CORRESPONDENCE OF ROMAN CATHOLICS WITH THE COMMITTEE, THE STATE GOVERNMENT AND THE CENTRAL GOVERNMENT
Copy of D.-O. letter, dated Nagpur. the 23rd April 1954, from Shri P. Lobo. Advocate, Supreme Court, Civil Lines, Nagpur. to Shri B. P. Pathak, Secretary to Government of Madhya Pradesh. Nagpur
A Government Communique, dated the 16th April 1954, has announced a Six-man Inquiry Committee to probe into Christian Missionary Activities in this State and you are to be its Secretary.
Under instructions from and on behalf of the Catholic Regional Conference, I am to kindly inquire from you as to the following details with regard to this Committee :-
(a) its term of reference,
Kindly give me this information at an early date as I am going to Pachmarhi.
Trusting this finds you well.
Copy of D.-O. No. 2-S-CMEC. dated Nagpur, the 30th April 1954, from Shri B. P. Pathak, Secretary, Christian Missionary Activities Enquiry Committee, Madhya Pradesh, to Shri P. Lobo, Advocate, Pachmarhi (M. P.)
With reference to your letter, dated the 23rd April 1954, I am desired by the Committee to inform you that your letter has been forwarded to the Government of Madhya Pradesh in the Political and Military Department for disposal. It is hoped that the Government will reply to you concerning the various, points raised in your letter under reference.
2. The terms of reference are already contained in the Resolution of Government, which has been referred to in your letter. Regarding the procedure, the Committee have not yet taken a decision, and I am desired to inform you that when the question of procedure is settled, due intimation to the public will be given.
Copy of D.-O. No. 2/S-CMEC, dated Nagpur, the 30th April 1954, from Shri B. P. Pathak, Secretary, Christian Missionaries Activity Enquiry Committee, Madhya Pradesh, to Shri K. B. L. Seth, I.C.S., Chief Secretary to Government, Madhya Pradesh, Nagpur
I am desired by the Committee to forward herewith in original a letter received by the Committee from Shri P. Lobo, Advocate, Supreme Court, Nagpur, for such action as Government may consider necessary. A copy of my reply to Shri Lobo is also enclosed for information. It is requested that a copy of the reply, which Government may send to Shri Lobo, may also be sent to the Committee in due course.
Copy of D.-O. No. 1 874-815-V. dated Nagpur, the 14th May 1954, from Shri B. N. Kunte, Additional Secretary, Political and Military Department, Madhya Pradesh, Nagpur, to Shri P. Lobo, Advocate, Pachmarhi
I am desired to refer to your letter, dated the 23rd April 1954, addressed to Shri Pathak and to give below seriatim the details asked for in paragraph 2 thereof with regard to the Committee appointed by Government to enquire into the activities of Christian Missionaries:-
No. 1875-815-V, dated Nagpur, the 14th May 1954.
Copy forwarded to Shri B. P. Pathak, Secretary, The Christian Missionaries Activity Enquiry Committee. Madhya Pradesh, Nagpur, for information with reference to his demi-official letter No. 2-S-S-CMEC, dated the 30th April 1954.
B. N. KUNTE,
Copy of D.-O. letter, dated Nagpur, the 24th May 1954, from Shri G. X. Francis, President, Christian Association, Nagpur, to the Secretary, Christian Missionary Activities Enquiry Committee, Madhya Pradesh Secretariat, Nagpur
With reference to your D. O. No. 1/S-CMEC, dated the 30th April 1954, to my legal adviser Shri P. Lobo and D. O. No. 1874-815-V, dated the 14th May 1954, from Mr. B. N. Kunte. Secretary in the Political and Military Department, Government of Madhya Pradesh, I will be grateful if you will kindly let me know whether you have received any written complaints against Christian Missionaries and Christian Tribals into which enquiries would be, instituted and whether copies thereof could be made available to me,
I will be prepared to bring my own typist to copy these records, if permitted to do so. Kindly also let me know whether any charges are payable for taking out these copies or whether any lump deposit has to be made for this purpose. I would be very grateful for the favour of a reply at the earliest possible date, say, at least a week before the Committee proceeds on its projected tour.
D.-O. No. 14/S-CMEC, dated Nagpur, the 29th May 1954, from Shri B. P. Pathak, Secretary, Christian Missionaries Activities Enquiry Committee, Madhya Pradesh, Nagpur, to Shri G. X. Francis, President, Christian Association, Nagpur
Kindly refer to your letter, dated the 24th May 1954.
2. Numerous representations from several individuals and organizations have been received by the Committee. There appears to be no objection in granting copies thereof to you, but as the (2o-mmittee do not have an independent office, it may not be possible to get copies of all such documents ready in a short time. In these circumstances there is no objection if a legal adviser or other representative is deputed by your Committee to inspect those documents and to take down notes. In due course copies of documents to be specified by you will be supplied. At present it is not possible to intimate whether any charges would be payable because the matter would be for Government to decide and a reference to them is being made. Your representative may inspect the records in my office in the Secretariat at any time between 6-30 a.m. and 11-30 a.m. on any working day.
Copy of D.-O. letter, dated Nagpur, the 1st June 1954, from Shri G. X. Francis, President, Christian Association, Nagpur, to Shri B. P. Pathak, Secretary, Christian Missionary Activities Enquiry Committee, Secretariat, Nagpur
This is to thank you for your courtesy in allowing me today to examine the allegations made against Christian Missionaries.
I and Mr. Polycarp Lobo will be accompanying the Enquiry Committee as observers of the Catholic Regional Committee.
With kind regards.
Copy of D.-O. letter, dated Camp, Dharamjaigarh, the 6th June 1954, from Shri G. X. Francis, President, Catholic Regional Committee, Camp, Dharamjaigarh, to Dr. Bhavani Shankar Niyogi, Chairman, Christian Missionary Activities Enquiry Committee, Camp, Dharamjaigarh
It has been represented to this Committee that any representations made by the Christian Tribals to the local or higher authorities, disclosing their difficulties or grievances, invariably exposes the signatories, to further harassments and persecutions by the executive officers. I have quoted an instance of the kind in my 10-point Memorandum submitted to the Prime Minister of India through the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, dated the 14th February 1954, and have adduced the correspondence which has passed between me and Mr. Sunderlal Verma, then Deputy Commissioner of Raigarh. The Catholic Regional Committee is convinced of the genuineness of these apprehensions.
2. The Christian Tribals of Jashpur desire to, bring to your notice and to the notice of your colleagues, all their complaints of the harassments and persecutions, and the story of the discrimination practised against them. They are, however, afraid of doing so, for fear of being exposed to worse and immediate dangers.
3. In the circumstances, I request that an assurance may kindly be given that Christian men and women who will tender written or oral evidence before your Committee will be protected from the effects of executive vengeance and wrath.
Copy of D.-O. letter No. Ref. BC-112-54, from the Members of the Standing Committee of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, 20, Miller’s Road, Bangalore-1, to Pandit Ravi Shankar Shukla, Chief Minister, Government of Madhya Pradesh, Nagpur
Since representations addressed to you by the Bishops and the people of Madhya Pradesh have not had the desired effect, we are addressing you the enclosed Memorandum on behalf of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India in the fervent hope that it will receive the earnest and urgent attention which we feel it deserves; and that it may help you to realise how gravely disturbed the Christian community is over these recent events.
All over the country, we have been asked by our own people and well-wishers, drawn from every rank and creed, why no action is taken by us to offset the campaign conducted against us and the disaffection promoted between the communities by interested agencies. We have always stood for constitutional representation and have all along felt that in a country, in which the Constitution guarantees justice to all communities, a community like ours would receive due protection at the hands of our own national Government, particularly when they have no representation in the Legislature.
At the outset, we would like to point out that this Conference, established in 1945, is composed of the Catholic Bishops of the whole of India and heads of a few ecclesiastical units, the former, numbering 56, and the letter 9. Of the 59 Archbishops and Bishops of India, 40 are Indians. These ecclesiastical authorities represent the entire Catholic Church and the Catholic community of India in all matters affecting religious and social interests.
One of the main objects of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India is to defend and promote the rights and interests of the Catholic Church.
We shall be grateful if you will kindly communicate to the General Secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, His Grace Most Rev. Tomas Pothacamury, Archbishop of Bangalore, the views of Government on the memorandum.
Copy of D.-O. letter No. Ref. BC-111-54, dated the 15th June 1954, from the members of the Standing Committee of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, 20, Miller’s Road, Bangalore-1, to Pandit Ravi Shankar Shukla, Chief Minister, Government of Madhya Pradesh, Nagpur
It is with deep concern that we have been watching the development of events in the State of Madhya Pradesh. Ever since the appointment of the six-man Niyogi Committee, there has been an air of uneasiness all over the land, and what pains us most is that the Christian community has so suddenly become suspect and is being subjected to harassment which goes ill with India’s traditional spirit of tolerance.
2. From the terms of reference of the Niyogi Committee, we understand that offence seems to be taken at the conversion work that is being carried on by Christian Missionaries, particularly in certain parts of the State. We fall to understand, Sir, why a special committee should have been constituted for the purpose of investigating into the activities of the Christian Missionaries in this connection.
3. It is not only Christians who are engaged in conversion work, but also Hindu organisations, and other religious denominations. There are instances of even old converts being induced to renounce Christianity and become Hindus. The work of the Christian Missionaries has never been, and is riot, a source of offence to non-Christians. The Christians do not constitute a political unit, but are part and parcel of the general population and have always evinced a deep interest in the welfare, culture and progress of their country.
4. We understand that the intention of the Government is to arrive at the truth through an impartial committee. We are not averse to any impartial and objective investigation, for we have nothing to fear and nothing to hide. But, with regard to this Committee, it looks as if the complaining party has all the weightage of representation on the Inquiry Committee, which is composed of five Hindus who may not understand the aims and objectives of Christian Missionaries. The only Christian member who has been nominated has no representative status in the Christian community. We expected equal representation would be given to Christians on the committee.
Viewed in its proper perspective, the present situation, particularly in the Raigarh and Surguja districts, has deteriorated into a purely communal affair. Things being such, it is very unfortunate that the Government should have appointed on the panel of the Committee a majority of personnel belonging to the communal party.
5. There have been no reports of any disturbance, discontent and antagonism between the Christian minority and the major elements of tile population, except some misleading and unverified statements and reports in the press why should the acceptance of Christianity by the aboriginals offend the religious susceptibilities of non-Christians? Reference has often been made to the system of mutual-aid societies that has been built up in the tribal areas of Madhya Pradesh. Rut what is not commonly known is that these mutual-aid societies are the outcome of the sacrifices of the people themselves under the wise inspiration and guidance of the Christian Missionaries. What has thus contributed to the economic uplift of these poor Tribals is now being misconstrued as a deliberate attempt to entice the ignorant Tribals into the Christian fold by monetary inducements: when it ought to be realised that such a practice is an effective measure of implementing the directives given in the Constitution.
It is surely not unknown to you that the history of the Adivasi people bears out clearly how they were exploited by the merciless hordes of intruders who literally invade of their territories and endeavoured to deprive them of all their land and belongings. Under the British Regime too, the Government, in order not to offend or antagonise the local Rajas, did nothing for the amelioration of these down-trodden people. It was here that the Missionaries stepped in. They championed the cause of these unwanted sections, often at the risk of their lives. It is this spirit of devotedness and charity on their part that has endeared them to the tribal peoples.
CATHOLIC BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE OF INDIA
6. The Congress has been well-known for its anxiety to settle minority problems with the consent of the minorities concerned. We do not know why this policy was not followed when the Inquiry Committee was constituted. The policy of the Government has been clearly laid down in the Constitution which guarantees liberty of thought, expression, faith and worship, and also freedom to profess, practise and propagate religion. This constitutional liberty should not be considered as an abstract declaration, but a concrete reality, inspiring confidence in religious minorities like Christians. Freedom to, propagate religions confers a right not only on the preacher, but also a corresponding personal right on the listener to accept any religion he deems fit or right. If the Missionary cannot propagate his religion, the logical inference is the denial to every person in India of the right to believe, accept and profess the religion of the truth of which he is convinced. The liberty guaranteed by the Constitution, namely, of thought, speech and action, would be futile, were the preacher prevented from spreading the faith he believes in, and the community or an individual denied she right and freedom to accept the Christian faith or any other creed. It is obvious, therefore, that obstacles should not be placed in the presentation of Christian truths. Any such restriction would naturally rouse resentment and discontent in a body of people who have been taught to respect authority and love and esteem their national leaders, and would be a violation of Fundamental Rights. In the light of these considerations, we fail to understand why any community should take offence at the exercise of our Constitutional Rights.
