The Conversion Agenda

"Freedom to convert" is counterproductive as a generalized doctrine. It fails to come to terms with the complex interrelationships between self and society that make the concept of individual choice meaningful. Hence, religious conversion undermines, and in extremes would dissolve, that individual autonomy and human freedom.

Thursday, August 10, 2000

Terrorists in North-East India get American Support

The sectarian nature of the Baptist terrorists has come to the fore. They killed a Catholic priest called Father Victor Crasta on July 25, 2000. In protest the Catholic Church of Tripura called a bandh (closure) in all Catholic run institutions on August 10, 2000. (The Telegraph 2000)
By Kunal Ghosh

The recent terrorist strikes in the USA on September 11, 2001, in which the World Trade Centre and Pentagon were "crash-bombed" by large airplanes, have brought a new resolve in the global community to root out terrorism from all parts of the world. The Americans are playing a leading role in building a world coalition against terrorism. This is the best time to remind the Americans that Baptist Christian terrorists are active in India's North-East and they derive their financial support from the southern parts of the USA where the Baptist Church has a strong following. Funds are collected in the form of donations in various church establishments in the name of evangelical work. Some of this money is spent in true philanthropic work of spreading education and healthcare. However, it has been suspected for a long time that a part of this fund gets diverted for buying arms for the Baptist terrorists of the North-East. Our ex-Chief Election Commissioner, T.N. Seshan, gave voice to this suspicion in a television panel discussion on Doordarshan as early as in 1993. Our Army is baffled by the seemingly unending supply of sophisticated and expensive supply of arms and equipment flooding into our North-East. All terrorists of various hues, the so-called Darjeeling Gorkha, the so-called Kamtapuri, Bodo, Ulfa, Naga, Manipuri, Tripuri, etc, are flush with automatic rifles, land mines, remote control devices and so on. Money generated by the local extortion of businessmen and citizens account for only a small fraction. Therefore the greater part must be coming from abroad. It is suspected that the funds come from Islamic sources such as the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan, the Gulf states etc. and Christian sources such as the Baptist Church in southern USA and the Presbyterian Church of the UK.

The most prominent among the terrorist outfits of Tripura is the NLFT (National Liberation Front of Tripura). It employs terror tactics to effect mass conversion to Christianity (The Statesman 1999, 2000; Ghosh 1999) and is a predominantly Baptist (Protestant) organization. Whatever token non-Christian representation it had, it has lost recently. Nayanbashi Jamatiya, a Hindu leader, led a revolt against the policy of forcible conversion of the NLFT and left a rebel camp in neighboring Bangladesh with his followers. On April 8, 2001, while his party was moving towards the Indian border, it was attacked by the main group; seven activists were killed and he himself was seriously injured and taken to a government hospital in Bangladesh. (The Statesman 2001a, 2001b).̈

The sectarian nature of the Baptist terrorists has come to the fore. They killed a Catholic priest called Father Victor Crasta on July 25, 2000. In protest the Catholic Church of Tripura called a bandh (closure) in all Catholic run institutions on August 10, 2000. (The Telegraph 2000)

On August 6, 1999, four RSS (Rashtriya Swayam-sevak Sangh) workers of Tripura, named Shyamal Kanti Sen Gupta, Sudhamoy Dutta, Dinendranath Dey, Shubhankar Chakraborti, were kidnapped by the NLFT, taken to a camp in the jungles of Bangladesh and a ransom of Rs 2 crores was demanded from their parent organization. The RSS refused to pay and they were done to death sometime in the month of December 2000 or January 2001. The news of their killing was confirmed by the Central Government in July 2001 and carried by all prominent national dailies. Their "guilt" was that they were preaching among the tribals to preserve Hinduism. Our Constitution permits propagation of a faith by legitimate means. If that is so then work for the preservation of a faith too is surely permissible. However, the kidnap and murder of these Hindu pracharaks of the RSS by Christian terrorists did not create a media sensation. This is not the first time that a Hindu preacher has been attacked in North-East India. I found reference to such an event in a most unlikely place albeit most authentic. Swami Gokulananda (1999), the present head of the Ramakrishna Mission Ashrama of New Delhi, has written that he had been the Secretary of the Khasi Hills Ashrama in Meghalaya in the 1980s. He further writes:

The hostile forces were against our movement as it was trying to bring back the lost tradition of faith among the people of the Khasi hills. Since it was like a speed breaker in their path they wanted to remove me. One day a time bomb was planted in my room but they did not succeed in killing me.

It should be noted that the most dominant church in the Khasi hills is Presbyterian (Protestant) which is based in the UK. Christian terrorists have been active in various States of North-East India for a long time. Recently they have spread to North Bengal also. Reverend John Thwaites, a Protestant priest who had been in North Bengal for over three decades, was asked to leave the country in January 2001. No reason was given and he defied the order. The West Bengal Government quietly arrested and prosecuted him. There were demonstrations by his sympathizers during the trial which ended in August 2001. The judge sentenced him to three months simple imprisonment following which he was to be deported to his native land of the United Kingdom. Is there a link between the Protestant priest and the terrorist activities of the Kamtapuri separatists? The question is pertinent because just prior to the "quit India" order served on Reverend Thwaites (January 2001), the Kamtapuri terrorists had killed eight CPI-M activists including a District Committee member in the four-month span from August to November 2000. The West Bengal State Government has the answer to this question. They have not made public why the Reverend was asked to leave the country in the first place and the BJP-led government at the Centre has played ball the way the State Government wanted.

In the aftermath of the airplane crash-bombing of the World Trade Centre, President George W. Bush has said that America would do what it takes to rid the world of the scourge of terrorism. America would target not only the terrorists but also those who shelter and finance them. If he is true to his word, he should have to look into his own backyard first. It is inconceivable that those in southern United States who collect funds for the Baptist Church's evangelical work in India have no inkling of the end use of that fund. One among several end uses is buying weapons for organised terrorism.

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