The Sati Strategy – Koenraad Elst

Sati

Koenraad ElstThe missionaries are responsible for associating Hinduism with Sati much more prominently than would be fair. The missionary assault on Hinduism dramatized the practice of Sati, which had been “an ‘exceptional act’ performed by a minuscule number of Hindu widows over the centuries”, of which the occurrence had been “exaggerated in the nineteenth century by Evangelicals and Baptist missionaries eager to christianize and anglicize India”. – Dr Koenraad  Elst

Sati: Evangelicals, Baptist Missionaries, and the Changing Colonial Discourse by Meenakshi JainMeenakshi Jain’s book ‘Sati’

After making history with her book on the Ayodhya controversy, Rama and Ayodhya (2013), Prof. Meenakshi Jain adds to her reputation with the present hefty volume Sati: Evangelicals, Baptist Missionaries, and the Changing Colonial Discourse (Aryan Books International, Delhi 2016). In it, as a meticulous professional historian, she quotes all the relevant sources, with descriptions of Sati from the ancient through the medieval to the modern period. She adds the full text of the relevant British and Republican laws and of Lord William Bentinck’s Minute on Sati (1829), that led to the prohibition on Sati. This book makes the whole array of primary sources readily accessible, so from now on, it will be an indispensable reference for all debates on Sati.

But in the design of the book, all this material is instrumental in studying the uses made of Sati in the colonial period. In particular, the missionary campaign to rally support for the project of mass conversion of the Indian Heathens to the saving light of Christianity made good use of Sati. This practice had a strong in-your-face shock value and could perfectly illustrate the barbarity of Hinduism.

Roop KanwarIndignation

In the preface, Prof. Jain surveys the existing literature and expresses her assent to some recent theories. Thus, Rahul Sapra found that Gayatri Spivak’s observations, e.g. that the 19th-century British tried to remake Indian society in their own image and used Sati as the most vivid proof of the need for this radical remaking, don’t take into account the changing political equation during the centuries of gradual European penetration. In the 17th century, European traders and travellers mostly joined the natives in glorifying the women committing Sati, whereas by the 19th century, they posed as chivalrous saviours of the victimized native women from the cruel native men. This was because they were no longer travellers in an exotic country and at the mercy of the native people, but had become masters of the land and gotten imbued with a sense of superiority.

Indians in large numbers, and especially the many indefatigable but amateurish “history rewriters”, tend to be defective in their sense of history, starting with their seeming ignorance about the otherwise very common phenomenon of change. When I hear these history rewriters fulminate against the West with its supposed evil designs of somehow dominating India again, it seems that in their minds, time has frozen in the Victorian age. Similarly here, there is not one monolithic Western view of Sati but, apart even from individual differences of opinion, there are distinct stages, partly because of the changing power equation and partly because internal changes in the Western outlook have influenced the Western perception of things Indian. So it takes a genuine historian to map out precisely what has changed and what not, and which factors have effected those particular changes.

Then again, It is of course interesting to realize the continuity between the present-day interference in Indian culture by Leftist scholars like Wendy Doniger and Sheldon Pollock and that of the British colonialists: “We know best what is wrong with your traditions and we come to save you from yourselves.”

In this respect, the changes in the Western attitude to Sati run parallel to that regarding caste. Until the early 20th century, caste was seen as a specifically Indian form of a universal phenomenon, viz. social inequality. Nobody was particularly scandalized when in 1622, the Pope gave permission to practise caste discrimination between converts inside the Church. Around the time of the French Revolution, the idea of equality started catching on, but only gradually became the accepted norm. At that point, it became problematic that people’s status was said to be determined by birth. In this case, determination by the inborn circumstance of being a woman, unequal in rights compared to men, and never more radically unequal than in committing Sati. After World War II the norm (henceforth called Human Rights) of absolute equality and increasingly of absolute individual self-determination made the tradition of caste and of Sati too horrible to tolerate. Therefore, the indignation about Sati is far greater today than when Marco Polo visited India. Today, Sati is already a memory, but the commotion around the exceptional Sati of 1987 gave an idea of the indignation it would provoke today.

William CareyEvangelization

In this case, an extra factor came into play to effect a change in British attitudes to Sati. In Parliamentary debates about the East India Company Charter in 1793, there was no mention yet of Sati though it had been described many times, including by Company eyewitnesses. But by 1829, Sati was forbidden in all Company domains. This turn-around was the result of a campaign by the missionary lobby.

Ever since the missionaries set out to convert the Pagans of India, they made it their business to contrast the benignity of Christianity with the demeaning atrocities of Heathenism. This was an old tradition starting with the Biblical vilification of child sacrifice to the god Moloch by the Canaanites. The practice was also attested by the Romans when they besieged the Canaanite (Phoenician) colony of Carthage. The Bible writers and their missionary acolytes present child sacrifice as a necessary component of polytheism, from which monotheism came to save humanity. And indeed, we read here how Rev. William Carey tried to muster evidence of child sacrifice too (but settled for Sati as convincing enough, p.178)

In reality, the abolition of human sacrifice was a universal evolution equally affecting Pagan cultures such as the Romans. In the case of Brahmanism, it is speculated that the Vastu Purusha concept (a human frame deemed to underlie a house) is a memory of a pre-Vedic human sacrifice. Even if true, fact is that in really existing Brahmanism, human sacrifice has not been part of it for thousands of years; if it had, we would be reminded of it every day. In this respect, Brahmanism was definitely ahead of the rest of humanity.

Not to idealize matters, we have to admit that, like the Biblical writers, who used the vilification of the child-sacrificing Canaanites as a justification to seize their land (and even to kill them all), Pagans who had left the practice behind equally used the reference to it to score political points. The Romans had practised human sacrifice within living memory and then abolished it, so they were acutely aware of it and tried to exorcise it from their own historical identity by rooting it out in conquered lands as well. (This is the same psychology as among modern Westerners who remember their grandfathers’ abolition of slavery and therefore feel spurred to support or engineer the “abolition of caste” in India.) Using that mentality, Roman war leaders would emphasize this phenomenon of child sacrifice among the Carthaginians to portray them as barbarians in urgent need of Rome’s civilizing intervention. Later Caesar would also demonize as human-sacrificers the Druids of Gaul, another “barbarian” country the Romans “liberated” from its own traditions after conquering it. Likewise, the Chinese Zhou dynasty justified its coup d’état (11th century BCE) against the Shang dynasty by demonizing the Shang as practising human sacrifice.

This way, Sati came in very handy to justify an offensive in India. Mind you, in a military sense India had partly been conquered already, and British self-confidence at the time was such that the complete subjugation of the subcontinent seemed assured. The offensive in this case was not military, its target was the christianization of the East India Company, to be followed by the conversion of its subject population. Around 1800, the Company was still purely commercial and even banned missionaries: their religious zeal might create riots, and these would be bad for business. So, the Christian lobby had to convince the British parliamentarians that the christianization of India was good and necessary, and therefore worthy of the Company’s active or passive support, namely to free the natives from barbarism. To that end, there was no better eye-catcher than Sati.         

Here I will skip a large part of Prof. Jain’s research, namely into the details of the specific intrigues and events that ultimately led to the success of the missionary effort. While these chapters are important for understanding the Christian presence in India, and while I recommend you read them, I have decided for myself to limit my attention for colonial history as it is presently eating up too much energy, especially of the Hindus. The study of colonial history is instructive and someone should do it, but for the many, it is far more useful to study Dharma itself, to immerse yourself in Hindu civilization as it took shape, rather than in the oppression of and then the resistance by the Hindus. India is free now and could reinvigorate Dharmic civilization, which is a much worthier goal than to re-live the comparatively few centuries of oppression.

Let us only note that the missionaries are responsible for associating Hinduism with Sati much more prominently than would be fair. The missionary assault on Hinduism dramatized the practice of Sati, which had been “an ‘exceptional act’ performed by a minuscule number of Hindu widows over the centuries”, of which the occurrence had been “exaggerated in the nineteenth century by Evangelicals and Baptist missionaries eager to christianize and anglicize India”. (p. xix)

Krishna

Many Hindus believe that Sati is an external contribution, probably triggered by the Muslim conquests. In reality, Sati is as old as scriptural Hinduism. Already the Rg Veda (10:18:7-8, quoted and discussed on p. 4–5) describes a funeral where the widow is lying down beside her husband on the pyre, but is led away from it, back to the world of the living. So it already provides a description of a Sati about to take place, as well as of the Brahmanical rejection of Sati.

Likewise, the Mahabharata, the best guide to living Hinduism, features several cases of Sati. Most prominent is the self-immolation by Pandu’s most beloved wife Madri. Less well-known perhaps is that Krishna’s father Vasudeva is followed on the pyre by four wives, and that Krishna’s death triggers the self-immolation (in his absence) of five of his many wives. But unlike Mohammed, Krishna need not be emulated by his followers. By contrast, Rama’s influence on the women in his life is not such that they commit Sati (on the contrary, his wife Sita comes unscathed out of the flames of her “trial by fire”),—and he counts as the perfect man, the model whose behaviour should serve us as exemplary.  

The oldest foreign (viz. Greek) testimony on Indian Sati reports on the death of an Indian general in the Persian army. His two wives fought over the honour of climbing his funeral pyre. Both had a case: one was the eldest, the other was not pregnant (whereas the eldest was, and should not deprive the deceased man of his progeny). So the authorities had to intervene, and they ruled in favour of the younger wife. It should be repeated, for the sake of clarity, that “favour” here really means the honour of committing self-immolation, as emphatically desired by the young widow.

Indeed, a woman wanting to commit Sati needed some will-power, for Hindu society did not take this as a matter of course. A per the many testimonies, she usually had to overcome the dissuasion from her family and from worldly or priestly authorities. (But rather than leading her away in chains for her own good, as modern psychiatrists would do, they give her the decisive last word.) That is why the first British report on the practice spoke of “self-immolation of widows”. Contrary to allegations of “murderous patriarchy” by modern feminists (who hold the same ignorant prejudices about Hindu culture as the average foreign tourist), women themselves chose this spectacular fate.

Contrary to a common assumption, the practice was not confined to the Rajputs or to the martial castes in general, where passion and bravery were prized. Prominent Hindu rulers like Shivaji Bhonsle and Ranjit Singh were followed on their pyres by a big handful of wives and concubines. Among the lower castes, like among the Muslims, life usually resumed and a widow soon remarried, not to let any womb go to waste. But nevertheless, a British survey in Bengal found that no less than 51% of Sati women belonged to Shudra families. Among the other upper castes, and among the majority of women even in the martial castes, widows would be confined to a life of service and asceticism. But no matter how rare the actual practice of Sati, it remained a glamorous affair, honoured among the Hindu masses with commerorative stones (sati kal) and temples (sati sthal).

Brünnhilde on the horse Grane rides onto Siegfried's funeral pyre.Hindu Sati?

Sati was not confined the Hindu civilization. It existed elsewhere, both in Indo-European and in other cultures. Rulers in ancient China or Egypt are sometimes found buried with a number of wives, concubines and servants. In pre-Christian Europe, the practice was related (directly, not inversely) to the status of women in society: not at all in Greece, where women were very subordinate, but quite frequently among the more autonomous Celtic women. Among the Germanic people, a famous case is that of Brunhilde and her maidservants following Siegfried into death. Yet Indian secularists preferentially depict Sati as one of the unique “evils of Hindu society”.

The only shortcoming is this wonderful book is not a mistake but a hiatus, less than a page long. One important point I would have liked to see discussed more thoroughly, is the question raised by Alaka Hejib and Katherine Young in their paper: “Sati, Widowhood and Yoga”. (p. xv-xvi) They see a ”hidden religious dimension: yoga; though neither the widow nor the sati was conscious of the yogic dimension of her life”. Indeed, “the psychology of yoga was instilled, albeit inadvertently, in the traditional Hindu woman”. Well well, yoga as the most consciousness-oriented discipline in the world is imparted unconsciously: “instilled, albeit inadvertently”. Prof. Jain reports this hypothesis but does not comment on it. So I will.

Naive readers may not have noticed it yet, but here we are dealing with as instance of a widespread phenomenon: the crass manipulation of the term “Hindu”. Every missionary and every secularist does it all the time: calling a thing “Hindu” when it is considered bad, but something (really anything) else as soon as it is deemed good. Many Hindus even lap it up: it is “instilled, albeit inadvertently”.

Thus, whenever Westerners show an interest in yoga, the secularists and their Western allies hurry to assure us: “Yoga has nothing to do with Hinduism.” (It is like with Islam, but inversely, for whenever Muslims make negative-sounding headlines, we are immediately reassured that these crimes “have nothing to do with Islam”.) There may be books on “Jain mathematics”, but never about “Hindu mathematics”, for a good thing cannot be Hindu. If the topic cannot be avoided, you call it, say, “Keralite mathematics” or fashionably opine that it “must have been borrowed from Buddhism”. So, yoga cannot be Hindu when its merits are at issue. However, when it is presented as something funny, with asceticism and other nasty things, then it can be Hindu, and even used as middle term to equate something else (something nasty, of course, like Sati) with Hinduism. So: Sati is Hindu!

In this case, the poor hapless secularists are even right. Sometimes even a deplorable motive, like their single-minded hatred for Hinduism, makes men speak the truth: Sati is Hindu. Sati is not Brahmanical: the Rg Veda enjoins continuing life rather than committing Sati, and the Shastras either don’t mention it or prefer widowhood, for which they lay down demanding rules. Many of the testimonies cited here mention Brahmanical priests trying to dissuade the woman from Sati. Not Brahmanical, then, but nonetheless Hindu, a far broader concept. A Hindu means an “Indian Pagan”, as per the Muslim invaders who first introduced the term in India. And indeed, Sati has existed in many countries but certainly in India, and it is not of Christian or Islamic origin, so it may be called Pagan. And so can the rejection of Sati. See?

This, then, makes for half a page that I would have done differently. The rest of this book, 500-something pages, is designed to stand the test of time. It will survive the flames that tend to engulf its topic: the brave Sati.

» Prof Meenakshi Jain is an Indian political scientist and historian. Currently  she is an associate professor of history at Gargi College, affiliated to the University of Delhi.

» Dr Koenraad Elst is a Flemish indologist and historian from Belgian who frequently visits India to lecture. He is a Voice of India author.

Sati Sthal

USCIRF gets its comeuppance from Modi Sarkar – Radha Rajan

USCIRF Catholic Team

Radha Rajan is the editor of Vigil Online“National security is threatened not only when our borders are threatened by foreign invaders in conventional war, but when our homes, communities and societies are threatened by religious invaders and terrorists. Christian missionaries and Islamic terrorists threaten Hindus and Hindu society. The right to revenge is as much the prerogative of Hindus as it is of the US. So USCIRF cannot preach to India what America has never practiced.” – Radha Rajan

United States Commission on International Religious FreedomModi Sarkar gladdened the hearts of Hindu nationalists when it refused to give visas to a company of American sewage inspectors called USCIRF which wanted to come to India to inspect the state of religious freedom in Modi’s India. The USCIRF bared its fangs in 2002 when the BJP led by Atal Behari Vajpayee was in power. The opening paragraph of a news report featured on the front page of The Hindu dated 2nd October, 2002, titled “Designate India, Pakistan as countries of particular concern,” reads thus: “The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has recommended that the US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, designate India, along with others, as ‘Countries of Particular Concern’ under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998.”

According to this news report, the USCIRF was reacting to “periodic violence” against the religious minorities of the country, violence which has been on the increase because of the “rise in political influence of groups associated with the Sangh Parivar, a collection of Hindu extremist nationalist organizations that views non-Hindus as foreign to India and hence deserving of attack.”

This was a Freudian slip. “Hindu extremist nationalist organizations” is American verbose for RSS and significantly “nationalist” is pronounced in the same breath as “extremist”. It is a Freudian slip which exposed the open secret that America through the USCIRF and the Vatican were working in tandem to promote the cause of Jesus Christ. These were the exact words of Pope John Paul II when he addressed the United Nations General Assembly in 1995: “… extreme nationalism does not continue to give rise to new forms of the aberrations of totalitarianism.” The Vatican set the precedent of speaking of nationalism in the same breath as extremism.

Modi Sarkar’s crackdown on foreign funds to NGOs, the government’s crackdown on Greenpeace and Ford Foundation has obviously rattled the white Christian world and expectedly, America brandished the USCIRF on India’s face. RSS, BJP and Narendra Modi will always be Military Industrial Complex’s anti-Christ and the USCIRF is just one puny weapon against Hindu India. In a replay of its 2002 report, the USCIRF in 2016 laments:

Robert P. George“We are deeply disappointed by the Indian government’s denial, in effect, of these visas. As a pluralistic, non-sectarian, and democratic state, and a close partner of the United States, India should have the confidence to allow our visit, Robert P. George, Chairman of USCIRF, a bipartisan body, said.

“USCIRF will continue to pursue a visit to India, given the ongoing reports from religious communities, civil society groups, and NGOs that the conditions for religious freedom in India have been deteriorating since 2014,” Mr George said. The annual report of USCIRF documents and categorises countries based on their religious freedom record. In 2015, the report had criticised India and had named BJP and affiliated bodies.

“Incidents of religiously-motivated and communal violence reportedly have increased for three consecutive years. The states of Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Odisha, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Rajasthan tend to have the greatest number of religiously-motivated attacks and communal violence incidents. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and religious leaders, including from the Muslim, Christian, and Sikh communities, attributed the initial increase to religiously-divisive campaigning in advance of the country’s 2014 general election. Since the election, religious minority communities have been subject to derogatory comments by politicians linked to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and numerous violent attacks and forced conversions by Hindu nationalist groups, such as Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP),” the report had said. (Reference)

The U.S was understandably incensed. Modi’s Hindu India was refusing to genuflect before all things American and rejection was bitter medicine. After all, the Italian Roman Catholic Sonia Gandhi led UPA had taken the unprecedented step of inviting the USCIRF to visit Gujarat and Orissa to write officious reports on religious freedom. The Vatican’s Cardinal Jean-Louis Pierre Tauran was issued a visa to come to Mumbai for an inter-religious dialogue (whatever that means) in June 2009. The Gujarati padre Cedric Prakash was so emboldened by Sonia Gandhi’s ascendance in Indian politics that he dared to make the foolish claim that Narendra Modi must win the approval of western nations (read US) to become Prime Minister of India, and that the USCIRF visit has been welcomed by Gujaratis in America who want the US State Department to remove Modi from their anti-Christ list and give him a visa to the US!

To be told now by Modi Sarkar that they were not welcome brought the USCIRF sand castle down with a whine.

In 2002 when I read the USCIRF report my first impulse was to consign it to the trash can. And I would have, had this been the ranting of some American Southern Baptist group or some disgruntled Christian or Marxist NGO in one of their periodic diatribes against the RSS and the rising religious and political consciousness of the Hindus of this country; or the ranting of the Generic Church funded anti-Hindu human rights industry.

But this was the ranting of a statutory body of the US government, a Commission that was constituted by law, a Commission (which is however allegedly non-governmental), whose members work closely with the American State Department. The Commission is headed by the Ambassador-at Large and he is the Special Adviser to the US President and to the US Secretary of State on International Religious Freedom. And so, the very least that a native of a developing third world nation, whose country has been stood in the dock by this “damning indictment” can do, when faced by the impertinence of foreign busybodies, is to respond to this nonsense with a modicum of seriousness.

The smoking gun!The USCIRF hit list

In the first three years of its existence, from 1998 to 2001, the entire focus of the Commission is on China, Vietnam, Laos, Sudan and Burma. And these countries continue to remain on the hit list of this Commission not only because these countries are ruled either by Communist governments or by the military junta as in the case of Burma, but more interestingly, these countries have a marked antipathy towards Christianity and Christian missionaries. Contrary to the pious statements of this Commission that it is concerned about the lack of freedom of religion in these countries, and that its heart bleeds for the Buddhists and the Falun Gong, it is the refusal to allow Christian missionaries to operate in these countries that has incurred the wrath of this Commission.

The list then expands to include Saudi Arabia, Turkmenistan, and now Pakistan and India. Please note there is a deafening silence on the Good Taliban/Bad Taliban regime in Afghanistan in 1998, despite strong protests from women’s groups in the USA about the Taliban’s treatment of women in Afghanistan. Of course, this silence has nothing to do with the fact that major American oil and gas companies were talking to the Taliban in the hope that the terrorists would agree to let them build pipelines across Afghanistan to transport oil and gas from the Central Asian republics. The alternative was Iran, but then Iran would have laughed the Americans out of town. So that was ruled out. The US needed Afghanistan and the Taliban came as a package deal.

The USCIRF and its rationale

The USCIRF was constituted in 1998 because the US had no international agenda at that time to project its superpower status. The WTO had become a reality, the Taliban were around, but the USA needed pipelines across Afghanistan more than it wanted freedom of religion from the Taliban. The Soviet Union had disappeared, the people of Iraq were being subjected to slow and unexciting genocide by US enforced and UN sanctioned total economic blockade and the US had no excitement that real cloak and dagger stuff can give to its national life.

Because 9/11 was still three years down the line and the invasion and occupation of Iraq as American pastime entertainment was still in the future, America was spoiling for a fight and so it discovered International Religious Freedom. The US passed the International Religious Freedom Act in 1998 and soon after it also constituted the Commission for IRF by law. The rationale for the Act is best expressed by the Act itself: SEC. 2. FINDINGS; POLICY.

Seal of the United States(a) FINDINGS—Congress makes the following findings:

(1) The right to freedom of religion undergirds the very origin and existence of the United States. Many of our Nation’s founders fled religious persecution abroad, cherishing in their hearts and minds the ideal of religious freedom. They established in law, as a fundamental right and as a pillar of our Nation, the right to freedom of religion. From its birth to this day, the United States has prized this legacy of religious freedom and honoured this heritage by standing for religious freedom and offering refuge to those suffering religious persecution.

I will come to this hilarious self-description of “pillar of our nation” in just a while, but it will be interesting to see what triggered this pious decision to monitor international religious freedom in the rest of the world. There are two major causes for the US’ sudden love for religious freedom.

First: Religion was coming back in a big way in the former Soviet Union and in Russia, Belarus, and the Ukraine, in Georgia and Armenia the Church was once again becoming a force and an influence to contend with. While all these republics were Christian, none of them acknowledge the supremacy of the Vatican. Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and Serbia are Eastern Orthodox while in Armenia, the Armenian Apostolic Church is in communion with Eastern Orthodox Church and Georgia too while Catholic, was not Roman Catholic.

They all had their own national churches and the hierarchy too was national. These republics refused to allow the Vatican, American and European churches, Catholic and Protestant, to open shop in their territories. Indeed, the climate was distinctly hostile to the expansionist designs of the Vatican and the American and European churches in the vulnerable soil of these fledgling nation-states. This of course incensed the US and the Vatican.

Second: Rapidly declining numbers of their flock in the West had the Vatican and the American and European churches looking for new territories to conquer, new peoples to evangelise and convert. They all turned their attention on Asia. On Easter’s eve in 1996, Pope John Paul II led 20,000 Roman Catholics in an Easter vigil at St. Peter’s Basilica. “In his homily John Paul II spoke specifically of Asia after having previously denounced discrimination against Catholics in Vietnam and China. He spoke of ‘the great desire of Christ and the Church to meet the populations and cultures of that immense continent, rich in history and noble traditions. You constitute in a certain way the answer of nations to the new evangelization,’ he said.”

The Vatican and Asia

The Vatican had decided that in the third millennium the Church would plant the cross in Asia and harvest the souls of the non-Christian and non-Muslim peoples of Asia—the Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and peoples of other non-proselytizing faiths that originated in India. To this end, a Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Asia was held in April/May of 1998 in the Vatican.

The Vietnamese government, as early as in January 1998 had refused permission to its bishops to attend the Synod. By April, China too had refused permission to the bishops in China and Taiwan to attend the Synod. On May 14th, a mass in Saint Peter’s Basilica brought to a close the work of the Special Assembly for Asia of the Synod of Bishops. According to Fides the Vatican news agency, “At the end of his homily, the Holy Father voiced his intention to visit Asia in the near future to present the post-synodal exhortation. This led to excited discussion among the Synod fathers about possible places for the visit. In the end they suggested a journey with three laps: Bombay, Manila, Hong Kong. Others suggested Jerusalem, Beijing, Calcutta, Ho Chi Minh City, Tokyo or Baghdad.”

The intention of the Vatican was clear. It intended for the Pope to make a high-profile visit to deliver the post-synodal exhortation in one of the Asian countries—China, Vietnam, India or Japan—countries where the majority of the population is non-Christian—Hindus or Buddhists. China of course and Vietnam too, promptly refused to allow the Pope to come visiting them. In India too there was growing awareness and unease about the intentions of the churches of the world to aggressively convert the Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs to the Christian religion and the Hindus were organizing themselves not only to expose the intentions of the Vatican and the American and European churches, but also to resist, militantly if need be, any and all attempts at religious conversion.

John Paul IIThe duplicity of the Vatican and the US 

One must see the US’ sudden love for international religious freedom against this background—of Asia’s growing hostility to Western trade war through globalization and Christian missionary activities, both of which historically have always acted in tandem. Pope John Paul II succeeded to the papacy precisely because he was Polish and Poland was the weakest link in the Soviet bloc—Roman Catholics like the people of Croatia and not Eastern Orthodox like Serbia or Russia. The Polish Pope John Paul II succeeded to the papacy because his mandate was clear—to exert pressure on the weakest link—on Poland and bring about the collapse of communism and consequently the Soviet Union.

