Category Archives: Exclusivist religions

Conferring SC status to converts to Christianity and Islam: Some Pointers

The concept of identifying a caste or community as a backward class or scheduled caste has now become archaic and has created a vested interest in backwardness. There have been demands and efforts from time to time to get Scheduled Caste status to persons of Scheduled Caste origin professing Christianity or Islam in spite of the fact that their representation in services was adequate and that they were already getting the benefits of reservations as OBCs. The Ranganatha Misra Commission appointed by UPA government recommended extending SC status to the converts. The report and recommendations of the Commission were not accepted by the Modi Government and Justice Balakrishna Commission was appointed to look into the matter. Instead of waiting for the recommendations of the Balakrishna Commission, the Honorable Supreme Court wants to adjudicate a batch of petitions pending before it.

The term “Scheduled Caste” appeared for the first time in the Government of India Act, 1935. The Government of India Scheduled Castes Order 1936 was issued under this Act. Paragraph 3 of the 1936 Order explicitly states, “No Indian Christian shall be deemed to be a member of Scheduled Caste.” The Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950 reiterates this and, in its present version, states that “no person who professes a religion different from the Hindu, the Sikh or the Buddhist religion shall be deemed to be a member of a Scheduled Caste.”

Discrimination on the grounds of religion?

The Muslim and Christian political leaders lament that the converts from the SCs into their respective religions are deprived of the benefits of reservation, support, and development schemes formulated for their counterparts in Hindu, Sikh, and Buddhist religions. They vehemently argue that the exclusion of Christianity and Islam from the purview of the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order 1950 is discriminatory and unconstitutional, being violative of the provisions of Fundamental Rights guaranteed under Articles 14,15, 16, and 25 of the Constitution. In their view, this amounts to discrimination by the State on the ground of religion.

 The followers of these religions are now alleging that they are being discriminated against not only by the society but even by their own religious institutions like churches or mosques. They show as evidence the existence of separate churches/ mosques or separate prayer halls or prayer timings in the same church/mosque for them and earmarked areas for the burial of their dead.

Historical Context of the Constitutional Order

The Constitution (SC) Order,1950 confers a special status to the” Castes” discriminated against within the Hindu religious system for certain historical reasons. Parameters or criteria applied by the British authorities for identifying depressed classes (which later came to be known as Scheduled Castes) were largely related to the practices and prejudices associated with untouchability. Inclusion of all socially or economically backward classes, irrespective of religion, in paragraph 3 of the 1950 Order would be tantamount to a failure to recognise the specific historical discrimination suffered by these Scheduled Castes. Inclusion of all backward classes in the 1950 Order would constitute discrimination against Scheduled Castes by treating the experience of all sections of backward classes as similar to the historical discrimination faced by Scheduled Castes in India. Viewed from this perspective, The Constitution (SC) Order, 1950 is thus neither ultra-vires of the Constitution nor violative of any fundamental right guaranteed by the Constitution.

Even if persons of scheduled caste origin converted to Islam/ Christianity face discrimination within their own community, a pertinent question that needs to be answered is whether that discrimination is comparable in its oppressive severity to the discrimination faced by their counterparts in the Hindu religion. Separate enclosures in prayer halls of churches or burial grounds or the reluctance on the part of certain sections within their community to socialise with converts, though reprehensible, do not appear to match the oppression and consequential disability that untouchables in Hindu religion experienced in the past. Moreover, no documented research and precise authenticated information are available to establish such a narrative.

Conferring SC status tantamount to the introduction of caste in Christianity and Islam

Incidentally, available social indicators about Christians (separate figures for persons of Scheduled Caste origin converted to Christianity are not available) reveal that in terms of literacy and education levels, work participation rate, etc. Christians are way ahead of other major religious groups like Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, or Buddhists (excluding Jains). The social and educational indicators point to the fact that in terms of important indices, Christians are somewhat better off compared to their counterparts in other religions, while Muslims are by and large comparable.

 Both Islam and Christianity claim that these religions are egalitarian and afford equal status to all their followers. These religions also claim that they neither recognize nor approve birth-based caste identity of their followers. If followers of Islam and Christianity are now demanding SC reservation benefits based on social discrimination, there needs to be a deeper study on the origin and nature of this discrimination in both of these communities. The framework for SC reservation system was well known and there was broad societal consensus. In order to alleviate the suffering of the marginalized Hindu communities due to colonial subjugation and social upheavals, certain privileges were conferred to those communities. Extending them to Muslim and Christian communities at this stage is unwarranted and premature without a thorough understanding of the origin and nature of discrimination in those communities as that might warrant a different kind of governmental interventions.

Identification of SCs among converts

Both Islam and Christianity which originated in the middle East entered Indian soil through traders, invaders, preachers, and missionaries over a period of 800-900 years. These religions firmly established themselves in India as more and more indigenous people got converted to these religions either by force or allurement. During Islamic and British colonial misrule, there were thousands of forced conversions, abductions, rapes  and marriages. A lot of intermingling has happened by virtue of intra marriages: marriages between indigenous people and foreigners. In the past 70-80 years, a different kind of intermingling took place as marriages between people of different castes are quite common amongst Indians who subscribe to Christianity and Islam. Identifying the original caste of the present generation of Muslims and Christians is nearly impossible task as they are the progenies coming from centuries of mixed marriages. There would be enormous difficulty in identifying the original caste of those who got converted because there are no authentic records. Then, how to identify such Muslims/ Christians who were originally of SC origin?

Any procedure adopted to identify the SC converts to Christianity and Islam at this stage, even if a cut-off date is fixed, poses innumerable problems. The probability of abuse and ineligible persons siphoning off the benefits at the cost of the deserving is very high. Even for the listed castes, there is enough evidence that false certificates are being obtained, and many a time, undeserving are found enjoying reservations.

