Exposed: The ‘Ghar-Wapasi’ Modus Operandi Of The RSS
Ambedkarnagar, Uttar Pradesh: Thirty-eight-year-old Gullu has four daughters and one son. He also has a new religion, and many new gods to worship. In 2017, Gullu, converted to Hinduism from Islam during the Ghar Wapsi spree organized by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) across India.
Gullu says now that he has converted to Hinduism he goes to the temple, keeps the fasts as stipulated and participates in every Hindu festival. He was once Gul Mohammad, but now wishes to be called just Gullu. He has shunned his former name and is enjoying a newfound acceptance with his new one. “Now I am not being neglected by the society. I am a Hindu now, but earlier I was looked upon as an ‘anti-national’ and was even taunted as a ‘Pakistani’ by the society,” says Gullu.
Gullu tells us that he was assured by Surendra ji (an RSS Member who mediated his ‘Ghar Wapsi’) that he would get a house, ration cards, and steady employment after he became a Hindu. “All seven members of my family have embraced the Sanatan dharma and we are happy,” he says.
“Kyuki pehle ham Musalmaan the toh hame koi kaam bhi nahi milta tha. Yahan jyadatar log Hindu hai aur yaha par Musalmaano ko pasand nahi kiya jaata hai. Hame jab pata chala ki hamare purvaj Hindu the tab hamne Hindu dharm apnaane ki sochi, (When we were Muslims we didn’t even get jobs, as most people here are Hindus and Muslims are not appreciated here. When I came to know that my ancestors were Hindu I thought about accepting the faith too),” he explains his conversion.
The new holy routine
A new religion means new habits as well, and Gullu says initially, accepting those was difficult but now it seems fine.
The early hiccups had more to do with habits and routine, for instance: during the month of Ramzan, a period of fasting for devout Muslims, Gulu was woken up by his wife to prepare for the roza. “My wife woke up at around 2 am, prepared tea and had a bath. After that she woke me up, and our children. In the meantime, she had started her preparation for making our sehri (pre-fast meal). Then I reminded her that we were not Muslims anymore, and she went back to sleep. She, however, kept a fast that day saying that faith should not be hurt,” he recalls.
Gullu says that for the first few months he also continued to wake up early in the morning to offer the morning namaaz. However the habit slowly waned and now he goes to the nearest temple, instead of going to the mosque.
“Kayi baar aisa ho jaata tha pehle. Kabhi subah uth kar namaaz padh daalte the, kabhi patni roza rakh jaati thi lekin ab sab patri par aa gaya hai. Baccho ka kya saheb wo to abhi chote hai aur unhe jyada samajh nahi hai, (It happenedmany times. I would wake up and observe Namaz, or my wife would fast a roza. But now things are on track. The children don’t really get affected, they are too small to understand anyway.” he adds.
Gullu may have adjusted to his new faith well, but his wife, Chandni confesses she misses the Eid celebration, the joy of making sehri early morning and other rituals the Muslim community enjoys. However, she concedes that being a Muslim in a Hindu dominated area was not easy at all.
She repeats her husband’s reason for her own conversion too: “We got to know that our roots were from the Hindu religion and then we decided to return back to our religion,” she says. “Mujhe to kisi dharm mein koi kharabi najar nahi aati lekin kaam, samaj me izzat bhi to milni chahiye na. Baccho ko bhooka pet to nahi sula sakte (I find no fault with any religion, but we want social respect too. We can’t put our children to bed on an empty stomach),” she says.
The Circumcision Stigmata
‘Katua’ was how Lal Man, formerly Lal Mohammad, a resident of Ambedkarnagar says he was referred to by the non-Muslim majority of his town. The word implies the ‘chopped one’, a derogatory term used to humiliate circumcised Muslim men across India; the humiliation pushed Lal to see his children struggling the same fate as his and he decided accepting the majority religion would make their lives easier.
Society did not accept us at all. We were being treated like animals. Even animals are treated better. There is so much bias and hatred. Being a Muslim in this society is no less than a crime, and there is so much of anger for them in the society,” Man says.
“Chamar, Paasi ho to bhi theek, lekin is samaj me Musalmaan na ho (It is fine to be a Dalit, but not a Muslim in this society),” he says.
The Saffron ‘Saviour’
Surendra Kumar Srivastava, a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) member from the Faizabad district, who was instrumental in this religious conversion says that the Ghar Wapsi programme was organized with the consensus of these people and no one was forced to embrace Hinduism.
“We, through our sources in the society got to know about these people and what they were going through in the society just because they were Muslims. We also got to know that these people were originally Hindus and were forcefully converted to become Muslims,” says Srivastava. He then “traced these people and told them about their roots”.
“After us telling them about their roots these people confessed their hardships as Muslims and we proposed Ghar Wapsi to them. Though they took more than a fortnight to take a call, but they agreed. With our resources we tried to provide them basic facilities such as housing,” Srivastava adds.
The conversion was done according to Hindu customs and no short-cuts were taken, he assures. “These people raised slogans of Jai Shree Ram, wore sindoor (vermillion) and did what Hindu people do,” the RSS member elaborates.
In Uttar Pradesh, 43 Muslims were converted to Hinduism by the RSS in 2017. The conversion was done at the Arya Samaj temple at Faizabad.
According to political commentator and veteran journalist Yogesh Mishra, the Ghar Wapsi programme was organized by the right wing Hindu groups to enforce the Hindu nation agenda in the lower income sections of society.
“Do you know any men from the prosperous family who have been converted to Hinduism? These people are very poor and their economic condition was very weak. This is the modus operandi of such organizations who know their vote bank well,” says Mishra. This conversion event was held before the UP elections and after Yogi Adityanath, a priest, was sworn in as chief minister. However, no such incident has come to light in the past six months, Mishra adds.
According to Uttar Pradesh Congress leader Surendra Singh, all conversions in the name of Ghar Wapsi were done forcefully. “If you go and check the pattern you will find that all those who converted to Hinduism were so poor they were struggling for daily bread. Such people are easy to convince. After all, at the end of the day your kids need food, not religion,” reasons Singh.
A probe should be ordered in “increasing cases of conversions in the state”, Singh seeks, to clarify who is converting under what circumstances.
But, is anyone even listening?