The calculation being when communism fails, the West can step in with its IMF and the World Bank and capitalism and free market, and when the Soviet Union disappeared it would also signal the end of the already weakened and debilitated Eastern Orthodox Church and the Vatican can step in to open shop. A dream the West and the Vatican had nurtured and pursued unceasingly for more than five decades. They succeeded only partially. Communism failed, the Soviet Union disintegrated, but the Eastern Orthodox Church rose like the phoenix and reacted ferociously to the Vatican and other western churches attempting to open their industry in these territories.

One must also see the antipathy of the USA, the West and the Vatican to China, Vietnam, and Serbia in this context. While the USA passed the International Religious Freedom Act in 1998, the seeds of the Act were sown cleverly in 1995 itself, to coincide with the creation of the WTO, when Pope John Paul II was invited to address the UN General Assembly on 5 October 1995, to mark the 50th year of the UN. And he devoted his entire talk to the rights of people to freedom, to human rights, to the rights of nations to come into being and to exist (a call for enabling the fructifying of movements for self-determination, a forewarning of the creation of Croatia, East Timor).

It is one of the cleverest, most cunning speeches ever made. Every sentence should be read to mean that he is talking only of Christian interests, Christian political and religious rights. Wherever he appeals for diversity, he is appealing to those nations and peoples who are non-Christian to allow the Christian faith with its missionary agenda, to exist, to grow. And for the first time, the Church, and immediately thereafter American think tanks, begin to make a distinction between ‘patriotism’ which is in their view, positive, and ‘nationalism’ which in their view is negative, because it is synonymous with protectionism and shuts its doors on the face of religious and economic invaders.

One of the reasons cited by the US for constituting the USCIRF is: “Though not confined to a particular region or regime, religious persecution is often particularly widespread, systematic, and heinous under totalitarian governments and in countries with militant, politicized religious majorities.”

This is an accurate paraphrase of the Pope’s UNGA address in 1995 where he invents his own definition of nationalism and patriotism thus: “We need to clarify the essential difference between an unhealthy form of nationalism, which teaches contempt for other nations or cultures, and patriotism, which is a proper love of one’s country. True patriotism never seeks to advance the well-being of one’s own nation at the expense of others. For in the end, this would harm one’s own nation as well. Doing wrong damages both aggressor and victim. Nationalism, in its most radical form, is thus the antithesis of true patriotism, and today we must ensure that extreme nationalism does not continue to give rise to new forms of the aberrations of totalitarianism.”

USCIRF’s  hostile intent in 2002 when the BJP was in power in Delhi and its hostile intent now in 2016, when the BJP is in power again in Delhi must be seen as the Generic Church’s fear and antipathy for nationalism—in this case Hindu nationalism.

Patriotism, nationalism and all that crap

Now let us apply the Pope’s yardstick of “true patriotism” and “extreme nationalism” to religion, to Christianity and the Church specifically. If the Pope were indeed sincere about his call for allowing diversity to exist, about his devout respect for all cultures and traditions, he will acknowledge that all cultural values and traditions derive from the religion and faith of the people.

The US, USCIRF and the Generic Church must explain the basis for religious conversion and the determination of the Vatican to convert all peoples of the world to the Christian faith, to the Catholic faith to be exact. Will this allow for diversity, will this express respect for other cultures and traditions? Is this not an agenda for homogenization and does this not violate the principle of the right to existence of other religions and faiths? Has the Pope not learnt anything from the destruction and the total annihilation of the religions of the Native Americans and the Africans by the Church?

The West, of course, is rediscovering “nationalism” and is now beginning to understand the need for protectionism when globalization opened the borders of their countries to immigration. Now they realise how important it is to preserve their white Christian culture and way of life from the onslaught of third world natives and Muslim migrants. So while the USA and the West want Asians to open their borders to their capital and goods, and throw open the doors of our societies and homes to Christian missionaries, they frown upon religious and economic nationalism a.k.a. protectionism. They however want to clamp down on immigration, shut their borders to Asians, Africans and Syrian and other Middle East Muslim refugees to rediscover what it is to be American, British, German and French.

Our respect for the culture of others is therefore rooted in our respect for each community’s attempt to answer the question of human life. And here we can see how important it is to safeguard the fundamental right to freedom of religion and freedom of conscience, as the cornerstones of the structure of human rights and the foundation of every truly free society. No one is permitted to suppress those rights by using coercive power to impose an answer to the mystery of man.”

The irony of it all! The last line can be understood better if we know that the Vatican believes that the Catholic faith alone is the repository of all truth and it alone has the answer to the mystery of man. So when the Pope talks of coercive power and the use of coercive power to impose an answer, he is referring to regimes and governments which have refused the Vatican and Christianity even a toe-hold in their countries—China, Vietnam, Japan, Burma (Myanmar), and of course the Asian Islamic nations of Malaysia and Indonesia where to proselytize and distribute Christian propaganda material is a crime. What the Pope is in fact demanding is the Christian right to propagate, evangelise and carry out individual and mass conversions in Asian countries with very large non-Christian populations.

Obama has a Christian agenda for South AsiaThe deep pocket of human rights

The seeds for an intrusive and aggressive foreign policy eroding national sovereignty were sown as early as in the late 1980s and in the 1990s decade with the USA, the West, the Vatican and the European churches, which collectively I label the Generic Church, acting in tandem. Concrete shape for renewed aggression by the USA against the nations of Asia is given through the inequitable WTO and the designing of the deep pocket called “human rights.” It is a pocket deep enough to yield several agendas demanding unilateral or multilateral interference into domestic national affairs. Human rights can accommodate right to freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, women’s rights, children’s rights, rights of labour, right to self-determination, right to—the list can be made as endless as the US wants.

But the striking absence of right to freedom from racial discrimination and the right to participatory democracy has not been noticed it would seem. The US is yet to begin the process of participatory democracy. The highest offices of this land of the brave and the home of the free are reserved for the white/Christian (Protestant)/male—President Barack Obama who bucked the White House trend is half white and half African, half Christian and half Muslim. As long as women, African American Christians and Muslims, Native Americans and Jews and American Indian Hindus do not get elected to the White House, the USCIRF should deny itself the luxury of pointing fingers at India. By this single act of commission alone, the US is guilty of several counts of religious and racial intolerance, undemocratic, and violator of all freedoms.

The US owes us an explanation now. Is the USCIRF empowered to monitor religious freedom only in the rest of the world or is it empowered to monitor systemic denial of religious rights within the USA too? Because there are enough documents to prove denial of the right to practice the rituals of their faith by Native American students in some American universities.

The US and USCIRF also owe the world an explanation on their silence and polite looking the other way when the Taliban incarcerated the women and children of Afghanistan in their homes. Now is the time to deal with the “pillar of our nation” joke. All of you, who are not averse to waging this intellectual war against our adversaries, must read without fail two books: A Little Matter of Genocide: Holocaust and Denial in the Americas 1492 to the Present by Ward Churchill and American Holocaust: The Conquest of the New World by David E. Stannard. Once you have read these two books, it is difficult to listen to or read anything the Pope or the USA is saying about freedom and human rights and democracy and pluralism without rolling on the ground in laughter.

“Religious freedom—the pillar of our nation”

What was that again? “The right to freedom of religion undergirds the very origin and existence of the United States. Many of our Nation’s founders fled religious persecution abroad, cherishing in their hearts and minds the ideal of religious freedom. They established in law, as a fundamental right and as a pillar of our Nation, the right to freedom of religion.”

Now let us see what these noble nation’s founders, “who fled religious persecution abroad,” did to the Native Americans in the name of the Church and Christianity, in the name of religion. There is an encyclical by the Pope in the 15th century severely condemning the genocide of Native Americans. The Pope says that as long as these barbaric natives are fit to receive the message of Christ, their lives should be spared and should be elevated into the service of Christ.

From then on begins the savage christianising of the Native Americans. They are driven like so much cattle into Christian missions and there they are put to hard labour by the priests who think hard labour is good for the soul of Native Americans. They thought the same thing about the Africans whom they transported into North America later. Hard labour is always good for the non-white, non-Christian peoples of the world, particularly if the labour is for furthering the trade and economy of white Christian colonising nations.

In the words of Ward Churchill: “In actuality, the missions were death-mills in which Indians, often delivered en masse by the military, were allotted an average of seven feet by two feet of living space in what one observer described as ‘specially constructed cattle pens’. Although forced to perform arduous agricultural labour by the priests from morning to night, six days a week, the captives were provided no more than 1400 calories per day in low nutrient foods, with missions like San Antonio and San Miguel supplying as little as 715 calories per day.”

Probably most remarkable in this regard is Fray Junipero Serra in charge of the northern California mission complex during its peak period, and a man whose personal brutality was noteworthy even by those standards (he appears to have delighted in the direct torture of victims, had to be restrained from hanging Indians in lots, a la Columbus, and is quoted as asserting that the entire race of Indians should be put to the knife).

Having been canonized a saint by the Catholic Church, Serra’s visage, forty feet tall, today peers serenely down upon motorists driving south from San Francisco along Highway 101 from its vantage point on a prominent bluff. Another statue of Serra, a much smaller bronze which has stood for decades before San Francisco’s city hall, is being moved to a park.

Officials denied requests from local Native Americans that it be placed in storage, out of public view, however, offering the compromise of affixing a new plaque to address native concerns about the incipient saint’s legacy. (Hindus of India and Jews of the world please note, ‘Mother’ Teresa and ‘Hitler’s Pope’ are both all set to be canonized as the new saints of the twentieth century in the Catholic pantheon, a gesture of gratitude for services rendered in the cause of furthering the Catholic Church in difficult times and in difficult climes). Church lobbyists however have undermined even that paltry gesture, preventing the inclusion of wording which might have revealed something of the true nature of the mass murder and cultural demolition over which Serra presided. Both man and mission, the Vatican insisted, were devoted to ‘‘mercy and compassion.”

In passing this Act on International Religious Freedom, the US is basing its case on the noble founders of the nation, on “the pillars of our nation”—a nation that was built on the blood and sweat of genocide and slavery—both of which were practiced in the name of the Christian faith!

Tribals from various states of India hold placards during a protest against Christian missionaries in New Delhi in 2011. The demonstrators appealed to authorities to protect the culture of indigenous people, claiming that evangelical Christian missionaries are forcing them to convert to Christianity.What is right for you, is right for me

The US has set several precedents post September 11—precedents worthy of emulation: The right to revenge, the right to pre-emptive strikes when faced with threats to national security, the right to demonstrative nationalism/protectionism. The USCIRF must ask itself why other religious minorities in India, the Parsis, the Sikhs, the Buddhists and Jains never face the problems that Christians and Muslims in India face at the hands of “Hindu extremists”? Why did the US carpet bomb Iraq and Afghanistan?

National security is threatened not only when our borders are threatened by foreign invaders in conventional war, but when our homes, communities and societies are threatened by religious invaders and terrorists. Christian missionaries and Islamic terrorists threaten Hindus and Hindu society. The right to revenge is as much the prerogative of Hindus as it is of the US. So USCIRF cannot preach to India what America has never practiced.

As for their litany about rising Hindu extremism/nationalism threatening the secular, pluralistic, democratic fibre of the country, and all that, the Indian State is democratic and secular. The Indian nation is not. The Indian nation, like most nations of the world, is religious. And the rich diversity, not pluralism, which is inherent in Hindu worldview, has been a living tradition for over two thousand years, when the first Christian and Muslim missionaries/traders/invaders begin to appear in our country, not because of the USCIRF or the UN or the Indian Constitution or the Human rights industry, but because this nation is a timeless civilization.

It has existed for centuries because the nation was Hindu. The Hindu thought is assimilatory, not exclusivist like the Abrahamic faiths. And it is this nation which is being threatened by the missionary activities of Christian fundamentalists and the secessionist activities of Islamic fundamentalists. The Hindus have survived 600 years of Muslim barbarism, 200 years of savage colonialism. We survived violent partition in 1947, and we are living with the twin monsters of ascendant jihadi Islam and extremist evangelical church—both monsters which were fed and fattened by Sonia Gandhi and her foreign masters.

Hindus have the right to exist, the right to protect their faith, the right to territory, the right to defend their women and children, the right to their unique worldview powered by Dharma, right to revenge and the right to pre-emptive strikes against their aggressors.

NGOs, Activists and Foreign Funds: Anti-National IndustryClosing Word

Readers are invited to visit www.vigilonline.com to read the path-breaking book NGOs, Activists and Foreign Funds: Anti-nation Industry which is a veritable who’s who (polite for Rogue’s Gallery) of all anti-Indian forces which come in different packages, with different names, in different contexts. The PDF version of the book is here.

The USCIRF held a special meeting on the Gujarat riots and all the usual suspects were wined and dined by America to provide grist for its anti-Hindu mill; Appendices 7 and 8 deal with the USCIRF. Incidentally, in the chapter “Singing for their Supper” readers will meet the original didi, Gandhian Nirmala Deshpande who too was wined and dined by the US State Department.     

Nirmala DeshpandeIndian activist takes Bush to task

David Scafenberg, Sentinel Staff Writer, Excerpt from India Abroad (September 5, 2003): Gandhian Nirmala Deshpande pulls no punches at meetings with administration officials—complains US reaction to Gujarat riots was not strong enough. Deshpande, 74, pointed to the lack of a strong reaction from US Govt. to the sectarian carnage in Gujarat, which she said was state sponsored. She lamented the victims had not seen justice either through the police or judicial systems. At the State Dept., Deshpande—known for her campaigns covering thousands of miles with the likes of freedom fighter Vinoba Bhave—met with Diana Barnes, Foreign Affairs Officer, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. At the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, she met with Patricia Carley, a senior policy analyst. She met with staffers of the hierarchy of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian-Americans, addressed a community meeting at University of Maryland and interacted with the media. She said part of her trip would be to convince non-resident Indians and the Indian-American community not to contribute to the extremist groups. “We would like to make our friends aware of the reality and those who subscribe to these views that if you really love India, you should not do anything that would harm India. What these people are doing in Gujarat and trying to do in other states will harm India in a very big way.” Her trip is being sponsored by NRIs for Secular and Harmonious India. In Washington, she was accompanied to the meetings by John Prabhudoss, Executive Director, Policy Institute for Religion and State, and Kaleem Kawaja, coordinator, NRIs for a Secular and Harmonious India.

Indians who depose before the US State Department or before the USCIRF are anti-national, period. They squeal against their own countrymen, they express to a foreign Government their distrust of their country’s democratic institutions, they abuse their country’s police and armed forces, and they wail, “Indian democracy is in peril, come and save us.” And if you are Arundhati Roy, you will add, “Me slave, you king”, for better effect. Some of these anti-national Indian informers actually think it is an honour to be summoned to appear before the US Government to squeal against their country. Professor Sumit Ganguly, University of Texas, who also passes himself off as ‘expat journalist’ has appeared more than once before the USCIRF and his opening sentence at one such appearance in September 2000 was, “I consider it an honour and a privilege to be asked to testify before this Commission today.” Now, this kind of slavish deference must have been music to American ears and they summoned the good and willing professor again in 2002. The USCIRF held a special hearing on “Communal violence in Gujarat, India and the US response” and those that were summoned to depose and those that appeared obediently before their masters on June 10, 2002 were Teesta Setalvad, Professor Kamal Mitra Chenoy, Professor Sumit Ganguly and Father Cedric Prakash. The URL of the proceedings of this hearing is presented to readers in Appendix 7 and is a must-read for the sheer anti-nation, anti-Hindu intent not only of the Indians who deposed before an alien government but for the anti-India, anti-Hindu intent of the USCIRF itself. The comments made by the commissioners about India are an unmitigated piece of impertinence. Didi Deshpande, let us not forget, deposed before the US Government in September 2003. Neither the USCIRF nor the US State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor ever felt compelled to hold a hearing on the genocide of the Hindus of Kashmir or the ongoing violence and acts of terror by Christian terrorists in the North-East and Muslim terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir. Readers will note that these anti-national Indian worthies while auditing their country and its democratic institutions before the Americans also shed a few obligatory and insincere tears for the Hindus of Bangladesh! Not a tear for the Hindus at home—those that were killed and terrorised to flee from the state of Jammu and Kashmir, for the Hindu women and children killed in the Sabarmati Express in Godhra or for the Hindu victims of the Mumbai blasts and riots. – Vigil Online, 7 March 2016

Protest outside US Embassy, New Delhi

Brahmins are the Jews of India – Jakob De Roover

Prof Dr Jakob De RooverThe contemporary stereotypes about Brahmins and the story about Brahminism … originate in Christian theology. They reproduce Protestant images of the priests of false religion. When European missionaries and merchants began to travel to India in great numbers, they held two certainties that came from Christian theology: false religion would exist in India; and false religion revolved around evil priests who had fabricated all kinds of laws, doctrines and rites in order to bully the innocent believers into submission. In this way, the priests of the devil abused religion for worldly goals. – Prof Dr Jakob De Roover

Namboothiri BrahminSocial science debate in India has been hijacked by the struggle between secularism and Hindutva for decades now. Usually the Sangh Parivar is blamed for this turn of events. However, it could well be argued that the Hindutva ideologues simply adopted the stance of the secularists.  Perhaps the best illustration is the case of anti-Brahminism.

