Tribal Communities in The Face of Coerced Religious Conversions

Tribal Communities in The Face of Coerced Religious Conversions

Religious or Spiritual transmutation is the procedure of turning an individual to another religion, leaving one’s faith. The person who embosoms another religion is called a ‘convert,’ and those who make others adopt another religion are called a ‘converter.’ In regular vernacular, this activity is called vatal (tarnishing one’s religion) or ‘conversion.’ It is regarded to be a demeaning scheme. The conversion of tribals in India is an uncanny social concern and a social stumbling block.

Religion is the indispensable part of the Indian submerged mind, which synchronizes and governs their lives toward virtue and good life. Nevertheless, it has now capsized, resulting in satiating individuals into forced involvement in religious campaigns. Tribal Communities have been impoverished, abandoned, and compelled to the level of religious conversion and unethical, an unconstitutional practice followed by individuals who think of their religion as the paramount and supreme tradition of the world. They believe that implementation, customs, and notions of their religion make a man a sterling human being, and the sole vindication of his wrongdoings is the religious transformation.

Introduction

Under no circumstances an individual, confraternity, civilization, or country can exist without religion. Man and religion have been concatenating to each other since time antediluvian. Various people follow distinct religions on the planet. Religion is an inextricable component of human existence. It is not autonomous or contrasting from human life or human enactment. It also helps superintend human life. One cannot conceptualize anthropoid life without faith. And on that account, religion enlights values like integrity, compassion, charity, egalitarianism, tenderness towards other mortals, intimacy, morality, forbearance, encouragement, sentiment, righteous performances, fidelity, faith, affection, and so on. Man tries to preach/his religion by going through religious activities, including devotion and adoration. Each religion has its scripture like Geeta, Bible, Avesta, Quran, Guru Granth Sahib, Agams, Torah, etc., which point the regulation to probity and make human beings ‘human’ in the correct sense of the expression.

The Indian population according to the 2011 census records comprises 79.8% Hindus, 14.2% Muslims, 2.3% Christians, 1.72% Sikhs, 0.7% Buddhists and lastly 0.3% Jains.[1]

The rules and regulations associated with conversion were primitively rectified by Hindu Princely states between 1930 and 1940 with the intention of warding off Hindu people from the jaws of British correspondents for transformation into Christianity and therefore preserving the Hindu race and recognition. The princely states[2] of Bikaner, Kota, Patna, Jodhpur, Raigarh, Udaipur, Surguja, and Kalahandi made laws including the Raigarh State Conversion Act, 1936; the Surguja State Apostasy Act, 1942; and the Udaipur State Anti-Conversion Act, 1946.

Christian missionaries and conversion of the tribals

Suppose the occupation, execution, and proliferation of one’s religion are approved by the Indian Constitution. Why do the Hindu nationalists and the Sangh defy religious conversion carried out by the Christian missionaries?

Christian missionaries approaching India and trying to permute individuals is a well-known historical gospel. There is no primal registry that traces foreign converters and evangelists. Therefore, it’s not feasible to know their precise numbers. But it’s a time and again held notion that hundred and thousands of nuns and fathers came to India, prevailed unmarried and operated to neophyte individuals. In parallel, Christian donors infuse a lot of capital, reportedly in the misinterpretation of social work, for their conversion projects.

The reason behind that is that Christian missionaries stressed providing humanitarian assistance in some hand-picked tribal areas to increase religious transformation. Those facilities comprised health amenities, activities for enhancing the economic background of the tribals, exterminating poverty, and managing orphanages besides eradicating illiteracy, establishing and administrating educational organizations for educational development. Such efforts are still prevalent even today. As a result, the religious transformation has become more straightforward by exploiting the needy population.

On account of the attempts put together by the missionaries, uplifting by the then British government, helpless circumstances of the tribals owing to specific difficulties including poverty, unenlightenment, little resistance to transmutation, lack of administration over transformation, inveigle offers and social reputation besides the tribal community’s inclination to enhance economic position are some of the essential aspects which are responsible for the religious change of the tribals. The foremost intention of the undertaking of the Christian missionaries has been the metastasis of Christianity amid the tribals. Many tribals have welcomed Christianity under the influence of these various factors. Consequently, in other segments of India, tribals of selected areas and several important tribal community genera have become Christians in the last hundred and seventy years. According to rough calculations, 1/6 of the total Christian population is made up of tribal people alone.

Some individuals are of the view that these are mere myths. According to them, Christian conversion can be considered a failed project.

The straightforward reality is that making India Christian is a sinked assignment. The Census data reflects that the population of Christians in India has been either stationary or diminishing since 1951. In the Census of 2001, Christians’ percentage in the Indian population was 2.34 per cent; in 2011, it collapsed to 2.30 per cent (clearly ignoring the fact that the population of any country does not stays static, in 2001 India’s population was around 107.5 Crore[3], whereas, in 2011, Indian population rose to 125.03 Crore). The decadal growth[4] of the Hindus in the course of the corresponding interval was 16.8 per cent, which is more than the total increase in the Christian population, which was 15.5 per cent.

