Tag Archives: Christianity

Religion, Marxism and Slumdog

François Gautier
Source: Express buzz

First Published : 16 Mar 2009 02:09:00 AM IST
Last Updated : 16 Mar 2009 09:35:52 AM IST

WHY did a film like Slumdog Millionaire, which conveys an utterly negative image of India — slums, exploitation, poverty, corruption, anti Muslim pogroms — create so many waves in the West, pre and post Oscars? And why does not the Indian government protest, as the Chinese would indeed have, for a twisted and perverted portrayal of its own reality? There are several answers: When the missionaries began to evangelise India, they quickly realised that Hinduism was not only practised by a huge majority, but that it was so deeply rooted that it stood as the only barrier to their subjugating the entire subcontinent.

They therefore decided to demonise the religion, by multiplying what they perceived as its faults, by one hundred: caste, poverty, child marriage, superstition, widows, sati … Today, these exaggerations, which at best are based on quarter-truths, have come down to us and have been embedded not only in the minds of many Westerners, but also unfortunately, of much of India’s intelligentsia.

We Westerners continue to suffer from a superiority complex over the socalled Third World in general and India in particular. Sitting in front of our television sets during prime time news, with a hefty steak on our table, we love to feel sorry for the misery of others, it secretly flatters our ego and makes us proud of our so-called ‘achievements’.

That is why books such as The City of Joy by Dominique Lapierre, which gives the impression that India is a vast slum, or a film like Slumdog Millionaire, have such an impact.

In this film, India’s foes have joined hands. Today, billions of dollars that innocent Westerners give to charity are used to convert the poorest of India with the help of enticements such as free medical aid, schooling and loans.

If you see the Tamil Nadu coast posttsunami, there is a church every 500 metres. Once converted, these new Christians are taught that it is a sin to enter a temple, do puja, or even put tilak on one’s head, thus creating an imbalance in the Indian psyche (In an interview to a British newspaper, Danny Boyle confessed he wanted to be a Christian missionary when he was young and that he is still very much guided by these ideals — so much for his impartiality).

Islamic fundamentalism also ruthlessly hounds India, as demonstrated by the 26/11 attacks on Mumbai, which are reminiscent of the brutality and savagery of a Timur, who killed 1,00,000 Hindus in a single act of savagery.

Indian communists, in power in three states, are also hard at work to dismantle India’s cultural and spiritual inheritance. And finally, the Americanisation of India is creating havoc in the social and cultural fabric with its superficial glitter, even though it has proved a failure in the West. Slumdog plays cleverly with all these elements.

Many of the West’s India-specialists are staunchly anti-Hindu, both because of their Christian upbringing and also as they perpetuate the tradition of Max Mueller, the first ‘Sankritist’ who said: “The Vedas is full of childish, silly, even monstrous conceptions. It is tedious, low, commonplace, it represents human nature on a low level of selfishness and worldliness and only here and there are a few rare sentiments that come from the depths of the soul”.

This tradition is carried over by Indologists such as Witzel or Wendy Doniger in the US, and in France where scholars of the state-sponsored CNRS, and its affiliates such as EHESS, are always putting across in their books and articles detrimental images of India: caste, poverty, slums — and more than anything — their pet theories about ‘Hindu fundamentalism’.

Can there be a more blatant lie? Hinduism has given refuge throughout the ages to those who were persecuted at home: the Christians of Syria, the Parsees, Armenians, the Jews of Jerusalem, and today the Tibetans, allowing them all to practise their religion freely.

And finally, it is true that Indians, because they have been colonised for so long (unlike the Chinese) lack nationalism.

Today much of the intellectual elite of India has lost touch with its cultural roots and looks to the West to solve its problems, ignoring its own tools, such as pranayama, hata-yoga or meditation, which are very old and possess infinite wisdom.

Slumdog literally defecates on India from the first frame. Some scenes exist only in the perverted imagery of director Danny Boyle, because they are not in the book of Vikas Swarup, an Indian diplomat, on which the film is based. In the book, the hero of the film (who is not Muslim, but belongs to many religions: Ram Mohammad Thomas) does not spend his childhood in Bombay, but in a Catholic orphanage in Delhi. Jamal’s mother is not killed by “Hindu fanatics’, but she abandons her baby, of unknown religion, in a church. Jamal’s torture is not an idea of the television presenter, but of an American who is after the Russian who bought the television rights of the game. The tearful scene of the three children abandoned in the rain is also not in the book: Jamal and his heroine only meet when they are teenagers and they live in an apartment and not in a slum.

And finally, yes, there still exists in India a lot of poverty and glaring gaps between the very rich and the extremely poor, but there is also immense wealth, both physical, spiritual and cultural — much more than in the West as a matter of fact.

