The newspapers report almost every day instances of harassment of the heads of Christian institutions by the government departments at the instigation of right wing organizations. Some of them are arrested and put in jail. A few of them are languishing in jail for years, expecting to get bail. Recently the government of Madhya Pradesh took over the property of the diocese of Sagar at Mohanpur village in Ashoknagar district and closed down a hostel for the poor children. On many occasions false cases are filed against the personnel of the Church. This kind of oppression and harassment is the result of the Hindutva ideology that is being aggressively promoted and implemented by the BJP-RSS combine.
Hinduism is entirely different from Hindutva. Hindu religion may be the most liberal of all religions in the world and it promotes the principle of unity in diversity. Eekam st vipra, bhauda vadnati (Truth is one and the sages call it differently) and Vasudaiva Kudumbakam (the whole universe is one family) are the eternal messages of Hinduism. According VD Savarkar, one of the originators of Hindutva ideology, the three essentials of Hindutva are Common nation ( rashtra), Common Race ( jati) and Common Culture/Civilization ( sanskriti).
Another ideologue of Hindutva, MS Golwalkar in his book, “We or Our Nationhood Defined” has stated unambiguously that the foreign races in Hindustan (Muslims and Christians) have to either become Hindus or live in India without any rights and privileges, including citizenship. The RSS-BJP combine, which venerates M S Golwalkar as Guruji, has not told the people of India that it has changed its ideology in favour of an inclusive India, different from the one envisaged by Golwalkar.
BJP and its allies are in power in 20 out of the 29 states of India besides at the centre. Under the leadership of Modi and Amit Shah vigorous efforts are being made to capture power in the remaining states. Along with capturing political power by adopting various strategies, including communal polarization, the BJP is implementing the Hindutva agenda overtly and covertly. The explicit examples are laws banning beef and the anti-conversion laws passed by different states under the pretext of “Freedom of Religion”. The news of the harassment of minority communities from different parts of the country by the BJP state governments also indicate that the basic attitude of the RSS-BJP combine continues to be anti-minority.
According to Golwalkar Muslims, Christians and Communities are the enemies of the nation. But the BJP-RSS combine has adopted different strategies to attract these communities wherever their numbers are significant in order to increase its vote bank, even though there has been no change in its basic attitude towards these communities. A few prominent Christians are lured by BJP by offering them different kinds of posts, including that of ministers, in view of getting the support of the Christian communities in the states like Goa, Kerala and North Eastern states. In a democracy political parties with different ideologies and strategies come to power through the process of election. Periodic change of the party that is in power is needed for a healthy and robust democracy, provided the parties are committed to the common vision and policies as enshrined in the constitution of India. The problem with the BJP is that its ideology is exclusive and sectarian and hence it is diametrically opposed to the spirit of the constitution of India. Hindutva and secularism or pluralism cannot go together. Therefore the minorities have to adopt a strategy of cooperation and confrontation. As responsible citizens of India, they have to cooperate with the government in its policies like Swacch Bharat, cashless economy, make in India, good governance, fight against corruption etc. At the same time they have to be critical of the policies of the government that are harmful to the people, policies that are opposed to the secular character of India and the policies that overtly or covertly favour the followers of a particular religion.
The greatest strength of the Christian community in India is the large number of educational institutions, particularly schools, run by the Church organizations. The church personnel are in direct contact with millions of students and parents. The Church in India has the golden opportunity to train the students of its educational institutions as enlightened leaders, committed to the core values of Indian constitution, particularly secularism or pluralism. If the right wing organizations brainwash the children and the youth with an ideology of hatred and revenge why not the church organizations instil in the students the values of humanism, religious pluralism and universal solidarity? In fact building leaders with character and competence should be the topmost priority of the Christian educational institutions.
Secondly the core values of preamble of the Indian constitution like secular democracy, justice, liberty, equality and fraternity are to be instilled in the students of the educational institutions. These values are opposed to the ideology of Hindutva. Dissemination of the values of the Indian constitution should be undertaken as movement on a war footing by all Church organizations and it should be part of all ministries in the church: pastoral care, catechesis, health care, social apostolate etc. The preamble of the Indian constitution shall be exhibited at a prominent place in all Christian institutions. It shall be printed on the back cover of the school diary, note books and other publications. Cultural programmes shall be put up by the students and youth, highlighting the values and principles of the Indian constitution. Constitution of India shall be one of the subjects taught in all formation houses and training centres of the church personnel. Unless and until the church personnel become aware of the provisions and the greatness of the constitution they will have no courage and strength to safeguard it.
Thirdly, the wrong polices of the government are to be exposed. Christians and other minorities shall join the forum of secular organizations and shall respond critically to the policies and actions of the government. When the minorities, dalits, women and people belonging to underprivileged sections are attacked and their human rights are violated they should condemn such violence. The lies about development, propagated by the governments through eye-catching advertisements, are to be exposed through fact finding studies and publishing them. Similarly when false allegations of religious conversion are made by right wing groups the truth is to be told to the people by presenting data or proof.
There has to be radical change in the approach and style of functioning of the church personnel in India. Instead of multiplying the institutions they have to focus of enhancing the effectiveness of the existing institutions and ministries. They have to say goodbye to confining themselves to their own compounds and institutions and enter into mainstream of the society. The church personnel may opt to work with the government departments, private institutions and other secular organizations in those fields where they can make a significant contribution to bring about transformation of the society. As the members of RSS has infiltrated into every government department and all sections of the society, Christians also have to enter into various sectors of the society, but with a positive agenda of building harmony and brotherhood among different sections of the society and not spreading the venom of hatred and revenge.
It is estimated that very year one million youth is added to the workforce in India. Although the BJP had promised to create jobs for the ever increasing workforce, it has miserably failed in this respect. “Make in India” has remained a slogan so far. The Church organizations shall make the best use of this opportunity and start various skill training for the youth in collaboration with the government. Large numbers of students drop out, especially in the rural areas, after class VIII. Multi-skill training can be organized for this particular section of the youth along with preparing them for writing 10th Board exam. Some NGOs have successfully experimented multi-skill training for the school dropouts. Instead of multiplying institutions for expansion let the religious congregations and dioceses focus on the capacity building of the youth and make them capable of contributing to the nation building.
A radical change is also needed in the training of the Church personnel, focusing on self discipline and self learning in view of developing them with character and competence. The present method of training based on rituals, prayers, devotions and teaching of dogmas does not equip them to face the challenges, including the challenge of Hindutva. The training should enable the candidates to identify the challenges, analyze them and respond to them creatively. The training also should build their capacity to enter into the main stream society and work in collaboration with the civil society organizations.
It is said that in every crisis there is a hidden opportunity. The challenge from the Hindutva forces is to be accepted as an opportunity by the Christian community in India for a deep introspection and reinventing itself, being faithful to the core values and teachings of Jesus, being sensitive and appreciative of the pluralistic culture and heritage of India and responding to the needs of people of India.
firstname.lastname@example.org(Published on 03rd October 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 40)