To the Chairman, Committee of Enquiry into Missionary Activities, Nagpur.
Ginabahar, the 24th January 1955.
Herewith I beg to submit the replies of the Catholic Sabha of the Raigarh district to the Questionnaire issued by your Committee.
President, Catholic Sabha
of Raigarh district,
These answers are given by the Committee of the Catholic Sabha, representing the Catholics of the districts of Raigarh and Surguja, in pursuance of a resolution passed at their meeting of the 9th January 1954, at Ginabahar. They refer chiefly to the Jashpur Sub-Division, where Catholics are numerous. They relate exclusively to the Catholic community.
Before we answer to any particular question, we beg leave to make a query ourselves: “What is the aim of this Questionnaire?” We ought to suppose that the members of the Committee desire to ascertain the facts, and nothing but the facts. Yet, it seems absolutely evident that these questions, as they are framed, are calculated to elicit as many accusations as possible against missionaries and against Christians. Are we to surmise that, during their “exploratory tours”, the members of the Committee have found so little that can damage our reputation that now they must address themselves to every fanatic, and suggest what accusations should be made”.
Surely, the members of the Committee are fully aware that such a series of veiled charges-for often these are not questions, but scarcely veiled accusations-is a potent means to exacerbate sectarian feeling, and to incite religious fanatics to lay charges against those whom they dislike, yes, false charges without number.
With such a method the Committee will find it easy to accumulate a huge mass of unproven accusations. Will these be taken as evidence of our guilt, or as proof of the intolerance of certain communalistic elements?
What renders the case worse is that. on this occasion. the accusers know quite well that they have the sympathy of the police. of petty officials, yea, of the Madhya Pradesh Government.
The irrelevancy of many of these questions is glaring; no less glaring is their anti-Christian bias. Several of them contain stinging insults to our priests, and to us, Adivasis. We can describe them only as “nasty”.
is the total population of Christians and non-Christians-
2. What reasons do you attribute to the rise or fall in the population as given above?
3. How many of the present Christian population are born Christians?
Answer: The Census figures of 1951 should provide an answer to this question. But these figures have been cooked. The 1951 Census enumerates only 9,692 Christians in the Jashpur tahsil, every one knows there were many more.
The 1931 and 1941 censuses put the number of tribals in the Jashpur tahsil at 65.9 and 63.9 per cent of the total population, respectively. In the 1951 Census, the figure has dropped to 33.7 per cent.
The reasons are not far to seek: simply tampering with the true figures. Was this abetted by the Madhya Pradesh Government? Certainly, the Madhya Pradesh Government based itself on these false figures, when it had the tribal reserved seat taken away from the Jashpur tahsil. We believe that this seat was taken away precisely because Christians are too numerous on this side.
We shall not answer questions (4) and (5).
6. What are the organisations in your district engaged in the work of conversion? Do the agent of these organisations approach the people individually?.
Answer: These organisations are:-
(1) The police and certain
7. Please give a complete idea of the working of such organizations. How are pracharaks recruited, and where do they come from? What are their emoluments? Are rewards offered for successful work?
Answer: The chief methods of the police and minor officials are force and fraud, bullying and terrorisation, threats of jail and loss of land trumping up false court cases against priests and prominent Christians.
The methods of the Adivasi Welfare Department are: attempts at Hinduizing through schools, giving evidence in court against Christians, stirring up communal animosity, laying false charges.
The methods of Swami Ramanuj are the spreading of the most shameless lies in the press and through fly sheets; for instance, that the Christians are gathering and hiding in the woods, arms and ammunition, against an eventual rising; frightening poor people into re-conversion by threats of loss of land; also offering to give land; offering fabulous salaries to would-be converts to Hinduism.
The methods of the Arya Samaj are known to every one.
The methods of the Christian missionaries are service of the neighbour, persuasion, never force or fraud.
8. What, to your knowledge,
are the methods used for conversion? Are any of the following methods
Answer: This question is a monument of perfidious suggestion.
It also implies a complete misunderstanding, of what conversion really is.
How often, of late, have we heard it said that conversion is a matter of conviction and of change of heart. Yes, it is that, for a man’s soul is his own, and no man can make him believe against his will and internal assent.
In the course of these answers, we shall have to mention attempts at forcing people to change their religion, or frightening them into abandoning their faith. Such people are victims and not converts.
To us, a convert is a man that truly believes in Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church will accept no other converts. And true belief or true internal conviction has nothing to do with what you dub “methods”.
We beg to point out that what in the first instance induced a man to enquire, and to give his attention to the Christian message is a different thing from what finally determines his internal belief. This is not a subtle distinction but a plain fact.
Now suppose, merely for the sake of argument, that any of the things which you enumerate under (a) to (g) had first attracted a poor enquirer towards the Christian faith, where would be the crime? What human law, what moral or divine law would be, or any one else, have violated?
We desire to draw your special attention to item (e) “promising relief from social disabilities suffered in ancestral religion and class, and a better social status as Christians”.
Don’t you think that it is with a very bad grace that you should wax indignant against us, when we try to escape from the yoke which caste Hindus have fastened for so many centuries on untouchables and Adivasis.
Surely, we are entitled to try and seek relief from such disabilities. And, even now, what do you offer to us, Adivasis? You say that you will welcome us in the Hindu fold. We know only too well what rank you will assign us there. And then you pretend to be horrified, if we seek “relief from social disabilities”.
You are at pains to prove that the conversion of the Adivasis to the Catholic faith is due to certain “methods”, which you deem worthy of censure. You imagine, that a host of priests swooped down on us, and we, “simple” Adivasis, fell victims to the wiles of those designing individuals.
This is an utter travesty of the true facts. The truth is that the preachers of the Catholic faith did not come to us, but that we went to them. We ourselves, often at considerable risk, managed to pierce the iron curtain, which, in the olden days, the rajas had fastened on the frontiers of their States. It is more than seventy years ago that some of our forefathers walked many miles to go and seek the ministers of Christ across the State boundaries, and besought them to come here.
Again, in the early years of the 20th century, our fathers made several attempts to induce Catholic priests to come to Jashpur. Deputation after deputation was sent to them, but it was only in 1907 that Catholic priests did come to visit us. For eight years they had no house to live in.
You want to believe that schools, hospitals, social uplift work and the like were “methods” to entice us into Christian fold. These things came int6 existence long after we had spontaneously given our adherence to Christianity.
What were the motives that animated our fathers when they sought Christ’s ministers? This may or may not be relevant. But we shall not deny that the yoke they bore in those days weighed intolerably heavy on their shoulders, that forced labour and police exactions made their lives miserable, and that they sorely longed for relief. But they also desired to escape from the fear of evil spirits, and sought in Christianity a purer and a more soul-satisfying religion.
If, through our adherence to the Catholic faith, we have found deliverance from tyranny, and an improved moral, social and economic status, that redounds to the honour and glory of the Catholic Church and of her ministers, not to their discredit.
But what we want to emphasize most emphatically is that we have freely embraced the Catholic faith, and have entered the Christian fold with our eyes open. In our land, the Christian priest is not an intruder, who surreptitiously, or by force or fraud, stole his way into our villages. We ourselves, time and again, have begged and besought him to come and preach to us the message of Christ. It may be true that some of those who held us in bond-age, resented his coming, because they dreaded lest the Christian faith would make us conscious of our human dignity, and would teach us to stand up for our rights. But we, Adivasis of this land, we did go across the frontiers to call the Catholic priests, we constrained them to come to us, and we protected them when their lives were threatened.
There were no “methods” of conversion in your sense; we freely chose to embrace the Christian religion, just as today, in the face of some pressure, we freely choose to persevere in that religion.
(h) “Extolling Christianity and foreign culture”.
Answer: We strongly protest against this dishonest manner of identifying Christianity with foreign culture. Such identification is absolutely unwarranted. We are Adivasis and Christians, and we rejoice in our Indian culture. No one has ever extolled to us foreign culture.
(i) “Extolling Jesus Christ and decrying non-Christian deities”.
Answer: The question is unfairly put. We do extol Jesus Christ, for with all true Christians, we believe that He is the Son of God made Man and very God Himself, and we do not believe in non-Christian deities.
But we do not “decry” such deities. The question seems to insinuate that we, or our priests, go about the street and hurt the feelings of other people by insulting their “deities”. The respect every man’s honest belief, and do our best to give pain to no one.
We cannot say that the propagators of Hinduism in these parts do show the same respect for our honest convictions.
(j) “Threatening danger of eternal damnation to unconverted souls”.
Answer: It is rather funny that this helfire business should interest the Committee. It holds a very small place in the mind of the Christians. We have never yet come across a priest that went about threatening eternal damnation to any one. Such threats exist only in the minds of the enemies of Christianity. The Christian message is one of love and not of damnation.
But, if the Committee really wish to know what is the Catholic doctrine in the matter, here it is for their edification: however, we would insist that, though we hold these things very firmly, we are not in the habit of shouting them on the housetops to every passer-by.
We hold that liars, thieves, murderers, swearers of false oaths, adulterers, oppressors of the poor, destroyers of the good name of others, and such like people, unless they repent with their whole heart, and crave the divine forgiveness, are not worthy of eternal bliss, but rather deserve eternal punishment.
But please notice, we do not say that they shall be damned. We believe in God’s grace and in the mercy of Christ, who can change the sinner’s heart. To God alone, so we think, it belongs to determine an immortal soul's eternal fate.
No sane Christian has ever said that all Hindus or all non-Christians go to hell. What we hold and believe is that all those, who sincerely follow their conscience, shall receive God’s reward; that all those, who, knowing the truth, refuse to follow it, deserve the divine chastisement.
That, to our way of thinking, is fairly reasonable, and, we do not see why any one should take offence at it.
(k) “Holding out hopes of political advantages”.
Answer: The questioner is blest with a remarkable imagination, if fie honestly fancies that a tiny minority, the object of so much obloquy and slander, can promise political advantages to its adherents. It is the other way about.
(l) “Threatening social boycott and harassment”.
Answer: The members of the Committee cannot be unaware that the shoe is on the other foot. It is we that are threatened with harassment, and would to God there was merely a question of threats. The harassments are real. Being dragged to the courts on false charges, losing one’s lands, being bullied by the police, losing one’s employment through which one earned one’s daily bread, these are not only threats,
It is the Madhya Pradesh Government that proposed that we, because we are Christians, stall no longer be regarded as Tribals. This is not boycott, perhaps? The same Government recently issued a circular, reminding us of their decision that members of backward classes, who have become Christians, shall be denied scholarships and other favours to which backward classes are entitled. Is this boycott? It is not irony, it is barefaced impertinence to ask whether we Christians threaten other people with boycott and harassment, when we are made to suffer these things every day.
How many literate people (persons of the matriculation standard and above), and how many well-to-do people (persons with an annual income of Rs. 1,000 and above) have been converted in your district since 1947?
Answer: We look on this question as outrageous. Does it imply that only matriculates and persons with an income of Rs. 1,000 and above are entitled to choose their religion, and are they alone to enjoy freedom of conscience? We have more respect for the dignity that belongs to every human being.
We desire to remind the members of the Committee of the fact that, before we embraced the Catholic faith, there were no matriculates in this part of the country. It is due to the devoted labours of our priests and nuns, and to our own determination to raise ourselves, that some of us are matriculates now, and B.A.’s also.
But it has become the fashion for some people even for Ministers of the Madhya Pradesh Government, to tell us that we simple Adivasis, are not fit to choose a religion; and, therefore, we have not the right to embrace the Catholic faith.
If that is their honest persuasion, let them be consequent with themselves, and let them prevent the Arya Samaj, the police, the Welfare Department and others from stampeding us into Hinduism. And by what “methods”?
Whatever you may say, during all these centuries, we, Adivasis, have stayed out of the Hindu fold-you know very well that we do not worship the cow-and for us to become Hindus is just as much a conversion as it is to become Christians. If you are sincere, please do put a stop to all this noisy and violent Hindu propaganda.
The Constitution has given us political rights. We have the franchise and may cast our vote, even our womenfolk. So you admit that we have reached a degree of political maturity, and that we know what is good for us and for our country. But, in the matter of religion, which concerns us most intimately, we are to remain your wards, we are to profess the religion that you design to choose for us.
Many cultured Hindus, possibly some of the members of this Committee, do us, Adivasis, the grievous wrong of regarding us as sub-human. This we fiercely resent.
It is true that, for centuries, we have been backward and have suffered oppression. At whose hands, we need not say. But we are human beings, and we can judge what is good for us, in matters both temporal and spiritual. We are not infants. We want to be free; free to lead our lives as we choose: free to enjoy our fields and the fruit of our labours; free from the bullyings of the police, and the landlords, and the petty officials, and the rajas; free also to profess the religion of our choice.
We never were Hindus, and if we do not choose to become Hindus, you have no right to penalize us; and, if we choose to become Christians, we do no more than use a right, that belongs to all human beings, and that is solemnly guaranteed in the Constitution' of our country-for this is our country as much as it is yours.
We would tell the members of the Committee the story of a convert who was not a matriculate, nor did he have an income of Rs. 1,000 or above. He was a “simple” man, with plenty of common sense, and he had become a Christian when of mature age. The police were very zealous in their attempts at re-converting him, but both threats and cajolings proved vain. Finally an official tried to argue:
“Why be a Christian”, he said. “Your priests give you schools for your children and assistance in your troubles. The Government is far more powerful, it will give you better schools and loans on easy terms, and many more things………”.
The “simple” man answered: “Yes, I have heard these promises often, but I see nothing coming. Let that be. What we want is to save our souls. Even if the Government gave us what you promise, would it save our souls?”
The official’s answer was a volley of abuse. But abuse is not argument. The old man knew what he was about, and he had the better of the official, who possibly was a passed or a failed matric, and had an income of Rs. 1,000 per annum and above.
11. Do you think that conversion to Christianity adversely affects the national loyalty and outlook of converts. Give instances and state reasons.
Answer: This question is unjust, and offensive, extremely so. The present Prime Minister of India, many a time and, recently, in a gracious message addressed to a large Catholic gathering at Bombay, declared that we Christians are part and parcel of the Indian nation, as much as Hindus, and Muslims, and Sikhs and others. But the members of this Committee will suspect us of disloyalty, and they invite accusations-slanderous accusations -against us.
This is cruel and unjust.
We can only say that we are Indians, that we love our land and our nation, that we have no other country, that we have not the slightest connection with any other country. By what right can Hindus claim the monopoly of loyalty to the motherland?
In view of the fact that our sons and brothers are doing, and for years have done, loyal service in the India army, the suggestion is simply slanderous and mischievous,
12. Where does Christian preaching with a view to conversion usually take place? Do you know of this being done in any of the following:-(a) Houses of individuals and mukhyas in villages, (b) schools, (c) hospitals, (d) orphanages and other charitable institutions, (e) bazars, (f) fairs, (g) churches, (h) any other places?
Answer: Does such a question really deserve an answer? Does the constitution forbid the preaching of religion in any of the places mentioned? If anyone can prove that we disturb the peace, or go out of our way to hurt the feelings of others, let him do so.
But the Committee may be interested in the following edifying details about the preaching of, Hinduism in this district.
Boko Sardar, who under the spiritual guidance of Swami Ramanuja Saraswati, is a very zealous propagator of Hinduism, at Tangergaon entered the Catholic village chapel, and to persuade the people of the superiority of his creed, defiled the chapel by urinating in it all round the walls.
The same Boko, with a party of Hindus, entered another Catholic village chapel, and there sang kirtans.
During the Janpad election campaign, end of 1953, the Ram Rajya Parishad, on the pretext of political propaganda, in several bazars of this Sub-division, poured forth the foulest insults and calumnies against the Catholic religion and its ministers.
And the next question asks whether “such preaching” offended the religious sensibilities of people. Yes, we were offended, and grievously so. Boko’s kirtan exploit is before the court, but not his feat at Tangergaon.
13. Has such preaching offended the sensibilities of people of other religions? If so, has it resulted in unpleasant consequences?
Answer: We suggest that the question is not fairly put. The question ought to ask whether the Christian faith was preached in such a manner that people had a right to be offended. But this is assumed. You object to all, preaching, do you?
That communalists and fanatics and people who object to the granting of freedom of conscience to anyone but themselves, have taken offence, may be true enough.
But who is to blame for that? Is it those that simply use a constitutional right, or those that would deny other people the freedom sanctioned by the law of the land? Why blame us for the intolerant spirit displayed by others?
If there have been unpleasant consequences, the blame does not lie at our door, but at the door of a bunch of religious fanatics. And it is unbeseeming that the Committee should appear to encourage those people in their attempts at bringing about “unpleasant consequences”.
14. Do foreign missionaries also use such Language, or is it only Indian Pracharaks?
Answer: We are not aware that any Catholic preacher, whether Indian or non-Indian, ever used language that could give offence. But we must once again tell the Committee that the shoe is on the other foot. It is Swami Ramanuj Saraswati, Boko Sardar, the speakers of the Ram Rajya Parishad, who specialize in vile abuse of the Catholic religion.
15 to 20 These questions deal with pracharaks and are not very relevant.
Answer: The salaries of pracharaks are very small, far smaller than are offered to Hindu pracharaks in these parts. For instance, at Lureg, there is a Catholic pracharak, whose salary is probably below Rs. 30 Per month. He was offered Rs. 200 per month, with a bicycle into the bargain, if he would renounce his faith and turn Hindu pracharak.
As far as we know, it is not the custom to give special rewards “for the successful propagation of the faith”. But if the Committee intend making a suggestion, we agree that it is a sound one, and we will ask our priests seriously to consider it.
There seems to be confusion about the term “pracharak”. With us. Catholics, the word has a fairly broad meaning. Generally, it designates a village leader, whose task it is to gather the Catholics on Sundays for a religious service and common prayer. He is an ordinary villager, possibly more intelligent than the rest, but without special training. He has been chosen for his moral standing in the community and for his qualities of leadership. His salary is nil, but, at times, he receives Rs. 3 per month as travelling allowance.
There are very few pracharaks that are whole-time religious workers, probably, not ten in the entire Jashpur Sub-Division. These men have received some training in religious knowledge. It is their duty to teach prayers and religion to children, and to be of general assistance to the parish Frequently, they know the elements of medicine, and, thus, can render much service to Christians and to non-Christians in a country, where medical relief hardly exists. Their salary is rarely above Rs. 30 per month, if it is as high as that.
As to religious literature, it should be obvious to the Committee that printed matter is fairly unimportant in an area, where illiteracy is the rule, and literacy the exception. We have our prayer books, hymn books, bibles, catechisms, which can be had in bookshops anywhere.
21. Do you know of cases where patients or school children were refused help at critical stages, unless they got themselves converted? If so, mention names of individuals and institutions concerned.
Answer: This question, as so many others in this Questionnaire, is an echo of slanders spread by fanatics. We regard it as deeply offensive and as a stinging insult.
No such accusation has ever been proved, nor had we heard it before these days when communal passions have been aroused.
But here is a true case for the Committee’s consideration.
The members of the Committee have visited the little Catholic Hospital of Muskutri, right away in the jungle. Latterly, the Circle inspector of the Adivasi Welfare Department of Sanna, sent an accusation to his headquarters at Nagpur, stating that the Sister and the Father at Muskutri had refused treatment to a woman, mauled by a tiger, unless the husband and the victim agreed to become Christians. The man and the woman, so ran the story, refused. The victim was taken away and died.
The Deputy Commissioner of Raigarh ordered an investigation. On the day before the Sub-Divisional Officer of Police arrived, before the enquiry, the daroga, so it would seem, summoned the husband and another man, kept them confined the whole night, and, with the usual threats and cajolements, tried to induce them to accuse the Father and the Sister. These men said, “ji, han” to every suggestion of the policeman, but, the next morning, they spoke the truth, and so the whole thing collapsed.
We have not heard that the Circle Officer, responsible for this slander, has in any way been reprimanded or punished for the grave wrong he had done. Indeed, why speak of punishment? He had done what some people expected him to do. But this time the vile trick failed.
22. Are fairs held by Christians……?
Answer: We do not know about any fairs. But, on certain occasions, we do meet in large numbers, for instance, for processions or at Christmas and Easter for solemn religious services, all in the church grounds. Oil such occasions, we pray, together and sing our hymns, and, perhaps, listen to a sermon.
After the religious exercises there may be drumming and dances, and merry-making. These things used to offend no one, and they can offend only such, as object to our very existence.
Latterly, we have noticed that, on such occasions, the police patrol the church grounds. Whether they have reported anything very treasonable we do not know.
23. Do missionaries and pracharaks make reference to the Central and the State Governments in India or to foreign Governments? If so, what is the nature of such references? Please give specific instances.
Answer: Neither our priests, nor our pracharaks, nor we ourselves bother our heads about foreign governments. This question is simply the echo of a stupid slander.
Do the Committee wish to know whether we and our priests have the audacity of criticising the Government? Such criticism may be a criminal offence in Russia, but it is generally regarded as a democratic right in civilised countries, and is certainly generously indulged in here in India.
The Fathers and Sisters are not addicted to criticising the Government of India, that is not their line. But it is quite possible that they have expressed on more than one occasion their dissatisfaction with the ways of the Madhya Pradesh Government. If the think and say that the Madhya Pradesh Government does not treat, Christians justly, then they have said no more than we do say ourselves.
Surely, the very Ministers of Madhya Pradesh Government will not pretend that it is just to refuse recognition to all our primary schools. Right or wrong, the Chief Minister simply says, “I will not recognise them”. When the question of appealing to our constitutional right in regard to our schools was mooted, a good Government officer put it this way: “Do not appeal to that. If a person is married with a bad wife, he must live with her……” The implication is clear.
Does the Questionnaire want to imply that our priests foster disloyalty by comparing the Indian Government to certain foreign Governments?
In that case, the answer is, that no one has ever heard them making such comparisons. Neither they nor we are interested in foreign Governments.
24. Are there non-Christian agencies in your district encased in the work of re-conversion? If so, please name them. What are their methods and what success do they meet with? Do they offer any inducements? If so, what?
Answer: This repeats questions 6 and 7.
(1) The police and certain
Their methods: -
(1) The police display great zeal in trumping up false cases against priests and prominent Christians. And, whenever it is rumoured that a person contemplates becoming a Christian, the police are on the spot to “enquire”-as if a person's religion were the business of the police! Police enquiries may be very disagreeable to the persons concerned.
One method of the police is to catch hold of people, confine them in some room, till they “freely” sign some document, or agree to inculpate a priest or a Christian. Thus, in the case of Muskutri, already mentioned; also in the Lodma Theatrical Case, which we shall mention later; also in the Kunkuri Buffalo Case, which can be briefly stated thus:
Next to the Catholic High School, lay a wounded buffalo. The school had absolutely nothing to do with the matter. The owner of the animal and some people of his village were summoned to Kunkuri, illegally confined, and pressed by the daroga to sign a paper that the fault lay with the Fathers of Kunkuri. As usual, these men were not even allowed to go out to satisfy a call of nature. Yet, the trick failed.
At present, several cases are pending before the courts, in which the police have displayed great zeal. During the previous fifty years, there had just been three cases instituted against priests, and, in all the three, the verdict was “not guilty”. But, now, all of a sudden our priests have become a criminal tribe, guilty of the gravest offences, even threat of murder.
Ever sane man in the district knows that the aim is to destroy the prestige of good man. The attempt is stupid, because Christians and non-Christians alike, know the true facts. They imagine that, if they can get a priest in jail, especially a European priest, there will he an end, to the Christian religion. Such attempts at besmirching the good name of our priests can hurt only the slanderers.
Perhaps, it may interest the Committee, if we try to trace the origin of this unholy police campaign, and of these attempts to paint our priests as criminals. In 1952, or in the beginning of 1953 the Madhya Pradesh Government sent to the Central Government a report filled with the wildest accusations against missionaries. This report seems to have occasioned the now notorious, pronouncement of Dr. Katju in the Lok Sabha, a pronouncement that caused a great intensification of the anti-Christian press campaign.
In the course of time, the charges made by the Madhya Pradesh Government were duly answered, and so, this Government had now to substantiate its accusations. Shall we be rash if we surmise that local officers were commissioned to do this job? At all events, at the end of May and in the beginning of June, the then Deputy Commissioner of Raigarh, undertook a tour in these parts, and, strange to say, exactly following his trail arose a series of trumped-up charges against priests and Christians. A hint (or was it more than a him?), received from higher up, supplies a ready explanation for the sudden outburst of zeal on the part of the police and of the employees of the Adivasi Welfare Department.
We may add that this very Deputy Commissioner demeaned himself to browbeating in person a poor Ahir widow and her grandchildren, who had become Christians. This case was laid before the Committee in June.
(2) The methods of the Adivasi Welfare Department. - It is openly admitted that the Adivasi Schools are Hindu and hinduizing schools. Little Budhu Tigga is entered as Budhu Ram, and this is proof that he is a Hindu.
Teachers and officers of the Welfare Department seem to specialize in laying charges and giving evidence in the courts against priests and Christians. They also are active in stirring up communal feeling; the following incident took place at Saraitoli recently :-
The Catholic Mission had acquired a plot of land. The Welfare Circle Organizer of Sanna, at five in the morning and in pouring rain, led a party of pupils of the Adivasi School to do puja and erect a devasthan on a strip of waste land right in the midst of the church ground.
Naturally the Christians protested. Every one in the place is well aware that there had never existed a devasthan on that spot. But the Circle Organizer, abetted by the police and by Mr. V. Joshi, Sub-Divisional Officer, pretend it is old devasthan and so the fat is in the fire.
(3) The methods of Swami Ramanuj Saraswati, Boko Sardar and R. K. Deshpande and consorts are of particular interest.
Swami Ramanuj is a sadhu, who is said to have good reasons for not showing himself in Orissa. In this State be specializes in giving “press conferences” at Nagpur, where lie “reveals” the monstrous crimes of the missionaries, and implores the Government to protect the safety of the State against the dark schemes of these plotters. He gets a certain class of Newspapers to print that these wicked men are accumulating weapons and ammunition in view of an eventual rising, that is, to establish Christiansthan, on the model of Pakisthan. India faces the danger of another division.
A couple of months ago, the Sadhu discovered that the Dutch Ambassador had paid a visit to the Lureg Church, and speeches were made there and Swami Ramanuj knew who were the speakers and what they bad said, and he revealed it all for publication in the Hitavada, a paper that seems always ready to print his slanders. Unhappily a little later the Hitavada had to eat its words and had to publish that no Dutch Ambassador had been within a thousand miles of Lurek. So then all the reasonable things, which the Sadhu had “revealed”, were not spoken after all, and, possibly, were fabricated by Swami Ramanuj.
This holy man has, as his helper here in Jashpur, a man that goes by the name of Boko Sardar, and that is said to be a son of the late grandfather of the ex-ruler. Boko is certainly an ex-convict and has served a long term in jail for attempting to murder two Catholic priests. And he is said to be generally drunk. He, with the Swami, will drive into a village in a jeep; there, he will widely rush about, dagger in hand, and utter fierce threats. Then some people are got hold of, and Boko pours forth a flood of abuse against the Catholic priest and the Catholic faith; he threatens the poor men with loss of their lands and he will even seize them by the throat, so much so, that, on one occasion, even the Sadhu is said to have remonstrated against these, all too strenuous, ways of imparting religious instruction.
Finally, the men are made to set their thumb impression to a paper which states that they “freely renounce Christianity”. We are told that the Swami also tells these men, before they give their thumb impression, that they are acting absolutely freely.
Then their heads are shaven, a little “chundi” being left; they are given a Hindu name and their conversion is complete. Certainly the period of probation and instruction has not been unduly protracted.
As to threats of loss of land we may say that certain Christians used to have on lease land that belonged to the ex-ruler. Boko is the manager of these fields, which have been taken away from the Christians and let out to non-Christians. We are told that we have no right to complain, because the raja can let his lands to whomsoever he pleases. And that is said by people that grow so vocal about “baits”. Also, a few Christians held the little job of raja’s bhandari (storekeeper at the Barns). We know at least of one case where the man was dismissed after lie had refused to rum Hindu; and we believe that several have lost their jobs for the same reason.
You ask how many were thus re-converted. We know of some sixty, and not one of these was a matriculate or had an income of Rs. 1,000 per annum. Or do you advocate that standard only when there is question of conversion to Christianity? Of these sixty men, thus freely converted to Hinduism, three have persevered and have been given lands. All the others, practically at once after their “re-conversion”, expressed regret for an act of weakness done under duress, and offered to repair their fault.
Perhaps we may tell you about one case that has a special interest. Swami Ramanuj and Boko had been operating at Tangergaon 'm the manner described above, and had made a little bunch of converts. Their heads had been shaven and they had received a Hindu name, and their fields would not be confiscated, and they would be rewarded with more lands, and all the rest. Unhappily, though these conversions were absolutely free and the outcome of a change of heart, by no means the result of force and fraud as when people become Christians, the converts did not persevere on the road they had taken with such enthusiasm. Among them was a certain Victor. Like the rest he was rather ashamed of himself and regretted having yielded to threats. After making pubic reparation he went to another village, with the perfectly legitimate object of escaping the further attentions of the Swami and of Boko. Soon after, he enlisted in a labour gang for service outside the State.
At Tangergaon every one was perfectly aware of these facts and knew the man’s whereabouts. Possibly, the police did not know; at any rate, several times the police came along and tried to persuade Victor’s wife to lodge a complaint against the Fathers for kidnapping her husband.
The poor woman did not take the bait, but the case was too manifestly a foul crime perpetrated by the Father, that it could not be left unnoticed. A while ago the Hitavada of Nagpur carried the following piece of information: “In the village of Tangergaon a certain Mr. Victor had disappeared. (For the occasion the paper “mistered” him). He had recently been converted to Hinduism and had been given a Hindu name. There is strong suspicion that the missionaries have kidnapped him……”
We beg the Committee to bear with us if we give them still more ample information concerning the methods of re-converting Christians.
At Lureg and Patthalgaon the Swami has at his disposal the Hindu Dharm Raksa Dal; the Arya Samaj and the Hindu Mahasabha also seem to flourish in these places. Here one way is to organize morchas against the Christians, and to shout “Down with the Christian religion”, “Clear out”, “Go to Pakisthan”, “No room for you in India”……
At Lureg, on the 25th July 1954, a prominent Christian was murdered in a particularly brutal manner, and it is widely surmised that anti-Christian hatred was one of the incentives to the crime.
Some time after the murder, there was a morcha, and a small group of excited people went and shouted slogans in front of the houses of the Christians, and, in particular, before the house of the bereaved widow. And one of the leaders of the group was a man whom the entire neighbourhood suspects of being the instigator of the deed.
A piquant details: whilst this murder case is before the sessions, a complaint is lodged against the priest of Lureg and his catechist for having
incited people to murder a certain Hindu. These people really overshoot the mark: if at least they had sense enough to accuse us of things that have some grain of probability!
At Lureg, the Swami uses as catechist a certain H. Siddiqui, who is, or was, a Muslim. Years ago, he was daroga in the Jashpur State, which he left very suddenly for reasons best known to himself. This zealous preacher of Hinduism, on one occasion, went to a Christian tola, and using the methods his police carrier has made him familiar with, re-converted several householders, securing their thumb impressions to some sort of paper, by which they were supposed to renounce the Christian faith and to profess, in all freedom, that they were Hindus. The next day they all recanted.
The gram panchayat of Lureg also seems zealous in the cause of reconversion. It offered Carolus, the Catholic pracharak, a salary of Rs. 200 per month, plus a bicycle, if he would serve as Hindu pracharak.
(4) About the methods of the Arya Samaj it is not necessary to speak. The Committee should know them.
25. Have the relations between Christians and non-Christians, in your district, deteriorated in any way since 1947? Do you apprehend any breach of the peace because of this?
Answer: Relations between tribal non-Christians and tribal Christians have always been cordial, and, on the whole, still are so, though communal minded agitators have tried hard to sow discord. Relations between Hindus on the one side, and our priests and Christians on the other side, always were and still are normal, though, here, the effects of the unrestrained press campaign against us, and of the slanders of some fanatics may at times be visible.
It is true that a very small knot of communalists is highly excited. On our part, there is no danger of breach of the peace. Is there danger lest the other side indulge in violence? That is not for us to say. We believe it is the duty of Government to compel would be law-breakers to keep the peace.
We wonder why the Committee do not ask for the reasons of such deterioration. These reasons seem to be:
(1) The violent anti-Christian propaganda of the Ram Rajya Parishad at the time of the Janapada elections. We think that, here, Mr. Deshpande deserves blame. He has been rewarded by being made public prosecutor in court cases against Christian priests.
(2) The-bitterness of the Arya Samaj in certain places.
(3) The abusive campaign and the slanders and lies spread by Swami Ramanuj Saraswati.
(4) The violent press campaign against missionaries and Christians, which appears to have the approval of the Madhya Pradesh Government.
(5) The utterances of certain Ministers on tour in these parts. In October 1953 a Madhya Pradesh Minister made a violent attack against missionaries, in a speech at the Loyola High School, Kunkuri in the presence of the Bishop. And quite recently Shri Monloy, went out of his way at a Kunkuri public meeting to say that the Dutch Ambassador had been received by us with more honour than would have been shown to Mr. Nehru. And this was said after the Hitavada had retracted its lie about the alleged visit of this ambassador. And he publicly stated that it was wrong that aboriginals should become converts to Christianity.
(6) The very appointment of your Committee, and this Committee’s strange procedure, its method of calling for public accusations, which are not sifted.
(7) This questionnaire, with its blatant anti-Christian, bias, calling on every fanatic to pour forth his venom against those he dislikes.
26. Have there been cases of social boycott by Christians against non-Christians, or vice versa, in your District?
Answer: Christians are not in the habit of boycotting anyone. And when we are boycotted, we generally take it patiently. But we find it preposterous that the charge of boycotting should be levelled against us, when the real boycotters ought to be well-known to the Committee.
27. Are there any political parties, or other parties of a quasi political and religious character in your district, whose office-bearers are Christians?
Answer: There is only one party here of a quasi religious and political character, and that is the Ram Rajya Parishad. Surely you don’t expect Christians in that party.
But we would like to know what harm there would be in Christians being members, or even office-bearers, in a political party. Are we citizens of this land or are we not? Or do the members of this Committee share the feelings of Swami Ramanuj Saraswati and of the ex-ruler of Surguja who expressed their undiluted horror at the fact that, in far away Travancore-Cochin, a Christian happened to be Chief Minister in the State Congress Government! O horror! A Christian Chief Minister in this Bharat of ours!
