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.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Lurid drama of proselytism after 1947

Lurid drama of proselytism after 1947-I

Sita Ram Goel is an indomitable intellectual Kshatriya in the line of great warriors like Parasurama, Bhishma, Drona, Arjuna and Karna in the history of India that is not Bharath today. I am compelled to say that 'it is not Bharath' only for the reason that India today has been taken over by the mafia of pseudo-secularists whose only aim is to destroy Hinduism and Hindu culture or more precisely 'Sanathana Dharma' at any cost. Sita Ram Goel brings this out succinctly in this manner:

'Hindus from early 17th century Pundits of Tamilnadu to Arun Shourie in the closing years of the 20th century have spent no end of ink and breath to demolish the dogma of Christianity and denounce missionary methods. But it has hardly made any difference to the arrogance of Christian theologians and aggressiveness of Christian missionaries. This is because the dogma was never meant for discussion. It is an axiom of logic that which has not been proved cannot and need not be proved.'

'High-sounding theological blah blah notwithstanding, the fact remains that the dogma is no more than a subterfuge for forging and wielding an organizational weapon for mounting unprovoked aggression against other people. It is high time for Hindus to dismiss the dogma of Christianity with the contempt it deserves and pay attention to the Christian missionary apparatus planted in their midst. The sole aim of this apparatus is to ruin Hindu society and culture and take over the Hindu homeland. It goes on devising strategies for every situation, favourable and unfavourable. It trains and employs a large number of intellectual criminals ready to prostitute their talents in the service of their pay masters, and adept at dressing up dark designs in high-sounding language. The fact that every design is advertised as a theology in the Indian context and every criminal euphemized as an Indian theologian, should not hoodwink Hindus about the real intention of this gangster game. Hindus are committing a grave mistake in regarding the encounter between Hinduism and Christianity as a dialogue between two religions. Christianity has never been a religion; its long history tells us that it has always been a predatory imperialism 'par excellence'. The encounter, therefore, should be viewed as a battle between totally opposed and mutually exclusive ways of thought and behaviour'.

History of Hindu-Christian encounters in our country falls into five distinct phases. In all of them, Christian missionaries stuck to their basic dogma of One True God and the Only Saviour which Hindus should accept or be made to accept. But they kept on changing their methods and strategy and theological verbiage based on changing circumstances from time to time.

In the first phase it opened with the coming of the Portuguese pirates in the 16th century, more particularly the Patron Saint of those pirates, Francis Xavier. The methods of Portuguese Christianity in Goa and other parts of India were cruel. Hindus were helpless against the barrage of atrocities let loose against them by the Portuguese. Fortunately for the Hindus of India, this phase did not last long. The Portuguese lost their power everywhere in India excepting in Goa and some other small pockets.

The second phase began with the consolidation of the British conquest after the final defeat of the Marathas in 1818. In this phase, the British Government in India did not allow Christian missions to use physical methods. But missionary language continued to be as crude as ever. This phase ended with the rise of Reform Movements, particularly the clarion call given by Maharishi Dayananda of the Arya Samaj in the Punjab and Swami Vivekananda in Bengal in the latter half of the 19th century. Christianity suffered a serious set back in this phase.

The third phase started with the entry of Mahatma Gandhi into the Indian national scene in 1917 and his slogan of 'Sarva-Dharma-Sambhava'. Christian missions were thrown on the defensive by Mahatma Gandhi and they were forced to change their language. Sita Ram Goel notes this change with biting sarcasm: 'The foulmouthed miscreants became sweet-tongued vipers. Now they were out to share their spiritual riches with the Hindus, reminding us of a beggar in dirty rags promising to donate his wardrobe to wealthy persons'. This phase ended with the Tambaram Conference of the International Missionary Council (IMC) in 1938 which decided to reformulate Christian Theology in the Indian context.

