Missionary activities have allegedly increased in Ooty with the support of the Nilgiris District Collector Smt. Innocent Divya. A couple, pastor Leo Johnson and his wife Jenifa Johnson, were confronted by Hindus when they were distributing Christian tracts in Bombay Castle area, Ooty. They were asked to not to do proselytization in a Hindu majority area and instead go to churches, prayer halls and Christian houses.
In a video going viral on social media, locals are seen arguing as to who gave permission to the duo to go house by house in a Hindu majority area to distribute Christian pamphlets & preaching the gospel. One man asks whether it’s the District collector or the Superintendent of Police that gave permission and alleges that as the collector is a Christian she might have done so. A passer by woman says, “Do we (Hindus) come to your houses asking you to convert? Why are you doing this?”
Since the couple were distributing religious material and preaching, the men asked them to apply Vibhuti in return. The Synod of Pentecostal churches, a radical Protestant group known for hate-mongering proselytisation, gathered in support of the pastor and complained to the District Collector. They have threatened to protest with help from other minority organisations if the district administration fails to arrest Hindu Munnani people they claim to be behind the act of stopping proselytisation. The Pentecostals claim to be dismayed that the couple was forced to apply Vibhuti, allegedly ‘insulting their religious beliefs and demeaning their religion’.
Moreover, Hindus in the video can be heard saying that it has become difficult for them to obtain permission for public meetings/rallies and face restrictions because of missionaries’ influence on authorities.
The collector called a press conference to deny the charge that she is backing missionaries and warned of legal action against those who spread ‘misinformation’ about her or the district administration. She informed that she has filed a case with the cyber crime police. The Hindu reported that she further said “journalists of ‘non-accredited’ news publications and posts on social media, had wrongly accused her of irregularities in granting building permissions”.
DC Innocent Divya has been accused of granting license to Good Shepherd International School for construction of a 5000 sq.ft building for an amount of Rs. 10 Crore as bribe. The social media post against which the school management filed a complaint alleged that ‘the Nilgiris district was becoming a hub for various anti-social activities, including deforestation and illegal money transactions through NGOs.’
It also carried the picture of the collector without any mention about her name or post. The school management said that they obtained permission for the building 2 years ago and the process was initiated 4 years ago, before DC Innocent Divya was transferred to Ooty.
Chief coordinator of Tamil Nadu Christians Council and Loving Lord Ministries minister, CJ Zeba boasted on FB that missionaries distributed Christian tracts in the same place where pastor John was made to wear Vibhuti. He also posted a video of John proclaiming that Jesus has grown more in him after the incident and he will work even more zealously in future.
Pastor John runs an assembly which convenes once a month in their building (whether it is a licensed prayer hall or a residence converted as a prayer hall is unclear) and gathers in the followers’ houses for regular prayers. CJ Zeba requested that fellow pastors should invite John to their assemblies to show solidarity. It appears that the brazenness of evangelists citing Article 25 of Constitution will not stop in the near future, and such reactions on ground by local Hindus need to take a larger form to end this social menace of proselytisation which is ripping apart social harmony.
Tribals/indigenous people complain against missionary hate-mongering & administrative harassment
As for the Collector, while she is being lauded for her actions in tackling the environmental issues like coming down on illegal construction, reclaiming the elephant corridor, enforcing plastic ban strictly etc., in some cases the public has accused her of targeted harassment. The homestay and bed & breakfast owners said that despite approaching the authorities to get the essential approvals, they were told that they do not need anything. But they were later served notices stating their businesses were illegal.
In another incident, the indigenous people of the Nilgiri mountains, the Irulars (a scheduled tribe), were evicted from their houses as the houses were built along the elephant corridor as claimed by the administration. The houses built with recycled bamboo, straw and mud were destroyed with police protection. While the Collector said that they have identified land for their replacement, Irulars lament that the small houses built by the government decades ago aren’t spacious enough to accommodate their growing families as the community live as a joint family.
The Hindu reports –
‘A. Kannammal, a daily wage worker, said, “We are surrounded by cottages built by recent immigrants. Our houses are made of recycled bamboo, straw and mud, and have no basic amenities. But they say only these houses are in the elephant corridor and not the huge private cottages and resorts.”
B. Sita, another resident, said that living in the cramped government houses had become extremely difficult. “I have four sons, all of whom are married, and we all live together in the same single bedroom house. So it’s obvious why we would want to retake our lands,” she said.’
The Badaga community, which faces severe threat from the missionaries, has sent a petition to CM’s special cell.
The petition filed by Badaga Youth Council states,
‘There are more than 400 villages where Badagas live in majority. All of them follow the Hindu way of life; the villages house temples for Kula devatas, guardian and forest/nature gods. Recently few unidentified Christian terrorists have come into our villages and preach in an inciting manner saying ‘there are no Hindu Gods; temples are the abode of Satan’ etc. Our villagers evicted them.
Since some evangelist terrorists bring Bible and tracts calling our Kula devatas as Satan with the aim of conversion, there is chance of law and order issues arising and altercations. It is distressing that even after giving petition many a time, there has been no reaction from the administration. It is surprising to who is backing these people who try to initiate communal conflict. We request you to take action so that evangelist don’t enter Badaga villages.’
Here is the link to an earlier post on Badaga community’s hardships in tackling the evangelists.
When it comes to religious freedom, it appears to be a one-way street in Bharat, a so called secular country. Article 25 and unregulated FCRA inflow enables the Abrahamic fundamentalist bigots to engage in unrestricted atrocities against Hindus and practitioners of other native Indic belief systems like tribals – these people have co-existed harmoniously & maintained their rich traditions for millennia, but are today on the verge of cultural extinction and could suffer the same fate as the now extinct tribes of North & South America if Bharat doesn’t act soon.
- The Hindu Article 1, Article 2, Article 3, Article 4
- The Times of India Article 1, Article 2
- Deccan Chronicle
- Facebook story
Did you find this article useful? We’re a non-profit. Make a donation and help pay for our journalism.