[VoxSpace Exclusive] Faith : A Deeper Understanding Of The Religious Conversion Methods In India

‘Lord watch over all of us. May he forgive our sins, as we walk through the abyss of life ripen with hurdles and unceremonious challenges. May the light of goodness shine bright upon us, who are the children of his Lordship, the silent guardian of the lost souls on Earth’.

Chapter One: The Midnight’s Mother

Mulakuddu, Vishakapatnam, 1985 – The Birth

As the stormy night deepened its thunderous voice outside, and as the raindrops lashed across the windows of Vineela Nursing Home, much like sharp dewy arrows from heavens, a middle-aged woman was swiftly carried into a make-do maternity ward. The woman’s husband, the thirty-year-old Rajendra Gupta, shadowed over the door to the maternity ward, completely perplexed as to what this could all mean. He had been through this before as well.

Years earlier as well, his wife had gone into labour, and was brought to the same nursing home. That time, the anxiety and helplessness within Rajendra were multifold. She had been brought in, but her labour had only arrived at giving birth to a stillborn baby boy. Rajendra had then without the knowledge of his wife, and with help from the nurses within the nursery home, managed to take out the stillborn child, and attend to its funeral rites as per the customs. To hold a dead baby in his hand, and place it in a small dugout in the ground not too far away from the nursery home, had broken his soul into a million pieces, and sapped out his life. A hopeful part of his being had been buried that day with his firstborn. It had taken him and his wife two hard years to recoup and rebuild themselves from the tragedy. A year more, to decide that they could only fill the gap in their souls, by having a child again.

And here he was, seeing his wife go into the maternity ward yet again. The omens outside the room, the thunderous clouds, the lashing trees, the wailings of dogs, and the flickering lights, all reflected the internal turmoil Rajendra faced in those moments. His wife’s agony was, however, infinitely higher than him. Come what may, physiologically it was her burden to bear. An hour went by, and the initial wave of pains had subsided. They would come again, stronger and meaningful this time around. It was only a matter of time. The duty Doctor on the case, Dr Lokesh Patnaik, had assured Rajendra that his wife was going through the process of birth in a natural manner. Those words gave him an assurance to go through the ordeal, which would last for the next five hours. However, sometimes humans tend to predict a future based on facts and quantifiable past. Sadly, future occurrences never abide by them. Rajendra would learn this in the cruellest manner possible. As he contemplated different things to do after the birth of his child, a nurse hurriedly walked past him, and directly to the Doctor.

The pains were not coming. Nor was there a hint that they would resume. Meaning only one thing, that the internal strength of Rajendra’s wife, was slowly fading away, and her baby would again be lost before it could be brought out. Her body had gone into a relapse stage, no longer concerned with baby’s well-being. The Doctor swiftly reached the maternity ward and confirmed what was told to him. He then came out Rajendra, with a mellow stance and told him what was going on? The memories of his firstborn, would haunt them forever, Rajendra decided then and there. As for his wife, she just lay there staring at the slow creakily moving fan on the roof. No one had to tell her what was happening. She could hear her child slowly losing out on breath inside her. She could see the baby, dissolving in her womb. And a speckling teardrop dripped down her cheek, as a bright lightning slapped across the night sky.

The Divine Guide…

“Trust in Lord. Trust in him. He will bring your baby back” the head nurse, Jyothi consoled the mother who was on the verge of losing her second child. Despair is sometimes a good enough motivator. The pains were indeed needed.

