I write this piece in response to the article, MAJORITY v/s MINORITY: THE LOST HUMANITY, written by my friend Nimisha Angelo Thomas. Therefore, I would kindly request you to first peruse the article of my friend, and to read mine in the context of a reply to the same. Here is the link: http://www.urbanchaupal.com/majority-vs-minority-the-lost-humanity/
There have been, over the past few months, a number of attacks on Christian establishments all over the country. Needless to say, such incidents are reprehensible and are required to be nipped in the bud. However, what my friend ultimately gathers, as is invariably the case these days with our ‘progressive’ media as well as the intellectuals, is that these string of incidents form part of a larger nexus, a mission of the ‘nationalists’ and various forces of communal Hindutva ideologues, to undermine and instil fear in the minorities. She remarks: “From places of worship to schools each is being targeted alike in the name of religion. Innocents are being murdered in the name of different faiths.” How much that statement holds true in view of the facts and circumstances of the various incidents, we shall soon analyse here.
There is only one incident which finds mention in her article–the murder of the Christian Missionary, Dr. Graham Staines, on the n 22nd December, 1999 by Dara Singh, who was, in her opinion, ‘a Bajrang Dal member’. What has been conveniently forgotten here are the findings of the Justice Wadhwa Commission of Inquiry, set up by the Government of India on January 29, 1999. As far as the involvement of the Bajrang Dal is concerned, here is what the Commission concluded: “The Commission has scrutinized the evidence before it and especially the evidence of the associates of Dara Singh who were involved in the carnage at Manoharpur. There is no evidence to suggest that any of the persons involved in the crime was in fact a member of either the Bajrang Dal or the BJP or any organisation. There is nothing to suggest in the evidence before the Commission, or in the investigation conducted by the Crime Branch and the CBI thus far that there is involvement of any organization, even that of Bajrang Dal, in the planning and the execution of the crime.”
My friend writes further in this regard: “He is convicted for not only the murder of persons belonging to the Christian community but also for violence against the other minority community in India, i.e Muslims.”
Really? Several witnesses testified before the Commission that Dara Singh was engaged in rescuing cows that were being transported for slaughter and had been trying repeatedly to get the State to enforce the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals laws. Under the pretext of this ‘anti-Muslim’ activity, the police implicated him in several cases filed by persons engaged in transporting and selling cows for slaughter. Witness-29 told the Commission, “Dara Singh is a very popular figure in the village as he forcibly frees cows from the people who take them for selling. After freeing the cows, Dara Singh distributes the cows among the villagers.” On the other hand, Staines and his organization were left free to go on converting Hindus to Christianity. The Supreme Court, thereby, refused to enhance the life imprisonment sentence of the High Court to death expressly because of the motive of Dara Singh against rampant conversion activities of Staines and his associates.
The Commission report also highlights several other proximate incidents in Odisha (erstwhile Orissa) at that time where the media reports as well as the Police had sought to exaggerate and concoct the facts to purposely give it Hindu-Christian communal angle. For the sake of brevity, I highlight one such incident. on 7 February, 1999, Two children, aged 10 and 19, were found murdered, a third had sustained injuries.
On 7 February, 1999. Two children, aged 10 and 19, were found murdered, a third had sustained injuries. Justice Wadhwa writes: “Newspapers came up with the headings, ‘Two Christians killed, one injured in Orissa,’ ‘2 tribal Christians done to death in Kandhamal,’ and ‘Orissa hunts for Christians’ killer’. Additional D. G. P. John Nayak reportedly said that the communal angle to the attempted rape and murder could not be ruled out….”
“In short,” the Commission concludes, “as per various reports that appeared in the newspapers, the incident was taken as an attack on the Christians.”
What turned out ultimately? “Ultimately investigation revealed that the crime was committed by a relative of the victims who was also a Christian”, the Commission points out.
