Arun Shourie column, Feb.18. Part 2/3
...continued from the last post....
The pressures were less subtle than they had been in the case of Islam,
but they were no less potent. Asymmetry was the principle: As in the case of
Islam, conversion was held to be, and acted upon as something that was an esse-
ntial principle of Christianity; but when a person like Swami Vivekananda or
Swami Shradhanand argued in favor of taking back into the Hindu fold the
converts who wanted to return, they were condemned as persons who were inviting
a practice for which there was no warrant in Hinduism!
The viciousness of the distortions and misrepresentations of the missionar-
ies, the virulence of their abuse, the length of time over which they kept up
the barrage - we cannot imagine these today. Swami Vivekananda had to face
these at every turn, Gandhiji knew them well.
"If all India stands up, " Swami VIvekananda told the Christians in America
about this propaganda, "and takes all the mud that is at the bottom of the
Indian ocean and throws it up against the western countries, it will not be
doing an infinetesimal part of that which you are doing to us..."
"It is not true that I am against any religion," the Swami told the Madras
audience on his return from the USA. "It is equally untrue that I am hostile
to the Christian missionaries in India. But I protest against certain of their
methods of raising money in America."
"What is meant by those pictures in the school-books for children where
Hindu mother is painted as throwing her children to the crocodiles in the
Ganga? The mother is black, but the baby is painted white, to arouse more
sympathy, and get more money. What is meant by those pictures which paint a
man burning his wife at a stake with his own hands, so that she may become a
ghost and torment the husband's enemy?"
"What is meant by the pictures of huge cars crushing over human beings? The
other day a book was published for children in this country (America), where
one of these gentlemen tells a narrative of his visit to Calcutta. He says he
saw a car running over fanatics in the streets of Calcutta."
"I have heard one of these gentlemen preach in Memphis that in every village
of India there is a pond full of the bones of little babies."
"What have Hindus done to these disciples of Christ that every Christian
child is taught to call the Hindus 'vile', and 'wretches', and the most horri-
ble devils on earth? Part of the Sunday School education for children here
consists in teaching them to hate everybody who is not a Christian, and the
Hindus especially, so that, from their very childhood they may subscribe their
pennies to the mission..."
That is Swami Vivekananda talking about missionary propaganda a 100 years
ago. And here is what Ram Swarup reads in a recent pronouncement of the Texas-
based Gospel for Asia" "The Indian sub-continent with one billion people, is a
living example of what happens when Satan rules the entire culture...India is
one vast purgatory in which millions of people... are literally living a
"Could Satan have devised a more perfect system for causing misery?"
The blacker they painted - and paint - India, and Hinduism in particular,
the better the sincere are inspered to leave their homes and take up the task
of saving souls that are in such torment so far away, the easier it is to
raise funds, and all means are automatically rationalised.
That is one point: The calumny was based on falsehood through and through.
But there is another point too: Was the Christianity of the missionaries
different from what they were calumnising?
A Hindu bowing to a statue of Durga was a superstitious idolator. But a
Christian beseeching a statue of Virgin Mary was touched by divine devotion?
A Hindu bowing to a stone as Hanuman, and circumambulating it was an igno-
rant idolator. But a Muslim prostrating to the Black Stone at the Kaaba and
circumambulating it was one who had broken through to a higher level of
A Hindu bathing in the Ganges and taking its water for rituals and ablutions
was a primitive, superstitious nature-worshipper. But the Christian seeking
cures from the water at Lourdes, and the Muslim seeking it from the water of
the Zam Zam at Kaaba and taking it for ablutions and the rest, they were merely
The rich symbolism of the Hindu rituals, of the motifs was dismissed as
mumbo-jumbo. And what of the symbolism of the Eucharist - of eating the "body"
of Jesus and drinking his "blood"? Caste and untouchability are the peculiarity
of Hinduism, the missionaries insisted. Christianity (and of course Islam on
the telling of its advocates) is the religion of equality - it does not recog-
In fact, castes survive among Christian and Muslims to this day - as the
Supreme Court has narrated in its recent judgement on reservations. And the
Church (as well as advocates of Islam), having proclaimed for two centuries
that untouchability was a curse peculiar to Hinduism, has been in the forefront
in demanding that benefits given to Schedules Castes and Scheduled Tribes must
be made available to Christian Scheduled Castes and Christian Scheduled
Not one missionary organisation has protested that by extending caste-based
Reservations to Christians (and Muslims), the Supreme Court has put the axe to
a basic tenet of Christianity (and Islam)!
....to be continued...