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11 October, 2008

Writers voice concern over attacks on Christians

We write to express our anguish and outrage at the continuing brutalities visited upon Christian communities and places of worship in Orissa and Karnataka, and elsewhere in India, as well as at the pusillanimous attitude of our political leaders towards the perpetrators of these atrocities.

While the police have stood by and watched churches being desecrated and acts of assault and rape carried out, the Central Government has reacted vigorously only after representatives of the European Union expressed their concern. The perceived damage to India's international image should not be a greater concern than the actual damage that such violence causes to the inclusive, multi-religious and multi-ethnic character of Indian society.

This violence is a failure of our political institutions and of civil society. It is a consequence of our failure to uphold the principles of the rule of law, mutual understanding, and civil dialogue. Eventually, such violence does not remain confined to a few clearly targeted victims. Rather, it spreads to engulf and destroy the entire society that spawns it, as is evident in neighbouring Pakistan and Sri Lanka, for instance.

The worst contributors to this scenario are politicians who dream of electoral victory at the cost of social catastrophe. The powerful ideal of 'unity in diversity', which has held this country together for six decades, has been seriously imperilled by the use of religious and ethnic prejudice as a political weapon. Intolerance of those different from ourselves, and the abandoning of reasoned discussion to deal with differences, spells the end of the India for which the freedom struggle was waged.

More and more of us must come out and say clearly that we do not share the dreams of these cynical opportunists. Their India is not the India we dream of. The India we dream of is a just society, not an aggressive power.

We call upon the Indian Government to ensure that hate speech is outlawed from the domain of public discourse. We also call upon the Indian Government to outlaw those political parties which, directly or through their cohorts, promote communal discord and encourage violence. The rule of law implies that every citizen's life is sacred. Let the law act decisively to punish those who perpetrate the appalling crimes of pogrom and murder.

Girish Karnad

Salman Rushdie

Amitav Ghosh

Vikram Seth

Ramachandra Guha

Kiran Nagarkar

Amit Chaudhuri

Mukul Kesavan

Suketu Mehta

Ranjit Hoskote

Arundhathi Subramaniam

Sampurna Chattarji

Nancy Adajania

Shobhana Bhattacharji

Romesh Bhattacharji

Sridala Swami



Anonymous said...

Read that and comment sir. Sir, these missionaries are the real terrorists who start every violence in our country. and why you media men backing these anti-nationals and terrorists? are you getting paid by dollars?
Ask the missionaries to stop their fraudeulent techniques and sexual harassments and you too stop supprting their terror acts. then eveything will be normal. why blame VHP etc when the real militants are already in your own pot. ..the pot calling the kettle...

BHASKAR said...

Jairam (Anonymous), Nice to find you are back. Assuming that Christians abused Hindu gods, what the self-appointed defenders of Hindu gods did is still a heinous crime.
You may read this too:

Anonymous said...

Sir, Dont divert the topic hereand avoid the politics for the time being. You are just assuming the evil missionaries did the heineous crime when it is a reality. My question is why the media not reporting the real reasons behind the Orissa attacks? Why the media is biased and Ramachandra Guhas shay away from facts? Yes no one has the right to takelaw in his hands but when evil elements try to destroy the society by conversions...society will react. Evil should be defeated by all means and if media cannot see the truth, then it the media's fault.
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From:Hilda Raja
Date: Sat, Oct 11, 2008 at 5:29 PM
Subject: My response to 'Don't target converts'--Don't convert.

'Don't target Converts '(8th OctTOI) by Michael Pinto poses many
questions than it answers. No amount of provocation can justify
violence is easily said but humanly not easy to follow. All are not
Gandhians or Jesus to show the left cheek when slapped on the right.
Some countries follow a justice system which is based on 'eye for an

Aggressive policy of conversion followed by some fundamentalist
churches and fundamental Christians cannot justify taking law into
one's hand and no amount of provocation can justify violence is
correct theoretically and logically. But if such logic rules the
hearts and minds of men/women why is there so much of violence in the
world? Why do countries violate the rights of other countries? Why do
law makers turn into law breakers? Why do those in the Khaki who have
to operate the law on the streets become violators of human rights? In
the midst of such oppression, exploitation can we expect the people to
meekly be submissive and subservient? Or is the author's theory held
good only in the provocation rising in the business of conversion?

