Abstract of applications received in Mandla district
The 12th November 1954.
At the outset Chairman introduced the members.
A non-Christian: Change of religion is objectionable, but it is only sentimental. Allurement of money to innocent people, which may be in the form of help to needy persons, is practised in this area. Similarly free education of children. People who were formerly Gond, Baigas and Pardhans are now calling themselves Christians.
Ratiram (Christian name Simon): I am a labourer and was converted 25 years ago by padri women by showing allurement of land for cultivation. I was not given any land. I am even now a Christian. I was Pardhan formerly, I was serving under missionary. Reconversion to Hinduism takes place in my community if some fine payment is made to the caste. My marriage was arranged by the Christians. I had married a Christian girl. I do not go to church. I was baptised by Father in church and was taught certain prayers.
Barati Gond of Dhanora: One lame man who is a Christian has been removed from service. He was converted on the allurement of service. I live in Dhanora.
Bhagwandas: People work in the Missions and after some days they are asked to be Christians. If they do not, their services are terminated. Therefore, for fear of losing service they have to become Christians. A Father extracts wine from kismis on a large-scale. He has got a permit for this on religious grounds. Twelve boxes if ‘kismis’ come from Jabalpur per week. The Father gives the wine to tribal people by way of allurement. He may be sending it even to Nagpur, but we are not able to prove it. The ‘kismis’ parcels brought in luggage and not in parcel van. During Easter and Christmas missionaries give wine to tribal people. This is objectionable from the social point of view. People from the South and Ranchi side are converted and brought here. I saw one Oraon woman with one Gond woman selling fuel. The Gond woman, when questioned by me, said that she would also become Christian very shortly as her husband was given work by Missionaries. People from this side are converted and taken to South (Madras) side. This is deliberately done to remove them from their relation and to deprive them of their affection. Bible is taught in the Mission school. Government should open a school, where there is no other school than only a mission school. Similarly they should do about hospitals. The Missionaries get an opportunity to oblige us during times of necessity and therefore we become Christians. Their work of love and sacrifice influences the people from their childhood. They provide service and when they cannot go anywhere else but are solely dependent on Mission for service, they are asked to become Christians or else their services are terminated. If Government opens a school, boys will stop going to Mission schools. One Mission school was closed at one place because some other school was opened there.
Gopaldas: I was in Koni centre. Once when I was ill, I was admitted to Mission Hospital, Bilaspur. At the time of admission, my caste was asked and after 10 to 15 days I was asked to become Christian, which I refused. Therefore, very shortly I had to be away from the hospital. People do not become Christian willingly or by faith. Advantage is taken for conversion of the helpless condition of poor people.
There is not a large number of cases of conversion of educated people. But those who become converts, are given education up to B. A., etc. There is not much conversion in Dhanora, but converts from outside are mainly kept there. We cannot give exact details about this.
The 13th November 1954.
At a meeting held at the circuit house, the chairman, explained the object of the committee and introduced its members.
Shri Umeshdutta Pathak: There is a case of conversion by fraud at Saledanda of Loota, vs. Hajari, decided by Civil Judge, Mandla (case no. not known) and its record is in Jabalpur. There is an ugly scene in Dhanora near Nainpur. At this place it will be seen how the village, is converted. Since 20 to 25 years old padris have gone. Dutch and Italian (they call themselves as such) have come since, 1920, and more so since 1926. I saw them active in Dindori tahsil. At Dohania and Banghania there was intensive work of missionaries. They used to give free education and interfere with litigation cases by influencing Government officers. These were their methods of obliging people with a view to convert them. I saw this process going on intensively from 1926 to 1931. Therefore I opposed Elwin as much as possible for keeping his headquarters as Karanjia. Father Elwin was making the people Assam-minded. His work was of a different type. According to my reading, he was not interested in conversion. Many people were sent by him to Assam tea garden and even now the link continues. I do not know if the Catholic Mission was interested in that. Dohania and Dulbaher were centres for conversion by processes, which were anti-national and they were utilising all methods used by Elwin such as attracting bodys from other schools. A large number of them has come back to Hinduism. Their methods of conversion were financial help, legal help and influence on Tahsildars, police sub-inspectors and other village officers. They were the masters of the village. Mr. Hyde who was an Anglo-Indian, was Deputy Commissioner then. He was favourable to them. Similar process I noticed in Dhanora near Nainpur, which is the biggest centre of Roman Catholics in Mandla district. There was a sort of their colony. Nearly half of the village was converted. During the Second World war there was not much employment near Nainpur. Therefore, missionaries gave employment in their fields. They have cultivation in this district. I have reasons to believe that the work continues even now, but these days they do not move about in the district because of old age. Conversions are still taking place.