“Just hold my hand, and place this book under your pillow. Just sleep for a while. Lord will come to you if you truly pray” Jyothi handed her a holy book, which the mother promptly placed under her pillow. And whilst holding the hand of the nurse, started repeating the prayers. Verses. Words. Sentences. Angst-filled requests. Highs and lows, and every sound in the middle. The mother cried and cried further, seething under the curse which had befallen the family. Would she remain barren for eternity? Would her husband, Rajendra dig out another small hole in the ground? As other patients joined in the prayers, something spectacular happened. The mother lost her consciousness and went into a frenzy, laughing and screaming gibberish. She hailed the Lord in his glory. Her tears became glorious incidents of happiness to come. She clutched at her stomach, and let out an incredible scream, all the while laughing. Rajendra, sitting just outside the ward, who had just slipped into a saddened sleep, was snapped back awake. He sprung to his feet and ran to the door of the maternity ward. And he saw him. The Lord. Sitting at the foot of the bed, and holding the mother’s hand gently. The frenzy wails and prayers, all came to a muted stop for him, as he saw the shining aura of the Lord talk to his wife, and gently pat her stomach. That was it.

Rajendra’s wife again went into labour with incredible pains searing through her body. Every nerve in her twitched and turned, as life inside her twisted into form. The Doctor came in swiftly, and started monitoring her pulse, and ensured that her temperature doesn’t shoot up beyond control. Her body temperature remained calm, and so did her blood pressure. She, however, it would seem, enjoyed the very pain which was life-altering for her and life-giving for her baby. And as the first rays of sunrise, cracked through the purple skies, the small crackling cry of a baby boy emanated through the maternity ward. Three lives were saved that day from terrible misery, by a Lord who walked into their lives.

Editor’s Note

When we at VoxSpace pondered upon taking up the topic of “Faith” most of our close aides and confidants posed us a question – Is this about conversion? You see that was a more exciting prospect to deal with. Faith or Religion conversion has always been a segment of debates, arguments, faith killings and societal chaos. When we question a Faith, we are automatically distilling out the goodness in it. And worse even, we come across looking as our belief lies in some other faith. A neutral religion is perhaps not a religion at all in our present times.

So to answer the question ourselves, were we talking about Conversions? Partly yes. But majorly no. We are talking about the mis-utilization of Faith we have in our society. The questions, you, my dear reader, will ponder upon through this article, will hover around conforming to the practical reality of occurrences, and supernatural interventions. Is there a logic to everything that happens? Our talks to various faith healers and local religious heads across the states of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh brought us to a conclusive stance. Faith is a personal status of belief, and why should it adhere to the collective sensibilities? If one believes in a Lord who can carry a mountain on his shoulder, so shall one believe in a Lord who jumps across the countries, and further so shall one believe in a Lord who resurrects. Who are we to question the faith of our connection to the codex of nature.

But then, what is this article about? If it isn’t about the desolation of beliefs, then what does it stand to deliver? Perhaps in many ways, the article is all about celebrating the union of these faiths, and how sometimes having unnerving faith in something, turns the fabric of situations and worlds, in your favour. This topic is also about, controversial conversion practices taken up by various organizations across the nation, to propagate their faith as better than the other.

Our question is simple in depicting them, how can one’s faith be better or more glorious than another’s. Both are relied, formed, structured and revered based on our own understanding of Gods, Supernatural elements, and Religion. And each understanding of such religion has its own wonderful essence. And that remains the universal reckoning of every holy text and preaching voice…

Chapter Two: The Vulyar Of Broken Souls

Jakampudi, Rajahmundry, 2017 – The Prosperity

‘Say unto Lord your deepest troubles. Say unto Lord what malice resides in your heart. Say unto Lord your deepest fears. Say unto Lord what breaks your souls, day in and day out, say it out, for the Lord will listen. No one else will. Not your husband. Not your mother. Not your son. Not your sister. Who will listen? Who will listen? Lord, one and only Lord will, my dear fellow’

The cacophony of high treble music burst through the speakers, as the whole crowd went into a frenzy at the Peace & Prosperity Session. The women clad in lighter tones of saris started swishing and swinging in a maddening manner, sweeping their open hair to the earthly dust.

