INSIGHT XXI: Reality of Christian missionaries through the lens of Arun Shourie's book

Namaskar, the new series "INSIGHT" is an attempt to present the central thought of a thought-provoking book. "Missionaries In India Continuities, Changes, Dilemmas", a book by Shri Arun Shourie compels readers to contemplate various points put forth.

NewsBharati    22-Nov-2022 11:28:28 AM   
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The changed strategy of the Church caused concerns among ' intelligence and defence services '. As the Church aimed at concentrating on some areas within any state where Christians would be in majority or the people from the administration who make policy decisions would be under the influence of the Church.

INSIGHT XVIII: Reality of Christian missionaries through the lens of Arun Shourie's book

This was quite explicit in Nagaland and Manipur. The intelligence information from the government agencies confirmed it. Missionary groups helped and guided insurgent groups, the leaders had contacts with missionaries, and the secessionist groups were given all the support needed. The funds were channelled in the name of ' development programmes '. The author stated that in Mizoram the role of the Church was clearly political. The cases of fathers' involvement in secessionists' activities were well recorded.

The author wrote that 85% of the population in Mizoram, 80% in Nagaland and 50%in Meghalaya was converted to Christianity.( Till 1994, when the book was published ) As a result, the Church enjoyed enormous influence in these areas. The government information confirms the methods used for conversion were still somewhat the same, the use of paid agents presents to attract the poor, providing them with some facilities, payment on conversion,' buying off ' of headman of villages and many more like this. Sometimes the number of converted used to be as big as 350 at one ceremony.

Obviously, this kind of conversation did not have any philosophical foundation. The author stated that missionaries were concentrating in Arunachal Pradesh which was strategically an important state. In 1975 it had less than 0.8% of the Christian population but by 1994 it had about 1/8th of the population converted to Christianity. ( In 1971 the percentage of the Christian population was 0.8. The book is published in 1996, by that time 1/8'th of the population converted to Christianity. And today the percentage is 30.26 )

It was reported by intelligence agencies that this obviously caused social tensions and clashes with non-converts. It was further reported that the secessionist groups had contacts with tribal Baptist missions in the area bordering Myanmar and obviously it talks of financial help too.

Four kinds of help were managed. The first was an unlimited source of foreign funds, the rationalisation was that, Christianity was a transnational religion. The author stated that a similar argument was used by communists and Islamic groups too.

The second is noted by the author was the vast networks of media, as the Church had access because of its international affiliations. It could prevent even the slightest effort to scrutiny and control. The author referred to the Christian Missionary Activities Enquiry Committee as an example of how it worked.

A missionary when convicted twice for smuggling rice, threw serious allegations at the officials. They were found to be false on enquiry, but it was portrayed that missionaries were targeted and persecuted in our country, especially in Madhya Pradesh. The shelter came from a type of secularism too, double standards were the norm. The administration, missionaries and scholars were always supportive of each other. But the question the author raised that why are our students never were exposed to this.( He noted that he too was surprised when he could see it clearly.)

It raised one more question, the author observed, in spite of intelligence warnings about such incitement by Missionary groups in the North Eastern states, why was it never acknowledged in public by government? Steps to end it were probably out of the discussion.

The government did not show any determination and courage to enforce the law in regard to the missionaries and infiltration from Bangladesh, observed the author.

The secessionists' activities were certainly criminal in nature but very little was done to end them. In Arunachal Pradesh missionaries were violating the then-existing laws, but hardly anything was done. The ' Arunachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act ' was passed in 1978 due to tensions and clashes. It prohibited conversions ' by the use of force or by inducement or by any fraudulent means '. It had the provisions of fine and imprisonment, and no religious building could be built other than indigenous faith without the permission of the state government. Inner line regulations too were imposed to avoid entry into the sensitive area. This obviously was not sufficient to prevent the missionaries' activities. This fact did not move the government to implement the law rigorously,but missionaries were running a campaign attacking the laws and demanding relaxation.

Thus, in a way, the administration assisted the Church, noted the author with great pain.

( As this is posted today,the details of the ruling by supreme court hit the headlines of all the newspapers. It has mentioned the security threat such type of conversions imply. The Union Government is asked to submit its reply to check these things.)

Prof. Vidya Deshpande

Professor Vidya Deshpande has had a journey of more than four decades in the field of education. Her  main expertise is in the subject of Philosophy,  and she has worked as a teacher of philosophy and logic with Nowrosjee Wadia college for 36 years. She has been associated with the Janakalyan Blood bank for last for 38 years and has also carried out the responsibility as a management committee member of Karve Stree Shikshan Sanstha for 10 years. Her special fields of interest are Philosophy of social sciences, school education, development of skills for self reliance,  and top up skills to make students profession ready,