Shri Rombharos Agarwal: Conversion is bad for a religion. Conversion brings about an illegal activity about the land Alienation Act. That tribal who gets converted loses the legal rights given to him by the Constitution as an aboriginal. It should be made clear in the Constitution that a man should remain in his own motherfaith (i.e., religion by birth). Not a single man, in my opinion, has been converted by conviction. It is a fact that neither the Government nor the public care for them. The converts are unable to understand the nature of religion. I do not personally know the procedure for conversion. The fundamental attraction is not conviction. I want that the Committee should do away with the elements, which lead to conversion by other methods than conviction. Nothing is being done by the State here. Missionaries are doing conversion and preaching at all their centres. The number of converts during the last 10 to 15 years in Mandla district may he taken at about 5 digits (10,000), Rev. Heertum converted some people by resorting to hunger strike. Shri Chavan was EAC then. This may be in about 1942. In a particular, area near Dhanora this was done. I do not know if there are any foreign missionaries in this district now, because these days I do not go out of the city.
Shri Sheoprasad Verma: Secretary Arya Samaj Mandla, read out a cutting from Navbharat, dated the 24 Jun 1954, and some other references. He also said that at Ginwani (Dindori tahsil) conversion was done under the threat of a gun. A Police Sub-Inspector enquired into this and the complaint was found to be false). Sundersingh and Gobindsingh of Bijora did not get water from missionary well because that well is kept locked by missionaries. This may be a private well, which is within a compound. These are no cases of Christian converts coming back to Hinduism. There are several sects of Gonds here. No attempt was made at reconversion.
Father Xavier: The allegations heard by me here appear to be wild. I have nothing to say about such allegations. A reply will be given to you by our Jabalpur Bishop. I do not know anything even about the fast of Rev. Heertum. There was some conflict started by Father Elwin in 1944. We started a Normal school in Sijhora that time. Father Elwin wanted the school in aboriginal area. It was not a religious institution. The number of converts during the last 10 to 15 years may be 300 to 400. The total population of Christians in the district may be below 1,000. I am speaking of Catholics. In recent years there are few conversions. We have been working the interior. Villagers are not so simple as you consider them to be. We do not offer any inducement. We belong to a registered company Prefect Apostolic Co. Jab, and one of the aims of the company is social work, which, includes education also. In the schools we do not teach religion.
Father K. N. Kurian, Gondwana Mission: In my opinion the non-Catholic Christian population may be 600 to 700. From missionary point of view this is the worst place in the whole world. The same society, which works here, works in South India also but the results here are very poor. This is most disappointing to us. We cannot give up our work because it is difficult. During 1900-1918 there were 10 missionaries and there must have been at least 20 pracharaks in this district. They did a lot of work but the results are not encouraging. The defect in their work is that they did not train local leadership, but they did the work themselves. Christianity has opposition from the very beginning.
Father Xavier: Comparing the quality of work the result is not disappointing. It may be so if only the number is compared.
Vanvasi Sewa Mandal has a school here.
The 14th November 1954.
At the outset Shri Malviyaji explained the object of the State Government in setting up the Committee and introduced the members.
Shri R. K. Pande: The district has been utilised by missionaries for their work because it is mostly inhabited by aboriginals. Children living in their Ashram are compelled to attend church. Orphans are rendered help only when they become Christians. They are sent to outside places where they change their dress, etc. On return to their places during holidays, they attract other villagers by their fanciful living. They are sent to other provinces so that they should not be influenced by their men here. Outside people are brought here. Some teachers were appointed by them, but when they did not agree to be converted, they were removed from service. Only such persons are working here as come from other provinces.
In the Health Department, sisters and mothers of the Missions visit houses and attempt to oblige people by rendering free medical advice and aid. Some of their agents do Mantra Tantra. The local people believe in this. These agents tell them that Father will drive away the ghost. The Father them gurluki mala, (a garland of Gurlu fruit) with a Cross and they are asked to put it on. Similarly photos are distributed freely for worship. In some Adiwasi house, I have found all these things. In one house I found that a picture was given to a tribal by a Father for daily worship. There was a poor man with two children. The man became ill and there was Mantra tantra. Medicines were also given, but he expired. The children also fell ill and when the mother of she children was very nervous, Mantra Tantra was done. But the agents told her that it was beyond their power and she should go Christian Father Fathers gave her a mala (garland) and when her children recovered, the woman wanted to go back. But the Father said that again the ghosts would come and so the woman should serve under them and live there. She was thus compelled to live there. This was some time about 13th May 1954. The Bishop had come at Kurela and I learnt that the children and mother were converted to Christianity. I questioned them, but they said that they had not changed their religion. They simply worship Catholic Bhagwan. Financial aid is also given and when repayment is not made in time, conversion is forced on people. All servants of the Mission are compulsorily required to attend the prayers. I have made enquiries about this and have come to know that it is a fact. Advantage is sought to be taken of the poverty and ignorance of people. Deori is the place where Missionaries came first. Now practically the whole of Deori is Christianised. In Sihora there are several persons who do not say that they are Christians, but they convert others to Christianity and their caste fellows know it. One of the agents invited his wife's sister as guest to his place and then pressed his wife and her sister to go to Bishop. The Missionaries themselves do not work so much among the people. Their agents are very active. They say that there is no other Bhagwan than Catholic Bhagwan, in whom every one should believe. I am a social worker and do not know any religion. The Missionaries should have their head office in cities, and teaching should be entrusted to Education Branch. School and church should not be linked together. Hospitals should be under the Medical Branch separate from church. They should be asked to change their methods of service. At present they pretend to serve but really speaking they attempt to increase their own number.
I understand that they also tell people through their agents that the British Government was good and the Congress Government is not doing anything for the poor people. This shows that there is some political motive.
The name of the woman with three children whose case has been quoted by me already, is Sumatri of Paolina Rewa, jogin by caste. Names of sons are Samaru (name not changed), and Meraha (now changed to Joseph) and daughter Kapuri (now Mariam). Her husband's name is not known.
In Narharganj a Christian school boy was appointed Forest Guard at Kisli Jangwani. Radhelal Pathari’s daughter Pacchabai, aged about 13 to 14, was given favourable treatment and she was converted by him. A case was started against him by Mawai Police station.
Eleven persons have been converted on 13th May 1954. When the Bishop visited this place. One Teli from Sihora was harassed by the Missionaries because he was living in their compound. An application was given in this respect to Shankerlal Tiwari, Minister. Threats are given of shooting. I do not know bow far this is true.
Tribal girls from Dindori, aged between 6 to 17, belonging to different villages, are brought to Kurela for training. When I saw them, they were about 12 in number. The girls informed that they are not Christians. I reported the matter to police to find out whether they had come with the, consent of their parents. A report was called by the local Police from Dindori. Two Fathers checked the report and it was made known by Dindori police that there was no truth in the report.
Christian Father: In this area we do not use the word Christian. We call ourselves Catholics to distinguish from Protestants. The case of girls training at Kurela is two-years old. Now I do not know where the girls are.
Shri Pande: In Manegaon, nearly half of the village is Christian. They get about Rs. 2 to Rs. 3 per mensem by way of salary for attending the church every Sunday. All tribals, poor and lame also, go there. Those who are poor and lazy also go. Father distributes the money. It is not given in the form of charity after prayers. Bhaiyalal Gond Kastakar of Sukhai receives this sum. He attends church since the last 4 to 5 years.
