It is not uncommon for Christian missionaries active in India to go on a conversion sprees and target susceptible areas, especially tribal regions, for evangelist activities. The modus operandi is the belittling of Hinduism and the professing of how Christianity is a better option. Where the target population is oppressed or needy, a more aggressive strategy is followed, and undue influence is used in form of monetary gains or alms as a reward for conversion. All this is justified in the garb of relieving the oppressed from the caste system, or as charitable work to aid the Dalits and the adivasis. In fact, evangelism and mass conversions are no longer limited to the adivasis, but is slowly being mainstreamed in order to quicken the pace of converting Hindus to Christianity. There is even a website which prescribes “3 ways to convert from Hinduism to Christianity”. This shows the level of influence that evangelists enjoy, and the emphasis of the Christian evangelists to convert only “Hindus”. The idea seems to be to create a quick mechanism for conversion, and to carry out conversion in an assuming manner.
However, one village has stood up to the task, and has prohibited the missionaries from imposing Christianity on ordinary villagers. In a story emerging from Kesalingayapalli in Andhra Pradesh, villagers have proudly proclaimed that they will not trade their souls for monetary gains. They have even erected notice boards, advising evangelists to stay away from the village. In a bid to fight evangelical propaganda, even the shops and houses in the village have erected saffron flags with ‘Aum’ written on them.
Venkata Ramana, a nativeof the village, said that the villagers were compelled to erect these notice board as Christian evangelists kept entering their village and luring people with money and medicine. But Hindus never fell into this trap. He added that the Christian hardliners kept brainwashing the villagers and taking them into their fold. The evangelists were politely asked not to indulge in such activities but they kept coming back in a bid to kickstart conversions in the village, making it unavoidable for the villagers to erect the notice boards. Mallikarjuna, a young resident of the village, stated that the evangelists offered some oil to the villagers claiming the oil to be a panacea. He adds that even for serious ailments, they give some oil. Such unscientific and unreasonable treatment was used as a means of converting innocent villagers by the missionaries.
This bold trend is spreading to even the neighbouring villages which were also affected by evangelist activities in the region. In fact, several villages around Kesalingayapalli have adopted a similar strategy to stay free from the influence of evangelists, and have taken Kesalingayapalli as the ‘model village’.
This is not for the first time that ordinary citizens have stood up against conversion by the missionaries. In 2014, 50 gram-panchayats in the tribal Bastar region passed resolutions at the gram sabha, quoting provisions of Section 129 (G) of Chhattisgarh Panchayat Raj Act, banning “non-Hindu religious propaganda, prayers and speeches in villages”. The Chhattisgarh Christian Forum challenged this resolution before the High Court and prayed for action against the concerned officers for alleged dereliction of duty, but the High Court ordered that this resolution did not come in the way of the right to propagate religion.
All such instances of Hindu-majority villages being forced to protect themselves against the undue influence of the missionaries is more often than not projected as the overwhelming exercise of brute majoritarianism by the mainstream. However, the ever increasing number of incidents where missionaries are using absurd pretexts to con innocent people, mostly the downtrodden, is shocking. Recently, some slum dwellers in Agra reported that they were approached by the evangelists and asked to convert so that they could avail education for their children, houses and a better lifestyle. It was further reported that drugs were used to fraudulently convert the slum dwellers. In another incident of forced conversion that took place last year, a catholic priest was arrested while 40 others were detained after a complaint was lodged by one Dharmendra Kumar Dohar that he was lured with money to convert to Christianity. Such frequent incidents of forced and fraudulent conversions is the reason why Hindus, especially those living in isolated and remote areas, are feeling threatened and are enacting barriers to protect themselves from constant brainwashing by the missionaries. No one is denying the fact that missionaries, like any other religious denomination, have the right to practice and propagate their religion. However, the Hindus too have a right to protect themselves from fraudulent and forceful conversions. No matter how negatively these incidents are reported by the media outlets, Hindus have and will exercise the right to protect their religion.
Agra: Slum dwellers of Sector-4 Awas Vikas Colony in Jagdish Pura say they were approached by people who asked them to convert to Christianity in order to avail education for their children, houses and better lifestyle, police say matter being probed. pic.twitter.com/RiHRKDQrGU
— ANI UP (@ANINewsUP) March 9, 2018
They came to us, gave us 'samosa' & told us to convert for children's education. A man saw all of this & intervened. As soon as this happened 'Father' changed his clothes. Police was called. Many,including my daughter,started feeling dizzy after consuming 'samosa': Maya, resident pic.twitter.com/Z5jVevzEjC
— ANI UP (@ANINewsUP) March 9, 2018