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India and Britain: A Study in Contrast

A. J. Philip A. J. Philip
19 Dec 2022
True, Britain ruled this country for about 200 years. It was a business enterprise for them. Conversion was not their aim.

Christmas reminds me of the census. The Bible says that Joseph and his heavily pregnant wife Mary left their home in Nazareth in Galilee to take part in the census ordered by the Roman Emperor. That is how they reached Bethlehem where Jesus was born two millennia ago.

On November 30, 2022, newspapers carried reports about the 2021 census in Britain which showed that in England and Wales, Christians were no longer in majority. The Covid-19 pandemic had delayed the census in Scotland. The findings there are unlikely to alter the overall picture.

The census figures have huge implications for Britain. That is what I thought. I expected The Economist to do a cover story and publish a leader on the subject. Nothing of the sort happened. It was reduced to one of the stories in the British section of the weekly magazine, my favourite for many decades.

According to the 2011 Indian census, Christian population showed the lowest growth rate among the adherents of the first three religions. Yet, the most powerful Indian state has been doing everything possible to harass Christians who consider it their duty to propagate their religion, a right the Constitution of India grants under Article 25.

As many as 11 states have enacted what is euphemistically called the Freedom of Religion laws to ban conversions. As if they are not sufficient, the Supreme Court is now hearing a petition on why a national law is not necessary to fight the evil of conversion. A learned Judge thinks that if a few people change their religion, it will undermine the security of the nation.

Recently, the state of Uttarakhand thought it necessary to strengthen the anti-conversion law. Such strengthening of laws can go to ridiculous extent as in Karnataka.

For instance, the punishment for converting anyone is doubled in the case of mass conversion. I know about only two mass conversions. One was when Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity in the Fourth Century AD and when Dr BR Ambedkar converted to Buddhism in the 20th century.

The lawmakers in Karnataka have brought the bar of mass conversion so low that mass conversion is defined as “conversion of two or more people”. If a couple converts, it is treated as “mass conversion”. Samuel Johnson, the great lexicographer, would have turned in his grave when he heard about the new definition.

Allurements have also been defined. If a Dalit child is admitted to a good school and taught there, it would be considered an allurement. If the same child is allowed to study in a rotten school, it is not an “allurement”.

The fact of the matter is that the proponents of Hindutva do not want the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes to get educated so that they are not deprived of cheap labour. Jesuit Stan Swamy became an enemy who needed to be killed in police custody because he tried to empower the tribals.

That is what they dislike — empowerment of the poor and the socially and culturally oppressed. I remember listening to a two-term Dalit MP saying that he always carried a glass with him so that when he went to an upper caste person’s house, he could have water in his own glass. 

“That is our tradition”, he said without realising that such traditions need to be broken, not perpetuated. Hindus constitute over 80 per cent of the population. Top officials from the President to the Governors belong to this community. Yet, they are so scared of a 2.8 percent Christian population, a majority of whom are poor, that they are thinking of a national law to ban conversion.

Paranoia is artificially constructed. In 1909, Lt. Col. UN Mukerji wrote a book titled “Hindu: A Dying Race”. He argued that in less than a hundred years Hindus will become a minority. Let me quote his colourful lines, “The Maoris of New Zealand and the natives of the US and Hispaniola disappeared following foreign invasions: We are also a decaying race. Every census reveals the same fact. We are getting proportionally fewer and fewer”.

Mukerji feared the Muslims. The 2011 census showed that the highest decline in the growth rate was among the Muslims. One hundred and thirteen years after his book appeared, the Hindus’ numerical strength remains as strong as ever. Yet, every day, at least two false cases are registered against Christian workers and pastors in the country. 

I say false because despite the anti-conversion laws existing in several states like Madhya Pradesh and Odisha for more than half a century, not a single Christian has been convicted for forced conversion. Yet, thousands of Christians were arrested, harassed and incarcerated on false charges. Now, let us know how Britain is coping with the “demographic imbalance”!

True, Britain ruled this country for about 200 years. It was a business enterprise for them. Conversion was not their aim. It is also true that many Christians of Britain thought it necessary to leave the comforts of their native land to work in India. One of them was William Carey, whom the British authorities did not even allow to step on the Indian soil.

He, therefore, went to Dutch-ruled Serampore where he set up, first, a school, then, a printing press and started publishing the Friend of India, from which descended The Statesman. 

It was the setting up of the universities in Calcutta, Bombay and Madras which enabled Indians to think nationally and eventually demand freedom. The Indian National Congress and even the RSS, founded in 1925, were the result of the sense of nationalism these universities instilled in the minds of the young people.

Now, let’s return to Britain and the census there. When Rishi Sunak became the Conservative Party leader and Prime Minister of Britain in October, the media in India, especially the social media, celebrated the event as if India had taken over Britain.

Sunak is a citizen of Britain, his parents having settled down there. The British have no difficulty in recognising talent. VP Menon was not even a matriculate but that did not prevent the British from recognising his talent and making him the Secretary of States, the highest post an Indian could occupy in the British civil service.

As the right-hand man of Sardar Patel, he integrated over 500 Indian native states into what is now India. Recently, an election for the post of president of the Indian National Congress was held. Shashi Tharoor, MP lost the election, though his supporters, like Donald Trump’s hardcore supporters, think that he won. There was a leader who was elected thrice to the post of Congress president. He was Dadabhai Naoroji. He became the 2nd, 9th and 22nd president of the Congress.

Thereafter, he went to England, joined the Labour Party there and got elected to the House of Commons from 1892 to 1895. The British Empire was still where the Sun never set. Nobody questioned his credentials to represent the constituency he represented in Britain on the plea that his heart was in India, not Britain.

On the contrary, we had a leader in late Sushma Swaraj who said that she would tonsure her head and sleep on the floor for as long as Sonia Gandhi remained the Prime Minister. It was an emotional blackmail to prevent her from becoming the Prime Minister. The poor lady did not know that Mrs Gandhi had a better plan up her sleeve.

The British census is quite revelatory. The highest growth rate was recorded by the Indians, who now constitute 7 per cent of the population. Needless to mention, a majority of them are Hindus, including the cow-worshipping wife of Rishi Sunak, who also happens to be the daughter of multi-billionaire NR Narayana Murthy and his wife Sudha Murthy.

How did Britain become a non-Christian nation? The 2011 census showed that it was a marginally Christian nation. In other words, the Christian majority was very thin. True, the appeal of the church has been waning, though the values it fostered continue to remain strong.

For instance, in a public library, the readers are expected to pick up the books of their choice after filling up the book numbers and their membership number on a card to be deposited in a box. There is nobody to frisk them. Similarly, the bus driver himself issues the ticket and collects the fare. There is no conductor or checker or what is called a “flying squad”.

In contrast, thousands of ticketless passengers were caught when a surprise check was conducted on Western and Central Railways in Mumbai as recently as a few weeks ago.

Britain has had a census since 1841. People are encouraged to tell the truth. Is that the case in India? If a Scheduled Caste person who considers Jesus as his personal saviour admits that he is a Christian, the government will immediately stop the benefit of reservation to him.

If the Scheduled Caste Christian is beaten up by upper caste Hindus, he will not be able to get the benefit of the Act that specially protects Scheduled Castes from such atrocities. Falsehood is what the state in India thrives on.

It denies reservation to Christians on the plea that Christianity is an egalitarian religion. Sikhism and Jainism are also egalitarian religions but those who claim to be Scheduled Castes among them are entitled to reservation. It is also a state which fabricates evidence to “kill in custody” a person like Stan Swamy.

In Britain, the citizen does not have to fear any retribution when he honestly says that he has “no religion”. Surveys have shown that only 5 percent of the population attends church service. In a city like London, if the pews of the churches are full, it is because of immigration. Christians from places like India who reach there tend to attend churches. Like whenever I go abroad, I like to attend the nearest church on Sundays. That is how I attended a Black church in Johannesburg one Sunday morning.

The number of people who described themselves as without religion grew by 57 percent from the number in 2011. The ethnic and religious makeup of Britain has been undergoing a metamorphosis. In London, for instance, white Britons constitute only 37 percent. Together with other whites, the figure of the white goes up slightly over the median by 2 percent.

Now that Britain is no longer Christian, demands are bound to be made to make some Constitutional changes. For instance, 25 seats are reserved for the bishops of the Church of England in the House of Lords, the Upper House of British Parliament.

Recently, when Queen Elizabeth was given a funeral, it was in accordance with the rites of the Protestant faith. After all, she was also the head of the Church of England and Defender of the Faith. Tens of thousands of people attended the funeral. It is a moot point how many of them would have prayed for her soul. They were there to express their grief.

In May next, the coronation of King Charles will happen. It remains to be seen whether he would be declared the defender of the faith or the defender of all faiths. The latter would be more appropriate as Britain that his mother bequeathed to him is not the Britain her father King George VI bequeathed to her in 1952. Today, King Charles has a Hindu Prime Minister to report to him and a Muslim Mayor to look after the needs of London.

These are not issues of any concern to the average British citizen, who is more bothered about the war in Ukraine making his life miserable with prices of fuel going through the roof. On the contrary, we in India use our energy to change all the Islamic names of places and institutions, pass laws against non-essential issues like triple talaq, appoint committees as in Maharashtra to monitor how persons involved in interfaith marriages lead their personal lives and find new ways to keep the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes under subjugation.

ajphilip@gmail.com

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