To be against “Brahminism” is part and parcel of the political correctness of progressive scholars in twenty-first-century India, much like being against Muslims is part of the message of their Hindutva colleagues. This indicates that something is very wrong with the Indian academic debate. Promotion of animosity towards a religious tradition or its followers is not acceptable today, but it becomes truly perverse when the intelligentsia endorses it.

In Europe, it took horrendous events to put an end to the propaganda of anti-Semitism, which had penetrated the media and intelligentsia. It required decades of incessant campaigning before anti-Semitism was relegated to the realm of intellectual and political bankruptcy. In India, anti-Brahminism is still the proud slogan of many political parties and the credential of the radical intellectual.

Some may find this parallel between anti-Brahminism and anti-Semitism ill-advised. Nevertheless, it has strong grounds.

First, there are striking similarities between the stereotypes about Brahmins in India and those about Jews in the West. Jews have been described as devious connivers, who would do anything for personal gain. They were said to be secretive and untrustworthy, manipulating politics and the economy. In India, Brahmins are all too often characterised in the same way.

The Protocols of the Elders of ZionSecond, the stereotypes about the Jews were part of a larger story about a historical conspiracy in which they had supposedly exploited European societies. To this day, the stories about a Jewish conspiracy against humanity prevail. The anti-Brahminical stories sound much the same, but have the Brahmins plotting against the oppressed classes in Indian society.

In both cases, historians have claimed to produce “evidence” that cannot be considered so by any standard. Typical of the ideologues of anti-Brahminism is the addition of ad hoc ploys whenever their stories are challenged by facts. When it is pointed out that the Brahmins have not been all that powerful in most parts of the country, or that they were poor in many regions, one reverts to the image of the Brahmin manipulating kings and politicians behind the scene. We cannot find empirical evidence, it is said, because of the secretive way in which Brahminism works.

Third, both in anti-Semitic Europe and anti-Brahminical India, this goes together with the interpretation of contemporary events in terms of these stories. One does not really analyse social tragedies and injustices, but approaches them as confirmations of the ideological stories. All that goes wrong in society is blamed on the minority in question. Violence against Muslims? It must be the “Brahmins” of the Sangh Parivar. Opposition against Christian missionaries and the approval of anti-conversion laws? “Ah, the Brahmins fear that Christianity will empower the lower castes.” Members of a scheduled caste are killed? “The Brahmin wants to show the Dalit his true place in the caste hierarchy.” An OBC member loses his job; a lower caste girl is raped? “The upper castes must be behind it.” So the story goes.

Caricature of JewThis leads to a fourth parallel: in both cases, resentment against the minority in question is systematically created and reinforced among the majority. The Jews were accused of sucking all riches out of European societies. In the decades before the second World War, more and more people began to believe that it was time “to take back what was rightfully theirs.” In India also, movements have come into being that want to set right “the historical injustices of Brahminical oppression.” Some have even begun to call upon their followers to “exterminate the Brahmins.”

In Europe, state policies were implemented that expressed the discrimination against Jews. For a very long time, they could not hold certain jobs and participate in many social and economic activities. In India, one seems to be going this way with policies that claim to correct “the historical exploitation by the upper castes.” It is becoming increasingly difficult for Brahmins to get access to certain jobs. In both cases, these policies have been justified in terms of a flawed ideological story that passes for social science.

The fifth parallel is that both anti-Semitism and anti-Brahminism have deep roots in Christian theology. In the case of Judaism, its continuing vitality as a tradition was a threat to Christianity’s claim to be the fulfilment of the Jewish prophecies about the Messiah. The refusal of Jews to join the religion of Christ (the true Messiah, according to Christians) was seen as an unacceptable denial of the truth of Christianity. Saint Augustine even wrote that the Jews had to continue to exist, but only to show that Christians had St. Francis Xavier: The Scourge of the Coromandel Coast!not fabricated the prophesies about Christ and to confirm that some would not follow Christ and be damned for it.

The contemporary stereotypes about Brahmins and the story about Brahminism also originate in Christian theology. They reproduce Protestant images of the priests of false religion. When European missionaries and merchants began to travel to India in great numbers, they held two certainties that came from Christian theology: false religion would exist in India; and false religion revolved around evil priests who had fabricated all kinds of laws, doctrines and rites in order to bully the innocent believers into submission. In this way, the priests of the devil abused religion for worldly goals. The European story about Brahminism and the caste system simply reproduced this Protestant image of false religion. The colonials identified the Brahmins as the priests and Brahminism as the foundation of false religion in India. This is how the dominant image of “the Hindu religion” came into being.

The sixth parallel lies in the fact that Christian theology penetrated and shaped the “secular” discourse about Judaism and Brahminism. The theological criticism became part of common sense and was reproduced as scientific truth. In India, this continues unto this day. Social scientists still talk about “Brahminism” as the worst thing that ever happened to humanity.

Perhaps the most tragic similarity is that some members of the minority community have internalised these stories about themselves. Some Jews began to believe that they were to blame for what happened during the Holocaust; many educated Brahmins now feel that they are guilty of historical atrocities against other groups. In some cases, this has led to a kind of identity crisis in which they vilify “Brahminism” in English-language academic debate, but continue their traditions. In other cases, the desire to “defend” these same traditions has inspired Brahmins to aggressively support Hindutva.

Corpses in Buchenwald Concentration CampIn twentieth-century Europe, we have seen how dangerous anti-Semitism was and what consequences it could have in society. Tragically, unimaginable suffering was needed before it was relegated to the realm of unacceptable positions. In India, anti-Brahminism was adopted from Protestant missionaries by colonial scholars who then passed it on to the secularists and Dalit intellectuals. They created the climate which allowed the Sangh Parivar to continue hijacking the social sciences for petty political purposes.

The question that India has to raise in the twenty-first century is this: Do we need bloodshed, before we will realise that the reproduction of anti-Brahminism is as harmful as anti-Muslim propaganda? What is needed to realise that the Hindutva movement has simply taken its cue from the secularists? – Outlook, 20 June 2008

» Prof Dr Jakob De Roover is a postdoctoral fellow of the Research Foundation (FWO) Flanders at the Research Centre Vergelijkende Cultuurwetenschap, Ghent University, Belgium.

Brahmin

Kids starved and beaten for not reciting Bible verses in illegal Christian shelter – Abhishek Anand

Emmanuel Seva Group

Abhishek Anand“The mother, whose complaint with a children’s helpline led to the raids, said she was approached by one Joshua Devraj at a Delhi hospital around three years ago. ‘He said he will raise my children and make them IAS officers. He forced us to circulate pamphlets and copies of the Bible in public places but never paid us,’ she said. … Their ordeal has not ended even after being rescued. The woman said the shelter’s employees came to her house on Tuesday night and threatened to take her three children back. ‘They pelted stones at our house and beat us up with batons. They fled when the neighbours gathered,’ she said.” – Abhishek Anand

Forcibly converted to Christianity, hung by the wrists from a ceiling fan, starved for days and beaten mercilessly for failing to recite Bible passages—this is what a nine-Emmanuel Seva Groupyear-old boy said he had to endure at an illegal shelter.

He was among 30 children, all from poor families, rescued on December 29 after police raided two homes run by the Emmanuel Seva Group [also known as Charity Seva Groupsee more] in Greater Noida and Meerut. The child, who along with his younger sister and brother had been confined to the home for three years, said their stay was like a “jail term” during which his name was also changed.

“I was allowed to meet my parents once a month for only 15 minutes. The only thing I was taught was the Bible. They forced me to memorise its passages,” the boy told HT on Thursday and added that the children were forced to consume buffalo meat and “paraded” before potential donors.

“They gave us good clothes whenever visitors came. They made us stand in line and recite Bible passages. Faltering meant a beating with sticks and belts later,” he said. “Once the guests left, the shelter in-charge snatched away our clothes, sweets and gifts and we were back in rags again.”

His 11-year-old sister said the children were forced to sleep on a dirty floor that was littered with rodent droppings.

“They never allowed us to step outside. We were not given food for three days at a stretch if we forgot a Bible passage.”