28. Are such office-bearers given directions and advice by foreign missionaries?
Answer: Our priests do not meddle in politics.
29. Do you know of instances of foreign missionaries taking part in activities other than religious and social?
Answer: However hard you may try, and whatever insinuations you may throw out, you will not prove a single case of interference in politics.
30. What was the attitude of Government servants towards complaints made by Christians against non-Christians and vice-versa? Do Government servants harass Christians or non-Christians for following their particular religion? State instances, if any.
Answer: Boko Sardar assaulted a Christian and threatened to kill him unless there and then he turned Hindu. The police refused even to write the matter in the diary.
Boko Sardar desecrated a Christian village chapel by urinating in it. The matter was reported to the police-also to your Committee-but no action has been taken. The incident took place at Tangergaon.
Boko Sardar entered a Christian village chapel with a party of Hindus and sang kirtans there. This case, after much delay, has been taken up by the police.
At present several trumped-up cases against priests and prominent Christians are pending before the courts.
The rapidity with which the false charge against the Muskutri hospital was taken up, and the efforts of the daroga to make the people accuse the priest and the Sister, are edifying.
The frantic efforts of the Narayanpur daroga to make the actors of Lodma (see answer to qst. 90), the owner of the Kunkuri buffalo, accuse the priest are equally revealing.
A group of people approached Mr. V. Joshi, S.-D. O. of Jashpur to complain against a patwari. He asked: “Are you Christian?” The answer was “Yes”. Without more ado the case was dismissed.
On another occasion a group of people lodge a complaint before the same person. He orders the Christians to stand on one side and the non-Christians on the other. The Christians were the majority, and without further enquiry their request is rejected. Then the non-Christians, together with one or two Christians, lodge the same complaint, and this time it is entertained.
Mr. Naidu at Jashpurnagar had to enquire into a complaint about bribe taking. His statement begins thus. The remarkable thing about this case is that the three complainants are Christians…… And without any proof this judicial-minded person concludes that the complaint has been instigated by missionaries.
We have not the faintest doubt in our minds that the police are in collusion with the fanatics that bring false accusations against Christians.
We may still mention the ways of Mr. V. Joshi, S. D. O. A Father and two Christians of Sanna are accused. They are made to appear before him twenty-two times, and the case has not yet been started: each time “postponed”. And these poor men have to travel a whole day to reach Jashpurnagar, to stay one day there waiting during long hours, and then to trudge it back for another day. Is this criminal harassment or is it not?
Another priest, similarly accused, had to appear thirty-four times. Is this harassment?
31. What is the percentage of Christians and non-Christians in any political organisation that you know in your district?
Answer: What on earth can this have to do with the terms of reference of this Committee?
We, Christians, are citizens; we have the franchise, and we are entitled to join any political party. Isn’t there a Christian minister in the Delhi Government at this moment? Was the first Finance Minister of free India not a Christian?
But we are not so “simple” as not to see what the Committee are driving at.
You are thinking of Jharkhand. Then here are the facts :-
(1) In this district the Jharkhand party is not organised, and certainly, we, Catholics, have nothing to do with it so far.
(2) However, loudly certain politicians may rave against Jharkhand party, it is evident that, this is not an illegal party. We insist that we are not members of it; but, if we were members, no one could make that a matter of reproach against us. Did not the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, for reasons of his own, try to make the Scheduled Tribes agitate for a Gondwana State? How does that differ from Jharkhand ?
(3) Our Bishop has consistently forbidden all his priests to busy themselves with politics; and that order has been, and is being, loyally obeyed.
(4) But we, Catholic laymen of Jashpur, we desire to tell you this; and we solemnly declare that, in speaking, thus, we are not prompted by our priests:
Police oppression and harassment of Christians and of non-Christians must ultimately drive us into opposition to Government. There is a limit even to the patience of Adivasis, Christians and non-Christians. People that have to endure what we endure must be tempted to seek relief where it is offered.
And we are utterly tired of this parrot-like repetition of the slander that our priests meddle in politics. If a cat has nine lives, this slander has ninety-nine, and more. It is incomprehensible how people, to whom we would give credit for honesty, will go on mouthing this piece of calumny.
And, now, Swami Ramanuj Saraswati has found even better: we are storing up ammunition in view of a future rising, and he knows where we are hiding our stocks. And he beseeches a supine Government to take action and save the country before it is too late.
This slander is not in the questionnaire: it was invented after the questionnaire had been circulated. Otherwise……
32. Have conversions to Christianity brought about any betterment in the standards of living of the Scheduled Castes and of the Scheduled Tribes?
Answer : The Committee might as well enquire whether irrigation has contributed to the progress of agriculture. If the committee are really in doubt about the facts, let them come here and see; or let them read the books of Sarat Chandra Roy about the Mundas, the Oraons and other tribes.
But the questioner probably did have a purpose in proposing this query. If we reply that Christianity has contributed enormously to our temporal welfare-and that is a fact denied by no one-then we stand condemned as rice-Christians, and the missionaries have offered us baits; if we say that there has been no improvement (and that would be false) then Christianity has failed. And so we are wrong in any case.
33. Have you noticed any improvement in the moral level of converts to Christianity?
Answer: Is such a question really fair and relevant?
Yet, we will reply. The first commandment of our Christian faith is that we love God above all; and the second, like unto the first, that we love the neighbour as ourselves. We are taught that we are all God’s children and, therefore, brothers; that we may not despise any man as unclean or untouchable. Our faith bids us not to steal, nor to lie, nor bear false witness, nor oppress the weak, nor kill, nor harbour foul thoughts, nor do unclean things.
This is our Christian moral code. We are but frail human beings, and it is possible that, at times, we fail to walk according to Our Divine Lord’s precepts. But that is our ideal.
We are not in the habit of comparing ourselves with our non-Christian neighbours; nor do we ask ourselves whether, now, we are better than when we walked in fear of spirits, and had not yet learnt God’s law God alone shall judge us and our neighbours.
But we would be very curious to know what answer the police and certain officials have returned to this question. We expect that the police, with sorrow, testifies that conversion to Christianity has caused grave moral deterioration. For, since we are Christians, we have received some education, and we often refuse to pay bribes, and we dare assert our rights. Surely the police must find that we have grown very bad!
Will a little story in this connection interest the committee? A daroga in tribal territory was fairly friendly with a Catholic priest.
One day the man of the law said: “Well, Father, real friends we can never be. Your presence here means to me a loss of Rs. 700 per month”.
We have more than a mere suspicion that the zeal of the police to get our priests out of this district has something to do with their illegal emoluments. And many a petty “servant of the public” must feel the same grievance against us. Mere Adivasis daring to refuse bribes to them! How bad they have grown of late!
34. Do you know any cases of missionaries destroying or desecrating non-Christian places of worship or burial grounds. Please state specific instances, if any.
Answer: No, most emphatically. If we did such things the zeal of the police would have some scope. But the case of Boko Sardar, urinating in the Catholic village chapel of Tangergaon, has been mentioned already; also his entering into a village chapel to sing kirtan, and thus exasperating the villagers.
Why do the Committee, by way of questioning, suggest that we are guilty of this heinous offence? They might as well ask about all the other crimes listed in the Criminal Code.
35. What were the consequences of such acts in the relations between Christians, and non-Christians? Were such cases reported to the local authorities? What action was taken?
Answer: Before there could be consequences such acts should exist, and they exist only in the imagination of slanderers. Does the Committee really believe that there may have been lack of zeal on the part of zealots and of the police?
But when Boko Sardar desecrated a Christian chapel in a most outrageous fashion, yes, then the police showed remarkable lack of zeal.
36. What has been the attitude of Christian Missions to National reconstruction efforts. Have they welcomed, or co-operated with, the work of organizations like the Harijan Seva Sangh and the Kasturba Gandhi Memorial Trust?
Answer: The Committee appear truly hard up to discover proofs of our lack of loyalty. We live in a very jungly region and these organisations have hardly penetrated to our district. But we, Christians are prepared to cooperate with any scheme that fosters the public welfare.
Perhaps it will be urged that we are not co-operating with the Adivasi Welfare Department. The reason is obvious. This Department, from the very instant it was set up, declared a fierce war against us, trying to kill our schools, specializing in false accusations, and acting, as is well known, as a “Hindu Mission”.
37. Have the Mission contributed, or encouraged their converts to contribute, to national welfare schemes, or funds for relief in national calamities.
Answer: Does the questioner really dare insinuate that Christians are not interested in the national welfare?
May we ask: Who kept the Adivasis and the depressed classes down all these centuries, and who helped them to rise out of their degradation? If the members of the Committee are sincere, they must confess that Christianity has made an incalculable contribution to the welfare of the lowly and of many other classes.
But nowadays, you have let loose on us a host of so-called welfare workers. We shall not condemn these men in a body; but we wish to point out that they draw exceedingly fat salaries, and that they are well paid for trying to uplift us. And not seldom it seems to us that they display more zeal in trying to destroy the good.
Our priests are not professional uplifters, and certainly they do not come to us in a condescending manner; they have served us, and still do serve us and they draw no salary.
We have heard of Ministers telling their Welfare staff that they must be animated with the missionary spirit. This appears to us an unsolicited testimonial to the devotion of our priests and our nuns.
But yet, we are grateful to the Committee for asking this question, though we smart under the insult it contains. For we had cause to think that no contribution from us to thin public welfare was acceptable with the Government.
Early in 1954 our Bishop received from a charitable organisation a considerable consignment of barrels of powdered milk. (And, by the way, Swami Ramanuj. Saraswati “revealed” in The Hitavada that these barrels contained ammunition). The Lord Bishop offered a number of barrels to the Deputy Commissioner of Raigarh, the only condition attached being “distribution among the needy without distinction of caste or creed”. The answer was a frigid refusal.
Truth compels us to add that the present Deputy Commissioner of Raigarh, when offered a similar donation, gratefully accepted.
38. Have Christian Missionaries taken over, or attempted to take over, common lands, such as lands for cattle-grazing or cattle-resting places, for purposes other than those for which they are meant?
Answer: No. And isn’t the police keeping its eyes open? Or is the question asked merely in order to insinuate a charge?
But we know of a case where a convent school had “encroached” on public land. Such encroachments are of daily occurrence in this district, and, in this case, the thing had been done unwittingly. The case came before the magistrate, who imposed a fine, and, though, in such cases, the land is usually granted to the encroaching party, refused the school possession of the little plot. The plea was that it was needed for grazing, when every one knew perfectly that it was all rock and stone and that not a blade of grass grew there.
39. What are the Missionaries doing to identify themselves with the Indian people?
Answer: Whatever be the intention of the questioner, we thank him for this query.
Our priests and our nuns have come to our country for life and they do not contemplate a return to the country where they were born. They live, work and die in our midst and hope to be buried in our soil. They look on themselves, and we look on them, as pars and parcel of the Indian nation. Practically all those that were eligible, have, at the commencement of the Indian Constitution, acquired Indian citizenship. And they are loyal citizens, and we have never heard them refer to any other country as theirs.
The Committee know, or easily could have known, all that, and they ask what these men have done to identify themselves with the Indian people. This is an unwarranted insult to loyal men.
40. Do converts to Christianity tend to form a distinct communal group, indifferent or hostile to Indian traditions and culture, and with affinity to foreign culture?
Answer: The “Suggestio Falsi” is patent, and the insult to us glaring. Converts to Christianity in this district are and remain aboriginals. We have nothing to do with foreign ways and culture. We mean to remain what we have been heretofore, but we certainly want to rise in the social scale; we want to rid ourselves of oppression and oppressors; we want to end our ignorance and poverty; we want to take our place in the Indian nation and to make our contribution to its welfare and progress. We are not estranged and denationalized. But it is a fact that certain officials do make the attempt to deprive us of our right to call ourselves aboriginals. It is not we that tend to form a distinct group, nay, not at all.
Some months ago the Sub-Divisional Officer of Police, Jashpurnagar, visited Saraitoli, when he thought fit grievously to insult some of us. He said: “What for do you ape Europeans? Why do you follow a European religion? The British are gone. Why do you run after them?……”
One of those “simple” Adivasis stood up and answered: “Sir, you are a very young man and your talk foolishly. Who follows bilayti ways? Do we wear coat and pants as you do, and a topi too? And a motor car?” The great man looked profoundly mortified and answered not a word, may not, even by an insult. But, some days later, the speaker, who had humbled him, was saddled with a lawsuit for threat of murder, no, not a threat against the Sub-Divisional Officer, but against some other petty official. Was this a mere coincidence?
41. Do converts to Christianity give up all their ancestral religious and social customs and adopt new ones, or do they continue their old practices, such as worship of gram devatas, and ancient marriage rites, even after conversion to Christianity?
Answer: What has this to do with the matter in hand, and what is the questioner bent on insinuating?
After conversion to Christianity we keep our social customs, as to food, dress, mode of working and living, marriage customs, feasts, sports, entertainment, songs and dances. We do renounce worship of idols and of so-called “bhuts”, and of gram devatas. For, we believe in one true God and Him alone do we adore. And we would deem it a grievous sin, if, knowing the one true God, we went and gave worship to idols, devatas, and bhuts.
42. Do you consider any of the activities of the Christian missionaries to be detrimental to the interests of the nation? If so, which, and why?
Answer: It is our firm conviction that the activities of the Catholic Church in our midst, and throughout this land, have been and are an immense contribution to the public welfare. Many are the great and good men of this country, true Hindus, that have, time and again, borne this testimony to the disinterested labours of our nuns and our priests.
Do you really regard the schools and colleges and hospitals and other institutions, conducted by the Catholic Church in India, from Cape Comorin to the Himalayas, as detrimental to the interests of the nation?
Of course, we propagate the Christian faith. And you would fain make that a crime, and brand it as “detrimental to the interests of the nation”. Such was not the opinion of the wise men that, some years ago, sat in Delhi, and framed the Constitution of free India. They said and solemnly enacted, that every man in India had the right to profess, practise and propagate his religion.
We, Adivasis, are convinced that we are fulfilling a duty imposed on us by gratitude, when we declare that we owe an immense debt to the priests and the nuns that have brought us education, the knowledge of our human n
dignity and the consciousness of our human rights. We thank them for having enabled us to shake off the yoke not only of those that so long had kept us in bondage, but also of the evil spirits, and for having taught us to seek salvation in Jesus Christ.
43-46: These questions call for no answer from us.
47. What are the educational qualifications of the Missionaries, and what was their station in life before joining the Mission? What was their income before, and what is it now?
Answer: Our priests are highly educated men, practically all of them having a Ph. D. and a D. D. degree. Very many of them have for years been teaching in High Schools or lecturing in Colleges. In the matter of education they can stand up to any of your Government officers, even the highest.
As to their social standing before they came to us, the only thing we need say that they have dedicated their lives to the service of God and it the neighbour from their youth.
As to their salaries, we may be causing astonishment to the members of the Committee, certainly to the slanderers of our priests and nuns, when we declare what is absolutely true, that our Fathers and religious Sisters draw no salary. Theirs are dedicated lives and their service does not look for reward in this world.
48. This question needs no answer from us.
49. Have the Indian Missionaries equal status and authority with the foreign Missionaries?
Answer: In the Catholic Church we are all brothers and the notion of colour bar and caste, as it prevails among Hindus, is utterly foreign and distasteful to us. To us Indian priests and European priests are equally God’s ministers and we respect them equally.
But it does happen that we, aboriginals, and our aboriginal priests also, do receive contumelious treatment from other Indians, who treat us as inferior beings. Such treatment is never meted out to us, nor to our aboriginal priests, by the European Fathers.
50. What is the organisation of the Missions? Who has supreme authority over them?
Answer: Supreme authority is in the hands of the Bishop, who is an Indian citizen. Of course, in matters of religion, he acknowledges the authority of the Pope, who is the head of the Catholic Church throughout the world. There is no question of our depending on a Mission Board or any such thing.
51-54: How are the missions financed (and a great deal more about income and expenditure)?
Answer: Why does the Committee enquire about this matter? Government seems to know, or pretends to know, since a Minister did make a statement about the matter in Parliament, and quoted figures. If he knew the facts, the Committee need not ask us; if he did not know the facts, what right did he have to make a statement?
In this district, people who do not wish us well, go about saying that we received 22 crores. Why not put the figure ten times higher? Once you grant your imagination free rein, why not let it fly to the highest summits?
But, if our fellow Christians abroad are generous enough to help us, we do not see why any one should resent that. As to schools, and hospitals, and other institutions of social welfare, all are welcome to benefit by them, nor is any one solicited to become a Christian if he desires to benefit by them.
55. This is merely a repetition of question 19.
56. Are regular reports published of the achievements of the Missions? If so, please furnish copies of such reports since 1947.
Answer: We do not know about any such reports.
57. What types of activities have the Missions undertaken in your district, such as (a) religious propaganda, (b) running of institutions like schools and hospitals, (c) other institutions?
Answer: Certainly, the Catholic Church carries on religious propaganda, though we think that you do not understand that word in the meaning in which we use it. We do not beat the big drum, nor blow the trumpet, nor organize morchas, nor shout slogans against other religions, nor indulge in “force and fraud”, nor threaten “unconverted souls with eternal damnation”. But we do teach such as desire to be taught; we enlighten the honest enquirer; and we labour to assist the poor and the lowly. There is no question of obstreperous proselytism.
The Catholic Church also runs schools and hospitals open to all. But the Madhya Pradesh Government has striven hard to annihilate our schools; it has succeeded to a large extent in driving non-Christian pupils out of our schools.
There are “Mutual Aid Societies”, which are really co-operative societies, run according to Government rules. And much else.
58. Are there Mission Courts in your district? If so what is their constitution and rules of procedure? What punishments do they award and to whom?
Answer: There are no mission courts here. But Christianity does not want to uproot ancient customs, and so in our villages there are panchayats, just as there were during centuries before we became Christians. Thee panchayats are conducted according to our tribal rules, and do not pretend to deaf with grave offences. In them non-Christians sit with Christians, whenever the matter concerns us both.
We are aware that Government officers are apt to feel jealous of our tribal panchayats, and so we walk warily lest we land ourselves into anything illegal.
These panchayats are with us a very ancient institution, but no stretch of the most sanguine imagination, can they be called “mission courts”.
59. Where do the Missions work in your districts? Do they concentrate on areas populated by the Scheduled Castes and Tribes?
Answer: The whole of this area is inhabited with Scheduled Tribes.
60. Please state the location where the Missions are situated. Since when have they been functioning there, and what are the means of communication to such places? Are these means of communication available the whole year round?
Answer: Let Government officials answer.
But we fail to see what means of communication have to do with the terms of reference of the Committee.
Or must we hold the Committee responsible for an innuendo that these wicked priests and nuns go and hide themselves in lonely spots, where upright Government officials cannot reach, so that they may be at liberty to pursue unhampered their nefarious designs against the safety of India?
Or is there an allusion to the Committee’s trip to Muskutri, when, so we are told, their bones were badly shaken in a jeep travelling over an abominable road? Was that our fault?
61. Are there Government officials posted at such places? Please give their designations. How frequently does a Government officer visit these places in a year?
Answer: We do admire the gravity with which the question is asked.
Truly, the questioner does seem to fear for the safety of the country?
Alas, notwithstanding our lack of means of communication there are police officers everywhere, and we are only too painfully aware of their presence, as well as of the presence of other petty officials that thrive on bribes.
Higher officers may, or may not, come. Yet, the Committee may rest assured that our priests and nuns are duly watched, their names periodically taken down, (the father’s name not being omitted), and that they have no opportunity to indulge in fatal machinations against the safety of the Indian Republic.
Moreover, for some years now, the Government have at their service the teachers and other officers of the Adivasi Welfare Department, and these try hard to deserve their liberal salaries by displaying exemplary zeal in reporting the supposed misdemeanors of priests, nuns, and Christians.
62. Are there meetings of missionary workers held at periodical intervals? Are the proceedings of such meetings made known to members of the general public?
Answer: We are not aware of any such meetings being held; but we are of opinion that it would be perfectly reasonable and lawful to hold them. And, furthermore, we are of opinion that this question is asked simply for the sake of insinuating that eve pursue unlawful designs.
We do not see what business “the members of the general public” would have with the minutes of such meetings: not because there is anything to hide, or because anything treasonable takes place (as it seems intended to suggest), but because the “members of the general public” are eminently uninterested in matters religious.
We do not think that, if such meetings did take place, our priests would be likely to plot against the security of the State. And Government knows that very well. For some years now it has watched them, tampered with the privacy of their correspondence, spied on them, required periodical police reports about them, and, so far nothing very treasonable or dishonourable seems to have been discovered.
Or if there is question of meetings of subordinate mission workers, then we can say that occasionally these men meet at the parish church, when they take part in spiritual exercises for the upbuilding of their own spiritual life. No minutes of such meetings are kept, and we can assure the Committee that no plotting against the State is indulged in on these occasions.
63. Are particular areas allotted to particular mission? Or do they encroach on one another’s sphere of influence?
Answer: As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, India is mapped out into a number of “dioceses”. At the head of each “diocese” there is a Bishop, and he alone is responsible for religions matters in that area.
We know nothing about spheres of influence or about encroaching.
64. Hive missionary activities increased or been intensified in your district since 1947. If so, how and to what extent?
Answer: We can only say that in Jashpur, in the time of the raja, we were scowled upon; and in the other States we were not allowed to exist, as the rajas denied us religious liberty. They claimed ownership not only of our bodies, but of our souls as well.
Since the time of merger the Madhya Pradesh Government has shown itself consistently hostile to Christians, and frequently unfair.
65. Have you come across cases of mass conversions? If so, what were the incentives and methods used?
Answer: We have come across one case of mass conversions. It took place at the 1951 Census. Up till the moment of that Census there were in India, and in particular in this district, many millions that professed tribal religions. During the night of the Census nearly all these millions were converted to Hinduism.
As to the incentives: On the part of the converts there were no incentives; they did not even know that they had been converted.
What were the incentives that moved the converters? Not religions zeal, one would think. But the Committee need no information from us on this point.
The methods: No more than a stroke of the pen, or, stall we say, force, undiluted force, political compulsion.
We have mentioned above the sixty converts of Swami Ramanuj and Boko Sardar: sixty is not an enormous number, and, perhaps, the term “mass conversion” does not apply, as there was question only of small groups. We remind the Committee of the methods used: terror, cajolements, threats chiefly of loss of fields, promises of land.
But, of course, here it was not a question of conversion to the Christian religion!
66. What interest have missionaries and Indian Christians shown in the work of the Government of India Boundary Commission?
Answer: Our priests have not shown any interest at all in this Commission, because they stand aloof from politics. As to us, Indian Christians, we had as good a right as any one else to take an interest in the work of that Commission and to put forward our claims. But as a matter of fact in this district, we have not bothered our beads about it.
67. Have the Missions taken part in Indian politics and elections? Have they supported any political party? If so, which, and since when?
Answer: Our priests, as we have told you to satiety, and as is proved to the hilt, do not meddle with Indian politics. That is not their sphere. However, such of them as have the franchise, have cast their vote at-the polls, as was their right and their duty. And no one has a right to ask for whom they have voted.
We, laymen and women, have as good a right as any other citizen of India to busy ourselves with politics. Our priests have exhorted us to fulfil our civic duty, but they have never asked us to adhere to one party rather than to another. The only direction we received from them was not to join parties that pursue subversive or Godless ends. And that in our view, is not politics, but a matter of moral guidance.
68. Do missionaries undertake such works as recruitment of labour for the Assam Tea Gardens? Do they receive any commission for this? Do they undertake remittances of salaries of labourers to their dependants? If so, on what basis do they do this?
Answer: No labour for the Assam Tea Gardens is recruited by our priests. But, suppose such recruitment did take place, it would be quite reasonable that our priests should help those that are compelled to migrate, to find gardens where there are well treated.
But, up to a very recent date, the Mission, in virtue of an agreement with the Government of India, recruited labour for the Andaman Islands. The Government did pay a small commission for every labourer recruited; we believe that it amounted to one-third of the commission charged by recruiting agencies. This commission barely covered cost of recruiting and forwarding to harbour.
The Fathers also undertook to remit salaries of labourers to their families at home. The money was sent from the Andamans to a Ranchi Co-operative Bank, and thence to the several parishes. No charge was made for the trouble-at time considerable-of getting the cash to this remote districts, and the dependants received the whole amount credited to them at the source
From many tea gardens and other places people do send Money Orders to their folk at home c/o the Father-in-Charge. The reason is simple. It is widely believed (with what truth, the Committee may judge) that focal postmasters have a habit of demanding a gratification for every Money Order paid out. It is also believed that postmaster refuse to make payment, on the pretence that no money is available, until the gratification is forthcoming. Therefore, the poor people prefer to send their remittances c/o the Father-in-Charge, from whom the postmaster dare not require a bribe. In this manner, the dependants receive the whole sum sent to them, and they have not to trudge to the P.O. over and over again, nor to wait there for long weary hours.
The Committed will easily understand why certain people object to the priest’s undertaking to act as intermediary in this matter.
We beg to point out that some of these questions about hospitals are offensive in an extreme degree and are based on false accusations and cruel slanders.
69. Is there any mission hospital in your district? Of what kind is it?
Answer: There is one small hospital at Muskutri, and several small dispensaries.
70. Is admission open to all, or is there any criterion of income, religion. etc., for admission?
Answer: Admission is open to all, without any criterion of income, religion, etc., for admission.
How could such a criterion enter into any same person’s head?
71. Is treatment in hospital used as a means of conversion? Do you know of cases of non-Christian patients being converted to Christianity as the result of treatment in hospitals? If so, cite names and manner of inducement offered.
Answer: Treatment in hospital is not used as a means of conversion, nor do we know of any case where a person was converted in hospital.
But, if there happened to be cases, we do not see the reason why one should be horrified. No inducement need have been offered. It is quite normal that the self-sacrifice and dedicated life of our Sisters should ret people thinking-
And we, once again, enter a protest against the consistent assumption of the Questionnaire that every conversion is brought about by “inducements”. This is not only unjust, but nothing short of absurd.
We know of one slanderous accusation in this matter, which has been mentioned in the answer to another question.
72. Are patients obliged to take part in Christian prayers and other religious exercises? Are favours shown to such as attend prayers? And are there Christian pracharaks employed in the hospital?
Answer: Patients are NOT obliged, nor asked, to take part in Christian prayers or religious exercises; no favours are shown to such as would attend, and the idea of our using pracharaks to go and worry poor patients is simply repugnant, and can have arisen only in a diseased mind.
All these insinuations are based on lying propaganda and are gratuitous insults cast at our heads.
73. Please state instances, if any, where patients were not allowed to read their own religious books, when they wanted to, on other than medical grounds? Are books of any particular religion distributed free among patients?
Answer: Here, in most cases, patients are illiterate. No patient has ever been prevented from reading his own religious books. Nor is any literature distributed in the hospital. But would it really be a crime to give the patient a religious book, if he wanted to read it?
74. Give the names and the nationalities of the members of the medical staff. What are their scales of pay? Since how long have they been working in their present posts?
Answer: The Muskutri hospital is conducted by a religious Sister, who is a trained nurse. In at least two other dispensaries the Sister is a trained nurse.
These are all Indians.
They are religious Sisters and draw no salary, but work for the poor without seeking any emoluments.
Elsewhere, the priest may distribute simple remedies; he usually has long experience and gives all the help he can to people that have no access at all to medical relief. And there is no chance of professional jealously being aroused: there are no doctors at all.
75. Who constitute the Managing Body of the Hospital? State their religion and nationality.
Answer: The institutions are too small to be burdened with a Managing Body.
76. Are any members of the staff prohibited from following their own religion, because of their service, in hospital?
Answer: The question does not arise. But suppose it did arise, then we Catholics would answer that we deem it wrong, a grievous wrong, indeed, to prevent any one from following his religion, if he sincerely believes in it. We grant to others what we demand for ourselves, that is freedom to follow our conscientious belief.
77. What medicines are Generally kept by the missionaries in their smaller dispensaries? How many of these are licensed being poisonous? Who administers them?
Answer: Our priests and, nuns generally dispense very simple remedies, often homoeopathic medicines. There is no question of poisonous or dangerous drugs. This distribution of medicines is a boon, highly valued by the people, - and not by Christians only, - in a district where quacks abound and doctors are non-existent.
78. What schools do the Missions run in your district?
Answer: There is one high school for boys, several middle schools for boys and girls, respectively, and a goodly number of primary schools for boys and girls.
79. Is there any discrimination shown by Government officers in regard, to Christian and non-Christian schools? Please state specific instances.
Answer: The discrimination shown by the Madhya Pradesh Government is open and shameless.
Before the Jashpur State was merged into Madhya Pradesh, the Catholic schools were nearly the only schools in existence, and received a small measure of recognition from a Government that was neither enlightened nor progressive. It is due to our schools that a certain number of Adivasis of Jashpur did receive a certain amount of education.
From the day of merger, the Madhya Pradesh Government declared a fierce war on our schools. All our Primary Schools lost their recognition and none received a grant-in-aid. The Adivasi Welfare Department tried to open rival schools next to every Catholic school, at least in areas that were not too inaccessible. In these rival schools, teachers were paid fabulous salaries, at least three times the amount paid, in our schools; the pupils were charged no fees, received books and stationery free, and also a daily meal into the bargain. And very severe pressure was put on non-Christian parents to induce them to withdraw their children from our schools.
When the Catholic schools applied for recognition and for grants-in-aid. which, according to the Constitution of India, they are entitled to, the Madhya Pradesh Government was deaf and dumb and deigned not to reply
After we had made representations to the Central Government, the State Government remembered our existence and sent its inspectors. These reported that not one of our schools was fit for recognition, no, not a single one. Shall we be deemed guilty of rash judgment if we opine that these inspectors were acting on orders, and had been instructed to declare all our school below the mark, irrespective of the facts? And we may add that, on several occasions, these inspectors showed themselves positively ill-mannered.
To us it seems that the Madhya Pradesh Government, if it had had the faintest desire at least to appear fair, would have been wise enough to recognize, say, one or two of our schools. The wholesale condemnation seems to prove that the Government did not even feel the need of saving appearances.
Ought we to be grateful for that much sincerity, or shall we call it a shameless confession of discrimination?
In 1954, the Minister of Education refused to receive a deputation of Christian citizens, who prayed for leave to lay their case before him. He refused to receive them.
And the Madhya Pradesh Government has, and generously uses, another weapon to kill our schools. In this State, the pupils of the fourth class in the primary stage have to pass an examination; and failure in this examination absolutely debars them from prosecuting their studies.
This examination is mostly oral, or with the he of slates, and is taken by the inspectors, who have absolute authority in the matter of failing or passing the of the candidates. There is not the slightest shadow of control. In the case of pupils of the Catholic schools, some inspectors do not even try to hide their hostility, and it has frequently happened that they subject our children to grievous hardships by making them travel uselessly and repeatedly to very distant examination centres, and then refusing to take the examination.
These inspectors, well aware of the dispositions of Government towards Catholic schools, fail our children at the rate of 80 or 90 per cent, and the poor victims are not allowed to continue their education. No recognized school may admit them.
Are we not entitled to conclude that the Madhya Pradesh Government is hostile to primary education amongst us, Adivasis? An inspector very kindly informed us that “the gold of education was precious and meant only for the few,”- of course, not for us! On another occasion, this man of learning informed us that Adivasis, when they get some learning, turn rogues and liars. Was he voicing the feelings of the Madhya Pradesh Government, of which he was the servant?
Do our Ministers belong to, that class of Hindus, of whom Dr. Grigson, I.C.S. (for long years in the service of the Central Provinces Government, and a man well versed in tribal matters) said that they did not wish the Tribals to grow in education, but desired them to stay as they are, the humble servants of the “better classes”.
We would add that this fourth class examination exists only in this State, and came in for very severe animadversion in the Report of the All-India Education Commission.
And the members of the Committee blandly ask if there is discrimination.
Yes, there is, open and avowed, discrimination against Catholic schools.
80. What is the strength of the Mission schools in your district. How many of the students are Christians and how many non-Christians?
Answer: The figures can be secured from elsewhere. We know that our schools are open to all. But the Adivasis Welfare Department has used strong measures to drive all non-Christian pupils out of our schools. They have succeeded but not completely.
81. Do you know cases of on-Christian students becoming Christians as a result attendance in Christian schools? If so, how does it happen, with the knowledge and consent of the parents, or otherwise?
Answer: We believe that there are few cases of non-Christians becoming Christians whilst, or after, attending Christian schools. Such converts are never admitted to baptism, if they are minors, without the knowledge and explicit permission of parents or guardians.
We desire to remind the Committee of the case of Alexius, a young man that is now a college student. At Arra-Jashpur, a complaint was laid before the Committee in June that this lad had been converted in the Gholeng Catholic school without his father’s leave. The young man heard of this, and the next day he walked many miles to Gholeng, where he asked, and with some little trouble, obtained to be heard by the Committee.
He protested against what had been said about him at Arra.
The Committee: “Is your father a Christian”?
Alexius: “No, my father is not a Christian”.
The Committee: “Did your father consent to your becoming a Christian?”
Alexius: “Yes, may father did consent”.
The Committee: “Can you prove that your father did consent?”
Alexius: “If he had not consented would he have carried on his own back to Gholeng school the rice that paid for my fees?”
The Committee: “And what did the Fathers give you to become a Christian? Surely, they gave you something.”
Alexius: “They gave me nothing”.
And do the members of the Committee remember, and is it set down in their notes, that the youth turned round, and with bitter scorn said to the crowd in the Oraon language: “These people ask me what I was paid to become a Christian. Do we sell our religion? Who of you knows where is the bazaar where religion is bought and sold?
And this was not rehearsed. There had been no time for rehearsing, but this young man had just arrived to secure a hearing at she last moment. It was not a pretty piece of acting, but the indignant utterance of a generous heart.
Yes, where is the bazaar where religion is bought and sold?
82. What is the procedure of recording names of students in school registers? Do you know of cases of students being shown as following a religion other than the one to which they or their parents belonged at the time of admission? Cite specific instances.
Answer: This question alludes to a calumny, started by hostile school inspectors, who had to find fault.
Often a pupil may have, beside his Christian name, a village name like Budhu, or Sani, or whatever it be. There was a case (possibly more than one. but very few in any event) where a pupil was entered in one book by his Christian name and in another book by his village name. The inspector made a mountain out of a very small mistake, and saw all sorts of sinister designs behind this formidable crime.
And even the Committee seem to take this poor little blunder extremely seriously!
What interest could we have in making such faked entries, as are suggested by the question? We can safely assert that there is not one case where pupils were entered as Christians when they were not.
