Section V: Answers to the Questions of Hindus

Justice BK Somasekhar Enquiry Commission into the incidents of attacks on certain places of worship in Dakshina Kannada and other districts of Karnataka in the month of September 2008. Certain Hindus, Praveen Reddy and Others, submitted a questionnaire before the Honorable Commission seeking answers from the Christians for their theological and legal questions pertaining to the Christian faith. This was brought to the attention of SAN recently and has been informed that the Honorable Commission granted extension of time to answer those. Though not the original recipients, Jerry Thomas and G Bibu answered those questions and submitted their answers, both soft copy and hard copy, before the Honorable Commission. They have also submitted a questionnaire for these Hindu friends to answer.


The Memorialists:

Jesus drew near and said to them, I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Go, then, to the all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples: baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teach them, to obey everything I have commanded you. And I will be with you always, to end of the age. [Mathew 28-18]

Last of all, Jesus appeared to the eleven disciples, as they were eating. He scolded them, because they did not have faith and because they were too stubborn to believe those who had seen him alive. He said to them, Go throughout the whole world and preach the gospel to all mankind. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned. Believers will be given the power to perform miracles: they will drive out demons in my name; they will speak in strange tongues; if they pick up snakes or drink any poison, they will not be harmed; they will place their hands on sick people, who will get well. [Mark 15- 143]

Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, : This is what is written: the Messiah must suffer and must rise from death three days later, and in his name the message about repentance and the forgiveness of sins must be preached to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem. [Luke 24-45]

I will give them authority over the nations, to rule them with an iron rod and break them to pieces like clay pots. I will also give them the morning star.[Revelations 2-24]

 It does not matter! I am happy about it so long as Christ is preached in every way possible, whether from wrong or right motives. And I will continue to be happy, because I know that by means of your prayers and the help which from the Spirit of Jesus Christ I shall be set free. [Philippians 2]

(A) It is not the verse contained in Philippians 2 a direct inspiration for Christians to indulge in fraudulent conversions?

The Respondents:

We note that a few of the references cited by the Memorialists are again wrong. It should be Philippians 1: 18 and not Philippians 2. It should be Mark 16 and not Mark 15.

First let us read the entire context:

Philippians 1: 15-18 “It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.”

Any reader cannot miss the fact that the people who have the false motives are enemies of Apostle Paul. Their false motive here is that though the pretend to love Jesus Christ, their actual intention is trouble for Apostle Paul who was in prison at that time.

Therefore, the clear meaning of this verse in the context is Apostle Paul would rejoice in hearing Christ being preached even if it is intended to increase the trouble of Apostle Paul.

Does this verse has any scope in being misinterpreted to a Christian can indulge in fraudulent propagation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Far from it provided one is ready to the rest of the Philippians, if not the entire writings of Apostle Paul.

Let us look at least the rest of the Philippians to know the teaching of the Holy Scripture regarding the Christians and enemies who preach the Gospel out of wrong motives.

In the very same Chapter 1 of the Philippians, Apostle Paul had already said what his desire of the believers is:

Philippians 1: 9-10 “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.”

Again Philippians 2, the reference that Memorialists mistakenly cited. This is addressed to the Christians.

Philippians 2: 3-4 – “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

Philippians 2: 5 “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 2: 14– “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life—in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing.”

Further, Apostle Paul teaches about the end of the enemies who preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ with a wrong intention.

Philippians 3: 2Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh.”

Philippians 3: 18 “For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.”

Had the Memorialists lived up to the scientific temperament they expect from others, they would have at least read the entire epistle of Philippians and would not have wrenched out a passage from its context and imposed their erroneous meaning upon it.

Respondents Questionnaire:

Bhagavad Gita 10: 36 "I am gambling among deceitful practices, and the glory of glorious. I am the victory of victorious, the resolve of resolute, and the goodness of good."

(A) Please clarify if this verse creates a moral ambivalence between truth and falsehood?

(B) Clarify, if this verse is not directly responsible for creating a moral indifference among a section of the Hindus that led them not only to become one of the most corrupted the nations but also to practice those in the religious realm?

Srimad Bhagavatam 8: 19: 14-20  (Vishnu cheats Mahabali): Your father [Virocana], the son of Prah

lâda, gave requested by the gods, despite of the fact that he knew that they had dressed up as brahmins, his life to them out of his own affinity with the twiceborn. Your good self also performed to the dharma that was established by the householders, the brahmins, your forefathers, the great heroes and others highly elevated and famous. From such a person, from Your Majesty, I ask a little bit of land; from him who can be of munificent charity I ask three footsteps of land, o King of the Daityas, to the measure of My foot. There is nothing else I desire from you, o King so generous, o master of the universe, may the one of learning not suffer any want and receive from donations as much as he needs.'

