According to a widely circulated invitation on the internet, a ‘massive demonstration rally’ will be held on 4 October 2008 in front of the UN office in New York, to protest against a ‘small group of misguided fascist ideologues and caste supremacists’ who are corrupting Indian civilisation. Perusing the stentorian note of warning about ‘possibly the start of genocide,’ one is left admiring the Christian ability to successfully annihilate faiths and cultures across countries and continents without introspection or remorse, while projecting themselves as martyrs when resisted by their hapless victims.
The decision of Indian Christians to run for aid to the supreme Christian military power in the world, the United States, makes sense when one considers that even during the British Raj it was American evangelists who had greater success in converting natives in South Asia than the European evangelicals. So overpowering was their intellectual dominance over formally unconverted upper castes that to this day the products of Forman’s Christian College, Lahore, solemnly swear that they learnt their moral codes from missionaries. That’s a level of mind control Hitler would have given his moustache for!
Twenty-first century Hindus, however, are far less diffident in the protection of their faith and civilisational ethos than say, sixty years ago, when the sub-continent was partitioned because even nationalists like Bhagat Singh and Subhash Bose failed to see the intimate connection between dharma, motherland, and national integrity. The Left under Mr. Prakash Karat is making the same mistake; even America’s success in dividing Leftist ranks over the nuclear deal and sharply curtailing Leftist exposure in Indian media thereafter, has not caused a rethink. Without a swim in the sea of Hindu nationalism, the Left is doomed to extinction; Hindu groundswell will give BJP a lift as the Hindu party in spite of itself!
Conversion is political conquest, which is why faith and empire have always gone hand-in-hand. Currently, the National Association of Asian Indian Christians in the USA, Inc.; Indian Christian Forum and Gujarat Christian Federation have joined hands to invite Western Christian intervention to facilitate conversions in India. Already Pope Benedict XVI, and the Italian and American Governments have expressed themselves against the Hindu reaction to the murder of Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati last month.
Yet surely the violence is a symptom of deep-seated Hindu resentment over missionary conduct. Certainly the growing arc of violence against Christian prayer halls, from Orissa, to Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and even isolated incidents in Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh, supports the contention that unmonitored foreign funds are being used for conversions and that the true extent of Christian population is not reflected in the Census.
What is indefensible here is that the Indian State, despite so much known societal resentment, has done nothing to monitor missionary activity among vulnerable sections of the populace. When it is known that evangelists target the chronically ill, hungry, and socially backward, why is there no immediate and statutory inquiry the minute a conversion takes place? If faith is being exchanged like a market commodity, does the missionary have a license to conduct such a transaction?
And when the church (and its secular advocates) claims that conversions happen when it renders services Hindu society has failed to provide, doesn’t that debunk the myth of ‘voluntary’ conversion? If the argument of social service can justify religious conversion – the rejection of one’s natal faith – can such facile pleas also justify treason against one’s country? Can a serving officer sell sensitive secrets and claim immunity from prosecution on the pretext that he felt discriminated by the Pay Commission?
India is fully aware that barring France, almost all Western governments provide generous funding to evangelists; this has a political and not a religious objective. Israel was created by dumping European Jews on Palestine; East Timor was created by almost full-scale conversion of the Muslims in that part of Indonesia. Despite awareness of the Baptist activity in the north-east, the Indian elite’s slavish attitude towards the West inhibits an adequate response to the nature of the threat. Foreign missionaries visit the country with impunity, and very few are identified and deported; so far no funds of converting agencies have been seized. Henceforth, district authorities must be asked to suo moto investigate any unnatural rise of converts in any area.
In the specific context of Karnataka – where the Bishop displayed shocking manners when visited by the Chief Minister – it bears stating that the incidents took place in the context of a booklet profaning Hindu gods and distributed on behalf of a charismatic church (cult not officially recognised by the Catholic or Protestant Church). Some years ago, such a booklet by a Kerala-based group had caused much distress in Kota, Rajasthan, so there is clearly a pattern behind such provocations.
What is pertinent here, however, is that after formally dissociating with the booklet and the cult, the Christian groups proceeded to act in tandem. They not only organised themselves at the national level, but even at the international level, as witnessed by the Vatican, Italy and America rushing to interfere in India’s internal affairs. This underlines the political nature of conversions, a point that simply cannot be over-emphasised.
As conversions are often justified on grounds of freedom of religion, it is pertinent to ask whether an individual – embedded from birth in family, religion, cultural tradition – can simply cut anchor and roll away. The Santana Dharma is a religion and a civilisation; conversion to any monotheistic faith involves an immeasurable loss of culture, tradition, and multiple levels of religious belief. One does not merely travel from Krishna to Christ or Kaaba, as is glibly insinuated. One loses a civilisational landscape – ishta deva (personal deity), kula deva (family deity), grama deva (village god), sthana deva (god of the area) – and the culture and traditions associated with it.
This assumes threatening dimensions when conversions target whole groups or villages, through well-orchestrated mind-control techniques that involve physical threats and economic inducements. Tragically, the poor, who are the most devout and committed to their gods and faith, are left unprotected when missionaries corner and pressurize them to convert in lieu of small favours. A self-respecting and vigilant State would be more active in protecting the religious, cultural, and civilisational heritage of its citizens.
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