Retrograde moves undermining the ongoing social change

Those in favour of conferring SC status to converts should ponder whether enlargement of the list would bring to naught all initiatives taken so far to change the age-old social structure and whether it would be a retrograde step. Untouchability was abolished by Article 17 of the Constitution, and its practice in any form was forbidden. Enforcement of any disability arising from untouchability was punishable under the Protection of Civil Rights Act of 1955.

 There is enough evidence to establish that ‘untouchability’ is declining due to society’s crusade against untouchability. The increase in the level of education and spread of awareness among the people, assertiveness by scheduled castes of their status and rights, etc., had a definite impact on people’s thinking and behavioural patterns regarding untouchability. As a result, the rigidities of the system and the severities of the practice have been diluted. The Caste distinctions have eroded, and the behaviour towards Scheduled Castes has changed tremendously. Caste distinctions have largely transformed into class distinctions, especially in urban and semi-urban areas. Inter-caste marriages have become the order of the day. Unfortunately, a few honour killings are being highlighted for sensation. A good number of persons belonging to the marginalised sections are working as priests in Hindu temples.

Granting Scheduled Caste status to converts by the Government is equivalent to the formal introduction of the caste system in Islam/Christianity. This raises a very important question of whether the Indian Parliament and the Judiciary are competent enough to change the basic tenets of those religions and whether such interference in the internal affairs of those faiths attracts relevant blasphemy laws. 

As has been pointed out rightly by the Member Secretary of the Ranganatha Misra Commission, “notwithstanding that the religious tenets of Christianity and Islam do not permit it, and notwithstanding the fact that the very competence of the State – executive, Parliament, or even judiciary – to introduce ‘caste’ into religions that profess egalitarian regime” is questionable.

Real measures required to address the issues

Separate enclosures in Churches for “Dalits” or separate Cemeteries – are issues to be addressed primarily by the Christian religious leaders through reform within their system and through welfare and legal measures. In the case of Muslims, the non- adherence to the small family norm and abysmally low female work participation are responsible for the Muslim community’s relatively lower per capita income. The solution lies in rescuing the community from the clutches of the fundamentalist clergy. As The Protection of Civil Rights Act of 1955 is a religion-neutral Act and applies to all religions and religious denominations throughout India, Christian and Muslim converts can fight against discrimination under this Act. The positive discrimination that was granted to certain Jaatis professing Hinduism categorized as Scheduled Castes was aimed at achieving the constitutional guarantee of equality. This must not be extended to other groups on any ground. The churches and mosques must be made accountable as they collect huge amounts of money from their followers. In view of the complaints by their followers, the State must intervene to end social discrimination and prevent the misappropriation of enormous financial resources at their disposal.

The following are some of the issues that are to be debated across the society before any hasty conclusions are drawn-

  • Christianity and Islam proclaim that they are egalitarian and do not have castes. So, what explains the terms “Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims”?
  • Both Christianity and Islam lured a large section of the SC population that there would be no caste discrimination. If a “Dalit Christian or a Dalit Muslim” continues to feel discrimination, what purpose did the conversion serve?
  • Will the high and mighty of these religions admit that these religions are no different when it comes to social discrimination?
  • Why are Islam and Christianity not held accountable for their discriminatory practices?
  • The Abrahamic religions are playing both sides of the argument. They blame Hinduism for casteism, but until now, they are not accepting that casteism is there within their religions also. Do they accept that conversion does nothing to solve this social evil? Are they willing to give up their minority rights if SC status is extended to them?
  • Discrimination against SCs in Islam and Christianity is for those communities to solve in their context. What is the role of the State in their internal affairs?
  • How does extending SC status to converts solve the discrimination they face in their religions?
  • Will not extending SC status to the converts usurp the privileges and special rights given to a section of the Hindu Society?

The REAL issue is about dismantling Hindu society, not social justice. Those who believe in Wokeism are spreading false narratives and creating confusion. It is not difficult for the Supreme Court of India to see the evil designs of those Breaking-India forces and protect the interests of millions and millions of innocent Scheduled Caste Hindus.

                                                                                         Dr. Bommaraju Sarangapani

                                                                                       Former Professor of Economics                                                                                         Machilipatnam,Andhra Pradesh

A Mission to Unsave the “SAVED” : An Account of Homecoming Journeys

It is both my honor and privilege that I and my family got to spend two days with the Samarasata Sewa Foundation (SSF) team traveling to some remote villages in both Krishna and Guntur districts in Andhra Pradesh during my past trip to India to see the work done by the foundation. Many core team members of SSF including the president Mr. Vishnuvu Talluru Garu and the long-term visionary of SSF Dr. Sarangapani Garu were gracious enough to accompany us on this trip. My dear friend Esther Dhanraj joined us on this 2-day tour. Before I even write about our 2-day hectic trip, I would like to write a little bit about SSF team members who were an absolute delight to be around. Genuineness and personability are the core traits of every SSF team member that we met. Dharma Parirakshana is not just a job or a hobby, but it is the very breath of these fabulous people. Their actions speak much more than their words and the spirit of service or Sewa bhava shines bright through their actions.

I am not a novice to the so-called “spiritual work” done by religious organizations. All through my growing years, I have been around people who claimed to be on a mission to “save” people. “Save from what?” – Save from sin, eternal damnation, and the horrors of hell – a hell where the maggots that are feeding on the decaying bodies of the dead never die and the fire that burns the dead never ceases nor is quenched as described in bible. One would think that people who claim to be on a mission to “save” others from the horrors of hell would be the very personification of love and compassion. But alas…it is seldom the case. SSF team members who do not make any tall claims such as “saving” people’s souls from hell and eternal damnation but spend their time helping simple folks to take care of their basic needs are who I found to be the very epitome of love and compassion.