When will the West learn to look with less prejudice at India, a country that will supplant China in this century as the main Asian power? But this will require a new generation of Indologists, more sincere, less attached to their outdated Christian values, and Indians more proud of their own culture and less subservient to the West.

fgautier26@gmail.com

Redefining India

Francois Gautier

This is an article meant for my friends, the "fringe Hindus"; those who have
either espoused a Marxist outlook, or are, for their own good reasons,
strongly anti-Hindutva, or are neutral; as well as for the Muslim and
Christian minorities of India. 

When Jawaharlal Nehru came to power in 1947, he sincerely thought that some
of Marx's ideas could be put to use in India and help level the terrible
inequalities that existed within between the very rich and the poor, the
high castes and the low castes, the mighty and the helpless. The motive was
noble but, unfortunately, Indian socialism often made the rich richer and
the poor poorer and created a massive, inefficient and corrupt bureaucracy,
that any government today in power finds difficult to dismantle. Everywhere
in the world, communism and Marxism are defunct - even China has more or
less done away with it.	 

However, in India, not only does communism remain alive in West Bengal and
Kerala, it also remains firmly entrenched as a powerful idealism in the
minds of much of India's intelligentsia. Most of India's English language
mediapersons and journalists, many of the writers, historians and thinkers,
are sympathetic towards communist thought. Once again, there is nothing
wrong with that: Indians show, in a world racked with materialism and
cynicism, that they remain idealists, loyal and dedicated to selflessness
and seva, as the thousands of Indian NGO's still prove today.

Nevertheless, the world is changing, Asia is changing, and even India is
changing. We have to live with our times, especially after September 11,
2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, which radically altered the
outlook of most Western nations. What is going to happen in Gujarat on
December 12 is equally of paramount importance to the 850 million Hindus in
India, the nearly 1 billion Hindus worldwide, and the Christian and Muslim
Indian communities, as it might redefine their own outlook. Indeed, if the
BJP and Mr Narendra Modi win with a handsome margin, an intense intellectual
debate will be triggered in the country. We will hear cries of alarm,
disgust or worry on the part of the Western press, the Indian English
language Media and the intelligentsia, about "Hindu fanaticism taking over
India", or "the terrible direction that the results of this election seem to
portend for India".

But, once again my "fringe" Hindu brothers and sisters, as well as the
Christian and Muslim communities of India, should remind themselves than in
the entire Indian history, Hinduism has always shown that it is not
fundamentalist, that it accepts the others with their religions and customs
as long as they do not try to impose these beliefs on the majority
community. Indeed, in a recent report, UNESCO pointed out that out of 128
countries where Jews lived before Israel was created, only one, India, did
not persecute them and allowed them to prosper and practice Judaism in
peace.

Moreover, if under the intense and often bloody onslaught of Muslim
invasions and later of European colonialism, such as the Portuguese - which
committed untold atrocities in Goa - the Hindus did not lose their peace and
tolerance, why should they do so now? Also, Hinduism is probably the only
religion in the world which has never tried to convert others, or conquer
other countries to propagate itself as a new religion. The same is not true
of Islam and Christianity.

Thus, it would be good if the "fringe" Hindus and Indian Christian and
Muslims do some introspection and look into the real causes of the Gujarat
riots which followed the burning of the 58 kar-sevaks on the Sabarmati
Express. If Mr Modi wins, instead of accusing the BJP of fanaticism, or even
"Nazism", a people which gave to India and to the world Mahatma Gandhi,
unique textiles and a solid peaceful culture, it may indeed be time to call
a spade a spade and to stop burying one's head in the sand like an ostrich.

We see the Gujarat riots through the eyes of the Western press and the
Indian Media: "Hindu fundamentalists who went on the rampage", etc. But what
if Gujarat was the first sign that good, peaceful, non-violent, middle-class
and even lower-class Hindus have had it and that they are tired of being
made fun of, attacked, bombed, burnt, killed, their women raped, their
temples destroyed? What if, rightly or wrongly, it is the portent of things
to come, that the next time innocent Hindu women and children are targeted,
Hindus might be tempted to take an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, the
way Israel does at the official level? You may argue that it is a hateful,
mad and blind violence, but it is also true that Hindus have been at the
receiving end of Christians and Muslims attacks for centuries, that even
today 400,000 of them have been made to flee from their ancestral homes in
the valley of Kashmir.

Thus, our bother of sisters of Islam, most of whom are peaceful and
good-willing, have also to do a little bit of introspection. Every time
there is an attack on a Hindu temple, or a bombing, we accuse Pakistan or
the Al Qaeda. But none of these attacks could happen without the active
support of groups of Indian Muslims, as the Bombay blasts or Coimbatore
bombings have shown. In the same way, our Christian brothers and sisters
should think about this: The first community in the world, the Syrian
Christians, established themselves in Kerala in the first century and
prospered there in peace. At no time did the Hindus of Kerala try to impose
their own religious beliefs upon them, either by force or by allurements.

