THE SUNSHINE OF ‘SECULARISM’
Hindus from early seventeenth century Pandits of Tamil Nadu to Arun Shourie in the closing years of the twentieth, 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. That is because the dogma was never meant for discussion. It is an axiom of logic that that which has not been proved cannot and need not be disproved. Who has ever proved that the nondescript Jew who is supposed to have been crucified by a Roman governor of Judaea in 33 AD atoned for the sins of all humans for all time to come? Who has ever proved that those who accept that man as the only saviour will ascend to a heaven of everlasting bliss, and those who do not will bum forever in the blazing fire of hell? Nor can the proclamation or the promise or the threat be disproved. 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 paymasters, 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 intentions 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 two totally opposed and mutually exclusive ways of thought and behaviour. In the language of the Gita (Chapter 16), it is war between daivI (divine) and AsurI (demonic) sampads (propensities). In the mundane context of history, it can also be described as war between the Vedic and the Biblical traditions.
This is not the place to go into the premises from which the two traditions proceed. I have presented them in some detail elsewhere.1 Here I will indicate briefly the behaviour patterns they promote.
The Vedic tradition advises people to be busy with themselves, that is, their own moral and spiritual improvement. Several disciplines have been evolved for this purpose tapas (austerity), yoga (meditation), jñAna (reflection), bhakti (devotion), etc. A seeker can take to (adhikAra) whichever discipline suits his adhAra (stage of moral-spiritual preparation). There is no uniform prescription for everybody, no coercion or allurement into a belief system, and no regimentation for aggression against others.
The Biblical tradition, on the other hand, teaches people to be busy with others. One is supposed to have become a superior human being as soon as one confesses the ‘only true faith’. Thenceforward one stands qualified to ‘save’ others. The only training one needs thereafter is how to man a mission or military expedition, how to convert others by all available means including force and fraud, and how to kill or ruin or blacken those who refuse to come round.
The Vedic tradition has given to the world schools of SanAtana Dharma, which have practised peace among their own followers as well as towards the followers of other paths. On the other hand, the Biblical tradition has spawned criminal cults such as Christianity, Islam, Communism, and Nazism, which have always produced violent conflicts as much within their own camps as with each other and the rest of mankind.
History of Hindu-Christian encounters falls into five distinct phases. In all of them Christian missionaries stick to their basic dogma of One True God and the Only Saviour which Hindus should accept or be made to accept. But they keep on changing their methods and verbiage to suit changing circumstances. To start with, spokesmen for Hinduism offer a stiff resistance to the Christian message as well as missionary methods. But due to a number of factors, Hindu resistance weakens in subsequent stages and then disappears altogether so that Christianity forges ahead with a sense of triumph.
In the first-phase, which opens with the coming of the Portuguese pirates in the sixteenth century, more particularly the Patron Saint of those pirates, Francis Xavier, Christianity presents itself in its true colours. Its language is as crude as in its homeland in Europe, and its methods as cruel. Hindus are helpless and suffer any number of atrocities. Fortunately for them, this phase does not last for long. The Portuguese lose power except in Goa and some other small territories. The other European powers that take over have not much time to spare for Christianity except the French for a brief period in Pondicherry and their other possessions.
The second phase opens with the consolidation of the British conquest after the final defeat of the Marathas in 1813 CE. The British do not allow Christian missions to use physical methods. But missionary language continues to be as crude as ever. Christianity enjoys a brief period of self-confidence particularly in Bengal. The phase ends with the rise of Hindu reform movements, particularly the clarion call given by Maharshi Dayananda and Swami Vivekananda. Christianity suffers a serious setback.
The third phase starts with the advent of Mahatma Gandhi and his slogan of sarva-dharma-samabhAva. Christian missions are thrown on the defensive and forced to change their language. The foulmouthed miscreants become sweet-tongued vipers. Now they are out to “share their spiritual riches” with Hindus, reminding us of a beggar in dirty rags promising to donate his wardrobe to wealthy persons. The phase ended with the Tambram Conference of the International Missionary Council (IMC) in 1938, which decided to reformulate Christian theology in the Indian context.
The fourth phase which commenced with the coming of independence proved a boon for Christianity. The Christian right to convert Hindus was incorporated in the Constitution. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru who dominated the scene for 17 long years, promoted every anti-Hindu ideology and movement behind the smokescreen of a counterfeit secularism. The regimes that followed continued to raise the spectre of ‘Hindu communalism’ as the most frightening phenomenon. Christian missionaries could now 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 sorts of ‘secularists’ came forward to join the chorus. New theologies of Fulfilment, Indigenisation, Liberation, and Dialogue were evolved and put into action. The missionary apparatus multiplied fast and became pervasive. Christianity had never had it so good in the whole of its history in India. It now stood recognized as ‘an ancient Indian religion’ with every right to extend its field of operation and expand its flock. The only rift in the lute was K.M. Panikkar’s book, Asia and Western Dominance, published from London in 1953, the Niyogi Committee Report published by the 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 Tamil Nadu, renewed Muslim aggression in many ways, and Pakistan-backed terrorism in Punjab and Kashmir. The Sangh Parivar which had turned cold towards Hindu causes over the years, was startled by the rout of the Bharatiya Janata Party in the 1984 elections to the Lok Sabha, and decided to renew its Hindu character. The RAmajanmabhUmi Movement was the result. The Movement was aimed at arresting Islamic aggression. Christianity or its missions were hardly mentioned. Nevertheless, it was Christian missions which showed the greatest concern at this new Hindu stir, and started crying ‘wolf’. Christian media power in the West raised a storm, saying ad nauseum that Hindus were out to destroy the minorities in India and impose a Nazi regime. The storm is still raging and no one knows when it will subside, if at all.