S'rî Bali said: 'Alas o brahmin scion, Your words are welcome to the learned and elderly, but as a boy not intent on taxing for Your self-interest are You not aware of what it all takes. It is for him who propitiates with sweet words me, the one and only master of all the world, not very intelligent to ask for three steps, when I can give an entire continent! No one who once has approached me deserves it to beg again and therefore, o small brahmacârî, take from me according Your desire whatever suits Your needs.'

(C) Has not cheating and deception been legitimized by such ‘avatar’ stories as above?

(D) If, Mahabali is great as Vishnu describes him here, why did Vishnu cheat and kill him? Is it because of envy that others should not become great?

The Memorialists:

(B) Has not fraudulent conversion been legitimized and also mandated by the above verse?

The Respondents:

As we have clearly shown that the verse does not approve or instruct any deception rather the entire passage in context and the epistle itself proscribes any deception, this question is irrelevant.

The Memorialists:

(C) Is not propagation and conversion the central theme of Christianity?

The Respondents:

Christian faith does consider sharing about the supreme love of God as the greatest and the most important job of anyone who has experienced that love. In this sharing, if the hearer opens his/her heart for the supreme love of God, then that is also well appreciated.

The Memorialists:

(D) Has not Pope John Paul-II and Pope Benedict given a call to the Christians to harvest souls in India? Is not harvesting souls conversion?

The Respondents:

This question is not applicable to the current respondents as they are not Catholics.

The Memorialists:

(E) Has not conversion resulted in friction, disharmony between Hindus and Christians in India?

The Respondents:

The Christians were not responsible for initiating any violence or disharmony though we acknowledge that in certain cases anti-conversion Hindu extremist groups have succeeded in creating disharmony on the pretext of conversions.

Respondents Questionnaire:

In The Hindu, November 7, 2008 by M.S. Prabhakara wrote:

“Or, take the case of Manipur where virtually the whole population of the Imphal Valley, accounting for about two-thirds of the population, became Hindu in a matter of a few years following the King, Pamheiba (1714-1754), becoming a Hindu under the influence of Santi Das, a migrant Bengali Brahmin from Sylhet who followed Vaishavism as propagated by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. 

Suppression  

So fanatical was the attachment of this convert to his new faith that he ordered the suppression of ancient beliefs and practices that were unacceptable to Chaitanya Vaishnavism. More unforgivably, he suppressed the ancient language of Manipur, the Meitei Mayek, and ordered in an act of mindless vandalism the destruction of earlier literature in that script, a precious heritage. Those who did not accept this variety of Hinduism were persecuted, considered outcasts. Their descendants are now categorised as Loi, a Scheduled Caste of Manipur. It is they who have kept alive memories and practices of pre-Vaishnavite Meitei religion and gods.

Finally, a more recent instance of mass conversions. Once again, it is a historical fact that many tribal people, outside or on the peripheries of Hinduism, were converted in Assam by Assamese Brahmin missionaries. A valuable account of this process as it then obtained in Nowgong (now Nagaon) district, with great historical significance and contemporary relevance, is a Note cited in the Report of the Census of India, 1891: Assam, by Edward A. Gait (Shillong, 1893): “The Gosein or some of his subordinates usually select certain families of the aboriginal tribes, who reside in the vicinity of Hindu villages, and at a distance from the main villages of the aboriginal tribes. These families are frequently lectured upon the purity of the Hindu religion and the easy way in which they can get salvation, and how they can get a position in the Hindu society if they give up their habits of eating pork and other forbidden food and drinking strong liquor, and conform to the Hindu methods of eating and drinking and worship. As these people frequently feel the inconvenience of their isolated position, they are easily tempted to become Hindus, and thereby be enabled to associate and move with their Hindu neighbours, by whom they are hated and looked down upon as a degraded class so long as they remain in an unconverted state … When they express a desire of entire conversion to the Hindu religion, they are made to fast for a day or two, and then to undergo a Prayaschit (atonement), for which they have to spend some 5 to 20 rupees according to their circumstances. They then receive their Saran Bhajan (religious instruction and mode of worship) from the Gosein, who from that day they look upon as their spiritual guide. These people then change all former utensils of cooking and eating and also their dwelling houses and become quite Hinduised.”

Does one catch echoes or intimations of other processes and inducements practised by, or attributed to, others engaged in conversions, like the abuse of the Other, in more recent times in the rest of the country? 

