Anti Cristian


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Asghar Ali Engineer
 Secular Perspective, Jan. 16-30, 1999

        The attacks on Christians in India in general and in Dangs in particular are making headlines in national media. There are many dimensions of this problem. First dimension is why this controversy at this stage and why such vicious attacks on Christians. For Muslims the Sangh Parivar had some so called justification. The Muslims had "demolished their temples, humiliated the Hindus during their rule, and lastly partitioned India" and hence animus against them and attacks on them. But the Christians have committed none of these sins. Also, the Christians are too small in number (about 2.2 per cent as opposed to 12.12 per cent Muslims) to pose any challenge in elections to the Saffron Family. They can hardly influence election of more than 20 M.P.s. Then why such vicious campaign against them? It looks some what baffling. But little reflection solves the enigma. 
        Firstly, communalism needs its target. Like the Nazis, the communalists always are in search of a community. The attacks on Muslims peaked with the demolition of Babri Masjid and the consequent riots in Bombay and other places in December- January 1992-93.  Hindus do not respond to such attacks on Muslims any more. The theory of appeasement of Muslims had its appeal during the eighties. It has no appeal any more. The appeasement theory has lost all its momentum. 
        Secondly, after the BJP lost heavily during the state elections in November, 1998 it became urgent to revive the Hindutva plank which had become diluted, according to some members of the Saffron Family when BJP came to power. The RSS, the VHP and the Bajrang Dal were feeling quite agitated that the BJP- led Government at the Centre was neglecting the Hindutva agenda in favour of its own national agenda. After the losses in the elections the Saffron family felt strongly to reassert the Hindutva agenda in order to re-consolidate  Hindu votes. 
        However, it was not possible to revive the Hindutva with reference to Muslims for the reasons stated above. A new community had to be targeted. There was no question of targeting  Sikhs or Buddhists. According to Guru Golwalkar, the second RSS chief, Muslims and Christians are aliens in this country and the aliens should not live in India too long. Thus, keeping this logic in mind, only Christians could be the next target. 
        Thirdly, the choice of Christians as the next targeted community may work as the conversion issue has been quite delicate since long. The Christian missionaries are thought to be foreign agents who convert Indians to Christianity and thus make them aware of their rights which causes trouble for Indian authorities. Also, there is history of sorts of attacks on Christians. These attacks, according to the Christian sources, began in 1964 itself when Fr.A.Goveas was killed in Jehanabad, Bihar in December 1964. Large number of incidents have taken place in Bihar. About 34 incidents have been listed from 1964 to 1996. In 1997 some 48 incidents occurred and some 65 incidents in 1998. Thus it will be seen that the incidents have been on the increase. 
        Thus it is not very difficult to understand why the Christians were targeted by the Hindutva forces. The Hindu sentiments have been aroused to some extent by attacks against the conversions. But it is doubtful whether the anti- Christian attacks can generate the kind of hysteria the Hindutva leaders could generate while targeting the Muslims.  Firstly, the Christians are too small a community to arouse deep hostility in the minds of Hindus and secondly the Christians are seen as running number of institutions like the schools, hospitals, homes for the aged etc. for general public which have earned the gratitude of the Indian public. 
        But the Saffron Family itself, and particularly the RSS, sees great danger for itself in these institutions, particularly the educational institutions. It is the educational institutions which spread the awareness about oneself and about the problems of the society. And it is through education that one can control minds and hearts. This is the sore point with the RSS and the VHP. 
        The Saffron family deeply resents the spread of literacy through the Christian missionaries. They went to the extent of depicting the Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen as a Christian and Western agent since he advocates for the  universal literacy in India.  Mr.Singhal, the VHP functionary  also said that  Dr.Sen was given Nobel prize precisely because he was serving the Western interests by talking of the universal literacy. This is an extreme example of the paranoia one can have. 
        The RSS is very sore that the missionaries work among the tribals and spread education and awareness among them. They have, in the perception of the RSS and the VHP functionaries, won over the entire north east  of India and converted the tribals. What is worse, the tribals are perceived as 'Hindus' by the RSS. Conversion of tribals, be it in north east or in Dangs, is perceived as conversion of 'Hindus' to Christianity. It is highly doubtful whether the tribals in Dangs can be described as Hindus. They are  nothing but tribals with their own beliefs and rituals. They have their own deities. For number of years, however, the RSS is engaged in Hinduising these tribals. 
