By Roger Alexander
[Note: I have resisted writing on this topic so far for fear of being labelled an apologist, given my name. I was only born in a Christian family and have been an atheist since high school. However, curious to know how a minuscule section of an ancient civilisation converted to an “alien” religion, I worked on ‘The Political Economy of Religious Conversions’ for my PhD.
I came across enough evidence to demonstrate that most Christians in Rajasthan (the area of the study) – and indeed the rest of the country with the possible exception of Kerala and Goa – are indeed ‘Rice Christians’ i.e. the marginalised sections, especially Dalits and Tribals who embraced Christianity in exchange for a more dignified and hunger-free life. Many upper-caste, educated Hindus also came into the Christian fold in order to boost their careers in the service of the British Raj.
As an aside, let me mention that if you come across a Christian with a westernised name like mine, 99 per cent of the times such a person is the progeny of some Dalit or Tribal convert a century ago. A Christian with an upper-caste surname like Singh or Sharma or even a Haidar Ali (like my wife) had well-off forefathers who served the Raj well in the hope of out-of-turn promotions or plum postings. Or as in the case of
Now that you have survived the lengthy intro, let’s get down to what’s happening today in Orissa, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Rajasthan – all NDA-ruled states – besides other parts of the country. The Sangh Parivar’s recurring theme is that Christian missionaries are “forcibly” converting Hindus, or offering “allurements/inducements” to win converts.
What is the reality? If there were so many thousands of conversions, as claimed by the Sangh Parivar, the number of Christians should have skyrocketed. The opposite is true. The Census of India shows a decline in the percentage of the Christian population of
Besides, there is a disincentive to any Dalit to convert: those who convert forfeit the right to be recognized as a Schedule Caste and benefit from the reservation policy in education and government jobs.
Moreover, several states have passed anti-conversion bills. The first was Arunachal Pradesh in 1978,
The fact that the even the NDA state governments have not been able to bring up even one case, is an indication that this charge is a fabrication. The very fact that a majority of secular Hindus, not to speak of the rabid right, vie to send their children to Christian schools for education is a sign that they do not really worry about conversion.
Indeed, even the likes of LK Advani and Bal Thackeray have testified that they are not worried their grandchildren studying in Christian schools might stray away from the Hindu fold. And we should not forget that come admission time, principals of Christian schools and colleges are threatened by these very same people of “dire consequences” if their children do not get a seat in Nursery and KG!
The attacks on the Christian community are not restricted only to Mangalore or Orissa, but have spread to other states like Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Chhattisgarh and even the national capital. They are military-like operations, carried out with clinical precision and are brutal, with no discrimination - sparing neither clergy nor women and children. (Remember the brutal burning alive of Graham Staines and his two sons?)
Not only that, we are now witnessing the forced reconversion of Christians to Hinduism by Hindutva groups, especially in Kandhamal district of Orissa. Christian families have already suffered the loss of their homes, possessions and places of worship in sustained attacks by marauding mobs of Sangh supporters from August 24, and even now more than a month later they now cannot return to their villages unless they reconvert to Hinduism, reports Parvathi Menon of The Hindu from Ground Zero in Orissa.
In fact, there is now a sectarian movement that has not been experienced in independent
“I am a tribal and my nephews are searching to kill me,” Father Lakshmikant, parish priest of the
Menon reports that thousands of Christian families in relief camps, who rejected the option of reconversion, have little hope of returning to their homes and villages that they left more than a month ago. In fact, Christian priests, pastors and nuns are unlikely to be able to return to their places of work in Kandhamal district in the near future. Some have been marked and get regular threatening calls.
Therefore, the most important question that has to asked is whether the reconversion or ghar wapsi programme of the Hindu fundamentalists fall under the anti-conversion law especially since gifts and incentives are given to people to return to the Hindu fold? Whatever happened to the anti-conversion law?
For the saffron brigade, Muslims have been fair game for long. But why are Christians – less than 3 per cent of the population - being targeted?
I’m putting together a cogent argument (hey, I’m the alleged expert). Watch this space tomorrow.
[Ends for the moment. But the debate continues! Pl post a comment. It helps me build up traffic that I need. Thanx]