The right to preach and propagate religion cannot be denied to any Missionary. In their judgment on the appeals against the Bombay Public Trusts Act, the Supreme Court declared emphatically that “Article 25 of the Constitution guarantees to every person and not merely to the citizens of India, the freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion”.
7. The argument is often brought forward that the tribal is too “illiterate” and “ignorant” to think and act for himself. If this argument has any force in the case of a tribal who wishes to embrace Christianity, we fail to see why it should not have equal force in the case of the hundreds who are daily being drawn towards other creeds.
Again, Sir, you are aware, that the Constitution has enfranchised all these sections of the people: the inference is self-evident, viz., that these tribals are capable of thinking for themselves and making their choice in matters of national importance.
8. In the present stage of India’s cultural development, while efforts are being made to increase the percentage of literacy among our people, it is very distressing to note that our Catholic Schools intended to meet this national need among our tribals are being deprived of recognition and help.
9. With regard to the allegation that our Missionaries have participated in political activities, our defence is that so far no proofs have been adduced to show that they have failed to conform to the instructions of the Holy See, which clearly forbid such participation. It is a matter of common knowledge that the work of the Missionaries among Harijans and Adivasis has exercised a profound influence for the better, transformed their minds and outlook, making of them worthy citizens of India, ever loyal to their country.
10. We, therefore, beg to submit that-
Copy of D.-O. letter, dated Nagpur, the 14th June 1953, from the Secretary to the Most. Rev. Dr. Eugene D’Souza, Archbishop of Nagpur, to Shri B. P. Pathak, Secretary, Niyogi Commission, Nagpur
I have the honour of forwarding you this enclosed letter at the request of the Most Rev Dr. Engene D’Souza, Archbishop of Nagpur, for your kind perusal.
Copy of D.-O. letter, dated Nagpur, the 12th June 1954, from the Most Rev. Dr. E. D’Souza, Archbishop of Nagpur, to Pandit Ravi Shankar Shukla, Chief Minister, Government of Madhya Pradesh, Nagpur.
At the outset I cannot but express my disappointment at your reply to my memorandum of 7th May. In spite of repeated attempts to present our case and our point of view we are sorry to say that Government has always turned a deaf car to our requests. The impression has somehow grown that Government has its mind made up about Christians and Christian Missionaries, and has therefore shut its doors to all further representations on the matter.
From your letter of 14th May I gather that impartiality has been the basis of Government’s selection of the six-man Niyogi-Commission. “We do not want any particular member to be on the Committee who would advocate one cause or the other and instead of being a real judge would become an advocate for a particular section of the people.” I feel it my bounden duty, Sir, to inform you that on the basis of this very principle which you have stated the Commission that has been appointed by Government can hardly be classed as impartial.
No matter how indulgent a view one may take of the matter under consideration one cannot escape the conclusion that it is at the moment a communal affair and a communal dispute, between Hindus on one side and Christians on the other. Things being such I think you will agree with me, Sir, that if a Commission appointed to inquire into this subject under dispute be composed of personnel belonging predominantly to one communal party it cannot but be labelled as partial and one-sided and consequently can hardly be said to inspire the confidence of all concerned. This is actually the fundamental drawback of the composition of the present Commission.
In a Government D.-O. No. 1874-815-V, dated the 14th May 1954, reference is made to “inherent powers” which Government has “to appoint a Committee to make inquiries on any matter to ascertain the factual position with a view to determine the action to be taken.” May I be allowed, Sir, to express my humble opinion on the matter. There are many things permissible for a man to do but all may not be expedient. I personally feel that of all unwise things this is the most unwise step on the part of the Government. It is the propriety and political expediency of the appointment of the Commission that I am here referring to. The question of the legality of the Commission is a delicate and most disputed affair: the consensus of opinion I may incidentally inform you is that Government has overstepped itself in this matter. Government has contravened all rules of democratic procedure, the more so that its action infringes certain fundamental rights granted to us by the Constitution.
However, this may be it is not this matter that I wish to touch on here. What I wish to bring home to you, Sir, is that the appointment of the Commission particularly at this juncture is hardly “meet and just”. The Commission can work no good, on the contrary it is bound to cause a lot of harm and the sequence of events go but to corroborate this our apprehension in the matter.
What Government and the public is interested in finding out is the truth. There has been as the Gazette Notification of 14th May affirms, a series of accusations against Christian Missionaries. We, Sir, are equally interested that the public come to know the truth. We are not afraid of it but what I wish to say is that the appointment of the commission particularly on the lines in which it is now constituted is hardly the correct way of going about things. As the terms of reference now stand they are, we must say, one-sided. An enquiry is to be made into things that have a religious import and bearing. Consequently, we feel that the only competent authority to investigate into such matters is a set-up and machinery belonging to the religious community in question. And have we not repeatedly informed Government that we, in she Catholic Church, have the adequate machinery to investigate into such matters, and also adequately in our Code of Law to levy the necessary sanctions. This Government is surely aware that the Vatican has its representative in the country, accredited to deal with all affairs concerning the Catholics in the country. And you yourself, Sir, have met personally the most Rev. Dr. Martin Lucas, Apostolic Internuncio for India, when he visited this State on 26th March.
Then is Government not aware of the existence of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of India, an organisation that is deeply interested in maintaining the cordial relations that have always existed between the Government and the Catholic Community. We fail to understand why reference cannot be made in this matter to one or other of these channels. We give Government the assurance that any reference made to them will be dealt with expeditiously and in a manner befitting the dignity of our status as a progressive democratic country.
In a democratic set-up a country’s prosperity depends on the harmonious union and working together of all the members that constitute the State. Are you aware, Sir, that this is just what the appointment of the Commission is undermining? Needless to say it has shattered the confidence chat was placed in the Government by us. If at the outset of things we sacrificed the privileges that were ours as a minority community it was solely because we wished to throw in our lot with the rest of our fellow-men and make common cause with them in the efforts to build up the prosperity of our country. Contrary to all our expectations we find ourselves Literally thrown out on the high seas, compelled to face alone and unarmed the fury of a rising tempest.
I am just returning, Sir, from a protracted tour of various sectors in the State and I must admit frankly that what I have seen and heard has pained me very much. A commission is being appointed to investigate into matters and is to make the Raigarh-Surguja district, the field of its inquiries. Is Government aware of the fact that in every sector of our State the Christians are being harassed in every department of life? In the field of education we feel sorry to say that our institutions are being discriminated against. Inspectors and other officials make no secret of their definite antagonism and bias against our schools. Why even a Minister of this State has been outspoken in the matter in my own presence by his slashing criticism which I felt it my bounden duty to question. Christian students further are suffering from many handicaps, particularly those belonging to scheduled castes and tribes. In every walk of life to be a Christian now means a definite handicap to the individual and he is made to feel this by the officials with whom he comes in contact.
Official harassment still continues unabated, police investigations which we feel are unwarranted are being continued. All manner of things are being done to intimidate the Christian community and I must frankly say it is driving us to a sense of frustration and desperation. Are these things, Sir, befitting a progressive State like ours? Will the commission be in a position to stem this growing tide of bitterness and hatred and discrimination against the Christian Community? Perhaps, I feel, Sir, it will accentuate the problem. One can hardly close one’s eyes to the alarming proportions that the reaction against Christians and Christian Missionaries is taking not only in this State but in the whole country. If the Christian Community feels’ alarmed, the general public too, I may inform you, Sir, is also apprehensive of the good that can accrue from the appointment of the Commission.
Government, I feel would be failing in its duty to this minority community if it continues to thus turn a deaf ear to our representations in this matter.
Copy of D.-O. letter, dated Nagpur, the 4th July 1954, from Shri G. X. Francis, President, Christian Association, Nagpur, to Shri B. P. Pathak, Secretary, Missionary Activities Enquiry Committee, the Civil Secretariat, Nagpur
It has been brought to my notice that Government has printed for private circulation a booklet entitled “Belgian Jesuits in Udaipur”, and has given a copy of it to each Member of the Enquiry Committee. As we are preparing the defence, this would be relevant material for us, and I shall be grateful, if you will kindly let me have a copy of the publication.
Copy of D.-O. No. 1236-XXX, dated Nagpur, the 8th July 1954, from Shri M. S. Pandharkame, MA., LL.B., Assistant Secretary, Christian Missionary Activities Enquiry Committee, Nagpur, to the President, Catholic Regional Committee, Mohan Nagar, Nagpur
I am directed to refer to your letter, dated the 4th July 1954, requesting a copy of booklet entitled “Belgian Jesuits in Udaipur” and to say that no such book has been got printed or circulated by Government.
Copy of D.-O. letter, dated Camp Mungeli, the 20th July 1954, from Shri G. X. Francis, President, Catholic Regional Committee, Camp Mungeli, to the Chairman, Christian Missionary Activities Enquiry Committee, Nagpur
This is the first time in the course of your exploratory tours, that I have been compelled to write to you about the unfortunate trend of the enquiry.
Heretofore, you have been calling people to tell the committee what they knew about Missionary activities. You will appreciate that Christian organisations and the Christian people have fully co-operated with you in your efforts to ascertain the truth behind the allegations and counter-allegations.
On this tour, however, you have diverted from the procedure you followed on the last tour and have permitted certain factional leaders to make inflammatory political speeches against the Christian people. This has happened at Jagdishpur, at Mahasumund, at Bilaspur and at Takhatpur. This is most unfortunate, where there are restraining influences at work. I expect that the relations of the people will not, as the result of these provocations, be very much affected. But there is a limit to patience and forbearance.
This morning, you allowed 43 minutes to Mr. Uttalwar, to make a speech which had the effect of rousing the Hindus and Sathnamis against the Christians of Takhatpur, on the ground that Christians had become so denationalised and depraved that they would not fight for India in the event of a war with America, and that by allowing conversions to Christianity, the State was allowing the growth of traitors and fifth columnists as had happened in Kashmir.
I have to record the protest of the Catholic Regional Committee, against this new trend in the enquiry and as it is likely to have unfortunate consequences in the peaceful relations now existing between Christians and non-Christians, I feel it my duty to request you to kindly see your way to check the tendency.
As this is a matter of urgent public importance, I am sending a copy to the Government for information.
Copy of D.-O. letter, dated Camp Pendra Road. the 21st July 1954, from Shri B. P. Pathak, Secretary, Christian Missionary Activities Enquiry Committee, to Shri G. X. Francis, President, Catholic Regional Committee, Camp Pendra Road
I am directed to refer to your letter, dated 20th July 1954, presented to us at Camp Chandkhuri, district Bilaspur, and to observe as follows:
It has been repeatedly made clear by the Committee through press statements, remarks by the Chairman at various meetings, and other means that the Committee will conduct its enquiries “openly, impartially and in a manner fair to all concerned”. In our first tour of Raigarh and Surguja districts, we followed the procedure of eliciting information from all concerned, whether Christians or non-Christians, and we have not departed from this procedure in our present tour. In the terms of reference one of the allegations which finds place is that the mission institutions are utilised for extra-religious activities. Representations have been made to the Committee in which it has been alleged that some of the mission institutions are being utilised for political propaganda against the Government, the State and a spirit of disloyalty to the country is being created. It was on these points that some of the speakers mentioned in your letter under reply, made statements and cited instances. As you know the mission workers were also allowed to controvert them. Speeches which were considered highly inflammatory and objectionable by the non-Christian section of the people present were, as you will, perhaps, remember, made even by Christian speakers. Although the Chairman as well as individual members of the Committee have tried their level best to stop lectures being delivered and they have repeatedly requested the speakers to confine themselves to giving information relevant to the enquiry, it is not clear on what basis you have made the allegation that the committee have allowed sectional leaders to make inflammatory speeches of a political nature. The allegation appears to be without any foundation and I have been requested to assure all concerned that the intention of the Committee is not to create any sort of disruption or ill-feelings amongst various sections of the people for which purpose the Chairman makes it a point to advise the audience both at the commencement as well as at the conclusion of the proceedings.
Copy of D.-O. letter, dated Nagpur, the 4th August 1954, from Shri G. X, Francis, President, Christian Association, Nagpur, to Shri B. P. Pathak, Secretary, Christian Missionary Activities Enquiry Committee, the Secretary Nagpur
Kindly refer to your demi-official letter, dated 21st July 1954, handed over at Pendra Road, while the enquiry committee was on tour.