The fourth phase commenced with the coming of independence on August 15, 1947. It proved a boon for Christianity. The Christian right to convert Hindus was incorporated in the Constitution. Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru who dominated the Indian political scene for 17 long years, promoted every anti-Hindu ideology and movement behind the smokescreen of counterfeit secularism. The congress regimes that followed continued to raise the bogey of 'Hindu Communalism' as the most frightening phenomenon. Christian missionaries could now openly denounce as a Hindu communalist, and chauvinist, even as a Hindu Nazi, any one who raised the slightest objection to their means and methods. All sons of pseudo secularists leaped forward to join the chorus. The missionaries came forward with their new and revolutionary theologies and programmes of Fulfilment, Indigenisation, Liberation and Dialogue in the Indian context backed up by massive flow of funds from all parts of the globe for the glorious work of proselytism in post-independent India. The missionary apparatus in India multiplied fast and became pervasive in the years between 1947 and 1967. The only jarring note from the point of view of Christian missionaries during this period was K.M. Panikkar's book 'Asia and Western Dominance' published from London in 1953, the NIYOGI COMMITTEE REPORT published by the Congress Government of Madhya Pradesh in 1956, and Om Prakash Tyagi's Bill on 'Freedom Of Religion' introduced in the Lok Sabha in December 1978.

The fifth phase, which is continuing now, started with the Hindu awakening brought about by the mass conversion of Harijans to Islam at Meenakshipuram in Tirunelveli District in Tamilnadu in 1981. It resulted in renewed Muslim aggression in many ways and reached its head in Pakistan-backed terrorism in Punjab and Kashmir in the late 1980s. The Ramajanmaboomi Movement was the immediate result. It was aimed at arresting Islamic aggression. Christianity or its missions were hardly mentioned by the supporters of the Ramajanmaboomi Movement. Nevertheless, it was Christian missions which showed the greatest concern at this new and legitimate Hindu stir, and started crying 'wolf'. Christian media power in the West raised a storm, shamelessly claiming ad nauseum that Hindus were out to destroy the minorities in India and impose a Nazi regime. This storm is still raging and no one knows when it will subside, if at all.

With the birth of the new Indian Constitution in January 1950, things were made quite smooth for the Christian missions in India. They surged forward with renewed vigour and enthusiasm. National resistance to the phenomenon of Christian missions which had been viewed as an imperialist incubus during the days of struggle for freedom from British rule, broke down after Indian independence when the very leaders who had frowned upon it started speaking in their favour. Voices which still remained vocally recalcitrant were sought to be silenced by being branded as obscurantist voices of 'Hindu communalism'. Nehru gave a command performance in this sphere by becoming a vocal champion of pseudo secularism. Nehruvian Secularism had stolen a march under the smokescreen of Mahatma Gandhi's 'Sarva-Dharma-Sambava'. What became more favourable to Christian missionaries was the complete collapse of Hindu resistance after 1947 which had been pretty strong during the time of our struggle for freedom. Gandhiji's totally visionary if not imaginary slogan of 'Sarva-Dharma-Sambava' also provided an effective smokescreen for Christian missions in India to steal a march against Hindu religion, society and culture.

In a letter to C.D. Deshmukh on June 22, 1952 Prime Minister Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru said: 'Nothing amazes me so much as the perversion of well-known words and phrases in political and other controversies today. I suppose every demagogue does it'. Nehru was blissfully unaware of the fact that he himself had become the most despicable demagogue in India's hoary history by borrowing the word 'secularism' from Western political parlance by making it to mean the opposite of what it had meant in Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries. For him it became a glorious Fixed Deposit Account for minority- vote-bank politics. 'Secularism' in Europe symbolised a humanist and rationalist revolt against the closed creed of Christianity and stood for pluralism such as had characterized Hinduism down the ages. But Pundit Nehru had perverted the word and turned it into a shield for protecting every closed monotheistic creed prevailing in India at the dawn of independence in 1947 -- Islam, Christianity and Communism.'

