It is indeed ironic that the majority Hindu community, which accounts for 78.80% of India’s population, seems to be much vary of Christians, who are merely 2.30% in the country.
In recent times we have seen how several anti-Christian measures have been taken both by the Centre and state governments, which include steps like cancellation of FCRA registrations of NGOs run by Christians, anti-conversion laws and interference in norms of running institutes.
More worrying and disturbing are the attacks on Christians and Churches by certain anti-Christian vigilantes, while the system maintains a selective silence. One of the recent allegations has been that of “forceful conversion” by Christian missionaries, and the use of schools and colleges to convert people.
While all of the above mentioned issues are easily manoeuvrable in mainland India, where Christian population is scanty, in the Christian-dominated states of North-east region, different tactics are being adopted to ensure that the community is constantly under pressure.
In early 2022, two pro-RSS Scholars – Ratan Sharda and Yashwant Pathak – released a book title “Conflict Resolution the RSS Way”, published by Garuda Prakasan. The book, as the title suggests, was published supposedly to highlight how the RSS had played their role in resolving conflict situations in some parts of India.
However, in the chapters that talk of North-east India, the book squarely blames Christians and Churches for unrest in some states of the region. The authors went as far as concluding that the conflicts between tribal groups were fuelled by the Churches.
The findings, one must say, lacks the character of an objective scholarly inquiry, because it failed to touch upon the valuable contributions of the Churches and the constructive roles they played not only to end conflict, but also prevent violence that took place unabated.
It appears that the authors had a preconceived notion of building a narrative about Christianity as the sole reason for disturbance in the North-east region.
The latest in this series of attempts to malign and divide Christians in the region came in the form of a Christian platform called ‘North East Christian Forum’, which the United Christian Forum of North East India (UCFNEI), an ecumenical body of Christians in the region expressed strong reservations to.
The Nagaland Joint Christian Forum (NJCF), one of the constituents of UCFNEI, had also issued a statement stating that the intentions of forming such an organisation was a matter of suspicion, since people behind this move did not consider it necessary to take Churches in the region into confidence.
The statement even went on to state that the word ‘Christian’ was used to confuse the people of the region where the Church remains strong and united.
In the backdrop of recent campaigns by forces striving to ensure India’s unity through similarity rather than diversity, the theme it chooses, “Call to oneness” also raised eyebrows as it appears to be a well calculated move.
More so, the Chief patron of the newly formed forum is well-known for his anti-Christian stance, being a long-time pracharak of the RSS.
In the last few months, allegations of forced conversion have also attained higher decibels. From the usual narratives of converting people through intimidation, allurement and inducement, divisive agents are now speaking of intensified conversions through Christian institutes.
Though there will be a few takers to such allegations, it is necessary to remind them that except in the Christian-dominated hill districts of the North-east region, 60% to 70% of students in Christian schools and colleges are non-Christians.
And with the values they imbibe and the quality of education they receive from these centres of learning, these men and women excel in their respective fields, and have brought laurels for the country.
One must also point out that despite having spent years in Christian schools and colleges, these men and women still remain proud Hindus, Muslims or Sikhs and continue to be part of the colourful mix of India.
Also, people who consider Christian institutes to be centres of conversion need to be reminded that some of the tallest leaders of the Bhartiya Janata Party – LK Advani, JP Nadda, Dr.Jayashakar, late Arun Jaitley, to name a few, had all studied in Christian institutes.
However, none of them converted to Christianity and neither did they hold any special bias to the community. Where then is the question of Christian schools and colleges converting their students?
The Church in India is a visible community of lawful citizens of our country. The members of the Church are first Indians and then Christians. As Indian citizens, Christians too enjoy the same Constitutional safeguards, and are also duty-bound just like any other in the country.
Therefore, what Christians have contributed to the region in the field of education, health and other social sectors must be viewed as a component of the overall build-India initiative.
It is not an achievement of Christians in isolation, but part of collectively moving the country forward. It must not be mistaken that in order to realize Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dream of a “Naya Bharat”, the same commitment and devotion of Christian community to the national cause shall be necessary, particularly in the sensitive region of North-east India.
Compassionate hand-holding therefore, will do more good to the country than view Christian community through the prism of suspicion.
It also needs mentioning that Christians were no less ecstatic when India ultimately shook off the foreign rule in 1947 and became an independent nation.
Immediately after India declared herself a ‘Republic’, Bishop Lakdasa of Calcutta – one of the tallest Christian leaders at the time – wrote, “The finest hour of Indian Christians came with independence and the writing of Constitution of the Republic. …. Christians fully trusted the principles of equality and justice that were enshrined in the Preamble of the Constitution and would need no special privileges, or safety clauses, to survive in a free India”.
In other words, the Christians’ pride as proud citizens of India was never in question, because they were never second to none. It is unfortunate that after75 years of independence, Christian patriotism is being questioned and this will only be detrimental to India’s interest.
(The Writer is the Editor of North East Catholic Research Forum Review. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Views expressed are personal)