I should not have lodged my complaint, dated 20th July but for the alarm experienced by all sections of the Christian people over the consequences of fiery speeches made by communal leaders at the meetings convened by the Enquiry Committee on, its second tour, and after giving you specific instances, I had requested you to “kindly see your way to check the tendency”.
The incredible tone of your side-tracking reply, apart from the assurances it contains, hardly encourages the hope that the continued co-operation of the Christian people in the labours of the enquiry committee, will not expose them to the fury of communal passions. This is evident from your queer argument over an admitted fact.
You say -
Reading this paragraph, one would fancy that nothing had happened on the second tour and the complaint lodged of the incident which took place at Takhatpur, was false. I am compelled to recapitulate the following facts which I had brought to your notice :-
From your argument reproduced above I could only deduce that you are disowning the suggestion that the committee had explicitly allowed such inflammatory speeches to be made. Such a suggestion was far from my mind, although a very legitimate criticism could have been levelled that the committee helplessly heard lectures when it should have heard oral evidence.
Two aspects of this very serious matter to which I solicit the earnest consideration of the enquiry committee and the Government are-
You have not denied the fact that such a speech was made. It is for the enquiry committee and the Government to consider the propriety of such speeches being made in the meetings of the enquiry committee.
As regards the relevance of the subject-matter to which I have taken exception, you justify it on the ground that you had received representations that “some of the mission institutions are being utilised for political propaganda against the Government, the State, and a spirit of disloyalty !o the country is being created”. Here again, I am afraid that you are outstripping the terms of reference given by Government which requires you to enquire whether “the missions are utilised directly or indirectly for the purposes of political or extra-religious objectives”.
Now, Uttalwar’s references were to the denationalised character of the Christian people whom he called “traitors and fifth columnists”. This has nothing to do with “political propaganda against the Government” or with the utilisation of missions for “political or extra religious objectives”. I need not dwell on the platitude that ever citizen in a democracy has a right to disagree with the Government, and that this is a Fundamental Right under our Constitution. Although Christians, by and large, are of the Congress persuasion, still the right is there. Unless you agree with Uttalwar to deprive Christians of their rights of Citizenship in a Free India, I must respectfully disagree with you in admitting the relevance of his disparaging references to the Indian-Christian people. Traitors and Fifth Columnists, I humbly submit, are not required to be discovered by you under the present terms, of reference, nor is it possible for any enquiry committee to discover them. You will agree that their lives and fates are to be determined by summary trials according to martial laws.
Finally, I am at a loss to understand your statement that highly inflammatory speeches were made by Christians also. I was with your committee throughout your tours and took detailed notes, but never found a single Christian making a speech, inflammatory or otherwise, even remotely hurting the Hindus. I shall be glad if you will let me know the name of the speaker as I am anxious that on the part of the Christians there should be absolutely no provocation.
As on the previous occasion, I am sending copies of our correspondence to Government. I am also sending a copy of my letter to Dr. Niyogi.
I should gladly bear testimony to the gallant efforts made by the Chair man, yourself and some other members of the committee to restrain the speakers as you have said, but my complaint is that in spite of your best efforts, the speakers held the field. The burden of my complaint is that the procedure of “allowing” fiery speeches is calculated to create a situation which is fraught with grave danger to the Christian minority.
Copy of D.-O. No. 1494-33-XXX-MR, dated Nagpur, the 4th August 1954, from Shri K. B. L. Seth, Chief Secretary to Government, Madhya Pradesh, Nagpur, to his Grace the most Rev. Thomas Pothacamury, Archbishop of Bangalore, General Secretary, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, Archbishops House, 20, Miller’s Road, Bangalore.
I am desired to refer to your letters Nos. BC-,111-54 and No. BC-112-54, dated the 15th June 1954, to the Chief Minister, Madhya Pradesh Government, on the subject of appointment of a committee to enquire into Missionary activities, presided over by Dr. Bhawanishankar Niyogi, and to make following observations:-
2. The committee was appointed on the 14th April 1954, under Resolution No. 318-716-V-Con, dated the 14th April 1954. The object of appointing the committee and the terms of reference were made clear in the resolution itself. Briefly, it may be 'Stated that it was found necessary to appoint the Committee in consequence of complaints which were received from non-Christians against the activities of certain Missionaries and from Missionaries alleging harassment of Christians. These, complaints became so numerous that to ascertain the real facts in an authoritative manner, it was considered necessary to appoint a committee to go into the whole question, and to make a thorough enquiry. Subsequently, on the 3rd May 1954, a Press Note was issued in consequence of certain criticism levelled against the composition of the committee. The object of this was to allay any genuine misapprehensions that may have existed in the minds of certain persons. I have no doubt that have seen the Government resolution and the Press Note referred to above. Copies thereof, are, however; enclosed for your information and ready reference. It also be stated that certain representatives of the Christian Community, including the Archbishop of Nagpur and some other authoritative members of the Church, have seen the Chief Secretary to the Government of Madhya Pradesh, from time to time when the position was fully explained by the Chief Secretary to these gentlemen. Certain communications were addressed to the Chief Minister also by Rev. D’Souza, Archbishop of Nagpur, Shri G. X. Francis, President, Regional Catholic Council, Shri C. S. Kirkby, Founder President of the Centenary Christian Association, Bombay, and others and replies were duly sent to Rev. D’Souza and Shri Kirkby. All this should have dispelled the apprehensions, if any, regarding the constitution of the committee or the attitude and policy of Government.
3. Many of the statements made in your letter, under reply, refer to matters which are the subject-matter of the enquiry, and you will appreciate that it would neither be proper nor possible for Government to say anything about them at this stage. To act otherwise would be tantamount to prejudicing a fair and objective enquiry. I presume that those matters would be raised before the committee by your representatives and duly enquired into.
4. In your letter you have raised again the question of personnel of the committee which was dealt with in the Press Note of the 3rd May 1954. Without going into the matter over again, it may be stated that in selecting the personnel, Government’s sole purpose was to appoint men of experience and standing in public life who would be expected to approach the question in an impartial and objective manner and in short, to act as judges rather than as advocates or partisans or even representatives. Government devoted much thought to the personnel of the committee and took care to obtain the views of highly respected authoritative persons belonging to the Christian Community. The committee is presided over by an ex-Chief Justice of the Nagpur High Court, who after his retirement from the Bench also worked as Chairman of the Madhya Pradesh Public Service Commission for about six years. The manner in which the committee has conducted its proceedings, you will, I hope, readily concede, disproves all doubts about the impartial character of the enquiry. It is understood that Shri G. X. Francis, President of the Regional Catholic Committee, and Advocate P. Lobo, as a representative of the Roman Catholic Missions, accompanied the committee during its tours and were given access to all material placed before the committee. Christians were as free as persons belonging to any other faith to place their case before the committee. A more unexceptionable enquiry is hard to conceive. Government have no doubt that the committee will make a thoroughly impartial enquiry and that nobody will have any ground for complaint against them on this score.
5. Of the points raised in paragraph 10 of your letter No. BC-111-54, the first has already been answered in the foregoing paragraph. As regards the second, it may be stated that it is within the competence of Government to appoint a committee to enquiry into any question of public importance and that it was not necessary to constitute a commission under the Commissions of Enquiry Act, 1952. The appointment of a Commission under that Act would have served no more useful purpose. Constitution under the Act would have merely given certain powers to the committee to obtain evidence; but as everybody is free to place whatever relevant material he likes before the committee, this matter is of no importance. So far the committee has not found that it is hampered in its work by the absence of these powers and it is always open to Government to invest those powers on the committee, should it be found necessary to do so in the interest of enquiry.
6. As regards the third point, it has already been stated that the committee has so far given every opportunity to the Christians and Missionaries to answer the charges levelled against them and Government have no doubt that this would continue to be done.
7. The last point raised in your letter is not quite clear. The proceedings of the committee are regularly published in the press and representatives of every community can appear before it. It is open, therefore, to your conference to keep itself fully informed about the proceedings of the committee.
8. Finally, Government hope that this clarification would remove all doubts and misapprehensions from the minds of the Christians and Missionaries. Government wish to assure you, and through you, all the Christians that they stand firmly by the principles and fundamental liberties enshrined in the Constitution and have no desire whatsoever to interfere with them. They would give equal protection to all citizens irrespective of their race, religion or community. Government hope that you and your Association will now persuade your fellow-religionists to co-operate in the important work which the committee has undertaken and that you would make special efforts, to see that no bitterness against any community is created.
No. 1495-33-XXX-M.R., dated Nagpur, the 4th August 1954.
Copy, with a copy of the letter to which this is a reply, forwarded to the Secretary, Missionary Activities Enquiry Committee, for information.
Copy of D.-O. No. 1718/46,XXX-MRN, dated Nagpur, the 3rd September 1954, from Shri J. K. Verma, Additional Secretary to Government, Madhya Pradesh, Tribal Welfare Department, to Shri G. X. Francis, President, Christian Association, Mohan Nagar Direct Road, Nagpur
I am desired to refer to your letter, dated the 13th August 1954, addressed to the Chief Secretary regarding-
2. The State Government have examined both the points carefully. They consider that there is no necessity to enlarge the Committee in the manner indicated in your letter under reference. As regards the widening of the terms of reference of the Committee, Government would like to invite your attention to sub-paragraphs 3 and 4 of paragraph 1 of the Political and Military Department’s Resolution No. 318-716-V-Con., dated the 14th April 1954 (published on page 211, Part I, of the “Madhya Pradesh Gazette”, dated the 16th April 1954), which cover the point at issue. No amendment to the terms of reference is therefore, considered necessary by Government.
No. 1719,146-XXX-MRN, dated Nagpur, the 3rd September 1954.
Copy, with a copy of the letter to which it is a reply, is forwarded to the Secretary, Christian Missionary Activities Enquiry Committee, Madhya Pradesh, Nagpur, for information.
Copy of D.-O. letter, dated the 13th August 1954, from the Catholic Regional Committee, Mohan Nagar, Nagpur, to the Chief Secretary
Following the appointment of an Enquiry Committee to screen Christian Missionary activities in this State, I had interviewed the Prime Minister on the 12th May 1954 to put forth the Christian point of view. I had pleaded inter alia that (i) the Committee be enlarged to give parity of representation to Christians and (ii) that terms of reference be so widened as to include enquiry into the harassment, discrimination and coercion practised on Tribal Christians. The Prime Minister informed me that it was for the State Government to consider the first request. But as regards the second, he had promised to write to the Chief Minister. In reply to a, reminder, his Secretariat has informed me under No. D/S-5325, dated the 3rd June 1954, that he has suggested to the State Government to have as wide terms of reference as possible. I am enclosing a copy of that letter for your ready reference. As I have not seen any amendment in your gazette to your resolution No. 318/ 716/V-CON, dated the 14th April 1954, nor any press statement on the subject. I shall be grateful if you will let me know what action has been taken in the matter. In the meantime, as you are no doubt aware, the Committee has already conducted three tours without any official instructions on the widened terms of reference.
Copy of letter No. D/S-5325, dated the 3rd June 1954, from the Prime Minister’s Secretariat, New Delhi, to Shri G. X. Francis, President, Catholic Regional Committee, Nagpur
With reference to your letter, dated the 25th May 1954, I am desired to say that, as the Prime Minister told you, the Enquiry Committee appointed by the Madhya Pradesh Government, is entirely a State matter, and the Central Government does not interfere in such matters. It has, however, been suggested to the State Government to have as wide terms of reference as possible.
Copy of D.-O. letter, dated Nagpur, the 23rd September 1954, from Shri G, X. Francis, President, Christian Association, Nagpur, to Shri B. P. Pathak, Secretary, Christian Missionary Activities Enquiry Committee, The Secretariat, Nagpur
Will you kindly refer to your office letter No. 1236-XXX, dated the 8th July 1954, in which it has been stated that Government has not printed or circulated any book entitled “Belgian Jesuits in Udaipur”?
I should not have reopened this correspondence but for the increasing evidence that such a publication is under circulation, and that your office has merely seized upon the inaccuracy of the title ascribed by me to deny its publication. The publication currently under circulation even to the Members of the Enquiry Committee is reported to contain extracts from, or references to the correspondence that passed between Lt.-Col. A. S. Meek of the erstwhile Eastern States Agency and the then Governor-General of India on the activities of the Belgian Jesuits in the former State of Udaipur during the minority of the Rajah in what is known as “The Meek Enquiry”.
