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I Understand
Volume 6.1 / The Challenges of Hindu Nationalism and Its Impact on Christian Mission Today


The Challenges of Hindu Nationalism and Its Impact on Christian Mission Today

Julian P.
By tracing the historical development of the Hindutva ideology, we gain a better understanding of how it has shaped the contemporary understanding of this ideology among religious fundamentalists and its wider influence even among secular Hindus. This essay seeks to analyze the major challenges posed to the Christian community in particular by Hindutva forces through their overt ideological propagandas. It also seeks to bring out some key strategies on how Christian missions in India through contextually relevant missiological methods can confidently face these national and political challenges today and continue to be faithful to God and the spread of the Gospel message.

1.    Introduction

“To be Indian is to be Hindu” is the underlying foundational catalyst for Hindutva. There is no middle ground and no compromise; those who don’t fit certain criteria are outsiders who have no part in India, its present, or its future. The echelons of India’s history are marred with the effects of this one single ideology, reminiscent of similar ideologies around the world that have caused indelible damage to the nation, its various communities, and even the world at large.

The ideology of Hindutva is gaining momentum and popularity among the Indian people across the world irrespective of their caste, place of origin, or ethnicity. This rise in popularity is due to ongoing propaganda by various fundamentalist organizations fueled by a common ideology that holds “Hinduness” as the nation’s one and only ideal position. Hindu fundamentalists have spared no efforts in ensuring that minorities feel unwanted and alien in India. The Christian community has seen a drastic increase of organized and systematic persecution against them with an intent of uprooting them and annihilating them completely. Such unconstitutional disharmony promoted under the various guises of patriotism, nationalism, and economic development ought to be researched and refuted where necessary so that the dreams of the founders of the nation to create and maintain a secular democratic nation that honors and upholds all faiths continues to remain a reality.

Misunderstanding, miscommunication, and misinterpretation exist among secular Hindus as to the so-called Christian agenda, particularly when it comes to missionary endeavors. Hindutva organizations such as the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Jana Sangh and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have cleverly ensured that the anti-Christian sentiment even among the secular and previously disinterested Hindus remains high with the propaganda that Christianity is a foreign (Western) religion and its adherents are anti-Hindu and anti-nationalistic. At various forums, a Christian’s national allegiance and the Christian community’s contribution at large to India both now and in the historic past are being called into question. Such a precarious situation warrants the necessary discussion and dialogue between Hindu fundamentalists and Christian spokespersons so that any fears may be allayed on both sides and constitutional ideals such as secularism and democracy on which the nation of India was envisaged and built can be upheld and safeguarded for future generations. 

2. The Historical Growth and Development of Hindutva Ideology

Hindutva is derived from two terms which are Hindu (in Persian) and ttva (in Sanskrit) and as a concept literally means “Hinduness,” Hindu principles or the essence of being a Hindu.[1] Dominic Emmanuel says that Hindutva is a newly coined word brought about “by certain ideologues who want the people of India to possess one homogenous culture and promote the Hindu culture as the best culture in the world.”[2] It was Vinayak Damodar Savarkar in 1923 who popularized the ideology in his monumental work Hindutva: Who is a Hindu? and since then this has become a well-known concept, at least in the dominant strata of society. According to M. T. Cherian, proponents of Hindutva, like Savarkar, separate the Hindu religion from the Hindu nation and in the same manner followers of Indic religions from non-Indic religions.[3] This differentiation was created along the lines of the place of origin of those religions. If a religion had its birthplace in India, then it was seen as an Indic religion and accepted into the Hindutva fold. If the religion had its birthplace outside of India, then it was seen as a non-Indic religion and rejected for that very reason.

