The negative impact of Christian evangelism on Hindu society is well-known. The extent to which Christian missionaries have infiltrated into and expanded in remote areas has now come to light from OpIndia’s ground report from Chattisgarh’s Jashpur district. Villages that were once known for driving out pastors have now turned into places where Hindus find no place.
“Jashpur in Chhattisgarh is a major centre of Christian conversion. The first recorded incident of religious conversion of Hindus from the Scheduled Tribes category is in 1906. A memorial is also built in Khadkona in memory of the first lot of people of Korkotoli and Khadkona villages who became Christians. A total of 56 names are inscribed on it. It is reported that they were baptized on November 21, 1906”, notes OpIndia.
Saheb Kona is a place lying adjacent to a hill where an annual event is held for converted Hindus. According to locals, this is the place where missionaries arrived for the first time through the forests and mountains of present-day Jharkhand. This is also the place where conversion started.
The path leading to Khadkona village is dotted with wooden crosses at regular intervals. Cross Chowk lies at the entrance of Khadkona village. A monument on the mound in the village records the names of Hindus who converted to Christianity in 1906. The memorial was constructed to mark 100 years of conversion. The church in the village is said to have been built by Father Patras Toppo in 1984.
“There are 39 households in the village, of which 30-32 families are Christians. Most of them are farmers”, OpIndia quotes a native of the village Martin as saying. The report also notes that Ramesh Ram was the only Hindu they met in the village. Ramesh informed them that only five Hindu families remained in the village who found it difficult to find work.
Korkotoli is also a Christian-majority village where only 7 of the 35 families are Hindus. “She showed us the place where Christian missionaries reportedly had reached for the first time. She showed the waterfall, where her ancestors were baptized. She also showed us the cave through which the missionaries had escaped as the members of the royal family of Jashpur had arrived after knowing about the forced religious conversions”, OpIndia quotes Korotali native 65-year-old Kalabel as saying.
“Saheb people (proselytizers) used to come from Jharkhand and used to camp here. It was here that the people of the village were called. Earlier there was a dense forest here. A pilgrimage is held here every year on November 29″, says Kalabel. She also rued that converted Christians don’t draw any benefits as their ancestors did. She added that they get the same benefit the government gives.
“Khadkona or Korkotoli are not just villages. These places show us how Christian missionaries have infiltrated and expanded in remote forest areas. According to the 2011 census, about 22% of the Jashpur district’s population is Christian. According to local lawyer Ram Prakash Pandey, this number can be up to 30-40%”, says the OpIndia report.
Roadside crosses indicate Christian territories where only a few Hindus are left. It must be highlighted that government patronage has created such areas within so-called secular Bharat where the media isn’t allowed to freely ask questions as was experienced by OpIndia’s reporters. They were dissuaded from clicking photographs of the church and other spots related to Christian missionary activities. They were also not permitted to raise questions regarding the activities of evangelists.