“Say unto Lord who you are. Say unto Lord your name. Will you…WILLL YOUUUUUU” the Vulyar continuously screamed into the mic. The slowly escalating guitar music, brought a never before seen fervour to the gathering. The men stood up and screamed ‘Yes..Yes..Lord take me..Lord take me’ as the mania spread through every soul. Dasu, the gift of Lord, stood silently at the far end of the ground, almost near the five-foot-tall thumping speaker. He had accompanied his mother to the ‘Peace & Prosperity Session’ event, which presently was turning into an uncontrollable chaos of human populace. With almost two thousand already present, and more filling up the empty gaps of dusty grounds of the degree college, the night wasn’t going to end anytime soon. Chitaranjan Dasu, now a Doctor Of Social Sciences and Humanitarian Studies, JNU, whilst speaking with us, looks back at the incidents of the night of Broken Souls and the Vulyar’s preaching’s which pushed the whole horde of people to unprecedented madness…

“….It is clear, these were people who needed to make sure that every single worry in their minds erupted out in that moment. The stories of Lord ensured that they would be answered. The poor and the downtrodden in our country seldom find solace in their life and achievements. What happens to them? Who will they turn to? Who will listen to their woes and horrors? And mind you, the judicial system is just not enough. One policeman for every three hundred people is not a comforting fact to any society for well-being. People always choose a God who listens to them, or at least, comforts the fact in their minds through their human voices. And what does this particular religion have in plenty? Not the glory of kings and queens. Not the destinies of the rich princes, or gold laden chariots. Nor of extraordinary endeavours to confirm their ideals. The preaching’s tell of purely one thing; Lord has gone through all the troubles you might gone through. And thus, he would listen to you. Because he understands. And therefore he listens. Faith thus becomes an act of proper listening. Supernatural and fantastical elements come later on..”

The Vulyar continued his eccentric and dynamic preaching’s making his audience connect with him at an extremely personal level and spit and wail out their troubles, if only for a fleeting moment.  As the night comes to an end, all the attendees are presented with free books of Holy teachings. They are happy. But then comes the feast. And these are people who come from meagre resources. To them, a feast of food is a luxury only a generous God can indulge them in. And he is definitely here. He listens.

Chapter Three: The Making Of Vulyar The Voice

Ullamparu, Palakollu, 2007 – The Intervention

To become a Vulyar, a voice of god, a propagator of Lord’s word, there are some rigorous practices that one has to go through. A dedicated stance in a corrupted world is a challenge like no other. One which involves astuteness in life, and sincere dedication towards the word of the Lord. Vulyar Kiran, from Palakolu, possessed nothing of the aforementioned qualities. How come he became a Vulyar then? He was rich, educated, orator, and politically influential. His father, a noted surgeon in Vijayawada, not too far away from Palakollu, had converted to this faith when he was a child. Most of his education came through the patronage of propagation. You see, Doctors made for the best conversion mechanisms. They would give the medicine of liberation to the patients along with a strip of paracetamol. It was the early 70’s when this practice of Doctors joining the conversion brigade started. They were approached all through the belt of coastal Andhra by the World Commission to convert. A man converted would get them 5000 rupees, a big amount in the 70’s, and a woman converted, the double of such amount. The logic was simple. Women, as the case turned out to be, are more influential when it came to thoughts entertained by a set of individuals. And religion, after all, was a personal thought veiled in a communal scarf.

And so came forth Vulyar Kiran, the BCom graduate from a funded autonomous college in Vijayawada, to become the bridge between Lord’s word and the people in despair. They said he could cure any ailment, ward off any evil and remedy any malady. In the year 2007, the evolution and induction of Kiran happened into the congregation of Vulyar in Kerala. He was taught the rules, asked to make the chaste vows, by heart the religious books in and out, debate and discussion on topics which the training manual for Vulyar usually consisted of. Of course, not that he had to excel in all of them. People didn’t care how deeply learned he was? They were rather more concerned as to how well he could make them forget their miserable lives over the session discourse of six hours. Did he truly believe in the Lord? He did, without a single breath of doubt. But does just belief validate the being of a Vulyar?

In our conversations with Vulyar Kiran, we posed this very question, just as the Peace & Prosperity Session took a break of an hour. The question was simple.

What made him better than the people he spoke to, and how is it that he was chosen among millions to listen to the Lord’s voice?