“A case was registered at the Bisrakh police station following the raid. The children complained they were tortured and beaten up for not following the orders of the caretakers. We are investigating whether the organisation had permission to run a shelter home. Three persons, including the caretaker of the shelter home, have been detained and are being questioned. We are investigating the claims of the rescued children,” said Ashwani Kumar, in-charge, Bisrakh police station.

Their mother, whose complaint with a children’s helpline led to the raids, said she was approached by one Joshua Devraj at a Delhi hospital around three years ago. “He said he will raise my children and make them IAS officers. He forced us to circulate pamphlets and copies of the Bible in public places but never paid us,” she said.

Their ordeal has not ended even after being rescued. The woman said the shelter’s employees came to her house on Tuesday night and threatened to take her three children back. “They pelted stones at our house and beat us up with batons. They fled when the neighbours gathered,” she said.

“The victim’s mother had approached us on December 28. We contacted the police and conducted a raid at Naya Haibatpur village in Bisrakh area. It was found that a shelter home with the name of Emanuel Sewa Group was operating illegally. Seven children were kept there in squalid and untidy condition. The children were also found to be malnourished. A subsequent raid was conducted at the shelter home of the same organisation in Meerut from where 23 children were rescued,” said Satya Prakash, programme manager, FXB Suraksha NGO.

Satya Prakash further said, “The complainant said she was not allowed to meet her children for months and told us that they might have been shifted to some other place. After we conducted a raid, it was found that her children were lodged at an illegal shelter home of the same trust in Dehradun. Following the raid, the children were brought back to Greater Noida.”

He said the children revealed that they were being served cockroach-infested food and were forced to live in a substandard condition.

“Most of them are malnourished and sick. They need proper medication and care. We are in talks with their family members. They will be sent back to their homes soon,” Satya Prakash said.

When contacted, accused Joshua Devraj accepted that a raid was conducted at his shelter homes but refused to comment on the issue.

“Yes, raids were conducted but I can’t tell you much about it. I will comment on this issue later,” he said. – Hindustan Times, 8 January 2016

Emmanuel Seva Group

Emmanuel Seva Group‘Forced to eat cockroach-infested food:’ Children rescued from Emmanuel Seva Group shelter – Abhishek Anand

The children who were rescued from the alleged illegal shelter home near here recounted that their stay at the place was like a jail term where they were punished with lashings and forced to eat cockroach-infested food.

Ram (9), whose name was changed to Rohan Masih during his stay there, said, “I was allowed to meet my parents for only 15 minutes once a month. The only thing I was taught during my stay there was the Bible. They forced me to read it and recite hymns from it.”

He said the caretakers at the shelter home would put on a show as if they took good care of the children whenever donors came.

“Whenever visitors came to meet us for donation, they gave us good clothes to wear and asked us to stand in a queue and recite hymns from the Bible, failing which we would be subjected to severe punishment which included beating with sticks and belts,” he told HT.

And once the guest left after donating money, clothes and sweets, the centre in-charge would tell us to wear rags again and none of the gifts would be given to us, Ram said.

As many as 23 children were rescued recently from the shelter home Emanuel Seva Group in Naya Haibatpur village in Bisrakh area of Uttar Pradesh, which functioned like a forced conversion centre.

Ram’s sister Jaya (11), who was also rescued from the shelter home, said the caretakers used to force her to sleep on a dirty floor which was covered in rodent droppings.

“The food they used to give us was infested with cockroaches. There were more cockroaches than food in the kitchen,” she said.

She further added that they were never allowed us to step outside the shelter home.

“Sometimes, when we forgot lines from the Bible, we would not be given food for two-three days as punishment,” she said.

Ram also said he was forced to eat buffalo meat and when he refused, he was suspended from the ceiling and thrashed black and blue with a stick.

Ram’s other sister Preeti (6) was also rescued in the raid and all three children were rescued after three years at the shelter home. The police raided the home following a complaint from Ram’s mother Neetu.

Neetu said she met head of the shelter home Joshua Devraj at a hospital in Delhi where he offered to help the family.

“He asked us to stay at his accommodation. He said he would raise my children and make them IAS officers. He forced us to circulate pamphlets and copies of the Bible in local trains and other public places,” said Neetu. “For three years, he used us to publicise his organisation, but didn’t give us a penny. When he did not allow us to meet our children, we approached the NGO and the police,” she said.

She said that some employees of the shelter home came to her house on Tuesday night to demand her children back. (All names changed) – Hindustan Times, 8 January 2016

» Abhishek Anand is the principal correspondent at Hindustan Times in Noida.

Emmanuel Seva Group

Jesus

Lessons from the Chennai floods for Kerala – C. I. Issac

Chennai Floods 2015

Prof C. I. Issac“Here in Kerala, the numbers and significance of the people who adore nature as ‘Mother’ is shrinking day by day. At the same time, the importance and influence of religions which advocate nature as a resource to alleviate the greed of man is also mounting day by day. The best example of this was the destiny of the Madhav Gadgil Committee Report and the role played by the bishops.” – Prof C. I. Issac

The main reason behind the disaster borne out of the unpredicted outburst of floods in Chennai was the humiliation of ‘Mother Earth’ by the regimes of the Metro City and Fort St. George for last three decades. This is not a topic confined to the Tamil Nadu state alone, but the warning of the times, the writing on the wall for the entire country, and specifically for the state of Kerala.

Kerala is the most densely populated state in India; according to the latest available data, the State’s density of population is 860 per square kilometre. A place with regular and recurring rainfall, it is now in the extra danger zone. Should a Chennai-like situation develop here, the depth and extent of the calamity could be far more disastrous than Tamil Nadu.  

Chennai Floods 2015The main reason for the present havoc caused by floods in Chennai is the creation of the greedy real estate and construction mafia. Related to this is the unscientific road construction along with the encroachment of creeks, backwaters and other traditional water-clogging areas by a highly influential section in the political class of Tamil Nadu.

These areas are vital mechanisms of nature, because while at the time of frantic and violent rain these creaks will drain-out the excess flood water, the rest will be absorbed by the lakes, backwaters and other traditional or natural water-storing areas. All these are now a panorama of bygone days in most of our cities. This write-up is concerned with the situation in Kerala. 

Kerala is the single largest metropolis of India with a population 33.3 million (2011 census), excluding expatriates. The repercussions from any sort of natural calamity in this ‘God’s Own Country’ (the land created by Lord Parasurama) will be far worse than Chennai.

This is because the topography and density of population in Kerala is entirely different from that in the rest of India. God created this land with all safety valves to overcome any such adverse situations that occur rhythmically in nature. Kerala has 44 west-flowing rivers and each river has 150 to 250 tributaries and 10 to 50 distributaries that embrace the sea; hitherto the backwaters also functioned as flood water managers.

It is a wonder that nature has provided such a fantastic device to a place with a landmass of 38,863 sq. km., and length is 580 km. This enabled Kerala to survive as a safe haven for human habitation all this time. But in recent decades, the flow of petro-dollars along with hawala money and counterfeits from the 1970s onwards, sabotaged the divine human-nature relations of Kerala.

Today, all the 44 rivers of Kerala have shrunk by 2/3 of their natural width. As many as 50 per cent tributary rivers have vanished. The banks of the backwaters are subject to encroachments in Cochin, Kumarakom (famous for its bird sanctuary), and so on in all the cities and towns of Kerala, all under the benediction of the ruling and opposition parties in the Legislative Assembly. 

One such encroachment of a backwater by a company run by an in-law of the Congress dynasty was unearthed by the visual media of Kerala. (I mention this instance only to show the power and impunity of persons who plunder nature and violate the law in this state). Under the umbrella of these administrative forces, several malls and resorts have mushroomed by acquiring government purambokku (government land belonging to none), river beds, shallow regions of backwaters and violating lease agreements in cities like Cochin.

In cities like Trivandrum and the like, the business communities are occupying roads and streets under the power of collective communal vote banks. All such violations have enjoyed the backing of both the ruling and opposition parties. This nexus has also worked to sabotage the genuine infrastructural projects of the state. What was the destiny of the Gadgil Commission ReportMadhav Gadgil Committee Report to save the Western Ghats? This is a well-known story, so I am not going to dwell upon it.

In the wake of havoc caused by the recent Chennai flood, the Chief Minister of Kerala announced that development means not two-storied buildings but skyscrapers. This response of the Chief Minister was in the light of the decision of the State Fire Department Chief to implement fire norms strictly in the case of flats, apartments, shopping malls and skyscrapers. This decision of the Fire Department opened a ‘wrestling platform’ in which doyens of the builder lobby met the State Fire Chief and the poor Fire Chief was knocked out.