Because my friend fondly remembers the ‘respectable noble souls like Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, Raja Ram Mohan Roy’ (the choice of leaders named by her is surprising to the least), who, in her and in many others’ reckoning, ‘fought to keep the country united’, I felt compelled to remind her what these ‘respectable noble souls’ actually had to say about the minority communities.
Here are a few quotations of the thoughts of Gandhi Ji on the Christian community:
Conversion: Impediment to Peace
It is impossible for me to reconcile myself to the idea of conversion after the style that goes on in India and elsewhere today. It is an error which is perhaps the greatest impediment to the world’s progress toward peace. Why should a Christian want to convert a Hindu to Christianity? Why should he not be satisfied if the Hindu is a good or godly man? (Harijan: January 30, 1937)
No Conversion Designs Upon Me
I am not interested in weaning you from Christianity and making you Hindu, and I do not relish your designs upon me, if you had any, to convert me to Christianity. I would also dispute your claim that Christianity is the only true religion. (Harijan: June 3, 1937)
Aping of Europeans and Americans
As I wander about through the length and breath of India I see many Christian Indians almost ashamed of their birth, certainly of their ancestral religion, and of their ancestral dress. The aping of Europeans by Anglo-Indians is bad enough, but the aping of them by Indian converts is a violence done to their country and, shall I say, even to their new religion. (Young India: August 8, 1925)
Why Should I Change My Religion
I hold that proselytisation under the cloak of humanitarian work is unhealthy to say the least. It is most resented by people here. Religion after all is a deeply personal thing. It touches the heart. Why should I change my religion because the doctor who professes Christianity as his religion has cured me of some disease, or why should the doctor expect me to change whilst I am under his influence? (Young India: April 23, 1931)
Missionary Aim: Uprooting Hinduism
My fear is that though Christian friends nowadays do not say or admit it that Hindu religion is untrue, they must harbour in their breast that Hinduism is an error and that Christianity, as they believe it, is the only true religion. So far as one can understand the present (Christian) effort, it is to uproot Hinduism from her very foundation and replace it by another faith. (Harijan: March 13,1937)
The Only Begotten Son of God
I regard Jesus as a great teacher of humanity, but I do not regard him as the only begotten son of God. That epithet in its material interpretation is quite unacceptable. Metaphorically we are all sons of God, but for each of us there may be different sons of God in a special sense. Thus for me Chaitanya may be the only begotten son of God. God cannot be the exclusive Father and I cannot ascribe exclusive divinity to Jesus. (Harijan: June 3, 1937)
Now let us examine how Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, in his book, Pakistan or the Partition of India, views the Muslims of India. Here are a few excerpts:
“From a spiritual point of view, Hindus and Musalmans are not merely two classes or two sects such as Protestants and Catholics or Shaivas and Vaishnavas. They are two distinct species… For them Divinity is divided and with the division of Divinity their humanity is divided and with the division of humanity they must remain divided. There is nothing to bring them in one bosom.”
“The Muslims have no interest in politics as such. Their predominant interest is in religion … Muslim politics is essentially clerical and recognizes only one difference, namely, that existing between Hindus and Muslims. None of the secular categories of life have any place in the politics of the Muslim community and if they do find a place – and they must because they are irrepressible – they are subordinated to one and the only one governing principle of the Muslim political universe, namely, religion.” (P. 232)
“….the fundamental assumption made by all Muslims that Islam is a world religion, suitable for all people, for all times and for all conditions … that this uniformity is deadening and is not merely imparted to Muslims, but is imposed upon them by a spirit of intolerance which is unknown anywhere outside the Muslim world for its severity and its violence and which is directed towards the suppression of all rational thinking which is in conflict with the teachings of Islam.” (P. 234)
“According to Muslim Canon Law the world is divided into two camps, Dar-ul-lslam (abode of Islam) and Dar-ul-Harb (abode of war). A country is Dar-ul-lslam when it is ruled by Muslims. A country is Dar-ul-Harb when Muslims only reside in it but are not rulers of it. That being the Canon Law of the Muslims, India cannot be the common motherland of the Hindus and the Musalmans. It can be the land of the Musalmans – but it cannot be the land of the ‘Hindus and the Musalmans living as equals’. Further, it can be the land of the Musalmans only when it is governed by the Muslims. The moment the land becomes subject to the authority of a non-Muslim power, it ceases to be the land of the Muslims. Instead of being Dar-ul-lslam it becomes Dar-ul-Harb” (P. 294).
Going by my friend’s logic that ‘a country like India having such rich heritage… should not be split on something so moral and holy like religion’, and the above-mentioned thoughts of Gandhi Ji and Dr. Ambedkar, will she, after reading these references, now count these leaders amongst those whom she refers to as ‘dirty politicians playing the same old game of Divide and Rule’?
My friend takes the oft-repeated, convenient stand when it comes to comparative teachings of religions: bloodshed and destruction is condemned by every religion; Hinduism, Islam and Chrisitiany, every religion ordains religious tolerance; it is only our false interpretation leading to the discrimination and using the name of God to perpetrate violence; every religion is a religion of peace, brotherhood and mutual amity. Let us see what the primary source–The Holy Texts—provide
These are some of the sayings in the Holy Qur’an concerning the Kafirs, or the crude Christian equivalent of the “unbeliever”:
98.6: “Those who reject (Truth), among the People of the Book and among the Polytheists, will be in Hell-Fire, to dwell therein (for aye). They are the worst of creatures.”
2.217: “They ask thee concerning fighting in the Prohibited Month. Say: “Fighting therein is a grave (offence); but graver is it in the sight of Allah to prevent access to the path of Allah, to deny Him, to prevent access to the Sacred Mosque, and drive out its members.” Tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter. Nor will they cease fighting you until they turn you back from your faith if they can. And if any of you Turn back from their faith and die in unbelief, their works will bear no fruit in this life and in the Hereafter; they will be companions of the Fire and will abide therein.”
4.89: “They but wish that ye should reject Faith, as they do, and thus be on the same footing (as they): But take not friends from their ranks until they flee in the way of Allah (From what is forbidden). But if they turn renegades, seize them and slay them wherever ye find them; and (in any case) take no friends or helpers from their ranks.”
Such crude is the distinction between the believers and the kafirs, that Allah forbade the Prophet to pray even for his deceased mother on the ground that she had died a non-believer (4.20). It is Allah who has himself ordained that it is He, Allah, who has himself put non-believers in the Muslim’s path to test the latter’s faith in Him. Allah declares that no good that the unbelievers do shall ever carry weight with Him (9.17; 9.69; 18.102-06; 45.7-10; 47.7-11).
As is well known, the Bible, too, emphasizes similar distinction of a believer and a non-believer. The Bible teaches us that it is not only attending the Church, attending services, etc. that makes us a Christian. Titus 3:5 tells us that it is “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.” So, a Christian is someone who has been born-again by God (John 3:3; John 3:7; 1 Peter 1:23) and has put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ. Ephesians 2:8 tells us that it is “by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.” A true Christian is someone who has repented of his or her sin and put faith and trust in Jesus Christ alone. A believer is one who has put his or her faith in Jesus Christ that he died on the cross as payment for sins and resurrected on the third day to obtain victory over death to give eternal life to all who believe in Him. Here is what the Bible consigns the non-believers to:
1 Corinthians 7:12-16
“But to the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he must not divorce her. And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, she must not send her husband away. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy.”
“He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
”The master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and assign him a place with the unbelievers.”
“Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.”