“…. Glory be to Lord, I will not comment on why he, the almighty, chose me. It is the ways of the Lord that none of us can understand. I know that he chose me, and that it is my duty to serve him. Questioning is not important. He is my master and his word is my command. Simple. And as far as being better is concerned, I do not think so. As so he speaks, ‘I shall pick one amongst my disciples to lead my herd. He shall be a shepherd and a servant. He shall be the road and the guide. He shall be my eyes and my hands. But he shall be the light to burn through the darkness, for he knows, and I talk to him’. I am just a servant of my brothers and sisters, telling them, reminding them that the Lord is there for them…”

Could you Vulyar tell us more about your background and when did you perhaps felt that this was your calling? And how does it feel when such a huge gathering (around five thousand people at that point) come from different parts of the state to listen to you?

My father was a Doctor. He still has his practice in Vijayawada. Right from our childhood, me and my brother, were true believers of the Lord’s teachings. My parents raised us to be good and do good, and always place our trust in the universe. Even when I was a child, I was fascinated by how much goodness we can deliver to those who are in need of it. People who are ignorant and unaware, say that religion is not to be believed in, and that there does not exist anyone above the humanity, overlooking us. But let me question you, if there was no one above us, watching us, how is that we cannot control our destiny? How do we meet new people? How do we face death in the most unexpected ways? How do we experience incidents which are beyond explanations? Different names, they maybe, but Lord exists. And that question made me beseech his Lordship. At the age of 13, I found that this what I want to do. I could see the Lord waiting for me at my door, in plush sunlight, seeking my hand to follow him.

When I initially started to spread the word of the Lord, I just used to talk about things I knew. But I am a human. Limitations exist to my knowledge as well. But when I started talking about not just what I knew, but also what I heard and felt from people around me, then there was a unified thought, which everyone could understand. I spoke their language, praise be to the Lord, and they listened. Yes, we advertise the event now. Posters around the major cities, bus depots, railway stations, but that is only to reach out to more people who might be lost in their daily chaotic life. Today when I see these many people, I realize that my work will never be fully done. The Lord has given me a burden which cannot be borne in a single lifetime. My duty I have is not just given by the Lord but my brothers and sisters as well. They come to me for solace and I shall have to deliver it to them.

They say you can cure any illness? Where is the science in it Vulyar? Do you not think you are questioning the very fundamental understanding of progressive nature when you slap, hit or shake someone and make their ailments go away? What would be your take on people who say you are actually staging these feats to reflect Greatness?

Haha. What a wonderful joke. Did someone ask you to ask this? I hope you get your facts right. Science is great and I am a big-time advocate of it. Without science we can’t do anything today. Smartphones, Internet, News everything. I don’t know where I said I am against science. And no I can’t cure any illness. That’s what people say. Let them. If they believe in me, what is the harm? At the end of the day isn’t every medicine designed to work on faith? Do you think the Cold tablet you take changes the anatomy of your body in such a way that you don’t sneeze at all? That’s not possible. Every tablet is just making you think recovery and that’s how they work. Belief and faith….

…So you mean to say that pharmacy is not actually giving out tablets and they are not needed?

Oh no. I am saying even Pharmaceutical products work on faith. If you don’t believe the medicine will work, how will it work? People believe that I can cure them. I don’t do anything at all. All I do is that I believe in the almighty Lord. He cures them, because he can and because they ask him directly through me. What is wrong with it? Progressive or not, it is effective. I see the evil spirits inside them. All my acts are to just drive them away. Rest the Lord takes it upon himself.

…But we have confessions of people from your groups that you have staged acts in your sessions in Vijayawada, Eluru and Bhimavaram?

Nonsense. I don’t feel good talking to you anymore. Wild accusations, these all are, wild accusations. My people await me outside. Thank you and Lord bless you…..

