Ghar wapsi in the American embassy ?
Barack Obama, the President of America, is coming to India in order to take a special guard of honour on Republic Day. Before his arrival, Mr Obama sent a gift in the form of Richard Rahul Verma, an Indian upper-caste Hindu who converted to Christianity, as America’s ambassador to India. His father Kamal Verma and mother Savitri were pukka Hindu migrants from Punjab. Though Mr Verma does not disclose his Church connections, his name and that of his wife and children tell us the real story.
America is the dreamland for upper-caste educated Indians (mostly Hindus). Having settled there, young Indian-Americans would also like to climb the ladder of the American political system. But unless one is broadly a Protestant Christian, the American civil society does allow entry into its political space.
Not just Mr Verma, but Bobby Jindal, the first ever Indian-American to become the governor of an American state (Lousiana), and Nikki Haley, governor of South Carolina, are also Christian.
According to Peter Whoriskey’s article (October 21, 2007) in the Washington Post, “Jindal was raised in a Hindu household, but he converted to Christianity while in Baton Rouge Magnet High School. During his first year at Brown University, he was received into the Roman Catholic Church. His family attends weekly mass at St. Aloysius Parish in Baton Rouge”.
It is a known fact that except John F. Kennedy of the Democratic Party, no Catholic could become the President of America.
Ms Haley is a Sikh, but got converted to Christianity after marriage. One can list dozens of such prominent persons of Indian origin who converted to Christianity and that enabled them to occupy high positions.
The American civil society is very religious. If people of Indian origin of non-Christian religions do not take to Christian faith, they will not be able to rise to very high positions.
But, by and large, the American civil society is not fundamentalist. It does not have the primitive mindset of Hindutva, or of the Islamist forces that are creating terror in different parts of the world.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is hoping that his “Make in India” project will get lots of American investment. But what the forces around Mr Modi — the ones who are targeting Christians and Muslims through “ghar wapsi” — don’t realise is that though the American Christian capitalists believe in worldwide investment for the sake of profit, they would not come to a country that attacks the right to religious freedom.
The “ghar wapsi” programme supported, in public, by many Cabinet ministers, including Venkaiah Naidu and Arun Jaitley, is aimed at attacking the dalit and tribals, as they are mostly the ones who have converted to Christianity.
This is likely to be a major reason why the American and European capitalists are not showing enthusiasm about investing in India. Apart from the religious issue, there is bound to be fear that Hindu fundamentalists will create crisis in production and distribution with all kinds of fundamentalist agendas.
Already, World Bank president, Jim Yong Kim, has made a strong statement against caste practices in production centres and market distribution in India.
UN Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon also chided India for not respecting gay and lesbian rights.
The West reacts to any fundamentalism in relation to individual rights of religion and free speech. If an anti-conversion law is passed by the Indian Parliament, the whole world would be up against India in righteous indignation. It will lead to a worldwide debate about India being a “human rights violator”, like China earlier was.
When China was imposing restrictions on freedom of religion and conscience, the Western world carried a massive campaign against it. Now China has loosened those controls in order to gain global respectability. The Americans know how to deal with forces that go against the core values of democratic individualism and religious freedoms.
Mr Obama’s answer to “ghar wapsi” programme of Hindu fundamentalist is Mr Verma. Will the saffronites dare to insist on a “ghar wapsi” programme in American embassy now? Will they re-convert Mr Verma and his wife Pinky and children Lucy, Dylan and Zoe Verma? Will they perform shuddhi on Bobby Jindal, Nikki Haley and a host of other upper-caste NRIs who converted from Hinduism or Sikhism to Christianity?
Mr Modi and his team are excited about a leader of Mr Obama’s stature being present for the first time in Independent India’s history on the Republic Day. Mr Modi, perhaps, hopes to keep his own photograph of walking besides the mightiest man in the world during the Republic Day parade in the record books of Indian history.
In my student days, there used to be a framed photograph of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru walking by John F. Kennedy in conversational posture, indicating their personal friendship and bond. But Mr Modi is not a secular and atheist leader like Nehru who will ignore the religious background of Mr Obama. Nor will Mr Obama.
Mr Obama is half-Christian, half-Muslim and is proud of that. He won the Protestant American hearts and became the President for two terms by following his religion faithfully. “Ghar wapsi” kind of Hindu fundamentalism runs against Mr Obama’s spiritual ethic and social practice. Better to be watchful of him and his ambassador Mr Verma. Otherwise,
Mr Modi’s “Make in India” will turn into “Dukh in India”.