I also understand that the “Hitavada,” of Nagpur has relied on this publication for the sensational despatch featured under banner headlines in its issue, dated the 25th June 1954.
In the circumstances, and in view of the assurance conveyed by the Chief Secretary to the Government of Madhya Pradesh to His Grace, Dr. T. Pothacamury, General Secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (in his demi-official letter No. 1494-33-XXX-MR, dated the 4th August 1954, paragraph 6) that “the Committee has so far given every opportunity to Christians and Missionaries to answer the charges levelled against them, and the Government have no doubt that this would continue to be done”, I request that you will kindly see your wav to let me have a copy of the publication, whatever its title may be.
D.-O. No. 86, dated Nagpur, the 4th October 1954, from Shri B. P. Pathak, Secretary, Christian Missionary Activities Enquiry Committee, Madhya Pradesh, Nagpur, to Shri G. X. Francis, President, Catholic Regional Committee, Nagpur
Attention is invited to your letter, dated the 23rd September 1954, regarding supply of a copy of a Government publication alleged to be in connection with the activities of Belgian Jesuits in the former State of Udaipur.
2. From paragraph 3 of your letter under reply it appears that you require the file containing letters which have been published in the “Hitavada”. It may be pointed out that important Government records are generally printed, and, perhaps. Government have preserved this record also in a printed form. Some records in possession of Government were shown to the members of the Committee to acquaint themselves with the problem under enquiry and the record in question was also perused by the members. So far as I am aware, the record is not published and is not intended for circulation. As the record does not belong to the Committee, the question of supplying a copy to you does not arise. If necessary, you might approach Government for the same.
No. 86, dated Nagpur, the 1st October 1954.
Copy, together with a copy of the letter to which it is a reply, forwarded to the Secretary to Government, Madhya Pradesh, Tribal Welfare Department, Nagpur.
Copy of D.-O. No. 2004-47-XXX-MR, dated Nagpur, the 19th October 1954, from Shri R. S. Shukla, Secretary to Government, Madhya Pradesh, Tribal Welfare Department, Nagpur, to Shri B. P. Pathak, Secretary, Christian Missionary Activities Enquiry Committee, Nagpur
I am desired to enclose for the information of the Christian Missionary Activities' Enquiry Committee, a copy of letter, dated the 12th August 1954 (without its enclosures), from Shri G. X. Francis, President, Catholic Regional Committee, Nagpur, to the Chief Secretary. Under paragraph 4 of the Political and Military Department Resolution No. 318-716-V-Con., dated the 14th April 1954 the Christian Missionary Activities Enquiry Committee has been authorised to frame its own procedure for conducting the enquiry. But no information has so far been received by Government about the procedure finally adopted by the Committee. From Shri Francis’s letter, however, it appears that the Committee holds public(?) meetings at the places they visit and that people are allowed to deliver speeches. Such a procedure is likely to create ill-feelings amongst the various sections of the people in general and may bring up other communal matters which may not fall strictly within the scope of the terms of reference of the Committee. I am, therefore, to request that the Committee may frame its procedure in such a manner that the Government, as the custodian of law and order, are not put to any embarrassment. The procedure finally adopted by the Committee may also be intimated to Government.
Copy of D.-O. letter, dated Nagpur, the 12th August 1954, from Shri G. X. Francis, President, Christian Association, Nagpur, to Shri K. B. L. Seth, I.C.S., Chief Secretary to Government of Madhya Pradesh, Nagpur
Second tour of the Niyogi Committee
May I draw your attention to the subject noted above? I am sorry to have had to strike a discordant note in the new trend of the enquiry which the Committee deplores as much as I do. in enclosing a copy of the correspondence that has passed between me and Shri B. P. Pathak; I have to observe as follows:-
I should like to add that the Chairman and Secretary have done their level best to keep the public within the limits laid down in the terms of reference, but they have been outwitted by clever politicians.
I have brought this matter to your notice in the hope that you will take steps to see that wittingly or unwittingly communal passions are not roused against the Christian minority on the plea of the operations of the Enquiry Committee. Nothing more need be done beyond timely firmness in handling delicate situations. Perhaps a Press Note on the subject will solve the problem.
Copy of D.-O. No. 153, dated Nagpur, the 8th November 1954, from Shri M. S. Pandharkame, Assistant Secretary, Christian Missionary Activities Enquiry Committee, Madhya Pradesh, to Shri R. S. Shukla, I.A.S.. Secretary to Government, Madhya Pradesh, Tribal Welfare Department, Nagpur
I am directed to refer to your demi-official letter No. 2003-47-XXX-MR., dated the 19th October 1954, enclosing a copy of Shri Francis’s letter, dated the 12th August 1954, to Shri Pathak and to say that the Committee has heard people in the several places visited by them to find out the nature of their complaints. Shri Francis in his letter referred to above bears testimony to the efforts made by the Committee to prevent meetings of Christian and non-Christian representatives from turning into public meetings and, therefore, it is needless to dwell on this point at any length. I enclose a copy of Shri Pathak’s letter, dated the 21st July 1954, to Shri Francis, which-indicates the procedure followed by the Committee so far. It will also indicate the inaccuracy of Shri Francis’s allegations.
2. A questionnaire is under preparation at present. When replies to the questionnaire are received, the final procedure for recording evidence and conducting the enquiry will be laid down and communicated to Government in due course.
Copy of D.-O. letter, dated Nagpur, the 22nd January 1955, from the Most Revd. Dr. Eugene D’Souza, Archbishop of Nagpur, to the Secretary Christian Missionary Activities Enquiry Committee, Secretariat Building, Nagpur.
The Catholic Bishops of Madhya Pradesh, on behalf of the Catholic Community of Madhya Pradesh, beg to submit the following Memorandum anent the recent Questionnaire issued by the Christian Missionary Activities Enquiry Committee: -
1. It is difficult to see how such a strange Questionnaire could be issued by an impartial Committee. A cursory perusal of the 99 questions suffices to convince one of the basic mistrust on the part of those who have framed it. Its whole spirit is repugnant to the tenets of toleration of our sovereign Democratic Republic. To say the least, it is an aspersion on the numerous Christians, who are rendering yeoman service to the country in all walks of life.
2. It is rather unfortunate that there are certain basic assumptions that are underlying some of the questions, which are themselves unwarranted and unproved, and which consequently vitiate the whole tenor of the Questionnaire. The following assumptions are illustrative but not exhaustive:-
3. In the Resolution No. 318-716-V-Con. of the Madhya Pradesh Government, dated the 14th April 1954, it has been stated “that representations have been made to the Government from time to time” about the activities of Christian Missionaries. We are not aware of any step whatsoever, that has been taken by the Enquiry Committee to ascertain or collect what the representations were that were made prior to 14th April 1954. The Questionnaire, we feel, aims at collecting more allegations instead of going into the allegations already on record. It is not known also whether answers submitted by persons or organisations against Christian Missionary Activities would be submitted to the scrutiny of the defence, or whether the defence would be afforded the opportunity of cross-examining persons submitting reports under oath.
91 out of the 99 questions contained in the Questionnaire bear on the activities of Christian Missionaries, Christian converts and Christian Institutions, and oil most of these questions, the views and opinions of the people are sought; it is felt that the opportunity is further afforded for fresh out bursts of communal frenzy against Christians and Christian Missionaries. In paragraph 3 of the Resolution of the Madhya Pradesh Government, dated the 14th April 1954, the Enquiry Committee has been asked only to “enquire into the questions mentioned in the preamble and to report to Government What the facts are”. It is respectfully submitted that an expression of opinions and views will not enable any enquiry body to ascertain the facts in dispute or even to gauge the actual situation.
Even the unbiased Questionnaire is notoriously unreliable as a method of enquiry and is seldom used in scientific investigation without adequate and suitable safeguards. The collation and interpretation of answers requires men with special training.
4. Another feature of this Questionnaire, which is true also of the enquiry in general, is that, starting as an enquiry into the activities of Christian Missionaries, presumably in relation to those outside the Christian community, it has become in some respects an enquiry into the activities of the Christian Church as a whole.
Evidence of this unwarranted widening of the scope of the enquiry is to be found in the nature of some of the questions. It would appear that the whole community is on trial. Fundamental Rights guaranteed to all persons by the Constitution appear to be questioned. Neither the terms of reference of the Committee nor the situation in the country justify the singling out of the Christian community for such treatment or the expectation that Christians should do such things which are not required of others.
In spite of these drawbacks in the Questionnaire, we wish to place on record certain observations regarding a few fundamental questions touched on in the Questionnaire (vide Appendix). We trust these observations will help both Government as well as the Enquiry Committee, to view things in their proper perspective.
Before we conclude, we, the Catholic Bishops of Madhya Pradesh, wish to take this opportunity of expressing our disappointment at the whole procedure of the Enquiry, as also our deep concern at the distressing trend of events in the State during the recent months. The Committee is no doubt aware of the two foul murders of Christians that have taken place in this State a few months ago. These are only the outcome of communal frenzy that bias been worked up by interested agencies. Whether this feeling of communal bitterness has been the aftermath of the tours, it is left for the fair-mindedness of the members of the Committee to decide.
The Questionnaire that has just been issued is an aspersion on the fair name of the Christian community. Apart from the insinuations contained therein, the wording of some of the questions in this document is very unfortunate; the questions are bound to invite malicious answers. It may interest the Committee to know that all sections of people in the country, even outside the Christian fold, have been shocked on perusing the Questionnaire.
We, therefore, respectfully submit, in view of all these circumstances, that no useful purpose would be served by our continued co-operation and contribution of the Christian Missionary Activities Enquiry Committee appointed by the Government of Madhya Pradesh.
OBSERVATIONS AGAINST CERTAIN
I. There is a prevailing misconception regarding conversions. Conversions are not effected by Missionaries. It is the would-be convert himself, who, by a personal act of free-will, chooses to adhere to a given religion.
In the Catholic Church this freedom of choice is enjoined by law and scrupulously adopted in practice. “No adult may be baptised except with his full knowledge and unless he expresses a wish to be baptised, has been well instructed in religion and repents of his sins.” (Can. 752, para. I.)
The utmost care is taken that the freedom of the convert is respected. No one is ever baptised except after a long course of religion, instructions lasting for months and sometimes for years. During that period each one remains perfectly free to withdraw, and there have been many cases of such withdrawals, i.e., of persons who freely underwent a course of religious instruction, who withdrew before the time of baptism.
Finally, before actually undergoing the ceremony of Baptism, each individual is again asked: “Do you wish to be baptised?” If he answers “No”, or expresses doubt, he will not be baptised. To do otherwise would be considered a sacrilege by every Catholic priest.
II. In their eagerness to explain away conversions, some would ascribe to the Missionary mean and unworthy motives, namely prestige, political power, etc. In reality, nothing will explain the life of a Missionary, unless one realizes that it is inspired solely by the love of God, and His Son, Jesus Christ, as well as by the love of men, Missionaries believe that these two motives are inseparable, and that there cart be no love for God without an active love for men, even to the sacrifice of self: nor any love for men without a deep love for God.
This alone prompts them to spend their lives, often under very trying circumstances, for the propagation of these ideals and thoughts which inspire their lives and in which they find such light and strength.
Their ideal of the love of men for the sake of God explains also why they serve the whole man, with not only the spiritual, but also the economic and cultural needs. All these needs are inseparable, and it is useless to say that one loves one’s neighbour, if one lets him die of hunger. Besides, no spiritual or cultural life is possible without the minimum of material comfort and security. Hence, right from her very earliest days, and long before any State, the Catholic Church has interested herself in the lives of the poor and sick and down-trodden, and has continued doing so throughout the centuries. By taking interest in their well-being, Missionaries do not buy converts. Conversions without faith are as abhorent to Christian Missionaries as to any one else.
But, if people see men devoting themselves selflessly and wholeheartedly to their well-being and believe in these men and desire to adhere to a religion in which they see such generous charity practised as well as preached, are they not at liberty to do so?
III. It is further argued that illiterate persons are not capable of choosing a religion.
Religion is from God and necessarily connotes love and justice. It is evident, therefore, that religion is meant for all men and not for the cultured few only. In fact, it is the poor and the down-trodden who are most in need of the consolations of religion.
Therefore, it must be possible, and experience has shown it is perfectly possible for the unsophisticated to grasp the things of God.