During our 2-day trip, we participated in Pratyeka pujas in two villages, visited two temples that are constructed and managed by SSF team. We also visited two Bal Vikas Kendrams that are affiliated with these temples and spent time with children who attend these schools. We participated in a medical camp organized by SSF in our ancestral village. We joined in two Saamuhika Aartis and accompanied the local Dharma pracharaks in a door-to-door Dharma pracharam.

Pratyeka Pujas:

  The word “Pratyeka” has no equivalent in English lexicon, and it can be loosely translated as special. Calling such a puja just “special” is an understatement.  Participating in this puja helped me realize the importance of the work undertaken by SSF. I am no stranger to religious “conversion” ceremonies – dedication services to baptisms – I have seen them all. People being dunked into water tanks in the name of baptisms is something that I watched all through my growing years. The idea of getting dunked in the water to symbolically “rise again in christ” was so terrifying to me that I managed to not go through this baptism ordeal all through my journey as a Christian that lasted for over 3 decades. Only when I saw the warm celebration of coming home of these people to Hinduism through ceremonious Pratyeka puja did I understand the real meaning of “coming” home. What I once was made to believe was homecoming as part of converting to Christianity was anything but coming home. As a matter of fact, it was departing from the home. In more ways than one, it was a way of removing a person from his home. A home that was part of their identity and ancestry. A home that was part of their cultural and spiritual legacy. Snatching people away from their natural homes with the promise of a home in heaven is what Christian “homecoming” is all about. This “homecoming” of people who briefly got lured away from their natural homes due to false promises of miraculous healing and golden mansions in an imaginary heaven by Christian proselytizers through Pratyeka puja is the real homecoming. The setting of where these Pratyeka pujas were conducted made all the difference. The scents from the flowers, the burning camphor and the lighted incense sticks which were used during the puja filled the air with positivity. The chanting of mantras interspersed with the chimes of temple bells is a perfect setting to welcome anyone home, especially those who for a little while were led astray. Seeing women who were part of the Pratyeka adorned in colorful sarees with symbols of auspiciousness such as bangles, flowers, sindoor and chandanam made me shed silent tears of joy thinking of what these women must’ve been made to do as part of their ordeal of becoming Christians. Who knows better than me what each of these women was made to do to proclaim to the world that they were now “born-again” Christians? In most cases, women will be made to wear white colored clothes while taking baptism.This and the mandatory removal of sindoor to identify themselves as Christians are the hardest thing to do for most women who suddenly got lured into the Christian camp as the removal of sindoor and wearing a white saree have a different connotation for a Hindu woman. I have seen and known Hindu women converts who break down and cry when they narrate their “conversion” stories of how they sacrificed these symbols of mangalyam to become Christians. 

The first Pratyeka puja was in Mulasthaneswara Swamy temple in a village called Tadikonda near Amaravati and the second one was in the Grama Devata temple of my ancestral village. A group of 7 people were warmly welcomed home to Hinduism in Tadikonda amidst chanting of mantras in front of the presiding deity of this historical temple which is believed to have been a place where Maha Shiva self -manifested (Swayambhu) Himself to Agastya Rishi. A group of 50+ plus SSF members took part in this Pratyeka puja. The pure love and affection that the SSF team members showered on these people who found their way back home to Hinduism was deeply felt and appreciated.

The second Pratyeka puja was conducted at Muthyalamma temple in Malkapuram (a village close to Jaggaiahpet in Krishna district) to bring 6 individuals back into Hindu Dharma. Conducting a puja such as this in a 2-year old Grama Devata` temple is no mean task. I had the humble privilege of taking part in the consecration of this temple which I did in the memory of my grandparents who were once patrons of the Grama Devata. This village has been an easy target to many Christian evangelical proselytizing groups. Conversion of my father to this alien religion some 40+ plus years ago flung the doors of this village wide open to Christian groups of various shades and shapes. Many conmen found their way to this village and each of them set a shop called church in this tiny village of 5000 odd people. This village is home to 10+ churches and the natural consequence of this is the breaking of people into factions with people from same families ending up in two warring factions. This small temple right in the middle of a community of people who have fallen prey to these divisive forces was a bold attempt by 10+ plus families left in Hindu fold out of about 500 families which took Christianity in the past 2-3 decades.

What SSF team members did after these Pratyeka pujas that ceremoniously welcomed both groups of people in these two villages is a testament to the labor of love of these incredible group of people. Each of these people had a story to tell as to how cheated they felt when they realized that the people who lured them away from their Hindu families with false promises of health and prosperity did so with an agenda of isolating these gullible people from their families to turn them into cash cows to support the greedy pastors and their families. Seeing SSF leaders lovingly embraced these people who broke down sobbing while narrating how they have been manipulated and exploited while in Christian fold made it clear that these hurt people who  found their way back home are in safe hands. I could see that through their kind words backed with actions, SSF leadership assures people who are coming back to Hinduism that they were, are and will remain as integral and valuable members of Hindu society. The sensitivity that each of the SSF team members showed while taking care of the unique needs of these broken people who are homebound is what makes SSF’s work unique.

Visit to Temples, Bal Vikas Kendras, Dharma Pracharam and Saamuhika Aaratis

 One can appreciate the work SSF has been doing for the past six years only by visiting the temples that are built and managed by this dedicated people. SSF has built 502 temples in a short span of two years in all the 13 districts of Andhra Pradesh. We were fortunate to visit two of these temples. Both temples had a Bal Vikas Kendra in the temple premises.

The first temple we visited was in a tribal hamlet in a village called Munugodu near Amaravati. We were welcomed by a huge group of devotees in the temple for us to come join them for Aarti. A group of 40+ plus children ranging from 4 yrs to 12 yrs were also patiently waiting for us to come and spend some time with them. There were two priests in that temple who hail from the tribal community. The sense of reverence and pride with which they conducted the puja and gave us all Aarti demonstrated how much they value having a temple in that not so developed hamlet. The hamlet mostly had thatched-roof homes, but it is the way they were singing Bhajans and offering the prayers to Deity in the temple that proved to us that these people are far richer than many so-called rich people. The children from these tribal families are well-mannered and respectful. Each of those children eagerly listened to us speaking to them. When asked what they want to become when they grow up, a bunch of them said that they want to grow up and become soldiers to fight for Bharat. What a contrast this was…!!! I grew up in Christian circles where Sunday School was major part of my life. What did we Christian children sing when we were growing up in the church? We sang songs announcing to the world that we will never march in the army, join the air force, or become part of a cavalry in the land that we live in as we are all soldiers in christ’s army. Such was brainwashing I was subjected to from the time I was a small child. I was thrilled to see SSF’s vision to ensure that the young children get trained in our samskaras which I am sure will solidify the children’s identities as Hindus. After interacting with children, we joined the SSF team in door-to-door Dharma pracharam. This community outreach is an integral part of an endeavor to strengthen the fabric of the society and SSF is doing a commendable job in reaching out to people who live in the most remote parts of Andhra Pradesh. SSF teams do door-to-door Dharma pracharam three times in a year which is going a long way in building strong and sustainable relationships with community members. Our next stop was at a Ramalayam where people were gathered for a puja followed by saamuhika aarati. SSF has incorporated this activity in all the temples and all the devotees gather at the temple on pournami days for this very vibrant event. The temple reverberated with the chimes of temple bells and chants of Jai Shree Ram. It was a beautiful sight to see everyone in the temple holding lighted Diyas in their hands. It was a treat of a special kind as the sky in this remote village looked like it was under the canopy of millions of twinkling stars along with the moon casting its cool light. The positive atmosphere in the temple truly uplifted our spirits.

The following day, we traveled to the farthest end of Krishna district to the villages bordering the newly carved out Telengana state. In addition to visit to a SSF temple and the attached Bala Vikas Kendram in a village called Kakaravai, we also took part in a medical camp organized by SSF in my ancestral village. A dedicated team of doctors did free checkups and distributed free medicines to close to 100 villagers who have limited access to quality medical care. The day ended with Prathyeka puja and Saamuhika aarati in the Muthyalamma temple that is built two years ago in the heavily christianized part of the village.

I and my family cherish the memories from this two-day trip. I urge each one of you to do all that you can to support SSF’s work. It is indeed a worthy cause that aims at rebuilding Hindu ecosystems amongst these humble people who are constantly bombarded with vicious forces that pose a threat to weaken the strong familial bonds which are essential for smooth functioning of larger societies in Bharat.

By Mary Suresh Iyer
(Mary Suresh Iyer is an ex- Christian who grew up in an evangelical church in India. Her journey out of Christianity started on seeing the pain of families which lost their precious children to the church. She is Human Resources Professional with over 20 years of experience in the teaching industry in the USA. She runs a coaching center for college entrance exams in addition to two non-denominational childcare centers.)

Few Questions over the Beatification of Devasahayam Pillai – aka – Neelakanda Pillai

By: P. Sandeep Kumar, Director CSIS

The catholic church recently declared Devasahayam Pillai, purportedly belonging to the erstwhile kingdom of Travancore, a blessed martyr. The fundamental arguments of the church to declare Pillai as a holy martyr naturally kindle doubts about the validity of their claims.

Prior to the formation of the state of Travancore in 1729, there existed a small kingdom named Venad. It was during the reign of Umayamma Rani, the Queen regent at Venad in 1677-1684, the Dutch established a factory in Kallada in 1682. But the relationship between the Rani and the Dutch was not at all cordial. Hence the Dutch were not even allowed to trade in Venad. Nevertheless, the Dutch secured pepper by offering a bribe to the local people of Venad, says some reports. Interestingly the same Rani allowed the English East India Company to build a fort in Anjuthengu in 1696. In 1729, Anizham Tirunal Marthandavarma became the ruler of Venad, and the state of Travancore was formed. The Dutch adopted a policy of intervention in the internal affairs of Travancore and annoyed King Marthandavarma. Soon the strained relationship between Travancore and the Dutch culminated in a war in 1741. The Travancore forces decisively defeated the Dutch in the battles. In the battle of Colachael, the Travancore forces even captured many Dutch soldiers as prisoners of war. One among them was De Lannoy, a Dutch naval commander. Later, under the influence of Travancore King Marthandavarma, De Lannoy joined Travancore forces and became an important figure in its military history. During his days in the Travancore army, one Neelakanda Pillai acted as the translator for De Lannoy to understand Malayalam.

According to church chronicles, this Neelakanda Pillai was converted and baptised by the Jesuit missionaries as Lasar. But he was later executed by the religiously intolerant Hindu King and his officials after falsely implicating him.  

Religious Tolerance of Travancore Kings and Story of Devasahayam Pillai

According to sources, there was one Neelakanda Pillai in the Travancore army, and he was executed under the charges of treachery. But there is no conclusive evidence to prove that, this Neelakanda Pillai and Lasar or Devasahayam Pillai are the same. Even if these two are the same person, the ground for the execution of Neelakanda Pillai was not religion but treachery. As per the Church narratives, Neelakanda Pillai is identified as Lasar, or later Devasahayam Pillai. The church narratives try to assert that the only reason behind the purported murder of Pillai was his conversion to Christianity. By doing so, the church is trying to undermine the illustrious legacy of Travancore rulers as far as religious tolerance is concerned.