The concept and ideology behind Hindtuva has its origins from the time of the Mughals. The Mughals (or Mongols) invaded India and this invoked a spirit of Hindu nationalism among the people whom they invaded and mistreated in various ways. S. L. Verma, quoting Will Durant, says that the Mughal period was the bloodiest period in the history of mankind. Many Hindus resisted the Mughals knowing fully well that such opposition would result in certain death or economic disparity (because of the levying of the jaziya tax). Even their temples and sacred places were desecrated, and this began an anti-Muslim sentiment among the people.[4]

Writers like Tapan Basu and others claim that the Aryan invasion was as bloody as the Mughal invasion; however, the Hindutva forces reject this theory. Basu also notes that many high caste Hindus prospered in the Mughal administration, but this aspect is often sidelined. The fact, however, cannot be denied that the majority of the Hindu populace experienced discrimination.[5] Sreekumaran Nair points to Shivaji as the key militant leader during this period who aroused anti-Muslim sentiment; although his nationalism was parochial in nature, focusing just on the Maratha nationalism rather than a broader Hindu nationalism, this birthed the Hindutva ideologies that we see today. Shivaji’s strategy is far opposed to that of Savarkar as well as Golwalkar who saw things as binary opposites such as “us” and “them” or “friends” and “foes”; these to Savarkar and Golwarkar were non-negotiables.[6]

The next arousal of Hindu nationalism came during the British Raj (1858–1947). Nair notes that global nationalistic movements in the nineteenth century had their impact on India, giving rise to indigenous movements such as Arya Samaj, Brahmo Samaj, Rama Krishna Mission, and Tilak’s Shivaji cult, which were all started to rejuvenate Hindu nationalism. He cites three reasons for this resurgence: first was the influence of educated middle class Hindus; second was the leaders of the Indian Freedom Struggle who were exposed to and educated in the West; and third, there were those who, because of their Western education, had been exposed to nationalistic movements in the West and had seen or heard of their impact in those contexts.[7]. During the Mughal rule, there were communal clashes between the Muslims and Hindus, and so initially Hindutva was solely anti-Muslim. However, Hindutva began to turn anti-Christian during the British Raj primarily because of the Sepoy Mutiny in 1857 and uninformed disillusioned ideas of Indian culture, traditions, and practices imposed by Western Indologists. This was also an unfortunate practice of some Christian missionaries who sought to impose their culture on the locals, fueling the anti-Christian sentiment even further.

Organizations such as the Arya Samaj founded by Dayananda Saraswati infused a military spirit in their followers against anti-Hindu forces. To raise anti-Christian sentiment, Dayananda Saraswati mentioned many anti-Christian slogans, some of which were extremely offensive and preposterous. Cherian explains that Dayananda attempted to bring people back to the Vedas by elevating Hinduism to the level of Christianity and Islam with the adoption of the theory of “One God, One Script” and set up Vedic infallibility and authority to counteract the infallibility of the Christian Bible and Muslim Qur’an.[8] Vivekananda was influenced by Dayananda and started the RamaKrishna Mission in 1897. For Vivekananda, India is the Punya bhoomi (holy land), Mathru Bhoomi (motherland), Pitru Bhoomi (fatherland) and Karma Bhoomi (land of good or bad karma as per one’s deeds). Vivekenanda’s ideals and passion to return India to its former glory have greatly influenced Savarkar and many neo-Hindu missionary movements since then. Tilak took Hindu nationalism to a new level by wedding it with politics, thereby bringing about politicized Hindu nationalism and earning himself the title ‘”Father of Indian Nationalism.” Nair comments that Tilak is known for bringing a militant attitude to the Hindu nationalistic movement, even preferring violence over non-violence if the situation warranted it (in that context, it was the freedom of India that they wanted to achieve). This attitude was adopted by organizations like the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Shiva Sena, etc., who seek to follow that same militant ideology today, even resorting to violence if necessary.[9]