When Indira Gandhi was assassinated why thousands of Sikhs were
butchered in the capital? Was it not justified by the Congress party?
When the Brahmin pundits were killed and chased away from their homes
in the Valley and forced to become refugees in their own country under
ethnic cleansing no voices were raised against such an abuse and
violation? When a holy man held in great reverence was brutally
murdered with his three disciples in his own ashram will the author's
theory be strong enough to hold back the emotional, social, and
religious upheaval of the hurt psyche? Every action has a reaction.

When a nun is raped then all hell breaks loose-Daily children are
sexually violated and raped and murdered, no protest voice is heard
-no church rallies are held, no Archbishop/bishop rebukes Chief
Ministers and express
pain and anguish. And no EU raises the issue with the PM in a foreign
land. So Christians have global brokers and Christian lives become
sacred and the PM is accountable to foreign powers for their
safety.-the lives of others can be snuffed out without even a whimper.

What is the root cause of this warped perception but religion? This is
not to down play the rape of the nun but to point out that it is a
harsh world we are living in and to high light the discrimination in
our perception. Does a crime become more heinous because the victim
belongs to a particular religion? 'Terrorists do not belong to any one
community knows no religion', pontificates our political leaders. Is
this again reserved only when it comes to the terrorists of the
Minority community?

It must be said that violence is nurtured within
religious ghettos, madrassas, and only religions/beliefs are strong
enough to provoke and sanctify spilling of the blood of the innocents.
It is in the name of religion that the world had witnessed violence,
genocide, torture and oppression and a Talibanism justifying the
imposition of religious domination and curtailment of the rights of

It is a utopia that Michael Pinto is envisaging when he states that no
amount of provocation can justify violence. This is armchair wistful
thinking. When the Christians were oppressors this theory vanished.
The tables are turned and when there is an assertion of the Hindus to
retain their culture, their religion and their heritage then the drum
beating of the Constitutional guarantees is heard. It is the right of
the Hindus to protect the Hindu ethos of this country which they feel
is threatened.

Was Art 30 not enacted to ensure the Right of the
Minorities to establish manage and administer institutions to
safeguard their ethos? It is shocking that politicians are equating
the Bajrang Dal and the VHP with the SIMI. The latter is a terror
outfit with its branches now functioning in new names. The suspects
belonging to these outfits are involved in serial blasts all over the
country, they are trained in Pakistan and in POK .These are anti
outfits. What is the purpose/aim of these serial blasts-killing of
innocent people who are about their daily business? The aim is to
destabilize the country, create panic and insecurity and unrest within
the country. Why was Parliament targeted? And who were behind it?

the same cannot be said of Bajrang Dal and the VHP. They are
nationalists-they may be attacking a particular community for reasons
of their own- the root cause being forced conversion and a reaction to
the denigration of the Hindu gods and goddesses. Those involved in
such violence and criminal activities must be apprehended and brought
to justice. But where is the justification to demand a ban on such
outfits? This is indulging in vote bank politics.

Till date not a
single terrorists has been brought to justice. The reality of wars,
underworld dons killing, custodial deaths, political bosses unleashing
terror against their opponents are all part of the harsh reality of
today's world. Conversion from time immemorial has a concomitant violence.
Indian history is replete with it. The oppression, force, torture,
massacre of the Indians to convert them to Islam and Christianity is
not a fable. The Inquisition and all that it wrought is world record.
Again it is in the name of religion. What you sow you reap. Violence
begets violence-this is nature's order.

In 'Don't target converts' (TOI 8/10/08) the author finds it strange that converts are targeted in a country which constitutionally upholds the right to
preach and propagate one's religion. But then to preach and propagate
one's religion does not mean to force and use fraudulent means to
pressurize people to change from one religion to another. I am shocked
that in this context the author compares inducements like 'buy one and
get one free' in the market of commodities, to faith changing. If the
market goods can be sold with inducements why not it be extended to
faith and belief changing is the author's argument. Can faith and
belief be brought to the market level of sales of commodities? By this
analogy the author accepts that there is inducement.

Money is flowing
from foreign based churches and the gods of these churches need
recruits-the greater the strength the greater the power of these gods
and hence the brokers of these gods are all out
targeting the poor.The inducement-a plate of rice, a loaf of bread to
the hunger, shelter for the homeless, and also the promise of the
green pastures in the next world.The strategy has first an entry
point-first denigrate, abuse, degrade and demolished their gods and
icons. Second instill in these victims the doubt that their gods are
false and then promise to lead them to the true god.

