NCCI-RSS DIALOGUE ,THE RESPONSE FROM THE "KERALA COUNCIL OF CHURCHES"
The KCC Executive Committee which met on 13.10.2001 considered the narrative of the General Secretary of the NCCI on the dialogue between RSS and the NCCI. The Executive Committee while agreeing with the principleof dialogue recorded it's caution and concern
over the entire exercise,on the basis of the following observations.
*Dialogue between Hindu and Christian communities is always to be welcomed.But if we consider that the RSS represents the enire Hindu community and their leaders represent the various streams of thought of Hinduism we would be bestowing on them the credibility they do not have on any count.Intolerant of other religions, they demolished the Babri Masjid, threaten to construct a temple in the place of the masjid which would create communal tensions,and continue to propagate religious fundamentalism,communalism and cultural nationalism.Extending to them a hand of full recognition demands a second thought.Instead of dialoguing exclusively with the RSS,the NCCI should have invited a cross-section of the Hindu community for dialogue.
*The strategy adopted by RSS for the dialogue is quite intriguing .They had separate sessions with a member of the Minority Commission who is a Christian,the CBCI and the NCCI, thereby projecting the impression of a divided Christian community.True we are fragmented
on many theological and ritual related issues.But are we divided when we address issues of national concerns,and threats to the Constitution? We are duty bound to perform our prophetic ministry together. The NCCI should have taken the initiative to convene a joint session along with CBCI and other Christian communities that are not members of either the CBCI or NCCI to meet with the representatives of the Hindu community.
*The 'compelling reasons' that have bene outlined for the dialogue are not all that convincing.The affirmations that the Church is in the world is absolutely right. However,it is also true to say that the Church is not of the world and that it should not conform to the world as and when it changes.proper identification of the forces that have to be responded to is an equally important aspect of our mission in today's context..Ignoring certain forces for compelling reasons can also be a positive and affirmative way of responding.The claim
that to ignore the RSS would be to adopt an exclusive attitude does not stand for the simple reason that it is organizations like the RSS that represent ideological exclusivism with it's casteist and racist fundamentalism. It is by exposing such exclusive forces that the Church
should perform it's prophetic ministry.
*The motive behind the enthusiasm and the initiative of the Christian member of the Minority Commission is to be ascertained ,because of his statements and acts of violence against the Christians.Christian churches and institutions in different parts of the country and the role he plays as a member of the Minority Commission.
*The preparation and groundwork of the dialogue appear to have been made hastily and hence far from satisfactory. Prior exchange of notes on ideological stand on fundamental issues would have helped to create a better understanding of the scope and purpose of the dialogue. True,that 'the living Church in her mission has to respond to all forces around and within her". but the pertinent question is the kind of response the Christians make to the forces represented by RSS whose chief has questioned the loyalty of churches and called for Indianisation of religious minorities and reorganisation of their structures.The basic concept of democracy, secularism,pluralism etc..,are to be affirmed as the ground for a dialogue.
*The lack of clarity of the agenda deserves special mention. The credibility of the dialogue is always based on the openness of the agenda.The conspicous absence of the agenda coupled with hasty arrangement raises many questions.The admiration of RSS chief for the Orthodox
and Mar Thoma Churches as 'the only Indianised Churches' appears to be an attempt in dividing the Indian churches as swadeshi and videshi.Also it clearly shows that
sanskritisation is the only model which the RSS can accept in India.It also raises serious questions about the nature of relationship between the Church and the State. These important issues have not been raised in the dialogue.It seems that the basic issue of prime importance such as commitment to democracy,secularism, fundamental and civil rights etc were not in the focus. The churches are duty bound to strengthen secular democracy in it's own interest and and in the wider interests of the nation,when religious fundamentalism is on the rise,threatening the basic structure of the society.The emphasis has to be on the rights of all citizens in the secular democratic polity,rather than on minority rights.
*There had been no emphasis during the dialogue on the social order of Indian society and the faith relations thereof.The great divide of our society based on caste and the plight of the lower caste,dalits,tribals and women were never aired.It is well known that the dalits and
other lower castes were never part of any major religion with full equality and have suffered untouchability and atrocities.We have to emphasise the need for religious renaissance that grants full fundamental rights including religious rights to all citizens.The role,the churches and
missionary groups have played in transforming the life of the marginalised and materialising the dreams of a welfare state,which is consistent with the intent of our Constitution,particularly the liberative role they played in reforming the caste-ridden society should have been highlighted.
*Also the NCCI failed to confront the RSS and the extremist elements of the Hindutva project,and that there is no spirited rebuttal of the RSS allegation of the Christian Churches and their mission in India.There is a conspicuous absence of a strong defence of the right of conversion as a fundamental human right,also guaranteed in our Constitution.The Dalit and Tribal awakening as the real concern behind the conversion issue is hardly touched and and focussed.In other words the socio-political dimensions of the conversion debate have not been addressed at all in the document.Conversion as a means of Dalit and Tribal liberation in India must have been forcefully articulated and reaffirmed before the RSS leaders.The whole process of dialogue reflects an apologetic church,constrained by it's 'minority' complex
pleading for charity from majority religious leaders. The RSS leaders on the other hand,took it an opportunity to reaffirm it's slogan of cultural nationalism and it's intolerance to plurality.
*Yes,Moses who stood boldly before the Pharaoh and Elijah who denounced King Ahab are the role models.In the present context,Hindutva rhetoric is to be denounced. But from the narration of the General Secretary it is not clear whether there had been an occasion for discussion on Hindutva asit is propagated and put to practice by RSS cadres.The recent call of the RSS chief to reinterpret the scriptures of the minority communities implies Golwarkar's definition of nationalism according to which Muslims and Christians must change some of their
religious principles,to be in tune with Hindu faith. Such statements by the leaders of the RSS are very much suggestive of their hidden agenda.'The Hindu' in it's editorial dated 29.10.01 has rightly pointed out that "Mr Sudarshan has only confirmed that the RSS continues to stand opposed to the pluralist foundations of the Republic.This,indeed ,is serious cause for concern.
The utterances of RSS chief would cause immense damage to their secular democratic social fabric".
*We would also like to make some suggestions for the future:
Reassess this process of dialogue with the RSS inspite of the recent pronounciations of the RSS leaders which once again exposes the real face of the organization.
Encourage dialogue with liberal/secular forces and traditions within Hinduism.
Organise future dialogue between a cross-section of Hinduism and the representatives of all minority religions.
Discuss and develop a well defined and mutually agreed upon agenda,prior to any future dialogue.
[The text was published in New Vision v.2 i.6, Feb2002]