Chapter Four: The Lord’s Life And Life’s Credit

The Role Of A God’s Child To Serve Him

As the Vulyar walked away, we turned our attention to the people waiting backstage. His words resonated from above the stage, and the frenzy went on and on. We noticed that the people waiting here, had ailments or miseries which they were no position to disclose publicly. They needed a private encounter with the voice of the Lord. Intrigued by their maladies, we approached them and talked to them as to what brought them here…

“The Lord asked us to come here. My daughter also saw him the other day, sitting on the floor, in our front room in the middle of the night. She came to me and said someone was there in our home. I ran out to see his holiness, peacefully looking up. He said ‘Sailaja, go to my child…he will cure your husband’. He knew my husband suffered from paralysis and cannot walk. And when I came here, the Vulyar also recognized me and told me that he was expecting me to come. All is the Lord’s grace” says a Mother, who clearly has gone through a terrible fate. She just wishes for a single miracle to happen. Afterall she has lost all her money and property in the treatment of her husband, who remains uncured. Perhaps Lord could help him out.

“Vulyar will make my problems go away. I don’t have a job, my parents have disowned me, and I have nowhere else to go. I should die, but I don’t want to die. Vulyar is my only hope. Perhaps, he will ask the Supreme Lord his plans for me” says a twenty-two-year-old girl, who came to visit the man, from almost 150 kilometres away.

The Lord will perhaps cure them all. Maybe they need this, just as we need solace from a loved one from time to time. None can question an unshakeable faith. But what happens when your own despair takes a form of a fiction which you don’t even flinch talking about. You believe in what you proposedly saw. But, does that make the occurrence true?

The Moment Of Miracles…

To continue further on this thought, we would urge you to carefully follow the opening chapter of this article. The segment where we tell you, what we’ve been told as to how Dasu took birth by his parents. His mother almost lost him, a nurse arrived with a book, the ward went into a frenzy and the father saw the Lord help the woman give birth.

What do you think actually happened when you look at it in a practical manner? Is it not possible that labour pains were induced or controlled by some sort of injection of medicines? Do you not think the timing of the nurse appearing with a Holy Book and precise prayers for true conception, was ever so convenient? Do you not feel the whole ward going into chaos, could have been a figment of imagination by a couple whose stress, fear and anxiety had already burst through the roof? Well, if you do not feel that these are at the very least unnatural occurring, then perhaps your trust and faith are all this world needs to sort everything out. Of course, everyone is entitled to have his own comforting story to wade through the misery of life, no question about that. But, what we are trying to decode here is the fact that how gullibility is exploited by those in the authority.

Chitaranjan Dasu, who studies specifically the conversion phenomenon across the states owing to his fantastical and rather supernatural birth, says,

“…when I was small, I used to be told only one story. How my father watched the Lord take my mother’s hand and wished her well. For the better time of my life, I was considered special because as per their assumption I defied death and was leading a healthy and prosperous life. Everything that I did, was owed to the special status the Lord had bestowed upon me. Everything was a gift, not an eventual reward. This sort of made me frustrated, and as I moved to Delhi for further studies, I realized that perhaps what I was told was a convenient lie. Thus, from that day onwards, I made it a point to question the faith which governed or rather defined our existence, and peep inside the veil…”. The studies taken up by Dasu, over the past seven years, will soon be submitted to the Human Rights Commission, Delhi. The excerpts of his study throw a considerable flare into the conversion scenario rampant in the 90’s.

“…692 conversions in the areas of Kiromila, Lakshmipuram, Karininga, Pedda Gullapadu each, within the span of 7 months. Around 19 nursery homes and dispensaries, turned into constructed hospitals with more than ten-bed capacity. It took a long time since anyone actually found a faint enough link to connect these two incidences. But when, one woman admitted to a nursing home within these areas, claimed that the head nurse was forcing her to read lines from the holy book, a fraction of attention was diverted to this possibility. Doctors became rich overnight. Nurses became well to do suddenly. And patients, well, as is my personal case, came up with miracles day after day. All too sudden, and all too coincidental yes? What did the rich Doctors do? Well, let me put this way. Your livelihood is redefined and prospered based on an idea or a trade-off, then what would you do to sustain it. Practically, around 70 percent of these Doctors, started making their children, either Doctors to serve the idea further into the generations, or Vulyars by managing at the Ministry of Lord. Both had influence. Both had power. And more importantly, both could prevail unquestioned and unpatrolled”.