But we may inform the Committee that, in this district, it is generally believed that, in Adibasi schools, the practice prevails of entering the names of aboriginal pupils without their gotar. Ram, or some other name of the sort, is added to take the place of the gotar. And this is taken as proof that little Sani is an authentic Hindu. Is he not called Sani Ram?
Must we call this conversion of minors without the parents’ leave?
83. What fees are charged in the school? What scholarships and freeships are offered? Is the offer of a freeship used as an inducement to students or their parents to change their religion? Give specific instances.
Answer: In Catholic primary schools, because the Madhya Pradesh Government systematically refuses us all grants-in-aid, a small fee must perforce be charged, and this is frequently paid in kind.
Some inspectors pretend that fees are illegal; then we call it a contribution, freely given. And that is what it really is. For we could send cur children to the Adivasi school, where no fees are charged, and where substantial favours are offered. But we prefer, out of our poverty, to contribute something so that our children may be brought up in our own faith.
We lack the means of giving scholarships and freeships, but yet our schools do help the really indigent. But we deny that such favours are ever used to bribe pupils or parents into the Christian religion.
84. Is religious instruction given in the school? If so, of what kind, and is it compulsory?
Answer: Religious instruction, - of course, instruction in the Catholic faith, - is given in cur schools, out of class hours, generally before commencement of classes. Attendance is not compulsory for non-Christians, nor are these permitted to attend without the explicit consent of their parents.
A case is on record of an inspector, visiting a Catholic school, asking the teacher to give a class of religion. He said that he wanted to see how it was done. The teacher complied with the request.
The inspector wrote in his report: “In this school religion is taught during class hours”.
85. What kind of moral instructions, if any, is given? Furnish copies of moral instruction syllabus.
Answer: In Primary and Middle Schools there is no course of moral instruction; but civics lessons are given according to the official syllabus. About the High School we do not know.
86. Is any provision made for teaching religion other than Christianity to non-Christian children?
Answer: We deny the implication of the question: no provision is made to teach Christianity to non-Christian children. As to teaching their own religion to non-Christian children, we believe that parents and guardians would not regard us as qualified to undertake that task.
87. Are there non-Christians on the staff of the school? Is any pressure brought to bear on the members of the staff to change their religion? Do you know of any cases where discriminatory action was taken against a member of the staff on religious grounds?
Answer: We are not aware of any non-Christians being on the staff of any of our schools. If there were any, no pressure would be put on them to change their religion. Such pressure is abhorrent to Christians. It is well known that in other places many non-Christians work on the staff of Catholic schools and colleges, nor have we ever heard of such “pressure or discriminatory action” as the questioner would attribute to us.
88. What holidays are given in the school?
Answer: We observe the holidays prescribed by the code.
89. Are days of national importance celebrated in the school? What kind of celebrations are held?
Answer: National holidays are observed in our schools just as they are in other schools, except that we may add an intercessory service, and that, as a rule, our pupils know how to sing the national anthem correctly.
90. Are dramas or plays staged in the schools, which bring into contempt non-Christian religions aria deities Give exact reports of such performances, if actual copies of them cannot be had.
Answer: In our schools no dramas or plays are acted, which bring into contempt, or even refer to, non-Christian religions or deities. We deem it wrong to cause pain to others, or to mock at their honest convictions, even when we do not share those convictions. It is not we that organize processions to shout insults at the religion of others.
At times, religions plays are staged, which make no reference to Hinduism or Islam; and we also may have dramas and plays of a non-religious character.
We are not a little amused by the interest which the members of the Committee display in our dramas, and by the serious view they take of our entertainments. We readily admit that we love play-acting. It is part of the fun of village life, and sometimes is the readiest way we have of retaliating against official oppression. The committee chooses to put these “dramas” under the heading “schools”. They refer much more to our daily village life.
The committee would fain have copies of our plays, and possibly suspects that that we dare not show such copies. As the members of the committee were informed at their Ginabahar meeting, in June, frequently these copies do not exist, for the good reason that these plays spontaneously arise out of village life, and it may very well be that the composers (we cannot say, the writers) and actors are unable to read and write. In default of copies, the Questionnaire calls for “exact reports”. We shall oblige the questioner.
At Saraitoli, close to Sanna, the Catholics endured a great deal at the hands of the police and other officials, and at last two of their chief men were accused of attempted murder. It seemed to be a question of thoroughly cowing down the Christians. The good men were arrested, handcuffed-and ostentatiously paraded through the bazar when it was in full swing. This happened when they were led to prison at Jashpurnagar. They were cast ill jail and at first bail was refused, and, indeed, it did take a great deal of trouble to have them bailed out, after the poor men had stuck in the lockup for a day or two.
All this meant a great triumph for the police and for some other people. Surely, this time the men of the Welfare Department had gained a great victory, and the Christians would now eat humble pie.
The contrary happened. The “Criminals” had hardly reached home (the journey in police custody had lasted four days), before these happenings had supplied the plot of a drama, that was being acted in the village, and caused a huge amount of hilarity. And the priest had not “instigated” the thing; he was not even in the locality.
We hope we shall not be deemed very wicked for trying to bring the upright police officers into contempt. They make us pay dear enough for the right of laughing at them.
The case of, the Lodma drama came before the Committee at their Ginabahar hearing in June 1954. Nothing very damaging seems to have been revealed on that occasion. Here are the true facts, some of which were not placed before the Committee.
The play was wholly made up by the young men of the railway. The team was: Don’t consult ojhas, and sokhas, and fortune-tellers, and don’t go in for “muti puja” when you are sick. It was a simple affair, interlarded with a few spicy allusions to recent village events. There was plenty of fun and laughter, and not a soul was hurt.
But these simple youths had counted without the teacher of the Adibasi school. The Enquiry Committee, was in the offing, and this good teacher had to fulfil his duty of accuser of priests and Christians. Whether the man had assisted at the play or not is not certain: certainly, he had not been invited.
The teacher approached the daroga of Narainpur, who, filled with holy zeal, immediately “instituted an enquiry. Seven or eight young men were summoned, kept under illegal restraint for the whole night, not being permitted to leave the room, even to satisfy a call of nature (the classical way of this daroga to extract confessions), and plied with questions and threats. One of the lads, called Simon, was struck by the man of the law. The Adibasi schoolmaster and another official of the Welfare Department acted as assessors to the policeman. Unhappily these young men would not lie, nor “confess” that the wicked play had been instigated by the Father. They stuck to their copy right.
However, the Lodma offence was duly reported to the Committee at Ginabahar, the manhandling, the threats and the illegal confinement being carefully omitted. The questionnaire seems to show that the member of the committee were profoundly impressed.
91. Is there a Mission hostel or boarding house in your district? Is admission open to all in them? Are there fees charged?
Answer: In several Middle Schools and in the High Schools there are hostels, mainly intended for Christians. At times non-Christians apply for admission. Neither before nor after admission is any pressure put on them to embrace the Christian faith. Fees are charged on all equally and are frequently paid in kind.
In the High School the non-Christian or Hindu boarders refuse to cat with Christians and Muslims, and so they have their own mess arrangements.
92. Is attendance at religious exercises compulsory for the inmates of these boarding houses? Have there been any cases of children being converted to Christianity by staying in such -boarding houses? Give specific instances.
Answer: Attendance at religious exercises is not compulsory.
We believe that conversions are very few. One case has been discussed in the answer to question 81.
N.B.-This heading appears to suggest that there is something very wrong. May we suggest to the committee that the disease affects those who perhaps there is something wrong would deny freedom of conscience to all those that do not share their opinion?
93. Do you consider any of the activities of Christian Missions objectionable? If so, which, and why? What remedies have you to suggest?
Answer: This question invites every fanatic to vent his anger.
Let that be. Perhaps, in a free country, like ours, every man is entitled to express his opinion and to formulate proposals for putting the world in order.
But we beg to submit that this invitation to an excited public to level charges against a class of men appears to savour of demagogy. Heretofore in India, we had tribunals and judges, who tried cases and sifted evidence laid before them. Here we have an Enquiry Committee, vested with semi-judicial functions, calling on the public to lay charges, and that too, after a virulent press campaign of abuse and slander has excited communal passions. To us this seems to be a singularly strange way of doing justice.
Our answer to the question is that we do not consider the activities of the Catholic Church in India as objectionable. Nay, we consider that they greatly contribute to the public welfare. And, in this, we are at one with the wisest and best men in the nation, who repeatedly have borne witness to the services rendered by our priests and nuns to the nation, and have expressed their admiration for the dedicated lives led by these men and women.
It is only latterly that certain people have begun to call those activities objectionable. Why? Because, so it is said, they are anti-national, and destructive of Indian culture, and all that. Every Jack and Harry knows that this is the sheerest pretence. Those that shout loudest know perfectly that this is a false accusation.
What these people find objectionable is that there are converts to Christianity. This is truly the heart of the matter, as our worst enemies, if they are sincere, will admit. They have no other grievance against us.
But then, are not the adherents of all religions converts, or were they riot so at some time or other? Even Hindus were not always Hindus the way they are now. And Sikhs, and Jains, and Buddhists became what they are through conversion. And in this free Republic, called Bharat, a man has a right to choose his religion, that is to convert himself. The law explicitly says so.
You retort that Christians use unfair means: baits, force, fraud. When has any of these charges been proved? And, if these charges could be substantiated, then, still, would it be a case of the mote being in the eye of the Christian, whilst the beam is in the eye of those that make converts to Hinduism? This we have abundantly shown in answer to your questions.
You are scandalized because Christian converts are poor, ignorant, having an income beneath Rs. 1,000 per annum, not having read up to the Matriculation Christian Missionaries dare address themselves to the “simple” Adivasi!
Well, we Adivasis, are not as simple as our Hindu friends want us to be. We contend that we are perfectly capable of choosing our religion. And no Hindu has a right to feel aggrieved if we choose to become Christians so as to enjoy the fullness of our human rights, rather than enter the Hindu fold, where we shall be made to occupy the lowest rung in the social scale.
All this hullabaloo and fury about convent-making and proselytising is nonsense. Those very newspapers, that lash themselves into fits of holy indignation against Christian converts, will report with delight and approval cases of individual Christians, or groups of Christians, being made Hindus. For how many years have the Arya Samaj people specialized in the work of reconversion?
The methods differ, you will say. Indeed, they do, as we see so well in our midst. We have informed the Committee of the methods followed here by Swami Ramanuj Saraswati, and Boko Sardar, and Shri R. K. Deshpande’s Ram Rajya Parishad. Their blatant lies, their threats of violence and of loss of land are notorious. And these people, so unscrupulous in the ways they use, parade their sanctimonious horror at the naughty methods of Christians.
When these people come to us, Christian and non-Christian Adivasis, and try to make us Hindus, then we are not the “simple” unsophisticated folk that need protection against the “chalaki” tricks of Christian preachers. They pretend to have a right to come to us, to threaten us to confiscate out fields; they may, with a good conscience, offer us fat salaries if we consent to take the name of Ram: that is all perfectly correct. But, if we become Christians, then surely we must have been allured by baits.
And your Census officials, with one stroke of the pen, may cause all the aboriginals to forsake their ancestral religions and embrace Hinduism. That is fine. It is not convert-making. No, it is only telling lies.
Conversion to the Christian faith, you choose to regard as a crime; conversion to Hinduism is praiseworthy. And, in the latter case, you obstinately refuse to examine into motives and methods.
Finally, what such people object to is the very existence of Christians in India.
That is the problem which the members of the Committee have to face and that is the situation to which they must find a remedy. We wonder whether they are really disposed to pander to the passions of the fanatics, who, if they had the power, would forcibly wipe out the Christians from the face of India.