The Constitution of independent India adopted in January 1950 made things quite smooth for the Christian missions. They surged forward with renewed vigour. Nationalist resistance to what had been viewed as an imperialist incubus during the Struggle for Freedom from British rule, broke down when the very leaders who had frowned upon it started speaking in its favour. Voices which still remained ‘recalcitrant’ were sought to be silenced by being branded as those of ‘Hindu communalism’. Nehruvian Secularism had stolen a march under the smokescreen of Mahatma Gandhi’s sarva-dharma-samabhAva
What was far more favourable to Christian missionaries, was the complete collapse of Hindu resistance which had been pretty strong during the Struggle for Freedom. Mahatma Gandhi had raised Jesus to the status of a spiritual giant, and Christianity itself to the status of a great religion as good as SanAtana Dharma. His mindless slogan of sarva-dharma-samabhAva was proving to be an effective smokescreen for Christian missions to steal a march against Hindu religion, society, and culture. In a letter written to C.D. Deshmukh on 22 June 1952, Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru had 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…”2 He was blissfully unaware that he himself had become the most despicable demagogue in India’s hoary history when he borrowed the word “secularism” from Western political parlance and made it mean the opposite of what it had meant when it emerged during the European Enlightenment in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Secularism in the modern West had symbolized a humanist and rationalist revolt against the closed creed of Christianity and stood for pluralism such as has characterized Hinduism down the ages. But Pandit Nehru had perverted the word and turned it into a shield for protecting every closed creed prevailing in India at the dawn of independence in 1947 Islam, Christianity, Communism. It is significant that the word “secularism” cannot be found anywhere in Pandit Nehru’s pre-independence writings and utterances of which we have a huge heap. Nor was this word used by any one in the Constituent Assembly debates which exist in cold print. Even in the Constitution of India it was inserted arbitrarily by Indira Gandhi during the infamous Emergency (1975-77). It was solely due to Pandit 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 indigenous, society and culture. The first Prime Minister of independent India became the 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 held sacred could be questioned, ridiculed, despised and insulted. At the same time the darkest dogmas of Islam and Christianity were not only placed beyond the pale of discussions but also invested with divinity so that anyone who asked any inconvenient questions about them invited the attention of laws which were made more and more punitive. It is, therefore, no exaggeration to say that 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 Islam, Christianity, White Man’s Burden, and Communism.
Small wonder that the Prime Minister of India should issue the following command to Chief Ministers of all States in his circular letter dated 17 October 1952:
A footnote to this letter informs us that “On October 1952, Rajkumari Amrit Kaur drew Nehru’s attention to complaints of such treatment of Christian missionaries in Bihar and Madhya Pradesh”. Had Pandit Nehru been an Indian and a patriot, he would have referred Rajkumari Amrit Kaur to the Chief Ministers of Bihar and Madhya Pradesh before taking up the matter himself. But being the man he was a coolie carrying the White Man’s Burden an allegation from a mouthpiece of Christian missions was sufficient for him to rush with a reprimand to the Chief Ministers of all States only a week after his ear was poisoned. There was no complaint regarding maltreatment of Christian missions from the rest of the States, yet he felt called upon to raise a general alarm. He not only anticipated all possible objections which he thought could be made against missions and missionary activities, he also tried his best to blunt those objections in his usual “if” and “but” way. The worst part of it all was that he repeated the Big Lie that Christianity was 2000 years old in India as, according to him, it was brought to India by St. Thomas in the first century of the Christian era. Even when he had told that story to his daughter in April 1932 in one of his schoolboyish essays which now pass as solid history, Christian historians had been debating for years whether a man called St. Thomas was a historical figure or a figment of theological speculation, and whether he ever came to South India. But Pandit Nehru who fancied himself as a great historian and was hailed as such by all sorts of fools and knaves around the world, had swallowed the story as soon as he heard it and kept on spreading it.
