Replies submitted by Dr. E. Asirvatham, Nagpur
To - The Secretary, Christian Missionaries Activities Enquiry Committee, Nagpur, Madhya Pradesh.
Since I am not a mission or Church employee I am not in a position to give a precise answer to most of the questions asked. Therefore, I shall give my reaction to the questionnaire in general terms. Wherever possible I shall also answer the questions, according to their serial number.
The general impression created on me by the questionnaire is that it is a prejudiced one. Thus, Question 4 only wants to know the number of conversions from the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes to Christianity. Fairness demands that a similar question should have been asked on the conversion or re-conversion (sometimes said to be forcible) of such people back to Hinduism from Christianity.
Question 8 is another prejudiced question. It carries with it several insinuations. For myself, I know several Christian missionaries and Christians in general who engage themselves in educational, medical, and social work without any thought of conversion at all. They render these services because of religious, moral, and humanitarian impulses. There must be many like me among Indian Christians and foreign missionaries to whom the question of salvation and conversion from one religious faith to another is not half as important as a redeemed life which expresses itself in a life of honesty, purity, manliness and service.
It is a fact that in the past Hinduism did not interest itself very much in the welfare of the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. Christian missionaries took an interest in these people primarily for their own sake. It was also their belief that by becoming Christians they would have a distinct all-round improvement. Question No. 8 makes it appear that Christian missionaries are ravenous wolves out for the flesh of innocent lambs. The fact of the matter is that many of them are impelled by religious reasons to seek to improve the material conditions of people. Christianity, more than any other religion, believes in changing man�s environment through effecting in him an inner change,
There are some missionaries who allow their zeal to get the better of their discretion. Among the more narrow and exclusive denominations which all the time talk about conversion, �the blood of Christ�, etc., there are those who are even more opposed to liberal groups of Christians whose numbers are considerable, than they may be to non-Christian faiths. There is nothing morally wrong with regard to (a) to (h) under 8. One wonders whether proportionate to their numbers, there are as many Hindus and Hindu organizations engaging themselves in these activities which are represented as blackmarks against Christians.
My general answer to Qtiestion.9 is that very few of the privileged classes turn to Christianity or any other non-Hindu faith from Hinduism. The reason is that there is not the same social and economic urge as in the case of the under-privileged. Another reason is that some at least fail to turn to the light which they may have seen dimly. If there were �rice Christians� in the past, it is possible that there will be an increasing number of �rice Hindus� in the future, refusing to change their loyalties because of the fear that by so doing they would lose certain opportunities and advantages which are theirs by virtue of their belonging to the majority community. Hindus will do more good to themselves and to the country, if instead of spending so much time in reading motives into the conduct of others, they will adopt concerted efforts in bringing about a radical economic and social improvement of the people around them, especially of the underprivileged.
9. I know of several cases. My own father was one. He lost, rather than gained, materially by becoming a Christian.
11. Sometimes yes; if the iniquities and humiliations visited upon them by Hindus in the past have driven the iron into their souls.
This question is not a question on foreign missionaries. It goes beyond the terms of reference in seeming to question the loyalty of Christians. For myself I am more loyal to my country than I might have been if I were not striving to be a Christian. I value highly the best elements in Indian culture and am eager that India should take her rightful place in the family of nations. But I am not a jingoist nor a chauvinist. My motto is �prove all things and hold fast that which is good.� There must be many like me among Indian Christians.
13. No one in a secular India has a right to offend the religious susceptibilities of another. But I can imagine it being done both by Christians and non-Christians. Even Dr. Radhakrishnan speaks disparagingly of �a bachelor Christ�, �Virgin Mary�, etc., which may offend the susceptibilities of some Christians.
Probably the ones among Christians who offend the religious susceptibilities of others are the ignorant and those who are �professional� and �mercenary� preachers as against the intelligent and honorable ones.
14-18. As a rule, the Christian village preacher is not well equipped for his task, either intellectually or spiritually. But he probably compares favorably with the village priest or purohit. Attempts are being made all the time by the more enlightened missions and Churches to improve the quality of their workers. This fact can be verified by visiting Christian theological schools and training centres and by comparing conditions as they are today with what they were a generation ago.
21. I know of no such person. If there is one, he is not worthy of the name which he bears. In all these matters, in India particularly, people circulate rumours of all kinds, without trying to verify facts. There is not much attachment to veracity.
22. The fairs in which I have taken part are religious and social. fairs. Quite often they are for the purpose of raising funds for some worthy object or another.
23. This is a vague and irrelevant question. Everybody makes reference to Government practically every day because it impinges on one�s daily life. Why single out missionaries and Pracharaks?
In many churches prayer is offered for Divine guidance for those who control the political destiny of India.
25. Should have come right after Question 4 and Question 5.
I do not know of any case of breach of peace by Christians or of peace being endangered by Christians. But I have occasionally heard of some extremists among Hindus coming within the limits of this charge.
26. In general it is the other way round-Boycott of Christians by non-Christians.
27. This is irrelevant. A Christian like anybody else has a right to belong to any political party which is not disallowed by the Government.
30. I have heard of several cases of discrimination against village Christians as regards scholarship facilities, use of village wells, allotment of land, etc. I am told that Christians in villages are at times harassed by. Hindu officers, especially the petty ones.