Is it right that the Indian Christian community today not only allows, but
often actively collaborates with, the foreign missionaries who are bent upon
making India a Christian kingdom, and are often using dubious economic
incentives to do so? Do not our brothers and sisters think that it is bound
to provoke sooner or later some kind of backlash and that the murder of
Graham Staines, however reprehensible, may have been a warning to
missionaries who convert by devious means, in the same way Gujarat riots
were a warning to the Muslims?

It may be true that the overwhelming majority of this country, which has
often been in minority morally, is waking up and trying to assert itself,
sometimes in an excessive and unforgivable manner. Yet, the fringe Hindus
and the Indian Muslims and Christians should not worry: India is a composite
society and it is a settled fact. Hindus, Christians, Muslims and other
minorities have to learn how to live together peacefully. There is no other
choice. And it will be done.

<http://www.dailypioneer.com/archives1/secon3.asp?cat=\opd1&d=OPED&fdnam=dec
1102>

White man’s burden?

By Francois Gautier
The Pioneer
Tuesday, November 12, 2002

Why do Indians have such an attraction towards white
skin? I am a White and a born Christian – but even after
more than 30 years in India, this attraction in its
people still baffles me. I have looked in my mind for
answers.

When I see Mr Bill Gates coming to give charity to the
poor and ignorant Indians, who do not know how to handle
sex and are on the way to becoming the largest AIDS
reservoir in the world, I wonder: Do Indians really
believe in what the White man says? Do they need a White
man to tell them what to do and what not to do? Actually
the funny thing is that this AIDS scare is an old trick
of hostile NGOs, Christian organisations and the enemies
of India. It is true that AIDS is the scourge of the 21st
century, the great black plague of our era. But more is
being made of it than is necessary, especially in the
Indian context.

World health organisations are fond of saying that India
has the largest population of HIV contaminated cases –
some even speak about 25 millions by 2010. But as every
one knows, AIDS spreads through three agents:
Homosexuality, hypodermic syringes of drug addicts and
prostitutes. Yet, whatever Deepa Mehta or Shabana Azmi
would like us to believe, homosexuality is not very
common in India’s villages, which comprise 80 per cent of
the population; one-sided homosexuality is a Western
phenomenon and it is brought to India by Westernised
Indians.

As for hard drug addiction, again it is not all that
common in Indian villages, except in some of the North-
East border states, many of which incidentally happen to
be Christian. The prostitutes carry the greatest threat
of spreading the disease, particularly in big cities like
Mumbai. Then in turn, those men who have contacted it
will bring it to the villages, when they have intercourse
with their wives. But 25 million AIDS cases?

Again, when I see the fascination that Indians – old and
young, rich and poor, whether from the Congress, the CPI
or even the BJP – have for Congress president Sonia
Gandhi, I wonder: Does India, one of the great ancient
civilisations, need a White woman to govern it? I am sure
she has great qualities, but are Indians so backward that
they cannot find amongst themselves someone intelligent
enough enough to lead them? And what about this craze for
Mother Teresa? She may have been a saint, but nobody has
harmed India’s image in the West as much in the 20th
century. When you mention India in the West, their eyes
light up and they say: “Mother Teresa/ Calcutta/ poor
people/ starving people/ who do not know how to care
after their own underprivileged/ who need a White woman
to show them how to pick-up those dying in the street and
to look after orphans.”

Is this the image that Indians needs today – one that is
harming them, which is stopping Western investors from
investing in India? Yet Mother Teresa is worshiped here,
from Calcutta to Chennai, and when she will be made a
saint by the Vatican, perpetuating this colonial,
superior-minded, Christian symbol of White superiority
over the Brown/Black man, the whole of Indian media will
rejoice in their own mental slavery and the Indian
Government will probably declare a national holiday!

Why don’t Indians understand that Brown is beautiful?
White people spend hours in the beach and put a hundred
cream and lotions to get tanned. Why this obsession in
Indian woman to have white skin? And why this growing
trend to colour their hair blonde? How come the two most
popular actors in India, Aishwarya Rai and Hrithik
Roshan, have very fair skins and blue eyes? Why this
craze about “fair” brides? If you find the answer to
that, you will understand the reason behind Indians’
fatal attraction towards Mr Bill Gates, Ms Sonia Gandhi
and Mother Teresa.

Obviously, colonisation has frozen the Indian mind in
certain patterns and the British made sure, through
Macaulay’s policies of leaving behind them an enduring
complex of inferiority amongst Indians, by constantly
harping on the flaws of Indian culture and inflating
them. This is why Indian intellectuals today repeat what
their masters said before: “Hindus are fundamentalists/
Brahmins are exploiters/ Golwalkar was a Nazi/ Indians
are corrupt and no good.” But that does not explain
everything: Most colonised countries have aped their
masters after having hated them. No, in my mind the
greatest factor behind India’s love of the White is the
absurd theory of Aryan invasion.