Incidentally, De Lanny was a Christian, and the King had no objection to appointing him to the Travancore army. Further, King Marthandavarma gave total religious freedom to De Lannoy. According to T.K. Velupillai, Kaarthika Thirunaal Rama Varma or Dharma Raja, and The Maharaja of Travancore after Marthandavarma met the expense of building Udayagiri church at the request of De Lannoy and granted a salary of 100 Panams to the Vicar. According to the chronicles, when the capital was shifted from Padmanabhapuram to Thiruvananthapuram in 1795, Margret, wife of De Lannoy, demanded a church. An area in Travancore named Kunnukuzhy was granted to her for the same purpose. Also, the daughter in law of De Lannoy demanded a church be built in Travancore. A place in Pettah was given for the construction of a church. Moreover, the tomb of De Lannoy, his wife and his son are well preserved even today in Udayagiri fort.

The King even made tax exemptions for the lands he gifted to the Church at Varappuzha.There were also Christian populations in Travancore who didn’t face any issues with Marthandavarma. Also, in his letter dated 2nd July 1774, Pope Clement XIV to the Maharaja of Travancore appreciates his kindness towards the members of his church resident in Travancore. His gestures towards the Muslim subjects were also of benevolence, not only to Christians.

From all these incidents and evidence, it is clear that the King had no issues with any other religions or Christianity. He was a person of religious tolerance. In this historical context, it is hard to believe that a king and his kingdom famous for their religious harmony killed Devasahayam Pillai just on the issue of religious conversion.

Interestingly, according to some sources Devasahayam Pillai was captured for the first time for looting money but was released later. He was converted in 1745, and four years after his conversion, i.e., in 1752, he was killed. If at all, Devasahayam Pillai needed to be murdered for conversion, the King would have never waited for these many years to kill him.

According to T.K. Veluppillai in Travancore State Manual, the capital punishment is awarded to crimes for inciting or committing acts of insurrection, pre-meditating or attempting the death of the Raja, Murder and Gang robbery. Moreover, in Travancore, the death penalty was conducted only by hanging. The body was displayed in a public cage and was called Chitravadham, and this practice was named Kazhuvettal. Never in the history of Travancore, there existed the practise of execution by firing, which the church claims that happened to Devasahayam Pillai. Nagam Aiyya in State Manual records that as a palace official, Nilakanda Pillai was detected tampering with political secrets, on the strength of which action must have been taken against him. If he was indeed Devasahayam, Baptism could not have had anything to do with his death. According to A Sreedhara Menon, not even a single case of persecution was recorded in the history of Travancore in the name of religious conversion. On the basis of historical evidence, we can conclude that the story of Devasahayam is nothing but a well-concocted story and a figment of the imagination.

Religious Intolerance of Jesuit Missionaries

Church narratives mention that Devasahayam Pillai was converted and baptised by the Jesuit missionaries. In fact, the Jesuit missionaries are the real force behind the concocted story behind Devasahayam Pillai depicting the Hindus as religiously intolerant. Unfortunately, in a race to prove the Hindus as a religiously intolerant social group, the Jesuits forgot their history of intolerance. A mere glance through the history of the world will give you compelling evidence to reveal the dark side of Jesuit missions. India is a perfect example. The arrival of Jesuits to India was part of a colonising missions. In the initial days they were acting like fifth column of the Portuguese colonisers. The figurehead of Jesuit missionaries in India Francis Xavier, himself is notoriously known for his religious intolerance. During his days in India, he made concerted attempts to destroy and desecrate temples in the name of idolatry, infringing on Hindu religious sentiment. In 1545, Xavier wrote a letter to King John III of Portugal, his sponsor and requested him to establish the House of Inquisition in Goa to torture anyone who refused to convert to Christianity in India. Francis Xavier was a vital cog in the genocide of Goa’n Hindus, which claimed the lives of thousands of innocent people. Further, a large number of Hindus ran away from Goa to free themselves from religious persecution. Not only Hindus but even Buddhist religious institutions were targeted by these Jesuit Christians. The destruction of a Buddhist pagoda in Nagapattinam is a glaring example. It was constructed in 1006 CE during the reign of Rajaraja Chola I and was demolished by the Jesuit Missionaries in 1867. Dilapidated reminiscences of this Pagoda are visible in museums today.   The same Jesuits now depict themselves as victims and the Hindus as intolerant villains. This is nothing but a distortion of historical facts and victim shaming. If they have an iota of intellectual honesty, the Jesuit missionaries should come forward to apologise for their bad deeds during the colonial days and they should also take a vow that they will stay away from molesting the Indian traditions.

Church Priority over Last 400 Years: Social Justice or Conversion?

Christians across the world decry evils of the Hindu caste system and lose no opportunity to blame the Hindu religion for the same, ignoring that caste, segregation and untouchability were given sanction by the Pope

On December 3, 2020, protests erupted in front of the headquarters of the Archdiocese of Pondicherry-Cuddalore at Puducherry as Dalit Christians demanded justice in the appointment of Dalit priests and total exclusion of Dalit Christians from the management of church affairs. The very word “Dalit Christian” is an oxymoron as Christianity boasts profusely about its egalitarian nature with no scope whatsoever for any discrimination.

“We have come here to dialogue with the diocesan administration to eradicate caste discrimination and the untouchable practices in the archdiocese especially in the appointment of the Dalit priests,” —Mary John, Tamil Nadu State Leader for Dalit Christian Liberation Movement

Protests like these expose the naked discrimination these converts from Hinduism endure after embracing Christianity. This brings to the question of whether the focus of the Church in India is social justice (as professed) or conversions? Has Christianity ever tried to ensure social justice even as it went about converting Hindus in India?

Was Christianity ever egalitarian?

The earliest Christian clergymen to arrive in India were from Europe. 16th Century Europe was not a society well known for its egalitarianism. On the contrary, several sections of the society were ostracised, treated as outcasts. The treatment of Roma gipsies, who had migrated from India to various parts of Europe around 600-800 years ago is a case in point. Their discrimination continues to this day with massive pogroms and attacks. Under Nazi Hitler, at least 15 lakh Roma were put to death.

