F.The decision of former chairman of the Shia Central Waqf Board of Uttar Pradesh, Syed Waseem Rizvi, to convert to Hinduism is legally correct. He has this right under the Chapter of Fundamental Rights in the Indian Constitution. To profess a religion, to convert or not to profess at all is a normative idea in most democratic countries.
But Rizvi’s conversion has left the Hindu religion in an awkward position. Becoming a Hindu cannot be as easy as converting to Islam or Christianity or Sikhism or Judaism. A Hindu must have a caste. âCasteless Hinduâ is a contradiction, an impossibility. Rizvi’s problem was resolved by Yati Narsimhanada Saraswati, who directed the former’s conversion at Dasna Devi Temple in Ghaziabad by renaming him Jitendra Narayan Singh Tyagi. And so the former leader of the Samajwadi party got his caste, a residence, to live under the larger tent of Hinduism. What a relief. He has an address. Or does he have?
Although Waseem Rizvi was a Syed, the highest rank in the Indian Muslim hierarchy, he was accepted into a comparatively low Tyagi caste. A high-ranking Muslim should become a brahmin. Otherwise why should they convert? Eventually, for them, this will be a downgrade in the social hierarchy.
This is also one of the reasons why Muslims will never convert to Hinduism in large numbers. A Sikh Jat or a Syrian Christian who is highest in Sikh or Christian hierarchies will not accept submission to the Brahmin and Thakurs.
For the success of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) ghar wapsi Campaign it is very important to convert the senior. Those who are at the top of the social hierarchy also play the role of opinion leaders among the followers of this religion. If the high-ranking figures of a religious order refuse to convert to Hinduism, the middle and lower castes among them will also hesitate.
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Rizvi becoming Hindu has raised three complex problems:
1. Why was a Syed not accepted into the Brahmin caste after adopting Hinduism? The problem is that it is simply not possible to become a brahmin from an outsider. Brahmins are born, becoming one was not possible. Rizvi was adapted into the Tyagi caste. Tyagis or Tagas consider themselves very similar to the Brahmins, but the Brahmins have different ideas about the former. The two castes do not marry each other. The position of Tyagis in the caste hierarchy is almost that of the Bhumihars.
2. The second reason is more complex. Yati himself is a Tyagi and was previously known as Deepak Tyagi. He accepted Rizvi into his own caste. But we do not know at this point in time whether the Tyagis will accept Rizvi (now Jitendra Narayan Singh Tyagi) into their community. We can only guess whether the Tyagis will consider marriage covenants with the family members of Jitendra Narayan Singh Tyagi. Failure to do so will make his position untenable in the Tyagi caste. The possibility that he will be inducted into the Tyagi caste may increase if the community has Rizvi’s ancestors than Tyagi’s. accepted and his conversion as a kind of ghar wapsi (Return home).
3. The third problem concerns Narayan Singh Tyagi’s right to have upanayana sanskara (the religious practice of wearing a sacred thread called janeu or poonal). In Sanatana Dharma Shastra those who have the right to wear sacred threads are called Dwijas or the Twice-Born. Historically and traditionally, Tyagis have the hereditary right to carry the thread. But is a neo-convert allowed to practice?
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Becoming a Hindu can be complex
BR Ambedkar wrote and explained this problem in detail in his thesis Who were the Shudras?: âThe real criterion is not the wearing of the holy thread, but the right to wear the holy thread. Strictly understood, it can be said without fear of contradiction that the right to Upanayana is the true and only test for assessing a person’s status … âAccording to religious texts, only Brahmins have the authority that upanayana Ceremony. Are you going to do that? upanayana sanskara for a neo-convert Tyagi? If they refuse that sanskara, then Jitendra Narayan Singh becomes a Shudra or even a Pancham (formerly ‘untouchable’).
Becoming a Hindu can be a complex and arduous exercise.
For all their conversion efforts, it will only deter them from choosing Hinduism if they are ranked low in the social order.
It is a fact that the caste is a South Asian problem and no religion can claim that its followers do not practice any caste in any form. The difference, however, is that the caste among the Hindus has religious sanction while the caste among the non-Hindus has no religious consecration. This makes caste practice rigid among Hindus, thus preventing them from accepting others into their laps.
Ambedkar argued this caste prevents Hindus from being a missionary religion. He argues that caste is incompatible with conversion. âThe problem is where to put the convert, what caste? It is an issue related to conversion. It is a problem that must baffle any Hindu who wants to get aliens to convert to his religion. “
This is why, despite the best efforts of Arya Samajis and RSS volunteers, the idea of shuddhi and the project of shuddhikaran remains a non-runner. Shuddhikaran only worked for tribesmen on the mainland because they do not practice the caste form as a hierarchical system in their social life. Hence, it is easier for a Christian tribe to return to Hinduism as their social status in a new religious avatar is not defined by a caste identity. The tribesmen were never part of the Hindu order. They weren’t even outcasts or Pancham Varna. This means that they do not have the Hindu problem of finding a caste while converting.
If RSS really wants to turn India into a purely Hindu rashtra, it will have to embark on a large-scale project shuddhikaran, and annihilate caste among Hindus. To do this, the RSS needs religious texts, Shrutis, Smritis, even the Vedas and Bhagavad Gita since these texts sanction the caste system. It is not an easy task. Until then, Muslim and Christian religious leaders shouldn’t worry that people will ghar wapsi to Hinduism in large numbers.
The reasons are obvious. As R. Jagannathan of Swarajya says, the larger Hindu society does not know how to accept the new converts in their faith. He asks a relevant question: why has Hindu society failed to win back even the Hindus who converted out of fear and coercion? He concludes, âThe only way to maintain or expand the Hindu demographics in India is to make Hinduism a missionary belief, but that means creating an ecosystem to support such missionary activities. Islam and Christianity are way ahead of the Hindus in this race. But if we don’t start building this ecosystem now, the two Abrahamic faiths will win at our expense. Hinduism will wither and wither in the land of its birth. “
It is easier said than done.
Jagannathan calls for a thorough cleansing of Hinduism. To become a missionary religion, Hinduism must first destroy the caste. This is another difficult task.
Another problem is that without structures like caste, birth-based graded inequality and hierarchy and ideas like that karma Philosophy and rebirth to maintain these structures, what will remain in Hinduism? Is that even going to be called Hinduism?
It’s a real catch-22 situation. Until that is resolved, it remains a rare occurrence for Rizvi to become a Tyagi.
The author is the former editor-in-chief of India Today Hindi Magazine and has written books on media and sociology. He tweeted @Profdilipmandal. Views are personal.
(Edited by Anurag Chaubey)
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