According to this theory, which was actually devised in
the 18th and 19th century by British linguists and
archaeologists, the first inhabitants of India were good-
natured, peaceful, dark-skinned shepherds called the
Dravidians, who had founded what is now known as the
Harappan or the Indus Valley civilisation. They were
supposedly remarkable builders: Witness the city of
Mohenjo-Daro in Sind. But they had no culture to speak
of, that is to say no literature, no proper script even.
Then, around 1500 BC, India is said to have been invaded
by tribes called the Aryans: white-skinned, nomadic
people, who originated somewhere in Western Russia and
imposed upon the Dravidians the hateful caste system. To
the Aryans are attributed Sanskrit, the Vedic-Hindu
religion, India’s greatest spiritual texts, the Vedas, as
well as a host of subsequent writings, like the
Upanishads.

This was indeed a masterstroke on the part of the
British: Thanks to the Aryan invasion theory, they showed
on the one hand that the Indian civilisation was not that
ancient and that it was secondary to the cultures which
influenced the Western world, and that whatever good
things India had developed had been as a result of the
influence of the West. Thus, Sanskrit, instead of being
known as the mother of all Indo-European languages,
became just a branch of their huge family; thus, the
religion of Zarathustra is said to have influenced
Hinduism, and not vice versa.

On the other hand, it divided India and pitted its people
against each other, rifts which still endure. Yet, most
recent archaeological and linguistic discoveries point
out that there never was an Aryan invasion and many
historians, including Romila Thapar, are distancing
themselves from it. Yet, most Indians still believe in
this absurd theory.

It is time for you Indians to wake up. You are as great,
if not greater, than the White man. You can do as well,
if not better, than the White man. Not only did your
forefathers devise some of the basic principles of
mathematics, astrology, or surgical medicine, not only
are your people today amongst the most brilliant in the
world – half of Silicon valley is of people of Indian
origin; 30 per cent of UK’s doctors are Indians – but you
still hold within yourselves a unique spiritual
knowledge, which once roamed the world, but which has now
disappeared, replaced by the intolerant creed of the two
major monotheistic religions, which say: “If you don’t
believe in my true God, I will either kill you or convert
you.” Wake-up India. Brown is beautiful, smart and it is
the future.

India: A weakening civilisation

India: A weakening civilisation

July 28, 2008
Since time immemorial smaller nations without a strong soul, or which are on the decline, have copied — – and often blindly aped — the strong prevailing civilisations of that moment. In that manner, when Rome was at its peak satellite nations copied the Roman style of democracy, clothes, food, mannerisms… And so it was for Egypt, Greece, Mesopotamia when they dominated, or even for ancient India whose dances, temples, customs, martial arts, were replicated all the way to China on one side and down to Greece on the other (many Greek gods are derived from Hindu deities).One cannot call today’s India a declining civilisation, although it has suffered tremendously from invasions in the last 1,500 years. Indeed, India is one of the few civilisations today which has managed — albeit in a diluted manner — to retain intact much of her culture and spirituality from the Vedic ages. If you look at civilisations like Greece, Egypt or Italy [Images] (erstwhile Rome) today, not much has come down from their times of domination and greatness — whereas in India the knowledge of karma, of yoga, of the avatars and the hidden realities behind life are still there in teachers, gurus, ashrams, individuals, for us to learn from.

Why is it, then, that at the moment India seems to be paralysed into inaction in the face of an all-out war against Indian liberties and values by Islamic terrorists? Why is it that Indians are aping so much the Western type of democracy without caring to adapt it to the Indian psyche and conditions, that anybody can twist the system, cheat and win in the end? Why is it that it appears at this very moment that there never has been so much corruption, debasement and selfishness in Indian politics?

Why it that the Indian government appears hell-bent to impose upon the nation a nuclear deal, which will neutralise India’s weapons of nuclear deterrence in the face of China’s and Pakistan’s aggressive nuclear weaponisation and castrate India’s independence in foreign policy, as well as bring with it immense Westernisation, not to mention a strong influx of Christian missionaries? Why is it that sections of Indian journalism seem to have touched a new low just to get more ratings?

Look how the United Progressive Alliance won the vote of confidence in Parliament, with the connivance of the press and Indian politicians, and the ways and means which were used to secure that vote.

Special: How the trust vote was won

Look at the role of Speaker Somnath Chatterjee [Images]? Should he not have satisfied himself about the veracity of allegations of bribery before undertaking further proceedings in Parliament? If votes were procured in a brazen manner, affecting a crucial outcome for the nation, should he not have deferred the trust vote?

Posterity will also judge him on the history museum he built in Parliament annex at a cost of Rs 100 crore from the taxpayer’s money and which shows Indian history starting with Ashoka, continuing with Akbar, and more or less jumping to Subhas Chandra Bose and Nehru, without any mention of the great Hindu political and spiritual leaders from Kalidasa to Sri Aurobindo, from the great Sri Krishnadeva Raya, the last king of the last great Hindu empire of Vijayanagar, to Bal Gangadhar Tilak, a true nationalist. So much for the Communists’ view of Indian history.