The Cagots of Europe were treated as outcasts and forced to live on the edge of the villages. The Cagots were subjected to hate-filled discrimination for nearly 700 years. Shunned as lepers, pagans, and even cannibals, they were forced to live in ghettos called cagoteries where they were only permitted the occupations of carpenter, butcher, or executioner. When they were permitted entrance to a Church (in many cases they were refused admittance), they were segregated from the rest of the congregation, and the Eucharist was handed to them at the end of a long stick. They were compelled to wear the sign of a duck or goosefoot in red.

Church’s cruel history in India

European clergymen arriving in India were part of a society, which openly practiced discrimination against certain sections of the society, where hanging to death of non-Christians was officially sanctioned and where women were routinely executed for practicing witchcraft (last witch execution took place in Scotland 1727). Execution of those practicing non-Christian beliefs continued till 1826. Intolerance of non-Christian faiths, social discrimination were an integral part of European society at the time of arrival of the earliest Christian missionaries were landing in India. It is no wonder that they never tried to create an egalitarian Christian society in India. On the contrary, they used caste divisions in Hindu society for furthering their objective of conversions into Christianity. One such Christian missionary was Robert de Nobili.

Deception as a method to convert gullible Hindus

The methods adopted by Robert Di Nobili to convert Hindus and expand Christianity in India are a case in point. Born in 1577 in Italy, he came to India as a priest of the Society of Jesus. He arrived in India in 1605 and moved to Madurai in 1606. He found that existing methods of converting Hindus were not effective. He adopted new ways which bordered on deception to convince Hindus to convert. He donned saffron robes, shaved his head, leaving a tuft of hair, wore wooden sandals and called himself ‘Tattva Bodhagar’ – Teacher of Wisdom. He called himself a Roman Brahmin and wore the sacred thread. The Bible became Vedam, Church became ‘Koil’ (Tamil word for Hindu temple). The pastor became ‘Guru’. He mastered Sanskrit, Tamil and Telugu languages. This attracted a large number of Hindus who genuinely believed that what Robert De Nobili was teaching was yet another branch of Hinduism. He appeared as the Teacher of the fourth Veda, a Veda revealed indeed by God not to the Rishis of India, but to the messengers of God’s only son. He insisted that he was a Sannyasi from Rome. He called Christianity ‘parangui kulam’ (Parangui = Firangi or Foreign).

Robert di Nobili practiced blatant caste discrimination to further his objective- convert Hindus into Christianity. Since he was pretending to be a Roman Brahmin, if a Paria got sick, de Nobili would not see him in his wretched hut, but he insisted that he should be brought out of the house. He used to meet fellow Jesuit priests only at night, in total darkness.

Inquisition of de Nobili and approval of Pope

The methods adopted by De Nobili viz., creating caste-wise missionaries, churches and allowing Hindu caste marks to be used even after conversion to Christianity attracted the attention of church authorities and an Inquisition was held against him. Archbishop Menezes declared himself in favor of the new methods and said ‘he would be ready to allow wearing 100 Brahmin chords for the salvation of one soul’.

One hundred and eight learned Brahmins added their testimony to de Nobili’s testimony and fully confirmed his interpretation of their marks and customs.

In January 1623, the methods and tactics of de Nobili were approved by Pope, Christianity’s highest office…! Caste and caste marks were officially allowed in Christianity. A more amusing aspect of the Papal sanction was the creation of Christian yagnopaveetam (janeu) and “Christian Upanayanam” or sacred thread ceremony which will be performed in the Church…!

The Cagots of Europe were treated as outcasts and forced to live on the edge of the villages. The Cagots were subjected to hate-filled discrimination for nearly 700 years. Shunned as lepers, pagans, and even cannibals, they were forced to live in ghettos called cagoteries
The approval letter reads: “The chord should not be received in the temple, or from one of their priests, but from a Catholic priest, who upon conferring it, should recite the prescribed prayers”. The pagan prayers and mantras which used to be learnt upon receiving the chord, should not be learnt, but rather should be confined to perpetual oblivion… The chord, made up of three strands, should not be made so in honour of their idols, but rather in honour of the Blessed Trinity. The converts, who have already received the chord, should burn the old one, and receive a new one from the Catholic priest. Thus untouchability which finds neither mention nor sanction in Hindu religious scriptures just got the seal of approval from Christianity’s highest office – The Pope! This clearly demonstrates that social justice and social reform were of little importance to the Church when the goal is to harvest souls. The Inquisition against him concluded “We judge it altogether expedient, in order that our holy religion may be propagated in those lands, that the Brahmins and others, who are being initiated, be allowed to wear those marks, which more than religious signs, may be deemed to be signs of caste, nobility or wisdom. If something superstitious has been added, let it be dropped, and let the intention be purified.”

All the while, the Hindu religion was going through a phase of internal renewal and renaissance with the rise of a number of great social reformers like Basavanna, Ramanujacharya and the rise of the Bhakti cult. These reformers and saints strived to eliminate undesirable customs and social practices that had crept into the Hindu society. No such efforts on the part of Christian missionaries in this direction are found. Even the temple entry movements, the abolition of untouchability movements were led by Hindu social reformers themselves.

The invention of ‘Brahmin’ and ‘Pariah’

Robert de Nobili created two distinct classes of native missionaries- Brahmins and Pandaraswamis. The latter were drawn predominantly from what is described as ‘Pariah’ castes and used to proselytize amongst them and prepare catechumens from amongst them. The first of these Pandaraswamis were Father Balthazar da Costa and Emmanuel Alvarez. The Brahmin missionaries sporting Brahmanical attire with sikha and sacred thread used to proselytise amongst upper-caste Hindus. The first Brahmin missionary was Father S. Maya. He always accompanied di Nobili whenever the latter went to meet royals, nobles and Brahmins. Di Nobili was always attired in saffron robes, sacred thread, carried Kamandala, while his disciple carried the deerskin and the umbrella of honour.