“But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
While there is no doubt that in today’s era, in large parts of our country, people of different communities do reside and interact with each other; the emphasis of my argument here concerns the teachings of the religions, and not the prevailing social norms of societies in different parts of the country. Do these sayings from the religious texts of these two minority communities leave any doubt about the unassailable fact that their religions are proselytising in nature? Do they, at any place, reflect principles of ‘religious tolerance’, or that of ‘peace and brotherhood’? Do they leave any scope of an alternate interpretation? Are the Madarsas or the Missionaries, in their efforts to expand the horizons of their beliefs, not simply acting on the basic precepts of their Holy Texts? But, the trend remains: because there are instances of mutual co-existence these days, because we see instances of inter-marriage in different communities, or most appropriately, because we are, after all, a Secular Republic, hence, all religions have just one message-the message of peace, brotherhood, tolerance-and anyone dare not disturb that belief by pointing out what the texts actually say!
Lest my interpretation is taken to be that of a bigot or of a fundamentalist, as I very sincerely expect of much of my ‘progressive’ friends, let me quote a figure who usually commands the same respect from the secularists and the communalists alike: Swami Vivekananda.
“If you read the Koran, you find the most wonderful truths mixed with superstitions. How will you explain it? That man was inspired, no doubt, but that inspiration was, as it were, stumbled upon. He was not a trained yogi, and did not know the reason of what he was doing. Think of what the good Mohammad did to the world, and think of the great evil that has been done through his fanaticism! Think of the millions massacred through his teachings, mothers bereft of their children, children made orphans, whole countries destroyed, millions upon millions of people killed!” (The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Volume I, pg. 184, in all subsequent quotations of Swamiji, the number of the volume of the Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda is followed by the page number).
“Therefore we at once see why there has been so much narrow-mindedness, the part always claiming to be the whole; the little, finite unit always laying claim to the infinite…In this line the Mohammedans were the best off; every step forward was made with the sword — the Koran in the one hand and the sword in the other: Take the Koran, or you must die; there is no alternative!” (II. 369-70)
“Now, we all shout like these drunken men, Universal Brotherhood! We are all equal, therefore let us make a sect. As soon as you make a sect you protect against equality and equality is no more. Mohammedans talk of universal brotherhood, but what comes out of that in reality? Why, anybody who is not a Mohammedan will not be admitted into the brotherhood; he will more likely have his own throat cut. Christians talk of universal brotherhood; but anyone who is not a Christian must go to that place where he will be eternally barbecued.” (II. 380)
“You call yours an aggressive religion. You are aggressive, but how many have you taken? Every sixth man in the world is a Chinese subject, a Buddhist; then there are Japan, Tibet, and Russia, and Siberia, and Burma, and Siam; and it may not be palatable, but this Christian morality, the Catholic Church, is all derived from them. Well, and how was this done? Without the shedding of one drop of blood! With all your brags and boastings, where has your Christianity succeeded without the sword? Show me one place in the whole world. One, I say, throughout the history of the Christian religion — one; I do not want two. I know how your forefathers were converted. They had to be converted or killed; that was all. What can you do better than Mohammedanism, with all your bragging?” (I. 211-3)
The Sanatan Dharm, on the contrary, does not distinguish on the basis of a believer or a non-believer; rather, it only enjoins one to be a ‘seeker’, that is, seeker of the eternal truth—ekam sat. The Rig Ved speaks of Ekam sat vipra bahudha vadanti—”that which exists is One: sages call it by various names”. Rig Veda (1.164.46). Sanatan Dharm provides: Sarve bhavantu sukhinah, sarve santu niramayah; sarve bhadrani pashyantu, ma kashchitdukhabhagbhavet–May All become Happy, May All be Free from Illness. May All See what is Auspicious, May no one Suffer (derived from the Brihadaranyakopanishad). There is also the concept of ‘Sarvdharm Sambhaav’-all dharms to be on the same pedestal. But since the article has to touch other aspects as well, and because there are a plethora of texts to quote from the Sanatan Dharm, religious tolerance in Sanatan Dharm or Hinduism, will be taken up in detail in a separate article.