Look at the silence of the business community on the ethics of what has just happened in the last two weeks. One can understand the silence of an Anil Ambani who stands to benefit from the Amar Singh-UPA entente. But what about others like Ratan Tata, the Jindals, Hindujas, Birlas, who may be swayed by the prospect of doing big business with the Americans, or by the possibility of the government going in for last-minute liberalisation after it got rid of the Communists’ hurdle?

Do any of these tycoons first think Indian and not of profit for themselves? Do they think for a minute of the price, or shall we say in a more Indian manner the karmic price that India, their country, will have to pay sooner or later for the manner in which the nuclear deal has been won and the low depths to which Indian politics and ethics have sunk to in the process?

Look at the inertia of the government and the press after the Bangalore blasts and then the horrible Ahmedabad blasts. Does the UPA think the common citizen of India is a nitwit and that he does not understand that on one hand, if the Government of India keeps pointing fingers at Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence, or at some Bangladesh outfit, it is to deflect the fact that most of the recent terror attacks have been perpetrated by Indian Muslims, with or without Pakistani or Bangladeshi (or Al Qaeda [Images]) help?

It is not only a matter of vote banks in times of coming elections, but also a fact that politicians in India want to keep a blindfold on their citizens and pretend that nothing is happening. Does not the government, on the other hand, understand that we have all become cynical to its usual conduct on these occasions when it: a. condemns ‘in the strongest terms’ this ‘barbarous act’; b. appeals for calm and ‘communal harmony’; c. gives a few lakhs each to the families of the deceased or injured, so that they shut up; and d. never catches the culprits and goes on as before till the next terrorist act.

But look at America, the most hated and targeted country in the world: it has not suffered a single terrorist attack since September 11, 2001. Which Indian politician will have the courage to call a spade a spade and tackle terrorism with courage and determination?

Is it not time that India reminds itself that it is still a great civilisation with a composite society that has always accepted diversity? That it has entered another period of Renaissance and that it needs to think Indian, to protect its borders, its women and children, to retain, in the true Spirit of the Bhagavad Gita, the will to fight, physically if necessary, for the preservation of dharma and knowledge?

Yes, India can borrow what is good from the West in terms of technological advancement and ecological conservation, but it should not discard all the great things that come down from ancient India and make this country so unique, so wonderful.
source: rediff

Marxism and the Saffron wave

Marxism and the Saffron wave

The other day I visited a tribal village, which was only 20 kms away from Bhubaneswar. The poverty I witnessed there was appalling: no drinking water, no proper housing, the children to whom we distributed food packets were sickly looking, undernourished, dirty and badly clothed.

The whole village was in a kind of wasteland, where one could not see a single tree, or any newly planted sapling. Paresh Nayak of Odisha International told me that thousands of crores had been sanctioned by the government in this area, for housing, development, or afforestation, but every single paisa goes in the pockets of corrupt officials, from top to bottom.

In fact the only organisation which is trying to do something — and which was responsible for the food distribution as well as the sole tribal school in the whole area — is the much maligned Washington-based IDRF, which is supposed, according to the Western and Indian press, to only ‘fund Hindu fundamentalism.’

Nevertheless, when one witnesses such awful and unfair poverty just a few minutes away from the nouveau riche glitter of Indian arrogant cities, one cannot but think that all the Arundhati Roys, Praful Bidwais, N Rams, Shabana Azmis, Prannoy Roys and other die hard Marxists are right: only a revolution will bring fairness and justice to the poor and downtrodden of India.

In fact, one can even go further: when people like myself, who keep defending a certain spiritual idea of India, the greatness of Hindu culture and ethos, are suddenly confronted by that ‘other’ reality of this country, our lofty drawing-room idealism is blown away by what we see, whether in Bhubaneswar, in Uttar Pradesh, or Tamil Nadu. If I were born an untouchable or a downtrodden, there is no doubt in my mind that I would have become a Naxalite — given my militant propensities!

And if tomorrow missionaries descend upon the village I just visited in Orissa and open a dispensary, a school, then a church, why shouldn’t these poor tribals convert to Christianity, when their own more fortunate Hindu brothers and sisters not only never cared after them for centuries, but stole the money which was meant for them?

Yet, all my years in India have taught me that there is a third way, which is neither of capitalism nor of communism. One could call it ‘spiritualised socialism,’ as envisioned by Sri Aurobindo and today practiced by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living. A Hindu temple or a Hindu organisation has no meaning unless it also acts as a social centre, helps the poor, gives away money, houses, imparts education and hygiene.

Indeed the Art of Living foundation does just that with its volunteers going in thousands of villages all over India and selflessly bringing hygiene, housing, harmony and human values. It is true that there are countless NGOs all over India doing the same job, but unless they pass on along with their material help some spiritual values pertaining to India’s ancient culture, they are failing in their task.

Finally, I would like to tell my Marxist friends that instead of crying themselves hoarse over the BJP’s victory in Gujarat, of screaming about the ‘saffronisation of India,’ or the ‘fascist trend set by these results,’ they should look at it in a different manner. If this is a Nazi trend, then the millions of Gujarati Hindus: upper and middle class, low castes and tribals, who voted for Narendra Modi, are all Nazis.

Yet the Indian voter has always shown that he is smart and that he usually casts his ballot in a certain way because he wants to put across a message. What if Gujarat was the first sign that tolerant, peace-loving Hindus who for centuries have accepted other religions and ethnicities and allowed them to practice and prosper in peace (UNESCO recently released a report saying that out of 128 countries where the Jews lived up to 1948, in only one — India — were they not persecuted), are fed-up of being made fun off, sullied, harassed, killed, their temples sprayed with bullets and grenades, their train burnt, their Parliament attacked, their markets blown up, their women raped?

What if it was a warning to the Muslims of India that the majority community of this country will no more allow the burning of innocent children and women, for the only crime that they are Hindus? What, however reprehensible their acts was, if peace-loving Hindus have shown, for the first time, that they can retaliate in kind and that Islam doesn’t have a copyright on hatred, bloodshed and mad violence? At a time when India’s government is the laughing stock of the world — as shown by the contempt that much smaller countries such as Malaysia, Portugal or Saudi Arabia have shown to India by refusing to extradite criminals — the common Hindu is telling his government, his countrymen, whether they are Hindus, Christians or Muslims, and the world, that he has had it…

Unethical craft of conversion

Posted May 1, 2006
Author: Francois Gautier
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: April 26, 2002

I was born and brought-up a Christian. I believe that Jesus Christ is an Avatar of Love, and that now more than ever, specially after the 11th September terrorist attacks on America, we need his message of compassion, charity and kindness for one another.

Many Christians have taught the world that the first precept of Christ is to look after the deprived and the needy: Missionaries, such as Father Ceyrac, a French Jesuit who has lived for more than 60 years in Chennai, have understood this principle, tending to the poorest sections of this society, while respecting their culture (Father Ceyrac, who speaks fluently Tamil and Sanskrit, often quotes from the Upanishads).

Unfortunately, there has crept in the purity of the early Christianity an exclusiveness, a feeling of sole proprietary right over God. This exclusiveness, this feeling amongst Christians, that “we are the only true religion, and all other gods are false gods”, has had the most catastrophic and bloody consequences: Millions have been killed in the name of Christ, entire civilisations, such as the Atzecs and Incas, have been wiped-out, “to bring them the word of Jesus”. Even Christians have savagely murdered each other, whether in France or England. One would have hoped that this intolerance, this fanatical and militant drive to convert, forcibly or otherwise, pagans to the “True” God, had ceased in this new millennium of “enlightenment”. Unfortunately, it is not so. For nearly three centuries, India has been the target of a massive conversion drive. It is even more so today, as Christianity is dwindling in the West: There are less and less people going to churches and very few youth willing to become priests and nuns, without speaking of the paedophilia scandals racking the American Church. The Vatican is thus looking for new converts in the Third World, particularly in India, where people have such an innate aspiration to spirituality. Indeed, the Pope has earmarked this new millennium as “The Evangelisation of Asia”. And it is in the North-East that this evangelisation is meeting with the most success.

But conversions in India of low caste Hindus and tribals by Christian missionaries are sometimes nothing short of fraudulent and shameful. American, Australian, or Norwegian missionaries are investing huge amounts of money in India, which come from donation drives in their countries, where gullible Christians think their dollars or Euros are going towards uplifting “poor and uneducated Indians”. It is common in Kerala, for instance, particularly in the poor coastal districts, to have “miracle boxes” put in local churches. The innocent villager writes out a paper mentioning his wish: A fishing boat, a loan for a house, fee for child’s schooling… And lo, a few weeks later, the miracle happens! And, of course, the whole family converts, making others in the village follow suit! Missionaries also make extensive use of “miracle” prayer meeting trick, where a glib preacher persuades naive tribals that a miracle is happening in their midst, while encouraging them to convert.

One such fake “miracle” prayer meeting, called the “Gangtok Prayer Festival 2002”, is being organised in Gangtok (at Guards Ground), from April 26 to 28. It will be conducted by Dr Paul Dinakaran (he runs Jesus Calls from Chennai), who is famous for leading these “miracle” meetings all over India. Who is behind the drive? There are three US-based Christian fundamentalist organisations. The first is Bible for the world; second, Common Global Ministries Board; and third, United Church Board for World Ministries. These foreign missionaries could be quietly pulling the strings from behind the scenes. Where does the money for organising these costly meetings come from? Only the Government of India can answer these questions. Sikkim is a sensitive border area, which is claimed by China. Does, for instance, the reader know that China encourages foreign missionaries to convert Tibetans in Tibet and that the Dalai-lama is very concerned about this fact? Although it is learnt from reliable sources that Governor Kedarnath Sahani of Sikkim, as well as Chief Minister Pawan Chamling, are very concerned, the State Government seems unable to do much, as many of its Christian ministers are involved in this meeting. Conversions have been taking place in Sikkim since long. Earlier, the North District of Sikkim was targeted in places like Janghu where the Lepcha community lives. But it is happening now in all the districts of Sikkim (West-Sombaria/ Soreng, South- Namchi, East-Gangtok).

