The Politics of Religious Conversions in Jharkhand

Discussion in 'Religion & Culture' started by parijataka, Oct 2, 2013.

  1. parijataka

    parijataka Senior Member Senior Member

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    Slight inaccuracies in the article from NY Times - RSS and Hindu right wing organisations did not exist in the 19th century.

    The Politics of Religious Conversions in Jharkhand
    [​IMG]
    Ram Singh Kujur, right, and his wife Shashikala Rajini Minz in front of their home in Ara village in Jharkhand.
    [hr][/hr]
    ARA, Jharkhand— Early on an idle Sunday morning in late August, Ram Singh Kujur perched on the solitary broken wooden chair outside his mud hut, sipping tea from a disfigured steel tumbler. Sundays never used to be such in the Kujur residence. Seven years ago, the Kujurs would have excitedly woken up early, put on their best clothes and head toward the village church. Now, the family of seven bathes and duly assembles in front of Lord Ram’s idol, positioned in the corner of their single-room house.

    “We used to pray once in a week; now we pray every day. I am not sure the God is listening to us though,” said Mr. Kujur, 38, a farmer who owns two acres of land in Ara, 20 kilometers (12 miles) east of Ranchi, the capital of Jharkhand state.

    Mr. Kujur and his family converted to Hinduism seven years ago. As a member of the Oraon tribe, his grandfather had converted into Christianity. But in 2006, the late Bharatiya Janata Party leader Dilip Singh Judeo arrived in Ara with the sole agenda of converting 300 Christian families to Hinduism. Mr. Kujur’s was one of them.

    Most of the 450 families in this village are adivasis, or tribals, who had converted into Christianity a generation or two ago. The Kujurs decided to convert as they were “fed up” with what they called the Christian double standards.

    Mr. Kujur vividly remembered the day he was baptized. “I was 8 years old. The priest sprinkled holy water on my head and named me Gerald Kujur,” he said. From then on, he spent days of the week waiting for Sunday and the months of the year waiting for Christmas. “There used to be beef served in the church on Sundays, and several sweets distributed during Christmas,” he said.

    Mr. Kujur was educated in a convent. “They call it missionary school here,” Shashikala, his 32-year-old wife, said. There, Mr. Kujur learned mathematics, science, English and Christianity.

    Just as Mr. Kujur began to enjoy the school, the principal of the school, who was also the chief priest of the village, wrote a letter to Mr. Kujur’s father asking him to pay a few hundred rupees as fees. The Kujurs realized that the promise of “free education” expired six months after baptism.

    Mr. Kujur remembered bowing in front of a statue of Jesus Christ that day, inhaling the sweet smell of the incense, angry at the injustice. “Is it fair to ask a poor farmer to pay for education when he has nothing to eat?” he had asked.

    Two months after Mr. Judeo of the Bharatiya Janata Party converted 300 families in Ara by washing their feet with holy water from the Ganges River and declaring them Hindu, at least 600 tribal people were converted to Christianity in the Vishnupur locality of Gumla district, about 140 kilometers southwest of Ara. The local parish claimed this to be a counter to the Ara conversions by the Bharatiya Janata Party.

    Jharkhand has been the center of a religious tug-of-war since the 18th century, when a predominantly tribal state saw a flurry of Christian missionaries set up base there. The first Christian missionaries to arrive in the Chotanagpur plateau, which is most of Jharkhand today, were not the Catholics but German Protestants who traveled through Chakradharpur and Khunti to Ranchi. The Anglicans and the Catholics followed.

    In the late 19th century, Christian missionaries converted a large number of people, especially tribals. Despite several years of close coexistence, the tribals had maintained their identity separate from the Hindus. The tribals were mostly hunter-gatherers, worshipped their ancestors and nature, ate simple food and celebrated festivals of their own.

    According to several scholars, Hindu right-wing organizations like the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh came to Jharkhand in the 19th century to counter the conversion drives of the Christian missionaries.