31. Many Christians, I am sorry to say, are not yet political-minded; and some are undoubtedly communal-minded. They live in a world of fantasy which they have built around themselves.
32 and 33. Undoubtedly yes.
34. If this be true, I deprecate it.
37. Recently the National Christian Council raised considerable amounts of money for the relief of flood victims in Bihar and elsewhere.
39. The educational, social, and humanitarian service which missions render is the surest way of missionaries identifying themselves with the Indian people. If one does not like their religious emphasis, one is free to ignore it.
40. This is another loaded question. I follow Indian traditions and culture so far as they conform to canons of reason. commonsense. and morality. I do not subscribe to the totemistic notion that any animal is sacred in the sense in which God is sacred. I refuse to identify Hindu culture with Indian culture. I have much to learn from Western culture in such simple matters as honesty and truthfulness, manliness and courage, co-operation. civic-mindedness, and public and business honesty. True culture is not bound by East or West. North or South.
41. Some customs they give up; some customs they should retain; some they should throw overboard such as uncle-niece marriage, the dowry system, unequal rights of men and women, polygamy, etc. Certain Indian customs with regard to simplicity of life and standards, Indian dress, and passive qualities of character such as meekness and forbearance they, should retain. There is no reason to throw the baby with the bath water.
61. An unnecessary question. Why should any government officer visit a mission centre in particular in his official capacity? If his work requires him to visit a person or place, he should do so irrespective of the person or place visited being Christian or non-Christian.
62. This is undue interference with one�s fundamental rights. Why should a private organization make its proceedings public? If the Government has reasonable suspicion that anything illegal, unconstitutional, immoral or harmful is being done or contemplated, it can take necessary action through the usual channels open to it.
64. I am told that some of the small narrow Christian sects have come in larger number since 1947 in comparison with the more firmly established and liberally inclined Christian groups.
66 and 68. I would regard as falling, outside the scope of the present enquiry. Why should the view of any Indian Christian in particular be of any interest to anybody on such matters as linguistic states? Personally, I consider that linguistic states in general are not in the best interest of India. They are bound to encourage fissiparous tendencies. Indian genius in the past has been to divide and sub-divide everything until there is nothing left to divide. Narrowness of outlook and vision is still one of our besetting sins.
70. My general impression is that Christian hospitals are increasingly ministering to the needs of the poor and helpless, as against the more well-to-do. If there are cases of patients being persuaded to change their religion when they are lying helpless on a sick bed, I deprecate it. If some of them, after seeing the deeds of kindness and mercy of some Christians, decide to change their faith, after leaving the hospital, no one has a right to question it.
72. I have known of patients being obliged to take part in Christian prayers. It is perfunctory and meaningless. If the practice still continues, I object to it. But I have no reason to object to prayers and religious services which one may attend purely voluntarily. �Are favours shown to those who attend prayers� the question, as well as the practice if true, is childish.
74, 75 and 77. I do not understand the reason for any of these questions.
84. I deprecate compulsory religious instruction. �Compulsory religion� is equal to �no religion�
85. Non-Christian parents sending children to Christian schools should make their own arrangement outside the school for religious instruction in their particular religions. The same will be true of Christian children studying in non-Christian institutions.
91. If some mission boarding schools are obliged to cater exclusively or largely to Christian boys and girls because of shortage of funds or because of the difficulty of catering to different groups with different food, habits and inhibitions, I see no objection to it.
93. I will be the first to give my approval to the repatriation of missionaries if there is a reasonable suspicion that they are disloyal to India and steadily work against her interests. I am sure that this charge cannot be truthfully brought up against a great majority of them. If some indulge in an insidious comparison of religions, extolling their own religion or their particular brand of Christianity, I shall allow the effects of its to undermine by an enlightened public opinion. In many cases, the very absurdity of a proposition is enough to destroy it in the long run.
94. Religion and culture are closely intertwined especially in India. I shall embrace whatever is rational, universal, and esthetic in the cultures of all. The only features that I shall reject are those which are unreasonable and anti-deluvian or which stand in the way of India�s progress. An Indian Christian who is rooted in the culture of his country is likely to much more broad-minded than the average Hindu who is the victim of age-long customs and inhibitions and who combines intellectual tolerance with social intolerance.
95 and 96. All religious instruction and worship services in Christian schools and hospitals should be completely on a voluntary basis.
97. Right through the questionnaire the term �propaganda� is used ill its ugly sense. Every word which one utters, and every spoken or unspoken attitude which a person adopts can be regarded as forms of propagation. Mahatma Gandhi was a great propagandist, in the good sense of the term. Malicious propaganda is wrong. But the sharing of one�s deepest experiences and convictions does not come under this category. Propaganda may be one-sided and even caricaturist in nature. But �propagation� is not open to such a criticism.
I do not know what some Hindus stand to gain by picking on a generally inoffensive, law-abiding, and progressive community like the Indian Christian community. Some people are incapable of learning from past mistakes. This is true of a good many in India. It is the intransigent attitude of some Hindus in the past which helped to bring about the partition of India. Would to God that they would wake rip in time before bringing further calamities to the country by their exclusiveness and adherence to outmoded ideas and social patterns.
Professor of Political Science.
Nagpur, March 7, 1956.