Hindu Vivek Kendra

In today's intellectual environment, a question that comes to the fore is why there cannot be a dialogue on the contentious issues. The main reason is that for the Christians the dialogue is not with an objective to understand others but as a means to convince the other side that Christ is the only Son of God. We have quoted various members of hierarchy attesting to this. Secondly, the dialogues so far have dealt with the issues that are supposed to be common between Hinduism and Christianity. Differences are swept under the carpet. But it is because of the differences that a dialogue is needed.

Efforts have been made in the past and each of them has failed. The experience of two dialogues with the activists of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and one with a critical supporter of the Hindutva ideology will be narrated here. The first is an exposition of the RSS view on the relevance of Christianity in India, given through a lecture by Shri Shripaty Sastry, a senior RSS office bearer, in July 1983. The occasion was a seminar organised by the De Nobili College in Pune, which is one of the Roman Catholic seminaries in India. The event happened some time ago. Yet it is important for the issues that we are discussing today, and it is reproduced as Appendix II.

Here we would like to reproduce a part of the letter that was sent as an acknowledgement to a copy of the booklet to the organisers of the seminar:

........... His (Shripaty Sastry's) was one of the most interesting and thought provoking talks to the student participants of the Seminar. His openness and frankness were highly appreciated by all the staff and students at Jnanadeepa Vidyapeeth.

I hope this cordial invitation of ours to an active RSS man to share his views on Christianity with us will be the first step towards an open and fraternal dialogue between Christians and RSS in India. I am sure such a dialogue will greatly enable us to work for the betterment of people and for promoting justice and peace in our country.

With warm regards to RSS friends,

Yours sincerely,
Sd/- J. Felix Raj, S.J.,
(Seminar Organising Committee)

(Shripaty Sastry, A Retrospect - Christianity in India: An exposition of the RSS view of the Relevance of Christianity in India Today, Bharatiya Vichar Sadhana, Pune, 1983.)

The dialogue with the critical supporter of the Hindutva ideology was the one with Shri Arun Shourie, a prominent writer on the current affairs in India. This was also based on a talk given by him in January 1994 at the same seminary where Shri Sastry spoke in 1983. The occasion was almost identical to the one Shri Sastry in 1983. Shri Shourie developed on the theme of his lecture, and came out with a book entitled The Missionaries in India: Continuities, Changes, Dilemmas. The reaction to Shri Shourie's talk was also mentioned in the same book, and we would like to quote from it:

"It has been a feast," said Dr. P. Ramachandran, formerly of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, who had been presiding over the session, as he wound up the exchange. As we dispersed for tea the exchange continued, as did the banter: "He knows more about Christianity than your students," Archbishop Mathias of Bangalore told Bishop Valerian D'Souza of Pune, teasing him and me. "He knows more about Christianity," said the latter who oversees one of the best seminaries in our country, "than many of our professors!"........

The things I had been saying were hardly the things that the Archbishop, the Bishops and the scholars assembled there agreed with, they were certainly not the things that they would find agreeable. But, as I recalled at the beginning, they heard me out in pin-drop silence, and with unbroken patience. They told me unambiguously that they did not agree with what I had said. Several of their observations left no doubt that they were put out but by what I had said. But they pasted no motive. They were courteous and the very models of dignity and decorum throughout.

I left feeling I had been among friends.

If only we could learn at least this one thing from them: if we could only learn how to disagree. How much better off our country would be.

(Arun Shourie, Missionaries in India: Continuities, Changes, Dilemmas, ASA Publications, 1994, pp 241-2.)

Both the lectures were hard hitting. Both the lectures evoked very similar responses at the time of the presentation. While the booklet by Shri Sastry did not create any excitement, the book by Shri Shourie caused a pandemonium. Shri Sastry's booklet could be safely ignored - the book by Shri Shourie could not be. The latter is well known not only in India, but also abroad. Being a book, the research based on which the arguments are presented by Shri Shourie is well documented and irrefutable. The only way to counteract the presentation was to create a diversion.

The Hindu Vivek Kendra has come out with a booklet on the reaction to Shri Shourie's book. The whole study is quite relevant to the subject under discussion, and it is included as Appendix III. It is to be noted that this programme of creating the diversion was not only by the Christian clergy and lay writers, but also the Hindus who go under the rubric secularists.

One of the point that Shri Shourie makes is about the continuity of the calumny against Hinduism. What Shri Sastry said in 1983 confirms this trend. The programme still continues, as can be seen in the writing of Fr D'Britto quoted above. It is quite obvious that no matter how much effort the Hindus make to present their side of the picture, it will always be ignored. The Christians just cannot afford to look at it from a purely intellectual angle. After all, if one starts with the belief that one has a unique way of salvation which is valid for all mankind, anything that disturbs this assumption has to be ignored. The existence of Christianity is at stake!

The third example that we would like to mention is a dialogue in which I was involved. In June 94, we had presented the booklet by Shri Sastry to the then vice-president of the All India Catholic Union (AICU), which claims to be the umbrella body for the Roman Catholic laity organisations in India. After going through it, he contacted us saying that the parameters of Hindutva set out by Shri Sastry should pose no problem to Christians in India. He requested a dialogue on the subject with a group of Christians. We welcomed the suggestion, and organised our own group of activists from various Sangh organisations in Mumbai. The fast meeting was held on August 20, 1994.

We explained in details what is the Sangh concept of Hindutva and its significance in the civilisational terms. We dwelt extensively on the sociopolitical issues of Hindutva and its relevance to the religious minorities in India. We studied the anti-Hindutva material that were given to us and gave our responses to the same. At one of the meetings we asked why were they giving us the anti-Hindutva material when they accept the Sangh concept of Hindutva. The mindset of the Christian group was to look at the issues in electoral terms. They said that while they accept the Sangh viewpoint, they are not sure whether the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will implement it. We said that the Sangh does not proclaim that it is only the BJP that is competent to implement its programme. However, while the BJP says that it is close to the Sangh ideology, others make propaganda of objecting to it. We said we have no problem of supporting the Christian group, if it takes upon itself to propagate Hindutva, and will work along with it for its implementation in our society.

Very soon we realised that what we were having was not a real dialogue. Questions were posed to the Hindus and answers were expected. Concomitantly, the Christian group did not feel obliged to answer the questions posed to them. Except for a couple of the members, the rest of the group often did not read the material that we gave them, and we had to spend the time in the meetings to explain to them the salient points. Very often they would disagree with us, but would never tell us why. And they would never tell us what would be the right thing to do. A mere statement that we were wrong seemed sufficient to them.

We had nine meetings spread over a sixteen-month period, the last one on February 12, 1996. Each meeting would last about four hours, and the gap between two would be about two months. The whole effort started to fizzle out when we came across an article written by one of the vocal members of the group in a Christian magazine in June 95. We gave a detailed response to it, and send it to them for a counter-response. In the introduction to the response, we said, "When I read the article, the first thought that came to my mind is how the article would have been any different before (the author of the article) started this dialogue."

The whole attitude of the Christian group was one that the Germans call vorbeireden, talking past the point. It is a verbose device to circumvent the truth. The response that we made was dismissed off hand, and no effort was made by the Christian group to even address the issues that we raised. It would appear that we were trying to wake up people who are pretending to sleep.

The article written by the Christian and our response to it is enclosed as Appendix IV. The whole text needs to be read to understand the perversion that even the Christian laity is indulging in.

The real intent of this group was confirmed to us when the person who had written the article addressed a meeting of Christians in Mumbai on October 13, 1998, about the alleged assaults on Christians. He quoted from an article written by a person associated with our group, but not a part of the dialogue team. The objective was to pervert the Sangh and present it in an evil light. He only succeeded in exposing his own mischief and that of his group.

The quote read out by him was as follows:

When we consider the Muslim and the Christian problem, three different solutions appear before us. They are 1) to massacre them 2) to drive them out of the country 3) to convert them all to Hinduism by an act of Parliament. These methods appeal to different people in different ways. They cite the examples of Bosnia or some countries in Africa where ethnic cleansing was sought to be effected by violence and massacres. (Ramesh Patange, "Sangh Parivar and the Non-Hindus", Hindu Vivek Kendra, Mumbai, p 6.)

What he did not quote were the lines that immediately followed:

People who want these types of methods in, our country are negligible. Massacres are totally alien to the temper of Hinduism. Violence and bloodshed do not fit in the Hindu religious outlook which sees God in every living being. We cannot therefore even think of the brutal methods mentioned above. (ibid, p 7.)

This episode has also revealed the arrogance of the person because he thought he could get away with it. We wrote a letter to all the Christian participants of the dialogue, exposing their colleague. As expected, we have not received any response from them. Many of the members of the Christian group are active in the campaign of calumnising the Sangh.

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