Shri Baredi Bhoi Gond of Mudia Araj (100 miles from here), Janapada Councillor: Narsing of Manegaon was outcast about 3 years back but the Father requested us not to do so. Anant Singh Bhoi Mukhi was called for medicine by the Father but was asked to pray before it was given. Photos of Jesus (and not of national leaders), are in mission schools. They may also be playing some mischief with votes. Christians were instructed by Missionaries not to vote at the Janapada election. The Fathers visited villages where there are Missions, and also other villages. They did not come to my village.
Shri Himmatsingh Partati of Bichchia of the Vanvasi Sewa Mandal: I had cultivation in Chhindwara district when my cattle expired, I was offered help by Christian Father when I approached him. I became a teacher in Mohgaon. I used to go to Balpur (near Ghassor) to receive pay. There was a rule that all should offer prayers at the church before receiving pay. After 5 to 6 months they asked me to change my religion. When I refused, services were terminated. Some 15 to 20 persons had been converted there. My mother’s sister’s husband had no issue. He was told to become Christian and he converted himself. The man has been outcast and thus there is division in our family. During my training period, I got opportunity to go to Jashpur in Raigarh district and visit primary schools at Deori, Sijhora, Kudela, Nandgaon and Sakwar. There is Medicine in schools. In Ghansor side, baptism is done by sprinkling water on head and a few drops in the mouth. They remove the topknot and give a necklace with Cross. There is difference in our marriage customs and dress and of the converts.
Shri Ambikaprasad Shrivastave: Christian officers indirectly help Missionaries. In mouza Soldanda there was some scuffle and a police report was given by Ramsukh head constable of Mamdla. D. S. P., Shri Ross had called these paper, because the Father had seen him and he was interested in this. Ramsukh was her for about six months. I have gone to Sihora several times. The people have got several things to say, but they say that if the Padri knows this, he will abuse them. Missionaries are adopting political tactics. One day they may contest and win elections. Foreign Missionaries will set up such candidates as will be in their grip. They will have their own Ministers and will have greater foreign contacts. We are therefore afraid of this impending foreign sovereignty.
Shri Hiralal Saraswat, Headmaster, Bhoomijan Indian Middle School, Sijhora: Only Catholics of my school go to church and no others. I am here since the last 10 years. I am a Brahmin and not a Christian. Anandsingh Bhoi’s son Mathulal or Mathusingh does not go to church. I am secretary of the multi-purpose co-operative society, Sijhora. The total capital is Rs. 1,100 and there are about 200 shareholders. Even non-Christians are shareholders and members of the working committee. Christian Father is the president of the society. There are 11 members of the working committee, of whom 3 are Catholics and the remaining non-Catholics. The society runs grocery and other shops. My pay is Rs. 110 per mensem. It in paid by the Mission. There a re six teachers in the middle and high school. Of these 5 are Catholics. There are 40 boys in the Middle School boarding. There is no separate arrangement for Catholics and non-Catholics. No fees are charged to anyone. We take Rs. 2 per year. No grant is received from Government. There is a girls’ mission school at Kudela and daughters of Catholics go there for education. There is no case in my schools of a non-Catholic becoming a catholic.
Shri R. K. Pande: Persons from Ranchi come here as teachers. The object is to take them out of the influence of their relatives.
Shri Solomon Khes, Headmaster, Primary School: I come from Simdega sub-division of Ranchi. I am here since 1937 in Sijhora. I am Christian from the time of my grandfather. Three Catholics from Dhanora are here. Adult education is also done by me. I do preaching some times. There is one more preacher by name Motidas. I receive Rs. 50 per mensem as total emoluments. I am a trained teacher of Bihar Board. I have passed 7th E.T.G. I can be promoted as Middle School teacher. I do some cultivation given by Government under the Grow More Food Scheme. I do not know if any body receives pay of Rs. 2 or Rs. 3 per mensem for attending church as alleged earlier. Non-Catholics some times attend church.