A ground plan of the Church constructed by di Nobili shows how caste and untouchability were made part of church architecture. The plan shows that the main church entrance was reserved for high castes, while the pariah castes had to use a different entrance. Every aspect of worship – altar, communion, confession room, common space, kitchen and even courtyard were strictly segregated for high castes and pariahs. The pariahs had to listen to the mass through an opening in the wall which segregated them from high caste converts. This is extremely shocking even by standards of the day and reveals the complete indifference of the Church towards social inequalities. On the contrary, such inequalities were skilfully exploited to further the cause of conversions.

Thus for more than 400 years, the Church has given priority to conversions rather than social justice. Caste inequalities were exploited for furthering soul harvesting. The result is there for all to see. In 2008, violent clashes broke out in Eraiyur in Tamil Nadu between Christians from OBC and SC castes. The clashes were a fall out of Dalit Christians starting their own Church in protest against discrimination and practice of untouchability in churches and seeking recognition from the Diocese. In the police firing that followed, two people were killed. Several churches in the area were locked up by Dalit Christians. There are many instances of walls inside churches and cemeteries. In 2011, clashes erupted in Thachur village, 80 km from Chennai on the issue of burial of Dalit Christians to which the Reddy Christians objected. According to an article published in The Frontline magazine, the Church is constructed with a star shape. The central portion is reserved for Reddy Christians who manage the Church while the sides are earmarked for converts from SC castes like Adi Dravidars and Arundathiyars who have no role in the management of the Church. In another cemetery in Trichy, the deceased Christians are buried on either side of the wall depending upon their caste.

A ground plan of the Church constructed by Di Nobili shows how caste and untouchability were made part of church architecture. The plan shows that the main church entrance was reserved for high castes, while the pariah castes had to use a different entrance

Christians across the world bad mouth evils of the Hindu caste system and lose no opportunity to blame the Hindu religion for the same, completely ignoring that caste, segregation and untouchability were given sanction by the Pope as seen earlier. The Church does not object to the continuation of the use of Hindu caste suffixes as part of the name, several generations after conversion to Christianity. In Andhra Pradesh, one can find third or fourth generation Christian converts using suffixes like ‘Reddy’ ‘Chowdary’ etc.

In the 21st century, if people like Mary John are forced to launch agitations through like Dalit Christian Liberation Movements, it is because the Church did not work towards social justice but exploited social inequalities to further its cause of conversions.

(The writer is a Sr. Associate at Centre for South Indian Studies, Hyderabad)


Payment of monthly honorarium to religious workers by Govt. of AP –Will it stand Judicial scrutiny

By: K. Sahadev

The Government of Andhra Pradesh has issued orders vide GENERAL ADMINISTRATION (SC.I) DEPARTMENT G.O.MS.No. 52 Dated: 14-05-2021, enhancing financial support to the religious workers in places of worship of two important religious communities of the State viz., Hindus, Muslims. In the case of Christians, it is a new scheme. It leaves out three other minorities- Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists.

The present G.O cites “ensuring religious harmony” in the state as the main objective of payment of monthly honorarium to religious workers of different religions. The G.O. further mentions extension of payment to functionaries working in churches is similar to the support being given to the Archakas working in temples and Imams/Muezzins working in mosques. However, this is a false comparison as the G.O. very clear states that quantum of payment to Archakas is based on grade of the temple, which in turn depends upon income generated by the temple. It clearly means that Hindu temple archakas are NOT paid out of public exchequer.

The Scheme for Payment of Honorarium to Imams and Muezzins of Mosques in Andhra Pradesh commenced in June 2016. The G.O. mentions that:

The scheme for payment of Honorarium to the selected Imams and Muezzins of the non-income earning Masjids in the State of Andhra Pradesh is intended to support the Andhra Pradesh State Waqf Board since the Board is not in a position to meet the expenditure. The Andhra Pradesh State Waqf Board shall take steps to strengthen the respective Waqf institutions to attain self-sufficiency to meet the expenditure.

The latest order marks the beginning of state funding of religious workers in Andhra Pradesh. Promoting communal harmony was not the objective stated at in 2016. The new G.O. not only increased the quantum of payment for Muslim religious workers but also introduced payment of monthly honorarium for Christian religious workers. But by including the enhancement of honorarium for Hindu archakas in this G.O., an impression is sought to be given out that even they are being paid out of state exchequer, which is factually incorrect. State is yet to show any concern towards Hindu archakas rendering their services in temples without any income. On the contrary, state is meddling with Hindu religious institutions through legislation and administrative actions by arbitrarily fixing the remuneration of Archakas, grading of temples, appointing Executive Officers, interfering in dharmic rituals of temples, disposing off temple assets etc.


This raises the larger question whether the public money can be used to pay individuals of a particular religion with the purported objective of ensuring communal harmony?

In 2012, the Government of West Bengal issued instructions for payment of monthly honorarium to Imams in mosques. The decision was challenged in Calcutta High court (W.P. No. 358 of 2012) and the decision of the government was quashed. The highlight of the judgement are:

1) The State Government cannot spend any money for the benefit of few individuals of a particular religious community ignoring the identically placed individuals of the other religious communities since the State cannot discriminate on the ground of religion in view of the Article 15 (1) of the Constitution of India.

2) The State Government by providing funds for making payment of honorarium to the Imams and Muezzins has acted in clear violation of the provisions enshrined under Article 14 and 15 (1) of the Constitution of India.

