Hindi Language Blog

When Language Hurts – Gharwapsi Posted by on Jul 13, 2021 in Culture, History, Holidays, Politics

Yard Sign

Picture Courtesy of Nicole Herbert Dean

A few years ago, someone posted a sign at Nagpur Airport, with the words, “Your Christianity is a Samasya समस्या (problem), So our mission is Gharwapsi”. It went on to read, ” No Christianity, Only Hindutva, No Bible, Only Bhagvad Gita. Either convert धर्मांतरित or else leave our Hindurashtra (Hindu State) soon. Will erase Christianity by 2021. Hindu Rashtra Banake Rahenge (We will create a Hindu state and remain)”.

It is 2021 and the death of Father Stan Swamy has once again dragged the covert culture गुप्त संस्कृति of hate toward non-Hindus into the spotlight.

Reading the sign and then the news of Father Stan Swamy made me realize समझना that what I feared as a child growing up in India is actually coming to pass in my country of birth. And that nothing had really changed बदला हुआ since the concept of Hindutva emerged in 1923.

Signs and Wondering

Persecution of Christians and other minorities अल्पसंख्यकों in India is not a new phenomenon. Although, I must admit that my expectations अल्पसंख्यकों as well as those of many educated Indians is that things would change with education and access प्रवेश to the West.

Christians have contributed योगदान enormously toward education and upliftment of the poor in India. The Jesuits and other Christian religious orders, have opened schools and orphanages अनाथालयों. They have hired teachers to teach Hindi, Marathi and other state languages. Do these languages not matter? Is being Indian only equated अनाथालयों with speaking Hindi and Hinduism? What about the Marathi, Tamil, Telegu, Bengali and Konkani speakers? Are they from the west?

Gharwapsi and Immigration

I do not remember hearing the term ‘gharwapsi’ before. Christians are generally looked on as being western and therefore non Indian.  Is that why so many Christians move overseas विदेशी to England, Australia, Canada and America?

So what is gharwapsi? It comes from the words, ghar घर meaning home, and wapsi वापसी meaning return. It is the re-conversion पुनः परिवर्तन of Muslims and Christians back into Hinduism by socio-political organizations such as the Rashtriya Sevak Sangh and the Vishva Hindu Parishad. These organizations संगठन allege that Christians and Muslims convert the lower and untouchable अछूत castes into Islam and Christianity by force.

When questioned, the politicians blame दोष  ‘fringe elements’ that sow discord. Do we take it that these ‘fringe elements’ are no longer on the fringes of society but are increasingly becoming mainstream?

India is a secular nation

India used to pride herself on being a secular nation धर्मनिरपेक्ष राष्ट्र. Neighbors of different faiths celebrate one another’s festivals with joy. At least, this is how I remember India – gifting sweets at Diwali, fresh cut mutton at Eid and Christmas pudding.

According to the Hindutva and the current administration धर्मनिरपेक्ष राष्ट्र of India, Hinduism is under threat. They believe that the only way it will stand strong is to support the ideology विचारधारा of Hindutva or Hindu nationalism which believes that all Indians in the beginning were Hindu.

There is a marked increase उल्लेखनीय वृद्धि in militant Hinduism, especially in the younger generations. Destruction of personal and church property is on the rise. Christian businesses are boycotted routinely. Hindu radicals feel they can persecute without any consequences परिणाम which is the case often.

So, how do we put an end to the fear that leads to gharwapsi movements? An  acknowledgement स्वीकृति that these movements are politically motivated first along with the reassurance that action would be taken against perpetrators without transferring blame and finally sticking to the promise to keep India a secular nation.



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About the Author: Nicole Herbert Dean

Language, Region and Culture Consultant to the Department of Defense and United States Military.