    “We used to have a unique identity,” said Dilip Oraon, a tribal whose family refused to be converted to Christianity or endorse Hinduism. “Today, we are forced to choose between Christianity or Hinduism. We are Sarnas – those with a distinctive identity, independent of both.”

    In 2006-2007, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, or R.S.S., asked the Bharatiya Janata Party government in Jharkhand to bring a law to ban conversions to religions other than Hinduism in the state. Their allies in the Janata Dal (United) Party were opposed to the bill, and so it was stalled. There are still calls by members of the Bharatiya Janata Party and the R.S.S. to consider such a bill and to deny government benefits to tribal converts to Christianity.

    [​IMG]
    Dilip Singh Judeo, a leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party, left, during a religious conversion ceremony in Ara village of Jharkhand in 2006.
    [hr][/hr]

    As per the 2001 census, the latest available, 68.5 percent people of Jharkhand’s 32.96 million people follow Hinduism. Islam is followed by 13.8 percent and there are 13 percent animistic Sarnas. Only 4.1 percent of the population is said to follow Christianity.

    These figures are hotly debated by all sections of the population. “The adivasis are Hindus,” claims Lallan Sharma of Vikas Bharti, a nonprofit organization that believes in what it calls the preservation of Hindu values and culture.

    The Christian organizations counter the claim. “We are Christians by religion and adivasis by race,” said Naman Topno, whose family converted five generations ago.

    The debate over religion was revived four weeks ago when a statue of Mother Mary wearing a red-border sari and holding Jesus Christ in a way tribal women of Jharkhand hold their babies was erected by the local church in Singpur village in Dhurwa.

    Bandhan Tigga, the dharmguru, or the priest of the Sarna society, said to local media, “The red border means a lot in the Sarna culture. Our women wear white sari with red border during auspicious times. If the idol of Mother Mary is shown in the get-up of a tribal woman, then 100 years from now people will think that Mother Mary was a tribal from Jharkhand,” he said.

    Cardinal Telesphor P. Toppo retorted in the local media that the tribal Christians have an equal claim to the sari with red border.

    Mr. Kujur and his family were familiar with the recent controversy, but they said that in the end, no matter what god they worship, their economic state is the same. “We realize conversion is political,” said Mr. Kujur, “but sometimes we are left with no option.”

    When conversions happen, entire villages convert. If only one family dares to convert to another religion, they are outcast by the rest of the families. Therefore, in Jharkhand, Orissa and Chhattisgarh, villagers convert by the hundreds.

    Gladson Dungdung, author of “Whose Country is it Anyway?”, about the adivasi community in Jharkhand, said it doesn’t make financial sense for either the Hindu Right or the Christian missionaries to convert just a few families in a village, he said. A huge investment goes into staging a conversion ritual and the political parties would want to make the most of it. “The promised free food, free education and free medicines that lure the tribals also require money,” he said.

    When Mr. Kujur was a boy, the church offered incentives to convert, which included rice and milk. However, these faded after about seven to eight months after baptism.

    When Mr. Kujur was 22, a neighboring Christian family approached him with a marriage proposal. Mr. Kujur’s father was against the proposal, as marrying an adivasi girl would have entitled them to more benefits from the church.

    “You got nothing by marrying a fellow Christian, but if you married an adivasi and converted them, you’d get rice and milk from the church,” he said, smiling. However, he married Shashikala Rajini Minz, the neighbor’s daughter.

    It has been seven years since the Kujur family became Hindu, established Lord Ram’s idols in their home, began going to temples and reciting Hindu hymns. But their condition has changed little. They still depend on odd jobs to substitute their income from paddy farming six months out of the year. They still struggle to fortify their rice stew with lentils and carrots, and they still struggle to pay their children’s school fees.

    Mr. Kujur’s family sat in a circle on the muddy floor to have their afternoon meal. It took them some months to remember to stop praying to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit before the meal, and switch to prayers for Lord Ram.

    Mr. Kujur’s son, Dharma, 16, still remembered the Christian prayers and recited it without any prompting. “I used to be David, you see,” he said, winking, “but we have been told not to recite these prayers anymore before we eat. I don’t know why.”

    When Mr. Kujur goes to his fields, he prays to the soil, the trees that surround his fields and the sun god. It is a very adivasi thing to pray to nature that protects your crops, he said. He said his becoming Hindu hasn’t prevented him from doing so.

    However, there are several things that still confuse him and his family about what they can do and cannot. “When some R.S.S. activists came home, they instructed us to remove our footwear outside the house,” he said. “They said it is what a good Hindu would do.” But their house has no flooring, so they have to walk barefoot on rough mud.

    Members of Mr. Kujur’s family were promised jobs in various government bodies, by both Hindu and Christian authorities. “When my grandfather converted, he was told his son would be educated in a Christian school and then land a job in the government and enjoy pensions for a lifetime. But my father ended up farming and when he died, he owned only a few pieces of cloth,” said Mr. Kujur, with tears in his eyes.

    In 2006, when Mr. Kujur converted to Hinduism, R.S.S. officials had promised that his son would be educated in one of the best schools in Ranchi and would then land a job in a government body. Mr. Kujur was doubtful, but said he has few options now.

    “The worst thing that conversion does is takes away our identity,” said Mr. Kujur. “We are Christian one day and Hindu the next. There is an erosion of self in all this.”

    His wife added that they are so poor that the only thing they have left to sell is their pehchaan, identity. She was grateful that there are still buyers for that.

    Raksha Kumar is a freelance journalist based in Bangalore.
     
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2013
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  3. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    This is the chaos created in India.

    Everyone is confused.
     
  4. W.G.Ewald

    W.G.Ewald Defence Professionals/ DFI member of 2 Defence Professionals

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    Satan smiles.
     
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  5. Tshering22

    Tshering22 Sikkimese Saber Senior Member

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    See, we don't like conversion. Especially buying people into organized religion is considered lowly by us. Which is why half the riots happen.

    Technically we got nothing against Abrahamic religions in their countries and would never want to 'convert' them into our beliefs.

    But creating this politico-religious tensions in our country is what pisses people off.
     
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  6. W.G.Ewald

    W.G.Ewald Defence Professionals/ DFI member of 2 Defence Professionals

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    I don't even know from the story what this Mr. Kujur's problem is, but his quarrel is with his parents, not Christianity. Indians should be annoyed with the NY Times, not Christianity. DFI members should be annoyed with posts unrelated with defense matters, not Christianity.

    Here's a little Abrahamic story for ya... it's from the Book of Genesis.

    The Tower of Babel

     
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  7. happy

    happy Senior Member Senior Member

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    Actually his problem is with those who gave him false promises of free education and benefits if he convert to Christianity. This is inherently wrong. So called missionaries are actually providing fodder for fire by doing such things.
     
  8. I-G

    I-G Tihar Jail Banned

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    Faith comes from Heart and its a Spiritual thing which cant be bought . I was even offered good job for converting to Christianity and that day i was in a complete shock.
     
  9. Decklander

    Decklander New Member

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    Guys please do not fu*k everythread with your religious debates.
     
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  10. vram

    vram Regular Member

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    I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.
    Mahatma Gandhi

    All the religions of the world, while they may differ in other respects, unitedly proclaim that nothing lives in this world but Truth.
    Mahatma Gandhi
     
  11. LundBaba

    LundBaba Tihar Jail Banned

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    Just shoot Christians wherever you find them
     
  12. Tshering22

    Tshering22 Sikkimese Saber Senior Member

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    Don't be stupid. The people are not the problem; the pastors and their foreign-owned authorities are the problem.

    Why would you shoot common people?

    Are you crazy?
     
  13. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    The problem is that when you don't care for people, they will go where there is more dividends.

    In villages there are schools, but no teachers. There are no health services.

    The Church, foreign funded, if you wish, provides health care as also education till college and beyond.

    So, why should they cling on to a religion which gives them no hope, no advancement, and allows them to wallow in illiteracy, poverty, misery and ill health?