The conversion assertion

The Christian population in some of the tribal-dominated states in central India, considering that reformation does not alter the legal and constitutional position of individuals associated with the Scheduled Tribes (STs). Muslims or Christians can nevertheless be STs, but not the Scheduled Castes (SCs). The constitutional order dating back to 1950 applies only to the SCs. It is claimed that the Hindutva forces and numerous social media influencers use[5] the expression crypto-Christian (the unrevealed practice of the Christian religion, usually while making efforts to camouflage it as another religion) for the converted SCs. They describe themselves as Hindus to carry on getting benefits of the reservation.

For the past three centuries, Christian missions have been very proactive in the regions of Bengal; Kolkata, which was the throne of the vigor of the British colonialists until 1911, and still there are only around 5.15 lakh[6] people in West Bengal who preach Christianity, as per the data provided under the 2011 Census.

According to the local people, if the nuns and fathers ought to have decided to marry and bear children, the proportion of Christians in West Bengal would definitely have been higher than this.

Even in further power centres during British rule, the Christian population, according to the data provided under the 2011 Census, are quite paltry — Delhi having 0.87 per cent, Mumbai coming at second with 3.27 per cent, and Chennai with around 7.72 per cent. In larger states, only Kerala has more than 10 per cent of the Christian population.[7]

This introduces us to two further questions. First, why has Christianity crashed in India, in spite of the Christians ruling over it for nearly two hundred years, the uncountable number of missionaries putting all of their efforts, and organizations disbursing billions of rupees into the conversion project? Second, why does Christianity have no ensuing future in India?

Conclusion

Indians look up to the Indian judicial system to sustain the secular values of the Indian republic, and the Hon’ble Supreme Court has, time and time again, checkmated attacks on people’s crucial fundamental right of religious freedom. But its track record in adjudicating the unsecular anti-conversion statutes is wavering. It was the last time in the year 1977, in the Reverend Stanislaus[8] case, wherein the Odisha and Madhya Pradesh statutes were endorsed.

Looking at its judgment on a 1956 report titled “Report of the Christian Missionaries Activity Enquiry Commission[9],” which considered reformation (or conversion) as a combination to India’s territorial integrity and internal security, the Apex court ended up consolidating every act of propagation of one’s faith – Christianity, in the case beforehand (consecrated as a fundamental right in the Indian constitution) as an ambush on Hinduism and its followers, more or less equivalent to blasphemy, which, by the way, is also considered a criminal offense in India.

A national anti-conversion law, if legislated, would be questioned in the Hon’ble Supreme Court. In that case, the judges could restore the mistakes of 1977 by seeking inspiration from the European Court of Human Right’s 1993 judgment in the Kokkinakis case[10], which bashed the precise equilibrium between keeping out the illegitimate conversion and Christians’ right to practice, profess, and cultivate their faith.

[1] 2011 Census of India, (Aug 1, 2022, 10:37 AM), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2011_Census_of_India

[2] Manimugdha S Sharma, Explained: History of anti-conversion laws in India, (Aug 2, 2022, 8:20 Am) http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/79472537.cms?from=mdr&utm_source=contentofinterest&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=cppst_prime

[3] 2001 Census of India, (Aug 2, 2022, 4:48 PM), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2001_Census_of_India

[4] Gyan Varma, Anuja, Pretika Khanna, Census 2011 shows Islam is the fastest growing religion in India, (Aug 3, 2022, 6:30 PM), https://www.livemint.com/Politics/XkVYBX2IaBk5Sqf8yr2XMM/Hindu-population-declined-Muslims-increased-2011-census.html

[5] Bipin Shajan Perappadan, Christians in Delhi are living in fear, (Aug 3, 2022, 10:19 PM), https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/christians-in-delhi-are-living-in-fear/article6798180.ece

[6] Population by religious communities, (Aug 4, 2022, 9:14 AM), https://censusindia.gov.in/Census_Data_2001/Census_data_finder/C_Series/Population_by_religious_communities.htm

[7] Religion census 2011, (Aug 4, 2022, 8:47 PM), https://www.census2011.co.in/religion.php

[8] Rev. Stainislaus vs State Of Madhya Pradesh & Ors, 1977 AIR 908, (1977)

[9] Report of the Christian Missionaries Activity Enquiry Commission, Madhya Pradesh, 1956, (Aug 5, 2022, 11:30 AM), https://indianculture.gov.in/report-christian-missionary-activities-enquiry-committee-madhya-pradesh-1956

[10] Kokkinakis vs Greece, (14307/88) [1993] ECHR 20, (1993)

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