why Dr.Ambedkar burnt Manusmriti.

    Due to Brahmins discrimination of Shudra Hindus converted from, 850Bc to Jainism, from 500Bc to Budhism. Budhism was born in India but stamped out of India by Brahmins. Due to this discrimination Hinduism was confined to India only. In Asia from SriLanka to Japan there are more Budhists than Hindus.

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