Saturday, August 12, 2017

APOORVANAND - Jharkhand Government Is Misusing Gandhi, Public Funds to Fuel Anti-Christian Hate

Mahatma Gandhi has a new job. Three years after he was appointed as the brand ambassador of the Swatchta Abhiyan of the government of India, he has now been deployed as the chief spokesman and mascot of the Jharkhand government anti-conversion drive. The government of Jharkhand and the BJP crossed yet another rubicon when it published a full page advertisement in all the newspapers with a quote from Gandhi denouncing Christian missionaries for their act of conversion and prosely-tising among Adivasis and Dalits. 

The quotation, with a smiling Gandhi walking with a stick in his hand, is misleading and mischievous. It is erroneous and puts words in Gandhi’s mouth that are not his. Let us see the advertisement first. It is published by the government of Jharkhand and carries the photograph of the chief minister. It is in Hindi and begins with the declaration, “An intiative to realise the dream of Bhagwan Birsa Munda and the late Kartik Uraon.” The quotation attributed to Gandhi says,

“If Christian missionaries feel that only conversion to Christianity is the path to salvation, why don’t you start with me or Mahadev Desai? Why do you stress on conversion of the simple, illiterate, poor and forest-dwellers? These people can’t differentiate between Jesus and Mohammad and are not likely to understand your preachings. They are mute and simple, like cows. These simple, poor, Dalit and forest-dwellers, whom you make Christians, do so not for Jesus but for rice and their stomach.”

Let us leave Gandhi aside for a moment. Irrespective of what he said or felt, this government and the chief minister must withdraw the advertisement and apologise to the Christians of Jharkhand and India as it directly targets Christian religious institutions. This misuse of the state apparatus to attack a section of society is so brazen and blatant that it takes your breath away. Christians, including the missionaries among them, are legitimate citizens of this country and pay their taxes. 

This advertisement is funded by the state, which means that suspicion, malice and hatred against the Christians is being created using their own money. As if they are being made to dig their own grave.
It would have been perfectly in order for the advertisement to have been issued by the RSS or its affiliates because one knows their animosity towards Christians and Muslims. But the state, even when governed by the RSS’s political arm, the BJP, cannot do such a thing.

Secondly and more importantly, the state government is humiliating India’s Adivasis and Dalits by terming them as mute, ignorant and simpletons who have no mind of their own, even when it uses a figure like Gandhi to mouth its bias. Gandhi as an individual is entitled to his view of the Adivasis and Dalits and would have to answer his critics and defend himself, but the state cannot hold, leave alone publicly display, such a paternalistic and patronising approach towards two sections of society who are otherwise deemed intelligent enough to elect their government. By endorsing Gandhi’s view in this matter, the BJP government of Jharkhand is demonstrating that it believes it is the guardian of the eternally ‘juvenile’ tribals and Dalits.

But first let us understand the immediate context of the advertisement. It comes in the wake of a recent move by the state government to enact a Bill criminalising conversion. And this move itself should also be seen as a tactic to deflect the popular anger against the government for making changes in the core principles of the Chota Nagpur Tenancy (CNT) Act and the Santhal Pargana Tenancy (SPT) Act. The church was with the people of Jharkhand in protesting the government’s move to dilute the rights of the tribals over their lands. Since then, it has been on the radar of the government and the BJP... read more: