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.

Monday, August 26, 2002

Towards Balkanisation, III: Missionaries

Author: Varsha Bhosle
Publication: Rediff on Net
Date: August 26, 2002

On Wednesday, Tarlochan Singh, vice-chairman of the National Commission for Minorities, wrote to the presidents of the Catholic Bishops Council of India and the National Council of Churches in India, citing incidents in Punjab, Bhilai and Jharkhand where "Christian missionaries fully supported with medical teams have been going around in many villages alluring poor Sikh families to adopt Christianity." Directing the Christian leaders "to desist from this activity" he wrote, "I have been approached by a large number of Sikh organisations to take up this matter. I request you to... adopt a policy not to make further attempts of converting Sikhs through any means."

It's good to know the NCM supports a group that's opposing the Church's nefarious activity; and comforting that it's the Sikhs who are rejecting conversion. After all, if the pinkos' schemes succeed, the remaining Hindus -- as per Sikhism's foundation charter and Hindu "tradition" (read, cowardice) -- can once again fall at Sikh feet for protection.

Christians fanatically evangelize. Muslims aren't into conversion anymore but want Islam to rule all polities, and we know what that entails. Ditto, the Communists with their creed. Ask a Gay his thoughts on the "curing" of nascent homosexuals via psychotherapy, and he, too, will flare up in anger. But the Hindu is the *only* species that not only watches benignly as his own kind diminishes, but also blocks those who resist conversion...

As my friend Amberish Diwanji once put it: "If one converts because doing so accords him respect and gives him a sense of identity and belonging, where is there the question of forcible conversion. If one chooses to follow the faith of those who have helped and are helping him the most, as opposed to those who torment him, can he be faulted? If there are Hindus who are worried by conversions, they should try and redeem Hinduism, go out and serve the tribals and Dalits and the poor. Make the lowest believe that Hinduism too provides balm for the soul, for a poor has little else to ask for."

That was in 1996. And Amberish didn't question the "respect" and "sense of belonging" that "Dalit Christians" and "Dalit Muslims" feel. A minor oversight?

But observe the change of tune by "secularists" now: "There is a boy, orphaned since the age of five, who is housed, fed and schooled here just outside New Delhi, free of charge... The school is part of a network of social service organizations that cater to indigenous people and 'dalits,' or those on the lowest rungs of the Hindu caste ladder... Across remote villages, it dispatches so- called barefoot doctors armed with first-aid kits and drugs to combat dysentery. It sets up orphanages for the abandoned and hostels for children who must travel long distances to go to school" (The New York Times, May 13). Actually, this article, "Hindu Right Goes To School To Build A Nation," written by a Bong, is one bashing the RSS for serving the tribals and Dalits and the poor...

But let's get back to the Sikhs, who've learnt from at least one part of their history: After the second Anglo Sikh war, the British exiled the boy Duleep Singh to Fatehgarh, in the care of a British guardian. Unlike previous British rulers, Lord Dalhousie wished to transform India, towards which end he promoted and supported the work of Christian missionaries: Fatehgarh just happened to be a mission. John Login and his wife, who had taken on the parental role in the boy's life, just happened to be devout Christians. Duleep was encouraged to have two English boys as his closest friends, one of whom just happened to be the son of a missionary. The textbooks he was given just happened to be full of Christian messages. His servant, Bhajan Lal, just happened to be a Christian convert. And Bhajan Lal just happened to read from the Bible to the boy every night. Duleep Singh was, in fact, totally dependent on the goodwill of his prisoners and limited to living in the centre of Christian missionary activity.

What happened next? Exactly what can be expected when missionaries shower the weak with their mercies: The last Sikh ruler of the kingdom of Maharaja Ranjit Singh was surreptitiously converted to Christianity, dispatched to England and resettled near Cambridge, thereby minimising all chances of his becoming a rallying point for the people of Punjab. Next, "A facade of a ceremony was arranged in which the young prince was made to present the famous Koh-i-Noor to Queen Victoria and 13 most valuable relics pertaining to Maharaja Ranjit Singh to the Prince of Wales. The remaining jewellery in the Toshkhana of the Maharaja was either taken over by the British officials or auctioned to public thus putting to an end the glory and grandeur of the mighty empire of a mighty ruler of Punjab" (The Tribune, April 8, 2001).

We know that the exit of British rule did not mean the exit of Christian evangelism - that remains a clear and present danger: "India also has vast areas of more unreached groups - people with no access to the Gospel - than any other country. One such area is the Punjab - home of the Sikhs... Today there is much opportunity for Christian outreach." So says the Maranatha Gospel Mission based in Bhilai. The same Bhilai that Tarlochan Singh mentioned.

Last week, a Christian dork wrote me, "Adivasis are being re-converted from funds that come in from NRIs and others... but, aren't they doing exactly what the Christians are doing? But, you seem to justify what the RSS does by saying that the Christians did it... what a hypocrite!"

Actually, I never have justified the RSS's actions by saddling them with those of the missionaries. Read my lips: I support reconversion and the dissemination of Hindu awareness because I want Hindus to remain Hindu, Jains to remain Jain, Buddhists to remain Buddhist, and Sikhs to remain Sikh. Secondly, because a blunderbuss is no match for a daisy-cutter, the RSS must use the same weapons that missionaries use. So, more power to its fund raising. Where's the hypocrisy in that?! Regardless of it not being a zero-sum game, I don't see why I shouldn't root for Hinduism. Unlike the "secularists," I'm not ashamed of being a Hindu!