In 1955, a Bill came before India's Parliament which 'if passed would have seriously handicapped the work of Christian missionaries, because it 'provided for a strict system of regulating conversions'. The issue related to 'conversions' brought about by force, fraud or material inducement. But no less a person than the Prime Minister of India, Pundit Nehru, came to the rescue of Christian missions and persuaded the Parliament to throw out the Bill. Another Bill was introduced in Parliament in 1960 for protecting Scheduled Castes and Tribes 'from change of religion forced on them on grounds other than religious convictions'. It was also thrown out because of resistance from the ruling Congress Party.

Lurid drama of proselytism after 1947-II

What is very striking is that the word 'secularism' cannot be found anywhere in Pundit Nehru's pre-independence writings and utterances. Nor was this word used by anyone in the Constituent Assembly Debates which exist in cold print. There is irrefutable documentary evidence to show that it was solely due to Nehru's dishonest demagogy that this word became not only the most fashionable but also the most profitable political term for every enemy of India's age-old indigenous society and culture. There is no doubt what so ever that he used the might of his office and the Government of India to put down Hinduism and Hindu culture in India. The first Prime Minister of independent India thus became the supreme leader of a Muslim-Christian-Communist combine for forcing Hindus and Hinduism first on the defensive and then on a run for shelter. Now on everything which Hindus had held sacred for centuries, they could be questioned, ridiculed, despised and insulted. At the same time, the darkest dogmas of Islam and Christianity were placed not only beyond the pale of discussions but also invested with divinity so that any one who asked inconvenient questions about them invited the attention of draconian laws which were made more and more punitive. To conclude in the apt words of Sita Ram Goel: 'It is, therefore, no exaggeration to say that Nehru, the 'architect' of modern India, was no more than a combined embodiment of all imperialist ideologies which had flocked to this ancient land in the company of alien invaders like Islam, Christianity, White Man's Burden, and Communism'.

In view of his known infatuation for things Islamic and passionate love for Anglo-Saxon culture, Nehru became the greatest enemy of Hinduism in post-independent India. This will be very clear from his own command to Chief Ministers of all States in his circular letter dated October 17, 1952: 'I have sometimes received complaints from Christian missions and missionaries both foreign and Indian about the differential treatment accorded to them in certain States. ��Our policy of religions neutrality and protection of minorities must not be affected or sullied by discriminatory treatment or harassment. While Christian missionaries have sometimes behaved objectionably from the political point of view, they have undoubtedly done great service to India in the social field and they continue to give that service. .. � We permit, by our Constitution, not only freedom of conscience and belief but also proselytism. Personally I do not like proselytism and it is rather opposed to the old Indian outlook which is, in this matter, one of live and let live. But I do not want to come in other people's ways provided they are not objectionable in some other sense�.. I do not want anyone to come here who looks upon me as a savage heathen, not that I mind being called a heathen or a pagan by anybody� �' Thus Nehru was an embodiment of every form of self-chosen conceptual confusion in post-independent India in every sphere of national life�be it the proselytism issue, or the Kashmir issue, or the language issue, or the private vs. public sector issue, or the pros and cons of support-Russia vs. support-America issue or the Tibetan issue or all other vital national issues. The only thing that mattered to him was the political survival of his family.

Now it can be asked as to what was the provocation for Nehru to send the above letter to all the Chief Ministers in India giving his off-the-cuff vague and confused remarks on the issue of conversion and proselytism. A foot note to Nehru's above mentioned letter informs us that on October 15, 1952 , Rajkumari Amrit Kaur (who was a Punjabi Christian), drew Nehru's attention to complaints of discriminatory treatment of Christian missionaries in Bihar and Madhya Pradesh. If Nehru was interested in being objective and neutral, he would have referred the matter to the Chief Ministers of Bihar and Madhya Pradesh for enquiry and report before taking up the matter himself. I cannot help imagining that he was functioning like a proud coolie carrying the White Man's Burden on that occasion. I cannot understand how an allegation from a Cabinet colleague who was a known and powerful mouthpiece of Christian missions in India was sufficient for Nehru to issue a reprimand to the Chief Ministers of all the States within a week of his getting a note from Rajkumari Amrit Kaur. There seems to have been absolutely no complaint regarding maltreatment of Christian missions from the rest of the States. Nehru in his above communication to all the Chief Ministers not only anticipated all possible imaginary objections which he thought could be made against Christian missions and missionary activities and also went out of his way to blunt those self-created objections in his usual 'IF' and 'BUT' way. He wanted the Hindus of India to switch over from the philosophy of 'live and let live' to the philosophy of 'die and let live'. This approach became the corner-stone of the overarching umbrella of pseudo-secularismin India brilliantly marketed by the Congress party after independence.

