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The Conversion Strategy—Part 2
In a four-page pull-out (Newsday, August 5), a number of writers attempted to glorify the Canadian missionaries who they write, came to Trinidad primarily to work among the East Indian indentured immigrants. Some present-day historians would have us believe that the purpose of these missionaries was to educate the East Indians and in a sense, civilise the barbarians from India.
Prof Brinsley Samaroo wrote of Rev John Morton: “He was a privileged person who maintained a close contact with the British hierarchy, sharing many of their prejudices. Like the Christian governors, he (Rev Morton) never faltered in his desire to rescue the Indians from their heathenism.”
Samaroo wrote of the Indian women who were accessed for missionary work: “Not only were they required in the missionary exercise but their names had to be changed and in this way Rasulan became Rosslyn and Betiyah became Betty.” Neither the author nor the exploiters seemed to understand that the Hindu “heathens” are the ones who created the ancient language of Sanskrit, produced the most ancient scripture in the world known as the Vedas and wrote the Mahabharat and the Bhagwad Gita, the Ramayan, the Upanishad. Dozens of the theological works were produced in India when Europe and Scotland were in fact inhabited by barbarians.
Swami Prakshanand Saraswati, in his voluminous work titled The True History and the Religion of India, describes the perfection of the Sanskrit language thus: “Being the divine language, it is perfect by its own nature. Any number of desired words could be created through its root words and the prefix and suffix system as detailed in the Ashtadhyayi of Panini (a Sanskrit grammarian). Furthermore, 90 forms of each verb and 21 forms of each noun or pronoun could be formed and could be used.”
Swami Saraswati writes about the unbroken continuity of Indian civilisation and its history: “The history of the uninterrupted survival of the civilisation of India goes back to an unbelievable period of time which could be easily said to be the beginning of the human civilisation on the planet Earth, whereas the history of other countries of the world is the history of only 6,000 to 8,000 years.”
One must never forget that out of these so-called (heathenish) people, Mahatma Gandhi was born and so were the Sankacharyas. Hindus believe that God himself took avatar nine times on the Indian subcontinent. Readers must be informed that out of Hinduism (Sanatan Dharma) emerged the religions of Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism.
Samaroo writes: “A discriminatory colonial regime did not allow for the formation of non-Christian schools for a full century after 1845. When after 1948 such schools were in fact finally allowed, the core of their teaching staff came from the mission schools.”
Prof Samaroo stretches the facts. The Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha was permitted to establish schools to educate our own flock in June 1952. These schools have today transformed not only the Hindu community but, as the ancients say, “a rising tide lifts all boats,” we have impacted on the national community.
It is a fallacy to contend that the Presbyterian Church alone among colonials supported religious organisations and reached out to the Indian population to offer conversion and education. Tony Fraser in the Guardian of August 8 wrote, “Rev Harricharran, in a small booklet, provides evidence that the Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches also provided social welfare and education for East Indians.”
He reports that by 1931 there were “8,649 Indians who had become Catholics and 3,946 Indo-Anglicans compared to the 10,335 Indians who had converted to the Presbyterian faith.” Fraser, in his following commentary (August 15) wrote: “That apart, a human culture of acquisitiveness, driving ambition and sacrifice, strong family life which extends to community living, industry and commerce possibilities, the pursuit of independent operations outside of the state sector, Indos did not depend in their early development on the State to provide them with jobs and careers.
“A reliance on education as a means of personal development; the retention of elements of their ancestral culture; the growth of a strong institutional base, inclusive of religious and educational structures, and the emergence of political awareness, which has led to the acquisition of political power, are central amongst the factors which have driven the enormous advance of Indo-Trinidad during the first 50 years of political independence.”
Writers who are intent on recreating the history of East Indians, their education and social improvements in T&T are themselves living up to the opening quote of Samuel Butler. Samaroo talks of Rev Morton’s adventure into agriculture and the agency he held for Fry’s Cadbury Chocolate. But we are in the process of collecting information that these missionaries were not only bent on conversion but were also engaged in large businesses formerly known as “Gordon Grant & Company, T Geddes Grant Distributors Ltd, and even acquiring and drilling on lands that produced oil.”
• Satnarayan Maharaj is the secretary general of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha
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