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.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Financing conversion through public exchequer!

By Sandhya Jain

Benefits to the evangelical industry will be algebraic. Developmental funds under ‘leaky’ government schemes will go straight to Christian NGOs, and Hindu society will pay for its own decimation. An East Timor-like situation could easily develop in any part of the country where Western Christian nations have a geo-strategic or purely economic interest.

The sudden move by the National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities (NCRLM) to seek public opinion regarding extension of constitutional benefits to SC/ST converts is consistent with the UPA agenda of fragmenting the nation by privileging non-Hindu groups in society. Given the brazen manner in which UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi has promoted her co-religionists in the Congress party and Congress-ruled state governments, her decision to push the envelope in other sectors comes as no surprise.

The strategy of procuring an NCRLM recommendation to extend benefits to converts is a fraud on the Constitution and a ruse to finance conversions to Christianity through the public exchequer. This deserves strong opposition from all major Hindu bodies, as the government’s intentions are dishonourable. The so-called quest for public opinion has not been advertised in the print or electronic media; few newspapers briefly carried the Commission’s press release on the issue. It seems likely that the UPA has already decided to give Dalit Christians the benefits of reservations in government employment and educational institutions, and more importantly, access to SC/ST reserved seats in Parliament and the State Assemblies.

I believe the real objective of the NCRLM exercise is backdoor political reservations for Dalit Christians by providing a loophole whereby they can cannibalise the existing quota for Hindu Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. That is why the Commission speaks of extending ‘constitutional benefits’, rather than specifying the extension of reservation benefits in employment and educational institutions.

Benefits to the evangelical industry will be algebraic. Developmental funds under ‘leaky’ government schemes will go straight to Christian NGOs, and Hindu society will pay for its own decimation. An East Timor-like situation could easily develop in any part of the country where Western Christian nations have a geo-strategic or purely economic interest. This is because Christianity is not a monotheistic faith, but a monopolising ideology.

The Western sponsors of this diabolical plot must not be allowed to succeed in this divisive game. Christian missionaries cannot spread disaffection in society and win converts on the pretext of promoting equality and the brotherhood of man, and then deny this equality to caste converts who have been cut off from their family, culture and social group. More importantly, they cannot hold Hindu society responsible for their evil practices, which are an affront to human dignity. It is noteworthy that the term ‘Dalit’ is a political invention promoted by Christian evangelical groups funded by America.

Church indifference to the well-being of caste Christians has now become an issue within the Christian community. The Poor Christian Liberation Movement (PCLM) has for some years sought a 100-year moratorium on conversion activities, so that the church can use its vast resources to improve the lot of existing converts. According to president R.L. Francis, the various church denominations run over 40,000 health, educational and other organisations. The church is one of the largest landholders in the country, second only to the Government of India. This astonishing claim deserves judicial examination as it seems improbable that such a huge acquisition could have been accomplished by above-board methods.

Dalit Christians never learn the amount of funds received for their development, nor how the amount is utilised. Yet the church is never short of money for conversions. PCLM estimates that the church or Christian-controlled NGOs receive foreign funds of around Rs 3000 crore per annum. Christian bodies also earn huge incomes from their elite schools and colleges, hospitals, and commercial complexes in all major cities. The Dalit laity has little say in the utilisation of these funds; there is in fact a vested interest in keeping Dalit Christians depressed to maintain the status quo in the Church.

An instance of missionary money-making can be seen in Delhi’s St Columbas School, which has recently been de-recognised by the Delhi Education Directorate for diverting Rs. 1.83 crore of profit from student fees over three years. The money was sent to the Congregation of Christian Brothers of India, the school’s parent society. The latter had demanded 12 per cent of the annual fee collections, officials say. Clearly, the school was billing parents far in excess of its legitimate needs, and there is no information with the government how this surplus was spent. It is pertinent that in 1999 High Court had put a hold on schools diverting fee money to another body, whether the parent society or another school; hence any excuse that the money was for a new school is legally untenable.

There is no justification for the UPA exempting minority institutions from caring for their less fortunate members. If Aligarh Muslim University and Jamia Millia Islamia can willingly provide reservation of seats for their less fortunate brethren, there is no reason why the church, with its vast experience in running schools, colleges, technical, vocational and professional institutions, should not provide seats for Dalit Christians. The nation should also be told how far its second largest landholder has progressed in the matter of ensuring Dalit Christians' participation in the Church structure, and the socio-economic status of Dalit Christians in the various dioceses, most specifically, whether their situation has improved, remained static, or deteriorated after conversion.

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