It is especially the tribals and Hindus living below the poverty line who are being targeted. It’s not just that conversion is an unethical custom; it also threatens a whole way of life, erasing centuries of tradition, customs, wisdom. It teaches people to despise their own religion and look westwards to a culture which is alien to them, with disastrous results. Look how the biggest drug problems in India are found in the North- East, or how Third World countries, which have been totally Christianised, have lost all their moorings and bearing, and are drifting away without nationalism and self-pride. It is time that Indians awoke to the threat of Christian conversions here.

The argument that Christians are only 3 per cent in India, and therefore cannot be a threat, is totally fallacious: The influence that Christians exercise in this country through their schools, hospitals and the enormous amount of money being poured in by Western countries for the purpose of converting Hindus, is totally disproportionate to their numbers.

Western missionaries (and their governments) would like us to believe that democracy includes the freedom to convert by any means. But France, for example, a traditionally Christian country, has a Minister who is in charge of hunting down “sects”. And by sects, what is meant is any group that does not fall within the recognised family of Christianity, specially anything that is a Hindu flavour: There is not a single Hindu temple in France and all recent applications for the construction of one have been rejected.

It is sad that Indians, once converted, especially the priests and nuns, tend to turn against their own country and help in the conversion drive. There are very few “White” missionaries left in India and most of the conversions are done by Indian priests. Last year, during the Bishops’ conference in Bangalore, it was restated by priests from all over India that conversion is the first priority of the Church. But are the priests and bishops aware that they would never find in any Western country the same freedom to convert, that they take for granted in India?

Do they know that in China they would be expelled, if not put behind bars? Do they realise that they have been honoured guests in this country for nearly 2,000 years (the first Christian community in the world is that of Syrian Christians, who have prospered in peace in India since 1st century AD) and that they are betraying those who gave them peace and freedom?

The message of Christ is one of Love, of respecting other’s cultures and creed – not of utilising devious and unethical means for converting people. It is false to say that Jesus is the only “true” God. The Divine has manifested Himself throughout the ages under different names and identities, whether it is Christ, Buddha, Krishna or Mohammed. Let this be the motto of the 21st century. Only then will true spirituality emerge, beyond all religions and intolerances.

Why do Indians put religion before nationality?

Why do Indians put religion before nationality?
Author: François Gautier
Publication: Sify.com
Date: September 30, 2003

As the Assembly elections are nearing in Delhi, MP, Rajasthan, Chattisgarh and Mizoram, another western correspondent has remarked that “Lyngdoh rose from relative anonymity in 2002 when he rejected the ruling ‘Hindu nationalists’ plans for a snap poll in Gujarat, where more than 1,000 people died in Hindu-Muslim bloodshed, on security grounds. The move prompted bitter and sometimes personal criticism of Lyngdoh, a Christian, by Hindu hardliners”.

The words ‘Christian’ and ‘Hindu hardliners’ make me cringe and prompt me to take a closer look at his credentials. Is Lyngdoh’s prime value the fact that he is a Christian, with qualities of honesty and fairness, which are much superior to Hindus, who have a tendency to be ‘fundamentalists’? Is this why the Ramon Magsaysay award, a Christian prize, awarded by a Christian country (the Philippines), was given to him? I am born a Christian and was brought-up on the values of Christianity: love compassion for the others, charity. At the same time, my 34 years in India have told me that you cannot find in the world a people, the Hindus, who are more tolerant of others, who accept the fact that God can be Krishna, Christ, Buddha or Mohamed. I also know that Christians still believe, today in the 21st century, which should be the century of acceptance of others, that Christ is the only true son of God and that all other beliefs – particularly those of the Hindus, who adore a multitude of ‘heathen’ Gods, are false. This is why Christian missionaries are still at it in India, converting thousands of innocent tribals and Harijans, with the millions of dollars that gullible westerners donate, so as to ‘alleviate poverty in the Third World’.

There is no doubt that James Lyngdoh is an upright honest man, who is trying to discharge his duty as best as he deems it possible. After all, Christians missionaries, whatever you can say about them, are doing service to the poorest of the poor, whereas one of the curses of this country is that many rich Hindus do not look after their less fortunate Hindu brethren, leaving hereby the space to Christian missionnaries. But the question which must be asked to Lyngdoh is this one: Does he also think that Jesus Christ is the only saviour? If he does, that could explain the fact that he delayed elections in Gujarat, a State which, whatever happened during the recent riots, has a long tradition of democracy and tolerance – while allowing them immediately in Kashmir, a region where 3,50,000 Hindus have been forced to flee through terror, for no fault of them and which has seen terrible strife in the past 15 years, without speaking of the centuries of terrible oppression upon Hindus by Muslim rulers.