        Education being sensitive issue the RSS has started its own organisation in tribal areas. It has set up Vanvasi Kalyan Ashrams in number of tribal areas throughout India. In fact Nanaji Deshmukh, an erstwhile RSS leader, has devoted himself for this work among the tribals. It is fine if the RSS works among the tribals like the missionaries do and converts them to Hinduism. But to create such a terror against the Christian missionaries is not a fair game. There has to be a fair competition between the two. 
        In fact be it missionaries or the RSS people, if they have welfare of the tribals at heart, they should not work with the aim of  converting them. The tribals have their own culture, their own language and their own spiritual beliefs. Any developmental work among the tribals should not lead to destruction of their culture and religious beliefs. One has to strike a balance between the developmental work and the tribal culture. 
        As for such conversion one has to keep a few things in mind. It is unfortunate that Prime Minister Shri Vajpayee behaved more as a BJP leader than the prime minister when he said that there should be a national debate on conversion and also he gave clean chit to the BJP government in Gujrat for handling the situation in Dangs. 
        In fact the Constitutional position about conversion is very clear. The Article 25 of the Constitution gives fundamental right to every citizen to "profess, practise and propagate ones religion". It is a settled question that to `propagate' means to convert people to ones own faith. The Constitutional debates also bear this out. The Sangh Parivar leaders have admitted that the Constitution makers did not ban conversions because then reconversion to Hinduism will also not be possible. Moreover, it will directly curtail the benefit of a fundamental right. 
        Conversion could be of three types namely 1) conversion through conviction, 2) conversion on account of ones social situation, 3) conversion through inducements and 4) conversion through coercion or fraud. The whole history of conversions in India - and it is a long history - bears it out that conversions in the first and the last categories are very few and far  between i.e. there are very few conversions because of change of inner conviction and also on account of coercion and fraud. Religion can never be accepted in all seriousness by coercion or fraud. At best one can temporarily change ones religion as long as coercion is there and go back to ones own religion as soon as the coercive situation is over. 
        In fact the maximum conversions in India either to Islam or to Christianity had taken place in history because of social situation of Dalits and tribals. The untouchables and the outcastes found great attraction towards Christianity and Islam because of their egalitarian doctrines. They sought to improve their social situation through conversions to these faiths. In fact throughout  medieval ages  upper caste Hindus did not resent conversion of these outcastes and untouchables to Islam or Christianity. It did not make any difference to them what religion they followed.
       But it makes great difference now as democracy is nothing if not game of numbers. Every community in a democratic pluralist society wants to increase its number as more number can assure more share in power. In fact  in a constitutional democracy like India it should not matter at all what religion one follows. Even if all Hindus become Christians or all Christians become Muslims or all Muslims become Hindus it should not make any difference to our constitutional democracy as all the fundamental rights are available to the citizens, not to a follower of this or that religion. But this is an ideal situation. In practice all religious communities want to add to their numbers to enhance their political weight. In this case every conversion to Islam or Christianity is strongly resented by the rightists in the majority community as it amounts to loss of numbers and hence loss of political weightage. It was for this reason that the conversion of a few Dalits to Islam in Meenakshipuram caused such furore in 1981 and it was after those conversions that the VHP became so aggressive and politicised. Before Meenakshipuram conversions the VHP was in a low-key mode. The dalits in Meenakshipuram adopted Islam only because of their social situation and because of maltreatment at the hands of Thevars who are landlords in the area. All investigations had conclusively proved this. Yet the VHP maintained that petro-dollars had a hand in these conversions. There was absolutely no evidence available to that effect at all. Yet the VHP carried out national level aggressive campaign against those conversions blaming it on petro-dollars on one hand, and, the fundamentalist Muslims, on the other. It was after this that the VHP started reconversion of Muslims to Hinduism campaign in Rajasthan. It has converted several hundred Muslims to Hinduism since then. 
       There is a lot of similarities between what happened in Meenakshipuram and what is happening in Dangs today. The VHP wants, through its aggressive campaign in Dangs to stop the missionary activities in that area and also to win over the Hindu support for its political revival. The democratic and secular forces should face this fundamentalist challenge with all seriousness. 

