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HISTORY OF FORCED CONVERSION

INTRODUCTION:

Forced conversion is an attempt to change a person’s religion forcefully or through coercion. Our country India needs to make some strict laws to stop these types of malpractices. It’s much important to improve the religious safety of the people as they are the foremost pillars of the nation. As it is happening all over the world and some of the countries have very strict laws to oppose it. The person who is forcefully converted can profess her/his original religion even without telling anyone .

RELIGION AND POWER

As history says Religion and power are connected. Politicians and many powerful people are supporting these happenings and want to gain sympathy and control of the world. It’s happening all over the world. Leaders of the countries are explicitly using the name of the religion to remain in power. Religion has often been used coercively, and it has also used coercion. When we take the example of our country India the winning party is always using religion as their propaganda to gain votes. Politics is dividing the country into two parts. Each religion started its centers to attract people. In the time of Britishers, they started giving many incentives to the Christians so to convert them into Christianity. Countries like India where tribal are illiterate so they are tending more towards this type of conversion. “About 104 million people in India are members of Scheduled Tribes, which accounts for 8.6 % of India’s population (according to the 2011 census). In the census of India from 1871 to 1941, tribal have been counted in different religions from other religions, 1871 (other religion), 1881 (Aboriginal), 1891 (forest tribe), 1901 (animist), 1911 (Animist), 1921 (Primitive), 1931 (Tribal religion), 1941 (tribes), However, since the census of 1951, the tribal population has been stopped separately and Many Indians belonging to these populations adhere to traditional Indian tribal religions, often syncretized with one or more of the major religious traditions of Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, or Christianity, and often under ongoing pressure of cultural assimilation”. Minorities have own faith of religion which is not conflicting with any of the religions. They have their festivals and rituals. They are maintaining their privileges in the matter of marriage and succession according to their customs.

CHRISTANITY

Christianity was outnumbered in the back roman classical era and initial Christians came amid that period. When Constantine I converted to Christianity it became the popular and grown religion of that time. During the reign of Constantine I,“ Christianity was persecuted at its peak and other religions were surpassed the view of many historians, the Constantin Ian shift turned Christianity from a persecuted religion into one capable of persecution and sometimes eager to persecute, On 27 February 380, together with Gratian and Valentinian II, Theodosius I issued the decree Cunctos populos, the so-called Edict of Thessalonica, recorded in the Codex Theodosianus xvi.1.2. This declared Trinitarian Nicene Christianity to be the only legitimate imperial religion and the only one entitled to call itself Catholic. Other Christians he described as ‘foolish madme’.He also ended official state support for the traditional polytheist religions and customs. The Codex Theodosianus (Eng. Theodosian Code) was a compilation of the laws of the Roman Empire under the Christian emperors since 312. A commission was established by Theodosius II and his co-emperor Valentinian III on 26 March 429 and the compilation was published by a constitution of 15 February 438. It went into force in the eastern and western parts of the empire on 1 January 439”. Forced conversions were carried out of Jews with the help of strong leaders. In the time of Hitler’s many Jews were forced to leave Germany to survive. Many were killed in the gas chambers made by the Nazi army. In that era, many people including tribes were forced to displace and many more atrocities committed against them. To survive in Germany there was only one option to change their religion. Talking about India in the Britisher’s time many tribes were forced to leave their places as most of them were living in the forests and many of them were converted into Christianity by Christian missionaries. As there is an old saying and many historians have also written in their books it is said that there were no Christians before the British rule. During the reign of Constantine I, Christianty reached to the different heights and people started talking about the religion and many of them embraced the religion as a positive sign towards the good and respectable society.

HINDUS

Hindu community always molested in name of religion. Many political parties are existing because of Hindus. Hinduism is a very vast Religion. Hindus were forced to change their religion to Muslims in the Mughal period and to Christianity later. Many political parties religion as their propaganda to gain votes. Missionaries are working to convert the hindu poor population to other religions as their propoganda to diminish them. Also many illiterate persons change their religion for incentives such free education, employment etc.

In June 2006 a mob of Hindu villagers—with the apparent support of the local Bharatiya Janata Party leadership—violently beat up two local Christian men after one ‘refused to deny Christ’ and then gang-raped both of their wives. After the women filed a complaint with the authorities regarding the sexual assaults, the accused Hindu villagers filed a counter-complaint, claiming the Christian women and men were guilty of attempting the ‘forceful conversion’ of Hindus under the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act (the state’s anti-conversion law). During meetings in the capital of Bhopal regarding the rape of the two women, the Hindu militant group Bajrang Dal physically threatened anyone who supported the forced conversion of Hindus.

ISLAM

Islam religion is said to be one of the most profound Religions of the countries that are Islamic in the world.“ Islamic law prohibits forced conversion, following the Quranic principle that there is no compulsion in religion (Quran 2:256)”. Many incidents of forced conversion had occured in the past but the islamic people and chroniclers beleive that forced conversion was unusual and all the conversions were natural. Muslim monarchs were always eager to conquest than conversion. In recent times forced conversion is carried out in times of war or inter-communal disputes. Cases affecting these forced conversions partition of Bangladesh, partly controlled by ISIS and some Islamic countries. “According to perception of most Muslim jurists, all Arabs had embraced Islam during the lifetime of Muhammad. Their exclusion thereof, therefore, little practical significance after his death in 632. In the 9th century, the Samaritan population of Palestine faced persecution and attempts at forced conversion at the hands of the rebel leader ibn Firāsa, against whom they were defended by Abbasid caliphal troops”.

ATHEISM

Under the principle of govt. atheism in the Soviet Union, “there was a government-sponsored program of forced conversion to atheism” conducted by Communists”. It includes the suppression of the Christian community in Russia at that time. It is also believed that many Russians were forced to death for not accepting this law. “Revolutionary leader Vladimir Lenin wrote that every religious idea and every idea of God ‘is unutterable vileness… of the most dangerous kind,’ ‘contagion of the most abominable kind”. Many people were killed and women were raped. People were forced to leave their homes in order to take shelter. In 1925 state founded an association to escalate this revolution by founding a terror organization. “Jonathan Blake of the Department of Political Science at Columbia University elucidates the history of this practice in the USSR, stating that ‘God, however, did not simply vanish after the Bolshevik revolution’ also Soviet authorities relied heavily on coercion to spread their idea of scientific atheism. This included confiscating church goods and property, forcibly closing religious institutions and executing religious leaders and believers, or sending them to the gulag. … Later, the United States passed the Jackson-Vanik amendment which harmed US-Soviet trade relations until the USSR permitted the emigration of religious minorities, primarily Jews. Despite the threat from coreligionists abroad, however, the Soviet Union engaged in forced atheism from its earliest days”. During the French revolution, churches were converted to the temple of reasons and dechristianization occurred. “ English librarian Thomas Hartwell Horne and biblical scholar Samuel Davidson write that ‘churches were converted into temples of reason,’ in which atheistically and licentious homilies were substituted for the proscribed service”.

LAWS

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, proclaimed by the United Nations in 1948, is a landmark document and it accorded all humans the same rights – the first time in history that this had ever happened. “Take Article 18 of the charter that describes the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, it precisely states, ‘this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief’ – a tenet India does not subscribe to”. Far from comprehending a right to convert, the Indian states and influential Hindutva communities help the terror of so-called forced conversion to oppress the minorities. “for example, the Madhya Pradesh police arrested three Christians for allegedly trying to convert Hindus. Last Friday, the Hindu Yuva Vahini, a vigilante group headed by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Adityanath, raided a church, accusing members of converting people. Astonishingly, the police promised an investigation not against the Hindu Yuva Vahini, for harassing a church, but against the church itself”. Even while Christian communities are targeted by putting forward the bogey of conversion, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh brags openly about the conversion of Christians to Hinduism. “In Jharkhand, the RSS aims to make whole blocks ‘Christianity free’ and recently converted 53 families to Hinduism”. let’s say, “force also includes the threat of divine displeasure”. So preposterous, if a missionary tells a person that only Christians are permitted ingress into heaven “ a core part of the faith that could also be construed as ‘force”. “This interpretation of ‘force’ was upheld by the Orissa High Court in Yulitha Hyde v. State of Orissa it held that the ‘threat of divine displeasure numbs the mental faculty; more so of an undeveloped mind and the actions of such a person thereafter, are not free and according to conscience’. Again, ‘inducement’ or ‘allurement’ is defined broadly to include ‘the offer of any gift or gratification, either in cash or in-kind and shall also include the grant of any benefit, either pecuniary or otherwise’ (Orissa Freedom of Religion Act, 1967)”. “This problematic definition was even noted by the High Court of Orissa in Yulitha Hyde vs State of Orissa and called out for its extremely wide scope. For example, any charitable work carried out by a religious organization could come under a ‘grant of benefit’, as would free education or healthcare”. “Unfortunately, in Stanislaus vs State of Madhya Pradesh (1977), the Supreme Court struck down the Orissa High Court’s ruling and upheld this vague definition, When these laws first came out in Orissa and Madhya Pradesh, they were immediately challenged in the courts. Matters eventually reached the Supreme Court in 1977, wherein the landmark case, Stanislaus v. State of Madhya Pradesh, the court held that conversion, per se, is not a fundamental right under Article 25 and can be regulated by the state. Like in the case of India’s many beef laws, this was a disappointing stand taken by the Supreme Court, ignoring the global consensus as well as the crucial role of conversion in combatting caste in India. Ambedkar had closely completed his entire life advocating conversion for Dalit liberation in the end, he converting to Buddhism in 1956 along with lakhs of others. Ironically, while Ambedkar had the freedom to advocate conversion in colonial India, a free India would probably severely censure or even jail him today”. The Constitution of India guarantees the freedom to profess, practice, and propagate one’s religion under article 25. “ The Supreme Court in the case of Ratilal Panachand Gandhi v. State of Bombay clarified this provision by holding that every person has a fundamental right under our Constitution not merely to entertain such religious belief as may be approved of by his judgment or conscience but to exhibit his belief and ideas in such overt acts as are enjoined or sanctioned by his religion and further to propagate his religious views for the edification of others”.

CONCLUSION:

We have to formulate strict laws against the missionaries, and the people who are helping them should be punished. This article has explained the problems faced by the tribals in our country and also some case laws. Also I have explained the different religions and their conversion history . I have explained laws relating to forced converion in our country and international organisations and some of the landmark judgments about this issue.

AUTHOR:

Gorkh Singh, Army Law College Pune, 3rd year