Chapter Five: Building Of A Vallir Dome

With One Brick And Another Build A Dome In His Name

Every stone belongs to me. Collect them and loving each place them one on the other. Build a wall. Then build a roof. Build a little home for all of us to talk to each other. Build a little home for the Lord inside each one of us.

Jayanthi constructions are often the preferred builders of Vallir domes across the states of Andhra and Telangana. It’s not just the people saying it, but highly recommended by the Ministry Constituency in the states. They know the piousness of the brick used, they know the purity of the mortar infused, and above all, they know how they could go on to make money out of religion. Worldwide Ministry every year pumps in close to 45 Million Dollars for the construction of Vallir Domes across the nation.  Jayanthi constructions which based its close ties with Oakland & Moore constructions, London, and headed by the eccentric Cambridge graduate posted a perfect vehicle to route funds into the country. When we say route, isn’t the said amount of 45 Million Dollars not utilized for the construction of Domes? Of course, a part of them are. But the rest of it is sent across to the said “propagators” within the slums and backward areas of urban geographies. “Conversion” money is what it is commonly referred to as. Untaxable and more so Untraceable money, flowing through the hands of the religious heads, prayer heads, Dome heads and finally conversion agents who are given the task of converting 45 people every year.

The perks included to the “conversion agents” were collected subjectively by our team and Chitaranjan Dasu in the following compilation…
1. The target conversion rate brought out to be 30 per year on an average, facilitated the provision of free education, from kindergarten to high school in any of the funded autonomous schools anywhere in the country.

2. The target conversion rate brought out to be 45 to 55 per year on an average, facilitated the provision of free education from beyond the high school to the level of bachelor’s degree and admission confirmation into funded universities across the world.

3. Meeting the conversion rate beyond 50 and conducting of social gatherings to the tune of 7 per annum, each attended by at least 3000 people on an average, shall be facilitated to land disbursement to the tune of 750 square feet in rural areas and 500 square feet in urban dwellings under scheme

4. Meeting the conversion rate beyond 50 and conducting of social gatherings to the tune of 10 per annum, each attended by at least 3000 people on an average, shall be facilitated to land disbursement to the tune of 900 square feet in rural areas and 750 square feet in urban dwellings under the scheme.

5. To the families of Vulyar, a flat of 3 BHK at any suburban area, confirming to the provision of a list of applicable builders or a monetary compensation of 25 lakhs whichever is cheaper shall be provided after five years of devoted and sincere word of Lord preposition.

“Incentive. You see. That’s what it is. People need an incentive to talk about their Lord. True worship is rare and hard to find. As they say, you just can’t teach philosophy and life lessons on an empty stomach. Meals every day, feasts on Sundays after the gatherings, new slates and chalks, new clothes every year, sponsored books, and of course incentives. People grab them. And why shouldn’t they? To us, conversion might look like an act of disloyalty, but when we look at the social stigma that these class hierarchy imposes, people need this. They need to go search for God, because he isn’t coming to wipe their tears in their broken shacks of homes. God today is an elite being, who chooses his affection and showers his selective blessings on a chosen few. So it is rather baffling to know that we judge them for having to choose a Lord above anyone else.

Do we not have the freedom to choose a God for ourselves? Isn’t that what secularism in its true form stands for? Every religious head is given special privileges. It’s the manner in which such privileges are utilized that makes the difference. By propagating nonsensical teachings, like watching TV will invite the devil into your soul, eating lemon rice will ensure your passage into hell, reading newspapers will bring sexual starvation, and so on and so forth., those are baseless and uneducated in their appeal. What remains is the trust in the supra power which controls our emotions and destinies, and paves way for greatness. Such is the Lord’s will in a true manner. Such is the Faith.