The bright sunshine in which Christian missions started basking after August 15, 1947 can be best understood in the words of Plattner, who was a Jesuit Missionary, in his book 'The Catholic Church in India: Yesterday and Today' published in 1964: 'The Indian Church has reason to be glad that the Constitution of the country guarantees her an atmosphere of freedom and equality with other much stronger religious communities. Under the protection of this guarantee she is able, ever since independence, not only to carry on but to increase and develop her activity as never before without serious hindrance or anxiety'.

Thanks to the overt and covert support given by Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru and his Government to all the activities of proselytism undertaken by many Christian missions and missionaries in India, they were in a position to smoothly tide over serious exposures relating to their anti-national and nefarious character made during the 1950s. The first jolt they received was from the publication of a book called 'Asia and Western Dominance' in 1954 which was authored by K.M. Panikkar. His study was primarily aimed at providing a survey of Western Imperialism in Asia from 1498 to 1945. He said Christian missions came into the picture simply because they were arrayed always and everywhere alongside Western gunboats, diplomatic pressures, extra territorial rights and plain gangsterism. Contemporary records consulted by him could not but cut to size the inflated images of Christian heroes such as Francis Xavier and Matteo Ricci. They were found to be not much more than minions employed by European Kings and Princes scheming to carve out Empires in the East. Panikkar wrote clearly that their methods of trying to convert Kings and commoners in Asia were through force or fraud or conspiracy and thus morally questionable in every instance. What hurt the Christian missionaries in India most was Panikkar's observation that �the doctrine of the monopoly of truth and revelation is alien to the Hindu and Buddhist mind and to them the claim of any sect that it alone represented the truth and that the other shall be condemned has always seemed unreasonable�. He thus knocked the bottom out of the missionary enterprise founded on monotheism.

In January 1954 a question was raised in Parliament as to whether the right to propagate religion was applicable only to Indian citizens or also to foreigners residing in India, for example, the foreign missionaries. In March 1954 the Supreme Court of India expressed its opinion that this right was a fundamental one firmly established in the Constitution and thus applied to every citizen and non-citizen alike who enjoyed the protection of India's Laws. With this explanation the missionaries were expressly authorised to spread the faith, thus fulfilling the task entrusted to them by the Church. Spiritually and culturally, this was a dark moment of collective national suicide for Bharath Mata.

After the publication of K.M. Panikkar's book in 1953, the next development which completely shook the missionaries all over India was the appointment of a Committee to enquire into the activities of the Christian Missionaries in Madhya Pradesh on April 16, 1954 by the Government of Madhya Pradesh. It was headed by Dr. Bavani Shankar Niyogi, a former Chief Justice of the Nagpur High Court. The Report of the Christian Missionary Activities Enquiry Committee was published by the Government of Madhya Pradesh (called Niyogi Committee Report) in 1956. The Niyogi Committee Report completely exposed the fraudulent conversion activities of Christian missions and missionaries in Madhya Pradesh in the years immediately preceding and after independence.

For more than 40 years after independence, the powers that be, the Congress Government at the Centre and in the States, the political parties, the national press and the intellectual elite either protected the Christian missions for one reason or the other or shied away from studying and discussing publicly the exposures of the Niyogi Committee Report of 1956 for fear of being accused of �Hindu Communalism�, the ultimate and strategically chosen swear word in the armoury of Nehruvian secularism and Communist anti-nationalism.

