“Mahatma Gandhi has a new job. Three years after he was appointed as the brand ambassador of the Swachta Abhiyan of the government of India, he has now been deployed as the chief spokesman and mascot of the Jharkhand government anti-conversion drive,” so says The Wire.in. The proof of the pudding is in its eating. What is the truth and what is the lie?
Prior to the tabling of the Jharkhand Government’s Freedom of Religion bill on August 12, a mysterious publicity ad appeared on August 11 in different dailies and journals. It carried a quotation attributed to The Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi.
The quote as appeared in the ad is the following:
“If Christian missionaries think that a person can get salvation only through converting to Christianity, then why don’t you start this work beginning with me or Mahadev Desai (Gandhi’s Personal Secretary)? Why are you emphasizing religious conversion of these simple, innocent, ignorant and poor Dalits and Vanvasis (Tribals)? They can’t even differentiate between Jesus and Mohammad and are not even capable of understanding your religious teachings.
“They are as mute and simple as a cow. These are innocent and illiterate Dalits and Vanvasis whose poverty you are milking and are making them Christians; they do not become Christians because of Jesus but because of rice that is for their stomach.”
Now, the truth that nails the lie of the Chief Minister and his colleagues! Gandhiji never used the word ‘Dalit’ any time. He always used the word ‘Harijan.’ He never referred to the Adivasis as Vanvasis. It is a term coined by the RSS. In his conversation with Dr. R. Mott (the source of the quotation) Gandhi did not mention any word about anyone becoming rice Christians. He never referred to Adivasis as mute cows.
The ad went mad! The quotation attributed to Gandhi is fabricated and is a blatant lie. It is an insult to Mahatma Gandhi. It is an insult to the Adivasis whom the Raghubar Das government equates with cow. Adding insult to injury, the quotation goes on to say that the Adivasis or Dalits become Christian for rice for their stomach.
The quote inflates communal passion and promotes disharmony. The mention of the word Adivasi is not made in the publicity ad but the term ‘Vanvasi’ is used because the RSS does not want to attribute the term Adivasi to the Indigenous. Rather, the term ‘Vanvasi’ is attributed to the Adivasi in order to obliterate all historical evidences which prove that the Adivasis (indigenous people) were earliest settlers in Sindhu Ghati.
The Sangh Parivar has been distorting history and thwarting historical evidence by wanting to establish the Aryans as the earliest settlers in Sindhu Ghati. History says otherwise. The Adivasis were earliest settlers in Sindhu Ghati and the Aryans came from the Iranian steppe on horseback and settled down in the Sindhu Ghati much after the Adivasis. This is borne out by many Indian historians and is backed by objective evidence. No wonder, the Aryan Hindu hegemony refuses to attribute the term ‘Adivasis’ to the indigenous population. ‘To recast Adivasis is a critical component of their ideological thrust. Their prospect of Hindu Rashtra rests on a claim of Hindus being indigenous to India and any other claimants to that slot, as Adivasis are, are fundamentally challenges to the prospect of Hindu nation.’ (Outlook.com)
Just as Hitler and his Gestapo steamrolled over the Jews and other non-Aryan population by eliminating them and attempted to rewrite history from his Aryan point of view, here is an attempt along similar lines. The tactical move of the Hindu rightwing Jharkhand government has disastrous consequences in today’s secular federal Indian Republic. The state legislature passed the bill on August 12. It is called Religious Freedom Bill 2017. The clever strategy, born out of hatred for minority religions in India, comes out of a threat perception.
Though the Christians number just 4.5% (1.4 million) out of 33 million population of the state, this small minority has made its presence felt in the lives of the Adivasis and Dalits in a big way not even dreamt by the Hindu Parivar. In addition to churches, its public service institutions such as colleges, hospitals, schools, legal aid centres, social organisations, cooperative saving banks etc. have helped the downtrodden to think and act for themselves and to develop socially and economically. That is what pricks the Parivar.
It is to be noted that the very disciples and stalwarts of the RSS-Sangh Parivar conglomeration have been benefitting in a big way by getting their wards educated in prestigious Christian educational institutions to climb the ladder of profit and popularity. But, ironically, ideological pressure makes them don a face mask while throwing muck at Christian institutions.
The Jharkhand government is politically motivated to create a wedge in the Adivasi community in order to win the favour of the Sarna Adivasis. It had felt threatened by seeing the Sarna Adivasis and Christian Adivasis joining hands to form a united front against the land amendment bill passed by the state legislature. It further felt defeated and humiliated when, due to public resistance, the Governor used her wisdom to return the land bill without signing.
In addition to wanting to divide the Adivasis, the government wants to pulverize the Christian presence in the State. Just as in other six BJP ruled states anti-conversion bill has been legislated, Jharkhand too has followed the strategy. The law against conversion prescribes a punishment of imprisonment for three years and/ or a fine of Rs. 50,000 to Rs. one lakh. The district civil officials are to be informed by those wishing to seek to covert to another religion. If no report is made, prosecution follows. In case of a minor’s conversion more stringent punishment follows. August 12, the day the Jharkhand government passed the anti-conversion bill is indeed a black day for the state.
The proliferation of anti-conversion laws is spreading like cancer in India’s body politic. The extremist and fundamentalist elements get bolstered by this trend. It is well known that, in the states where such laws are in existence, Hindu extremists take law into their own hands to intimidate or terrorise people or use their clout with the officials or the police to book and harass innocent people. In many states communal violence has erupted and untold harm has been done to people and religious institutions. The international organisations and communities should take note of this dangerous trend in India and express their serious concern to the Indian government.(Published on 21st August 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 34)