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January 21, 1999


E-Mail this column to a friend Varsha Bhosle

The preying Church

Feelin' goo-ood... When both opposing factions get mad at an observer, s/he can be sure of being on the right track. OTOH, the Omniscient never need to bother about infractions committed in the name of secularism -- for there's never any. Not even the Shah Bano amendment. For, Nehruvian secularism is Infallible. Just like that other divine institution...

Before I proceed, here's Mr Arun Shourie on pinko historians: "As the needs of The Great Cause change every now and then, their 'theses,' their 'facts' change... Soon, therefore, their only defence is to denounce reason and evidence per se. The perfect boomerang: they started by claiming that theirs was the only objective, scientific approach to history, to every discipline, and this is the position to which they are soon driven - that of denouncing the relevance of evidence, that of denouncing that very objectivity." File this away.

Now take a look at excerpts from Dilip D'Souza's piece in the ToI: "Of course Christianity has a seamy side. A murderous record in Latin America, the fanaticism of the Crusades -- these things speak for themselves. Again, so what?... Of course there are rich Christian bodies in the West whose members salivate at the thought of converting heathens... One last time, so what?... So I write here not to defend Christianity... I write instead to defend India, and Indians, from a mindset that will destroy it... In a regime where laws mean something, [Hindu miscreants] would be punished for their crimes... [Governance] does not lie in absolving thugs of their crimes... It is embodied in the firm action to uphold the law..."

Well said. But I've a question: When someone makes a career of damning Hindutvawadis for not upholding the law, how is his insouciance towards Christian violations justified...? The author once said, "Whether it's Christ's resurrection or Ram's birth on that very spot, if your articles of faith become reason to inflict harm on others, if they begin to step on my toes, they must and will be challenged." By "faith," he of course meant Hindutva. But what if it's a crafty Christianity stepping on my Hindu toes? The perfect boomerang... come missionaries, and the relevance of Law, the objectivity towards crime, simply dissolve...

Articles 25 to 29 of the Indian Constitution adumbrate the right to freedom of religion. But, in January 1977, when Christian missionaries approached the Supreme Court against the anti-conversion laws of Madhya Pradesh and Orissa, it threw out all their contentions. For, no right can be unfettered. The court laid down propositions of law -- which are binding on all Indian courts:

* While Article 25(1) gives every person the right to freely "profess, practice and propagate" his religion, it does not include the right to convert another, since every person has freedom of conscience guaranteed by the same provision.

* Freedom of conscience indicates that every person has the liberty to pursue the faith of his choice and not be converted to another religion by means of FORCE, FRAUD, INDUCEMENT or ALLUREMENT.

* The State has the right to intervene if conversion activity offends against "public order, morality and health," and is therefore constitutionally authorised to maintain order by prohibiting and penalising conversion if force, fraud, inducement or allurement were used.

On April 16, 1954, the (Congress) government of MP appointed retired chief justice Dr B S Niyogi as chairman of a 7-member committee -- including one Christian -- to investigate a number of complaints against missionary activities. The Commission surveyed 11,360 people in 777 areas. Two of its recommendations were: The use of medical and other professional services as a direct means of inducing conversion should be prohibited by law. The Constitution should be amended to rule out propagation by foreigners, *and* conversion by force, fraud or other illicit means.

So what? So have the same deference for Justice Niyogi's recommendations as for Justice Srikrishna's. So what missionaries are still doing, contravenes the law. As in Dilip D'Souza's powdered pills being Christ's prasaad...

Here are some cases which could shed a light on what's transpiring in India:

In Zankhvav, district Surat, the Loyola Education Trust grabbed Chandulal Narottam Das's land; ten years later, the court ruled in favour of Das. On 16 July, 1998, when Das went to take possession, Father Albert refused to yield. A Christian mob then attacked shops and houses belonging to Hindus and damaged two cars and a police jeep.

In Kaparvanj, district Khaira, a plot (Survey # 643/B/1) used by resident Vaghris for Hindu religious and social functions since before Independence was suddenly added to government records as a graveyard. Who manipulated this is, shall we say, unclear. On 19 July, 1998, Christians brought the first corpse to the ground for burial. The Vaghris protested and the cortege was rebuffed. (Whence Bhosle, via the press, got her "Exhuming graves?!" Sorry; hadn't done enough homework.)

The IP Mission Girls High School, Rajkot, distributed among its students copies of Navo Karaar, the New Testament in Gujarati. Its last page was an oath ("I accept Jesus Christ as my saviour," etc) to be signed by each student. When parents objected to this illicit activity, the principal submitted a written apology -- published by only the local vernacular press.

On October 30, 1998, a conference was organised by Baroda's Alpha Mission at the Heel Memorial School, for which tribals were lured from Gujarat, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and MP. Here, Hindu gods were abused as shaitans. The tribals were exhorted to rip off their sacred threads and fill in pro-formas for baptism. An FIR (I.346/'98) has been lodged against the organisers by Chetanbhai Tadwi of Lotia village.

In November 1998, the nephew of the former Bhil Raja of Linga, district Dangs, was twice thrashed for refusing to convert to Christianity. The district collector was apprised of it.

