A delegation of Rashtriya Isai Manch Sangh (RIMS), headed by Father Anand Muttungal, met the Law Minister of Madhya Pradesh, PC Sharma, on Thursday. He said that the Minister had agreed to withdraw the ‘false cases’ of conversions against Christians, according to Daily Pioneer.
“We briefed him that the BJP-led Government in Madhya Pradesh had persecuted Christians in the name of conversion to take revenge as they believed that Christians were supporters of the Congress,” The Free Press Journal (FPJ) quoted Muttungal as saying. “The BJP and other right-wing organisations believe that Christians and those drawing benefit from the works carried out by Christians too will support the Congress and so they used all means to stop Christian activities in the state,” he is reported to have said.
RIMS’ spokesperson Richard James said as per FPJ, “There have been about 264 cases in the state during 15 years of BJP rule in the state. The organization supporting the BJP has taken help from the police and administration to persecute Christians working in the field of social work, education and religious activities. They have used power to defame Christians and stop the works done by them for the poor.”
Muttungal has been at the forefront of demanding special concessions for the Christian community in the state. In 2016, he had claimed that Christians are “systematically being sidelined” from government quotas for religious minorities. He remarked that the over 90% of these benefits go to the Muslim community.
In 2017, Muttungal denied that Christian missionaries indulge in religious conversions despite great evidence to the contrary. “Christians live as a very microscopic minority in the villages dominated by the Hindu community,” he said. “It’s impossible to deceitfully or forcibly convert any Hindu to Christianity. The charges against the churches by the RSS and other Hindu outfits have been there for 25 or 30 years. But till today, not even in a single charge has been proved in any legal system of the country.”
In an article on his website, Muttungal emphasized that worshipping ‘Bharat Mata’ as a Goddess is an “aggression” against monotheistic cults. But he added that Christian authorities need to come up with a special prayer for ‘Bharat Mata’ who should be conceptualized as a religion-less entity to “further establish” the Church in India.
Although Muttungal claims that Christian missionaries do not deceitfully convert Hindus, in an undated article on his website, he highly appreciates a “barefooted saffron clad priest” who seeks to convert people. Another “creative mission” that he appreciated was one where a club was started by a missionary with facilities such as “coffee, snacks, free internet, a library for books, music, videos games, pool tables etc.” He then states, “The word of God is open to them in different forms and he (the missionary) says a few are getting attracted to Jesus.”
Muttungal appears to harbour a deep-seated hatred for the RSS. He writes about them, “They have exploited the religious sentiments of devout Hindus with the ulterior motive of planting themselves into all sections of the society. They have managed to have their people from village secretaries to the highest offices in the country. They have their people in all political parties, socio-cultural organizations, literal and scientific field, educational, industry and all possible sections we can think of. They have hovered over the whole nation like an octopus tightening its arms over people to breathlessness. They have become the most feared force challenging the Constitution and Governments. A terrorist attack kills a few people but what about this organization which poisons the minds of millions. If we tend to believe that there could be some truth in these allegations, then we need to answer the question, Is RSS a Nationalist organization?”
On another occasion, he accuses the RSS of trying to ‘convert’ tribals to Hindus and eroding their culture while ignoring the Christian missionary activities that present a great threat to the way of life of tribals. He stated, “Sangh Parivar organizes all kinds of Melas in areas legally protected to preserve the traditions and cultures of tribals and other aboriginals under Scheduled Five of Constitution. Media widely reported that tribal farmers’ land is forcefully attached for the use of Mela, their original culture, environmental laws are violated and religious practices are vitiated etc. They incited local residents to rise against followers of other religious followers and political ideologies.”
In 2011, in an open letter to the Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Muttungal appealed “to introduce an all religious prayer in inauguration, foundation stone laying ceremonies etc. in government programmes or programmes that utilizes taxpayers’ money instead of the current practice of reciting the prayers from one religion, to uphold the secular values of the constitution, if at all the government wishes to have religious prayer. However, it would be more appropriate to evolve a purely secular form of inauguration/foundation laying ceremony.” It appears to be a thinly veiled appeal for the de-Hinduization of such cultural practices in a country whose native culture is derived from Sanatana Dharma.
Muttungal, naturally, isn’t a huge fan of Prime Minister Narendra Modi as well. In an article which appears to have been penned when the latter was still the Chief Minister of Gujarat, he describes Modi as a man “who spit venom against the minorities”. Regarding Modi’s appeal for communal harmony, Muttungal stated, “It can also be interpreted as the faith of a sinner who undergoes mental tension and depression then he decides to turn to the mercy of God for forgiveness and absolution from his grave sins committed against the innocents. So that he can start afresh a new life dedicated to serving the peoples regardless of creed, class and caste. It gives us hope that all those fundamentalists who used violence to harm and kill innocents too may come into fasting and asking for forgiveness. Let the whole world call it a political stunt but in the coming days the so-called Sadbhavana (Communal harmony) concept thrown by him is going to be playing a central stage in the religio-political history of India.”
In another undated article, he urges the Vatican to devise a clear strategy for Christians to gain political power in India. He wrote, “It is the right time that Church heads to plan for a clear policy on promoting the motivated Christian and Christian friendly youths into the political leadership. Vatican Council II has clearly said that evangelization and development of the ecclesial community is the only and fundamental duty entrusted to the priests, nuns and bishops but the laity are entrusted the world to be developed into a better place for inhabitants. If we plan well today, maybe after a quarter of a century; Christians will come up themselves to the post of the Prime Minister and President of this Country.”
In light of his articles, it appears Muttungal’s meeting with the Law Minister of the newly elected Congress government in Madhya Pradesh is intended to further the Christian evangelical agenda in India. There appears to have been some sort of pressure from the erstwhile BJP government on missionaries but with the Congress in power, which is perceived as ‘secular’ and thus more sympathetic to them, Christian missionaries are seeking assurance from the Congress government that their missionary activities will not be hampered by them.