Date: September 16, 2011
National Tribunal and Workshop on Evangelism: Impact on Faith, Culture, Economy and Life of Vanvasis
ARCHANA Bhagat, a 21-year old Vanvasi woman from Jashpur Nagar district of Chhattisgarh, made her way to Delhi to give her testimony before a Tribunal comprising of eminent bureaucrats, retired judges, ambassadors, academicians and journalists on September 5. Her husband was brutally assassinated by missionaries for resisting an onslaught on his Vanvasi culture two years ago, leaving Archana to fend for herself and her ten months baby.
The proceedings of the Tribunal were conducted under the banner of Forum for Social Justice. The Tribunal comprised of eminent people like former DG of Punjab Police Shri KPS Gill, senior writer Bhavdeep Kang, former IPS Shri PC Dogra, Air Marshal (retd) Shri RS Bedi, Swami Shantatmananda, Justice (retd) Shri Suresh Soni, Justice (retd) Shri BK Gupta, Justice (retd) Shri DS Tewatia, former Ambassador Shri Prabhat Shukla, director of Centre for Policy Studies Dr JK Bajaj, Smt Usha Goel, Shri Vinod Bawari, Shri Shaurya Doval and Col. (retd) Shri PK Panda. The Tribunal, after preparing a detailed report, will present it the Union Minister of Tribal Affairs, different Commissions and authorities with a memorandum within one month.
Archana Bhagat’s heartbreaking story is not in isolation. More than 100 Vanvasis from different parts of India were in Delhi from September 5 to 6 to appeal to the government authorities to take preventive measures to save their culture, economy and the distinguished way of life.
The impact, extent and penetration of evangelic activities today came clear to an extent to everybody when a Jamatia Vanvasi student of Law (final year) in Delhi University informed about the conversion of his fellow 17 students in the national capital itself, by funds provided by Tripura Christian Fellow Organisation. One Vanvasi named Nikhil pointed out that now the Christian missionaries are taking help of Maoists to pressurise the Hindu Vanvasis for conversion. He also told that there is a clear nexus between Maoists and Christian Missionaries. Maoists are appointing Christians as their commander in the area.
Gadadhar Pradhan from Kandhmal district of Orissa informed the Tribunal how the land of his family members and other villagers was forcibly garbed by the Christians. Nandini Pradhan from same Kandhmal district pointed out that Christians intimidate the women against using Hindu symbols like bindi, sindoor, etc. They even torture the Hindu farmers visiting the market to sell their agriculture produces. The local administration do not listen to such complaints of the people and many times they even support the church people.
Pawitra Kanhal, who is a teacher in Kandhmal district of Orissa explained how he was framed in a false case by the missionaries and he had to remain in jail for 50 days. His only crime was that he had opposed the cow slaughter. Passing Golmai from Imphal said he was himself allured to get married with a beautiful and working Christian girl if I became a Christian, but he refused. He said 64 villages in his region are facing direct onslaughts from the missionaries and the identity and traditions of the Hindus are in danger in the entire region. Bhaikabhai Pawar from the Dangs, Gujarat, informed the Tribunal how the gochar land of his village was garbed for constructing a church. “Once a group of church people caught me and intimidated to stop doing bhajan keertan in the region. They set me free with the threat to face dire consequences if I did not stop doing bhajan keertan. They also create troubles in the celebration of Hindu festivals, he said pointing out that over 200 of the total 311 villages in his region have now churches.
Sunil from Golaghat (North East) informed how he was converted into Christianity for just Rs 500 and when he returned Hinduism after sometime he was forced to return the amount with interest. Rameshwar Rathia from Korba district of Chhattisgarh said church-supported people come from Jharkhand side and forcefully settle on the vacant land of their village. He said the land that they once occupy is not vacant at any cost. Jamdari Reang who was forced to leave Mizoram with his family some years back and now lives in Tripura, informed how all his family members converted into Christianity but he refused despite repeated pressure. He pointed out that with the change of religion the thinking of the entire family changed towards him and Hindu customs.
In their testimonies these Vanvasis clearly stated that evangelical Christian missionaries are forcing them to convert into their religion. They clearly stated that there was an increase in the nexus between Maoists and these Evangelist forces and the leaders.
After the testimony before the Tribunal for two days, these Vanvasis who had come from more than 14 states of the country, assembled at Jantar Mantar on September 6 to register their protest against various challenges posing a threat to their traditional life. They said evangelical missionaries are very much involved in these kinds of activities. In the demonstration, five Members of Parliament (MPs) also participated and lent their support to the demands raised by the Vanvasis. The MPs who attended the demonstration were Smt Jyoti Dhurve from Madhya Pradesh, Shri Murali Lal from Chhattisgarh, Shri Kanjibhai Patel from Gujarat and Shri Sudarshan Bhagat from Jharkhand. They all assured them to raise the issues of atrocities on Vanvasis in the Parliament and at other important forums.
Earlier, inaugurating the proceedings of the Tribuanl on September 5, former DG of Punjab Police Shri KPS Gill said the Vanvasis have been facing a threat to their culture, economy and way of life since the British period and it must stop now.
President of the Forum for Social Justice Shri PC Dogra said the Vanvasis are in grave danger and it is our duty to help our Vanvasi brothers and sisters living in remote areas. He said the number of Christians in census is less than 50 per cent of actual numbers. Most of the Christian don’t reveal their identity because they fear that they will lose the benefit of reservation. He also said that Christian missionaries are not just alluring poor and innocent Vanvasis but they are also forcing them and providing support to Maoists to pressurise Vanvasis to convert to Christianity.
Swami Shantatmananad Maharaj of Ramakrishna Math, Delhi, said conversions are taking place because there is no development in Vanvasi areas. Christian Missionaries are destroying Vanvasi culture. He said those who are capable enough should economically support and do some sewa in the Vanvasi areas.
The Tribunal took note of the actual distressing situation on grounds by interacting straight with the affected Vanvasis. For this purpose a variety of individuals from distinct Vanvasi cultures of India commonly affected by this phenomenon were brought on a single platform by Forum for Social Justice and India Foundation, New Delhi. This direct interaction with the blighted individuals proved to be very helpful for the jury in making an impact assessment of the detrimental effects of evangelism upon the life and culture of the Vanvasis in India. This was amply reflected in the panel observation and adjudications.(FOC)