The followers of Mahatma Gandhi were the first to forget what their Master had said repeatedly on the subject of proselytization, namely, that it was “the deadliest poison which ever sapped the fountain of truth”. Some of them found berths in the new power setup, and fell in line with Pandit Nehru. Some others who felt frustrated in the new situation for one reason or the other became fascinated by Mao-tse Tung and started seeing the Mahatma reincarnated in Red China. Constructive workers of the Gandhian movement gave priority to economic programmes and sidelined all social and cultural problems. A new breed of ‘Gandhians’ became busy -floating Voluntary Agencies and looking forward to being funded by Western Foundations. Some of these Foundations were avowedly dedicated to promoting only Christian causes. Small wonder that the ‘Gandhians’ became, in due course, active or passive accomplices of the Christian missions.
The worst crisis, however, overtook those who became known as Hindu leaders in post-independence India. So long as the Mahatma was alive they had prospered by accusing him of promoting ‘Muslim and Christian causes’ at the cost of ‘Hindu interests’. Now that he was no more, they did not really know what to do. Some of them continued to live in the past, deriving satisfaction from cursing the Mahatma for misleading the country for all time to come. Others revised their attitude towards him, but they did so more out of convenience than conviction. Sarva-dharma-samabhAva acquired a new meaning for them also. Criticism of Christian dogmas became a ‘negative’ approach. The ‘positive’ approach, they started saying, should match the Christian missionary effort in the fields of education, medicine and social services. It did not occur to them that Hindu society being poor and bereft of a State of its own, was in no position to run the race. The ‘positive’ approach thus became, for all practical purposes, an excuse for not facing the problem of Christian subversion at all.
The bright sunshine in which Christian missions started basking can be reported best in the words of a Jesuit missionary. “The Indian Church,” writes Plattner, “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.”4 The number of foreign missionaries registered an unprecedented increase. “One must admit,” continues Plattner, “that the number of missionaries who came to India soon after independence had perceptibly increased. During the war years very few of them ever reached India. So a kind of surplus was building in Europe with corresponding lack of personnel in India… At the same time the Communists were expelling thousands of missionaries mainly members of the American sects from China. Some of them were then transferred to India but not all of them could adapt themselves to Indian conditions.”5
Far more foreboding than this forward march of the Christian missions, however, was the fact that they were able to take in their stride two serious exposures of their character and activities made during the fifties. The first jolt they received was from the above-mentioned book by K. M. Panikkar published in 1953. The second was the publication, in 1956, of the Niyogi Committee’s report on Christian missionary activities in Madhya Pradesh. The powers that be the Government, the political parties, the national press, and the intellectual elite either protected the missions for one reason or the other or shied away from studying and discussing the exposures publicly for fear of being accused of ‘Hindu communalism’, the ultimate swearword in the armoury of Nehruvian Secularism.
Thus howsoever serious the flutter which these exposures caused inside missionary dovecotes, the atmosphere outside continued to be favourable for them. Of course, ‘narrow minded and fanatical Hindu communalists’ provided some pen-pricks off and on. But they came to nothing in every instance. “The question was raised in Parliament,” narrates Plattner, “as to whether the right to propagate religion was applicable only to Indian citizens or also to foreigners residing in India, for example, the 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 everyone 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.”6
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 was conversions brought about by force, fraud or material inducements. But no less a person than the Prime Minister of India, Pandit Nehru, came to the rescue of Christian missions and persuaded the Parliament to throw out the Bill. “I fear that this Bill,” said Pandit Nehru, “will not help very much in suppressing evil methods but might very well be the cause of great harassment to a large number of people. We should deal with those evils on a different plane, in other ways, not in this way which may give rise to other ways of coercion. Christianity is one of the important religions of India, established here for nearly two thousand years. We must not do anything which gives rise to any feeling of oppression or suppression in the minds of our Christian friends and fellow-countrymen.”7
The signing of the defence pact between the U.S.A. and Pakistan in 1954 had, however, made the Government of India somewhat strict about granting of visas to foreign, particularly American, missionaries. “The Catholic Bishops of India,” writes Plattner, “found it very difficult to reconcile themselves to this new turn of affairs, which they considered highly unpleasant and unjustifiable. In March 1955 a delegation under the leadership of Cardinal Gracias of Bombay requested an interview with Prime Minister Nehru and Home Minister Pandit [Govind Ballabh] Pant, who had succeeded Dr, [Kailash Nath] Katju.”8 Pandit Nehru, according to the Secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, was “sympathetic but pointed out that the problem was political and national, not religious”. Pandit Pant, on the other hand, gave a practical advice which proved very helpful to Christian missions in the long run. “He could not understand,” continues Plattner, “why the Catholic Church, which had a long and historic existence in the country, had not succeeded in training Indian priests and professors for seminaries. The interview helped us to realise that in every sphere we have to recruit locally and train selected candidates for responsible positions.”9 The Home Minister of India, it seems, had no objection to the sale of a narcotic provided the vendors were native. Nor did he see any danger in the spread of a network financed and controlled completely from abroad. The lesson that the East India Company had subjugated the country by training and employing native mercenaries, had not been learnt.