Could it also explain suspicions of a favourable bias towards Sonia Gandhi, she being also a Christian, thus possessing the same qualities of inborn fairness and secularism, which might save India from the ‘pagan fundamentalist’ Hindus ? Don’t laugh: I see many western correspondents who honestly think that Sonia Gandhi is the sane, balanced ‘civilised’ solution to an ‘uncivilised Hindu India’ (this is what Jean Leclerc du Sablon wrote once in Le Figaro).

Lyngdoh, thanks in greater part to the redoubtable T N Sheshan, possesses today a lot of power and does Indian Christians proud. Here in India, I often hear that Christians only comprise two percent of the population and that their impact on Indian life is thus minimal. I am not so sure about that. If you cross Bangalore for instance, you will realise that the primmest property is in the hands of churches, although they have minimal attendance in comparison with temples or mosques. The same is valid in many cities of India, where you find that churches, presbyteries and Christian schools, sit tauntingly in the best places, thanks to British colonial favours. But above all, Christians still control to a large extent the best colleges in this country and thus shape the minds of the future elite of India in a thousand subtle ways, which are not always discernible.

Many of the schools of journalism in India are also controlled by Christians and produce good Christian journalists, who unfortunately sometimes use the power of the pen for a certain anti-Hindu slant (there are, of course, notable and brilliant exceptions such as T R Shenoy). As a result, the presence of Christians in newspapers is often disproportionate with their numbers. If you take the magazine, The Week for instance and take a close look at their editorial credits on the second page, you will find that out of the 21 senior editors, 14 are Christians. Wow, that’s 75 percent! It would be impossible in my country, which is predominantly Catholic, to have a mainstream national magazine with 75 percent Hindus or even Muslims, although the French have also a 10 to 12 percent Muslim minority!

It reminds me also of the time when I used to write a column for The Indian Express (the Ferengi’s column). A Christian, A J Philip (no longer with Express), was then in charge of the edit page and invariably, he would censor a little bit my columns, taking out a word, a phrase here and there and sometimes, when he very strongly disagreed (with Pamela Philipose, another Christian in Express), he would not publish it a all. I stopped after some time, when I discovered that the editor, Shekhar Gupta, sided with them.

The Graham Staines story is also an eloquent testimony of the subtle and not-so-subtle influence that Christians have on this country. The murderer, Dara Singh, has been convicted to death. His was a horrible deed: to burn a man and his innocent children does deserve the capital punishment. Justice is thus done and the entire press – Indian and foreign – rightly rejoiced.

But one may ask this question: What happens to the murderers of thousands of innocent Hindus who have been burnt, lacerated, bombed, raped, their eyes gauged, their homes ransacked? Why don’t their widows get the same sympathy as Mrs Staines? Because they are brown and Hindus and Mrs Staines is white and Christian? Don’t dismiss this again lightly: I remember a few days after Graham Staines was killed, 14 Hindu labourers were murdered in Himachal Pradesh by Muslims separatists. The entire English speaking Indian press devoted page after page of outrage on the killing of Staines, but the murder of the Hindus in HP only warranted a few lines in most newspapers without condemnation. I can understand that Western correspondents based in India show such a slant – even if it does not speak much for their fairness – but Indian journalists, most of them Hindus at that! And if Lyngdoh was really fair, he would have seen to it that the NDTV of Prannoy Roy and Rajdeep Sardesai, two brilliant journalists no doubt, was brought to the book for inflaming communal passions during Gujurat riots by constantly showing burnt people and broken bodies.

In my country, France which is truly secular in the sense that the State and the Church are separated, because at some point the Church controlled enormous amount of land and political power, I doubt that a non-Catholic could become Election Commissioner (a post which does not exist anyway). It is a tribute to India’s openness and liberalism that a Christian holds that post, and that a Muslim is President of India at the moment, although Christians and Muslims often complain that they are discriminated against in India. Recently, French President Jacques Chirac asked every Frenchman, specially the French Muslims, ‘to be French first and Muslims second’. In India, one often finds that people put their religion before their nationality, particularly the Muslims and to a lesser degree the Christians. So Lyngdoh, are you a Christian and then an Indian? An Indian and then a Christian? Or simply an Indian?

(François Gautier is a French journalist and writer, who was for eight years the political correspondent in India and South Asia for ‘Le Figaro’ and now works for Ouest-France, the largest circulation daily (I million copies) in France and LCI, France’s 24 hour TV news channel. He has written several books prominent among them being ‘Arise O India’ and ‘A Western journalist on India’ and ‘India’s Self Denial. Gautier will write exclusively for Sify.com on the run-up and during the State elections.)