A vulnerable
victim, with a vacuum inner self is then ready for the initiation into
a New Life/to be Born Again. The false propaganda is vicious because
of its attack on another religion. This kind of provocation is not
easy to overlook because human nature is to refute and repel this
atrocious slander/blasphemy. What will the author say if one prints
pamphlets that the mother of Jesus was a prostitute and Jesus' birth
was not a virgin birth? That after her marriage Joseph found her
pregnant and toyed with the idea of putting her away. Only the
intervention of an angel restrained him from taking such a drastic action. This is what
the bible narrates.

Will the Catholic Church and other fund churches
sit back and humbly submit to such provocation? When posters depicting
Jayalalitha as a Virgin Mary appeared in Chennai there were massive
rallies and protests. But if Madhuri Dixit is depicted as Durga and
the goddess is painted nude it comes under the freedom of expression
of a painter. Only difference is that the same painter will not dare
to let his artistic acumen and constitutional right to freedom of
expression to depict Allah even in the best form. This is how we
perceive the operation of guarantees/rights enshrined in our

If opting for a New Life/Born Again, demands discarding of one's
culture, social practices, adapting a western life style and adapting
western forms of worship then the convert becomes an alien to the
Indian/Hindu 'ethos', and is sucked into a process of alienation.
This has other ramifications. Why did East Timor break away from
Indonesia when its Christian population swelled to 27percent just in a
matter of ten years? Similarly in our own context the partition of
India was based on the theory that two religions-Islam and Hinduism
cannot co-exist as a nation-that was the contention of then Muslims

World history and Indian history is replete with the
experience that 'peace cannot co-exist with conversion. The reason
being conversion has an inbuilt violence: physical, psychological,
social and cultural. It may even abet one to be anti-national. At
times church laws and rules are in variance with national rules and
laws. The Christians and the Muslims have their own Personal laws. Whom will the
Christians take orders from-their respective church leaders or the
government of India when it comes to a national decision? When
loyalties of a person are divided and clash then there is the likelihood of
becoming a victim to schizophrenia. A leader from Kashmir proclaimed on
the floor of the Parliament that he is a Muslim and an Indian. No
Muslim/Christian will state, 'I am first an Indian and then a
Muslim/Christian'. One can change one's religion but not one's
nationality into which one is born.

Politicians too have abetted this
by not addressing citizens but focusing on communal/caste/religious
divide. Another aspect to be noted in the business of conversion is that
conversions are made even in proxy. A few years ago in Trichy district
of Tamilnadu a whole list of names were produced in paper and the
bishop of that evangelical church baptized them in absentia! Would
this qualify as conversion?

I belong to the Catholic Church and my
understanding of conversion is that it is a process-a life long search
for truth. Conversion is a private affair and not a street
tamasha-neither is it an activity intended to swell numbers.

It is not
that conversion is from one religion to another the Fundamentalist
churches poach on the grounds of other Christian sects. So the Jesus
of one church is different from the Jesus of another. This creates
also distrust and disharmony among the Christian community. Freedom is
always accompanied by restrictions. Freedom is restricted when it
encroaches the freedom of others and of a whole society. Rights are
not hierarchically. When conversions are a threat to peace then it needs to be banned.
Like the curfew order-the ban to strike etc.

The million dollar
question is why conversion? Is it a prerequisite for development work?
Why are the foreign agencies funding conversion activities?
It is strange that the fundamental Christians and the churches to
which they belong do not turn their attention and energy in this
salvation ensuring business to the Muslims. Development and upliftment
of the poor is the camouflage of evangelization all the more why the
need for the churches to work with the Muslims. Because according to
Sachar report the Muslims are the lowest in India-both economically
and educationally. Is it not strange that not a single Muslim has been

According to Michael Pinto the Christian population has
fallen from 2.6 percent in 1971 to 2.3 percent in 2001.This does not
mean that lakhs are not converted by the hundreds of fundamental
churches that have mushroomed in the country. Today we are one billion
so what does the 2.3 indicate in absolute numbers? When one reviews
numbers a few other indicators must also be listed-Christians follow
Family planning, the celibacy of nuns and priests, and the fact that
most of the converts for the sake of reservation and other benefits retain the
religion and the caste in which they were born on records. Conversion
has been commercialized by the fundamentalistic churches.

The number
of converts is co-related to the quantum of funds that flow in. This
must not be overlooked. Why not ban foreign funds and watch how
evangelization evaporates? All laws have their accompanying
lacunae/loopholes and difficulties in implementation, do we on such
grounds fight shy of enacting laws? Conversions must be banned to
ensure peace and harmony. Let us give peace a chance-for peace and
conversion cannot co-exist.
Dr. Hilda Raja
(Former member of the National Advisory committee of the Catholic Bishops Conference in India)