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.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Conversion should be banned

Dr T.H. Chowdary



The competitive proselytization and conversion activities between these MNCs are becoming evident in the form of a number of churches each set belonging to a particular or different sect of Christianity (7th Day Adventist, Southern Baptist, Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Pentecost, Methodist etc.) with sumptuous funds somehow garnered.



According to the government census the proportion of Christian population is going down but the Christian organisations from public platforms and through press statements have been asserting that their population is abut 10 per cent and therefore every political party must have 10 per cent of its candidates from Christians. This is a great fraud.



Article 25 of the Constitution of India gives the right for every citizen to profess, practise and propagate his religion. That the right to propagate does not mean right to convert has been made amply clear by a decision of the Supreme Court. The right to propagate is primarily for the individual. Maybe an association of individuals can also propagate that is, bring out the virtues of one’s religion so that others can read and think about it and get convinced that the religion in which he was born or which he is practising is inferior to the one propagated and then the individual may convert. Up to this no Hindu, nor for that matter, the follower of any faith can have any objection.



What we are however witnessing is multinational (MNC) religious conversion enterprises injecting large-scale foreign direct investment (FDI) into marketing of various brands of Christianity. They have targets as to who, how many should be reached and converted; how many people should be engaged to evangelize full time; what are the strategies and tactics; what are the targets; what are the budgets and which are the media (print, electronic, hoardings) and how many people should be recruited and trained and employed for full-time work and also on a retainer basis. There is a competitive spirit among the MNC enterprises. Each one of them is flush with funds coming from abroad and also milked from within India through various allied NGOs (non-government organisations). Those NGOs are named most misleadingly. For example some of these are: “Rural Development Project (RDP), Humanitarian Organisation for People’s Education (HOPE), Care and Share Charitable Trust”. These are often headed and staffed by former Government of India Christian officers even from the IAS and the IPS cadres.



The competitive proselytiza-tion and conversion activities between these MNCs are becoming evident in the form of a number of churches each set belonging to a particular or different sect of Christianity (7th Day Adventist, Southern Baptist, Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Pentecost, Methodist etc.) with sumptuous funds somehow garnered. They are building churches in villages and in the towns. They have a wonderful plan. These days since the educated children from rural areas are migrating to cities or settling abroad, the elders are selling their houses in the villages as well as in towns. These are purchased at higher than market prices by Christian MNC enterprises. These houses are soon declared as prarthana mandirs of this and that church. These are located in the middle of Hindus homes where in the vicinity there may not be a single Christian. And from this house, converted into a “church”, from the evening to late night hours Christian songs and talks are broadcast on loud-speakers to the great disturbance and annoyance of the Hindu population. Some of these talks are derogatory of Hinduism.



The Christian MNC enterprises are targeting mostly SCs, STs and the poorest of the backward castes among Hindus. They tell the SCs and BCs not to disclose the fact of conversion for government records like the census. This is to avail of the reservations meant for SC and BC Hindu castes. That this is absolutely true is brought out from the census figures which show the population of Christians and their proportion of the total in the state of Andhra Pradesh as given in the table below:



Christian Population in Andhra Pradesh



Year                         1971         1981         1991         2001

Total population mln     43.5         53.6         66.5         76.2

Christians mln             1.8         1.43             1.2         1.1

% of Christian population 4.19     2.68         1.83         1.44



According to the government census the proportion of Christian population is going down but the Christian organisations from public platforms and through press statements have been asserting that their population is abut 10 per cent and therefore every political party must have 10 per cent of its candidates from Christians. This is a great fraud and large-scale resort to the suppression of truth and promotion of falsehood and immorality.



Almost all Christian nurses in hospitals, especially in government hospitals use their position to brainwash the stricken and the ill. They tell the patients that if they embrace Christianity, Jesus Christ would heal them. The distress of the people is thus exploited for gaining converts. A Kamma Hindu Chief Executive of a multi-million dollar IT company was admitted to a hospital with a serious illness affecting his brain. For weeks, he had been told by nurse after nurse that if he believed in Christ and converted to Christianity, he would be cured. When he came out, his wife and friends including myself were astounded that he would become a Christian. Months afterwards when he fully recovered and when this matter was discussed with him he admitted that he was deluded by insistent persuasion of nurses when he was in utter distress to believe that Christ healed him. Eventually, he gave up the idea of becoming a Christian. This incident should let us know with what intensity and persistence the distress of patients is being exploited to gain converts by organised MNC enterprises through nurses.



