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The Missionary Position: Christianity and Politics of Religious Conversion in India

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date2011
JournalNationalism and Ethnic Politics
Journal number4
Volume17
Number of pages21
Pages361-381
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

The purpose of this article is to critically examine the politics of religious conversion in India. Since Christianity is the main religion espousing and conducting conversion in ever-larger numbers in India, my focus, in the following pages, is to interrogate the debate surrounding this particular undertaking and the attendant conflict dynamics. This study is organized according to the following framework. First, it situates religious conversion in the context of radical Hindu nationalism. Second, it explores the issue of religious conversion in the theories of identity and globalization. Third, it probes the specifics of Christian conversion in India and investigates the issue within the framework of identity politics and secularism. Fourth, it examines the response and reaction of the radical Hindu nationalists towards religious conversion in general and Christian conversion in particular from the perspective of ethno-religious nationalism. Fifth and finally, it evaluates the dimensions of conflict between Christians and Hindus and how they are played out in the shared social arena.

In conclusion, this article stresses that religious conversion in India is a form of a socioeconomic emancipatory undertaking. Those who feel stifled by the discriminatory caste order prevalent within Hinduism and live a marginal existence embrace this new identity. In the same breath it argues that Christianity in general, and Christian missionaries in particular, have courted criticism, opposition, and violence from radical Hindus, informed citizenry, and the institution of the state, as they are considered an “external other”—accused of undermining the complex sociopolitical order in the country.