In all the three cases cited, the conversions that in some cases took place centuries earlier have now got linked to some current grievances. The Ahoms who became Hindus are now seeking the status of a Scheduled Tribe, but within the Hindu fold. Some of the Valley-based insurgent groups in Manipur trace their disenchantment with ‘India’ to the injuries done to the native faith, language and culture, by imposed Hindu practices traitorously adopted by one of their own kind. There is a conscious process of re-tribalisation among many Bodos who had taken saran and ‘become Hindus’.

(A) Has not conversion resulted in friction, disharmony between Hindus and Tribals in India?

The Memorialists:

(F) Do not these verses direct the Christians to convert the entire world into one religion i.e. Christianity which is directly against the law of land, violate Article 141 of the Constitution of India and violate the Supreme court judgment laid down in AIR 1977 SC 908, as per which one has no right to convert others?

The Respondents:

In Reverend Stainislaus vs. State of Madhya Pradesh (AIR 1977 SC 908); and Yulitha vs. State of Orissa and others, The Honourable Supreme Court ruled that the right to freedom of religion under Article 25(1) of the Indian Constitution does not include the right to convert others into one's own religion.

As long as the above ruling stands unreviewed by the Supreme Court, any act o

f converting others to Christianity or any religion for that matter, will be against the law of the land.

However, this illegality is only to the extent of the judicial precedence in view.  With all due respects and apologies, the question remains whether the Honourable Supreme Court was right in its observation that the right to convert does not form part of the right to "Practice", "Profess", and "Propagate" any religion, as guarantied under Article 25(1) of the Indian Constitution.

There is no reason, basis, or duty to always presume in favor of a judicial decision.  The scores of instances in legal history, loaded with the judiciary overruling its own decisions, sufficiently argues for the position that the judiciary can go wrong, and has in fact gone wrong, in several decisions.  We could therefore academically insist for a reconsideration by the Supreme Court of its position prevailing on the issue on conversion also.

In the context of reviewing its own decisions the Supreme Court has itself stated the following:

"The Constitution imposes no restriction on the power of the Supreme Court to review its earlier decisions or even to depart from them and in matters relating to the decisions of constitutional points, which have a significant impact on the fundamental rights of citizens, it would be prepared to review wits earlier decisions in the interest of the public good. The doctrine of stare decisis may not strictly apply in this context and that said doctrine should not be permitted to perpetuate erroneous decisions pronounced by the Supreme Court to the detriment of general welfare."

We believe that the above declaration was made by our honorable Supreme Court in all integrity, and that it would be prepared to review its own decision on the issue of conversion also, if it can only be proved as to why such a decision would adversely impact the fundamental right to "Propagate" one's religion, in the spirit in which the constitution has granted it.

We do not see any logic in the premise upon which the honorable Supreme Court arrived at the conclusion that there can be no such a thing as a fundamental right to convert as a part of the right to "propagate".  The reason advanced by the supreme court was, "The freedom of religion enshrined in the Article is not guaranteed of one religion only, but covers all religions alike and it can be properly enjoyed by a person if he exercises his right in a manner commensurate with the like freedom of persons following other religions.  What is freedom for one is freedom for others, in equal measure; and there can be no such thing as a fundamental right to convert any person to one's own religion."

We do not understand how it is justified to conclude against the right to convert, simply on the premise that the right to freedom of religion should be enjoyed by person's of all religions alike.  Why may we not conclude, that because the right to freedom of religion is available to persons of all religions, the right to convert others is also available to persons of all religions, instead of holding that since the freedom of religion is to be enjoyed by all, the right to convert should not be enjoyed by any?    It is as good as saying that because the freedom to trade and commerce is guarantied to persons of all trades, none of them would enjoy the right of persuasive marketing to sell their goods or services, because the freedom of trade and commerce enshrined in the constitution is not guaranteed of one trade only, but covers all trades alike and it can be properly enjoyed by a person if he exercises his right in a manner commensurate with the like freedom of persons following other trades.  And because that which is freedom for one is freedom for others, in equal measure; there can be no such thing as a fundamental right to sell to any person one's own product.  The analogy we seek to draw here between the right to religion, and the right to trade and commerce is to make the point that the position taken by the Supreme Court in interpreting the article in question as granting the right to "propagate" without the right to "convert", would be more like a permission to employee a means, with a prohibition to attain the end.  It is better and more correct to say, that because "what is freedom for one is freedom for others in equal measure", all have the right to convert others in equal measure, rather than to say that because "what is freedom for one is freedom for others, in equal measure" no one has such a right to convert.

In short, we may conclude from the judgment of the Supreme Court, that it has ruled against the possibility of conversion forming part of the right to "Propagate" religion, but has failed to advance any valid reasons to explain why it does not.  We have already shown the inadequacy in the premise of the Supreme Court's decision to thus conclude.  This has plunged justice in to a deep trouble.  The trouble is that this decision must serve as precedence in the land, simply because the Apex Court has said it, although there is no justification for such a conclusion otherwise.

After examining the different meanings of the word "propagate" in Article 25(1), Justice Ray expressed the view that "what Article 25(1) grants is not the right to convert another person to one's own religion by exposition of its tenets."

What is pathetic about such a viewpoint is that it does not attempt to explain how someone can "Propagate" his religion without expounding its tenets to others.  The exposition of the tenets of one's own religion may or may not lead to conversion of others in to his own religion, but that is a consequence beyond the control of the propagator.  To say that a person should not expound the tenets of his religion to others lest it should convert them, is to say that a person should not "propagate" his religion at all, since one cannot propagate his religion without expounding it to others.  Hence this position taken by the Supreme Court does not interpret, but seeks to amputate the right itself, to "Propagate" one's religion, by a language  couched in a subtle judicial jargon.

Moreover, while giving a negative interpretation in terms of what is not "Propagation" the Supreme Court has not attempted to give a positive definition in terms of what is "propagation", so as to clarify in what it consists, or how it is to be understood.  Instead it adopted a peculiar interpretative method of a negative definition, as may render "propagation" without any  practical distinction in its connotation and use from a mere right to "profess" religion.

To express in the words of Hidayatulla, who has himself been the Chief Justice of India,

"In my view the Supreme Court in the last case has put a narrow construction on the word” propagate’ and turned down the earlier case. With all respect, the right has not been given the full effect, but has only been reduced to a vanishing point. The case needs to be reconsidered."

As rightly pointed out by Ram Jethmalani, (speaking in Bombay on 18 March, 1979 on the Freedom of Religion Act 1967 of Orissa).

"It is the Supreme Court of the emergency period which sustained the constitutional validity of those measures. As a student of law, without committing contempt of Court, I am free to say that the Supreme Court is wrong. I have no doubt that some day the Supreme Court more properly and ad

equately informed about the legal provisions, will reverse that decision."

In the light of the details presented above, we conclude that the right to convert is unlawful, but not unconstitutional.  Hence the precedence which forbids conversion must be unconstitutional and we hope that it will justly be reversed some day by our Just and Honourable Supreme Court.

The Memorialists:

(G) Clarify whether is it the intention of Christians to convert the entire Indian population to Christianity as directed by Jesus in the Bible?

The Respondents:

It is the intention of the Christians who experienced the supreme love of God to share it with every of his/her brother and sister in humanity in India. In this process, if someone would like to return to their home of Heavenly Father, we will certainly welcome them with both hands and will not discriminate anyone based on their birth such as caste or gender. 

The Memorialists:

(H) Can you categorically say on oath that there is no backing for conversion from foreign countries and that large amount of money is being sent for that purposes?

The Respondents:

Any overseas funds received by any Christian organization and its utilization are tracked by the Government of India. So the government of India will be in a better position to answer this question. We do not have those records.

Respondents Questionnaire:

It has been reported by many rights and watch dog organizations that RSS uses foreign funds for charity, raised by ‘charity’ organizations in US, UK etc and are utilizing it for the anti-religious minority activities. We cite one of those reports:

Sabrang Communications & Publishing Pvt. Ltd, Mumbai, India, and The South Asia Citizens Web notes:

“The IDRF (India Development and Relief Fund) was set up as a tax-exempt, non-profit organization in 1989 under the provisions of section 501(c)(3) of the tax code. Its official, self-stated purpose is to raise money for organizations in India “assisting in rural development, tribal welfare, and urban poor.” According to its tax filings, the IDRF raised $ 3.8 million in the year 2000, of which it disbursed $1.7 million in ‘relief and development work.”

Further it writes:

Nearly 70% of the IDRF funds go to organizations dealing with education (largely in adivasi/rural areas), hostels, 'shuddhi'/reconversion programs, and Hinduization efforts; about 8% goes for health and welfare work; 15% goes for relief work, and only 4% towards what is normally understood in the NGO world as rural development.”

(B) Can you categorically say on oath that you do not have any affiliation or association with foreign funded organizations like RSS and its sister organizations?

The Memorialists:

(I) Clarify whether for the Catholic Christians, the Pope is the supreme head and the mandates issued by the Pope are binding on the Roman Catholics?

The Respondents:

This question is not applicable to the current respondents as they are not Catholics.

The Memorialists:

(I) Clarify whether the law of the land will supersede over the mandates issued by the pope or the mandates issued by the Pope regarding all the matters are binding on Catholic Church even if it violates the Constitution of India?

The Respondents:

This question is not applicable to the current respondents as they are not Catholics.

Continue reading the next Section VI: Answers to the Questions of Hindus.

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