Conversion activity is organised as any other commercial profit-seeking investment. Pastors paid Rs. 10,000 per month are in charge of a group of propagandists. Some of them are full timers. They get Rs. 3,000 to 5,000 per month. In villages some converts are engaged on a retainer basis, paid Rs. 500 per month. These are all required to collect flocks of villagers when swastya kutamis (health and healing assemblies) are organized and miracle cures in the name of Jesus and Mary are staged.



When these gangs of propagandist and seekers of harvest of converts are encountered and if Hindus confront them and the prospects assembled that what these MNC enterprises are telling them and doing is wrong, false and fraudulent, then such people who are engaged in the defence of their own religion are called communalist, anti-secular, anti-Christian and what is worse, that they are calling and abusing the Dalits by their caste name. FIRs are filed against them under the Prevention of Atrocities on Dalits Act. Converted Dalits who do not disclose to government the fact of their conversion are propagandists for Christ and conversion and strong arm attackers of the defenders of Hindus.



On an intellectual level also there is fraud. Promising that there is no caste distinctions in Christianity, Christian are canvassing for extension of reservations for Dalit Christians and BC-Christians. The upper-caste converts still continue to discriminate against the Dalit converts. This fact is very well known. Thus Reddy and Kamma Christians don’t marry with Dalit Christians. That most positions in the Christian organisations clergy, hospitals, schools, colleges are filled up only with upper castes is one of the grievances within the lower-caste Christians. Indeed there was an association, formed of lower caste Christians which said that out of the 155 Catholic Bishops among Christians, only eight (five per cent) are Dalit Christians, see the injustice and the fraud. In their institutions like hospitals and colleges and schools Christians do not provide for reservations for Dalit Christians and also BC Christians in proportion to their population but they demand that Hindus must provide reservations for Dalit Christians also. Dalit Christians are about 65 per cent in the Catholic Church in Tamil Nadu but only 3.8 per cent among priests and nuns are Dalits.



That Christian philanthropic institutions like hospitals and schools and colleges are means of getting prospects for conversion was clearly asserted by Mahatma Gandhi. When asked whether the philanthropic work like caring for the aged and lepers and TB patients etc., should not be appreciated, Gandhiji asked whether there were no poor and destitute and sick people among the white Christians in the US and in Europe. He particularly mentioned about the Negros (now-a-days called Afro-Americans) Christians. Why could not the foreign funds be used to care of the poor in their won countries? Without adequately doing so, coming to India is only with the intention of converting the poor and illiterate and uninformed Hindus through instruments like hospitals and schools and other welfare methods, said Mahatma Gandhi.



In view of all these nefarious activities and the total commercial nature of the MNC enterprises, just as we ban spurious drugs and fraudulent operations, all conversions by organised Christian institutions must be banned. The propagation of Christianity is done through multi-national enterprises with FDI. It is clear that conversion is not out of an individual’s intelligent, knowledgeable and considered conviction but induced only by false propaganda and fraudulent means. How these frauds are perpetuated had been brought out so clearly by the Niyogi Commission appointed by a Congress government of Madhya Pradesh in the 1950s. The consequences of that report was the legislation in Madhya Pradesh and Orissa in 1950s itself against conversion by fraud and inducement and violence. That this is continuing is recognised by the governments of Himachal Pradesh (Congress-ruled) and Gujarat (BJP-ruled) so they enacted a law. Similar law was passed by Tamil Nadu but was withdrawn under very suspicious circumstances for political and other considerations.



Thus, evangelization, propagation and conversion activity of Christians is a business venture, with involvement of foreign enterprises. What is sold is commercial ventures and spurious with false promises and fraudulent means. Therefore organised conversion must be banned. The resistance to such organised conversions must be held to be in defense of one’s right to profess, practise, propagate and preserve one’s own religion.



(The writer is Director: Center for Telecom Management & Studies; Chairman: Pragna Bharati, Andhra Pradesh; Fellow: Tata Consultancy Services & Satyam Computer Services; Former Information Technology Advisor: Government of Andhra Pradesh; Former Chairman & Managing Director, Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd. and can be contacted at Plot No. 8, P&T Colony, Karkhana (Secunderabad), Hyderabad-500 009, e-Mail: hanuman.chowdary@tcs.com & thc@satyam.com)

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