The third millennia is for Asia is what Pope John Paul II said on 6 November 1999 during his India visit. The work is in progress at least in India if not in other Asian countries. A spate of conversions of Hindus and Sikhs to Christianity is happening in Punjab as it is now visible in the state with a growing number of churches and increasing population of Christians. In Punjab, the symbols of Sikhism are used to confuse and convert rural Sikhs. But the situation has become alarming across the country as this has become a national phenomenon so much so that the community is now demanding political space by claiming that their number is 10-15% of the total population of the country. They are calling themselves “Maseeh Samaj”.
Outfits like the VHP, Bajrang Dal, RSS and Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram have not only been accusing and countering missionaries for converting innocent tribal and rural folks by deceit but have also been trying to bring back converted people to the Hindu fold. As per a rough estimate, there are 2.3% Christians in India with a major concentration in the Northeast and Kerala. Given the way this so-called Maseeh Samaj is vying for political space in Uttar Pradesh in the forthcoming assembly elections by joining hands with like-minded political parties, the scenario seems to be different.
The community claims to have penetrated the entire state. A convention of All India Maseeh Samaj was organised in Lucknow recently under the patronage of PSP leader Shivpal Singh Yadav, in which four padres from every district of Uttar Pradesh were invited. Maseeh Samaj National Spokesperson Ashwini Mudgal claims that there are around 10-12% followers of Maseeh Samaj in the country, who are not necessarily Christians but they believe in the teachings of Jesus Christ. However, they are predominantly Christians.
A section of the Christian community deliberately hides its religious identity to continue enjoying the state benefits of reservation as, the moment a Dalit converts to Christianity or Islam, he or she cannot claim reservation. So, Dalits and tribal people stick to their Scheduled Caste/Tribe identity but their religion is now Christianity. Such people have come to be identified as “crypto Christians”. Going by the words of Mudgal, who is president of the All India Brahmin Mahasabha, there is a big support base of Maseeh Samaj in Uttar Pradesh. So much so that they are claiming to be the kingmakers in Uttar Pradesh in this election. They say they will be instrumental in removing Yogi Adityanath in 2022 and the ‘king of Delhi’ (read Narendra Modi) in 2024 by uniting the Maseeh Samaj to vote against the BJP. They want to make Uttar Pradesh a model of change for the rest of the country. They want the conversion law to be scrapped first.
They claim that prayer meetings are organised in every district, most of the towns and tehsils of the northern Hindi state, MP, Rajasthan, Punjab and many other parts of the country. The population of Maseeh Samaj is such that one cannot ignore them. However, reality seems to be different as they are sticking to their old tactics of converting people by deceit; one can find posters in every nook and corner with the assurance of curing diseases like diabetes, epilepsy and many others by surrendering to Jesus Christ. Allurement, falsehood and deceit are their tools to fool people. Punjab has the maximum cases, witnessing fraudulent mystics claiming cures for various diseases. Christian missionaries are not only donning saffron robes to look like Hindu saints, distributing the Bible with deceptive pictures, they are also prefixing “Swamy” to their names to deceive people. They recite Kabir, Tulsi, Ved Mantra, Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Sanskrit hymn to prove their points. Most of the time, they misquote, of course. They misquote Swami Vivekananda too ― in order to serve their purpose.
But why are they quoting Hindu texts and scholars to convert people into Christianity? Because the majority of their preys are ill-informed, who fail to understand these wiles and fall into their trap. They also get away with the allegation of conversion by hiding behind the lamppost of public service. People are gradually brainwashed. First, they are asked to remove pictures of Hindu deities from their homes and then they are formally converted to Christianity to accomplish the task of evangelists. They initially call crypto Christians a faithful (Vishwasi) who have faith in Jesus Christ while continuing to follow his/her original faith in certain cases. There is a pattern and journey from being crypto Christians to complete Christians, which is executed in a planned manner.
Why is any Graham Staines required to come all the way from Australia to Odisha with foreign funds on the one hand and Bible on the other? This was simply to convert innocent tribals. They go to any extent like the killing of Swami Lakshmanand Saraswati and four of his disciples. Seven people were convicted in 2013 for the homicides and all of them were Christians. They were against him for bringing tribal people back to Hinduism.
But Maoists were accused of killing the saint to confuse the people. What issues could Maoists have with a religious teacher? They always have had issues with the government. Moreover, service does not require one to underline his/her faith. The recent violence along the borders of Assam and Mizoram has a religious connotation too ― with Christian evangelists at the core.
‘Right wing’ activists are accused of resorting to violence against conversion by allurement. But the government has certain reasons and evidence to believe missionaries are involved in conversions. The government asked US Christian group Compassion International to stop its operations in India in 2017. The CBI booked a Chennai-based NGO Caruna Bal Vikas, as it was getting huge funds from abroad to convert people to Christianity. There is a long list of Christian groups that have lost their FCRA licenses.
There are around 2.78 crore Christians in India, but Maseeh Samaj claims that there are over 30 crore who somehow subscribe to the Maseeh Samaj ideology. There are many cities in the country with a sizable number of people from Maseeh Samaj. Acharya Vikas Massey has founded an organisation called Bharatiya Maseeh Samaj with his wife Deepti Bhatnagar, a Hindu convert, as its cofounder. They are claiming their political right with the support of a Brahmin ― Ashwini Mudgal. In a democratic setup, numbers matter and every invading religion is trying to increase its club membership by hook or by crook to be in the reckoning, at the cost of Indic faiths.