Challenging article in Asian Age by Fr. Dominic Immanuel

Three wise men

Dominic Emmanuel


“Speak truth to power, make the truth powerful, and make the powerful truthful,” said Jeremy Cronin, a South African poet and Communist leader.

It may just be a coincidence that just after the constables in the Hashimpura massacre had been acquitted by a Delhi court on March 21, a set of articles — by economist Jagdish Bhagwati (False Alarm over Christians in India, March 30, Mint), Kumar Chellappan (Hidden Agenda of Different Kind, March 30 in Pioneer) and Swapan Dasgupta in this newspaper (Christians are being used, not persecuted, April 3) — appeared on the attacks on Christians and churches. They are seemingly unrelated to the Hashimpura case, but are, in fact, intrinsic to the issue of persecution of minorities.

Using the power of their pen, these men are trying to silence the timorous voices of those like former Mumbai police commissioner Julio Ribeiro, former Navy Chief Adm. Sushil Kumar (retd.) and “the clergy of various Christian denominations”, over what Mr Dasgupta refers to in his article as “the so-called fear that is said to have gripped the Christian community following some small incidents.” These “alarmist views on Christianity”, wrote Mr Bhagwati, “are common in India today, simply because of the election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi” and are “being spread by church leaders”.

Instead of introspecting as to why the otherwise peaceful community, having made huge contributions in some of the most fundamental areas of country’s progress, is heartbroken, they are out to belittle and pooh-pooh their genuine distress and anxiety. Mr Bhagwati wrote that “these fears are totally groundless and are, at best, a product of a fevered imagination”.

The three uniformly believe that a minority of 2.33 per cent of the country’s population, accused by the right-wing Hindu fundamentalists to be involved in clandestine conversion of the poor gullible masses of India, without any evidence to support the claim of course, needs to be quiet, over “some small incidents”. They seem to be saying, in an extremely insensitive manner, that these little bashings, burning or breaking down of churches here and there are small ways of disciplining the community for their unlawful activities of “conversion”.

Further, the message is that men like Mr Ribeiro and Admiral Kumar are alright as long as they put their lives on line to serve the country, but when they start telling the truth that hurts Mr Modi’s image or the Hindutva agenda, they need to be put in their place?

After all, they are pro-Modi intellectuals who would decide whether the community should feel and express the pain or not. That one of them has been awarded the Padma Bhushan for his contribution to the field of “literature and education” makes his bond to the Saffron Parivaar all the more stronger.

The Christian community is being told by these three writers that as long as its clergy and nuns run educational and other institutions for the “use” of the elite, it is fine, but the moment they start speaking about their hurt, they are being “used”. In other words, they are intelligent enough to run top colleges and schools and churn out intellectuals from institutions like St. Stephen’s College, Mr Dasgupta’s alma mater, but they become absolute morons when, as alleged by Mr Dasgupta, “others” use them to voice “non-existent” issues like “attacks” and “persecution”.

Mr Dasgupta seems to also suggest that the “used” Christian community and those who “use” them exert such influence so as to make even US President Barack Obama parrot out references to Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy and Article 25 of the Indian Constitution (freedom of religion) while addressing the gathering at Siri Fort auditorium on January 28. Ah! These “users”!

The authors, of course, don’t think that anything needs be told to Mohan Bhagwat, the chief of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, for accusing saintly Mother Teresa, saying, “(her) service would have been good. But it used to have one objective, to convert the person, who was being served, into a Christian,” and earlier for describing those who accepted Christianity as their personal belief as “stolen goods” and saying that “we will bring back our brothers who have lost their way and belongings stolen by a thief.”

Or Praveen Togadia who has been banned in recent months from entering Kandhamal, Bengaluru and Raiganj in West Bengal because of his record of spreading communalism by his vituperative statements, “We should have it in us to take the law in our own hands in an area where we are a majority and scare them”. Nor is anything to be said to Surendra Jain of the VHP who said after a 71-year-old nun was raped in Ranaghat, “It is a Christian culture to exploit nuns. We don’t do such things.”

If anything, statements of BJP MPs — Sakshi Maharaj, Niranjan Jyoti, Giriraj Singh, Yogi Adityanath, to mention just a few — need to be amplified. For they not only strengthen the Hindutva nationalism to which the three writers seem to have pledged their pen for the time being, but also because they put the proclaimed enemies of this nationalism — “Muslims, missionaries, Macaulayans, Marxists and Maoists” — in their rightful place.

Oscar Wilde said, “The most painful and hurtful thing you can do to someone doesn’t necessarily involve deception; it usually involves telling the truth”. But no Padma Bhushans are being given out for achievements in the field of truth.