INDIAN CHRISTIANS & INDIAN INDEPENDENCE

The 72nd Republic Day & Invitation to PM Borris Johnson , by PM Narendra Modi or the fly-past of Dassualt Raffales reminds me of the British & French contribution in developing India , in many ways, one of which is through the Christian missionaries

The presence of Christianity in India is aged almost two thousand years commencing from the arrival of St.Thomas, one of the Apostle of Jesus Christ and martyred in 72 A.D. in Chinnamalai, Mylapore Chennai.

Commenting the contributions made by Christians Dr.Rajendra Prasad said on December 18, 1955, “Remember, St.Thomas came to India when many of the countries of Europe had not yet become Christians, and so those Indian who trace their Christianity to him have a longer history and a higher ancestry than that of Christians of many of European countries. And it is really a matter of pride to us that it is so happened”.

The middle ages of Christianity in India marked with the arrival of Fraciscan John Monte Corvino in the year 1291. But history was created by Vasco Da Gama.

William Carey and his team studied Indian languages and translated Bible. In 1802 Bengali translation of Mahabharata and Ramayana was published by Carey. In 1818 Bengali newspaper was published in vernacular language as a means of social education. Carey’s contribution as a social reformer is unforgettable. He pioneered the movement that led to the abolition of the inhuman practice of Sati. He relentlessly fought against other social evils such as infanticide and caste system. Alaxander Duff played significant role in the foundation of Calcutta University and influenced the thinking of Raja Ram Mohan Roy. St. Xavier’s college (1835), La Martiniers in 1836 etc are among few colleges that missionaries started as part of their contribution to the society.

The modern day elementary school system was almost entirely built by Christians in India .William Butterworth Bayley, the then Chief Secretary to the Bengal Government and an active supporter of the educational experiments of the period, examined the Government-supported schools at Chinsura in 1821 and reported that many of the senior boys showed ‘a great facility in reading, in writing and arithmetic’, but they left school too early — owing to their parents1 desire for them to earn — for there to be much hope of educating them further.^ George Mundy, Pearson’s successor as superintendent, wrote in Economic factors affected the pathsalas it was only during the British rule that education spread in a somewhat organized manner in India. The western ideas of liberty, equality and fraternity began to attract the educated youth. The period 1813–1833 can be termed as, the period of Elementary Schools wherein the focus was on elementary schools and primarily teaching was done through the medium of vernacular language. By 1818 the Serampore Missionaries established more than 100 schools with about 10,000 boys. However, in the period 1833–1857, the emphasis was shifted to secondary schools and colleges imparted through the medium of English language. It was during this period that some of the outstanding Christian colleges came into the forefront in India — St. Xavier’s College in Kolkatta (1835), the Madras Christian College (1837), Robert T. Noble at Masulipatnam (which later was named as Noble College) (1843), Hislop College at Nagpur (1844), and St. John’s College in Agra (1853)13 are highly reputed to this day. Till the beginning of the twentieth century Christian educational institutions had played a dominant role in the education of young Indians. After independence there has been a substantial involvement of the Christian missions and churches in education. In 2000, Christian colleges number about 250 out of the 11,089 colleges in India14. These pervasive institutional commitments encouraged Christians and non-Christians alike who entered these colleges to be sensitive to the needs of the society and aware of social evils which plagued India then . .

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”.( Nelson Mandela) and it is this Education that has played a prominent role in the awakening and fostering of nationalism, which led to the autonomy and independence of many former colonized countries around the world. I believe that this Education helped Indians realize the needs more quickly , including the need of Swaraj , vis a vis the need for Independence and a co ordinate approach to attain it Education has played a major role in shaping the leaders, which in turn directed the society for the common goal of Independence.

Prominent Indian leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, B.R. Ambedkar, Dadabai Nauroji, Surendra Nath Banerjee, M.G Ranade, K C Telang, and others studied in prestigious institutions in London and South Africa and were influenced by the democratic ideas and movements which they studied and observed during their studies abroad. These leaders came together in India to form various associations and discussed the conditions at various levels of society, where already may members were educated by the Christian Missionaries , and so it was easy for them to proliferate their thoughts on the requirement of an Independent India .

Education gave the Indians the confidence to question the British and also helped them to pave the path for Independence. These leaders emphasized ‘Economic Impact of British Rule’ and concluded that the British were draining India of her wealth through taxes and other means. Without education, it might not have been possible for Indian leaders to raise their voice against Britain.

In the case of Civil disobedience, Bombay Christian movement in its first resolution stated that Members of Indian Christian community were one with other communities in their desire to win complete Swaraj.

My honest submission shall remain incomplete if I do not name the prominent Indian Christians who actively participated for the Independent of India , and I must start with Panditha Ramabai Saraswati (1858–1922) . In the 1889 Congress session there were ten Christian delegates of which Pandita Ramabai Saraswati was one. She was one of the first Indians who championed the right of women to participate in national politics, eloquently articulating the pitiable history of Indian womanhood. Ramabai also played an important role in the third session of the National Social Conference in 1889 at which she supported a resolution condemning the practice of disfiguring the Hindu widows.

My small tribute to Indian Christians shall remain vague if I don’t name the famous Kali Charan Banerjee who was considered one of the great leaders and founders of ‘the movement for emancipation’. A writer of the third session of the Congress in 1887 noted, ‘Perhaps the finest orator in the whole assembly was Babu Kali Charan Banerjee, who is a Bengali Christian’. In the 1889 session, he was responsible for a resolution demanding improvement in the educational systems particularly university education. He was also instrumental in 1889 in protesting against the prohibition imposed by the government on teachers participating in political movements. In 1896, Banerjee again presented a resolution demanding improvement in the educational system, especially the university education in the country.

Others who were equally important are Brahmabandhab Upadhyay (George Thomas), the ‘Hindu Catholic’ sadhu and theologian was a leading player in the Swadeshi movement, and he was prosecuted on a charge of sedition in 1907,J.C.Kumarappa (original name John Jesudason Cornelius, 1892–1960) was a veteran Congress leader, a strong supporter of Satyagraha, and encouraged Christian participation in the national movement. Paul Ramasamy (b.1906) who took part in the freedom struggle.. He picketed the Bishop Herber College, Thiruchirappalli and was arrested and sentenced to six months of imprisonment and was kept at Thiruchirapalli and Alipuram jails.

There are many more , which one can easily find going through the pages of History but the moot purpose today was paying Tribute and upholding Truth ( SATYAMEVA JAYATE ) to all including the Christians, who did so much , but may be getting lost in the din and bustle of everyday politics and who should be revered for ever .

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Dr Gautam Ghosh

Dr Gautam Ghosh

Dr Ghosh is often referred to as the moving think tank of Asia . A Prolific Author,, Proficient Advocate , Philanthropist, -a public figure loved by most