Another Bill was introduced in the 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. “It was rejected,” records Plattner, “after Mr. [B.N.] Datar declared in no uncertain terms that it was unconstitutional and that there were no mass conversions as alleged by the mover.” The Minister went much further. “They were carrying on,” he said, “Christ’s mission by placing themselves at the service of mankind and such work was one of their greatest contributions to the world.” He credited Christian missionaries with “the uplift of a large number of downtrodden people through their schools and social work.”10
“This attitude of Nehru and his government,” concluded Plattner, “has inspired the Christians with confidence in the Indian Constitution.”11 Nehru had “remained true to his British upbringing.”12 Small wonder that the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India became quite optimistic about the future. “With the Indian Hierarchy well established,” it proclaimed in September 1960, “and the recruitment of the clergy fairly assured, it may be said that the Church in India 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.”13
were good grounds for this optimism. Conversions to Christianity
were on the increase as was soon indicated by the Census of 1971. “In India
as a whole,” wrote a Christian historian, F.S. Downs, “the Christian population
increased by 64.9% between 1951 and 1971. This may be compared with
a general population increase of 51.7% during the same period. In
North East India the Christian population increased by 171.1% during the
same period, compared with a general population growth in that region of
116.5%. Even these figures do not give the full picture because in 1971,
74.7% of the total North East India population was in Assam where the growth
of the Christian community is the lowest. In the 1961-71 decade alone
the growth of the Christian community in states and territories other than
Assam was as follows:
In the 1951-1971 period, the Christian growth in Nagaland was 251.6%, and in Tripura 298.6%… According to the Census of 1901 Christians in the North East constituted 1.23% of the whole, by 1951 the proportion was 7.8% and in 1971, 12.5%. North East India now had 39.8% of the non-southern Christian population.”14
Downs has not given figures for Mizoram, the Lushai Hills District of Assam, which was raised to the status of a State in 1987. The Christian population in this area had risen from 0.05% of the total population in 1901 to 80.31 % in 1951 due to the efforts of Protestant missions. In 1971, Christianity came to claim 86.09%. As against the general growth rate of 34.69% between 1951 and 1961 and 24.69 percent between 1961 and 1971, the growth rate of Christian population had been 46% and 25% for the two decades respectively.15
A major part of this rich harvest in this region had been reaped by the Catholic Church. “Without question,” continued Downs, “the most important postwar development has been the rapid expansion of the Roman Catholic Church. At the beginning of the war there were but 50,000 Catholics in the region; in 1977 there were 369,681. In part this was due to an extraordinary expenditure of resources both in terms of money and missionary personnel, including personnel brought in from other parts of India. But it was due also to the removal after independence of the restrictions the British had placed upon Catholic missions.”16
This spate of conversions could be traced directly to the expansion of Catholic education. “The growth of Catholic educational programme in the North East,” noted the historian, “was certainly phenomenal. While in 1935 they were operating 299 primary schools, 9 middle and high schools, and 2 colleges, by 1951 the numbers had increased to 591, 65 and 2 respectively. By 1977 there were 744 primary schools, 63 middle and high schools (a slight decrease) and 4 colleges… Altogether there were 811 educational institutions with 79, 891 students.”17
The North East region reflected the expansion of Catholic education in the country as a whole. “The dawn of independence,” wrote the Catholic educationist, T. A. Mathias, in 1971, “is a landmark in the development of Christian educational work in this country. Since 1947 there has been a fantastic expansion in the number of Christian institutions, chiefly among the Roman Catholics. Colleges have gone up from 42 to 114 and secondary schools from 500 to 1,200. The Catholic Directory, 1969, gives fairly accurate statistics for Catholic educational work. There are now 6000 elementary schools, 1200 secondary schools, 114 colleges, and 80 specialised institutions.”18
The Catholic Directory of India 1984, reported a still more phenomenal growth. The number of kindergarten (elementary schools) in 1981 had reached 2,550, the number of primary schools 6,183 and the number of secondary schools 2,986. The Directory does not give the number of colleges and specialized institutions, though it tells us that 1,141,787 students were studying in Catholic colleges and 35,519 in institutes for other studies.
The Catholic educational network, however, represents only a part of the Catholic apparatus, though it is the most important from the missionary point of view. It alienates Hindu young men and women from their ancestral culture or at least neutralises them against missionary inroads if it does not incline them positively towards the promotion of Christianity. Schools at the lower levels and in rural and tribal areas win converts directly by forgoing tuition fees, providing free textbooks and stationery etc., housing students freely in hostels, and giving free meals to day scholars. Colleges provide many recruits to the higher echelons in government services besides executives in business houses. Most of them look quite favourably at the ‘humanitarian services which Hindus have neglected’. Big sums flow into the coffers of the Catholic missions from bribes given by neo-rich Hindu parents looking forward to their children speaking English in the ‘proper accent’. Convent educated girls are in great demand in the Hindu marriage market.