The irony was that the (unfair) umpire on the platform was the Chief Minister of Kerala. The result was that the Chief of the State Fire Department lost his chair. And the State Cabinet decided to apply the 1994 State Municipal Building Rules by evading the existing National Laws and Acts relating to the building of skyscrapers in the state hereafter. A recent non-formal study says that 90 per cent of the big budget constructions since 2000 are going on in blatant violation of the vital norms of the State Building Rules. Yet all these hitherto construction violations were ratified by the authorities!

Here in Kerala, the numbers and significance of the people who adore nature as ‘Mother’ is shrinking day by day. At the same time, the importance and influence of religions which advocate nature as a resource to alleviate the greed of man is also mounting day by day. The best example of this was the destiny of the Madhav Gadgil Committee Report and the role played by the bishops.

One bishop went to the extent of threatening the State Government that “they have no hesitation to create another Kashmir in Kerala if they go with Madhav Gadgil suggestions.” Sadly, the impotent law making and implementing authority of the day in Kerala shut their ears and closed their eyes before this treasonable threat of the bishop, thereby revealing the destiny that lies ahead for ‘God’s own country’ in the days to come. – Vijayvaani, 8 December 2015

Lynn Townsend White Jr

Prof Lynn Townsend White Jr

“Hindus have been facing an unprecedented threat from conversions,” says Dr Subramanian Swamy

Virat Hindustan Sangam“People should vote for a Hindu-friendly party in future, if the world’s most ancient (Hindu) civilization are to withstand the onslaught of external forces. People should vote for a Hindu-friendly party in future, if the world’s most ancient (Hindu) civilization were to withstand the onslaught of external forces.” – Dr Subramanian Swamy

Cross Crossed-OutTerming that “induced religious conversions” as a threat to national integrity, senior BJP leader and Virat Hindustan Sangam (VHS) national president Subramanian Swamy said it was high time that an all-India law banning religious conversions was enacted, but with an exception that “reconversions were not banned”.

Participating in the national convention of the VHS here on Sunday, he said: “People should vote for a Hindu-friendly party in future, if the world’s most ancient (Hindu) civilization is to withstand the onslaught of external forces.”

The majority community (Hindus) must destroy the caste system and revive Sanskrit language to successfully thwart the expansionist agenda of other religions, he observed. On the occasion, Mr. Swamy recalled that the Hindu civilization was among the 46 ancient civilizations listed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Kashmir: The forgotten conflict.“The Hindus have never discriminated against other religions, but it has of late been facing an unprecedented threat from conversions which are highly detrimental to democracy. The whole world raises a hue and cry when something happens to Muslims and Christians, but there is no one to espouse the cause of over five lakh Kashmiri Pandits who are living in exile in their own country,” he said.

Members of the Hindu community in Malappuram district of Kerala have complained that they could not hold a public meeting for 20 years. Such was the persecution of Hindus in India. This is not acceptable, he said.

“We should ensure that the Hindu population does not fall below the 80 per cent mark but that does not mean they should produce more children,” he observed, warning that “a danger was lurking in the form of the new caliphate named as the Islamic State.” – The Hindu, 7 December 2015

M. K. Gandhi

♦ Aggressive evangelism makes ‘ghar wapsi’ pale in comparison

“The Christian percentage of the Indian populace has grown by a staggering 150 per cent. In other words, India now has more Christians than any First World country aside from the United States and Russia according to Pew Research’s Religion & Public Life Project.” – Pawan Deshpande  

Christian evangelical groups are like start-ups with targets and incentives – T.V. Mohandas Pai

T.V. Mohandas Pai“The new phenomenon over the last 5 years has been the huge increase in evangelical conversions in Chennai and Tamil Nadu, clearly visible via the vehement advertising on particular channels on TV. Andhra Pradesh, particularly the interiors, Hyderabad and the coastal regions, has been specifically targeted due to the red carpet laid by a now deceased chief minister whose son-in-law is a pastor with his own outfit. The visible impact across this region … shows clearly that a huge amount of money has come in and that there is targeted conversion going on. Some evangelical groups have claimed that 9-12% of undivided AP has been converted, and have sought special benefits from the State” – T.V. Mohandas Pai

India Tricolour & Parliament HouseThe Rajya Sabha has been paralysed by the Opposition on the Ghar Vapasi program of a few organisations from the right. However, if you follow the debate, it is clear that this is a political battle by the left and the left of centre parties to embarrass and discredit the right of centre party in power. Maybe even with the intent to show up the government as incapable of bringing in reforms and development. The so-called conversion debate was an excuse to paralyse the Rajya Sabha, and a great opportunity was missed to debate the issue of large-scale surreptitious conversions across India (which is the real problem).

There is no doubt that large-scale conversions have been taking place across India, accelerating over the last 5 years led by evangelical groups from the West. The North East has been converted with Arunachal and Tripura being now targeted. Tribal belts across Odisha, Jharkhand, Gujarat and MP have seen large-scale conversions for several years now.

Anil Kumar with father-in-law YSR Reddy, mother-in-law Vijayalakshmi and wife Sharmila at a Christian meeting.The new phenomenon over the last 5 years has been the huge increase in evangelical conversions in Chennai and Tamil Nadu, clearly visible via the vehement advertising on particular channels on TV. Andhra Pradesh, particularly the interiors, Hyderabad and the coastal regions, has been specifically targeted due to the red carpet laid by a now deceased chief minister whose son-in-law is a pastor with his own outfit. The visible impact across this region to any observer shows clearly that a huge amount of money has come in and that there is targeted conversion going on. Some evangelical groups have claimed that 9-12% of undivided AP has been converted, and have sought special benefits from the State (which has been reported in the media).

There is a very sophisticated operation in place by the evangelical groups, with a clear target for souls, marketing campaigns, mass prayer and fraudulent healing meetings. Evidence is available in plenty on videos on YouTube, social media, press reports, and on the ground. Pastors have been openly tweeting about souls converted, and saving people from idol worshippers. Some pastors have tweeted with glee about converts reaching 60 million, declaring a target of 100 million, and have also requested for financial support for this openly. Violence in some areas due to this has vitiated the atmosphere. The traditional institutions of both denominations are losing out to the new age evangelicals with their sophisticated marketing, money and legion of supporters from the West. One can almost classify these groups as hyper-growth startups – with a cost per acquisition, a roadmap for acquiring followers, a fund-raising machine, and a gamified approach (with rewards and incentives) to “conquering” new markets.

Evangelist targeting childrenOur Constitution guarantees the freedom of religion, which includes the right of the individual to choose her religion. This is not in question, and is a very important concept for a nation like ours. But this right is terribly constrained by religions, which severely punish apostasy. Our laws prohibit conversion due to inducement, allurement, undue influence, coercion, or use of supernatural threats. Every debate on TV misses this point—people argue on grounds of constitutional rights and abuse right wings groups who protest such conversion forgetting that these new age evangelicals are clearly breaking the law! They go to the desperate, and prey on their insecurities by offering education for their children, medical services for the sick, and abuse existing religious practices and traditions.

People also point to the approximate 2.3% share of this minority in the last 3 censuses to deny such conversions. Of course, the 2011 census figures on religion has strangely not been released and we need this data. However, the reason why in the conversion numbers do not show up in the census is that conversions are happening in communities entitled to reservation benefits. It appears that they are clearly told not to reveal their conversion in the census or officially to prevent loss of benefits. Most conversions happen amongst the tribals and rural and urban poor, who are soft targets to inducements.

I have a personal experience of evangelical groups trying to convert members of my family. Two house maids who converted said that the school where their children went raised fees and due to their inability to pay, they were told they would waive it if they converted (which they were forced to do). Of course, the school was rabid in their evangelism with these children. I use a taxi company for travel over the last ten years. I have noticed over 30% of drivers have converted over the last 5 years.

Chennai evangelist Jayakumar baptising a new convert.When asked, inevitably they spoke about evangelicals groups that gave them free education for children and paid their medical bills, provided they converted.

It is obvious that large-scale conversion by illegal means is happening in many places and the impact is clearly visible to anybody who would choose to see openly. Some apologists ask – where are the complaints about inducement or coercion? The law needs enforcement by the police independent of complaints, as is happening when rightist groups proudly announce conversions. These rightist groups lack sophistication, but they have squarely focused attention on this large-scale conversion activity. Law enforcers need to act before this becomes a bigger flash point. – Economic Times, 27 December 2014

» T.V. Mohandas Pai is an award-winning chartered account and former Infosys director. He is now chairman of Manipal Global Education in Bengaluru.

World Vision

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,366 other followers

%d bloggers like this: