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Rift in the Lute



The Christian missionary orchestra in India after independence has continued to rise from one crescendo to another with the applause of the Nehruvian establishment manned by a brood of self-alienated Hindus spawned by missionary-macaulayite education.  The only rift in the lute has been K.M. Panikkar�s Asia and Western Dominance published in 1953, the Report of the Christian Missionary Activities Committee Madhya Pradesh published in 1956, Om Prakash Tyagi�s Bill on Freedom of Religion introduced in the Lok Sabha in 1978, Arun Shourie�s Missionaries in India published in 1994 and the Maharashtra Freedom of Religion Bill introduced in the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly by Mangal Prabhat Lodha, M.L.A. on 20 December 1996.  We shall summarise in this chapter what these rifts revealed, and the reactions to them not only from the Christian missionaries but also from the �secular� establishment.


Panikkar�s study was primarily aimed at providing a survey of Western imperialism in Asia from CE 1498 to 1945.  Christian missions came into the picture simply because he found them arrayed always and everywhere alongside Western gunboats, diplomatic pressures, extraterritorial rights and plain gangsterism.  Contemporary records consulted by him could not but cut to size the inflated images of Christian heroes such as Francis Xavier and Matteo Ricci.  They were found to be not much more than minions employed by European kings and princes scheming to carve out empires in the East.  Their methods of trying to convert kings and commoners in Asia, said Panikkar, were force or fraud or conspiracy and morally questionable in every instance.  Finding that �missionary activities� which became so prominent a feature of European relations with Asia were connected with Western political supremacy in Asia and synchronised with it� he concluded: �It may indeed be said that the most serious, persistent and planned effort of European nations in the nineteenth century was their missionary activities in India and China, where a large-scale attempt was made to effect a mental and spiritual conquest at supplementing the political authority already enjoyed by Europe.  Though the results were disappointing in the extreme from the missionary point of new, this assault on the spiritual foundations of Asian countries has had far-reaching consequences in the religious and social reorganization of the people��

What hurt the Christian missionaries most, however, was Panikkar�s observation that �the doctrine of the monopoly of truth and revelation� is alien to the Hindu and Buddhist mind� and that �to them the claim of any sect that it alone represented the truth and other shall be condemned has always seemed unreasonable�. He had knocked the bottom out of the missionary enterprise.  No monopoly of truth and revelation, no missions.  It was as simple as that.

Most people in the targeted countries do not know that the first missionaries sent out by the Pope Innocent IV after the Council of Lyons in 1245 CE were spies commissioned to gather information about the strength and resources of the Mongols who had swept over West Asia and were posing a serious threat to Christendom in Europe.  The second mission was that of John de Monte Carvino commissioned by the Pope to visit the court of Kublai Khan at Peking for the, same purpose.  He started to smuggle Christianity in China surreptitiously by buying slaves and baptizing them and building a few churches.  The Pope in Rome felt great joy that the �only true faith� was spreading in China.  But within a few years of Carvino�s death in 1328 the entire edifice built by him collapsed and not a trace of it was left except in his letters to the Pope.

The Christian missionary enterprise in earnest started with the dogged efforts of Don Henry the Navigator (1394-1460), the third son of the King John I of Portugal.  Henry was a militant Christian fired with a bitter hatred for infidels.  He was obsessed with the idea of reaching and converting India, and believed that he had received a command from God for this purpose.  He had at his disposal the immense wealth of the Order of Christ of which he was the Grand Master. In 1458 Pope Nicholas V issued a Bull granting to the King of Portugal �the right, total and absolute, to invade, conquer, and subject all the countries which are under rule of the enemies of Christ, Saracens or Pagans�� On March 13, 1456 this first Bull was confirmed by a second one by Pope Calixtus III.  Finally, Pope Alexander VI confirmed the Treaty of Tordesilhas signed on June 9, 1494 in terms of which he divided the world, east and west, between Portugal and Spain to conquer and convert. The kings of Portugal fitted and sent several naval expeditions to India, and King Dom Manoel �assumed for himself the title of �The Lord of the Navigation, Conquest and Commerce of Ethiopia, Persia and India�.� The Society of Jesus (Jesuits) though founded by a Spaniard, Ignatius Loyola, �found a staunch supporter and champion in the Portuguese monarch�.  Henceforward Portugal became the base of the missionary enterprise in Asia.  It is noteworthy that some of the great figures in the history of Christian missionary activities in the East came to adopt Portugal as their second country �with the revival of religious zeal within the Catholic church following the Protestant movement... Francis Xavier, a Spaniard, came out as the Portuguese King�s Inspector of Missions.  Father Vagliano, an Italian recruited in Lisbon forty-two missionaries of whom only six were Portuguese.  To Ricci, another Italian, who completed his education at Coimbra and Goa, Portugal was the spiritual home.� Small wonder that �with the Portuguese christianization was a state enterprise� and that the Portuguese kings �paid for the entire ecclesiastical establishment in the East�.

The great merit of Panikkar�s book is that it provides a history of missionary activities in every country of South and South-East Asia as well as in the Far East India, China, Japan, Annam, Cambodia, Cochin-China, Laos, Sian (Thailand), Burma, and Indonesia.  We shall take up missionary doings in these countries and the support they received from various Western powers.


Christian missionaries had accompanied every Portuguese naval expedition to India after Vasco da Gama reached Calicut in Malabar in 1498.  In 1534, Goa which had been occupied by the Portuguese in 1509 �was made a bishopric with authority extending over the entire Far East�.  Rooting out of Hinduism was a special task assigned to every Portuguese viceroy.  �Hindu temples in Goa were destroyed and their property distributed to religious orders (like the Franciscans) in 1540.� With the arrival of Francis Xavier in Goa in 1542 and the establishment of the College of St. Paul by him, Goa became the centre for training missionaries to be sent out to other countries in Asia. �For the next hundred years entry of missionaries into the Far East was permitted only through Goa.� Under advice from Francis Xavier, the king of Portugal established the Inquisition in Goa. �Intolerance of things Indian became henceforth the characteristic of feature of missionary zeal in India.  Any compromise with Hindu life or religion was avoided e.g. the eating of beef was held to be necessary as it would put the converts altogether out of the pale of Hinduism.� But Portuguese power decayed in the second half of the seventeenth century and Portugal�s interest in missionary work declined even in South India.  �The establishment of the Inquisition in Goa (1561) and the auto da fé (first instance 1563) revolted the conscience of both Hindus and Muslims alike.� Even in Goa, the majority of population continued to be non-Christian.  Thus the �attempt of the Portuguese, secular and missionary,� to carry the heathen fort by assault� has failed.

It was now the turn of the Protestant missions to evangelize India by all means short of physical force.  Small Protestant missions had been established in some coastal areas of South India from 1660 onwards.  But the big boost came with the foundation of the Church Missionary Society by the Anglican Church in 1799 and �other sects followed in their wake�.  The Baptist Mission was established at Serampore near Calcutta by William Carey in 1803.  �A violent propaganda campaign was launched by Carey and his associates against Hinduism in Bengal which seemed to them to be in a state of dissolution.  But Hindu orthodoxy reacted vigorously and Lord Minto felt obliged to prohibit such propaganda in Calcutta.� He had in mind the Vellore Mutiny which had outraged the religious sentiments of the sepoys.

Christian missions achieved some small success in Bengal after India was thrown open to missionaries at large in 1813.  But once again, Hindu response in the shape of reform movements was strong, and the missionaries received another severe jolt.  More significant gains were made by the missions in Travancore where the Raja was threatened with deposition when he tried to prevent the conversion of some depressed classes.  �The action opened the eyes of other ruling princes and there were a number of important states where no missionary activity of any kind, including schools, was permitted upto 1947.�

The British Government of India had pretended to be indifferent to Christian missions, particularly after the Revolt of 1857.  But it helped the missions indirectly.  �Legislature protected the right of converts to their share in Hindu joint families, and High Court decisions enabled converts to blackmail their wives to follow them into the fold of their new religion.  The Government also encouraged the missionaries to work among the backward tribes.� Another design which the British evolved to promote Christianization of India was T.B. Macaulay�s educational system introduced in 1835.  �It was the devout hope of Macaulay� and of many others, that the diffusion of new learning among the higher classes would see the dissolution of Hinduism and the widespread acceptance of Christianity.  The missionaries were of the same view, and they entered the education field with enthusiasm, providing schools and colleges in many parts of India where education in the Christian Bible was compulsory for Hindu students.  The middle classes accepted Western education with avidity and willingly studied Christian scriptures, but neither the dissolution of Hindu society so hopefully predicted nor the conversion of the intellectuals so devoutly hoped for showed any sign of materialization.  On the other hand, Hinduism assimilated the new learning, and the effects were soon visible all over India in a revival of a universalistic religion based on the Vedanta.� The Grand Design on which �they had spent so much money and energy had failed�. The rise of Indian nationalism also had an adverse effect on missionary fortunes.  The great leaders of the national movement such as Lokmanya Tilak, Sri Aurobindo and Lala Lajpat Rai were champions of resurgent Hinduism.  �The Christian leaders in India themselves began to feel that too obvious a separation from their countrymen could not benefit them.  Christianity began to show interest in Indian culture�


Francis Xavier�s vision was not confined to India.  He was eying the whole of South East Asia and the Far East, China and Japan in particular.  He had sailed to Malacca in Malaya in 1545 and then to Amboyna in Indonesia.  While he was in Malacca again on his way back from Amboyna, he met a Japanese named Anjiro who was a fugitive from justice of his own country.  �Anjiro gave him glowing accounts of the readiness of the people of Japan to receive the message of Christ.� Xavier trained this Japanese criminal at the College of St. Paul in Goa and then set sail for Japan with him in 1549.  He was encouraged by a provincial feudal lord but opposed by the Buddhist priests.  He travelled to the Capital of Japan, Miyako, in the hope of converting the Emperor of Japan.  But the Emperor refused to see him and he returned disheartened to Goa in 1551. �The opposition of Buddhist monks had dashed his hopes and ignorant as he was of Eastern religions, to him the Buddha was a demon under whose influence the Japanese people were living in monstrous sin.  But he did not give up hope.  He wrote to Ignatius Loyola to send more workers for Japan.�

Limited Christian missionary work continued in Japan mainly in the western part of the Island.  Japan at that time was divided into a number of principalities.  �The feudal rulers of that part of Japan were anxious at that time to attract Portuguese vessels to the harbours mainly with the object of strengthening themselves against other feudal Lords.  They realized instinctively the close connection between the foreign powers across the seas and the missionaries who had come to preach the new religion.� It was at this time that the great Japanese leader Oda Nobunaga started his career of conquest to unite Japan.  He was being opposed by the powerful Buddhist monasteries.  �The Jesuits saw a chance of interesting him in their mission to the disadvantage of the Buddhist church.  Nobunaga encouraged them and in 1568 he invited the Catholic missionaries to Kyoto and even gave them land on which to build a church.  Under his powerful protection the mission made unexpected progress.�

Hideyoshi who succeeded Nobunaga was also favourably inclined towards the missionaries.  �But he was a keen-eyed observer.  He noticed that the Portuguese had landed artillery to protect the area in which Christians lived.  On a visit to a Portuguese vessel to see Father Coelho, he observed that the ship, though small, was heavily armed.  He was also aware of the interest that the western daimyos were manifesting in the arms and equipment of the Portuguese and of their attempts to strengthen themselves by friendship with foreigners.  Hideyoshi acted with firmness and in 1587 the activities of the missionaries were prohibited throughout the length and breadth of Japan.� By now the Spaniards had conquered the Philippines and were negotiating a commercial treaty with Japan.  �The commander of a Spanish galleon which was driven ashore spoke of Spanish power and recounted to the local daimyo who had salvaged the vessel and claimed the cargo the glories and prowess of the Conquistadores in a boastful manner.  Hideyoshi�s suspicious mind, already aware of Portuguese action in the East, ordered the arrest of all Spaniards in the country and had them crucified in Nagasaki as spies.�

The Japanese had collected considerable intelligence about the doings of the Portuguese, the Dutch, the Spaniards and the British in the islands of the Pacific.  They had also realized that the converts in Japan sympathised with and looked for support to the foreigners.  So they put down with a strong hand efforts to convert more Japanese to a creed which was heaping abuse on the gods of Japan.� The local Christian community continued to exist as a minor and obscure sect subject to intermittent persecution mainly because of its affiliations with foreigners.  However, in 1614 Iyeasu, the Tokugawa Shogun, made it clear that Christian teachings were no longer to be tolerated and an edict banning the religion was issued that year.� At the same time, the Japanese sent a special spy to the southern regions to report on the activities of the Europeans there.  Information about a Spanish plan to invade Japan reached them in 1622.  Then came the Christian rebellion in Japan in 1637.  �It took a considerable army and a costly campaign to put down the revolt which was said to have received support from the Portuguese.  The reaction of the Shogunate was sharp and decisive the firm policy of eliminating the converts was put into effect and a few years later the country was closed to the Westerners.�

Japan remained closed to Christian missions till 1889 when the policy was revised under the Meiji Restoration.  The Japanese remained suspicious about Christian missionaries but as the new Constitution included a clause about complete religious toleration.  The doors were opened to foreign missions.  By that time, however, both Shintoism and Buddhism had revived in Japan and Christianity continued to be looked down upon by the mainstream Japanese as an evil sect.  �Finally the educational system in Japan was under national control and Christian teachings were suspected to be in conflict with the tradition of state dominance enjoined by Shintoism.�


It was in China that Christian missions achieved their greatest success as well as met their greatest failure.  Backed by the gangsterism of European powers, particularly Britain and France, the mission�s spread their tentacles far and wide shattered the political, social and cultural fabric of China, and prepared the way for Communist take-over after the Second World War.

There were a large number of Chinese in Malacca when the Portuguese captured this place in 1511. It was from these Chinese that the Portuguese heard of the vast riches of China.  They started sending commercial embassies to China.  But the real purpose of these embassies was to spy and gather intelligence; they were planning invasion and conquest.  A Portuguese embassy under Thomas Pires was sent to Peking and the Chinese Emperor showed readiness to receive it.  But Simon d�Antrade who had accompanied Pires landed a party of Portuguese on the Chinese land and started building a fort.  �The Chinese fleet attacked him and he was driven out.  When news of Simon d�Artrade�s piracies reached Peking, the Chinese Government naturally refused to receive the ambassador who was sent back to Canton where he died in prison in 1523.� Francis Xavier had also cast covetous eyes on China after his return from Japan.  �He set out for China.  But waiting for a ship on a little island off the Kwantung coast the indomitable old man died (1552).�

On the other hand, unofficial trade between the Portuguese and some Chinese on the coastal areas was proving profitable to both parties.  A Portuguese ship helped a Chinese admiral who was chasing pirates, and the Portuguese had given rich presents to the local governor of Chuang Chao and Ningpo.  So the viceroy allowed the Portuguese to establish a trading post on the small deserted promontory of Macao in 1557. In 1565 the Jesuits built a residence in Macao and Christian missionaries started arriving.  By now the missionaries had evolved a new policy.  They tried to be of special service to high Chinese officials and use their patronage for propagating Christianity.  Matteo Ricci reached Macao in 1582 and travelled to the Chinese Capital at Peking in 1595 He gained the favour of the Court by presenting chiming clocks, other scientific toys and by showing his skill in mathematics.  At that time a conflict had arisen in China between Buddhism and Confucianism.  Seeing that the Court was inclined towards Confucianism, he sided with this creed.  �He quoted from the Confucian texts in support of the Christian doctrines and tried to show that Confucian doctrines did not conflict with Christianity.�

The Jesuits who followed Ricci served the Ming Emperors as astrologers and gun manufacturers, which activities brought them patronage but in no way promoted-Christianity.  Adam Schall who had succeeded Ricci in 1630 �was nominated Vice-President of the Imperial Sacrifice, the Superintendent of the imperial Stud and High Honourable Bearer of the Imperial Banquet strange posts for a Christian priest to hold.� The mission at Peking was closed after the Ming dynasty was overthrown by the Manchus and Schall was jailed.  He died in 1666.  But another Jesuit, Ferdinand Verbiest, succeeded in winning the favour of the Manchu King, Kang Hsi who needed the Jesuit�s skill for manufacturing cannon for suppressing a rebellion.  The new king permitted the missionaries to preach their religion.  Verbiest appealed to the king of France to send missionaries to China from the newly established (1664) Congregation de Missions Estrangers in Paris, and six French priests left for the Far East in 1685.  One of these French fathers, Gerbillion was �a brilliant linguist who rendered brilliant service to the Chinese Government during the Sino-Russian border disputes which led to the Treaty of Nertchinsk (1689).  As a reward for his ability and tact an �Edict of Tolerance� was issued by the Emperor (1692) which declared that the doctrines taught by the Europeans in charge of Astronomy and the Tribunal of Mathematics, �are not evil� and permitted people �to go to the churches freely to worship God�.�

But the Jesuits had gone too far in compromising the Christian doctrines and rites.  They were practising astrology for the Chinese Court.  �The head of the Jesuit mission as the Honourable Bearer of Dishes at the Imperial Banquet, or as the President of the Rites was not likely to find favour either in Rome or in Paris, and this was the problem that was raised at the Vatican itself, by the Dominicans,� The Pope sent to China the Vicar General who gave a decision against the Jesuits.  The Jesuits appealed to the Chinese Emperor for declaring that the Chinese rites were not in conflict with the Christian practices.  The Emperor confirmed the Jesuit position, which was resented by the Pope.  He sent a Legate for further enquiry.  The Legate prohibited the Jesuit practices.  The Emperor sent the Legate to jail where he died in 1710. On the other hand, a Papal Bull was issued against missionaries in China practising any Chinese rites.  �In 1724, the preaching of the Christian religion was officially suppressed and the foreign missionaries, except those employed at the Court, were deported to Canton.  Thus came to an end the grandiose scheme of the Jesuits in China.�

Christian missions entered China in a big way with the arrival of Britain, France and the U.S.A. on the scene in the second quarter of the nineteenth century.  Opium trade which was forced on China by the British East India Company led to the opium wars, defeat of China, and acquisition of extraterritorial rights by the various Western powers.  Christian missions gained the right to operate not only in the extra-territorial enclaves but all over China.  They also shared the indemnities exacted from China in the aftermath of various wars.  All sorts of questionable characters became converts to Christianity and sought the protection of imperialist powers.  �Christianity in China was involved with the Taiping rebellion� Protected by foreign authority these converts looked down upon the Chinese and took up an aggressive attitude towards them�� The Christian missionaries created mischief everywhere but were protected by the consuls of foreign powers.

�But there was not a single province or area during all this time where the common man, as well as the mandarin, did not make it clear that the missionary was an unwelcome intruder� Not a single year passed without violent manifestations in some town or other against missionary activity.  The Boxer rebellion could only be understood against this background.  It was the missionary and the �secondary devil�, the native convert, who were the special objects of the Boxer�s fury.  Indeed the Chinese Christians had to pay dearly for being �secondary devils� suspected to be supporters of foreign aggressors.�

One particular incident in the history of Christianity in China deserves special notice.  The French had built a cathedral on the site of a Chinese temple in Tientsin.  An orphanage was also established by Catholic nuns.  �These sisters arranged for the payment of a sum for every child brought to the orphanage, that is, in plain words established a kind of purchase system, encouraging the less scrupulous Chinese middlemen to kidnap children� Naturally, the Chinese public was greatly agitated by the procedure.� The matter was represented to the Imperial Commissioner who took it up with the French consul.  The consul resisted enquiry by a committee of the Chinese and fired at the mob which had collected outside the orphanage.  The consul was murdered and the Cathedral as well as the orphanage was destroyed.  The French threatened war and were supported by the British, the Americans, the Russians and the Italians.  The situation was saved by the Franco-Prussian war in Europe in which the French were defeated.

The Boxer war gave an opportunity to the Christian missions to acquire monopoly over education in China.  The Treaty that followed �provided for the suspension of official examinations for five years in towns where foreigners had been molested - a device meant to give a chance to the missionary educated young men and Christians to be employed in service�� In the next ten years the missionaries established a monopoly over education in China.  Missionary education in turn created spiritual chaos.  Instead of a Chinese renaissance based on Confucianism or Buddhism what followed was a basically antireligious movement - the Chinese New Tide which paved the way for �penetration of revolutionary ideas of Marxism�.  The leader of the New Tide, Chen.  Tu-hsiu, became in due course the founder of the original Communist Party of China.

