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Post Info TOPIC: 1956 Niyogi Commission Report Vol-1 Introduction


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1956 Niyogi Commission Report Vol-1 Introduction
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REPORT OF THE CHRISTIAN MISSIONARY ACTIVITIES ENQUIRY COMMITTEE, MADHYA PRADESH

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VOLUME I

PART I

CHAPRER I. - INTRODUCTION

 

The Christian Missionary Activities Enquiry Committee was appointed by a Resolution of the Government of Madhya Pradesh No. 318-716-V-Con., dated the 14th of April, 1954 (Appendix I).

 

2. It was represented to Government from time to time that the conversion of illiterate aboriginals and other backward people was effected by the Christian Missionaries either forcibly or through fraud or temptations of monetary gain, and the Government were informed that the feelings of non-Christians were being offended by conversions brought about by such methods.  The Christian Missionaries repudiated before Government these allegations and charged local officials and non-Christians of harassment and as the State Government found that an agitation was growing on either side, it considered it desirable in. the public interest to have a thorough enquiry made into the whole question.  This Committee was, therefore, appointed, with Dr. M. Bhawani Shankar Niyogi, M.A., LL.M., LL.D., Ex-Chairman, Public, Service Commission, Madhya Pradesh, and retired Chief Justice, High Court of judicature at Nagpur, as Chairman, and Shri Ghanshyam Singh Gupta, B.Sc., LL.B., Ex-Speaker, Madhya Pradesh Legislative Assembly, Durg, Shri Seth Govind Das, M. P., Jabalpur, Shri Kirtimant Rao, B.A. M.L.A., Ahiri, Tahsil Sironcha, District Chanda, Shri S. K. George, M.A., B.D., Professor, Commerce College, Wardha, and Shri B. P. Pathak, M.A., LL.B., Secretary to Government, Madhya Pradesh, Public Health Department, as members.  Seth Govind Das resigned membership on 8th May, 1954 due to his preoccupation with other work and was substituted by Shri Ratanlal Malviya, B.A., LL.B., M. P., Manendragarh, (vide Resolution No. 419-860-V-Con., dated 8th May, 1954).  On his appointment to the Madhya Pradesh Cabinet, Shri Kirtimant Rao also resigned and was succeeded by Shri Bhanupratapsingh Giri Raj Singh Deo, M.P., of Komakhan, Tahsil Mahasamund, District Raipur, (vide Resolution No. 18-279-XXX-MR, dated 4th January, 1955).

 

3. The Committee was entrusted with the task of making a thorough enquiry into the whole question and to make recommendations on a review thereof from historical and other points of view.

 

4. The Committee was authorised to frame its own procedure for conducting the enquiry and to appreciate the circumstances in which the Government considered it necessary to appoint this Committee, access to certain files of Government was permitted. On going through all the relevant material, the Committee thought it necessary and desirable to meet representative members of the contestant parties at various important centres in the State and to ascertain the specific points in the controversy.  The Committee undertook a tour of the following 14 districts :- 
  
 

(1) Raigarh.(8) Akola.
(2) Surguja.(9) Buldana.
(3) Raipur.(10) Mandla.
(4) Bilaspur.(11) Jabalpur.
(5) Amravati.(12) Betul.
(6) Nimar.(13) Chhindwara.
(7) Yeotmal.(14) Balaghat.

 

Seventy-seven centres were visited and an approximate number of 11,360 people were contacted. 375 written statements were received and the Committee took down notes at each centre.  To gain firsthand knowledge of the working of the various Mission institutions, the Committee visited institutions like hospitals, schools, churches, leper homes, hostels, etc., maintained by the various Missions operating in Madhya Pradesh and also had an opportunity of contacting local people amongst whom activities of the Missions were carried on and also the areas in which the various Missions were functioning.  A copy of the tour programme is appended (Vol. II).  The persons whom we interviewed came from about 700 villages and the statements of a large number of spokesmen from amongst them were recorded.

 

5. On the vital matter of religion, which is ordinarily surcharged with emotion, occasionally there was a flare-up of vehemence but such occasions were extremely rare, as ample precaution was taken at the outset of the proceedings to explain the object of the enquiry as being to clear up doubts and disputes that may exist and to promote goodwill, friendliness and peace among the various sections of the people.  The exploratory work of the Committee accordingly proceeded very smoothly and helpfully, except for two minor incidents, at Takhatpur in Bilaspur district and Jabalpur.  At Takhatpur Shri Ottalwar, Advocate, who was the only spokesman addressing the Committee on behalf of a large concourse of rural people, made some critical remarks of a political nature on the admission made by Rev. Maqbul Musih that he had received Rs. 38,000 from America for the Abundant Life Movement carried on by him in the rural areas with a view to stave off the danger of Communism.  No protest was made by Rev. Masih, but only by the representative of the Catholic Association, Mr. Francis. At Jabalpur, an Arya Samajist referred to some passages in the Bible which he thought inculcated immorality, while he was speaking about religious education.  As the Christians present resented the reference the Committee asked the speaker to drop it and he obeyed.

 

6. In all the places visited by the Committee there was unanimity as regards the excellent service rendered by the Missionaries, in the fields of education and medical relief.  But on the other hand there was a general complaint from the non-Christian side that the schools and hospitals were being used as means of securing converts. There was no disparagement of Christianity or of Jesus Christ, and no objection to the preaching of Christianity and even to conversions to Christianity. The objection was to the illegitimate methods alleged to be adopted by the Missionaries for this purpose, such as offering allurement�s of free education and other facilities to children attending their schools, adding some Christian names to their original Indian names, marriages with Christian girls, money-lending, Distributing Christian literature in hospitals and offering prayers in the wages of in-door patients.  Reference was also made to the practice of the Roman Catholic priests or preachers visiting new-born babies to give �ashish� (blessings) in the name of Jesus, taking sides in litigation or domestic quarrels, kidnapping of minor children and abduction of women and recruitment of labour for plantations in Assam or Andaman as a means of propagating the Christian faith among the ignorant and illiterate people.  There was a. general tendency to suspect some ulterior political or extra-religious motive, in the influx of foreign money for evangelistic work in its varied forms.  The concentration of Missionary enterprise on the hill tribes in remote and inaccessible parts of the forest areas and their mass conversion with the aid of foreign money were interpreted as intended to prepare the ground for a separate� independent State on the lines of Pakistan.  In the Raigarh and Surguja districts, the Christians complained against the petty Government officials, but there were practically none in other districts including Berar.  At the meetings held in Surguja, Raigarh and Bilaspur districts there were present prominent Christian representatives, like Rev. Lakra of Ranchi, Rev. Kujur (Lutheran Mission), Rev. Gurbachansingh (American Evengelical Mission), Rev. Masih (Disciples of Christ), Shri Minz (General Secretary the Catholic Sabha).  Shri Minz complained against the sinister activities of Boko Sardar, of Shri Deshpande.  Advocate, of Baijnath Mishra and of the Tribal Welfare Department.  Shri Jagdish Tirkey, Secretary of the Adiwasi Jharkhand Party, claimed that Jharkhand was necessary to preserve the unity of the Uraons. He and Rev. Kujur repudiated the imputation against the Missionaries that they instigated the movement for an independent State. There was no specific complaints against officials or non-Christians besides the above. But there was a general complaint above the non-recognition of Mission schools. Rev. Nath of Khandwa complimented the Missionaries for elevating the Ballahis from their down-trodden condition in the Hindu society.  In the Betul district meeting, Rev. E. Raman and many American Missionaries had no complaints to make against the Government officers or members of the public.

 

7. On the basis of the allegations made orally and in writing a large number of people including Christians, supplemented by information derived from official sources and published literature bearing on the subject-matter of the enquiry it was thought necessary to make a thorough and searching probe into the problem. Accordingly, an elaborate questionnaire came to be issued so as to afford full opportunity to the parties concerned to assist the Committee in every way possible.

 

8. It may be noted that the Committee was not appointed under any enactment such as the Commission of Enquiry Act IX of 1952 but only under the inherent powers of the grate Government.  The Committee consequently functioned on a purely voluntary basis.  It had neither the power to compel any one to attend before it, nor to make any statement, oral or written, nor to administer an oath.  The Committee thus had no coercive power in any shape or form.  No one was bound to answer all or any question contained in the Questionnaire or to answer it in a prescribed manner.  The enquiry was riot judicial, in the sense that it was calculated to have an operative effect.  As the Committee interpreted the Terms of Reference, it appeared to it that the object of the enquiry was to ascertain the facts from the people directly at first-hand, unlike a judicial enquiry which proceeds on the material brought before it by an investigating authority.  The attitude of the Government, as well as that of the party in power, was perfectly neutral.