On December 25, 1998, a Hindu sammelan, organised by the Vanavasi Samaj, was held at the Swaraj Ashram Maidan at Ahwa, district Dangs. A 150-strong mob emerged from the nearby church and pelted stones at the gathering, causing a stampede. The police lathi-charged. Whereupon, the Christians assaulted the talathi and destroyed his property.

In July 1998, in Moti Bhamri, district Narmada, Christians attacked and urinated inside a Hanuman temple. (Reported only by the vernacular Nav Gujarat Times of 31 July, 1998.)

The Hanuman temple at Borkhet, near Ahwa, was desecrated and razed by Christians. An FIR (74/98) was lodged by Pratap Patil, and Case u/s 143, 147, 148, 337, 336, 427 and 229 IPC registered. In his affidavit to the National Commission for Minorities, Sarvodaya leader Ghelubhai Nayak wrote: "There have been at least 15 instances in the past three years in Dangs wherein the Christians, under the influence of their preachers, have desecrated idols of Lord Hanuman, who is worshipped in this area by large section of tribals for ages. In one incident in Gaadhvi village three years ago they urinated on an idol of Hanuman and later in Jharsod village they crushed Hanuman's idol to pieces and threw it away in the river."

On August 5, 1997, a "self awareness programme" was conducted by three visiting priests at Nirmala Convent in Haldwani, UP. Children, from ages 10 to 16 years, were locked in the church and made to repeatedly chant prayers. As the frenzy increased, some of them vomitted, some fainted, some went into convulsions; five were hospitalised. Earlier, similar programmes were held in schools in Nainital and Jolikote, but the Haldwani event drew angry protests from parents, forcing a two-week closure of the school and the arrest of the principal. No action was taken against the priests. The state government expressed its helplessness since missionary schools are beyond its jurisdiction.

In Idukki, Kerala, of the 200,000 plantation workers, 75% have converted to Christianity: Estate owners threaten them with loss of jobs unless they convert. (Much of the real estate in south and central Kerala is owned by Christians.)

In 1997, 50,000 Reang tribals fled Mizoram -- in fear of the Catholic spree of looting, burning, raping and killing.

Guys, let me know if the Christians involved in these cases may be called "thugs." And if that hurts, simply say that it's all lies, anyway...

When a separate Vananchal was mooted, from Bihar, Father Serenius said there would be a "major Hindu-Christian divide" in the new state since Christians comprise over 60% of Jharkand's population. Father Pratap Toppo stated that the Church would have to take on a more "vigorous political role" to save its identity, that it would "seriously consider using all available fora" to highlight RSS atrocities...

Pause to mull over that one.

Why are secularists rabidly averse to the proposed debate on conversions? Why would Sharad Pawar feel that it would "further vitiate the atmosphere and go against the interests of Christians while strengthening the hands of the Sangh Parivar" (ToI, January 13)? WHICH details would vitiate? What do they fear will be exposed...?

Last Wednesday, a delegation of Dimasha tribals, the aborigines of Assam, met the home minister to demand a separate state to protect their identity. Their main concern: efforts at conversion to Christianity...

Compare the Ramakrishna Mission's MO with the Church's: More than 200,000 students of Vedanta in Spain, an equal number in France, and lesser numbers in Italy, Greece and Germany have been requesting it for conversion to Hinduism. They are all being denied. (Recorded in the annual publication of Belur Math.)

The National Council of Churches in India tells the home minister that if there are "isolated cases of forced conversion," they are caused by "breakaway Christian groups who do not believe in Jesus Christ as god." R Rajaratnam says, "The Church in India has nothing to do with some Christian groups who sometimes talk about forcible conversion."

What I'd like to know is: When the Church is believed, why isn't the VHP when it says that the cases of violence are isolated, and perpetrated by non-Parivar radicals? It is not my case that Parivaris are angels. But, if ALL Hindutvawadis *are* responsible for the violence, why aren't all Christian proselytisers responsible for illicit conversions...? What's this "breakaway" and "some" business?

OK, so the Parivar IS destructive. Then, so was Gandhiji! Ghelubhai Nayak asserts: "Let me remind the honourable Chairman that the Father of the Nation had also denounced the conversion activity by Christian missionaries as a blot on humanity in the name of social service."

So, am I now going to justify what the Bajrang Dal did to revellers in Bombay? Will I retract my opposition to a ban on missionaries? Am I going to garland Keshubhai Patel? Sorry, no. There can be no rationalisation of what I believe to be wrong. For, doing what secularists regularly do, would be the Talibanisation of Bhosle.

What I will do is address the Parivar: If you don't have the zeal and the intellect to beat missionaries at their own game, don't whine, you ninnies. And don't brawl, either, for you play right into their international hands. Be constructive: Force Hindu temple trusts to do what the Church does. Where do all their zillions go? In laddoos and pedhas? Why did Sabarimala happen...?

More significantly, do you really think the wretched convert without cause? That they have no complaints against the system? We deserve to dwindle since it's we who twisted caste. For this reason alone, it's immoral to attack padris -- for it makes you a dog in the manger. And that, I will not be.

And while I'm on a roll: Shed the Shiv Sena before Maharashtra sheds you. Balasaheb's speedy descent into a macabre senility will drag you down, too.

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