RSS open to re-conversion of Goan Catholics

Panaji: In the midst of a nationwide row over the issue of re-conversion, a senior RSS official said that the organisation was willing to facilitate the 'Ghar Wapsi' (re-conversion) of those willing Goan Catholics, whose ancestors were forcibly converted during the colonial Portuguese era.

Speaking to a select group of journalists in Goa, on the sidelines of a training camp for 15-year-old plus RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) volunteers, Sharad Kunte, who heads the Sangh's intellectual Wing for the western region, also said that the RSS was not actively seeking to re-convert people, but only serving as a facilitator or guide to those who wanted to come back into their original religious fold.

"If they want to come back, we are ready to welcome them..." Kunte said, when asked about the Sangh's position on Hindus who had been converted by the Portuguese centuries earlier.

He spoke about Goa's colonial past and the conversions to Catholicism, which had taken place under the erstwhile Portuguese rule.

"It's like this, the Portuguese had forcibly converted thousands of Hindus. They (those converted) are not around now, but I think their later generations are..." Kunte said, adding that even if present day Catholics in Goa, did not wish to re-convert, the RSS has no issues with it.

Goa was a Portuguese colony for more than 450 years until it was liberated from Portuguese rule in 1961 by the Indian army.

In the earlier part of the Portuguese regime, a large number of Goans were converted, often by force by Catholic missionaries, according to documented historical texts.

Goa has a population of 1.5 million out of which more than 26 percent are Catholics.

Kunte said that the RSS's 'Ghar Wapsi' programme had nothing to do with converting people by force.

"For those who want to come back (to their original religion), we are only showing them the way," Kunte added.

Kunte was speaking to reporters after conducting a session Saturday at the training camp which was attended by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar and Goa legislative assembly Speaker Rajendra Arlekar, among others

A nationwide controversy erupted recently after a few right-wing Hindu organisations, some of which owe allegiance to the RSS, organised re-conversion programmes in some north Indian states to re-convert non-Hindus to Hinduism.

The opposition, which had stalled the proceedings of the Rajya Sabha for several days on end over the issue, has accused the Hindu organisations of offering money as well as government perks to those who reconverted or were potential re-converts.

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