New Delhi: Arya Samaj leader Swami Agnivesh Tuesday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to break his silence on the issue of religious conversions and reassert his agenda of development and said Hindu chauvinists “should fix their own backyard” before inviting people back home as part of their ‘ghar wapasi’ movement.
Swami Agnivesh said that Hindu rightwing groups’ determination to make Muslims and Christians embrace Hindu religion was costing the government its credibility.
“Sooner or later, Modiji must speak out against such elements (who advocate religious conversion) … not just distance (himself) but totally disassociate himself from such fringe elements,” he said.
“Any attempt to dilute his message of development will be doing a permanent damage to the union government’s credibility and Modi’s personal image as well,” Agnivesh told IANS in an interview.
The 75-year old, saffron-robed and turbaned rights activist called on Hindu groups fix their own house in order before inviting members of other communities “home” in the campaign called “ghar waapsi” (homecoming).
“These very forces which were lying a bit dormant now feel they can flex their muscles with Modi at the helm because he himself was a Sangh (RSS) Pracharak.
But … Modi himself is feeling very uncomfortable with the shenanigans of the Hindu brigade promoting ‘ghar waapsi’.”
Agnivesh said Modi must reiterate “his philosophy of ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas'” (With All, Development for All) and spell out his priority for development, employment, education and health care.
He said that contrary to the view held by outfits like Vishwa Hindu Parishad that Hindus had been forced to embrace Islam or Christianity, the overwhelming majority was not deceitfully forced to renounce Hinduism.
The oppressive Hindu caste system was one key reason that drove many out of the Hindu fold, he said. “An overwhelming majority of Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Jains and others came from the ranks of the lowliest castes who were despised and humiliated,” Agnivesh said.
“Despite their allegiance to the Hindu faith, they were never given an equal status.
“That was the reason why almost 70 percent of those converted (to other religions) were either Dalits or came from other backward background.”
So Agnivesh asked the advocates of conversion to “come out with a clear action plan to undo atrocities committed by the caste system” before asking people to embrace Hindu faith.
“Where is the ghar (home)? A ghar means a family like situation where everybody is equal and the weakest and the youngest child gets all the more preference in everything. That should be the idea of a ghar.
“So fix your own backyard first and then invite people back home,” he added.