The Jesuit Missionary Plattner concluded in his book with pride: �The attitude of Nehru and his Government has inspired the Christians with confidence in the Indian Constitution. Nehru has remained true to his British upbringing�. It is not surprising that the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India was quite optimistic when it declared in September 1960: 'With the Indian Hierarchy well established and the recruitment of the clergy fairly assured, it may be said that the Church has reached its maturity and has achieved the first part of its missionary programme. THE TIME SEEMS TO HAVE COME TO FACE SQUARELY THE CHURCH'S NEXT AND MORE FORMIDABLE DUTY: THE CONVERSION OF THE MASSES OF INDIA'.

Lurid drama of proselytism after 1947-III

The non-communal, non-saffronized Islam-embracing and Christianity-coveting Congress Government of Madhya Pradesh by a notification dated April 16, 1954 appointed a Committee called 'Christian Missionary Activities Committee' which came to be called 'The Niyogi Committee'. This committee was headed by Dr. Bhavani Shankar Niyogi, retired Chief Justice of the Nagpur High Court. K.C. George, a Professor in the Commerce College at Wardha, represented the Christian Community. While notifying the appointment of this Committee, the Government of Madhya Pradesh said in a press note: 'Representations have been made to Government from time to time that Christian Missionaries either forcibly or through fraud and temptations of monetary and other gain convert illiterate aboriginals and other backward people thereby offending the feelings of non-Christians. It has further been represented that Missions are utilised directly or indirectly for purposes of extra-religious objectives. As agitation has been growing on either side, the State Government consider it desirable in the public interest to have a thorough inquiry made into the whole question through an impartial Committee'.

What was the background behind the appointment of this Committee in 1954? The Government of Madhya Pradesh was forced to take notice of the agitation artificially worked up and fanned by the Christian Missionaries at that time. They had become too powerful in Madhya Pradesh to be ignored any longer. This will be clear from the observation of the Niyogi Committee when it stated: 'It must be noticed that about 30 different Missions are working in Madhya Pradesh with varying number of centres in each district. Almost the entire Madhya Pradesh is covered by Missionary activities and there is hardly any district where a Mission of one denomination or the other is not operating in some form or the other. More than half of the people of Madhya Pradesh (57.4%) consist of members of the Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe and other Backward Classes and it is amongst these that Missionary activities are mostly confined'.

At the beginning most of the Christian Missions put up a sham show of cooperation with the Niyogi Committee. But soon they discovered that the Members of the Committee were not ignorant and illiterate aboriginals who could be duped or hoodwinked or influenced through money and other known methods of proselytism! It is not therefore surprising that all the Catholic Missions subsequently withdrew their cooperation by filing a statement of protest against the Niyogi Committee and also moved the Nagpur High Court for issue of a Writ of Mandamus (Miscellaneous Petition No.263 of 1955). This Petition was dismissed by the High Court on April 12, 1956.

When objections were raised by Christian Missions in regard to certain questions listed in the questionnaire issued by the Niyogi Committee, the High Court stated: 'None of the questions represented either the views of the Committee or any individual Member thereof, and their anxiety to have information on various points raised in the questionnaire was due to their desire to find out to what extent, if any, could any Missionary activity be considered to infringe the limits of public order, morality and health imposed by the Constitution'.

The Niyogi Committee Report was published by the Government of Madhya Pradesh in July 1956. This Committee presented the history of Christian Missions with reference to the old Madhya Pradesh and merged States. Even at that time there was a public agitation fomented by the Missionaries for the creation of a new State in Jharkhand. Upon this request, the Niyogi Committee said: 'The separatist tendency that has gripped the mind of the aboriginals under the influence of Lutheran and Roman Catholic Missions is entirely due to the consistent policy pursued by the British Government and the Missionaries. The final segregation of the aborigines in the Census of 1931 from the main body of the Hindus considered along with the recommendations of the Simon Commission which were incorporated in the Government of India Act, 1935 apparently set the stage for the demand of a separate State of Jharkhand on the lines of Pakistan'.

The Niyogi Committee came to the following conclusions:

a) The aim of many of the Christian Missions is to resist the progress of national unity.

b) Their aim is to emphasize the difference in the attitude toward the principle of co-existence between India and America.

c) Their aim is to take advantage of the freedom accorded by the Constitution of India to the propagation of religion and to create a Christian Party in the name of Indian democracy on lines of the Muslim League ultimately to make out a claim for a separate State, or at least to create a 'militant minority'.