We respectfully maintain that because the Adivasis or Backward Tribes may be illiterate or down-trodden. they are not stupid or devoid of common-sense. The honesty and shrewdness in barter or money-dealings of these is proverbial. They often exhibit more commonsense than many who have allowed themselves to be spoiled by modern civilisation. Illiterate persons may not be able to reach religious truths in the same way as philosophers, but they are perfectly capable of seeing clearly what is really good and thus, to judge its truth and decide whether or not they ought to adopt a given religion.
The Indian Constitution considers all citizens as capable of enjoying adult franchise and of judging the merits of the various parties, why should this capacity be denied in the case of religion only?
IV. It has repeatedly been said that Missionaries establish schools for the sake of effecting conversions, or organise social works for the same purpose. It has always been our practice, in our Missions, to start schools and social woks only when the people have been converted, and sometimes very long after such conversions. It is only when there are a number of Catholics, whom Missionaries have the responsibility to educate, that schools and social works are started for their benefit. These schools are open to every pupil, irrespective of creed or caste, but no non-Catholic people is ever taught the Catholic religion without his consent and with the free consent of his parents or guardians.
In conclusion, the only method consistently used by Catholic Missionaries among Tribals and others has been to identify themselves with them and live among them, and treat them as men endowed with commonsense, and try to bring around their all-round social, cultural and spiritual uplift, and after their conversion, if circumstances permit it, to see to the educational and economic progress of the Catholic community.
V. The other major accusation is that Missions are used directly or indirectly for purposes of political or extra-religious activities. It is rather unfortunate that the insinuation that Missionaries are dabbling in politics and have some political aims in view is so persistently repeated in reports against Missionaries, that now it appears to be taken for granted.
We respectfully maintain that Catholic Missionaries, on principle, are absolutely forbidden from entering the political arena, and as a point of fact, nowhere in the State have they used their Missions or Missionaries for any political purposes. The Enquiry Committee will, perhaps, bear witness to the fact that whereas many general allegations were made against the Missionaries on this point, while they were on their tours, no specific instances were forthcoming substantiated by facts.
In this connection, we give here the directives of the Plenary Council of all the Catholic Bishops (held in January 1950)-
This, sir, is one of the many documents that contain solemn injunctions for all Catholic Priests and Missionaries. They are meant to be taken as a safe norm of conduct. “They are at the same time a proof that in case of errors by Missionaries, we have the machinery for controlling them without the intervention of the secular power. Above all, these documents do honour to the Church and her regard for non-Christian civilizations; they disabuse our Hindu friends and national leaders of any impression they may have that the Catholic Church is an unfriendly institution.” - (Cardinal Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay.)
Copy of D.O. letter, dated the February 1955, from the President, Christian Association, Nagpur, to Dr. M. B. Niyogi, MA., LL.M., LL.D., Chairman, Christian Missionary Activities Enquiry Committee, Nagpur
SUBJECT. - Christian public opinion regarding Enquiry Committee.
This Council is grateful to you for extending the time-limit up to the 15th February 1955 for the submission of this Memorandum.
2. That a person of your rank, experience, scholarship and temperament has been chosen to be the Chairman of this Committee, is a matter not only of satisfaction but of hope to the Christians of this State. I have therefore, been directed to rely upon your trained sense of justice and fairplay to submit this Memorandum for consideration and necessary action. Having watched the trend of the enquiry and the sad and unfortunate developments that have adversely affected the en ire Indian Christian people of this State, this Council feels that the time has arrived to seek your good offices in bringing to the notice of Government our disappointment, sense of frustration, apprehensions and our most anxious concern for our future.
POINT No. I.
ENQUIRY INTO THE EXERCISE OF A FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT
3. Our first grievance is that the Constitution having guaranteed the Fundamental Right to profess, practise and propagate one’s religion, the State of Madhya Pradesh should go back on this guarantee and order an enquiry into the exercise of that right by only one section of its citizens, who happen to be an infinite small minority. Usually an enquiry is conducted into definite matters of public importance, either on the motion of the Legislature or when the executive is faced with threats to, or actual breach of law and order. In the present case, there was no directive from the legislature and none of the conditions present which justified administrative intervention. The earliest warnings from Government, therefore, came to the Christians as a complete surprise.
4. Greater shock was caused by the grounds on which executive action against the exercise of this particular Fundamental Right was sought to be based. Speaking in the Lok Sabha on the 21st April 1953, Dr. K. N. Katju said that foreign Christian Missionaries in the districts of Raigarh and Surguja were engaged in proselytising activities which were offensive to non-Christian local population (vide Appendix A). This statement enunciated for the first time since the dawn of Independence the novel doctrine that the exercise of religious rights by minorities is dependent on the sweet will and pleasure of the majority community.
5. In all humility, but with a due sense of responsibility, this Council would like to place on record that this interpretation which interpolates a new condition for the exercise of Fundamental Rights, is altogether untenable. No Legislature would feel competent to legislate on such matters. It is, therefore, a matter of profound regret to the Christian minority that the Executive of Madhya Pradesh has assumed to itself the authority to interfere with the Fundamental Rights of the Christians.
6. This Council most respectfully submits that the Fundamental Right to propagate religion is not limited by any other conditions save those expressly mentioned in the Constitution. None of these conditions having been infringed, the unimpeachable Right vests in every Citizen, whether Christian or Hindu or any other, FREELY to propagate his Religion. We feel deeply aggrieved that the executive action of Madhya Pradesh in ordering an enquiry into our religious activities has interfered with this inalienable right not only to propagate Religion, but to do so FREELY.
7. In the conviction that these constitutional guarantees of Religious Freedom were adequate for a minority which had no other ambition, Christians surrendered all their seats in the State Legislatures and in Parliament, and appointed the Hindus to be the guardians of their rights and interests. It is, therefore, up to you, as a member of the majority community, and up to the Ministers of the Madhya Pradesh Cabinet, to redress the wrong that has been done to a loyal and voiceless minority, and to convey such reassurances as the flagrant violation of the Constitution now calls for.
POINT No. II.
8. As an ex-Chief Justice you will appreciate the value of the dictum that justice must not only be done, but must appear to be done. In the composition of the Enquiry Committee, this principle has been scrupulously honoured in the breach, as will be clear from the following:-
9. There were two distinct communal parties to the dispute. Allegations made by one were repudiated by another. In the circumstances, a third party's adjudication should have been acceptable to both. This was precisely the proposal sponsored by this Council in its Ranchi resolution, dated the 7th May 1953 (copy enclosed as Appendix B), that a Committee of Enquiry be set up composed of Muslims and Parsis with judicial experience to go into the allegations made by Dr. Katju. For reasons best known to itself, Government did not accept this proposal.
10. There were other courses open to Government for an impartial assessment of the situation. It is t matter of recent history that in the case of an aggressive minority, the Congress was prepared to accept the principle of parity as between two communities, though not between two political parties. In this case, when the complainants were given representation on the Enquiry Committee, it was but fair that the accused should also have been given equal representation. It is much to be regretted that this principle has not been followed. It was also open to Government to appoint on the Enquiry Committee all men of judicial experience. This would have ensured the application of judicial processes to the evidence and the findings. Even this has not been done. Finally, the legal and constitutional machinery was open to Government to appoint a regular Commission of Inquiry under the Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952. Every well-wisher of the State deplores that even the most unexceptionable course has not been followed.
11. Christians are aggrieved that notwithstanding the admission that Hindus are the complainants and Christians are the accused, Government has appointed on the Committee Eve Hindus and one unrepresentative Christian. It is a matter of common knowledge that Mr. S. K. George holds some unorthodox views about the doctrines of Christianity and about conversions. On the very question on which he is required to pronounce judgment, he has expressed himself openly in the columns of the Nagpur Times, so that Christians feel confirmed in their original suspicion that his selection was made merely because he was opposed to conversions. I leave it to you as a trained and experienced judge of men and matters to decide whether on these facts Christians will not be led to the conclusion that Government has deliberately set up a one-party tribunal to ensure a verdict against them.
12. There were two occasions when Christians could have been given some representation, viz., when Seth Govind Das and then Mr. Kirtimant Rao resigned their positions on the Enquiry Committee. These hopes were doomed to disappointment.
13. In this connection may I bring to your notice that the Congress had, in its negotiations with the Cabinet Mission, invoked, consecrated and adopted the principle that in all minority problems and their solutions, the consent of the minority concerned would be indispensable for its validity, even in the State Legislatures. The Congress is irrevocably committed to this principle, and this Council is convinced that a review of the composition of the Enquiry Committee in the light of Congress pledges and principles would lead Government to reconstitute it.
14. The Council has directed me to place the above facts before you, and to request you to be pleased to use the weight of your influence with the Government to point out the wrong that has been done to the Christians of Madhya Pradesh.
POINT No. III.
CLAP-TRAP TERMS OF REFERENCE WHICH ARE MISLEADING AND INADEQUATE
Terms of reference to any enquiring body should have a bearing on the situation to be explored. There 'is no connection between the situation described by Dr. Katju and the terms of reference given to the Enquiry Committee. Dr. Katju had specified the areas. Now, the area of your operation is unlimited. Dr. Katju had pin-pointed foreign Missionaries. Now, foreigner, Indian and in fact the entire Indian Christian community have been handed over to your Committee for scrutiny. Dr. Katju had accused foreign Christian Missionaries of proselytisation. Now, if your 99-Point Questionnaire correctly interprets the terms of reference, the sum total of all the activities of the Indian Christian community-social, educational, humanitarian, cultural and political-come within the purview of your Committee’s investigation.
15. This Council has searched wherever it was possible for some precedent or parallel to such an omnibus Committee in the annals of British or Independent India. These efforts have not borne any fruit. In no other Democracy of the world has Government sat in judgment over the normal activities of minorities. The executive action of the Government of Madhya Pradesh, therefore, stands in a class by itself and needs to justify the appointment of a one party Enquiry Committee with omnibus terms of reference before the bar of world opinion.
16. In chronological sequence, there are two sets of facts which call for investigation:-
17. Relying on the correctness of these reports and without making any enquiries, Dr. Katju appears to have made his observations against the proselytising activities of foreign Missionaries in Raigarh and Surguja.
18. This Council respectfully submits that if anything, the enquiry should have started on these two sets of facts, and findings confined to the issues therein raised. By the terms of reference given to your Committee, you are yet not precluded from conducting such an investigation. From the trend of the enquiry conducted so far, it is evident that your committee proposes to bypass these original causes and to confine its attention to subsequent developments which have a bearing on the attitude and feelings of Hindus towards Christian missionaries and the conversion of Tribals to Christianity.
19. The bias italicised above, which has no validity in the terms of reference given to your Committee, has found expression in an eagerness to elicit public opinion on the question of reconverting these Christians to Hinduism. We submit that such interest in encouraging conversions to one faith and discouraging conversions to another, is outside the jurisdiction of Government or any Government agency, and definitely gives a direction to public opinion which reflects on the underlying purpose and impartiality of your Committee. We regret this for the sake of the fair name of Government and of your own.
20. We regret also that whereas the accused have been named as “Christian Missionaries” and “Missions”, and the victims have been named as “illiterate aborigines and other backward people”, the complainants have been comprehensively grouped as “Non-Christians”. Who are these “non-Christians”? Are they Muslims? Are they Tribals? Are they Harijans? This Council has verified that they are none of these. The “witnesses” who have so far appeared before the Enquiry Committee indicate their high status in the caste commonwealth or their subservience to local officialdom. We submit, therefore, that by these clap-traps, the ill-will of a few Hindu communalists and the sycophants around the throne of the ex-Rajahs has been exaggerated as a State-wide “agitation” against Christian Missionaries.
21. With due deference and in all humility we beg you to turn your judicial instincts and probity to unravel the causes behind the transition of Dr. Katju’s definitiveness to the present indefinite indications of your mission and the transformation of the antagonism of a few caste Hindus into a Statewide agitation.
POINT No. IV.
IGNORING ORIGINAL ALLEGATIONS AND COLLECTING FRESH EVIDENCE
22. Dr. Katju spoke of having received certain “Reports” on the activities of foreign Christian Missionaries in Raigarh and Surguja. The terms of reference speak of Government having received “representations from time to time”, and of “allegations”, “counter-allegations” and “denials”. As these are referred to in the Government's resolution, dated the 14th April 1954, it follows that all these were on record before this date and influenced Government in constituting the Enquiry Committee. By the elementary principles of jurisprudence, the defence was entitled to a knowledge of the charges levelled at it. Shri G. X. Francis, President of this Council, sought information on this point, and the Secretary of the Enquiry Committee in his D.-O. No. 14/S-C.MEC, dated the 29th May 1954, very courteously promised facilities for examining the records.
23. When Shri Francis appeared in person in the Secretariat on the 1st June 1954. three files were given to him for examination. In none of these three files was there a single “representation”, or “allegation”, or “counter-allegation” or “denial” which bore a date anterior to the 14th April 1954! All the documents which these three files contained were in reply to the Press Statement issued by the Enquiry Committee and were, therefore, posterior to the date of its constitution. This Council most respectfully submits that by the very terms of reference, all documents received by your Commission after the 14th April 1954, save those which are in continuation, corroboration or refutation of those received previously, should be expunged from your records as irrelevant to or outside the scope of your enquiry.
24. In this connection, in an interview with the Prime Minister of India, Shri G. X. Francis had pleaded that by the term “In reference, the enquiry would be altogether one-sided and the harassments and discrimination, of which the Tribal Christians had complained, would not be investigated. The Prime Minister was under the impression that the enquiry should be conducted into both sides of the case, and when the difference and distinction between Christian Tribals and Christian Missionaries was established, he was convinced of the necessity of a thorough investigation into both sides of the case. He then wrote to the Government of Madhya Pradesh to have as wide terms of reference as possible. It is much to be deplored that the State Government could not see it, way to agree to the eminently reasonable proposal made by the Prime Minister of India. In D.-O. No. 1718/46-XXX-MR, dated the 3rd September 1954, the Government of Madhya Pradesh informed Shri G. X. Francis that “no amendment to the terms of reference was considered necessary by the Government”.
25. As a direct consequence of the above position, the Enquiry Committee has been forced to stray into fresh fields and pastures new, and to call for and collect post litem motam evidence against Christians and Christian Missionaries. This Council bees to emphasise that this kind of evidence is bound to be ruled out of court by anybody of judges, and it will, therefore, be the worst travesty of justice ever perpetrated in India to base your findings on such material……… Christians will always harbour the grievance that on the evidence before your Committee, such as it was before the 14th April 1954, you will have had to exculpate all Christians and Christian Missionaries of the charges levelled against them, and because some men are interested in banging the Christians somehow, fresh evidence is sought to be gathered against them.
26. Christians seek justice, and have no doubt that an ex-Chief Justice dispense it without fear or favour
POINT NO. V
THE ENTIRE CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY SUSPECT AND ON TRIAL
27. Dr. Katju accused foreign Christian Missionaries of two particular districts.
The Government of Madhya Pradesh has accused all Christian Missionaries, whether Indian or foreign, throughout the State.
The Enquiry Committee has gone one step further and by its 99-point Questionnaire has brought the entire Indian- Christian community under suspicion and placed it on trial.
In the process of allowing things to broaden from precedent to precedent scant courtesy appears to have been paid to the fortunes and fate of a community of one crore of people, leave alone the respect due to individual human rights. I would most respectfully solicit your attention to the hiatus thus revealed between the guarantees held out by the Constitution and the actual treatment meted out to a Minority.
28. The Enquiry Committee has elicited public opinion on the question whether the Indian Christian’s cultural integrity and national loyalty are not undermined by his religious convictions, practices and affiliations. The clear implications of such enquiries are that Christianity turns its nationals into traitors and quislings, and cannot be expected to coexist with other religions in the land in a peaceful manner and co-operate in realising a just order of society. To say the least, Christians feel deeply hurt and insulted by such calculated reflections and aspersions on their sense of Nationalism and Patriotism. They cannot help feeling that such reflections coming from any individual or body of men would have exposed them to the charge of libel and then to the punitive provisions of the laws of the land. The inference, therefore, cannot be resisted that the Enquiry Committee, by questions reflecting on the nationalism and patriotism of Christians is doing duty for rabid communalists who presume a sense of nationalism exclusively for the majority community and deny it to other sections of the citizens of India.
29. It will perhaps not be out of place to remind you and your esteemed colleagues that the Christian community has to its credit a record of national service which no other community has so far equalled-in the field of education, in social reform, in humanitarian work, in promoting and achieving cultural integration and in national defence. On the Enquiry Committee if self the member who have received their education in Christian schools and colleges should far outnumber those who owe their education to institutions conducted by any other community. You, sir, who have made no secret of your indebtedness to Christian education, can bear testimony whether Christianity is a denationalising force.
30. The consequence of suspecting a whole community of anti-national tendencies and placing it on trial by a show of judicial procedure, is to cut out all common grounds for discussions or negotiations which might lead to mutual adjustments of differences, if any, and establishment of harmonious relations.
31. The Catholic Regional Council fervently hopes that you will see the irreparable damage that is being done by isolating the Christians from the stream of national life and making them appear in the eyes of their fellow-countrymen as dangerous traitors who are unworthy to live in this great and ancient country. I leave it to you to do what you yet can to undo the harm and damage that has been caused.
POINT No. VI.
UNWARRANTED ASSUMPTIONS UNDERLYING QUESTIONNAIRE
32. The impartiality of the elaborate 99-point Questionnaire stands vitiated by some utterly unwarranted assumptions of which the following are illustrative:-
(a) That Christianity is a denationalising force.
33. I beg most respectful to submit that each and every one of these assumptions is not only false, jut has no reference to the terms of reference given to your committee. By no stretch of language or imagination could any of these terms be beaten into yielding justification for any of the questions based on the above assumptions. According to the terms of reference, the duty of the Committee was fourfold: To report to Government what the facts are on the questions-
You can see for yourself that your Committee was required to collect facts on the four points above, and not to elicit opinions on certain arbitrary assumptions.
34. Even for the purpose of eliciting public opinion, you will concede that, the questions addressed to the public should have some basis in the “complaints”, “representations” and “allegations” said to have been received by Government before the 14th April 1954. Where are these documents? There was not a single such incriminating document in any of the three files that were produced for the inspection of the President of this Council on the 1st June 1954. In the circumstances, the Christian community is entitled to ask how it is expected to interpret questions which have no basis in. fact?
35. With reference to these baseless assumptions and the questions based thereon, I trust you will permit me to make some observations:-
36. This Council most respectfully submits that the Enquiry Committee which has been called into existence for the purpose of finding out the facts in the representations received by Government before the 14th April 1954 is turning itself into a “fault-finding body”, and by its arbitrary and unwarranted questions, inflamming communal passions against the Christian minority in this State. This may be an unconscious process, but it cannot be denied that it is unfair, unjust and unsecular.
37. Through you, I beg most respectfully to appeal to the Congress Government of the State, to review the position before it deteriorates any further, and take such action as the circumstances call for, to stop further damage to a loyal minority.
UNDEFINED STATUS OF ENQUIRY COMMITTEE
38. Christians all over India, and particularly those in Madhya Pradesh, have been anxious to know the exact status of the Enquiry Committee appointed under Resolution No. 318-716-V-Con., dated the 14th April 1954, No information whatsoever on this all important matter is available either in the text of the Resolution or in any Press Note issued by Government. In the circumstances, this Council was left to its own resources to discover the position.
39. The only law under which a Commission or Committee of Enquiry can be constituted is The Commissions of Enquiry Act, 1952. Under this Act, certain conditions have to be fulfilled and certain procedures have to be complied with before any such body can come legally into existence. As neither the conditions nor the procedural requirements seem to have been fulfilled, this Council pointedly raised the matter with the Government. In D.O. No. 1874-815-V, dated the 14th May 1954, Government replied to say that “Government have inherent powers to appoint a Committee to make enquiries on any matter to ascertain the factual position”. This Council elicited legal opinion on Government’s statement, and in the light thereof, I am directed to state as follows:-
40. In a Democracy, the will of the State means the will of the people expressed through the Legislature. The Legislative Assembly of Madhya Pradesh has not voted for this Enquiry Committee, nor has the Governor sanctioned it in exercise of the emergency powers vested in him under the Constitution. Has the Executive any inherent powers over and above those expressly provided for in the Constitution? I beg leave to discuss the proposition.
41. Article 154 says that the executive power of the State shall be vested in the Governor and exercised by him either directly or through officers in accordance with this Constitution. These words emphatically restrict the powers of the executive to certain expressly specified provisions contained in the Constitution. In other words, no power-explicit or implicit- not specifically provided for can be exercised either by the Governor or by his Government. Such powers, if exercised, must therefore be regarded as autocratic and ultra vires of the Constitution. This view was emphasised by the Prime Minister of India, when the undersigned interviewed him at Delhi, on the 12th May 1954; when he said: “I am not a Grand Moghul. I cannot do what I like. I have to function within the limits of the Constitution”. The same observation would apply with equal, if not greater force, to the executive actions of the Government of Madhya Pradesh. It follows, therefore, that the exercise of powers not traceable in the Constitution, on the plea that they are inherent in a Government, must lead from precedent to precedent and destroy the foundations of a responsible Government.
42. As no legal sanction is traceable for the institution of the Enquiry Committee, it has to be inferred that The Christian Missionary Activities Enquiry Committee of Madhya Pradesh is merely an unauthorised body set up by the Executive, to do what it liked and how it liked and wherever it liked throughout the limits of Madhya Pradesh in order to create fresh evidence against Christians and Christian missionaries. You will appreciate that this AS a parlous state of affairs, and Indian Christians are extremely apprehensive as to the ends to which their evidence before this Committee will be put.
43. The Catholic Regional Council most respectfully solicits your sympathetic consideration to the issue raised herein and persuade Government to legalise and regularise the position.
MOUNTING REIGN OF REPRESSION RESULTING IN TWO MURDERS
44. The Catholic Regional Council, in its dated Memorandum, dated the 14th February 1954, to the Prime Minister of India addressed through the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, already listed the harassments and persecutions to which the Tribal Christians of Jashpur have been subjected. These are briefly recapitulated for ready reference:-
To a judge of your eminence and experience, I need hardly point out that, if certain undesirable effects in the public life of the country are deplored, the underlying causes have to be appreciated. In the present case, the causes are there for the whole world to see, why in a particular part of the State only one section of the citizens continued to be harassed even after the integration of she feudal areas, and why this tempo of harassment increased after the Pronouncement of Dr. Katju.
45. Whatever may be the grounds or justification for the present Enquiry, you will appreciate that as the result of the outburst of unrestrained communalism, the Christian minority in one part of the State finds itself exposed to grievous danger. I have therefore to appeal, to you to represent the present communal trends to the Government that may take such urgent action as the developments culminating in the desecration of churches and murders of Christian leaders, call for, and restore the spirit of tolerance for minorities and the tone and temper of secularism which for the moment are conspicuous by their absence in some parts of Madhya Pradesh, particularly in the Tribal areas of Jashpur.
GOVERNMENT'S PARTISAN ATTITUDE
46. This Council begs most respectfully to draw attention to the manner in which a handful of communal minded officers can mishandle a situation and involve Government in responsibility for their actions. This is rendered crystal clear from a review of the forces that were at work, and the manner which administrative officers reacted to these forces.
PRE-INTEGRATION FORCES THAT CONTINUED INTO POST-INTEGRATION DAYS
47. The pre-Integration forces were the Udaipur State Conversion Act, the Raigarh State Conversion Act and the Surguja State Apostacy Act. Under these Acts, Christianity was banned in these areas. Integration implied a complete change of condition, and to bring these feudal areas in harmony with the laws prevailing in the rest of India needed the services of secular-minded officers. Unfortunately, such officers were p6sted who had not the right concepts of a secular State and were in sympathy with the elements which had engendered the pre-Integration forces. Consequently, a body of opinion was encouraged at the expense of another, and the demon of Communalism raised its head, without the knowledge of the authorities at Nagpur. What followed, therefore, was inevitable.
48. When Christians complained of harassments and persecutions, the local authorities suppressed the complaints and started terrorising the complainants. This is proved by the nocturnal inquisition held without the knowledge of the Deputy Commissioner on the 4th June 1949. Even reports to the authorities at Nagpur did not seem to worry the local officials who were ready to justify their actions by white-washing the complaints. This is proved by the explanations offered on the Confidential Report, dated the 1st May 1949, submitted by Shri G. X. Francis to the Chief Secretary to Government, Madhya Pradesh, on the situation in Jashpur.
49. The first casus belli appears to have been the report sent by Shri P. Lobo, Advocate, Nagpur, to the Prime Minister of India, drawing his attention to the harassments of Christians in the integrated Tribal areas. The fury of the local officials appears to have been roused to a pitch which blinded them to the actual situation, and in a wild attempt to defend themselves, they drew a completely distorted picture by stringing together a very large number of false Allegations, insinuations and innuendoes against the Tribal Christians and Christian Missionaries in the districts of Raigarh and Surguja. It is this Report which appears to have misled Dr. Katju into transforming the persecuted people as aggressors.
