There are times in the history of the world when all life seems still and there is peace in the land. Then, all of a sudden, life seems to be exploding all around making one wonder what it is all about. Presently, at least in India, tectonic changes seen to be occurring in the religious field, with Islamic terrorists under various guises spreading terror with serial bombing in Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Mumbai and Delhi, and supposed Hindu fundamentalists attacking churches in Orissa and Karnataka.
Charges and counter-charges are flying thick and fast and Hindus in general are being loaded with an immense sense of guilt. Being ashamed of dishonorable acts is an essential part of the Hindu psyche and the pain is furthere deepened not only by minority leaders but also by so-called ?secularists? ignorant of history.
It is against this background that one must demand a White Paper on the role of missionaries in India. Parliament must demand information on the number of Christian missionaries functioning in India, the number of churches that have sprung up in every state, especially in tribal and other backward regions and the amount of money received from abroad by missionary organisations in the last quarter of a century. A full account should be submitted by the central government and each state on the number of schools, clinics, hospitals etc raised throughout the country and the number of conversions?if any?that have taken place.
Meanwhile, Church leaders should be told in clear terms that no decent Hindu would ever harm or damage any church or masjid, that they have a glorious record of tolerance in this regard and any effort by minority leaders to damage Hindu reputation would be unacceptable. It is in this connection that one is forced to look back into history and examine the role of the Catholic Church in centuries past. This is not the place to recollect that Vasco da Gama, a brute if their ever was one, did when he landed in Calicut and became the first Christian terrorist. That is another beastly story. The Portuguese established their presence in Goa in 1510. By 1543 they were able to extend their control over Salcette, Marmagoa and Bardez. Within decades they had occupied many parts of the west coast.
According to their own records. Fransiscan friars destroyed 300 Hindu temples in Bardez and Jesuits destroyed 280 in Salcette. In all 601 temples in 131 villages were destroyed. St Xavier, after whom many schools and colleges are named in India, came to the country with the firm resolve to uproot ?paganism?. He wrote back home: ?As soon as I arrived in any heathen village, when all are baptized, I order all the temples of their false gods to be destroyed and all the idols to the broken into pieces. I can give you no idea of the joy I feel in seeing this done?.
According to a Christian historian, Dr T.F.de Souza (Portuguese Studies, Vol. 19 No. 1, pp 205-212, Modern Humanities Research Association) ?at least from 1540 onwards and in the island of Goa before that year, all the Hindu idols had been annihilated or had disappeared, all the temples had been destroyed and their sites and building material was in most cases utilised to erect new Christian churches and chapels. Various Vicergal and Church Council decrees banished the Hindu priests from the Portuguese territories. The public practice of Hindu rites, including marriage rites, were banned?. There is more of the same. Mass baptisms were held. Hindus innocently walking down the streets would be seized, their lips would besmeared with a piece of beef that would turn them automatically into ?untouchables?, thereafter to be converted to Christianity.
To make matters worse, the Catholic Church in Goa took resort to Inquisition which lasted from 1560 to 1812 with a short break when Hindus would be caught, brutally interrogated, flogged and slowly dismembered in front of their relatives. Eyelids would be sliced off and extremities would be amputated carefully. The record of what happened during two centuries and a half of murderous Inquisition needs to be opened up for public consumption. So also should the story be recounted on how Hindus were treated as worse than animals.
According to the rules laid down by the Roman Catholic Church, the instruments for Hindu songs shall not be played on a day prior to a wedding, rice must not be husked, spices must not be pounded, grains must not be ground, ceremonial meals must not be served for the peace of the dead, there should not be any fasting on Ekaadashi day, no rituals should be performed on the twelfth day after a person'sdeath etc. etc. It is a long list. There were orders not to plant the tulsi in the house compounds and Goa is the only place in all of India where a cross is planted in the designated place meant for the tulsi. An order was issued in June 1684 criminating Konkani language from every day life with insistence that all communication be done in Portuguese. The law provided for dealing toughly with anyone using their mother tongue.
So vicious was the order imposed that many Hindus, converted to Roman Catholicity felt it unbearable to live in Goa and went down south as far as Mangalore and beyond. To this day the Catholics are proud of their mother tongues. The then Archbishop living on the banks of the Ethora described the post of the Inquiry Commission in Goa as ?holy?, thus giving a religious imprint on terrorism.
The women who opposed the assistants of the Commission were put behind bars and were used by them to satisfy their animal instincts. Then they were burnt alive, as opponents of the established tenets of the Catholic Church, no doubt in full knowledge of the Pope. Those Hindus?especially the Gowd Saraswat Brahmins who had to leave Goa bag and baggage, taking with them their family gods?and their descendants remembered the past as they do even at the present times. There is much more to the terrorism practiced in Goa of the most indescribable kind than is stated here but can be accessed in the most dependable documents of the period. It was largely thanks to the British that the Portuguese missionaries in Goa ended the Inquisition. The British were more sophisticated in their encouragement of the Christian Church to indulge in conversion, especially of tribal in the north east, soft targets to say the least.
This does not justify the current attacks on churches which desecration deserves to be condemned in the strongest terms. But sometimes it becomes necessary to remember the past in order to understand the present. History and historical studies have their relevance in broadening our vision and help shape positive action. Desecration of any place of worship is an act of barbarism even as is insulting Hindu gods and Hinduism that is routine among evangelists.