Should we know the TRUTH or should we depend on lies to make our conclusions?

  1. On Sept.2nd.1999, Fr. Arul Doss was brutally attacked and killed in Jamubani village in Mayurbhanj District.
  2. On 26th August Sheikh Rahman, a cattle trader, was hacked to death and burnt in the crowded bazar by Dara Singh.
  3. On the night of 22nd January Pastor Graham Staines a leprosy worker, was torched to death along with his sons, Philip and Timothy (aged 9 and 7 years) when they were sleeping in their jeep.

Suddenly from 1997 attacks have begun against the Christians. During 1998 there have been more than 128 cases of violence against the Christian community, more so against priests and nuns working in remote areas for the social welfare activities in health and education. In Dumka Fr. Christudas was assaulted and paraded naked, Sr. Rani Maria was hacked to death in Indore, in Maram(Manipur) Fr.Jose Nedumthahil (Principal of Don Bosco School) was murdered, a health Camp run by Christian Health Association was attacked and similarly Yeshu festival was disrupted in Baroda.

Thus the last two years have witnessed a series of attacks against Christians in different parts of the country. The argument being given is that Christian priests are indulging in conversions, because of which local citizens are feeling insulted, which is resulting in "spontaneous" attacks by the local people on them. Is it True?

Unfortunately, the last few decades have witnessed a very intense spread of communal violence. This violence is built on the hatred of the ëotherí community. For many decades Muslims were the target, on the grounds that they produce more children, have several wives, etc. In fact, the population of Muslims has changed only marginally. The occurrence of polygamy amongst them is no higher than amongst Hindus.

Most of the inquiry Commission Reports on communal violence ( Communalism Combat, March 1998, ëWho Casts the First Stoneí) have shown that it is the Sangh Parivar and other organisations associated with them who generally create the situation whereby the minorities feel threatened and are forced to retaliate, the culmination of which is violence in which, so far, 65% of victims have been Muslims.

Now we are pained to observe that another community is being targeted for attack. To take the example of Dara Singh, there are different reports which point out that Dara Singh was a member of the Bajrang Dal, which is an arm of the Sangh Parivar.

a. The National Human Rights Commission Report: ́There are indications available that Dara Singh alias Rabindra Kumar Pal is a sympathiser of the Bajarang Dal. (From Wadhava Commission Report in Wadhava Commission Report: A Critique, Dr. Raju, Media House, Delhi; 1999 Page; 214)
b. National Commission for Minorities: ́The activities of Dara SinghÖ. were linked to the campaign of Bajarang Dal for cow protection in different parts of the country." (From Wadhava Commission Report; same book Page: 215)

c. Report of the team appointed by the Commission:́Rabindra Kumar Pal alias Dara Singh is an activist/ supporter of Bajarang Dalî (same book Page; 218), ëDara Singh has been seen at RSS ralliesí (Same-page219)

d. CBI Orrissa Police Report: ́During his stay at Patna Turumanga, Champua and Ghatgaon Police station areas of Mayurbhanj district, he frequently visited Sisu Mandir schools run by RSS of those areas. In this process he came in contact with RSS leaders." (The Week-Sept.5th 1999)

e. A letter from Mayurbhanj Superintendent of Police to the Special Inspector General Cuttack, sent on Nov.21, 1998 states clearly that he was an active member of the Bajarang Dal (Meantime, Sept, 1999)

Lokshahi Manch (Mumbai) [Nov.99]

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Last updated: February 23, 2000 .