 

9. The scope of the enquiry was considerably enlarged by reason of the broad Terms of Reference relating to �Political and extra-religious objectives.� and �a thorough review of the question from the historical and other points of view�. At first sight the subject of the enquiry presented itself as a purely local one but that turned out to be more apparent than real. The material gathered in the initial stages of the enquiry revealed to the Committee that its significance far transcended the bounds of any one country or region in the world and that it was calculated to have world- wide repercussions. That compelled the Committee to view the subject as an integral part of a larger picture on the broad canvas of world history. The Committee had to consult a number of published books, pamphlets and periodicals for deter- mining the nature and form of their recommendations.

 

10. On the true construction of the Terms of Reference the Committee found that the subject in hand should be divided under specified beads, viz., Conversions, Social Relations. Hospitals and Schools with a separate head for Remedies.  The questions set out under each of these heads are indeed exploratory and searching, but in no way unconnected with the issues involved in the enquiry.

 

11. The response to the Questionnaire was encouraging, indicating as it did, the co-operation of the public as well as of the Protestant Missionary Bodies operating in the various districts of the State. 385 replies to the questionnaire were received in the office of the Committee out of which 55 were from Christian individuals or organisations and 330 from non-Christians.  The authorities and members of the Roman Catholic Church co-operated with the Committee in their exploratory tours in Raigarh, Surguja, Bilaspur, Raipur and Nimar districts. Shri G. X. Francis, President of the Catholic Regional Council, and Shri P. Lobo, Advocate, High Court, Nagpur, associated themselves with the Committee.  But subsequently the Catholic Church withdrew its co-operation, not only ling a statement of protest, but also moving the High Court for a Mandamus Petition (Miscellaneous Petition No. 263.of 1955).

 

Their Lordships dismissed the petition on 12th April, 1956, holding that it was within the competence of the State Government to appoint a fact-finding Committee to collect information and that there had been no-infringement of any of the fundamental rights of the petitioner.  The Committee have gone through the Lengthy judgment of the Hon�ble High Court very carefully and have given respectful consideration to the views expressed therein.  We may however like to state that some of the remarks concerning a few questions in our Questionnaire proceed from an apparent lack of full knowledge of the nature of the allegations made before us which formed the basis of those questions.  We had repeatedly informed the petitioner and the public that none of the questions represented either the views of the Committee or any individual member thereof and our anxiety to have information on various points was due to our desire to find out to what extent, if any, could any activity be considered to infringe the limits of public order, morality aria health imposed by the Constitution.  As will be clear from the body of this report, we have confined ourselves entirely to the spirit and letter of our Constitution. 
 

CHAPTER II. - CIRCUMSTANCES LEADING TO THE APPOINTMENT OF THE COMMITTEE

 

In another part we pro se to give the history of Christian Missions in old Madhya Pradesh and also in the Merged States.  In this Chapter it is intended to detail the circumstances which led the Government to appoint this Fact-finding Committee.  Our source of information has been the various files made available to us by Government.  As the immediate cause which ultimately led to our appointment was the activities of some Mission organizations in the recently Merged States of Raigarh, Udaipur, Jashpur and Surguja, it will be useful to describe the principal or toot causes of whatever trouble was reported in the integrated States soon after their merger on 1st January, 1948.  Even in the old Madhya Pradesh the Government, was not unfamiliar with the problem of Missionary activities amongst aboriginals, because many of our districts contained a large number of Adiwasi population and Government had been carrying out, welfare measures for them for a good length of time.  It is reported that about 18 per cent of the total population of Madhya Pradesh prior to Integration consisted of aboriginals and that the Integration of the States added nearly 28 lakhs to the population of Madhya Pradesh, out of whom about 53 per cent were aboriginals.  According to official reports the integration of Chhattisgarh States was carried out smoothly and was hailed with joy by all sections of the community including the aboriginals.  When the then Premier toured the Integrated States, attempts were made by Christian and other Uraons of Jashpur State to create-some trouble, but it never presented a formidable problem.

 

2. The chief cause of unrest could be located against the following background :-

 

(a) Oppression and misgovernment which existed prior to Integration: In other parts of this Report a detailed reference to the various forms of oppression practised on the Adiwasis by the Malguzars, the Zamindars and the ex-Rulers will be found.

 

(b) The expectations of the people of the Integrated States of immediate improvement in their moral and material conditions as a result of Integration were pitched so high that almost inevitably they were bound to be disappointed to some extent.  Improvement of conditions in a specially backward area has necessarily to be a gradual process, which was not recognized.

 

(c) Almost from the very beginning interested parties, including Christian Missionaries, began to intermeddle and create dissatisfaction by exploiting the situation.  These interested parties were firstly the Rajas and their supporters and hirelings and also politicians of the neighbouring States, who wished to secure integration of some of the former States in their area despite history, geography and economy.  An end was put to the activities of such persons by the decision of the Union Ministry of States in May 1948, but according to Government reports the activities of Missionaries continued further though surreptitiously.

 

(d) The reports which the Government of Madhya Pradesh had obtained from the former States in respect of the activities of Missionaries show that their role in the past had not been healthy, their methods not savoury.  Two or three times there were rebellions in the States and even the Political Department, which was in the hands of the European Christians, was compelled to put restrictions on the entry of Missionaries and their movement in the former States.  Details of the Acts passed by the former States of Surguja, Udaipur and Raigarh regulating conversion and restricting the movement, etc., of Missionaries will be found elsewhere in this Report. On the integration of the States, Missionaries became afraid of losing their influence. So they started an agitation, playing on the religious feelings of the primitive Christian converts, representing the Madhya Pradesh Government as consisting of infidels and so on. Some of the articles published in Missionary papers, such as �Nishkalank� �Adiwasi� and �Jharkhand� were hardly distinguishable from the writings in Muslim papers advocating Pakistan, before, before the 15th of August 1947.  The Missionaries launched a special attack on the opening of schools by Madhya Pradesh Government under the Backward Area Welfare Scheme.  The then Commissioner of Chhattisgarh Division, contacted the Father Superior of the Roman Catholics at Jashpurnagar in February 1948 and explained to him the secular nature the Indian Union and the freedom of religion and worship which every citizen enjoyed in it.  He pointed out that there was no hindrance to Missionaries carrying on their religious activity in a lawful manner, but if the leaders of the Missions mixed up religion with politics and appealed to the religions fanaticism of the easily gullible Adiwasis they could not naturally claim the sanctity and consideration which attaches to religious organisations.  He further explained that having once suffered grievously from the communalistic policies of some persons, India could not afford to have another such movement in its very heart.  The Catholic Father Superior gave the Commissioner an undertaking that the Mission would confine itself only to religion and not dabble in politics at all.  The following letter written by Father Vermiere of the Jashpur Roman Catholic Mission may be quoted in extenso, to show the attitude of the Missionaries including foreigners, at the time of the Integration of the States :-

�We need help very much as we are so deep in debt and have to face worse times with a new Government so much against the Christians.

 

�Rev. Father Rector has probably acquainted you with what I wrote some time ago.  Things have riot much improved, although aye are rather on good terms with the local authorities.  Even so it is no more is before.  As more than one of the new or old officials points out, the men sent this side are too inferior, and cannot compare with, for instance, the late Dean.  Next those employed do riot seem to have half the powers necessary.  Things have continually to be referred higher tip, (which means most of the time no answer to the letters) and petitions, are delayed for five or six months.  What I say is the common complaint all over Jashpur from officials no less thin from the common people.  Moreover it seems to be a common complaint all over the Province, that this is the way.

 

�We should, e.g., settle about the transition from Patna syllabus to that of Nagpur.  But the new Inspectors have still to come.  They are always coming, but never arrive.  The best and probably the most sympathetic, to whom I wrote a personal letter, and is practically for us the head, would come in April, they in May; lately he informed me that he would come this month.  July is over and there is no trace of him.  They have been wasting the month of May and part of June on Adult Education, good in itself but much of a farce as it was conducted.  Hindu propaganda with open attempts to draw the Christians into the Hindu fold, occupied a large part of the programme.  In the end the Christians refused to go, on account of that propaganda and the Education came to an end.  Meanwhile the Inspectors have no time for any other work than that.

 

�The Bishop wishes me to discuss with them the question of our attempted High School at Ginabahar, but cannot do this with such fellows who come as makeshifts, till they can get away.