V. D. Savarkar served as president of the Hindu Mahasabha from 1937 to 1943. His ideology of Hindutva laid the foundations for the modern-day impetus to pursue Hindu nationalism on a war footing. Prakash Louis says that according to Savarkar the essentials of Hindutva are rashtra (common nation), jati (a common race), and sanskriti (a common civilization). All these essentials can be summed by stating that India is not only a Pitribhu but also a Punyabhu.[10] Savarkar also proposed that Hinduism is a part of Hindutva and the latter embraces the entire gamut of social, cultural, political, and linguistic aspects of Hindu life. Pralay Kanungo also asserts that RSS have openly admitted that Hindu rashtra is at the core of its ideology.[11]

Keshav Baliram Hedgewar founded the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in 1925 with the aim of uniting the Hindus along nationalistic lines. Their outward aim of the RSS was to bring about awareness among Hindus of their heritage and destiny and to establish an egalitarian society; however, Louis claims that the real motive (and RSS’s key goal) was to maintain a Brahminical hegemony over the Dalits, backward classes, and the poor and oppressed.[12] This was evident in that the top brass of the RSS leadership all hailed from Brahminic descent and from wealthy families.

Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar succeeded Hedgewar in 1940 as the leader of RSS. Kurien Kunnumpuram quotes Golwarkar, who argued that Muslims, Christians, and communists were India’s internal enemies and so advocated that these so called “foreign races” must adopt Hindu culture and language, respect and hold in reverence Hindu religion, and merge themselves into Hindu culture and subordinate themselves to the Hindu nation.[13] Nair, quoting Golwarkar, says that “Christians and Muslims lack only one qualification to be included in Hindutva, which is that they do not regard this land as Punya Bhoomi (holy land).”[14] Historically in the past and leading up to independence, there was a growing animosity towards the British (who were perceived as Christian); this anti-Christian sentiment has continued into the post-independence era. The challenge to this day remains the spirit of Hindu nationalism, which is a major threat to the Christians and other minorities.

3. Shaping of Modern-Day Hindu Nationalism

Louis, commenting about the nature of the Sangh Parivar (Parivar meaning family) which consists of scores of Hindu fundamentalist organizations such as the Rashtriya SwayamSevak Sangh (RSS), Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Bajrang Dal (DB), Akhil Bharatiya Janata Party (ABVP), says:

The Sangh Parivar claims to be a cultural organization, but its actions are political, social and economic in nature. It also has long term plans to bend and mould the minds of the younger generation. Since, it is in power in the Center it has the finance and the political power to plan and to execute various actions through which it can influence the mindset of the future generations.[15]

The catch phrase of Sangh Parivar continues to be “One Nation, One Culture, One People” which in many ways epitomizes their main focus and agenda today. Louis says that the Sangh continues to present this agenda as a warning to the people to protect themselves from internal hostile forces who seek to threaten and destroy national unity and pride.[16] Their aim is to create a cultural hegemony so that the ruling class will continue to stay in power. By maintaining status quo, they will eliminate any so-called foreign forces (implying Christians and Muslims) that do not fit that caricature.

Another interesting move by the BJP and its allies is the focus on Swadeshi. Louis says that globalization and saffronization have gone hand in hand but at the expense of the common people.[17] The ruling class has continued to benefit from the rise of globalization, and this in reality has not helped the working class nor the Dalits and the backward castes. Along with globalization of the economy comes the globalization of culture leading to sectarian interests, communal interests of the elite, and dominant classes who alone have benefitted from exposure to technology, scientific discoveries, financial prosperity, etc. The common man, especially the Dalits, have been most negatively impacted. With open markets and free trade restrictions, says Louis, “sectarian interests, communal interest, interests of the dominant forces and the elite have triumphed over every attempt to build a secular and democratic ethos, society and state.”[18]

4. Challenges Posed by Hindu Nationalism to Christians

Louis claims, “The Indian state should be faulted for its ‘pseudo-secularism’ since it has not protected the rights of the minorities but has practiced a policy of encouraging co-existence of all forms of religious superstitions and obscurantism.”[19] He says that in spite of tactical differences between the Sangh organizations, a general consensus has emerged among them about the definition and implementation of Hindutva[20] and this is being spearheaded at various levels of society and politics. We will now examine some of the focus areas of the Sangh which pose major challenges to Christians.

4.1 Return to the Past Glories

Louis defines Hindutva as a “highly structured and complex belief system involving the interpretation of the past, an analysis of the present, and a set of precepts and imperatives for future conduct.”[21] By focusing on past glories and attempting to recreate them in various ways and means, Sangh’s aim is to whet the appetite of the general public to return to those days of glory. According to the Sangh, this will only come about through a united Hindu social system with a passionate allegiance to the Hindutva ideology and all it encompasses.

4.2 Denigrate Non-Indic Religions

Hindutva forces allege that Indian Christians are destroyers of Indian culture and have imbibed a foreign religion with its mannerisms, traditions, and culture. Christians have also been accused of putting religious affinity over and above nationalism. However, Nair argues that Christians in India are converts and can trace their ancestry in India; therefore, they cannot be seen or treated as foreigners.[22] As far as culture is concerned, Indian Christians and churches have made sincere efforts to enculturate Indian traditions and culture into their worship practices. In a democratic and secular country such as India, and with a tolerant and non-violent religion such as Hinduism, it is the Hindutva forces who are the destroyers of the culture of the nation. Hindutva proponents are at a loss to understand that there has never been a composite Hindu culture in India; rather, it has been an integration and amalgamation of multiple cultures that make up what India has been and is today. 

4.3 Unification of the Majority

According to Hindutva forces, the majority needs to unite; this is their logical conclusion and strategy in order to implement Hindu nationalism. Louis claims their aim is for Hindus to unite and exercise authority, precedence, and domination over others. He says that this agenda is evident in statements given by key Sangh leaders. For instance,  Ashok Singhal said, “If the Hindu sentiments sweep the country, the Muslims would realize that neither the police nor the government nor political parties would be able to save them from the wrath,” and L. K. Advani, after undertaking the radh-yatra, said, “Lok Shakti has triumphed over rashtra-shakti.[23] It is clearly evident that by invoking a nationalistic spirit and uniting the majority ruling class, the Hindutva forces seek to further their agenda.

4.4 Rewriting of History and the Constitution

The Hindutva forces are pushing to rewrite both the constitutional structure and Indian history to further their religious, cultural, and political agenda. The constitution that reflects the unity and diversity of India is used as the cornerstone that needs to be shaped in such a way to favor uniformity and intolerance, thereby robbing the diverse population of its uniqueness. The rewriting of history is a way of beginning to transplant this ideology in the educational system through schools, educational institutions, and universities. Louis notes that the Bharitiya Janata Party (BJP) is of the view that the school textbooks are flawed because they demonstrate the Muslims rulers as secular at the expense of Hindu rulers.[24] Emmanuel, quoting Dr. Amartya Sen, says that “the rewriting of India’s history serves the dual purpose of playing a role in providing a common basis for the diverse membership of the Sangh Parivar, and of helping to get fresh recruits to Hindu political activism, especially from the diaspora,” and so this has become a major priority in Hindutva politics.[25] All this is a ploy they have devised to educate the average Hindu about the nation’s past (albeit some of their theories remain unproven) and through that endeavor, to gain popular support to reshape and restructure the political, educational, and cultural schema of the country. As a result, they are in constant conflict with the nation’s secular, scientific, and professional historians, many of whom have labeled the current government as intolerant because of its stance of disallowing free speech and masquerading lies as the truth.

4.5 Political Pressure Tactics

Although claiming to be a non-political organization, the Sangh Parivar, especially the RSS, has been actively engaged in the politics of the nation. The top leadership of the RSS has a history of influencing politics. Louis says that although the RSS constitution prohibits overt political involvement, many workarounds have been developed to circumvent this, allowing the RSS to emerge as a political agent within the communal politics of India since the 1980s. By taking an active role in politics, the RSS continues to exert political pressure on the government to further its own agenda.[26]

5. Impact on Christian Mission Today

We will now briefly examine the key impacts that Hindutva has on Christian mission today under various headings.