But we all know the reasons for the "secular" anger, right? The synchronized "action alerts" of pinko groups worldwide; the constant slamming of "Hindu nationalists" by the "liberal" media -- again, worldwide; the appearance of Kanwal-Rekhi-with-a-Christian-wife before the US Commission on International Religious Freedom; Father Prakash's deposition against the funding of "Hindu terrorists"... It's because the Sangh Parivar has been checking the tide of conversion:

* "A Hindu organisation has re-converted 37 Adivasis who converted to Christianity, back to Hinduism, at a one-day Vishwa Hindu Sammelan held at Peth, the tribal dominant tehsil town in Nashik district. The sammelan, organised by a recently formed Hindu organisation, Dharmaraksha Samiti, was attended by over 9,000 delegates from all over Maharashtra and neighbouring states." (UNI, January 6, 1999)

* "The first-ever mass reconversion drive organised by the VHP in West Bengal took place in Malda district today as the Marxist government of the state watched helplessly. Amidst fanfare, 500 tribal Christians and 50 Muslims embraced Hinduism as priests chanted mantras and performed the paraavartan yajna." (rediff.com, March 25, 1999)

* In July 2000, seven families, belonging to the Mising community, were reconverted to Hinduism in Majuli. "The Satradhikar also said that originally 300 families had been converted to Christianity and it was likely that many of them would reconvert to their original religion." (The Asian Age, July 10, 2000)

* In February 2001, over 1,300 tribals were reconverted to Hinduism. The reconversion was co-sponsored by the VHP, and was named Sanatan Ghar Vapsi. "Rituals of reconversion began with recitation of hymns by members of 270 families who had earlier adopted Christianity." (The Tribune, February 13, 2001)

* "Hundreds of families who converted to Christianity over 100 years ago and were settled by the British in Haryana villages by giving them land are now shedding their Christian identity in a bid to join the mainstream of rural Haryana. Their younger generation has completely discarded Christian names and reverted to Hindu names... [Joseph] was also honest enough to admit that most of them continued to be Christians because they got preference for admissions to Christian educational institutions and jobs in mission hospitals and schools." (The Tribune, January 25)

* In April, over 20 Christian tribals near Malda re-converted to Hinduism on Baisakhi. "With this, the total number of conversions of the tribesmen to Hinduism from Christianity and other religions in Malda district stood at some 300. The ceremony was conducted at the VHP's Buddhikamach Chitrakut." (The Tribune, April 23)

In truth, I do not fear Islam -- for its attacks are open, direct and can be fended off with a bit of spine. But Christian evangelists are another can of worms altogether: Not only do they get unlimited financial and political support from the fundamentalists in the US and Europe, including the Vatican, but they also attack with stealth, cunning and persistence.

Take, for instance, the case of the Haryana constables: The state recruited 1,600 police constables in 1995, which recruitment was then challenged in the high court. Subsequently, in 2000, the Supreme Court ruled against the recruitment procedure and hence their services were terminated. Nevertheless, in August 2001, the vice-president of the Haryana Police Employees Union ("Union," "NGO," "academic," "professor," "documentary maker" usually indicate you-know-what) announced, "If all 1,600 dismissed Haryana police constables were not taken back into service, all of them, who are Hindus, will adopt Christianity..." But that wasn't all; the sentence ended with: "...and in this regard they are in regular contact with Christian missionary people."

The British politician did not invent the policy of Divide & Rule, nor did the pinkos -- it was handed down to them by the Church. The 1954-instituted Niyogi Commission, while investigating the charge that Christian missionaries had instigated the movement for an independent State, noted in The Report of the Christian Missionaries Enquiry Committee MP, Nagpur, 1956:

* On the integration of the States, Missionaries became afraid of losing their influence. So they started an agitation, playing on the religious feelings of the primitive Christian converts, representing the Madhya Pradesh government as consisting of infidels... Some of the articles published in Missionary papers... were hardly distinguishable from the writings in Muslim papers advocating Pakistan before the 15th of August 1947.

* The demand for Adiwasisthan was accentuated along with the one for Pakistan in 1938. The Muslim League is reported to have donated Rs 1 lakh for propaganda work. With the advent of political independence in India, the agitation for Adiwasisthan was intensified, with a view to forming a sort of corridor joining East Bengal with Hyderabad, which could be used for a pincer movement against India in the event of a war between India and Pakistan.

* This attempt of the Adiwasis initiated by the Christian section thereof is a feature which is common to the developments in Burma, Assam and Indo-China among the Karens, Nagas and Amboynes... But the idea of change of religion as bringing about change of nationality appears to have originated in the Missionary circles... Thus while the Census officer isolates certain sections of the people from the main bodies, the Missionaries, by converting them, give them a separate nationality so that they may demand a separate State for themselves.

Nothing has really changed in India between now and then: The ethos of the politicians is about the same, so is that of the people, and Godse was a villain even then. Even so, the six members of the Niyogi Commission were not harangued and abused as "Hindu fundamentalists." The difference lies only in the media: Then, opinion makers aired the facts -- and not the leftist versions thereof.

Update: The day after I submitted this column, The Hindu reported that 250 villagers were baptised on Saturday by pastors of the Seventh Day Adventist Church at its South Tamil Conference in Madurai. The villagers were asked to affirm their commitment to Christianity and "to donate one-tenth of their monthly earnings for missionary work. Enquiries show that the villagers, mostly below the poverty line, had been brought for baptism with promises of 'economic emancipation.' During 2001, the Seventh Day Adventist Church here had converted 1,500 Hindus... According to an organiser of the baptism, the president of Seventh Day Adventist Church, India, DR Watts, a Canadian, had set a 'tough target' for the pastors, titled 'Go 1 million.' The website, 'maranatha.org,' reveals the activities carried out by this congregation throughout the country... where thousands of Hindus were converted."

No religion, no ideology, no government can guarantee anybody's "economic emancipation." If this is not a deceit only to diminish the strength of Hinduism, what is? Get out your checkbooks, guys; we can do better than one-tenth.

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