Indian civilization is purely religious in its social connotation and Hinduism is being practiced here before the start of history. Over the years, the Sanatan dharma has borne the pain of mass rape, murder, loot, and proselytisation from the Islamic & British rule due to its distinct religious identity from others. After the formal creation of a nation-state on the modern values of secularism, Hindus were expecting better treatment from the ‘modern’ constitution of the ‘modern’ state. But some tools provided under the veil of fundamental rights have given a free hand to the state to once again bring the Hindus under the subversion of some other religions.
Forced Conversions in schools
Hearing a petition filed by Advocate B Jagannath seeking directions to the education department to take corrective measures to prohibit, prevent and ban proselytization and forced religious conversions in government-run educational institutions, the Madras High Court has asked the State Government “what was the difficulty in framing guidelines against alleged forced religious conversions in government schools”. The court observed that “though the Constitution gives a right to profess a religion of one’s choice, it does not give a right to forcibly convert”.
Further, explaining the rampant religious conversions in government-run schools the advocate said, “Hindu girls were being targeted by Christian missionaries through State Government backing and open sponsoring. These students were facing humiliation, discrimination, hatred, and bigotry coupled with intolerance of their religion, and the officials and politicians belonging to the ruling party had a careless attitude towards this group of students”.
Article 25 of the Indian constitution provides the freedom of propagation of religion, further article 30 provides the minorities with the right to establish & administer educational institutions. Moreover, clause 2 of Article 30 gives extra rights to educational institutions established under the provisions to get equal grant-in-aid from the State as is being given to other ‘secular’ educational institutions.
When we read the provisions of Article 25 with the provisions of Article 30(2), it seems that the Constitution of India has institutionalized the state-sponsored religious conversions in religious educational institutions. In a way, a tool has been provided by religious missionaries to convert the majority of Hindus under the veil of Constitutional rights.
Modus-operandi of forceful conversions in convent schools
Although the law prohibits forceful conversions to any religion, there is a very thin line between the ‘forceful conversions’ and the ‘persuasive conversions’. Taking the benefit of the law, religious missionaries in the convent schools try to intimidate the Hindu students based on their religious identities. Bashing & shaming based on some religious practices, rituals, or other identities are being seen in these schools.
There are various news-reports of government-aided or government-run schools, where students are either coerced or persuaded to convert to Christianity. In the news related to that, students of ZPHS government school Vikarabad, Telangana alleged that “our math teacher K Ratnam is asking us to convert to Christianity so that we get gifts and money from the US ”.
“Our maths teacher K Ratnam is asking us to convert to Christianity so that we get gifts and money from the US”: Students of ZPHS Govt School students at Mailwar, Vikarabad, Telangana
Students further alleged that he is.. (1/n) pic.twitter.com/JWV2yeVy4E
— Legal Rights Protection Forum (@lawinforce) January 16, 2022
There are further various reports of religious conversions in these government-aided minority-run educational institutions which are forcing Hindu students to convert to Christianity. They lure students with foreign scholarships and those who oppose such proselytizing activities are being termed, religious bigots.
To stop such state-sponsored religious conversions, an overhaul change in the constitution needs to be brought to amend the fundamental rights which are being used as tools to force conversions of Hindus. The institutionalized process of religious conversions needs to be corrected with constitutional amendments.
The Madras high court’s order to frame guidelines to check the forced religious conversions will little help as the missionaries are deeply layered under the administration of the state. Further, when the state itself becomes the tool of proselytisation, then such a provision of the Constitution needs to be changed from where such authorities get the power.