50. All the developments since then have been moving in a vicious circle. As Dr. Katju had made a definite statement, every attempt was being made to give it the secret of truth. The appointment of the Enquiry Committee also…… is as its…… aim.
51. Meanwhile, things have happened in Jashpur which are incredible: -
52. As these developments clearly indicate the partisan attitude of the highest authorities, both locally and in the State, a suffering minority cannot be expected to get a square deal. In the circumstances, this Council begs you go discuss the situation with our veteran and venerable Congress Leader, Pandit Ravi Shankar Shukla, and devise ways and means of restoring secularism, tolerance, and some kind of protection to the Christians from the excesses indulged in by officials.
53. In regard to the future operations of the Enquiry Committee itself, Christians are profoundly agitated that with all the goodwill in the world, it will not be possible for the members either individually or collectively to appraise the situation fairly, on account of the natural limitations on their ability to appreciate the Christian point of view on the issues in dispute, on account of the vague terms of reference given to them, and on account of the undefined status given to the Committee. You will admit that the Catholic Regional. Council did its level best to co-operate with the Enquiry Committee and deputed two of its members to accompany the Committee in its exploratory tours. As the character of the Committee is still shrouded in doubts and fears, and as Christians have been placed on the defence, I am directed most respectfully to approach you for clarification of the following points:-
54. The Catholic Regional Council is grateful to you, your esteemed Secretary and your honoured colleagues for the courtesy and kindness extended to its representatives.
DR. KATJU’S STATEMENT IN PARLIAMENT
New Delhi, April 22.
Dr. Kailas Nath Katju, Home Minister, said yesterday that it had been made clear to all foreign Missionaries working in the country that if they were engaged in social welfare work, medical work and education, they were welcome, but if they indulged in proselytisation, it would be undesirable. That was the basic rule governing the Government’s attitude.
Dr. Katju was replying in the House of the People to Mr. Gang, De, who wanted to know if the Government had received any complaints from the Madhya Pradesh Government or the local population that in many places in Surguja and Bilaspur districts of Chhatisgarh, Adivasis were given monetary temptation, sometimes threatened, and then converted to Christianity, and that the temples of the Adivasis were being turned into Churches.
Dr. Katju said that certain reports containing allegations to the effect that foreign Missionaries working in the Surguja and Raigarh districts of Madhya Pradesh were engaged in proselytising activities which offended the feelings of the non-Christian local population, had been received. These reports, however, made no mention of any instances of turning temples into Churches.
The Government were taking necessary steps to check objectionable Missionary activities where they existed. It was, however, not in the public interest to divulge the details.
Dr. Katju said that first reports of such activities were received six months ago. He could not at present say about the number of conversions. Enquiry was being made and the matter was under consideration. The House should not press him too far, in the matter of further information.
PRESS TRUST OF INDIA.
THE CATHOLIC REGIONAL COMMITTEE
(Representing Bihar, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh.)
This Committee notes with serious regret that the immediate cause of the “Reports” referred to by the Hon’ble Dr. Katju is neither the expansion of Christianity in the Tribal areas nor the adoption of “objectionable” Missionary methods of conversion, but the very representations submitted from time to time regarding the persecutions, harassments and discrimination to which Christian Oraons have been subjected in these Tribal areas. Instead of enquiring into or remedying these grievances, the Government of Madhya Pradesh has chosen to send up a report containing counter-allegations against these Christians. Evidently, this is an attempt to divert the attention of the Central Government from the validity of the grievances of these Tribal Christians, and thus screen the guilt and ignorance of local officials. The reference to Adivasi temples being converted into Christian churches is an example of the utterly false nature of the allegations. Adivasis have never had any temples of any kind, and there can, therefore, be no question of converting imaginary temples.
It has been a time-honoured principle of democratic administration not to swallow at first sight sweeping allegations against a whole community or class of people, but to subject them in the very first instance to impartial enquiry of a quasi-judicial, if not judicial, character before any action is taken. It is much to be regretted that this consideration, extended in the law court to the worst criminals, has been denied to ten millions of Indian Christians who are law-abiding citizens.
In stringing together all sorts of unverified allegations, distortions of facts and indefensible insinuations about Christian Tribals and Missionary activities in Surguja and Raigarh districts, the Government of Madhya Pradesh has chosen to take sides against the Christian minority, and as this report is the corner-stone of Dr. Katju’s statement of policy which envisages an invasion over Fundamental Rights [Art. 25 (1) of the Constitution], a prima facie would appear to exist for an impartial judicial tribunal consisting of Parsi and Muslim judges, to be set up by the Central Government for conducting an enquiry.
This Committee, therefore, resolves-
G. X. FRANCIS,RANCHI:
Catholic Regional Committee.
The 7th May 1953.
Copy of D.-O. letter, dated Nagpur, the 28th June 1955, from Shri G. X. Francis, President, The Catholic Regional Council, Kamptee Road, Nagpur, to Dr. M. B. Niyogi, M.A., LL.M., LL.D., Chairman, Christian Missionary Activities Enquiry Committee, Nagpur
The State Government’s Press Note, dated the 16th June 1955, lays down, what purports to be, the future procedure your Committee will follow in recording evidence of witnesses. Since the appointment of your Committee, I have been asking if any procedure had been laid down and was invariably told that if the procedure was settled, due intimation would be given to the public. Even in the recent correspondence, dated 6th June 1955, between this Council and your Committee, I had raised the question of procedure. I suppose the “procedure” now announced is the sequel to public agitation.
The Press Note says, that your Committee intends to follow “‘The USUAL JUDICIAL METHODS’ of ascertaining the truth from the witnesses”, but qualifies the intention by the significant statement: “As far As Possible and Practicable”. In the first place, I cannot follow whether this is a declaration of your intentions or a statement of procedure.
Notwithstanding the Notice I served on the State Government for the dissolution of your Committee on various grounds and without prejudice to any of them, I have given anxious consideration to the “Judicial Methods” now announced, in the hope that perhaps even at this late hour, you will repair the wrong that you have done to Christians and Christian Missionaries.
The “usual judicial Methods” are obviously those followed in Courts of Law. You should know that these are clearly set forth in elaborate detail in the Code of Civil Procedure, in the Criminal Procedure Code and in the Indian Evidence Act. You also know that it is not open to judges to make the slightest variation or departure from the set procedure for fear of miscarriage of justice. To say, therefore, that you will follow “the usual Judicial Methods” and then qualify the statement by adding that you will do so “as far as possible and practicable”, is nothing short of a violent contradiction in terms designed to mislead public opinion. The contradiction was apparently unavoidable because the plain meaning of your words is that you intend to set aside all judicial methods and to follow your own arbitrary ways in the further conduct of the enquiry.
Apart from the action of the State Government in accusing Christians and not giving them any representation on the personnel of the Committee, we found that you too have been adopting questionable methods extremely prejudicial to us. You cannot deny that all your “enquiry” so far has been conducted without any procedure, and according to your whims and fancies. You cannot also deny that you have lent the platform of the Enquiry Committee for violent anti-Christian speeches in which Christians were described as quislings and Traitors and Pandit Nehru was accused of tolerating the Christians as he had tolerated Shaikh Abdullah, in which it was stated that the Bible contained immoral teachings, and that Christian Institutions were dens of immorality. You cannot be unaware that the State Government had to intervene and persuade you to expunge some of these outrageous statements which had gone on your records.
The Press Note describes your future procedure as follows:-
The above laboriously constructed sentences indicate the following procedure
(a) That Allegations will be recorded as evidence.
Some unknown genius in the Publicity Department has had the humour to describe the above procedure as “the usual judicial methods”. As you are engaged on more serious business than leg-pulling, and as your proceedings are attracting all-India attention, you will see that someone's enthusiasm has outrun his discretion in proclaiming this unparalleled parody of judicial procedure as the usual modus operandi of our Law Courts. I cannot guess whom the Press Note is intended to deceive.
In your committee's letter No. 546, dated the 3rd June 1955, it was stated that “the committee propose to examine a few witnesses in further conduct of the enquiry. You are, therefore, requested to furnish immediately a list of persons you desire to be heard by she committee. The specific points which the witnesses have to put forward may also be stated very briefly against their names.” This raises a question fundamental to your enquiry. If you are going to call people to make further, fresh allegations, over and above all the wild allegations you have heard all-round the year, what is your committee going to enquire into? Do you propose to examine the Allegations made before you, or to record further fresh allegations and then examine them?
In either case, you will be travelling beyond your jurisdiction. In the Government’s Notification appointing your committee it was stated that-
I shall require you in the name of justice and your own duty, to confine yourself exclusively to these specific issues, and not to go about collecting fresh allegations on any matter on which any person likes to talk about.
With reference to the above, I have mentioned in my notice that when I was granted inspection of your records on the 1st June 1954, I did not find a single representation alleged to have been received by Government before the appointment of your committee, complaining against Christian Missionaries. By the terms of our appointment, your business is to confine your investigations and findings to these allegations, and nothing more. If you did so, you clearly owe it to the public to make known all these allegations, so that the men or organisations which have made these allegations may be examined by you.
Further, you can hardly convince any sane man that the entire Christian population of Madhya Pradesh has been indulging in the objectionable activities mentioned in the Government's Notification. A few may possibly be brought under the accusation. The question of public importance is “Who are these Christians?”. I would like to assure you that my Council is equally anxious to pull these men into the lime light and make them answer the accusations brought against them. But the question is “Who are these men?”.
You will concede that my Council extended its fullest co-operation to you throughout last year although we were dissatisfied with the personnel of your committee, your terms of reference, your modus operandi, and your very appointment. We did so, however, on the advice of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, our Prime Minister, who suggested that we should state our point of view before your committee and leave it to public opinion to evaluate its findings. This we have done, and there is nothing more that we can do.
We now find that you have not disclosed the name or names of the accused, the nature of the charges levelled against them, the name or names of persons who have made the allegations, nor even the names of the places where the objectionable activities are alleged to have occurred, although your Committee has toured extensively and intensively throughout the State of Madhya Pradesh at considerable expense to the tax-payer. Now, you again propose to conduct another State-wide tour to examine “witnesses”. Witnesses of what, where and whom?
All the foregoing reasons and circumstances clearly indicate that you are groping in the dark as to the Christian Missionaries who are supposed to have indulged in objectionable proselytising activities, that you went about for light throughout Madhya Pradesh for a whole year and still find yourself in the same darkness, that your “explorations” merely resulted in waste of public money, and that by your activities in the name of “enquiry”, you have increased the suspicion of all friendly Hindus against Christians and disturbed harmonium relationship that existed between the two sections of Indian citizens. Not having achieved anything in the pursuit of your legitimate objective, you now propose to make confusion worse confounded by following a lawless procedure which has no precedent or parallel in any democracy of the world. I would be faithless to the Constitution of India if I followed you in your illegal perambulations and proceedings. My Council, therefore, feels compelled to inform you that no useful purpose would be served by further co-operation with your committee.
I am releasing this letter to the Press as you have given India-wide publicity to your novel “judicial methods”, and am sending a copy to the leaders of the House and Opposition in the State Legislature and to the President of the Indian National Congress for information.
Copy of D.-O. No. 590, dated Nagpur, the 7th July 1955, from Shri M. S. Pandharkame, M.A., LL.B., Assistant Secretary, Christian Missionary Activities Enquiry Committee, Madhya Pradesh, to Shri G. X. Francis, President, the Catholic Regional Council, Kamptee Road, Nagpur
I am to acknowledge receipt of your letter, dated the 28th June 1955, addressed to the Chairman, Christian Missionary Activities Enquiry Committee, Madhya Pradesh, Nagpur, and to say that in view of the deliberate misstatements contained therein and the lack of decorum or decency displayed, the Chairman is of opinion that it does not merit any serious consideration.
of D.-O. No. Ref.BC-31-55, dated Bangalore-1, the 15th February 1955, from
the Standing Committee of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, Bangalore-1,
to Pandit Ravi Shankar Shukla, Chief Minister, Government of Madhya Pradesh,
DIFFICULTIES CONFRONTING MISSIONARIES AND CHRISTIANS IN MADHYA PRADESH
You will recall the Memorandum the Standing Committee of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India submitted to you on June 15, 1954 (Ref: BC-111-54). We pointed out therein our fears and apprehensions in respect of the Inquiry committee and the harassment caused to Christian Missionaries and people, chiefly in Tribal areas.
