By R L Francis
Union Minister Jairam Ramesh speaks to his heart and he has mastered the art of calling spade a spade. He even invites some controversy unwillingly because of his nature. Recently, while addressing a gathering of bishops, fathers, catholic nuns in a golden jubilee celebration of Caritas India, an organization which claims of working for the rehabilitation of people affected from natural calamities.
He stressed on the need to respect ‘Lakshman Rekha’ by Church sponsored organizations active in various parts of country. Minister even invited Caritas to play an active role in the development of naxal affected regions. He even said that his apt comment with regards to Caritas was not for catholic organization rather it was for Caritas as a social organization.
Union Minister Jairam Ramesh praised the positive role played by Ramkrishna Mission in the Narainpur district of Chhattisgarh. He said that Caritas India can work hand in glove with Rural Affairs Ministry. But, they should avoid conversion related activities.
Next day news from valley vindicates a similar dimension of ‘Lakshman Rekha’. A local Shariayat court gave a verdict of ‘No-Entry’ for Pastor C M Khanna, Ghayoorr Messiah, Chandrakanta Khanna, and Father Jim Bhorst. Local court has also told them that the church schools should provide Islamic education to students. There were allegation of conversion of Muslim youths on C M Khanna, father of Srinagar based All India Centre Church. He was also sent to jail under section 153 (A) & 295(A). These sections are applicable on destroying harmony between two communities.
The general sentiment in the valley has turned against Christian missionary schools. Mirwaij Umar Farooqu, leader of liberal camp of Hurriyat Conference with the help of maulvis and other influential Islamic leaders established ‘Tahaffuj-e-Islam’ to fight such anti-Islamic forces. They termed missionary schools as a hub of conversion related activities and even demanded for complete ban on any education which goes against basic tenets of Islamic principles. Kashmiri leadership always keeps alert ears on conversion. Few years ago, Church had to give proper justification after a report published in English newspaper. But, this time matter has taken serious turn. As news emanating from valley, some of the separatist leaders have even tried to forge a unity between Gilani and Mirwaiz on the issue of conversion. They have agreed to work together on this issue.
Peter Celestine Elampassery, Bishop of Catholic Archdiocese and Bishop P K Samantaroy from church of North India (CNI) Amritsar diocese have requested government to intervene in the matter. Population of Christians in the valley is feeble whereas some population exists in Kathua region of Jammu. Few years ago, in a documentary titled ‘In the search of self-respect’ broadcast by Prasar Bharti-has exposed the sorry state of converted Christians in India. There has not been much change in their life even after conversion. Most of them are working as low-paid sanitation employees. On the other hand Church in the region owns huge resources.
Comments of Jairam Ramesh assume serious significance in this regard. Union and state governments are quite eager to use these resources for the welfare of people. Nobody in India has any objection regarding welfare activities of Church. But, problem starts the moment it interferes with other faith under the garb of welfare. Indian constitution allows everybody to follow his or her belief. It also allows propagation of the religion. But, it does not allow attack on other religion. There is a thin line between welfare activities and conversion. This thin line is called ‘Lakshman Rekha’.
Church has immensely grown in tribal regions. Those tribes have adopted Christianity have distanced themselves from parent tribes. Now, their relationships are on the verge of termination. Hostility has replaced bonhomie among them. And the result is: Gruesome murder of Graham Stains and his two innocent children and violence in Kandhamal. Even Supreme Court has warned on crossing the Lakshman Rekha.
Church is trying to create favorable work atmosphere in the naxal affected areas. An article published in an English daily dated June 7, 2010 indicated about this motive. The article was written by spokesperson of Delhi Catholic Archdiocese. The article subtly gave credit of all the good work done in North-East to Church and requested RSS to create positive atmosphere for development.
RSS and Church are two organizations that have immense reach in the far-flung tribal regions. They have organized structure and have active volunteers. RSS has consistently opposed conversion in the tribal region. Few years ago, when Jharkhand governor had made a plan to distribute food-grains for BPL people and the onus was handed to Church. This had created furor in the state and government had to retreat from this decision. Not only Hindus even Muslims and Sikhs have opposed the conversion. After Minakshipuram incident Muslim conversion has subdued. But, Christian missionaries are still active on this front. Despite growth in Christian population, the Dalit Christians are unhappy because of the Church attitude.
A national magazine has revealed the systematic game-plan of Conversion by Church. More than 4,000 missionary groups are active in India and they are active in creating fertile ground for conversion. One percent population of Christians in Tripura has reached to 13,000. The growth in population is more than 90 percent.
Conversion severely affects culture, language and social structure. In Central Asia conversion is now political issue. Even Islam favours conversion but the pace with which Christianity is expanding is quite amazing. Demographic figures change world and religious conflicts makes the matter worse for the humankind.