5.1 Increasing Perception of Threat from Both Sides

Nair says Hindutva forces always viewed the Muslims and Christians as two internal threats with Christianity becoming the number one enemy after 1980. Hindutva probably believe that educated Hindus are likely to convert to Christianity rather than to Islam, and these converts can easily influence their friends[27] and so this became a major contention for the Hindutva forces. To them, this is a serious threat where there is a possibility that Hindus will gradually become a minority and lose their foothold in India. Nair also claims that the “main worry of Hindu forces is not conversion and evangelization but liberation theology.”[28] In other words, they are concerned about the Dalits developing socially, economically, and intellectually, which would put an end to their exploitation of that marginalized group.

The Christians also feel threatened because of the Hindutva forces’ intellectual bashing, intense persecution, and incitement of communal violence. As a peace-loving and peace-promoting religion, Christianity does not tolerate violence at the cost of religious sentiments; Christians feel threatened by Hindutva and reckon it to be a major force working against them in order to exterminate Christianity from India. Nair claims that Hindutva has become the number one hindrance for missionary work[29] and a threat to communal harmony and national unity.

5.2 Denial of Constitutional Rights

The right to practice and propagate one’s own religion was allowed as a fundamental right by the founders of India in order to keep the peace and harmony among its various religious adherents and to build the nation on foundations of secularism and democracy. Violations of these rights are unconstitutional and lead to disharmony and disrespect towards others. To legislate anti-conversion laws at this point of time in Indian history is to prevent people from exercising their fundamental right to profess their faith, propagate it, and exercise their freedom of religion. Emmanuel notes that countries which ban conversions inevitably become authoritarian regimes or autocratic monarchies.[30]

5.3 Anti-Conversion Stand and Religious Persecution

Conversion in the religious sphere has been happening for over 2000 years in Christianity, but it is not limited to Christianity. It is a phenomenon that is seen in many world religions, even those that were in place before Christianity came onto the scene. The Indian Christian community has only continued the long tradition of proselytizing seen in other religions such as Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Bahai, Animism, and Islam. Emmanuel says the core issue is not conversion but about educating, empowering, and allowing the lower classes of society to find dignity in their lives and professions.[31] This very aspect, Kunnumpuram says, is what the majority does not want so as to continue to subjugate certain sections of society and keep them in their former plight and attitude of servitude.[32]

Articles 19 and 25 in the Indian Constitution allows for freedom of religion and the right to choose any religion; therefore, Hindutva is not justified in asking Christians to stop propagating their religion. Emmanuel says that conversion is simply the acceptance of one set of beliefs in place of another; everyone has the right to accept the set of beliefs that he or she feels convinced and convicted about. No one can force anyone to accept or reject a set of beliefs.[33] When Christians do charitable works or engage themselves in social justice, this is often labeled by fundamentalists as strategies to facilitate conversion. The church, however, is simply fulfilling its divine mandate to care for the poor, needy, and underprivileged. A desire to serve the poor and marginalized, advocate for the justice of those unjustly oppressed, and defend the defenseless is characteristic of the Christian God who has demonstrated his care throughout history and specifically through the person of Jesus Christ on earth. It is the love of God bestowed on Christians which compels them to act in love to others.

Whilst grappling with anti-conversion laws, many parts of India have seen severe religious persecution over the past few decades, mainly focused in Orissa, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala and so on. This has included burning and demolition of churches, schools, hospitals, homes, and physical torture, abuse, rape, and murder of innocent and defenseless people.

5.4 Hindering Flow of Foreign Funds

Emmanuel claims that “government officials create many problems in granting various kinds of permission to Christian institutions.” One major hindrance, he states, is permission to receive foreign funds under the provision of the Foreign Contribution Regulatory Act (FCRA).[34] To this end, the government is strictly scrutinizing incoming funds to ensure that missionary activities are not advanced; in cases where they are, the government is attempting to stop the flow of funds to that agency so as to curtail missionary activities. Emmanuel points out that those who allege that Christian missionaries are converting the poor with the lure of money are themselves receiving funds from expat Indians committed to Hindu revival in India.[35]

6. Strategies to counter Hindu Nationalism

As a Christian community and those who are engaged in Christian mission, it is imperative that we rise to the occasion, engage with one another, and speak out against these atrocities that are being committed rather blatantly by Hindutva forces against the Christian community in India.

6.1 Showcase the Christian Community’s Contribution to India

Christians have contributed to the nation since the early years. Many have contributed to literary arts, translation work, medical services, education, life sciences, and so on. They have also played a major role in the country’s freedom struggle against the British. Emmanuel says that notable people such as Fr.Beschi, Camil Bulke, Herman Gundert, and Swami Abhishiktananda are examples of Christians who have tirelessly given of their time, efforts, and talents to the nation’s betterment. Indian Christians in their worship practices have made intentional efforts towards enculturation in the church by using local customs, traditions, and language.[36] The Indian Christian community is far from being anti-national; if anything, the Christian religion teaches submission to authorities, respecting and adhering to the law of the land.

6.2 Clarify the Fact that Christianity is Eastern and Has Indian Nationalism at Its Heart

Christianity is not western; to regard it as such shows the ignorance of the one who makes such a statement. Emmanuel claims that Christians have lived in India for over two thousand years.  They were born in India and accepted Christ into their lives; therefore, they cannot be seen as foreigners. For that matter, Christianity is older than some other Indic religions (e.g., Sikhism) and other non-Indic religions (e.g., Islam, Zorastrianism, etc.).[37] The perception that Christianity is anti-national also needs to be addressed. Nair quotes Arun Shourie, who claims that “for 150 years even as it served the interests of British imperialism, the Church tried to orient its Indian adherents away from Indian nationalism.”[38] This statement is far from the truth; Christianity has always been for Indian nationalism, just not for Hindu fundamentalism in the guise of Indian nationalism.

6.3 Show Honesty and Integrity in Reporting Facts and Figures

Although Christian mission leaders have often exaggerated their goals, visions, church membership records, and baptismal statistics, the fact remains that after two hundred years of British rule, Christians comprise only 2.3% of the population.[39] By exaggerating the number of people turning to Christ and becoming Christians, one can only create panic and fear among the Hindu fundamentalists and create unwarranted trouble for the Christian community.[40] It is also the fact that Christianity has found its locus among the poor, marginalized, and downtrodden of Indian society. Emmanuel says that to accuse the church’s divinely given commission of compassion which they use to benefit the poor and needy for the sake of conversion is baseless and far from the truth. Nair also agrees when he says that the “Hindutva forces believe that Christians have indirect motives behind these social actions especially among the tribal and lower caste people”; however, many of the Hindutva ideologues and their families have benefited from Christian social works, especially in areas of education and medicine, yet they criticize Christians for their own political advantage.[41] Kanungo says that although the Sangh uses the Niyogi report to prove its allegations against the Christian missionaries,[42] there has been no proven conviction in any of the five states that have passed the anti-conversion laws, so it is baseless for the RSS and the Sangh to raise this issue again and again.[43]

6.4 Avoid Controversial and Inflammatory Language

The use of Christian language and jargon such as crusades (to mean large public Christian evangelistic gatherings), conversions, regeneration, etc., is often misunderstood by Hindutva propagandists as well as the general Hindu public. This created a warmongering among the pro-Hindutva groups who then spare no effort to arrest, hinder, or downplay any events (public or private) that give them the slightest sense of being dominated, overrun, and overthrown.

6.5 Advocate for the Minorities in Courts and before the Government

Emmanuel states that “Hindu ideologues consider Christians as foreigners who want to proliferate their religion in India which is essentially a Hindu nation. But the fact is crystal clear that it is not Christians but Hindus who want to ‘saffronise’ the country so that they may have a separate identity, race and nation and go on oppressing the Dalits and tribals.”[44] Nair advocates for a humanistic nationalism rather than cultural nationalism because the former promotes liberty, equality, fraternity, and fellowship of human beings regardless of their culture or religious differences.”[45] A humanistic nationalism, in my opinion, is a suitable alternative to cultural nationalism because it seeks to provide dignity and value to all citizens on the basic fact that they are humans, disregarding their religion, sex, caste, creed, or language.

6.6 Training and Equipping of Mission Leaders, Pastors

Many pastors and leaders in rural and tribal areas lack the knowledge, exposure, and training required to understand the various manipulative devices that Hindutva forces engage to work against them. If they were better educated about the Hindutva ideologies, they may be able to be more sensitive in the way they conduct themselves, their congregations, and their ministry. Mission leaders and pastors should be proactive in understanding the current situation and work with the local congregation, politicians, and community in ensuring that the name of Christianity is not tarnished because of their behavior, attitudes, or conduct in the ministry. At the same time, they need to work together cross-denominationally and cross-organizationally so that they can work against the powers that seek to destabilize them through fear and manipulation.

6.7 Personal Evangelism and Lifestyle Witnessing

Rather than mass gatherings replete with soul-winning slogans and discriminatory language against the majority, it is of utmost importance to encourage one-to-one evangelism through friendly conversations and authentic relationships. The street corner preaching, tract distribution, and evangelistic rallies have had their impact in the past but may not be relevant to today’s political climate. It would be better for Christians to influence positively their schools, universities, and workplaces, endeavoring to share the Gospel through their incarnational living, building trust and authentic witness through word and deed.

6.8 Becoming Self-Sufficient

The Indian missions scenario has for too long been dependent on foreign missions resources and financial support. With an anti-Christian government in power, it is imperative that Christian mission organizations become more prudent as well as self-sufficient in their handling of finances and other resources. They must grow their donor base within the country rather than outside of it and seek to become self-sufficient. This would also give the indigenous supporters more ownership of the missional task ahead of them.

6.9 Promote the Beauty in Diversity

The Sangh Parivar wants to destroy the beautiful diversity of religions, cultures, and languages by propagating the idea of “one nation, one culture and one people.”[46] Emmanuel’s advice to Indian Christians is to show their pride in India’s ancient heritage – religious, ethical, philosophical traditions. Indian Christians should meet the challenge posed by Hindutvavadis by responding to Hindutva in an authentically Indian and Christian way. This can only come about by prompting a culture of harmony, strengthening their commitment to nation building and human rights, enhancing their solidarity with subaltern groups and supporting women’s movements an inter-religious dialogue.[47]

7. Conclusion

This essay has sought to briefly present the Hindutva ideology and its historical development leading up to the present time. Some of the thought processes behind these ideologies which have become major hindrances for the minorities in India have also been exposed. The resulting challenges as an outcome of this dominating and manipulative ideology both to the Christianity community and to Christian missions in general were elaborated upon. Finally, a missiological response to Hindutva was presented containing suggestions on how the Christian community as a whole and Christian mission in particular can continue to counter the forces of Hindutva with the aim of establishing and furthering the Kingdom of God in India and beyond. Whilst contemplating a long-term strategy, Christians must immediately unite and respond to the false allegations and misunderstandings prevalent about them in Indian society. To this end, it is important for a fair, unprovoked, and balanced research-based study of the political situation in India in order to counter forces that seek to demean, demoralize, and destroy Christianity. The need of the hour remains for Christians to join their hands and hearts together to continue to work for the betterment of the Indian nation as they have always done, trusting God to build and sustain His church as he has always done, and relying on Him for wisdom in how we can continue to show love and peace even to those who oppose us. Christian missions in India should use these very opportunities to witness and draw many more to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and His Gospel.

[1] S. L. Verma, Beyond Hindutva (Jaipur: Rawat, 2007), 93.

[2] Dominic Emmanuel, Christianity, Hindutva, Conversion (Indore: Sat Prakashan Sanchar Kendra, 2011), 19.

[3] M. T. Cherian, Hindutva Agenda and Minority Rights: A Christian Response (Bangalore: Centre for Contemporary Christianity, 2007), 178.

[4] Verma, Beyond Hindutva, 90–91.

[5] Tapan Basu and Pradip Datta, Khaki Shorts Saffron Flags (New Delhi: Orient Longman, 1993), 2.

[6] Shreekumaran Nair, “A Study on Hindutva Ideology and Practices with Special Reference to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh: A Missiological Assessment (1980 to 2007),” (M.Th thesis, South Asia Institute of Advanced Christian Studies, 2009), 19, 56.

[7] Nair, "Study on Hindutva Ideology," 20.

[8] Cherian, Hindutva Agenda, 166–67.

[9] Nair, "Study on Hindutva Ideology," 27.

[10] Prakash Louis, The Emerging Hindutva Force (New Delhi: Indian Social Institute, 2000), 36.

[11] Paralaya Kanungo, RSS’s Tryst with Politics: From Hedgewar to Sudharshan (Delhi: Manohar, 2002), 104.

[12] Louis, Emerging Hindutva Force, 38–39.

[13] Kurien Kunnumpuram, “The Challenge of Hindutva,” in Hindutva- An Indian Christian, ed. J. Mattam and S. Arockiadoss (Bangalore: Dharmaram publications, 2002), 289.

[14] Nair, "Study on Hindutva Ideology," 57.

[15] Louis, Emerging Hindutva Force, 30.

[16] Louis, Emerging Hindutva Force, 82.

[17] Louis, Emerging Hindutva Force, 166. The term “saffronization” refers to the attempts of right-wing Hindu nationalists to propagate an alternate recounting of Indian history and to establish national policies that enshrine Hindu cultural history.

[18] Louis, Emerging Hindutva Force, 210.

[19] Louis, Emerging Hindutva Force, 34.

[20] Louis, Emerging Hindutva Force, 32.

[21] Louis, Emerging Hindutva Force, 32.

[22] Nair, "Study on Hindutva Ideology," 70.

[23] Louis, Emerging Hindutva Force, 33.

[24] Louis, Emerging Hindutva Force, 216.

[25] Emmanuel, Christianity, Hindutva, Conversion, 23.

[26] Louis, Emerging Hindutva Force, 60-61.

[27] Nair, "Study on Hindutva Ideology," 57–58.

[28] Nair, "Study on Hindutva Ideology," 58.

[29] Nair, "Study on Hindutva Ideology," 77.

[30] Emmanuel, Christianity, Hindutva, Conversion, 77.

[31] Emmanuel, Christianity, Hindutva, Conversion,78–85.

[32] Kunnumpuram, “Challenge of Hindutva,” 291.

[33] Emmanuel, Christianity, Hindutva, Conversion, 86.

[34] Emmanuel, Christianity, Hindutva, Conversion, 113.

[35] Emmanuel, Christianity, Hindutva, Conversion, 97.

[36] Emmanuel, Christianity, Hindutva, Conversion, 6–7.

[37] Emmanuel, Christianity, Hindutva, Conversion, 4.

[38] Nair, "Study on Hindutva Ideology," 71.

[39] Emmanuel, Christianity, Hindutva, Conversion, 41.

[40] Nair, "Study on Hindutva Ideology," 53.

[41] Nair, "Study on Hindutva Ideology," 61.

[42] Kanungo, RSS’s Tryst with Politics, 246.

[43] Emmanuel, Christianity, Hindutva, Conversion, 43.

[44] Emmanuel, Christianity, Hindutva, Conversion, 34.

[45] Nair, "Study on Hindutva Ideology," 107.

[46] Emmanuel, Christianity, Hindutva, Conversion, 5.

[47] Emmanuel, Christianity, Hindutva, Conversion, 20.


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