Christian hopes in China revived when Sun Yat-sen, a Christian, emerged as the leader of the Chinese Republic after the overthrow of the Manchus in 1911. �But he showed that he was more interested in the greatness and welfare of China than in the promotion of Christianity.  The disappointment which Sun Yat-sen felt at the attitude of the Christian powers of the West and the influence which the October Revolution in Russia exercised on him led him away further and further from the missionaries to whom he had at one time looked for support.  Moreover, the rising tide of nationalism, against unequal treaties and against imperialism, was unfavourable to Christianity The Anti-Christian Federation founded in Shanghai in 1922 asserted that Christianity was an ally of capitalism and imperialism and thus an instrument for oppression of weaker nations.�

Seventy years of sustained missionary effort for Christianizing China had inflicted great damage on Chinese society and culture.  The missionaries had also helped the Western powers in destroying the political system of China.  �Anarchical conditions in China were expected to be favourable to missionary hopes.  Anarchical conditions did come about in Chinese society, but the beneficiaries were others.�


Christian missionary intrusion in Indo-China started with the activities of Alexander de Rhodes, a Jesuits who started work among Japanese Christian refugees (1662-27).  But his success was not significant.  His appeal to the Pope for support bore no fruit.  The newly established Mission Estrangers in France (1659), however, provided help.  �Some businessmen in Rouen had established a society for the double purpose of trade and religion.  It was in their ship that Bishop Lambert, selected by Father Alexander de Rhodes for the mission, reached Tongking in the guise of a merchant (1662).  The Trinh monarchs of Tongking however showed no desire to welcome missionary activity� The Dutch soon succeeded in destroying the French factory at Tongking, and the local people remained indifferent to the new religion.  So there was nothing to report for nearly a century.� It was only in 1765 that Pigneau de Behaine of the Mission Estrangers arrived in Cochin China.  The Nguen King of Hue was in exile at this time.  Behaine fitted out an expedition and restored him to his throne.  But Behaine died soon after (1779).  Meanwhile, the Revolution had broken out in France and the mission could expect no help from the mother country.  By the time of the Bourbon restoration in France �the new Emperor of Annam, Minh Mang, had become very hostile to Christian activity.  In 1848 Emperor Tu-Doc declared the religion of Jesus to be a �perverse religion� and ordered ministers of this religion to be thrown into the sea.�

Tu-Duc�s hostility to Christianity provided an excuse to Napoleon III of France.  He decided to use force.  In a communique published on 14 November 1858, he announced that �ruthless persecutions of our missionaries have brought our warships on more than one than occasion to the coast of the Annamite Kingdom�.  The Spaniards in the Philippines came out in support of the French expedition, �the commander-in-chief emphasizing the necessity �to avenge the insults to our sacred religion and our pious missionaries�.�

The struggle between Tu-Duc and the French continued for fifteen years.  The Annamite King appealed to China for help and the French suffered a defeat.  But the relief was temporary.  In the end Tu-Duc had to come to terms with France.  He signed a treaty in 1874 ceding Cochin China to France and opening the Red River to French commerce.  �This treaty� brought into existence the political structure of Indo-China with its separate areas of Cochin China, the Empire of Annam, the Kingdom of Cambodia and the Principality of Laos.�

The cultural resistance offered by Buddhism and Confucianism in Cambodia, Laos and Annam proved to be weak and not very widespread.  The missionaries had a field day.  The social system showed signs of breakdown everywhere.  Nor was there a strong national movement in this region till after the First World War.  �When that movement started, the Russian Revolution had already become a major factor in Eastern Asia, and therefore from the beginning the new nationalism of Indo-China had a Marxist bias, which later developed into Communist leadership.�

Slam (Thailand)

Siam was able to resist Western pressures for unequal treaties till 1855 when the changed position in China and the British annexation of a part of Burma persuaded her to negotiate with Britain.  �Sir John Bowring, who negotiated the treaty of 1855, was able to secure the principle of extra-territoriality for British subjects, permission to build churches and exemption of all duty for import of opium.� France also found pretexts for using strong arm methods and acquired some sort of extraterritorial rights for all her Asian subjects by a treaty signed in 1893.  But rivalry between France and Britain enabled Siam to maintain her independence as a buffer state.  The greatest factor which came to the rescue of Siam, however, was a succession of strong and able kings who introduced reforms and revived native culture. Missionary activity had but little impact on the people in Siam due to the strength and vitality of the Buddhist Church.  �The monarch of Siam assumed the title of the Defender of the Buddhist Faith in imitation of the British King�s title.  The conservative but generally enlightened policy followed by the monarchy during the critical period between 1870 and 1920 had the effect of getting Siam through the transition without violent tumult and a disorganization of society, so that in the period following the First [World] War she was enabled to recover her natural independence in full by the gradual abolition, through negotiations, of the rights of extraterritoriality which the foreign nations possessed.�


Burma after its annexation by the British remained a part of India till 1937 so that the rise of Indian nationalism had a strong impact on Burmese nationalism.  Though Buddhism had ceased to be the state religion of Burma after its annexation, its influence amongst the people was not seriously affected.  Nationalist leaders in Burma had to profess to be devout Buddhists to gain popular support.  �An instance of this was the case of Dr. Ba Maw, who was baptized as a Christian in his childhood; when he had become a prominent national figure, he declared that he had returned to the mother (Buddhist) church.�  Missionary activity in Burma was able to affect neither its social structure nor its religion except among the Karens, the backward tribals.  �There was thus considerable missionary sympathy for Karen separatism - a movement which was at one stage a major threat to the cause of Burmese independence.�

Missionary Response to Panikkar

The message that Panikkar had tried to convey to Asians in general and to his own countrymen in particular was that the history of Christianity surveyed by him was a running commentary on the imperialist character of the Christian doctrine.  But the Brown Sahibs who had taken over from the British - the politicians and the intellectual�s elite in India - failed to grasp his message and ignored his monumental study altogether.  On the other hand, the missionaries were up in arms against him.  �To prove his point,� they said, �Panikkar picks and chooses historical facts and then deals with them one-sidedly.� But none of them came out with facts which could redeem or even counterbalance those. presented by Panikkar.  Efforts to explain them away or put another interpretation on them, also remained a poor exercise.  Fr. Jerome D�Souza had jibed, �A very fine narrative Mr. Panikkar, but you must not call it history.� But he or his missionary colleagues never bothered to tell what was that history which Panikkar had not taken into account.  Subsequent Christian writings show that the missionaries have never been able to stop smarting from the hurt caused by Panikkar�s book.  They have also learnt a lesson, namely, that the Christian doctrine has to be salvaged from the history it had created.  By now there is a plethora of Christian literature which bemoans the �colonial handicap� which has stood in the way of Jesus scoring over Rama and Krishna and the Buddha.  And there has been a determined and sustained effort to present to the Indian people what Stanley Jones has named as the �disentangled Christ�.


The appointment of the Committee was announced on April 16, 1954 by a press note of the Government of Madhya Pradesh which said, �Representations have been made to Government from time to time that Christian Missionaries either forcibly or through fraud and temptations of monetary and other gain convert illiterate aboriginals and other backward people thereby offending the feelings of non-Christians.  It has further been represented that Missions are utilised directly or indirectly for purposes of extra-religious objectives.  The Christian Missionaries have repudiated these allegations and have asserted on the other hand that their activities are confined solely to religious propaganda and towards social, medical and educational work.  The Missionaries have further alleged that they are being harassed by non-Christian people and local officials.  As agitation has been growing on either side, the State Government consider it desirable in the public interest to have a thorough inquiry made into the whole question through an impartial Committee.�

The Government of Madhya Pradesh had to take notice of the agitation worked up by Christian missionaries.  It had already led to violence in the adjoining States merged with Orissa.  The missionaries had become too powerful in Madhya Pradesh to be ignored any longer.  �It must be noticed,� recorded the Committee, �that about 30 different Missions are working in Madhya Pradesh with varying number of centres in each district.  Almost the entire Madhya Pradesh is covered by Missionary activities and there is hardly any district where a Mission of one denomination or the other is not operating in some form or the other.  More than half the people of Madhya Pradesh (57.4 percent) consist of members of the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes and it is amongst these that Missionary activities are mostly confined.�

The Committee had seven members including the Chairman, Dr. Bhawani Shankar Niyogi, retired Chief Justice of the Nagpur High Court.  Mr. K.C. George, a professor in the Commerce College at Wardha, represented the Christian community.  It started by studying the material in government files.  As a result it was led to enlarge its terms of reference to include political and extra-religious activities also.  �The material gathered in the initial stages of the enquiry revealed to the Committee that its significance far transcended the bounds of any one country or region in the world and that it was calculated to have worldwide repercussions.  That compelled the Committee to view the subject as an integral part of a larger picture on the broad canvas of world history.  The Committee had to consult a number of published books, pamphlets and periodicals for determining the nature and form of their recommendations.�

The terms of reference enabled the Committee to evolve a Questionnaire which was sent to such individuals and organisations as could help in the investigation.  It received 385 replies to the Questionnaire, 55 from Christians and 330 from non-Christians.  Besides, the Committee toured 14 districts in which it visited 77 centres, contacted 11,360 persons, and received 375 written statements.  Hospitals, schools, churches, leper homes, hostels, etc., maintained by various missions were among the Christian institutions visited by the Committee.  The persons interviewed came from 700 villages.

�In all these places,� recorded the Committee, �there was unanimity as regards the excellent service rendered by the Missionaries in the fields of education and medical relief.  But on the other hand there was a general complaint from the non-Christian side that the schools and hospitals were being used as means of securing converts.  There was no disparagement of Christianity or of Jesus Christ, and no objection to the preaching of Christianity and even to conversions to Christianity.  The objection was to the illegitimate methods alleged to be adopted by the Missionaries for this purpose, such as offering allurements of free education and other facilities to children attending their schools, adding some Christian names to their original Indian names, marriages with Christian girls, money-lending, distributing Christian literature in hospitals and offering prayers in the wards of indoor patients.  Reference was also made to the practice of the Roman Catholic priests or preachers visiting newborn babies to give �ashish� (blessings) in the name of Jesus, taking sides in litigation or domestic quarrels, kidnapping of minor children and abduction of women and recruitment of labour for plantations in Assam or Andaman as a means of propagating the Christian faith among the ignorant and illiterate people.  There was a general tendency to suspect some ulterior political or extra-religious motive, in the influx of foreign money for evangelistic work in its varied forms.  The concentration of Missionary enterprise on the hill tribes in remote and inaccessible parts of the forest areas and their mass conversion with the aid of foreign money were interpreted as intended to prepare the ground for a separate independent State on the fines of Pakistan.�

To start with, Christian missions put up a show of co-operation with the Committee.  But they realized very soon that the Committee was well-informed and meant business.  �The authorities and members of the Roman Catholic Church cooperated with the Committee in their exploratory tours in Raigarh, Surguja, Bilaspur, Raipur and Nimar districts.  Shri G. X. Francis, President of the Catholic Regional Council, and Shri P. Lobo, Advocate, High Court, Nagpur, associated themselves with the Committee.  But subsequently the Catholic Church withdrew its co-operation, not only filing statement of protest, but also moving the High Court for a Mandamus Petition (Miscellaneous Petition No. 263 of 1955).�

The Petition was dismissed by the High Court on April 12, 1956, �holding that it was within the competence of the State Government to appoint a fact-finding Committee to collect information and that there had been no infringement of any fundamental rights of the petitioner.� At the same time the High Court made some adverse remarks about certain questions in the Questionnaire.  The Committee considered the remarks and �informed the petitioner and the public that none of the questions represented either the views of the Committee or any individual member thereof and our anxiety to have information on various points was due to our desire to find out to what extent, if any, could any activity be considered to infringe the limits of public order, morality and health imposed by the Constitution.�

The Report of the Committee, published in July 1956, presented the �history of Christian missions with special reference to the old Madhya Pradesh and Merged States.� Coming to the agitation for Jharkhand, it gave the background.  �The separatist tendency,� it said, �that has gripped the mind of the aboriginals under the influence of the Lutheran and Roman Catholic Missions is entirely due to the consistent policy pursued by the British Government and the Missionaries.  The final segregation of the aborigines in the Census of 1931 from the main body of the Hindus considered along with the recommendations of the Simon Commission which were incorporated in the Government of India Act, 1935 apparently set the stage for the demand of a separate State of Jharkhand on the lines of Pakistan.�

The subsequent formation of the Adiwasi Mahasabha and the Jharkhand Party followed in stages as the separatist forces gathered strength.  �This attempt of the Adiwasis,� observed the Report, �initiated by the Christian section thereof is a feature which is common to the developments in Burma, Assam and Indo-China among the Karens, Nagas and Amboynes.  This is attributed to the spirit of religious nationalism awakened among the converted Christians as among the followers of other religions.  But the idea of change of religion as bringing about change of nationality appears to have originated in the Missionary circles� Thus while the Census officer isolates certain sections of the people from the main bodies, the Missionaries by converting them give them a separate nationality so that they may demand a separate State for themselves.�

Next, the Report considered �Christian postwar world policy,� and quoted from several Christian sources.  The aim of this policy in India was threefold: �(1) to resist the progress of national unity� (2) to emphasise the difference in the attitude towards the principle of coexistence between India and America� (3) to take advantage of the freedom accorded by the Constitution of India to the propagation of religion, and to create a Christian party in the Indian democracy on lines of the Muslim League ultimately to make out a claim for a separate State, or at least to create a �militant minority�.�

The newly adopted Constitution of India, according to the Committee, had encouraged the controllers of Christian missions in Europe Ad America to concentrate on India.  �Although Europe itself,� observed the Report, �required �re-Evangelisation and re-Christianisation� because of the spread of the Gospel of Communism according to Marx, the W.C.C. and I.M.C. turned their attention to India and other colonial countries.  They were encouraged by the promulgation of our Constitution which set up a secular State with liberty to propagate any religion in the country.  They noted that the Churches in India were growing steadily in number partly by natural increase, partly from evangelisation and that the mass or community movements to Christianity did not die out though slowed down, but that the spiritual life of the congregation was low and that the Indian Church lacked economic maturity.  Though India has the most highly organised National Christian Council it had to be largely paid for from abroad.  Even the institutional activities of Missions, viz., schools, colleges and hospitals were dependent upon foreign support.  Even the ordinary congregational life and pastoral duty still required some form of foreign aid.�

The Report surveyed the state of religious liberty in various countries in the past and at present.  It cited High Court judgements in India to the effect that religious liberty is �not an absolute protection to be interpreted and applied independently of other provisions of the Constitution.� Then it turned to �missionary activities in Madhya Pradesh since independence as disclosed by oral and documentary evidence.� This was the most substantial as well as the most revealing part of the Report.  It laid bare what the Christian Missions had been doing not only in Madhya Pradesh but all over India in the name of exercising religious liberty.

There was a detailed account of �how this programme of mass proselytisation was inspired and financed by foreigners� and how the paid pracharaks of various missions had canned out in the rural and tribal areas.  The pracharaks were particularly noticeable in the erstwhile Native States which had kept missionary operations under control before their merger in Madhya Pradesh.  �It is thus indisputably clear,� recorded the Report, �that financial assistance from abroad had been extended in far more liberal manner than even before the Constitution of India was promulgated, and that it is mainly with this help that Mission organisations are carrying on proselytisation amongst backward tribes, especially in areas freshly opened.�

This greatly extended scale of missionary operations was dressed up ideologically in a new theological concept.  �It may be recalled,� commented the Report, �that the expression �Partnership in Obedience� came into vogue at the meeting of the Committee of the International Missionary Council held at Whitby in 1947 (page 94, World Christian Handbook, 1952) and it has a bearing on the expression �need of particular churches to be rooted in the soil and yet supranational in their witness and obedience� (page 29, ibid.). These particular churches are in the old Mission fields �which are touched by new nationalisms independent in temper and organisation and yet needing help from other churches� (page 29, ibid.). The expression �Partnership in Obedience� was being interpreted variously and it was after discussion at a meeting of the Lutheran World Federation Executive and also of the Executive of the World Council of Churches held at Geneva in 1951, that it came to be interpreted as implying full and unreserved co-operation between the old and the younger churches in the effort of extending the Kingdom of God.� In plain language, the pompous proclamation meant that missions and churches in Europe and America which provided the finance would continue to plan, direct and control missionary activities in India.

The Report quoted Christian sources to show the extent to which Christianity in India was dependent on foreign finance.  Rolland Allan had written in his book, The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church, published in 1949, that �it is money, money everywhere, all the time, everything depends on money.� In another book, Missionary Methods: St. Paul�s or Our�s, published by the same author in 1953, he had felt �sad to sit and watch a stream of Christian visitors calling upon a Missionary and to observe that in nearly every case the cause which brings them is money.� Christianity in the Indian Crucible by Dr. E. Asirvatham had been published in 1955.  �One chief reason,� he had observed, �why Indian Christians in general still welcome foreign Missionaries is economy; it is an open secret that the Indian Church is not yet out of the swaddling clothes, so far as its economic support is concerned.  To give an extreme illustration only Rs. 6,000 of the total income of Rs. 1,12,500 of the National Christian Council of India� is from Indian sources and the rest comes from the Mission Boards abroad.� It was curious that Christianity was presented as a two-thousand years old banyan tree when it came to its right to spread its tentacles, and as a tender seedling when it came to its capacity for growing up on its own.

The Report provided details of how much had been contributed by which Western country to the total of Rs. 29.27 crores received by Christian missions in India from January 1950 to June 1954:

Amount in Rs.
Rest of Sterling Area
Aid from non-Sterling Area

The Report revealed that the bulk of this foreign money received ostensibly for maintaining �educational and medical institutions� was spent on proselytization.  �It has been contended,� said the Report, �that most of the amount is utilised for creating a class of professional proselytisers, both foreign as well as Indian.  We have not been able to get the figures of the salaries which the foreign Missionaries receive for their service in India.  Only Rev. Hartman (Amravati No. 1) was pleased to declare that his salary was 63 dollars per month paid from Rome, plus free quarters and vehicle allowance.  One can have some idea of the scale of salaries of American Missionaries from the fact that in the American Evangelical and Reformed Church there are 28 Missionaries on the India roll and under the head of Missionary salaries and appurtenances the figure comes to 90,072,23 dollars (American Evangelistic and Reformed Church Blue Book, 1955, pages 56,60).  They are supplied with well-furnished bungalows, and they command resources in vehicles and other things.� At the same time it noted a great disparity between the scales of salaries and allowances paid to foreign missionaries on the one hand and to their native mercenaries on the other.

There were 480 foreign missionaries working in Madhya Pradesh at that time.  Out of them as many as 236 were

VINDICATED BY TIME - The Niyogi Committee Report On Christian Missionary Activities

Sita Ram Goel
The Sunshine of �Secularism�
Rift in the Lute
Christian Missionary Activities Enquiry Committee, Madhya Pradesh
Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Tour Programmes of the Committee
District Raigarh
District Surguja
District Raipur
District Bilaspur
District Amravati
District Nimar
District Yeotmal
District Akola
District Buldana
District Mandla
District Jabalpur
District Chhindwara
Replies submitted by Shri J. Lakra
Replies to Questionnaire concerning the area covered by Jashpur, Khuria and Udaipur of the Raigarh district
Replies submitted by the Catholic Sabha of the Raigarh district Replies
Replies submitted by Shri Gurubachan Sing, Raipur
Replies submitted by Chairman and Secretary of the General Conference, Mennonite Mission in India, Saraipali, Raipur district
Replies submitted by Rev. Canon, R. A. Kurian, Nagpur
Replies submitted by Rev. E. Raman, President, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Madhya Pradesh, Gopalganj, Sagar
Replies submitted by Miss M. L. Merry, Khirkia R. S., Hoshangabad district, Madhya Pradesh
Replies submitted by Shri L. E. Hartman, Amravati Camp, Berar, Mission Bungalow, Amravati Camp, Berar
Replies submitted by Umri Mission Hospital, Umri, via Yeotmal, Madhya Pradesh
Replies submitted by Shri F. B. Lucas, President, Independent Christian Association, Yeotmal
Replies submitted by Shri R. W. Scott, Secretary, National Christian Council
Replies submitted by Dr. E. Asirvatham, Nagpur
Replies submitted by Shri P. S. Shekdar, Khamgaon, district Buldana
Replies submitted by Shri Sohanlal Aggarwal, Secretary, Vedic Sanskriti Raksha Samiti.
Replies submitted by Shri T. Y. Dehankar, President, Bar Association, and six others of Bilaspur
Replies submitted by Shri M.N. Ghatate, Nagpur Sangh Chalak.
Replies submitted by Shri R. K. Deshpande, Pleader, Jashpurnagar
Correspondence of Roman Catholics with the Committee, the state government and the Central Government
Extracts from Catholic Dharma ka Pracharak and other pamphlets showing the methods of propaganda
Short History of Chhattisgarh Evangelical Mission
Camp: Raipur (22-7-1955)
Camp Bilaspur (25-7-1955)
Raigarh (28-7-1955)
Jashpur (22-11-1955)
Jabalpur (8-8-1955)
Sagar (11-8-1955)
Mandla (15-8-55)
Khandwa (17-8-55)
Yeotmal (10-8-55)
Camp Amravati (13-8-1955)
Washim (16-8-1955)
Buldana 18-8-1955
Malkapur (20-8-1955)
Nagpur (20-9-1955)
Camp Ambikapur (19-11-1955)
Activities of Christian Missions in the Eastern States and proselytism in the Udaipur State by the Jesuit Mission