3) No exercise has been made by the Competent Authority of the State Government to ascertain the financial condition of various other members of the Muslim community as well as members of other religious communities before taking the decision for issuing the impugned memorandum.

4) The public purpose mentioned in Article 282 cannot be a purpose which offends the provisions of Article 14 and 15 (1) of the Constitution of India.

5) Imams and/or Muezzins are few individuals of the Muslim community and attached with the mosques. Decision to provide honorarium to the said individuals cannot serve the general interest of the community as a whole.

6) We hold that the impugned memo issued by the State Government is not only discriminatory in nature being violate of Article 14 of the Constitution of India but the same also discriminates on the ground of religion which offends Article 15 (1) of the Constitution of India.

7) We are constrained to hold that the grants made by the State Government for providing honorarium to the Imams and Muezzins were not for the public purpose as mentioned in Article 282 of the Constitution of India

8) Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of Sri Divi Kodandarama Saram & Ors. Vs. State of A. P. & Ors., reported in 1997 (6) SCC 189 considered the payment of salary to ‘Archaka’ of Hindu Temple. In the aforesaid decision, Hon’ble Supreme Court made it clear that public fund cannot be utilised for the purpose of making payment of Archakas and trust looking after the temple was advised to collect donation from the public to defray the expenses.

9) No provision has however, been made in the Constitution authorising the State Government to make payment of the honorarium to few individuals of a particular religious community. As a matter of fact, Government cannot spend any money for the benefit of few individuals of a particular religious community to the exclusion of the members of the other religious communities in view of a specific provision of Article 15 (1) of the Constitution.

10) The concerned Executives of the State Government have squandered public money by releasing funds to the Wakf Board for the purpose of making payment of monthly honorarium to the Muezzins even in absence of any government order under Article 166 of the Constitution of India. We take strong exception for spending money even in absence of appropriate government order under Article 166 of the Constitution of India.

Thus it is very clear that payment to religious workers from public funds has been held to be “squandering of public money”. The objective cited in the Govt. of AP G.O. i.e., “communal harmony” also fails to stand judicial scrutiny in view of observation (5) cited in the above judgement. The judges have clearly held that payment to few individuals of a particular community does not serve the interests of all members of that community, leave alone serving promotion of inter-faith communal harmony.

The judgement also referred to a judgement of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in a matter of payment of honorarium to Imams. The hon’ble court clarified that the scheme formulated by the SC was for payment of a uniform scale of salary to Imams from the income of the respective state Wakf Boards and not public funds.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court in the aforesaid decision never directed the State Government or the Govt. of India to take the responsibility for making payment to the Imams who are admittedly performing the duty of leading the community prayer in the mosques.


June 2021, the Kerala High Court on Tuesday asked the state government, why they were financing a religious activity while considering a petition against the former’s decision to provide pension to madrasa teachers in the state. The order was  issued on a petition filed seeking to quash the Kerala Madrasa Teachers’ Welfare Fund Act, 2019, which is passed for disbursing pension and other benefits to madrasa teachers.

This is an ongoing case but it is pertinent to note that courts have consistently upheld the view that governments cannot finance any religious activity and such actions are unconstitutional. Article 46 of the Directive Principles of State Policy enshrined in the Constitution of India call upon the state to “promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people”.

Anomalies observed in recent payment of honorarium to religious workers in Andhra Pradesh:

In May, 2020, the Government of Andhra Pradesh made a one-time payment to religious workers who are facing hardship and distress of various religious institutions, as a measure of relief arising out of break out of COVID-19 Pandemic. A sum of Rs.33.92 crores was sanctioned out of Disaster Relief funds. The ratio of religious workers to population of that religion as per 2011 was highly irrational. While Christians constituted 1.39 % of the population of AP, Christian religious workers received 43.99 % of total amount paid out. Every 24th Christian in the state is a religious worker, if we go by 2011 census figures for the state of AP.


HINDUS4,48,75,69890.86 %45.70 %31,017
MUSLIMS36,17,7137.33 %10.31 %7,000
CHRISTIANS6,82,6601.39 %43.99 %29,841
OTHERS2,10,7280.42 %0.00 %0
TOTAL4,93,86,799100.00 %100.00 %67,858

This lead to a peculiar situation wherein, in some areas, the number of Christian religious workers was more than the actual number of Christians in the area. Sample figures from Prakasam district:

Pedda Aravidu1633

In addition, data obtained through RTI queries on the details of Christian religious workers who were paid honorarium showed that 60 % of Christian pastors in the sample were holding Hindu community certificates. This raised many questions and exposed a lack of strict scrutiny in the processing of applications for sanction of honorarium to religious workers.


(Sample size 347)


The present G.O. has laid out 3 eligibility criteria that have to be fulfilled by the applicants to be considered under the scheme.

(a)  Church should be registered under the Societies Act;

(b)  Land should be registered in the name of Church;

(c) The institution should not have any other source of income.

This is in addition to the existing conditions of the Christian religious worker holding a Christian community certificate and being a qualified Christian religious worker. However, the additional eligibility criteria have not gone down well with the Christian religious worker community. In videos and social media posts, they have been pointing out that most of the churches are not registered as societies and they have been functioning from premises owned/taken on rent by the religious worker on an individual basis. In some cases, the churches are functioning from structures raised on public land.  Christian community elders expressed the opinion that not more than 1,000 Christian religious workers will meet the criteria and thus eligible to receive a monthly honorarium. Well established churches, popularly known as mainline churches pay monthly salaries, have regular postings/transfers and promotions. Religious workers from such churches will be out of the purview of the present scheme.

Thus it will be interesting to see whether the present scheme, as outlined above, will stand judicial scrutiny if and when challenged in a court of law. Also, it will be keenly observed whether the government will heed the concerns raised by the Christian community and relax existing eligibility criteria.