94. Does change of religion necessarily imply change of culture?
Answer: What on earth has this to do with the matter in hand? Do the members of the Committee really seek light on this point? A sensible answer to that query would demand that one first defines what is meant by religion and what is meant by culture. And again, is it correct to identify Indian culture with Hindu culture?
To such as would identify religion and culture, a change of religion evidently implies a change of culture. If you contend that only one that professes Hinduism (and by the way, what is Hinduism?) can be a true Indian, then we confess that the millions of Christians, who believe themselves Indians, and who are loyal to their country, stand branded as aliens.
But, if, with the framers of the Constitution, you hold that in this vast land there is room for many religions, if, with the present Prime Minister of India, you hold that Hindus, and Muslims, and Christians, and Sikhs, and all the rest, can be, and are, true sons of India, truly part and parcel of the nation, then this question about religion and culture has no sense, and ought not to appear in this Questionnaire. In fact, we think that it is a glaringly dishonest question, and seems asked with a sinister purpose.
It is only a handful of fanatics, that pretend to believe that we, Christians, are soaked in foreign culture. Please come and see us in our homes and tell us what is foreign about us.
Dr. Ambedkar, some years ago, was converted to Buddhism. Has he changed his culture, and is he no longer a true Indian?
95. Do you think that, in a secular State, all religious teachings should be eliminated in education? Or have you any alternative to sectarian religious teachings?
Answer: Amongst the many irrelevancies of this Questionnaire this question stands out as a mountain peak. Has this Committee been appointed to redraft the Constitution of India, or to remodel the whole educational system?
We must suppose that the Committee know the rules laid down in the Constitution about religious instruction in schools. We have no desire to oblige the Committee by writing a neat dissertation on the necessity of, or the harm done by, religious instruction in education.
We believe that it is wisely ordained by the law of the land that in State institutions, supported by public funds, no religious instruction shall be imposed. We also deem it a wise enactment, that in school, receiving aid out of the public treasury, no pupil shall be constrained to attend religious instruction of any particular creed.
In our own schools, which the Constitution gives us the right to establish and to conduct, and against which the State is directed not to discriminate (a direction openly flouted by the Madhya Pradesh Government), we want that our own children shall be instructed in our own religion. And if non-Christians desire to attend these schools, we shall make no effort to constrain or induce them to attend religious instruction classes.
Whatever may be the answer, returned by “progressive” elements to this question, and whatever may be the conclusions drawn by the Committee; we declare that, as long as freedom prevails in India, we will see to it in our own schools, our own religion shall be taught to our own children.
96. Are not the consolations of religion aids to recovery of patients? If so, would you cut out all religious practices from hospitals? Have you any alternative to Missionary propaganda in hospitals?
Answer: We absolutely deny that, with us, there is anything that can be called “Missionary propaganda in hospitals”. The alternative to that mythical thing is to leave the patients free to seek solace where their conscience finds it. We are not in the habit of doing violence to people’s conscience.
97. The State being secular, has it any right to interfere with the methods of propagation of any particular faith? Do you think that, if other religions showed the same zeal and enthusiasm as ace Christian Missions, there would be unpleasant consequences?
Answer: The question is not only absurdly irrelevant, but its sinister purpose is glaring. Surely the Committee do not seek enlightenment on these matters from an excited public!
No one in his senses denies that the State has a duty to maintain law and order. The State must so govern that, as far as possible, every citizen can exercise those rights, which his very manhood and the laws of the land confer on him.
As to the “methods of propagation of any particular faith”, we certainly object very strongly to the methods employed in this district by Swami Ramanuj Saraswati, Boke Sardar, the Police, certain minor officials, many servants of the Adivasi Welfare Department, to propagate their “particular faith”.
We raise no objection to the propagation of Hinduism, but we have the gravest objections to the methods employed by Hindu propagandists, for instance, false accusations, slander, abuse in the press and on the platform, trumped un lad-suits, physical violence, vilification and insults, deprivation of lands, and things of that sort. We have no objection if the State interferes with these methods; but it does not seem inclined to do so; nay, some of these things are done by its very servants.
We also object to the Government’s method of converting overnight millions of followers of aboriginal religions to Hinduism, by a stroke of the pen and without so much as “by your leave”.
If the Committee can bring us relief in these matters, we shall be profoundly grateful.
No one denies that, whenever a method of propagating any religion offends, against the law and morality, the State has a duty to intervene. But it is not true that the State has a right, still less a duty, to intervene, whenever a bunch of intolerant people feel irritated by the actions of other people, which are perfectly reasonable and lawful. And we challenge any one to show that the methods used by the Catholic Church in our midst aw unlawful.
The last Portion of the question is truly astounding in its assumptions: “Do you think that, if other religions showed the same zeal and enthusiasm as Christian Missions, there would be unpleasant consequences?”.
This is what we think. If the preachers of other religions would come to us as the priests and nuns of the Catholic Church come to us, dedicating their whole lives to our service, drawing no salaries, living in poverty in our midst, even in the remotest places, healing our ailments, teaching our children, helping us in our spiritual and temporal necessities, urging us to love God and to be kind to the neighbour, reminding us that lying and stealing and oppression of the poor are sinful in God’s sight; if the preachers of other religions would come thus into our land, austere, humble, caste having neither wife nor children, not shouting slogans, not slandering, nor abusing; if they would come in that manner, as do our Catholic priests and nuns, no, there would not he unpleasant consequences, nope at, all. We heartily invite them to come in that manner.
But who comes to us now, and in what manner? We have named them in these answers often, and these names leave a bitter taste in the mouth. These men do indeed display enthusiasm of a sort, not the selfless enthusiasm of our priests and nuns; their mouths pour forth insults, and slander and threats; they brandish the dagger, yes, in the literal sense; they threaten us with the loss of our fields, and, in some cases, the threat was executed; they shout slogans and bring false charges against innocent people.
And you also have sent, amongst us, ostensibly to uplift us, but, as it seems to us, to convert us to Hinduism, the servants of the Adivasi Welfare Department. Surely, they have not come to serve us out of pure love for the neighbour, nor without seeking any earthly emoluments. For it is only too evident that they thrive on royal salaries, out of funds set aside by Government for our welfare. We do not accuse them of lack of zeal or of enthusiasm. For some of them display excessive zeal in stirring up communal trouble, and they are enthusiastic in giving evidence in the Courts against good people.
From such “uplifters” may the Lord deliver us, and may we never be lifted to their level!
Indeed, when you send into our country people, who display zeal and enthusiasm of that sort, then there ought to be unpleasant consequences. But who is to blame? Is it the preachers of the Christian faith, or the converters to Hinduism, or the would be uplifters?
98. Do you think that the different religions in the land can co-exist peacefully, and co-operate in realizing a just order of society? If so, on what basis?
Answer: It is hard not to laugh when one hears the Committee gravely asking such a question. Are the Committee about to write a learned treatise on the government of nations, or do they contemplate initiating a revision of the Constitution, in such a way that only one religion shall be tolerated in Bharat?
Can this be the purpose of this recondite question? The Committee set out to condemn the Missionaries, and they have discovered that all the Christians in India are tarred with the same brush. They are all steeped in foreign culture. They must all be suspected of disloyalty. They may be so many millions, they may have lived in India for centuries, they may love their land and their nation…… They profess a foreign religion! As if the Catholic faith could be foreign anywhere!
And we, in our simplicity-we are “simple” since we are Adivasis-we had put faith in the declaration of so many Hindu leaders, saying that the heart of Mother India is large enough to love all her children.
The Committee is not sure that different religions can co-exist in this land, and co-operate peacefully towards the common welfare. Again. we, simple Adivasis, had allowed ourselves to be persuaded that the civilized world had long since settled this point, and that all sane men believed in freedom of conscience; we imagined that both East and West, wherever men are free, “different religions did co-exist peacefully and did co-operate in idealizing a just order of society”.
The Committee are not quite sure that this is possible, and their conscience might perhaps bid them insist on the necessity of wiping out Christianity. At any rate, they want to be quite sure, and lest their conscience prick them later, they crave for light and ask on what basis such co-existence may be possible.
We humbly suggest that such a basis might be liberty, equality, fraternity; equal rights for all and mutual tolerance, as is set forth in the Preamble of the Indian Constitution. Or, if you prefer, such a basis would be the fulfilment of Christ’s precept that man love God above all thing and the neighbour as himself.
This is what we, Christians, are trying to do.
99. Do you wish to appear before the Committee to give further evidence orally?
Answer: No., we do not wish to appear before the Committee. And the plain reason is that we do not believe in its impartiality. The Committee bears the responsibility of the Questionnaire, which is a monumental proof of lack of impartiality. Even a blind man can see that this is not meant to be a series of questions, but rather a long list of veiled accusations. It bristles with subtle, and glaring, suggestions and innuendos; it panders to the passions of intolerant fanatics. It assumes that the accused are guilty and calls on all the communalists to lay further charges.
It seems impossible to exonerate the framer of these questions from deliberate malice. He has done his best to gather into one long list of so-called “questions” all the slanders (all but one), which bigotry has ever invented against Christians and their priests. This long enumeration is nothing less than a most vigorous display of mud-slinging. . The questioner well, knew that some of the mud will slick. Moreover, the Questionnaire invites all the communities to come and sling more mud.
We regard this Questionnaire as a disgraceful document, and as a dishonourable attempt at destroying the good name of honourable men and women. The disgrace and dishonour must redound on the Committee.
Moreover, from the very beginning, we have felt constrained to protest against the composition of this Committee. The question lay between Christians and a very small, but extremely vocal; section of the Hindu community. Whereupon the Madhya Pradesh Government instituted a Committee of Enquiry, consisting entirely of Hindus. And one of these is said to be an adherent of the Arya Samaj, a notoriously militant anti-Christian body. Later on, the name of a Christian was added to the list of members, but we must declare that this person is unknown in Christian circles, and certainly does not enjoy the confidence of the community he is supposed to represent,
We have no desire to call into question the individual integrity of any member of the Committee. But surely, being composed as it is, it cannot command our confidence. Nor can we say that, during the hearings in Jashpur, last June, every member of the Committee cared to hide his anti-Christian bias.
These are the reasons why we do not wish to appear before the Committee. We do not have the faintest hope that further oral evidence might induce the members to deviate from the course they seem bent on following. We feel that we stand condemned, even before we have been heard.
100. There is no question 100.
Why did the questioner not round off the number?
To our utter astonishment, there is one slander that is not alluded to. In this very exhaustive series of implied imputations, there is not a word about, a matter, which, these days, has the power of rousing the passions of but a few, viz., cow-killing.
Why are we not asked to “cite precise instances” of Christians and Missionaries sacrilegiously slaying the sacred animal? It is so easy to accuse us of cow-slaughter. The attempt was made at Kunkuri, as stated in the course of our answers: only the daroga’s sacred zeal failed. Why not represent our priests as sneaking about the lanes and alleys of our villages, brandishing the knife and threatening the life of the sacred kine?
We feel it incumbent on us to enlighten the Committee about our attitude in this matter. We do not promote cow-slaughter, not because we worship the cow, but because we have not the faintest desire to inflict pain on our Hindu neighbours. We, Adivasis, have no objection to beef-eating: on the contrary, we rather relish it; but we are ready to abstain from this little indulgence, because we are anxious to respect the beliefs and the feelings of others,
As appendix to reply to question 24, I beg to submit to the Members of the Enquiry Committee of few samples of the kind of scurrilous literature against Christians and Missionaries, which is being distributed free to all and sundry in the villages of this area.
Also a few extracts from the Hitavada.
If a Christian dared to public
one-hundredth part of such stuff against Hindus, he would be in jail by