In order to achieve the above objectives, the Niyogi Committee stated that the Christian Missionaries in India had received an amount of Rs.29.27 crores from various Western countries from January 1950 to June 1954. U.S.A. contributed an amount of Rs.20.68 Crores followed by U.K. which contributed an amount of Rs.4.83 crores.

The Niyogi Committee concluded: 'Bulk of this foreign money received ostensibly for educational and medical institutions is spent on proselytism. Most of the amount is utilised for creating a class of professional proselytizers, both foreign and Indian. There is a great disparity between the scales of salaries and allowances paid to foreign Missionaries on the one hand and to their native mercenaries on the other'.

The Niyogi Committee also noted various methods of propagating Christianity. Many Missionary publications attacked Hindu Idol Worship in rather offensive terms.

The Niyogi Committee was very clear and unambiguous in its larger perceptions. To quote the Niyogi Committee Report: 'Evangelisation in India appears to be part of the uniform world policy to revive Christendom for re-establishing Western supremacy and is not prompted by spiritual motives. The objective is to disrupt the solidarity of the non-Christian societies, and the mass conversion of a considerable number of Adiwasis with this ulterior motive is fraught with danger to the security of the State. The Christian Missions are making a deliberate and determined attempt to alienate Indian Christian Community from their nation'. It was made clear by the Niyogi Committee that the Christian Missions worked in such a way as to provide a clear proof that religion was being used for political purposes. Evangelisation was not a religious philosophy but a force for politicisation. The Church in India was not independent but was accountable to those who paid for its upkeep. That is why the umbrella concept of 'Partnership in Obedience' covered the flow of foreign finances to the Church and its Missions in India. Against the above background, the Niyogi Committee made the following landmark recommendations:

a) Those Missionaries whose primary object is proselytism should be asked to withdraw and the large influx of foreign Missionaries should be checked and regulated.

b) The use of medical and other professional services as a direct means of making conversions should be prohibited by law.

c) Attempts to convert by force or fraud or material inducements, or by taking advantage of a person's inexperience or confidence or spiritual weakness or thoughtlessness, or by penetrating into the religious conscience of persons for the express purpose of consciously altering their faith, should be absolutely prohibited.

d) The Constitution of India should be amended in order to rule out propagation by foreigners and conversions by force, fraud and other illicit means.

e) Legislative measures should be enacted for controlling conversions by illegal means.

f) Rules relating to registration of Doctors, Nurses and other personnel employed in hospitals, should be suitably amended to provide a condition against evangelistic activities while rendering professional service.

g) Circulation of literature meant for religious propaganda without approval of the State Government should be prohibited.

The Madhya Pradesh Government upon receiving pseudo secular directions from the Government of India buried the Niyogi Committee Report in 1956 itself. However, the Niyogi Committee Report which was accompanied by two volumes of documentation, raised a storm in Missionary circles in India and abroad.

The only Indian leader apart from Guruji Golwarkar who welcomed the Niyogi Committee Report in toto was Rajaji. Rajaji said: 'You expect from me an expression of my views on the specific question: What type of Missionary workers are wanted in India, rather than on the question whether any Missionary workers should come at all to India? I shall respectfully speak my opinion on the latter point. I feel it is not really possible on the ground of logic or on the evidence of miracles to hold that amongst the religions known as Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and Christianity, anyone is nearer the truth than any other. You will permit me to object to the exclusive claims for Truth made on behalf of anyone of these faiths. If this my first point is granted, the only justification for Christian Missionary work in India is proselytism. But is it good on the whole for men and women to change from one religion to another? I think it is not desirable to make any attempt at proselytism. I feel that such efforts will only undermine the present faith of the people, which is good enough for promoting right conduct in them and to deter them from sin. Such Missionary attempts at proselytism tend to destroy family and social harmony, which is not a good thing to do'.

(The writer is a retired IAS officer)

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