2. The Chief Secretary to the Government of Madhya Pradesh, in his reply, D.-O. No. 1494-33-XXX-M.R. dated August 4, 1954, addressed to the General Secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, assured us and through us, “all the Christians that they stand firmly by the principles and fundamental liberties enshrined in the Constitution and have no desire whatsoever to interfere with them. They would give equal protection to all citizens irrespective of their race, religion or community. Government hope that you and your Association will now persuade your fellow-religionists to -0-operate in the important work which the Committee has undertaken and that you would make special efforts to see that no bitterness against any community is created.”
3. We have scrupulously avoided giving cause for any ill-feeling between Christians and other communities, and have restrained our people from any course which may embarass the Government. But recent happenings have accentuated our misgivings instead of allaying them. The tours and inquiry of the Committee seem only to have strengthened and encouraged the suspicions, prejudices and distrust of the major elements of the population, and of the Government, against a small and loyal minority. The constant questioning by the Committee and Government officials about the activities-of Missionaries and Christians have resulted in a wave of gloom and intimidation. Communal tension has reached such a pitch that two Christians were murdered in the Raigarh and Surguja districts.
4. We understand from reliable sources that inflamatory speeches were made by the opponents of Christianity from the platform of' the Inquiry Committee. Protests were made by various Catholic representative bodies in Madhya Pradesh, but these have gone unheeded. The usual form of oath for such investigations was not administered to the witnesses, nor an opportunity afforded for cross-examination by our advocates. The Committee has no doubt been authorised to frame its own procedure. We should, however, like to submit that the elementary principles of justice and enquiry demand that opportunities be given to the accused for sifting the evidence and ascertaining the truth. This is all the more necessary in matters of such vital importance as the good name, honesty and integrity of a particular section of the people. What we find very strange indeed is that one of the members of the Committee published an article in newspapers against Christian Missionaries in connection with the inquiry.
5. Our attention has recently been called to a most prejudicial and damaging 99-point Questionnaire (undated) issued by the Committee about three months ago. These relate to activities of Christian Missionaries, the number of converts and Christian institutions in 1941, 1947, 1951-1954. The Questionnaire is based on the assumption that Missionaries make use of unlawful methods for converting poor and illiterate people to Christianity. The spirit of the Questionnaire, we are sorry to note, is such as to discredit Christianity and Christians. The Committee has gone beyond the limits of the terms of reference and violated the fundamental rights solemnly guaranteed by the Constitution. We cannot think of anything more ill-advised and more harmful to the peaceful coexistence of different religions than a Questionnaire based on unproved representation.
6. The chief reasons for the attacks against Missionaries and their work may be broadly classified as:
(1) The charge that foreign Missionaries are indulging in political work is not true. Their mission is to preach the Gospel of Christ, to minister to the spiritual needs of Indian Christians, to educate youth, to provide medical relief and to take care of the poor and the orphan. For centuries these works have been carried on by Catholic Missions without offending the susceptibilities of the adherents of other religions.
We hear that Missionaries are looked upon as agents of foreign imperialism and disruptors of national unity. Missionaries have no political designs, nor do they ever make an attempt to denationalise the converts. Christians are second to none in their loyalty to the country. They do not form an alien community, but part and parcel of the body politic. Not even a single charge on this score could be substantiated by facts on the platform of the Inquiry Committee.
2. (a) The allegation that conversions are made by force, fraud or by offer of material inducement cannot be levelled against our Missionaries. They derive no personal advantage by preaching the Gospel of Christ. Their only object is to spread the Christian teaching in regard to God, man’s relations with his fellowmen and future life. No one can be converted against his will. Every person is free to choose his way of life according to his own lights and convictions. Whoever desires to embrace the Catholic faith has to undergo a course of religious instruction and one can be received into the Church only when one is convinced of the truths of Christianity and manifests a sincere and persevering desire to accept the faith and practise it. Conversion is a personal act of free will. Utmost care is exercised to respect the freedom and the conscientious convictions of every individual.
(b) If Christian Missionaries are considered undesirable persons or international schemers and agitators, parents belonging to all communities and creeds would not be so eager to entrust the education of their children to the care of Catholic Priests and Sisters. There are a million children, half of whom are non-Catholic in our institutions throughout the country. Governors and Ministers of State Governments have expressed their admiration for the ideals which inspire the Missionaries in their various charitable and educational works, and above all, for their practical and immense service for the uplift of poor classes and aboriginals.
3. The refusal of recognition and denial of grant-in-aid to Adivasi schools conducted by missions even in villages where the population is wholly Christian is another instance of the discriminatory policy of the Government. Schools have been established in close proximity to the existing Catholic schools, with the result that there has been a duplication of effort in the field of education and financial loss. Christian parents have been subjected to great sufferings and hardships. Their children have been compelled to walk great distances-10, 15, 20 miles and more-to sit for the entrance examination for the fourth standard. The situation is, thus, one which causes much misery and disaffection among Catholics. In one instance, a Missionary and his witness had to trudge 30 miles on foot no less than 23 times. The case has not yet been taken up. The new developments have only tended to rouse communal tension, whereas there was harmony, peace and good feeling among the Christians and non-Christians previously.
Schools were first started for Adivasis by Missionaries at great sacrifice in men and money. Their object is primarily the education of Christian children. Our schools have always been thrown open to children of all classes and creeds. The lurking suspicion that these are instruments of conversion to the Christian faith is groundless. Our religion is not taught to non-Christians.
Already in October 1945, at a meeting of the Standing Committee of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, held in Bangalore, the Bishops declared categorically and emphatically that the “Catholic Church has always respected and will always respect the religious convictions of non-Catholic students. She never has, and never will, impose her teaching on them.”
7. India is professedly a Secular Democratic Republic, in which all religions have equal protection and equal toleration. A Secular State means that the State will not make any discrimination whatsoever on grounds of religion. Article 25 (1) of the Constitution guarantees to all persons the freedom freely to profess, practise and propagate religion.
8. The present agitation against Missionaries is already disturbing friendly relations between Christians and other communities, and has further deepened the feeling of apprehension in the minds of Christians as to their present security and future welfare. Separatist tendencies have never been encouraged among Adivasis. Under the Article guaranteeing the freedom of speech, expression, worship and of association, referred to above, every community had the right to carry on its efforts to spread its religion by legitimate and peaceful means.
9. In the course of debates in the Constituent Assembly on December 6, 1948, on the Article relating to freedom of conscience and free profession, practise and propagation of religion, Pandit Laxmi Kant Maitra pointed out that “the Indian Christian Community was the most inoffensive community in the whole country.” It is unfortunate that the word “Propagate religion” should be associated only with the Christian Community. That right has been guaranteed and is, in fact, exercised by every community.
10. The Christian Community with full confidence in the sense of fair play and justice of the majority community surrendered voluntarily the privilege of separate representation, and even of reservation of seats. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, appreciated this gesture so greatly that in his historic resolution eliminating reservation of seats to minorities from the Draft Constitution, he appealed to the minorities “to have confidence in the majority community”. He further exhorted the majority community “to conduct itself in such a way as to win and retain the confidence of minorities”. Sardar Patel continued in his reply in the Constituent Assembly on the resolution abolishing reservation of seats that the “foundations were laid for a truly secular democratic State, where everyone is equal in every way to everyone else. May God give us wisdom and courage to do the right thing to all manner of people as our Constitution provides.”
11. Mr. Frank Anthony called this an act of faith in the majority community who “would have to behave towards others in a generous, fair and just way”. Pandit Nehru observed amidst cheers “Let us live up to this faith.” He further pronounced it as a “historic turn in our destiny”.
12. A sense of security and confidence was, thus, created in the minds of all minorities, particularly the Christian community. But the turn of events during the last two or three years has come as a rude shock to them. Inquiry Committees have been constituted to investigate representations made “that conversions are being made either forcibly or through fraud”.
13. We are not asking for any privilege or favours, but for truth and justice. We have the right to claim the same liberty as is given to adherents of other faiths. We, therefore, request you, Sir, to dispel the disquiet and uneasiness prevailing among Christians in some parts of Madhya Pradesh, and assure them that the Inquiry Committee and the Government would respect the policy of religious freedom and tolerance which has always characterised India and which has been solemnly guaranteed in the Constitution.
14. As Chief Minister of the State, interested in the well-being of all classes and creeds of the great State of Madhya Pradesh, we appeal to you to take effective steps to protect the rights and liberties of the Christian minority.
CATHOLIC BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE OF INDIA STATEMENT ISSUED BY THE STANDING COMMITTEE
Bangalore, February 16, 1955.
The newly-elected Standing Committee of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India met at Bangalore under the Chairmanship of His Eminence, Valerian Cardinal Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay, from Friday, February 11th to Wednesday, February 16th, 1955. The members present were-
(1) His Grace Most Rev. Thomas Pothacamury, Archbishop of Bangalore, and General Secretary, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India.
Surveying the present position of the Catholic community and assessing the problems that confront it in the various spheres of the Church’s activity, at the conclusion of their deliberations, the Standing Committee have thought it opportune to issue the following statement:
Considering the rapid and extraordinary strides made in the country since Independence, in the sphere of economic and social progress, and the stress laid by our national leaders on the need of increasing the pace, it is felt that yet greater practical interest should be evinced by the Catholic community in the great schemes of economic and social improvements initiated by the Central and State Government the promotion of better living, education, community projects, national extension blocks, medical relief, etc. These measures are fully in conformity with the spirit and traditions of service characteristic of our Christian way of life. In making our best endeavour to implement them, we hope to attain greater effectiveness in promoting spiritual-happiness and material progress in this ancient land which was among the earliest to receive the light if Christianity and which is rich in the promise of Christian achievement. Particular attention is demanded of all lovers of the country and its people towards the welfare and progress of life in the villages; on which the future prosperity of the country ultimately depends.
In spite of our difficulties, some of which are indeed grave, and not easy of quick solution, notwithstanding the animus against foreign Missionaries and the feelings of marked apprehension created in the Christian community by the aggressiveness of some sectarian and militant organisations it would be false to say that the Catholic community does not enjoy freedom of religion or is regarded with suspicion or that it finds itself in isolated unit.
We are heartened by the thought that frequently it has been acknowledged throughout the country by the enlightened public and responsible leaders, headed by the President of India and our Prime Minister, that Christianity is an old and honoured religion of the land, that “Indian Christians from a very considerable and important element in the national community”, and that the Christian community and their culture are an integral part of the Indian heritage.
For the conform and encouragement of our people and to enlist the sympathy of our fellow countrymen, bearing in mind also the assurances of our national leaders we are compelled by farce of circumstances to state the following. There are certain parts of India, according to reliable reports received, where the communities and their pastors yet continue to be subjected to various forms of vexatious treatment in consequence of which the Christians are living in a state of fear and insecurity. This state of affairs prevails unfortunately in spite of the frank and fearless indictment of communalism by the Prime Minister and of his vehement denunciation of the aggressive attitude against Christian Missionaries and of his noble appreciation of their work; in spite of his severe warning that this kind of thin should be sternly discouraged, and his declaration that minority religious communities “are as much a part of India as anyone else”. It must be added, however, that, while opposition comes from certain quarters, the masses of the people are appreciative of the selfless service of our Missionaries both foreign and Indian.
Interested as we have always been to promote communal unity and convinced that every community in the land should be allowed and encouraged to pursue its normal life and that every community by its own way of life contributes thereby to national peace and progress; eager as we are that our country should maintain the international prestige which it enjoys today, we fear that the distressing situation artificially created by interested agencies are certainly not in the best interest of our country’s life and its influence abroad. India’s policy, which she has followed consistently, namely, of enmity against none, but friendliness towards all, will be all the more appreciated, both at home and abroad, if effective steps are taken to ease the tension prevailing in certain parts of the country.
As the spread of the Christian idea in the political, social and economic thought of India is a duty which Catholic laymen owe not only to their religion but to their country, and India needs all the help that her children can give her, as our country needs to follow the middle line between reaction and revolution in politics, between capitalism and communism in economics, between westernisation and primitivism in social life, the Catholic layman has the glorious opportunity to bring the influence of justice and charity to bear on all social relationships and to stand for the supremacy of the moral law in all affairs of the State, national and international. To this end, the Standing Committee has thought it imperative to take the necessary steps for communing in the course of the year a Lay Leaders’ Conference and to encourage and support the Catholic Union of India.