Goa has suddenly come under a debate about the so-called necessity of law of forced conversion. This sudden anxiety about conversions expressed by the Government has disturbed peace loving Goans. Although the article 25 of our Constitution is sacred and guarantees freedom of religion, the need for a law to prevent forced conversions fails to justify itself. How will this new law strengthen the freedoms given by Article 25 of our Constitution? Will it not be a intrusive force into the conscience of our people? Will it not disturb the freedoms that people have about matters of conscience? The need to criminalize these fundamental freedoms appears to be political rather than backed by realities on the ground. Anything that is forced destroys freedom. A law that is unwarranted becomes forced and hence forces unfreedom on innocent people.
When will conversion become forced? It will become forced when conversion enters the domain of fundamental freedoms. We will have to ask : whose freedoms are violated by so called conversion? Is it the freedoms of the convert or freedoms of a Big Brother who takes it upon himself (herself) to stand for the convert who is then marked as victim of forced conversion? Will this protectionist approach of playing the Big Brother rob the agency of the one that is deemed as victim.if forced conversion takes away the agency of the convert and renders him or her victim of deception, what is the politics of voice appropriation doing? By denying of the agency of the convert is not the convert if at all anyone is really there is render an object rather than a subject incharge of his/her life? Therefore this forced taking away of freedoms of the victims in the name of forced conversion is violence that is blindly deemed as normal and natural . This is why it is important to discern whose anxiety is driving this political discourse that has hit us today.
The silencing of the convert and taking up his/her voice appears to actually commit the same crime that one wishes to prevent. This is why what is posing as law that aims to outlaw forced conversion suffers from the same defect that it seeks to correct . Therefore, it’s hypocrisy has to be unmasked and theft of the freedoms of people have to be questioned. Hence a Government that makes politics out of imagined or real fears of people seems to be using this threat ( drama) of law to instill fear in the people and pose as the protector of same people and thus manufacture political capital. Hence, the entre issue appears to be a manufactured alarm and plays into a larger politics of fear that is making hay in our country today.
For a moment, let us grant some credence to this discourse that seeks to criminalize or out law forced conversions. Even while we stand for the agency of the so-called convert to even self-destruct , let’s for a moment for the sake of argument agree that the convert is a victim of deceit and needs to armed by a law of anti- conversion . What does that tell us about the vulnerability of victim visa vis governance? What has rendered the so-called victim vulnerable? Is this vulnerability constructed by their caste location, economic condition and educational backwardness? Can all this be overcome by the law that is sought to be enacted in Goa? This means law does not responds to the conditions that renders people vulnerable to conversions. Hence, law at most is a hiding place for the Government’s failures to checke casteism, bring economic prosperity to the poor and democratise education.
The attempt to use law to police the religious freedoms of the people seems to be the need of the ruling dispensation to please it’s lobbies that have sought to weaponize great religion like Hinduism to promote their sinister agenda . The law that is sought to be introduced is fitting within this larger design that is making political capital out of the fears of the majority community. The new law does not just weaponizes our legal system but becomes a tool to terrorize minorities as well as the majority community and thus further massify us all while our economic resources are handed over to the power elite. This politics of silencing does not protect anyone.