By 1995 this educational network had become powerful enough to be used as a political weapon as well. The New Delhi edition of the Indian Express flashed on 22 November 1995 the following report datelined New Delhi. Nov. 21, 1995: “More than 10,000 Christian schools and 240 Christian colleges in different parts of the country remained closed today in support of the demand for extension of Scheduled Caste benefits to Dalit Christians. The decisions to keep these institutions closed was taken by the National Coordination Committee for Scheduled Caste Christians and the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI).” In October-November 1997, these institutions were again used as a political weapon in order to pressurize the Government of Bihar for release of a Jesuit priest who was arrested by the police for sodomizing a tribal boy in a school in Dumka where the Jesuit happened to be a teacher.
The other part of the apparatus comprises what are known as medical, social, and humanitarian service agencies. In 1984 the Catholic missions maintained 615 hospitals, 1529 dispensaries, 221 leprosaria, 309 homes for the aged and the handicapped, 1,233 orphanages and 1,271 centres for training people in various crafts and skills. That is also where work of conversion is carried on openly. These services are free or very cheap for those who show readiness to embrace ‘the only true faith’. For others, they are quite expensive, particularly the hospitals furnished with imported equipment of the latest kind.
This apparatus was spread in 1984 over 17,288 mission stations and manned by 49,956 religious women, 4,993 religious priests and 2,801 religious men other than priests. The missionary personnel was grouped in 167 congregations of sisters, 39 congregations of priests and 19 congregations of brothers. The sisters functioned from more than 4000 houses maintained in different parts of the country by a personnel of more than 56,000. Corresponding figures for priests came to more than 700 houses and a personnel of nearly 14,000, and for brothers it was nearly 200 houses with a personnel of more than 2,000. Besides, there were 14 secular institutes with nearly 30 houses and a personnel of nearly 400. A majority of these congregations had their headquarters abroad 97 of sisters, 25 of priests, 8 of brothers. Though they recruited their personnel for the most part from India, their control was completely in the hands of establishments abroad. As many as 26,541 catechists were in the field for netting new birds and making them cram the Catholic creed.
There was a corresponding expansion of what is called the Catholic Hierarchy which the Pope had taken over, partly from the Portuguese, in 1886. The Hierarchy had grown apace till 1947 when it had 10 Archdioceses and 35 Dioceses. By 1984, a period of only 37 years, the number of Archdioceses had almost doubled to 19 and that of Dioceses more than trebled to 110. A record increase of 18 Dioceses in a single year took place in 1977-78 when the Janata Party was in power. Six of these were created in the sensitive areas of Madhya Pradesh where the State Government had stalled expansion of the Hierarchy after the Niyogi Committee Report on Christian missions had laid bare the missionary mischief in 1956. The Government of Madhya Pradesh in 1977, it may be noted, was dominated by the erstwhile Jana Sangh component of the Janata Party.19
The Hierarchy presided over 5,159 parishes and quasiparishes grouped in 110 ecclesiastical territories and manned by 7,058 diocesan priests. The Directory gives the Latin names of Bulls and Decrees proclaimed by the Pope while creating new Dioceses and Archdioceses and appointing Bishops and Archbishops on advice from his Nuncio in New Delhi. Neither the government of India nor any State Government has ever been consulted in the matter. In 1974, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had started negotiations for a Pre-Notification Treaty with the Vatican but the Pope had stalled them on one excuse or the other. The Janata Party dropped even the negotiations when it came to power in 1977. The Pope was thus free to continue carving out a State within the State.
In addition, the Catholic apparatus controlled some 150 printing presses and more than 200 periodicals in English and Indian languages. Around 350 seminaries of all sorts were busy training missionaries, priests and other specialised functionaries for its missions. The number of students in these seminaries was 2,125 in 1984. In the same year, 3,528 persons turned out by these seminaries were candidates for religious priesthood.20
The Catholic Dictionary of India, 1994, provides “data computed from the information sent in by Dioceses, from the Statistical Year Book of the Church 1987 and from CRI Directory 1990”. The number of kindergarten and nursery schools had risen to 7,319, that of primary schools to 7,319 and of secondary schools to 3,765. This time the number of colleges is given as 240 with 213,392 students. The number of technical and training schools (i.e. specialized institutions) is not given but the number of students is noted as 1,514. Some educational institutions had hostels and boarding houses attached to them with 1,765 inmates.
The medical and social welfare agencies in 1994 comprised 704 hospitals, 1,792 dispensaries and health centres, 1085 orphanages, 228 creches, 111 leprosaria, 102 rehabilitation centres and 455 homes for the aged, destitutes and handicapped.
The number of mission stations had gone up to 17,467 manned by 6,451 religious priests, 1,584 religious brothers, and 62,283 sisters. The number of religious men other than priests is not given, nor of the catechists in the field. This religious personnel was grouped in 43 congregations of priests, 17 of brothers and 190 of sisters. At another place (p. 1147) the Directory for 1994 provides another table of “Religious of India Today”. According to this table there were 45 congregations of priests with 108 major superiors, 12,787 priests, 1,117 novices and 4,984 candidates; 16 congregations of brothers with 30 major superiors, 1,652 brothers, 221 novices and 543 candidates; and 202 congregations of sisters, with 378 major superiors, 67,375 sisters, 4,849 novices and 8,783 candidates. Besides, there were 44 cloistered congregations with 711 inmates, 60 novices and 82 candidates spread over 11 regional and 101 local units. The actual number of religious congregations listed in detail in this Directory, however, is 56 for priests, 19 for brothers, 224 for sisters, and 6 for cloistered sisters. It seems that “India Today” refers to some year earlier than 1994. The number of houses from which these congregations function and the personnel which maintains them is not given, nor the number of secular institutes with their houses and personnel.
And as in 1984, in 1994 also most of the religious congregations had their headquarters abroad. Of the 56 congregations of priests, 30 had their headquarters in Italy, 3 in France, and 1 each in England and Switzerland. Of the rest, 10 represented foreign congregations with only provinces and delegates in India. In the case of sisters, 61 congregations had their headquarters in Italy, 19 in France, 11 in Germany, 6 in Spain, 5 in Switzerland, 4 in Belgium, 2 each in England and the USA, and 1 each in Austria, Holland, Ireland, Pakistan, Portugal and Sri Lanka. Of the rest, 21 represented foreign congregations with provincials and delegates, and 2 were mixed, that is, foreign congregations in collaboration with Indian ones. Of the 6 congregations of cloistered sisters, 4 had their headquarters abroad Germany, Italy, England and France. Coming to brothers, 7 congregations had their headquarters in Italy and 1 each in England and Ireland.
Of course, some religious congregations had their headquarters in India 11 in the case of priests, 86 in the case of sisters, and 10 in the case of brothers. But that was only the form. In substance these congregations also derived their inspiration from prototypes abroad, or were patterned after them. In any case, most of these “Indian” congregations, like the others, were named after Christian saints who had nothing to do with India and most of whom were criminals or crusaders against infidels, which category has always included Hindus.21 Or they, like their foreign-based companions, flaunted pompous or pretentious names derived from Christian Theology Blessed Sacrament, Mary Immaculate, Immaculate Heart, Passion of Jesus Christ, Immaculate Conception, Holy Cross, Holy Spirit, Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, Catholic Apostolate, Most Holy Redeemer, Precious Blood, Divine Word, Most Holy Trinity, Assumption, Most Holy Saviour, Charity of Jesus and Mary, Providence of Gap, Divine Providence, Our Lady of Fatima, Good Shepherd, Christ the King, Our Lady of Graces and Compassion, Holy Family, Blessed Virgin, Jesus, Mary and Joseph, Mary Mediatrix, Incarnation, Our Lady of the Missions, Divine Master, Queen of Apostolates, Mother of Sorrows, Maria Auxilium, Redemption, Divine Saviour, Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Holy Spirit of Perpetual Adoration, etc. The whole of this quaint jargon is alien to India not only in language but also in spirit.
The most significant point about this part of the apparatus is the marked increase in the number of religious sisters. Their number had grown from 45,286 to 46,168 in 1977, 48,466 in 1978, 49,657 in 1979 and 50,936 in 1980. But as per the 1994 Directory the number stood at 62,283 (p. LX) or 67,375 (p. 1147). The number of Religious Priests, on the other hand had grown from 4,655 in 1976, 4,638 in 1977, 4,695 in 1979, 4,943 in 1981 to 6,451 (p. LX) or 12,787 (p. 1147) in 1994. The explanation for expansion of religious sisters is provided by a document ‘Trends and Issues in Evangelization in India’ published by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India in 1994. It proclaims that “Women Religious will play more decisive role in the missions”22 We can foresee an accelerating increasing in the number of sisters in the years to come.
It may be pointed out that notwithstanding the pompous words ‘evangelization’ and ‘mission’ used, the reality regarding these religious sisters has been and remains quite ugly. An overwhelming majority of them are girls either raised in Catholic orphanages or bought for a pittance from poor families and brainwashed to believe that they have become ‘brides of Jesus Christ’ by taking ‘holy orders’. They are crowded into convents or cloistered, made to live a life of deprivation, and used as slave labour in the hospitals and social welfare institutions of the missions. The late lamented Mother Teresa had presided for long over a network of these female slaves the Sister of Charity. The network continues and may grow unless it attracts the attention of some champions of human rights. These unfortunate girls are also exported to Europe and the USA where females are no more coming forward to fill the convents. There are some other uses to which these ‘brides of Jesus Christ’ are put quite frequently. We refer the readers interested to documented studies on the subject.23
The Catholic Hierarchy according to the 1994 Directory had 2 Cardinals, 19 Archdioceses, 1.26 Dioceses, and 6,277 parishes and quasiparishes, manned by 8,621 diocesan priests and 4,419 scholastics in clerical orders. It had 7 theological institutes, and 560 major and minor seminaries employing 6,310 seminarians. Besides, the Catholic Church owns 169 printing presses and 238 newspapers and periodicals in English and Indian languages. There are quite a few bookshops in different cities selling literature churned out by Catholic scribes in India and abroad.
This whole apparatus in India is presided over by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) housed in a huge mansion in New Delhi and staffed by specialists from various fields. The CBCI has 5 standing committees, and 11 commissions for social communication; ecumenism and dialogue; justice, development and peace; education and culture, schedule castes/tribes and backward classes; clergy and religious; laity; youth; labour; health; and doctrine. Two special commissions look after evangelization and inter-ritual matters. Each commission is assisted by a number of organisations and bodies drawn from the commission’s specialized fields. Its commands are carried out by 12 regional councils, 20 national organisations and 13 major associations.
And this leviathan is controlled by the Pope in Rome through his Nuncio in New Delhi. For all practical purposes, it is a State within the State. The tyrannies that take place within this prison-house are never mentioned in the Indian media, not to speak of being investigated.
We have not been able to obtain and analyse corresponding data regarding the expansion of the Protestant missions and churches. They stopped publishing consolidated figures quite some time ago. It can, however, be safely assumed that there has been a considerable expansion of the Protestant apparatus as well, though it might not have been as phenomenal as the Catholic. Missions from or financed by the U.S.A. and West Germany, we are told, have become particularly prosperous and are active over wider fields.
The cost of maintaining and expanding this huge missionary apparatus, Catholic and Protestant, should be considerable though it is kept a closely guarded secret by the missions and churches in India. The budgets for maintaining missions and church hierarchies are never made public. Not even a hint is available in Christian publications regarding how much money is received and from where. The Christian community in India is too poor to maintain this colossal and expensive edifice, not to speak of financing its widespread and multifarious operations. The logical conclusion that the apparatus is financed almost entirely from abroad, is confirmed by the budgets published by controllers of missions in Europe and America. A publication house in New Delhi has reprinted in 1996 A History of the Welsh Calvinistic Methodists Foreign Missions, To the End of 1904. Operating in Khasia and Jaintia Hills (present-day Meghalaya), this mission spent £ 2,188 between May 1841 and December 1904 (p. 308). Figures of foreign remittances to Christian organisations are also made known by the Government of India from time to time. “One billion dollars,” says a recent and reliable report, “that is how much American Protestant Christian organisations spent last year [19881 trying to gain conversions from other religions, and the Catholic Church spent an equal amount. According to official Indian government reports US dollars 165 millions is sent to Christian missions in India each year.”24 This represents a staggering increase on the amount of foreign remittances noted by the Niyogi Committee for the period from January 1950 to June 1954.25
Thus it can be maintained no longer that the Portuguese and British imperialists alone were responsible for the expansion of Christianity in India. The native Indian rulers have proved far more helpful to the Christian missions. They have provided constitutional protection to Christian propaganda. They have made it possible for the missions to enter into areas from where the British had kept them out. What is most important, in the years since independence Christianity has come to acquire a prestige which it had enjoyed never before in this country.
It cannot be said that the country has not faced problems created by Christian missions. Converts to Christianity in the North East and Central India have constantly. evinced separatist and secessionist tendencies. The Government of India has recognised the mischief potential of Christian missions by expelling from the country several well known missionaries who were found fomenting political unrest and promoting violence. But the larger lesson that Christian missions in general mean no good and much mischief to the country and its culture, has yet to be learnt.
Even before independence, some Christian missionaries had ganged up with the Muslim League and floated the scheme of a sovereign Christian State composed of tribal areas in the North East and Central India. The two enclaves were to be linked together by a corridor passing through Bengal and Bihar. The Nizam of Hyderabad was expected to provide another corridor towards Christian populations in the Madras Presidency (now Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu) and the princely states of Travancore and Cochin (now Kerala). It was hoped that, in due course, these Christian populations would gravitate towards the sovereign Christian State and provide access to the Christian world outside via the Coromandal and Malabar coasts. The movement for an independent Travancore had drawn enthusiastic support from the local Christians. Cochin was expected to follow suit.
After independence, the hand of Christian missions has been manifest in violent secessionist uprisings in Nagaland, Mizoram, Manipur and Tripura. Christian missions in these areas have not been loathe to join hands with the Communists who have pursued the same aim in cooperation with Red China. It has cost India vast sums of money for meeting the menace militarily. Thousands of lives have been lost. And the fires lighted by the Christian missionaries are still burning or smouldering under the surface in spite of concessions made in the shape of several Christian majority States.
Meanwhile, the Christian sponsored agitation for a separate State of Jharkhand has been gaining strength. “A secret report of Intelligence Bureau,” according to the Indian Express of January 13, 1989, “has claimed that some voluntary organisations who received foreign contributions had been ‘covertly’ helping the Jharkhand movement for a separate state comprising 21 districts of Bihar, West Bengal and Orissa. The organisations named by the report are: The Willian Carey Study and Research Centre (WCSRC), the Christian Institution for Study of Religion and Science (CISRC), the Liberal Association for the Movement of People (LAMP), the Gana Unnayan Parishad (GUP), and the Indian People’s Welfare Society (IPWS). The Forum for the Concerned Rural Journalists (FCRJ) with its registered office at Jhargram, was also said to be a recipient of subsidy from WCSRC and CISRC.”
Some of the foreign organisations from which finances flow to these “voluntary organizations” in India have also been named. “According to the report GUP, WCSRC etc., had been getting foreign contributions from several foreign agencies including ‘EZE, ECCO and AGKED (West Germany), NAVIB Foundation (Netherlands). Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), World Council of Churches (Geneva) and Bread for the World’.”
The “voluntary organisations” know how to get around the laws of the land for serving their subterranean purposes. “These organisations, the report said, had their own techniques for circumventing Government regulations. The organisations receiving foreign contributions registered themselves with the Central Government, maintained an account of foreign contributions and kept records about the purpose and manner of utilisation of funds. But, while the annual returns of these organisations to the Reserve Bank of India showed that the money was spent on cultural, economic, educational, religious and social programmes, in reality, the report claimed, much less amount than that claimed in the returns was actually spent on the programmes, with the rest being either ‘misappropriated’ or ‘clandestinely donated to designing organisations and elements to further their ulterior objectives’.”
They also play hide and seek with the law enforcement agencies of the Government. “They operate in cooperation with many other voluntary organisations. If one particular organisation comes to adverse notice it floats some other cover, and front organisations maintain close liason with organisations which have not come under the cloud. GUP and IPWS had thus been floated by the WCRSC and LAMP… WCSRC had been reportedly giving monetary help to the Jharkhand Coordination Committee, a common front with 49 cultural and political groups and mass organisations formed to give a new pitch to the Jharkhand movement… The organisation, the report said, encouraged ‘struggles of working people, women, tribals, dalits, oppressed and children’ of the Jharkhand region ‘inciting’ the organisations for a separate Jharkhand state.”
report in a leading national daily called for some comments from leaders
of the nation, if not questions in Parliament. But it was not even
noticed, least of all by those who pass as Hindu leaders, not to speak
of politicians who swear by Secularism. The only response it elicited
was some letters of protest from the functionaries of Christian organisations.
In the letters-to-the-editor column of the daily they denounced the report
as concocted. The editor maintained that the report emanated from
reliable and responsible quarters. That was the end of the matter.
The Christian missions in India had not a worry in the world except that
caused by their own theological quibbles.
1Sita Ram Goel, Defence of Hindu Society, Third revised edition, Voice of India, New Delhi, 1994.
2Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru., Second Series, Volume 18, New Delhi, 1996, p. 661.
3Ibid., Volume 19, New Delhi, 1996, pp. 733-34. See also Volume 21, pp. 365-66.
4Felix Alfred Planner, The Catholic Church in India: Yesterday and Today, Allahabad, 1964, p. 6. Emphasis added.
5Ibid., p. 10.
6Ibid., pp. 6-7.
7Quoted in Ibid., p. 7. Emphasis added. There is no record that Pandit Nehru ever gave any thought to the ‘different plane’ or ‘other ways’ of dealing with ‘those evils’. It remained his life-long privilege “to talk vaguely and generally about things in general,” as he himself had said. His patent way of showing disapproval was to talk of a ‘different plane’ and ‘other ways’. Those who understood his language took the hint and fell in line. It ‘nay also be noted that he again repeats the story of Christianity being 2000 year old in India.
8Christians were unhappy with Dr. Katju because in April 1953 he had made a statement in Parliament that “for a long time he had been in possession of information about questionable proselytising activities of missionaries in Central India” (Ibid., p. 10).
9Ibid., p. 12.
10Ibid., pp. 7-8.
11Ibid., p. 8.
12Ibid., p. 9.
13Ibid., p. 134. Emphasis added.
14F.S. Downs, Christianity in North East India: Historical Perspectives, Gauhati, 1983, pp. 3-4.
15C.L. Himinga, The Life and Witness of the Churches in Mizoram, Serkwan. 1987, p. 9.
16F.S. Downs, op. cit., pp. 151-52. Emphasis added.
17Ibid., p. 154.
18Quoted in Ibid., P. 153.
19I tried to find out from various bigwigs of the then Janata Party including the then Prime Minister Morarji Desai, the reason for this sudden spurt. I drew a blank. No one was even aware that this had happened. The Catholic Church alone knows and can reveal the secret.
20For full details, See Sita Run Goel, Papacy: Its Doctrine and History, New Delhi, 1986. It is a Voice of India publication.
21In order to understand the character of Christian saints, one has to study the Processes which were compiled in order to qualify them for canonization.
22Arun Shourie, Missionaries in India, New Delhi, 1994, Annexure 1, p. 251.
23Voice of India has recently (1997) reprinted one of these studies, Women, Church and State by Matilda Joslyn Gage, first published in the USA in 1893.
24The Big Business of Evangelisation’, Hinduism Today, February 1989. As always, this article too is based on wide-ranging research.
25See Volume I, p. 96 of the Niyogi Committee Report reprinted in Section II.