Demographic Anxieties and Freedom of Religion

Freedom of religion has to be discussed along with the so-called need for law against anti-conversion. The Constitution guarantees freedom of religion. But we may have to reflect on the state of freedom of religion in our country today . The issue concerning the state of freedom of religion in Goa appears to have entered a stormy climate as threats of an enactment of law against forced conversions are being made by the Government. What will this law do to our society? Whom is it’s going to arm and defend? Will this law attack the freedom of religion or protect it?

It appears that anti-conversion law will certainly further weaponize Hinduism . It seems that the facist forces have rendered great religion like Hinduism into a weapon that is then used to harm others, especially the minorities. This is why there is fear in Gos that a law of this nature will arm hate mongers who may use it to wound minorities, divide people and disturb the peace and harmony in our society. It is a paradox that a majority community that numbers up to eight million seems to feel a threat and harbours dual demographic anxieties in our days. While this demographic anxiety is largely acutely felt by the upper caste, it is coupled with a sense of void among nations for a Hindus in a world where nations when seen to be marked by religion (for those who wish to see ), Hindus do not have one.

The dual demographic anxieties are complex and seem to be at the root (along with other things ) of the discourse that is being manufactured to legitimate the need for a anti-conversion law in Goa. Therefore, it seems that the law that is purported to be brought about is founded in political reasons rather than those centred arround religious freedom.. We can see that rise of Hintutva is not really abou growth in religious life or theology. It is about the way Hindus have to come to see themselves vis vis others. It consists of the embracing of one’s identity as a Hindu with honour, joy and pride. Although, there is nothing much wrong in this embrace of ones religious identity as the be all and end all of life., it does renders one vulnerable to be afflicted acutly by sese demographic anxieties.These anxieties then may come out real or imagined factors.

It is these demographic anxieties that seek calm by weaponizing Hinduism. Hinduism is already weaponized in our country, and the anti-conversion law seems to arm it futher. Therefore, it is important to understand and seek appropriate response to these demographic anxieties. Mere cognitive awareness of fact that Hinduism is not in danger is not enough to free us from these anxieties.The demographic anxieties do not merely operate at the cognitive level. They operate at the psychic level and afflict even the educated among us. Maybe a distantiation and a deep reflection with empathy towards the suffering other , might lead us to interrogate the need to weaponize Hinduism.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao