Hindu Vivek Kendra
A RESOURCE CENTER FOR THE PROMOTION OF HINDUTVA
   
 
IX
Missionary social service

A common argument made for justifying the missionary activity is the so-called social service that they do. As said earlier, this is only done to fulfil the ultimate objective, namely to convert people to Christianity. Hence the service becomes highly debased. However, an argument is made that something is better than nothing, and conversions in such cases must be tolerated. The so-called secular Hindus would say that if organisations like the Missionaries of Charity give succour to the old in their dying days, it really does not matter if they convert.

The use of social service as a means of proselytisation is one of the major tool used in the Vanvasi (Tribal) areas of India. This has been documented by many Christian writers themselves. One such person is Shri Verrier Elwin, who started as a missionary for Christianity, but got disillusioned with their methods. He came to India in the early 1930s, and lived with the Vanvasis for most of the rest of his life. Based on Shri Elwin's papers available at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library in Delhi, Shri Ramchandra Guha writes as follows:

While (Shri Elwin) was away, the Catholics had been making steady progress among the Gods. There were now 35 Dutch priests in the district working with a large body of Christian clerks and teachers brought from Ranchi in Bihar, an old centre of missionary work among tribals. Their activities expanded enormously in the war years, helped by massive, if covert, government funding. To his horror, Elwin counted more than 100 schools run by the Catholics: schools that bore 'little resemblance to educational institutions' but were 'simply centres of proselytisation.' (Savaging the Civilised, Economic and Political Weekly, Special Number, Sept 1996, p 2386.)

In one of his comments on the missionary activity, Mahatma Gandhi said:

"In my opinion Christian missionaries have done good to us indirectly.... The great educational and curative institutes of Christian missions I also count among indirect results, because they have been established, not for their own sakes, but as an aid to proselytising." (Collective Works, Vol 29, New Delhi, 1968, p. 326.)

Most of the institutes set up by the missionaries came up during the colonial times. There is sufficient evidence available to show that they were encouraged by the colonialists to 'soften' the nationalistic spirit so that the country can be ruled more easily. The funding provided, both the capital and the running expenditure, was from the resources of this country, and not from that of the colonial masters. In this environment the Hindu organisations were actively discouraged from setting up parallel institutes. It was not the spirit that was lacking amongst the Hindus.

In the post-colonial system, the structure of funding to the missionary institutes was kept largely intact. The difference now is that the Hindus have been able to show that they are equally concerned about the needs of the society. However, while the missionary institutes are identified by their religious identity, the same is not done in case of the institutes funded and managed by the Hindus. That the Hindus are ahead of the missionaries can be seen with respect to the situation in Goa. Out of the thirty-odd colleges in the state about 15% are managed by the missionaries.

Another issue that has to be mentioned is that much of the social service activity should normally be within the domain of the state. Various governments, who have been seeking votes on the basis of being benefactors and protectors of the religious minorities, have also sought to raise taxes for such activities. Many of these governments have done precious little for doing proper research on the Hindu civilisation and culture. They continued the colonial programmes of denigrating Hinduism, and they were aided by the so-called themselves intellectuals. One such person says that there is nothing called Hinduism in our tradition, and the cultural unity is the creation of the last two hundred years. The, fact that, for example, the literacy rate of the country is around 50% has nothing to do with Hinduism, but is a failure of the programmes of the governments, who had little empathy towards Hinduism.

Education and other social service institutes are also run by the avowedly Hindu organisations like the Sangh Parivar as well. The problem with the so-called secularists is that they do not make the effort to find out what is happening at the ground level, and swallow the missionary propaganda that they have the monopoly over the social service activity, debased or not.

The Sangh, through very little state support, has built up large presence in the area of social service. To give one example, the institutes that come under the fold of Vidya Bharati, a Sangh affiliate working in the field of education, have over 17 lakh students and 74,000 teachers. This does not include institutes run by other Hindu organisations like Ramkrishna Mission, Arya Samaj, etc. It also does not include institutes run by large philanthropies, like the various industrial groups in this country.


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