Let us finally proceed to the recent spate of attacks on Christian establishments. In December 2014, the interiors of the St. Sebastian’s Church at Dilshad Garden were reported to have been ‘burnt with malicious intent’ in the registered FIR. Delhi Archbishop Anil Couto had called upon Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh to urgently order a judicial inquiry. A month later, a crib was found to be charred in the Church leading to strong inferences that the blaze might have been caused by a short circuit, although the Christian delegation still suspects foul play.
In January, a statue had been found toppled over from its position in a Church property in Delhi’s Vikaspuri locality. The three arrests made in this connection revealed that the assailants were from Tilak Nagar, nearly two kilometres from the place of attack and were drunk. The investigation did not reveal any connection of the assailants to any political or fringe groups.
St Joseph Vaz prayer Centre at Panir at Mangalore was attacked this February. One person was arrested in connection with the stone pelting, who told the police that he was previously employed in the same Church and had been disgruntled about his meagre pay which forced him to leave the job. In an act of revenge, he stone pelted the glass panes of the enclosure of the statue of Mary which got damaged.
In late March, four persons hurled stones at the Saint George Catholic Church in New Panvel, about 40 km from Mumbai. In the incident, the glass case of the statue of Saint George was damaged. Following the incident, a Christian delegation met the Chief Minister, seeking urgent action to track down and arrest the culprits, since ‘it had spread fear among the minority community’. Four persons were arrested subsequently. The leader of the four ran a gambling den in the area which police had raided two days prior to the attack and he suspected that the Church authorities might have reported him, leading him to commit this act of revenge.
In March this year, a horrific incident of a rape of an elderly nun followed by robbery and burglary at a convent in Ranaghat in West Bengal’s Nadia district came to light. Twelve days after the incident, two arrests were made by the Criminal Investigation Department of the State Police. Both of them turned out to be illegal Bangladeshi immigrants.
All of these incidents are unfortunate and have been, indeed, perpetrated on the minority Christian establishments. They need to be stomped upon forthwith. But why should they every time arouse feelings of ‘humiliation within my own country’ or even similar feelings of isolation on the part of any minority community for that matter? Some of those arrested in these incidents also belong to a minority community. As we all know, law and order is a State subject as provided by the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution. True, the Home Ministry, in general, oversees the law and order situation throughout the country, but first and foremost, it is the failure of the State Police and the local administration when such incidents take place. The Clergy and many prominent voices of the Christian community, in their first reactions to such incidents, have always voiced their concern for the growing intolerance towards their community, directly lambasting the Hindutva groups and every time holding the ‘Hindu Prime Minister’ of a ‘Hindu Government’ responsible. Why are my Christian friends selective in pointing fingers; why are they not as vociferous in questioning, say, the policy of the Mamata Banerjee-led West Bengal Government allowing settlement of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants, the ill-effects of which were more than highlighted in the Nadia rape incident of an elderly nun?
In a very recent report submitted by the Delhi Police Commissioner, Shri B.S. Bassi to the Home Ministry, more number of thefts were reported from temples than from any other religious establishment, not just for 2015, but from 2012 till date. Going by such statistics, should the Hindus (Sanatanis) build an opinion that there is a concerted effort against their community? When crimes are being perpetrated on all sections of the society, by criminals from all backgrounds, it clearly points out to a general law and order breakdown. Attaching a rabid Hindutva communal angle without even ascertaining the basic facts surrounding an incident only further inflame and arouse extremist sentiments on both the sides.
It is extremely saddening these days to see large sections of the minority communities start asserting their distinctive identity every now and then, even though their Hindu (Sanatani) brothers, despite being the overwhelming majority, have, barring a miniscule section of extremists, never asserted their communal identity in such a manner so as to deprive the minorities of any of their basic rights, as is the plight of the minorities in many countries where these very minorities of our country are in a majority. It would be highly becoming for my friend not to bring forth the fissiparous fault-lines underlying the ideologically different communities residing compositely, if not always harmoniously; but to rather think of steps to curb these law and order problems for all communities, as a citizen of Bharat, that is India.