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Replies submitted by the Catholic Sabha of the Raigarh district Replies

Replies submitted by the Catholic Sabha of the Raigarh district Replies

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.

I am,

Yours faithfully,

(Illegible),

President, Catholic Sabha of Raigarh district, 
Ginabahar, Kunkuri P. O.,
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�.

INTRODUCTORY

1. What is the total population of Christians and non-Christians- 
(a) Scheduled Castes, (b) Scheduled Tribes, and (c) Others-in your district in 1947, 1951 and 1954, respectively?

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.

CONVERSIONS

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 officials
(2) The Adivasi Welfare Department
(3) The All-India Vaidik Shuddhi Samaj of a certain Swami Ramanuj Saraswati;
(4) The Arya Samaj; and
(5) Certain Christian Missions.

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 used?:-
(a) Advancing loans.  If so, what are the terms on which loans are advanced?
(b) Promising or providing free medical facilities?
(c) Giving free education to children?
(d) Promising help in litigation?
(e) Promising relief from social disabilities suffered in ancestral religion or class, and a better social status as Christians?  
(f) Offering employment?
(g) Holding out hopes of better marriages and greater social freedom?
(h) Extolling Christianity and foreign culture?
(i) Threatening danger of damnation to unconverted souls?
(j) Extolling Jesus Christ and decrying non-Christian deities?
(k) Holding out hopes of political advantage?
(l) Threatening social boycott and harassment?
(m) Other fraudulent and unfair means?

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.

Non-Christian agencies:

(1) The police and certain officials;
(2) The Adivasi Welfare Department;
(3) The All-India Vaidik Shuddhi Samaj of Swami Ramanuj Saraswati, helped by a certain Boko Sardar, and Shri R. K. Deshpande, Pleader, under the auspices of the Ram Rajya Parishad; and
(4) The Arya Samaj.

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). 

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

Sita Ram Goel
Chapters
Preface
The Sunshine of �Secularism�
Rift in the Lute
Christian Missionary Activities Enquiry Committee, Madhya Pradesh
Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Appendices
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
Questionnaire
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)
(22-8-1955)
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