    And anyway, the tribal are animist and not Hindus in real terms.

    If Indians happily abandon their Nation and go abroad and become citizens of foreign countries, why are we not exhibiting the same ire?

    Aren't they seeking newer pastures that give them better opportunities?

    Indians proudly acclaim that chap Booby Jindal (who converted and changed his name from Piyush) to become Governor of Louisiana or Nikki Halley ( a Sikh, who too converted and is actually Namrata Randhawa), who became the Governor of South Carolina. Why? They too converted for a better life to accomplish their dream!

    If they (Booby Jindal and Nikkik Halley) are fine with Indians to exult about. then why hold it against the impoverished and abandoned tribal, who the country neglects, trying to find their way in this topsy turvy world by converting to reap the harvest through a very difficult and heart wrenching choice of changing of religion ?
     
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2013
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  14. happy

    happy Senior Member Senior Member

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    Exactly. Christians should be more Christ like. The word Christian itself means follower of Christ. Unfortunately, it is not being practiced in the true sense. That is why many people if not whole countries have problems with Christians. Hope that Christians world over realize this very important and basic truth.
     
  15. happy

    happy Senior Member Senior Member

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    Pls do. Atleast then they will start being like true followers of Christ.
     
  16. happy

    happy Senior Member Senior Member

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    Christianity as a religion has always been under the hammer. But as a matter of fact, it was the Christian leaders who caused all the trouble by imbibing their own doctrine upon others.

    I even know people who run multi-crore business by masquerading innocent tribals who do not know even have the capacity to comprehend matters like life after death etc. etc., as Christians.
     
  17. happy

    happy Senior Member Senior Member

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    This is a religious section.
     
  18. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Of course they do.

    There is no doubt about that.

    But as I said in my earlier post that I reproduce below,

     
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  19. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    @happy,,

    I have myself been subjected to the chicanery of some organisation bent on spreading their creed.

    It might surprise you but I have travelled the path.

    I have gone through all that and because of that, I have rejected belonging to any religion since I found religions are no longer a matter of faith, but a matter of politics, power and pelf.

    Yet, I have made a concerted effort to understand each religion and yet, stand far so that I can observe the manner in which it is being trampled from the spiritual to the temporal.

    Notwithstanding, I find that people who seek new pastures, do not do it out of choice, but out of necessity having been ignored by society.

    I would not stand in the way of someone who wants to reach greater heights through some organisation, when the organisation that they belong to, ignores them wholesale!
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 10, 2015
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  20. happy

    happy Senior Member Senior Member

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    Yes Sir. I understand. It pains me very much when people totally ignorant of Christianity's basic teachings, think that people who bend to every tom, dick and harry are the true embodiments of Christ and go on rant against Christ who Himself is true love personified.
     
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  21. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    @happy,

    Each Messiah was a human and had feet of clay.

    It is only the good deeds that are projected!

    We are not aware of the other side of the Messiahs.

    Therefore, to me it all remains mere propaganda.

    Who was Mary Magdalene?

    Within the four Gospels, the oldest historical record mentioning her name, she is named at least 12 times, more than most of the apostles. The Gospel references describe her as courageous, brave enough to stand by Jesus in his hours of suffering, death and beyond.

    Yet, the figures of Mary Magdalene, the anointing sinner of Luke, and Mary of Bethany were long regarded as the same person. Though Mary Magdalene is named in each of the four gospels in the New Testament, none of the clear references to her indicate that she was a prostitute or notable for a sinful way of life.

    The seven devils removed from her by Jesus "morphed into the seven capital sins, and Mary Magdalene began to be condemned not only for lust but for pride and covetousness as well".

    She stayed with him at the cross after the male disciples (except John the Beloved) had fled. She was at his burial, and she is the only person to be listed in all four Gospels as first to realize that Jesus had risen and to testify to that central teaching of faith.

    There is so much confusion as to who she was.

    Some say she was Jesus' wife!
     
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