Assam missionaries face ‘conversion’ flak
Author: Samudra Gupta Kashyap
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: June 6, 2001
Vaishnavite satras (monasteries) have accused Christian missionaries in Assam with converting Assamese tribals and tea plantation labourers forcibly.
Missionaries are luring people with material benefits and threatening use of force, Narayan Chandra Deva Goswami, newly elected president of the Asom Satra Mahasabha, apex body of over 200 satras, said.
”Most recent converts in Assam are poor; mostly illiterate tribals and labourers. In some instances, Christian missionaries are encouraging secession…,”
Goswami, also satradhikar or chief of the Natun Kamlabari satra at Majuli, said. He drew attention to Majuli, an island on the Brahmaputra and a seat of Vaishnavite culture and religion, where missing tribals are either lured to or forced to convert.
”There is nothing wrong in wilful conversion, but forcible conversions cannot be tolerated,” he said. Majuli, incidentally, is the place from where the Vaishnavite satradhikars had, way back in 1826, started the resistance movement against Christianity, after the Baptist mission launched Orunodoi, the first newspaper in Assamese that primarily propagated Christianity.
The Church reacted sharply to the accusations and described them as baseless. Father George Plathottam, director, Don Bosco Communications, Gauhati, said: ”Those making these charges are either ignorant of the Church’s contribution to Assamese society or have fallen into the hands of a bigger design against Christianity.
”Religion is a matter of choice and we have never compelled anyone to become Christians.” He said the charges by a learned satradhikar is unexpected and uncalled for.
Plathottam even lauded the satras and said the Church was willing to work with them to uplift the poor.