 

�You may have read lately in the Herald some-very spirited answers purported to come from Jashpur Christian students, against the vile slander by one who came with a large retinue to spy our Institutions at Gholeng and Ginabahar.  He dares call himself a member of the much esteemed Servants of India Society.  He and his colleague have nearly wrecked the nascent Mission of the Norbertine Fathers in Mandla, District Jubbulpore. They were sent here by the Prime Minister, but if they hope to ruin this Mission, they are very much mistaken.  Our Catholics are too advanced to he taken in. or frightened by such slanderers.  Protest meetings against their vile report continue to be held, chiefly to wreck their treacherous machinations.  As one of the two, is a sort of Minister for the uplift of the backward people, he has a considerable Government budget to dispose of.  Their aim is more to prevent us front converting, than to care for the uplift of those they used to keep them in bondage.  Just now they are starting 40 new schools for these backward Adibasis.  The third I hear of, is in a village where we possess a school since 30 years.  But knowing that many pagan children come to our schools and that we had sent a petition for a building to enlarge that school, they surreptitiously try and draw aw the pagan children from us.  But we are ready for them. Today my men are gone there to attend a big panchayat to draw tip a protest, and get all the pagans to refuse withdrawing their children from us. I am giving you all this for the sake of those in the community interested in Jashpur affairs.�

In a subsequent visit to the then Premier at Nagpur, Father Vermiere was confronted with this letter and lie then gave an undertaking in writing that he would have no objection to schools being established by Government in the States.

 

3. Let us turn our attention to the activities of the Missionaries in the Merged States of Surguja and Udaipur during the months following their Integration.  It has already been mentioned that the former Rulers of these States had consistently stopped the infiltration of Missionaries in their territories and with the full knowledge and consent of the then Political Department Anti conversion Acts were passed.  In spite of these Acts individual Missionaries, specially Rev. Stanislus Tigga, a Roman Catholic Priest with his headquarters in Ranchi, kept on visiting these areas surreptitiously and carried on propaganda in the garb of religion.  The strip of land comprising Surguja, Korea, Jashpur, Udaipur, Changbhakar and some other small.  States of Orissa is surrounded by Bihar and Orissa States and is inhabited by a very large percentage of aboriginals.  The tract is full of forests and mineral resources.  Foreign Missionaries from Belgium and Germany had established themselves in Bihar and Orissa and also in Jashpur in 1834 and had succeeded in converting a very large number of people to Christianity.  In order to consolidate and enhance their prestige, and possibly to afford scope for alien interests in this tract, the Missionaries were reported to be carrying on propaganda for the isolation of the Aboriginals from other sections of the community and the movement of Jharkhand was thus started.  This movement was approved by the Aboriginals, local Christians and Muslims and the Missionaries sought to keep it under their influence by excluding all the nationalists elements from this movement.  The demand for Adiwasisthan was accentuated along with the one for Pakistan in 1938.  The Muslim League is reported to have donated Rs. one lakh for propaganda work.  With the advent of political independence in India, the agitation for Adiwasisthan was intensified, with a view to forming a sort of corridor joining East Bengal with Hyderabad, which could be used for a pincer movement against India in the event of a war between India and Pakistan.  The Christian community, supported by the Missionaries of the Ranchi district, organised themselves into a �Raiyat Warg�, ostensibly to do social work, but in reality to propagate the Adiwasi movement.  To counteract the isolationist doctrine of this organization of Christians, the non-Christians formed a Praja Mandal.  Although there was a tussle between these two organizations which continued till the integration of the States with Madhya Pradesh, they joined bands on learning that Surguja and Jashpur States were being merged with Madhya Pradesh and started a pro-Bihar agitation.  At the prospect of the integration of the States with Madhya Pradesh Mr. Jaipal Singh, member of the Constituent Assembly and President of the All-India Adiwasi Association, who is also commonly described as the father of the Jharkhand movement, protested in November 1947 against the merger of Surguja and Jashpur with Madhya Pradesh and accused the Bihar Government with failure to serve the people by not insisting on the integration of those States with Bihar.  After having seen the then Premier of Bihar at Ranchi, Shri Jaipal Singh convened a conference of All-India Adiwasi Maha Sabha, on 14th January of 1948.  This pro-Bihar agitation, which was originally started at the instance of the Roman Catholic and Lutheran Missionaries of Ranchi in Bihar district, soon obtained the support of other Christians, non-Christians, aboriginals and members of the Bihar Congress party and it was also reported that the then Hon�ble Premier of Bihar and the Hon�ble Revenue Minister had sympathy with this cause.  Accordingly a party consisting of some Bihar Congressmen, Rev. Lakra, the head of the Lutheran Mission and a Jamidar visited Surguja in the second week of January 1948 to mobilise public opinion in favour of the integration of those States with Bihar. Two members of this party, however, informed the District Superintendent of Police, Surguja, that they were not fully agreeable to the views of the remaining members and further brought to the District Superintendent of Police�s notice that there was a conspiracy between Pakistan and some American and German Missionaries to instigate the aboriginals to take possession of their own land, commonly known as Jharkhand.  In Kharsaon and Sarikela States of Orissa there was violence necessitating the use of force to suppress it.  At the All-India Adiwasis� conference on 14th January, of 1948, called by Mr. Jaipal Singh, speeches after speeches were made narrating the disadvantages and worries associated with the merger of the States with Madhya Pradesh and the benefits accruing from their amalgamation with Bihar.  Two Christians and a non-Christian were appointed propagandists to carry on pro-Bihar agitation.  The Praja Mandal which consisted mostly of non-Christians and which was lacking in funds refused to support the pro-Bihar propaganda and in a meeting held at Bargaon (Jashpur) on 20th January, 1948 it was unanimously resolved to agree to the integration of Surguja and Jashpur with Madhya Pradesh.

 

4. The activities of the Missionaries in the Jashpur area from January 1948 to the, end of May when the Union Ministry of States decided finally the question of merger of Surguja and Jashpur with Madhya Pradesh may be narrated.  According to official reports these activities, though ostensibly carried on by Indian Christians, were in fact sponsored by Missionaries to secure a-strong foothold in the hitherto forbidden territories of Udaipur and Surguja.

 

January 1948.-The agitation for the inclusion of Jashpur, Udaipur, Surguja and Changbhakar States in the Bihar Province was continued and prominent persons of Ranchi visited Jashpur. Rev. J. Lakra, the head of German Lutheran Mission, carried on propaganda for a separate Jharkhand Province, which would be administered by Christians, who predominated in the area concerned.  Three meetings of Christians were held in the Jashpur State for the purpose of carrying on this propaganda.

 

February 1948.- Three more meetings were held in Jashpur sub-division in connection with the Christian agitation in favour of amalgamation with Bihar.  Speakers pointed out that inclusion in the Central Provinces would mean economic and social retardation and the evaporation of their dream of Jharkhand.  At a meeting at Ichkelah (Jashpur) on 13th February it was announced that an Adiwasi fund for defending the interests of Adiwasis had been started. Rev. J. Lakra was suspected of dissuading Christians from participating in Mahatma Gandhi�s Ashes Immersion Ceremony observed at Jashpur on 12th February.  Julias Tigga, Secretary Adiwasi Sabha, Ranchi, visited Jashpur and Ambikapur about the 14th of February and was warned by the District Magistrate, Surguja, for indulging in objectionable activities.  On 21st February 1948, Bowfus Lakra, a parliamentary Secretary of Bihar and Joseph Tigga, Pleader of Ranchi, addressed a small meeting at the prominent Roman Catholic Mission Centre of Ginabahar in which, although opposition to the formation of Jharkhand was voiced, it was stated that people should be allowed to decide whether they should be associated with Madhya Pradesh or Bihar.  These intense political activities of the Christians under the leadership of foreign Missionaries created a sense of apprehension and consequently the non-Christian organization called the Praja Mandal mobilized their resources to counteract this movement.  A few meetings were called and addressed by this party on or about the 23rd of February.  Rev. J. Lakra called a session of the All-India Adiwasi Maha Sabha at Ranchi on the 26th of February and delegates from Orissa, Chhattisgarh States and Bihar attended it. Mr. Jaipal Singh, who was elected President of the Maha Sabha criticized the Bihar Government for splitting the tribal people and emphasised that the salvation of the Adiwasis lay in the creation of a separate province including the States of Chhattisgarh.  He proposed to raise and send 1,000 volunteers for propaganda purposes.

 

 



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March 1948.-A meeting was organised by the Lutheran Christians at Bargaon in Jashpur to further the propaganda of merger with Bihar.  There was propaganda on the border villages of Surguja district by Christian Missionaries of Palamau and Ranchi.

 

5. It was during this time that the then Premier of Madhya Pradesh undertook a tour of those areas and it was reported that a good deal of misapprehension regarding Government�s policy, etc., was removed and that open and extensive activities of the Missionaries through Indian Christian Fathers and Preachers were subdued, and Police officials reported that thenceforth the agitation was carried on in a surreptitious, manners In October 1948 a Gaonthia of Surguja was detained under the Public Safety Act for objectionable Activities and a search of his house revealed him in possession of letters which showed that he was an active worker of the Jharkhand movement, on behalf of the Missionaries and that the agitation was still being carried on for the creation of a separate Adiwasi Province.  The Gaonthia was ultimately released on his giving a written undertaking that he would not take part in any subversive activities.

 

6. In the neighbouring State of Udaipur activities were mostly confined to Rev. S. Tigga.  The laws which were in force in the former Merged States were continued on integration and consequently the Anti-conversion Act had also been continued.  The Anti-conversion Act of Udaipur had been promulgated on 9th July 1946-nearly an year and a half after the, Ruler of the State was installed in December 1944.  But to put a check on the unfair activities of the Roman Catholic Priests the then Political Agent had passed an order on 28th February 1941 [D.O. No. G-59-CR/37 (III)] permitting the entry of Roman Catholic Priests only on the following conditions:-

(1) Priests could be allowed to enter the State when called to the bed-side of a dying or dangerously ill person.  The Priest concerned must in such cases personally give information of his visits at the Police Station nearest to the route by which he travelled.

 

(2) Priests may be permitted to enter the State once every quarter to celebrate Mass at some village near the border.  Previous permission for this should be obtained from the Superintendent of the State on each occasion.  The Priests should not tour in the State but their parishioners should come to them at the place which was selected for the celebration of Mass.

 

(3) A Priest should not stay more than 48 hours in the State on any occasion unless unavoidably delayed by circumstances over which he has no control, provided firstly that in such a case he informed in writing the Officer-in-charge of a Police Station nearest to his route when leaving the State, giving particulars of the obstacle which caused the delay and secondly that no visit was extended to more than 96 hours without previous sanction of the Superintendent of the State.  Priests should not do any religious propaganda or proselytization while in the State.

 

(4) Only Ordained Priests and not lay Preachers from outside should be allowed to enter the State.

7. After Integration Rev. S. Tigga, a Roman Catholic Missionary thwarted these restrictions add visited the State several times up to the month of May 1948.  He was warned against doing so by the Sub-Divisional Officer, but he did not pay any attention to it.  Ultimately the Sub-Divisional Officer ordered his prosecution under section 188, Indian Penal Code for disobeying those restrictions and Rev. Tigga was sentenced to pay a fine of Rs. 20.  Although he was in possession of the requisite amount he refused to pay the fine and had to be imprisoned for four days in consequence to suffer imprisonment which had been ordered in default of the payment of the fine.  This sudden �invasion� of areas in Udaipur State by Roman Catholic Missionaries created a sharp reaction in the mind of the local people and they represented to the Government as well as the district authorities against encouraging the Missionaries to establish their centres in the Udaipur State and thereby to prevent mass conversions of Uraons.  Government apprehended an imminent danger of breach of the peace and disturbance of public tranquility and it also felt that Communist bodies functioning in areas outside Madhya Pradesh on the immediate borders of Surguja, Udaipur and Jashpur States might take advantage of the situation and create trouble, similar to the one which was then raging in the neighbouring States. Accordingly an order, under section 144, Criminal Procedure Code was passed restricting the entry of Christian Missionaries in the Udaipur Sub-Division except for purposes of religious work.  The order was on the lines of the restrictions mentioned in paragraph 6 above and remained in force for nearly a year from 27th January 1949.  It is reported that about 20 to 25 persons were arrested for defiance of this-order.  Throughout the year 1949 the Roman Catholic Bishop of Ranchi and some Roman Catholic leaders of Nagpur made repeated efforts to seek the permission of the State Government to establish centres in the Udaipur Sub-Division.  The restrictions which were imposed in the former State Regime were still in force and Government had information with them to show that Christian Missionaries in the Udaipur State were indulging in political activities of an objectionable kind, really reminiscent of the two nation theory which had awful consequences in the history of India.  Considering that such dangerous activities could not be tolerated by any responsible Government, they were not prepared to remove the restrictions, altogether.  In view of the political bias with which Christian Missionaries had carried on proselytism during the last half a century in the merged territories and in view of their active support of the dangerous Jharkhand movement.  Government considered it necessary to put down the activities which led to fissiparous tendencies.  In a conference held by the Hon�ble the Premier on 29th March, 1949 with three Roman Catholic leaders (Major Bernard, M.L.A., Shri G. X. Francis and Major A. F. W da Costa) the policy of the State Government was fully and carefully explained and it was pointed out that India being a secular State, there was perfect freedom of thought and religion, but difficulties cropped up only when religious organisations mixed this up with politics.  At this conference it was pointed out by the Government spokesman that several non-Christians had represented to Government about the activities of the Missionaries in the Integrated States, in particular about religious instruction being imparted in their schools.  This had become necessary because ever since the opening of schools by the Tribal Welfare Department, Roman Catholic Missionaries had carried on persistent propaganda against such schools and had represented this to the State Government also.  Although Father Vermeire had intimated that he had no objection to Government starting schools in Jashpur side by side with the Mission schools, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Ranchi kept on representing that this should not be done.  It was, therefore, pointed out at the conference that the duty of Government being to provide non-sectarian educational instruction for the people, no legitimate objection could be taken against it.  On the question of restrictions imposed on the entry of-Christian Priests in Udaipur State, the official point of view was pointed out and it was explained how the situation had developed on account of the mingling of religion with politics.  The leaders present were told that the policy of Government towards matters of religion was one of allowing complete freedom of conscience and worship to all and there was not the slightest intention to have a different policy in Udaipur or other States.  The gentlemen present were requested to remove any misconception from the minds of the people and to tell them that Government would not interfere in their peaceful religious pursuit so long as they did not mix up politics with religion.  Major da Costa on behalf of the Catholics assured Government of the loyalty of Catholics and informed that Catholics had no connection whatsoever with the Jharkhand movement.  The three leaders present assured the Premier of their unflinching loyalty to Government and of their determination to co-operate and help Government in every possible manner and they requested that the question of allowing reliable Christian Priests to reside in Udaipur might be favourably considered by Government after making due enquiries about their bonafides and Government promised to examine the suggestion.  Shri Francis informed the Premier that he would take an early opportunity of visiting Udaipur and Jashpur to tell the people of the policy of Government and to remove all misconceptions.  In accordance with this promise Shri Francis undertook a tour of the newly integrated States of Udaipur and Jashpur between 20th and 25th April, 1949.  It appears that the representations made by Shri Francis and other Roman Catholic leaders of Nagpur to the Government of Madhya Pradesh were at the instance of the Roman Catholic Mission working in the Jashpur area.  After the conference of these leaders with the Premier on 29th March, 1949 details were apparently reported to the then Roman Catholic Bishop of Ranchi, who on 18th April, 1949 came to Nagpur and gave a written pledge on his behalf as well as on behalf of his Priests, undertaking to give all due obedience and respect to the lawfully constituted Government of India, and the lawfully constituted Government of Madhya Pradesh and also stated that while carefully abstaining from participating in political affairs it was his desire and purpose that his influence in so far as may be possible in such matters shall be so exerted in loyal co-operation-with Government.  In view of this undertaking Rt. Rev. O�Sevrin, Bishop of Ranchi, requested Government to allow without further delay his Priests to reside in Udaipur without whose presence the Catholics were effectively prevented from practising their religion in a normal way. As regards the apprehension that the Priests might meddle in politics the Bishop assured the Government that as far as his Priests were concerned they would not do so and that they had not done so in the past.  He stated that although soon after Integration he was approached more than once by Bihar Congressmen and other supporters of the Jharkhand movement to lend his support to the movement towards amalgamation with Bihar he had refused to co-operate.  On account of this he had incurred the hostility, not only of the Lutherans in Jashpur, but of Catholics in Ranchi.  In this letter the Bishop stated, �If we, Catholic Priests, had chosen to urge them on in the direction of joining the Jharkhand movement the situation in Jashpur and Udaipur would have been much worse than it is now, considering at very close to one-fourth of the population of Jashpur is Catholic�. This is a significant admission of the control exercised by Roman Catholic Priests in matters outside religion and of the existence of a state of political agitation in the newly merged States of Jashpur, Udaipur and Surguja, soon after Integration.  Along with his request to allow Catholic Priests to reside in Udaipur State, the Bishop levelled charges against petty local officials and also non-officials.  It was also stated that patent discrimination which was officially adopted by the Central Provinces Government against Christian aboriginals in denying them scholarships and other concessions was much resented by the Catholics.  The following are some of the reported grievances of Catholics in Jashpur voiced by the Bishop of Ranchi:-

(1) There have been several cases of Catholic candidates for Government posts being asked as a condition for employment to give Christianity and become Hindus.  Although the letter admitted that this allegation was made on what is �being whispered about�, the Government was asked to remedy the situation.

 

(2) The Catholics are not enrolled as Home Guards and are not given other posts.

 

(3) Many Catholics at the request of Congress leaders at Raigarh had collected a fair sum of money for Gandhi Memorial Fund.  They were severely rebuked by some officials.

 

(4) The attitude of some leaders of the Backward Area Welfare Sabha was against the Roman Catholics.

 

(5) The whole policy of the Adiwasi Sudhar Sabha was one of sheer waste of money and conducive to breach of peace.

 

(6) Government schools should not be opened where Roman Catholic schools already exist.

8. In his report of the tour undertaken in April, 1949 Shri G. X. Francis voiced almost the same grievances which had already been put forward by the Bishop of Ranchi in his communication dated 18th April, 1949.

 

9. Enquiries were ordered by Government into the allegations made by the Bishop of Ranchi and Shri Francis and it was reported by the authorities that in spite of the denial by the Bishop of the part played by the Jashpur Roman Catholics in the Jharkhand political movement definite evidence existed to prove that the Roman Catholic Mission authorities at Ranchi had made common cause with other elements and were taking active part in this movement.  The vehement opposition of the Roman Catholic Bishop to the Backward Areas Welfare Scheme was explained by the blow given to the proselytising activities of the Roman Catholics through their schools by the Backward Areas Welfare Scheme.  Government however could not take an immediate decision to permit the Priests to reside in Udaipur because of the strong feelings of a considerable section of the people there against such action and therefore it was considered desirable to await the Constitution which was then being drafted by the Constituent Assembly.

 

10. The efforts of the Christian Association of which Shri G. X. Francis is the Chairman and of the Bishop of Ranchi to secure cancellation of the orders in respect of the residence of the Priests in Udaipur State continued unabated till the promulgation of the Constitution in January, 1950.  Besides, written individual representations of Shri Francis and other Catholic leaders, the demand was raised in some of the All-India conferences of this body.  On the other hand, non-Christian bodies kept on representing to Government against relaxing the ban.

 

11. The promulgation of the Constitution was soon followed by the entry into Surguja and Udaipur of the Belgian Jesuits, the Lutherans and some other Missions, who had hitherto worked from the Ranchi district.  Strong action was taken by these Mission authorities to spread Christianity amongst Uraons.  Having firmly and perpetually installed themselves in the State of Jashpur against the will of the then Rulers and owing to official pressure brought upon the Rulers by the foreign administration, it was used as a base of operation for further expansion into Udaipur and Surguja territories. The Priests had either commenced their operations by sending Christians into the country who concealed the fact that they were Christians and took service as field labourers or lived with relations.  When in course of time a sufficient number of such people had taken up their residence in the area the Preachers went into the country and appointed assistants from amongst the Christians who had gone to live there and a mass movement of conversion to Christianity ensued.  Reports started pouring in upon the Government that these Pracharaks and other paid servants were mere pawns in the hands of the Priests, they acted as Vakils for the people in all matters and interfered continually in all temporal affairs.  The Catholic, Lutheran and Swedish Churches soon established centres all along the Surguja-Bihar border.  In 1950, branches were opened at Ambikapur and Sitapur in the Surguja district.  The authorities reported to Government that the method adopted by Christian Missionaries was as follows:-

After preliminary investigation by a responsible (usually foreign) member of a Mission they would establish themselves in a small village and try to gain the confidence of the village people.  They would gradually start advising the village folk in their local problems and very often make out applications and complaints to be presented to the authorities.  They would personally follow the matter in courts and thus gain the confidence of the party.  Selected Uraon boys would be sent out with the help of scholarships to the Missionary headquarters in Jashpur or Bihar for training in handicrafts or for higher education.  Meanwhile earlier converts from Bihar would be brought down to the Centres to move amongst the village folk to propagate the benefits of conversion.  Local intelligent villagers (in many cases Muslims) would then be selected and appointed as Pracharaks on a pay of about Rs. 50 per month.  These paid Pracharaks would move in the country-side doing propaganda, paving the way for the Missionaries to tackle responsible individuals in near about villages.  Meanwhile recent converts at the Centre would receive social attention, new clothes, personal advice on agriculture, free chemical manures and attention at home to make the houses look distinct from others in the village.  They would open schools wherein only prospective converts would be admitted.  Free medicine would he distributed on bazar days, prospective converts being treated free while others were charged.  They would make arrangements to distribute paddy and other seeds free to certain selected families.  In some cases cash grants were also reported to have been given.  Loans were advanced and the borrower was told directly or indirectly that if he became a convert he need not repay the money.  Thus, by the system of preferential treatment and with temporary physical benefits displayed before them an atmosphere in favour of conversion was being created.  In some cases reports of coercive methods being used were also received.

12. As Missionary activities spread in Surguja district local non-Christians got alarmed.  In 1952, leading citizens of the district, including the Maharaja of Surguja distributed pamphlets and addressed gatherings advising the Adivasis not to give up their religion for the sake of monetary benefits or temptations.  Members of the Rashtriya Swayam Sewak Sangh and the Arya Samaj joined hands and intensified propaganda against Missionary activities.  The services of a large number of enthusiastic workers could be secured by them and reconversions took place in some numbers.  A conference of Virat Hindu Rashtriya Sammelan was convened at Ambikapur where all non-Christian organisations were asked to present a united front against the Christians and the Jharkhand movement.  Thus, acute tension prevailed in the area and the authorities thought that the situation may result in serious trouble unless handled properly.

 

13. This tension was attributed chiefly to the objectionable methods followed by Missionaries, some of which may be narrated.  On 5th May, 1951 at about 8 p.m. in village Chando, Rev. K. C. Burdett, a foreign Missionary took out a procession with about 25 followers in a truck and moved into some villages, singing provocative songs denouncing the Hindu religion.  The matter was reported to the police and an offence was registered.  As Shri Burdett offered an unconditional written apology the case was not prosecuted. In village Salba, Police Station Baikunthpur, 16 Christian Preachers entered the house of one Charan Uraon on 7th November, 1952, threw away his utensils and threatened him with violence, because he had opposed conversion.  These persons were prosecuted and each of them was convicted.  On another occasion in the same village, recently-appointed Christian Pracharaks, as alleged, used threats and intimidation against local Uraons for which they were prosecuted under section 506, Indian Penal Code.  Reports of the use of violence and threats by a group of recently-appointed Pracharaks were received from other villages in the area and offences were registered.  Rev. J. C. Christy, head of a Mission with headquarters in Palamau district who was organising centres in the Surguja district adjoining Palamau district, was also reported to have indulged in smuggling rice to Bihar in contravention of Government orders and to have assaulted public servants who tried to check the smuggling activities.  Cases were registered against him and he was prosecuted.  In both these cases he has recently been convicted.  Another case of a village Headman was reported in which the Headman complained that when he had gone to village Amadoli near Madguri to make enquiries about new arrivals Lutia and other Christians of the village caught hold of the Headman and snatched his dress and beat him.  A report was made to the police and investigation was started.  The four Christians concerned were convicted in a court of law.  In connection with this case Rev. F. Ekka of the Catholic Ashram made a false complaint against the Head Constable who had investigated the case. Ekka�s complaint was investigated by the Sub-Divisional Officer, Police, Ramanujganj, and was found to be entirely false, presumably made to gain favour of the Uraon converts and to discourage police officers from performing their duties.

 

14. Besides these criminal offences registered and investigated numerous ordinary complaints made by villagers against the objectionable activities of Christian Missionaries were presented to the district authorities at Ambikapur.  Some of them may be enumerated here:-

 

Thirteen villagers of village Dhajji and Sukhari, Police Station Samri, complained against Patras Kerketta of the Roman Catholic Mission along with other Pracharaks who addressed a meeting in the village stating that the Congress Raj was bad because it was trouble to the Christian people; that Christians were getting a Raj in which people would get all facilities.  They asked the villagers to refrain from paying Malguzari dues to Government, cut the Government forest, assault officers who would check them and also to beat the persons who refused to join hands with them.  He asked them to unite together against Government and threatened that those who did not co-operate would be turned out of the villages when Christians cot Jhar-Khand.  Complaints against Rev. Kerketta were made to the authorities at different times by the villagers of Mandwa, Nawadikalan, Karcha, Khujuridi, Shahapur and Kandri.  It was brought to the notice of the local officials that Patras Kerketta had baptized two Uraon babies when their grandmother had taken them for getting medicine for some eye trouble.  Apprehending a breach of the peace the Sub-Divisional Officer, Ramanujganj, held a spot enquiry. According to the wishes of the villagers the babies were reconverted to Hindu religion and Patras Kerketta tendered an apology to the Additional District Magistrate.

 

15. Instances also came to the notice of the authorities to show that Missionaries deliberately put up false and frivolous complaints against Government servants, so that the activities of the Missionaries could be carried on without being brought to the notice of the higher authorities.  Enquiries were made by superior officers on all complaints made by the Missionaries and invariably most of them were found to be baseless.  A few instances may be mentioned :

 

Rev. Kerketta reported to the Sub-Divisional Officer (Police), Ramanujganj, on 20th March, 1950 against Head Constable, Devraj, of Police Station Samri, alleging that two recently converted Uraons had been beaten by the Head Constable and hand cuffed. The Sub-Divisional Officer (Police) enquired into the matter and found the allegation untrue.  On 16th October, 1951, Rev. J. C. Christy made a complaint to the District Superintendent of Police. Surguja, against the Sub-Inspector of Police, Samri, that the latter had directed four Mission workers to leave villages Sarbana and Khajuri within two days.  The District Superintendent of Police enquired into the matter and found that the only action taken by the Sub-Inspector was making enquiries about new arrivals in his area and eventually the District Superintendent of Police issued a warning to Shri Christy that he should refrain from bringing frivolous reports. On 6th November, 1932, Father L. Von Royee of Ambikapur complained against the Head Constable for having molested a Christian lady teacher.  It was enquired into by the Circle Inspector and the allegation was found false.  Father Tigga of the Roman Catholic Mission complained against the Station House Officer Sitapur, and his staff for organizing a raid on the Christian Ashram of Sitapur and for harassing the Christians.  It was found that Christians of the village were found distilling liquor in the Ashram which they thought beyond the approach of the authorities.  Eight cases were registered, eventually tried in court and ultimately ended in conviction.  Father Tigga�s complaint had been made with a view to get the cases dropped. Father L. Von Royee made numerous complaints against the Station House Officer, Rajpur, for unnecessarily harassing Christians and asking them to leave the Police Station area and these allegations were also found to be false.  Father Royee was also warned by the District Superintendent of Police, for putting up baseless and frivolous complaints.  In that village a case under section 107, Criminal Procedure Code had been registered against Christians and Gonds who were quarrelling over the possession of a field.  Father Royee made a complaint against the Sub-Inspector with a view to obtain his assistance in getting the land secured for the Christians.  On 15th December, 1952, a heavy house-breaking by roof-cutting was committed in the village Batoli of Sitapur Station House and a villager was suspected by the police.  A Roman Catholic Father took one Putu, son of Hori to the District Superintendent of Police and alleged that Putu was beaten by the Sub-Inspector, Sitapur, during investigation.  A Magisterial enquiry was held and the allegation was found false.  Putu Uraon stated in writing before the Magistrate that he was instigated by the Roman Catholic Missionary to give such a complaint against the police.

 

16. Government got enquiries made as to the number of persons reported to be converted.  It was found that whereas only four Uraons were converted in the year 1948, none in the year 1949, five in the year 1950, there were 40 conversions in the year 1951.  In 1952, the number of conversions went up to 4,003 and in 1953 the total number of persons converted was 877, and in 1954, 223.  It was noticed that conversions had been confined solely to Uraons and in numerous cases entire families bad been converted. Whereas, Mission activities were confined to only three villages prior to 1951, it was extended to 23 villages of Surguja district where large number of conversions took place.

 

 



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17. We may refer to Rev. Christy�s case in some detail, because soon after he was detected smuggling rice to Bihar and a case was started against him, he made numerous complaints to authorities all over India, and there was intense press propaganda in foreign countries about the treatment meted out to Christians in Madhya Pradesh.  The Government of Madhya Pradesh had prohibited export of rice from the border States to the neighbouring States of Bihar ant Orissa.  This order had been issued in the year 1950 when the foodgrain position in India was riot very satisfactory.  For enforcement of this order outposts had been established throughout the border in important villages and it was the duty of the Government servants concerned to prevent smuggling.  From the very large number of cases started against persons, it appeared that smuggling was going on a large scale.  On 14th April, 1952 a servant or nominee of Rev. Christy was caught by the Naka staff carrying rice to Bihar.  A letter written by Rev. Christy dated 14th April, 1952 was found in possession of the servant.  In that letter Rev. Christy stated that he had purchased rice worth Rs. 24 for sending it to his village in Bihar district.  This letter was found inside the rice bag which was seized by the Naka staff. Rev. Christy admitted before the Magistrate having written the letter and having arranged to get rice.  His defence was that he had applied for a permit to the Deputy Commissioner, Surguja, on 5th March, 1952 and that he had been orally assured by the Extra-Assistant Commissioner in charge that the permit would be sent to Rev. Christy in due course.  Rev. Christy, therefore, pleaded that he came in possession of the rice believing that he would secure a permit.  The Magistrate found that the application given by Rev. Christy for permit bad been rejected by the Deputy Commissioner and that no assurance was ever given to Rev. Christy by any one.  He was accordingly convicted.  In another case Rev. Christy along with two others was prosecuted under section 7 of the Essential supplies (Temporary Powers) Act, read with section 2 (1) (a) of the Foodgrains Export Restriction Order, 1943, for exporting a bag of rice from this State to the adjoining State of Bihar. They were also prosecuted under section 332, Indian Penal Code, for causing injury to a public servant.  In this case too they were found guilty and convicted.  According to the prosecution this incident happened on 27th February, 1952. Rev. Christy�s defence was that the case had been falsely started because he assisted Christians in the villages in his jurisdiction in lodging complaints against the high-handedness and harassment by the Naka staff. It is apparent that Rev. Christy�s complaints were not restricted to the Naka staff only but to other authorities as well.  The National Christian Council of Nagpur asked Mr. P. Lobo, Advocate, to visit the area concerned and to look into the matter concerning the prosecutions against Rev. Christy.  The following is the substance of complaints which the National Christian Council made to the Prime Minister of India:-

�It is stated that Christian Missionaries are being harassed in Madhya Pradesh.  In view of the numerous instances of this kind, the National Christian Council, Nagpur, asked Mr. P. Lobo, Advocate, of Nagpur, to make an enquiry into this matter.  Mr. P. Lobo has made an enquiry and has submitted a report.  Mr. Lobo gives many instances of harassment by local officials and frivolous charges and often of fabricated evidence.  One particular case viz., the case of Rev. J. C. Christy and two others of village Jodhpur was pointed out as an outstanding example of harassment. They are being prosecuted on framed up charges of smuggling rice in contravention of Food Control Regulations.  According to Mr. Lobo the case of Mr. Christy is typical of several such instances of harassment by local officials.  The fact that in a very large number of cases the persons concerned have been charged with the same offence, viz., smuggling of rice, lends colour to the view that this resemblance is not without significance.�

18. The Government of Madhya Pradesh got an official enquiry made as to whether there had been any differentiation or harassment of Christian population or of Christian Missionaries and whether the allegations made by Mr. Lobo were correct.  A reference to Rev. Christy�s case was also made by Raj Kumari Amrit Kaur in her letter, dated 9th October, 1952, to she Chief Minister, Madhya Pradesh, in course of which she stated that various complaints of discontent, prevailing in Madhya Pradesh against the Christian community, had come which bad rather perturbed her.  Along with this letter she enclosed letters from Rev. Christy and Shri Lobo to her and also Rev. Christy�s memorandum on the persecution of Christians in Surguja district.  After careful enquiry Government found that the complaints made by Rev. Christy directly or through Shri Lobo and the National Christian Council had no basis whatsoever, in fact.  All the allegations of discrimination and harassment were totally false.  They found that the allegations had been clearly magnified and what was being done in the ordinary process of law was given the shape of deliberate harassment so as to conceal the objectionable activities of Rev. Christy and other Missionaries in the areas concerned.  Government noticed that a considerable amount of discontent and resentment prevailed amongst the local population of the Surguja district over the antireligious and anti-national activities of Christian Missionaries engaged in efforts to gain a foothold in the Surguja district which was hitherto a closed ground for them.  Government had received representations from almost all members of the Legislative Assembly and other respectable citizens in this behalf and public opinion was being organized.  A pamphlet was issued under the signature of the Maharaja of Surguja and other leading citizens of Ambikapur town in which an appeal was made to the people to he cautious against the activities of the Missionaries.  The Maharaja of Surguja had written to Government in October, 1952 protesting against the political activities carried on by the Missionaries in the name of religion and exploitation of the rural Adivasis.

 

19. It will thus he seen that whereas on the one hand an impression was being created all over India at the instance of foreign Missionaries engaged in the Udaipur and Surguja States that the Madhya Pradesh Government was following a policy discrimination or harassment of the Christian population and Missionaries, on the other hand numerous complaints were being received of the objectionable activities of these foreign Missionaries, especially in the tribal areas and public resentment was mounting up.  Government was not clear whether the agitation was confined only to the newly-merged States or whether other areas of Madhya Pradesh where the Missions were working were also affected.  It must be noticed that about 30 different Missions are working its Madhya Pradesh with varying number of centres in each district.  Almost the entire Madhya Pradesh is covered by Missionary activities and there is hardly any district where a Mission of one denomination or the other is not operating in some form or the other.  More than half the people of Madhya Pradesh (57.4 per cent) consist of members of the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and other Backward Classes and it is amongst these that Missionary activities are mostly confined.  The background of Missionary activities in the old Madhya Pradesh and the merged States was repeatedly brought to Government�s notice as a warning to be taken notice of and the almost similar methods adopted by the Roman Catholic and other Missions in the new areas of Surguja and Udaipur States was reported to be of great significance.  Missionaries had vehemently denied allegations of proselytism and anti-national activities and had levelled charges against local officials whenever enquiries were made by such officers.  In respect of authorities outside Madhya Pradesh these Missionaries also complained against the attitude if the Madhya Pradesh Government and vile propaganda against the Government was carried on in the foreign press.  In these circumstances, Government decided to get the matter examined thoroughly through an open and public enquiry and our Committee came to be appointed. 
 

CHAPTER III. - CASTES AND TRIBES OF MADHYA PRADESH

 

As Missionary activity in Madhya Pradesh is confined mostly to members of certain Tribes and to certain border areas, it is desirable to have an idea of some of the important Tribes, their occupations, characteristics, and social customs.  In subsequent chapters we shall deal with the Missions working amongst these Tribes and the history of their advent and progress amongst these Adivasis.

 

2. We shall first refer to the important aboriginal Tribes of Uraon, Baiga, Marias and the Gonds.  Before doing so, it may be useful to remember that the Aboriginal Tribes mostly called Adiwasis or Adimjatis claim to be the original inhabitants of India.  The Aryans, who came into the country subsequently, gradually pushed them back from the fertile lands of the Indo-Gangestic plain into forests and hilly tracts of the areas on the borders of the present States of Bengal, Bihar, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh.  Even in these areas, exploitation of the simple-minded and illiterate aboriginals continued by the Jamindars, the businessmen and other communities.  Loans at exhorbitant rates of interest were advanced, agricultural produce was purchased at cheap rates, forced or free labour was taken and land made cultivable after years of toil, was taken back on one pretext or the other.  By this process the aboriginals were gradually pushed further and further back into the jungle areas, and practically no attempt to improve the educational, medical, mental or economic conditions of the aboriginals was ever made.  The first positive step was taken by the British Government in the 19th century after important aboriginal rebellions in the Santhal Parganas of Bengal and the Ranchi district of Bihar, and a special law was enacted forbidding sale of land by an aboriginal to a non-aboriginal and other protective measures were introduced.  With the idea of encouraging the uplift of aboriginals and possibly with the motive of encouraging their conversion to Christianity, Christian Missionaries were encouraged to open schools and hospitals in the Tribal areas and till a few years ago these Christian schools and dispensaries were the only ones in the hilly Adiwasi country in addition to a few institutions which the Government had established.  The Christian Missionaries did their work with considerable devotion and selflessness and brought about many conversions in spite of the deep-rooted Tribal tradition and Tribal customs.  One noticeable effect of this long association of Christian Missionaries with the Tribal people to the exclusion of other sections of the community has been that the aboriginals have come to look upon the Hindus as hostile to their interests and the Christian Missionaries as their friends.

 

3. How simple-minded and capable of being duped easily the Tribals are, will be apparent from some of the Tribes whose characteristics and customs we have studied in some detail.  The Uraons, according to the 1941 Census, were 1,64,731 in number.  It is a Dravadian Tribe inhabiting the Korba Zamindari of Bilaspur district, the former States of Udaipur and Jashpur in the Raigrah district and the Surguja district.  In the Korba Zamindari, in Udaipur and Jashpur, they are mostly found in the plains, whereas in the Surguja district they mostly reside in jungles and on the hills.  In the more settled areas they have taken to regular cultivation, but in the Surguja district the main occupation the Uraons still continues to be hunting and gathering of fruits, although attempts are being made by Government to make them settle down in plains and to follow modern methods of agriculture.  The Uraons have no sub-castes among them.  They have numerous Gotras after the names of plants, trees, animals and birds. etc. Marriage within the Gotra is not permissible. They use very simple dress mostly of cloth prepared by the village weaver. Their staple food is rice and dal with such meat as may be available through hunting.  In marriages and other social customs and habits they follow the conventional practices of the Hindus. Liquor plays a very important part in their festivities.  It will be interesting to note that the Roman Catholics had a greater number of converts because they did not insist on prohibiting consumption of liquor, whereas the Lutherans, who at one time advocated Prohibition, could secure a small number of converts only.

 

4. The Baigas are found in the Dindori tahsil of Mandla district.  Baihar tahsil of Balaghat district and part of Bilaspur district adjoining the Mandla district.  It is one of the most primitive Tribes of India and the Baigas are generally interested in �bewar� cultivation on the slopes of the hills or on the hill-tops.  The Baiga is a good hunter, who loves his bow and arrow.  Besides hunting, another occupation is the gathering of wild fruits.  He occasionally prepares baskets and bamboo mattings.  He is generally shy of civilized man and dresses scantily. Bodies are tattooed from head to foot and women take delight in wearing brass ornaments and necklaces of coloured beads.

 

5. The Marias are members of another primitive Tribe found in the Chanda and Bastar districts.  Hunting is their important vocation on which they occasionally spend months together.  Wild-fruit gathering is undertaken to supplement their food and also for purposes of barter for salt, iron, etc.  We were not able to pay a visit to the territories inhabited by Marias, but we were informed authoritatively that there are practically no converts to Christianity from this Tribe.

 

6. The most numerous of the aboriginal Tribes, the Gonds, reside in Sanjari-Balod and Bemetara tahsils of Durg district, Baihar tahsil of Balaghat district and throughout the Mandla, Raipur, Chhindwara, Betul, Chanda and Bilaspur districts.  They are mostly agriculturists although some are landless labourers.  Fruit gathering and collection of Tendu leaves form their sources of subsidiary income.  At one time they were Rulers of Gondwana and consequently an aristocratic section of the Gonds has arisen.  Hindu rites and customs in respect of marriages and observance of festivals are followed, Holi, Dasera, Diwali and Shivaratri are observed and they dress like other Hindus.

 

7. Whether the aboriginal Tribes are Hindus or not has been a question of great controversy.  The Missionaries have throughout claimed that they are not Hindus.  A continuous attempt has been made by these organizations to foster a sense of separateness amongst the Tribes from the rest of the Hindus.

 

8. Speaking about the separation of the aborigines from the mass of the Indian population Gandhiji remarked: �We were strangers to this sort of classification- �animists� -aborigines, etc., but we have learnt it from the English rulers�.  To the question put by Dr. Chesterman whether Gandhiji�s objection applied to areas like the Kond hills where the aboriginal races were animists, the unhesitating reply was, �yes, it does apply, because I know that in spite of being described as animists these tribes have from times immemorial been absorbed in Hinduism.  They are, like the indigenous medicine, of the soil, and their roots lie deep there� (Pages 192 and 299 Christian Missions. Navajiwan Press).

 

9. Gandhiji�s statement is amply borne out by the researches of scholars like the late M. M. Kunte who wrote a thesis on �The Vicissitudes of Indian Civilization� in 1880.  In the introduction lie says: �Budhism was a revolution caused by the energy of the aboriginal races�.  While discussing the social changes during the Acharya period he says : �intermarriages between the Aryas and the Shudras.  Kolis and other aborigines were frequent�.  �The Vijasneys sanhita� considers the growth of the mixed classes an evil and condemns it, but the mixed classes gradually acquired power and influence in the State.  At the time of the Mahabharat such great men as �Vyas� and �Vidur� were the offsprings of the connection of the Aryan with the aborigines.  Satyavati, who was the daughter of the Koli chieftain became the queen of King Shantanu.  Dhritrastra, Pandu and Vidur were the offsprings of Vyas.  At that time no stain was attached to intermarriages between the Aryas and the aborigines.  Bhima married Heedimba and Arjun married Naga girl called Ullupi.  A class of Aryas called Upakrishta was created.  Upakrishta means those who were admitted to the privilege of performing a sacrifice. (Pages 252-253 ibid).

 

10. The Nishadas were an aboriginal tribe.  They were sometimes included in the Pancha-Janah, i.e., the five-fold Aryas.  Gradually the Nishadas were incorporated. (Page 254 ibid).

 

11. As to the evolution of castes it has to be noticed that among the various ways in which they came to be formed was the absorption of the tribes into the Hindu social system as stated in the �Imperial Gazetteer of India� 1907, Volume I, page 314.  Where a tribe has insensibly been converted into a caste, it preserved its original name and customs, but modified its animistic practices more and more in the direction of orthodox Hinduism.  Numerous examples of this process are to be found all over India and it has been at work for centuries.

 

12. We may quote here the well-known verse about the mixed origin of those who are honoured as religious leaders in Hindu society: It is as follows:-

""OmVm{ ì`mñVw H¡$dË`m© : 
íd [m·`míÀ` [amea : 
ew·`m ewH$: H$UmXm»`ñVWm{by·` : 
gwVm{ ^dV².................''

(Bhavisya Mahapuran Chapter 42).  Valmiki, the author of the Epic Ramayan and Hanuman the so-called monkey God were also aborigines.

 

13. The process by which this transformation takes place is as follows: The leading men of an aboriginal tribe having somehow got on in the world and become landed proprietors manage to enroll themselves in one of the most distinguished castes.  They usually set up as Rajputs and their first step is to consult a Brahmin to discover for them a mythical ancestor of some great Rajput Community.  By the process of inter-marriages they come to be absorbed in the fullest sense of the word and are locally accepted as high class Hindus. (Imperial Gazetteer of India, Volume I, Page 312.)

 

14. It is interesting to see how the matter came to be dealt with by the Census officers.  Here we gratefully draw upon the result of the study of the Aboriginal problem by Dr. G. S. Ghurye (Cantab.), Head of the Department of Sociology, Bombay University, pp. 2-8, The Aborigines so-called and their Future.  In 1891 J.A. Baines, the Commissioner of Census considered the distinction between tribal people who were Hinduized and those that followed their tribal form of religion as futile because, �every stratum of Indian society is more or less saturated with Animistic Conceptions but little raised above those which predominate in the early state of religious development. (Census of India 1891 Report, Volume I, Part I, page 158).  In the census of 1901 Sir Herbert Risley observed that animism comprised a medley of heterogeneous and uncomfortable superstitions and that it figured in the original returns of the census under as many different designations as there are tribes professing it.  According to him Hinduism itself was animism more or less transformed by philosophy or as magic tempered by metaphysics and his final opinion was that no sharp line of demarcation could be drawn between Hinduism and Animism as the one shaded away insensibly into the other. (The People of India second edition, pages 218, 233 and 245.)

 

15. In 1911 Sir E. A. Gait, the Commissioner of the Census remarked that because a man sought the help of a Brahmin priest or made offerings at a Hindu shrine, it did riot follow that he had given up the last shreds of his inherited animistic beliefs and that owing to the gradual nature of the process of Hinduizing it was extremely difficult to say at what stage a man should be regarded as having become a Hindu (Census of India, 1911, India, Volume I, Part I, pages 129 130). Sir A. J. Baines wrote in 1912 in his Ethnography, pages 8 and 9, �one of the most interesting ethnographical questions entering into the census enquiry is that of the rate at which Brahminism is, in name at least absorbing the animistic tribal population.� In order to solve the practical difficulty which the census officers had to face he used the term �tribal animism� or �tribal religion� for the religion returned under the tribal name, by those who did not adhere to any of the wider creeds.  In the year 1921 Mr. P. C. Tallents, the Superintendent of the Census Operations in Bihar and Orissa and Mr. Sedgwick, the Superintendent of the Census in Bombay were faced with the difficulty of distinguishing a Hindu from an animist, and Mr. Sedgwick recommended in unequivocal terms that animism as a religion should be entirely abandoned and that all those hitherto classed as animists should be grouped with the Hindus (Census of India, 1921-Bihar and Orissa Report, page 125, and Bombay Report, page 67).  Mr. J. T. Marten, the Commissioner of Census arriving been impressed by their views changed the religious division of animism of the previous censuses into that of tribal religion; but he at the same time was not satisfied about that way of solving tee problem, for he remarked �If the word animism is vague in respect of what it connotes, the term �tribal religion� is not by any means definite in what it denotes.� (Census of India, 1921, India Report, Volume I, Part I, page 111.)

 

16. In 1931 Dr. J. H. Hutton, the Commissioner of Census, retained the heading �tribal religion� in the body of the report, but used that term in contradistinction to Hindu, Muslim, Christian, etc., in the tables at the end of the chapter on religion.  Although he isolated the tribal people in this way, he admitted that the line between Hinduism and tribal religion was difficult to draw, and that the inclusion of the latter within the Hindu fold was easy. (Census of India, 1931, India Report, Volume I, Part I, page 397.)

 

17. Mr. W. H. Shoobert, the Superintendent of the Census of 1931 for the Central Provinces and Berar also referred to the difficulty of obtaining satisfactorily accurate returns of those who retained their tribal creeds but deliberately returned themselves as Hindus for the reason that it would elevate them in the social scale, whereas to the more simple of the tribals the term �Hindu� conveyed no connection with any religion but merely indicated a race.  He also was impressed by the fact that �there was much in the religion of each which could easily be assimilated to that of the other�.  But he thought that it would be incorrect to class the Hinduized aboriginal with the ordinary Hindu villager of the Central Provinces, for although after centuries of varying degrees or contacts each may have assimilated ideas and customs from the other, their cultures are most obviously distinct (Census of India, 1931, Central Provinces and Berar Report, Volume XII, Part I, pages 397 and 333).  It may be mentioned here that Mr. W. V. Grigson, I.C.S., agreed with Dr. V. Elwin�s opinion that the religion of the Indian aboriginal outside Assam should be regarded as the religion of the Hindu family, and that for purposes of Census, all aborigines should be classed as Hindus by religion (page 8, The Aboriginal Problem in the Central Provinces and Berar).

 

18. It is not easy to find any sound reason for isolating the tribal people from the Hindus in view of the repeated admissions made that the animistic or tribal religion was hardly distinguishable from the Hindu religion.  The mystery is solved when we come to examine the Missionary activities within these tribal areas.

 

19. Mr. Stent, who was Deputy Commissioner of Amravati sent a note to the Census Officer to say that the educated Indian officers of Government maintained that Gonds, Korkus, Bhils, Gowaris and Banjaras were Hindus, and he himself conceded that when members of these tribes settled in a Hindu village they become Hindus.  He commented on the tendency of Hinduism to absorb the religion of other people, and also pointed out that the aboriginals returned themselves as Hindus to escape from the taint of barbarism and to raise themselves in the social scale. (Census Report, Central Provinces and Berar, 1931, Volume XII, Part I, page 329.)

 

20. Viewing the problem from the point of view of caste, it would appear that the process was similar to that of religion.  In 1891 Baines arranged the castes according to their traditional occupations, viz., under the category of Agricultural and Pastoral castes lie formed a sub-heading and named it forest tribes.  That indicates that the forest dwellers were not excluded from the description of the caste.

 

21. In the next two censuses, i.e., of 1901 and 1911, Sir Herbert Risley and Sir E. A. Gait included the so-called animists in the table for castes along with others, indicating against each the number following Hinduism or Animism or some other religion. (Ghurye, page 7).

 

22. In 1921 Mr. Marten followed the same practice, only changing the heading of Animism to Tribal religion.  In 1931 Dr. Hutton substituted the term �Primitive Tribes� for �Forest Tribes� and added a special appendix on �Primitive Tribes� giving their names and numbers.

 

23. In the Census of 1941 there was a sharp departure from the previous one of 1931.  The heads were counted community-wise instead of on the basis of religion.  To elucidate the matter, a tribal who belonged to the so-called scheduled tribes was classified as such under the original community table despite his or her being a Christian fly faith.  The consequence was that to all appearances the all-India figures for Indian Christians in that year were shown as 6,040,665 which was less by 256,098 than the previous all-India figure, viz., 6,296,733 as recorded in 1931.  That, however, did not mean that Christianity failed to progress in the decade between 1931 and 1941.  The explanation of this paradox is to be found in the short note on community made by Mr. Yeats, the Census Commissioner of India (Chapter IV, page 29, Volume I, Census of India, 1941, Part I Table) where he discloses that approximately one-twentieth of the total tribal population falls within the Christians on the religions basis.  Calculating the total figure for the whole of India on the lines indicated by him, it would be found that there was actually an increase of 3,474,128 persons approximately among the Christian community during the decade 1931-41 (pages 448-449, Christian Proselytism in India by Parekh).

 

24. By reason of the Backwardness of these tribes, the Constitution of India has made special provisions for their protection.  Under Article 46 of the Constitution, the State is directed to promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people, and in particular, of the scheduled castes and the scheduled tribes, and to protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation.  The Constitution has thus recognised that members of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes belong to the weaker sections of society and has sought to protect them from all forms of exploitation.  In pursuance of these obligations, the Government of Madhya Pradesh have created a separate Tribal Welfare Department which has prepared a scheme for the uplift of aborigines.  The main features of the scheme are to look after the educational and other needs of the aborigines so as to bring them on a par with other people.  Government approved a scheme, the total estimated cost of which was Rs. 169,60 lakhs in the First Five-Year Plan. It was introduced in December 1952 and 40 centres were established each providing for the following facilities and services:-

 

(a) A primary and a residential middle school. 

(b) A midwife for child welfare and ante-natal and post-natal treatments. 

(c) A stud bull and poultry farm. 

(d) Cottage industries workshop. 

(e) Anti-malaria control measures. 

(f) Distribution of simple medicines. 

(g) Multi-purpose co-operative societies. 

(h) Arrangements for social, cultural and moral uplift activities. 

(i) A drinking-water well. 

 

(j) Approach roads.



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