Prime Minister Narendra Modi has just initiated a new yet subtle campaign to counter the influence of Christian missionaries in India, particularly in the tribal belts of the country – where such organisations have been flourishing. No government in India has ever brought to light the glorious past of India’s tribals. Tribal icons like Bhagwan Birsa Munda and Rani Kamlapati are being made a part of daily conversations by the BJP-led central government, and a push for the same seems to be coming from Prime Minister Modi himself. It must be remembered that a major reason why tribals convert to Christianity is because of the sense of acceptance and inclusion that missionaries offer them, and that they, for a variety of reasons, did not experience as non-Christians in India so far.
Becoming a Christian gives tribals a unique identity. It makes them count. It helps them identify as part of a cohesive community. However, PM Modi’s message to India’s adivasis is simple – we will embrace, honour and give you the respect you rightfully deserve, but you must stop converting to Christianity.
PM Modi’s Tribute to Birsa Munda
On Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared in Bhopal that Birsa Munda’s birth anniversary, on November 15, will now be observed by the government, just like Gandhi Jayanti. PM Modi, who was in Bhopal to mark the Janjatiya Gaurav Diwas, said, “This is a big day for India and the tribal society.” As if taking a dig at Christian missionaries, PM Modi said, “Bhagwan Birsa knew that attacking diversity in the name of modernity, tampering with ancient identity and nature was not the way for the welfare of the society. He was in favour of modern education, he advocated for change, he showed courage to speak against the shortcomings of his own society.”
PM Modi added, “Bhagwan Birsa lived for the society, sacrificed his life for his culture and his country. Therefore, he is still present in our faith, in our spirit as our God.” Interestingly, PM Modi also mentioned how Bhagwan Shri Ram was aided by adivasis during his exile. He said, “Could Lord Rama have been successful without the contribution of tribals? Absolutely not. After spending time with the tribal population, a prince was transformed to Maryada Purushottam Ram. During His days in exile, Lord Rama sought inspiration from the tradition, culture, living methods of forest dwellers.”
Birsa Munda, who was converted to Christianity by missionaries, later got frustrated with the British as well as their religion and led a revolt against them. He was heavily influenced by a Shaivite saint and used to quote extensively from the Bhagwat Gita and other Hindu scriptures. For PM Modi to reinvigorate the memory of Birsa Munda is nothing short of a challenge to Christian missionaries operating in tribal belts.
Rani Kamlapati Honoured by Modi Government
The decision to rename the Habibganj railway station in Bhopal as the Rani Kamlapati railway station cannot be stressed enough. Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, in a blog post, hailed Rani Kamlapati as the pride of the Gond community and the last Hindu queen of Bhopal. The Gond community is the largest tribal group in India, with over 1.2 crore people. In Madhya Pradesh, according to the 2001 census, the Gond community made up the second largest tribal group after the Bhils.
On her part, Rani Kamlapati is a legend. She was a widow of Nizam Shah. Rani Kamlapati, by virtue of her beauty, was desired by all. After having foiled a previous attempt to be forced into a union with her deceased husband’s cousin, Rani Kamlapati did quite an unprecedented thing with an Afghan mercenary – Dost Mohammad Khan, who like other men, wanted to marry her against her will.
According to an East India Company officer, James Tod, when Dost Mohammad Khan offered to marry the widowed queen, she presented him with a wedding attire and summoned him on the terrace of the palace. Then, quoting Rani Kamlapati, James Today wrote, “Know, Khan, that your last hour has come; our wedding and our death shall be sealed together. The vestments which cover you are poisoned; you left me with no other expedient to escape pollution.” Therefore, Rani Kamlapati chose honour over her life and refused to enter a union with a foreigner like Dost Mohammad Khan.
Birsa Munda and Rani Kamlapati are Beacons Which Can Guide India in Her Fight Against Foreign Forces
Continuous attempts have been made by Christian missionaries to convert non-Christians in tribal areas of India. It should be noted that conflict between Christian missionaries and tribals is a serious issue in most tribal areas. Luring tribals into Christianity by promising jobs, money, food grains and other benefits have often been reported in remote areas of India. Last year, the Modi government cancelled the FCRA licenses of 13 NGOs who were allegedly involved in religious conversions of tribals to Christianity.
Generally working on a non-profit basis, the NGOs and missionaries have been functioning in India for ages without much regulation and control on their activities. With an extensive reach in the rural and suburban areas of the country, the activities of NGOs have hitherto been unchecked. In the garb of working for the development of the marginalized, these NGOs lure innocent ones into the trap of conversion. Through money or other social benefits, the unsuspecting commoners are converted as the cycle continues to repeat itself.
Now, Prime Minister Modi has found the perfect antidote to the influence of missionaries and to instil a sense of pride within the Adivasi community, apart from a sense of belonging towards their pagan beliefs. Now, Christian missionaries will face hell trying to convert tribals.