Does being a Christian make me less of a Bharatwasi?
I had the most wonderful opportunity to be a speaker at ‘The Festival of Bharat’. It was an amazing experience to share my thoughts on Bharat – India.
I thought I would share the focus of my speech in an editorial. My topic ‘Does being a Christian make me less of a Bharatwasi’
Don’t call me Savio Rodrigues, instead call me Arihan Velingkar.
Surprised by my statement
You should be.
I am not joking it is the hard truth. Even though I am hardcore nationalist and a proud son of #BharatMata. I often get statements and advices to change my Christian name to an Indian name because as long as I carry a Christian name I am not considered to be a son of Bharat Mata.
Many a times I stood for atrocities against people across all religions in our country and I have openly called out the wrong in Christian practices that I find to be questionable and not in the interest of the secularism and communal harmony of our nation.
I am not angry or hurt with views of people who question my patriotism and nationalism because I am Christian. And neither am I angry or hurt with some members of the Christian community who have labelled me Anti-Christian.
I am an Indian first, then a Christian.
This fervour for Bharat Mata has been instil in me by my Christian family.
Let me be honest having spent my growing years in the Middle East, I often let myself to believe that I would be better of being a foreigner than an Indian because I was never passionate about my nation.
I would come on a holiday from Dubai and complain about everything wrong in India. I would not even want to walk the roads because I would find them filthy.
It was my grandfather when I was nine-years old who told me, “Son you might consider yourself to be a foreigner and might be ashamed of being an Indian. But one day when your motherland calls for you, you will come back to India and give it your best.”
That today appears to be a prophetic statement.
Having now lived in India for over 20 years. I have come to realise with persistent learnings that Bharat is my Mata. And my roots are Vedic.
Being a Christian is purely based my faith in a particular way of life preached by Jesus through the Holy Bible. The application of the learnings in the Bible is what comes into play in my belief to be committed for the betterment of my nation.
I was born into a Christian family. I believe that the almighty we all believe in had a purpose for my birth in a Christian family. I could have been born in a Hindu family
However, more importantly I was born to an Indian family. And I firmly believe that the almighty intended for me to be born in India with a purpose to contribute to my motherland. I could have been born to a Canadian family.
Religion is personal and should be restricted in its dogma and practices within an individual, his or her religious community and religious places of worship. They cannot and must not become moot points to an individuals’s contribution to the nation.
Let me reiterate once again you and I are Indians first then individuals of our religion. It is a message that every Indian to must understand and accept.
Reams of newspapers and airtime over the last couple of years have been wasted on certain religious organisations who have been portraying India to be a nation dangerous for Christians to live in because we are a minority.
India is not unsafe for Christians. In fact it is the safest place of Christians to practice their faith without fear and prejudice because they are Indians first. That is the beauty of our culture.
I, however cannot understand how can a child of this nation be a majority or a minority, if a government attributes equality to all citizens irrespective of caste and creed.
I am a Christian and I am not afraid of living in India. Why should I be? This is my motherland. I will fight for her, I will live for her and I will give the last drop of my blood in putting her on a pedestal globally. It is the least I can do for the identity I have because of being a child of Bharat Mata.
When you travel abroad. People do not ask you what religion you come from but from what nation you come from.
A Mohammad can be from India and he can be from Saudi Arabia. A John can be from India and from Canada. A Ram can be from India and Malaysia. So people in general don’t necessarily equate your identity to your religion but your nation.
When the Archbishop of Delhi recently raised the bogey of India witnessing a turbulent political atmosphere, in which the democratic principles of our Constitution were being violated and secularism under threat. I disagreed with his views very strongly, because that is not what the majorities of Christians in India are experiencing, it is a propaganda.
I started a campaign #ArrestBishopFranco to fight for justice for a nun raped, bribed, threatened and slandered by a powerful Bishop. As we speak Nuns and Christian organisations who have decided to fight for justice for the nun have come out to point out the wrong in the Catholic Church.
There is no doubt that there are stray incidents of religious bigotry in the country. There is no doubt that there are some violence on account of religion. These incidents have affected not only the Christians but Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and every Indian.
Does that then allow for leaders of the Catholic Church to paint India as a hell for Christians. Does that allow other Christians to think that the country is not for Christians.
Christians have contributed to the growth of the nation in many fields. India have given birth to some of the most talented, patriotic and successful Christians who have committed their lives to the betterment of our motherland because they believed in our motherland.
The current propaganda of portraying India as an atrocious place for Christians is a deep rooted strategy by some internal and external forces to create a division in the communal harmony that most Indians share. The propaganda is also targeted at the Hindus and Muslims. The intent is to take away to focus from nationalism and lead it to religious division. Because of united India is a danger to most nations.
I could easily change my name from Savio Rodrigues to Arihan Velingkar. What would that change in me? Would it make me more patriotic or nationalistic.
People opine that I should do a ‘ghar wapsi’. I laugh it out. I am in in my home.
I cannot speak for other Christians because I not authorised in any manner to speak for them. But I can speak as a Christian myself who loves my BharatMata.
My views have got me immense support from many Hindus in India and it has also got me criticism from many in the Christian community. Distant relatives wanted to hide their faces in shame when I openly criticised the Archbishop. Some zealots in Goa also took out a fatwa on my name to blacken my face and garland me with shoes for Rs 50,000. I felt insulted because they valued me at only Rs 50,000, if they said Rs 5 lacs, I would have blacken my face myself and given the money to poor children for their education.
People sent me messages saying you are a man of great courage and very brave. My stand of disagreement against the message of Archbishop Couto or now against the accused rapist Bishop Franco Mulakkal is not an act of courage. It is an act of love. Love for my Bharat Mata. I cannot accept anyone disrobing her reputation in India or Internationally. We leaders like Rahul Gandhi or Christian representatives like John Dayal go abroad and paint India as a nation against Christians, I am pained and angry at the lies.
Let me put one example: Vatican is a nation. India is a nation. Vatican is majority of Christian. India is majority of Hindus. India has many Churches for Christians to worship and practice their religion. How many temples does Vatican have for Hindus – the answer is none! So which logically is a more tolerant nation to another’s religion.
This false bogey of Christians in danger is nothing but a political ploy to divide the nation.
But let me also be categoric in my criticism to some section of Hindu zealots propagating this concept of ‘ghar wapsi’ of Christians and Muslims. By doing so you are only alienating the beauty of our Vedic Hindu culture from other Indians who also have our Vedic roots by Gods design in them but belong to other religious faiths.
I can understand the angst and repressed anger in some Hindus because of years of invasion and colonial religious conversions.
Goa, the state I come from witnessed the horrific Portuguese inquisition. Many Hindus were tortured, butchered and women raped to enforce conversions and some willingly accepted that line of faith. I personally believe that the Catholic Church must find the grace to accept this horrific crime meted out on Goans and apologise like they did for the other inquisitions. But will that change the passion for Goa and India many Catholic Goans possess. Goans all over the world mostly Christian share an immense connect with their motherland.
My ancestors could have been persecuted or willingly opted for Christianity. But my ancestors and my parents and now me have never accepted or believed we were anything other than Indians. My parents have always told me when I asked them when I was young why we did not take a Portuguese passport, I was that I am a Indian not a Portuguese. There was no further discussion after that.
But delving on the past in like sitting on a rocking chair that keeps you moving but gets you nowhere.
So instead we must learn from our pasts and not be burdened by them, we must work in the present for creating a better future. We must move on as Indians and not Hindus, Muslims and Christians.
I have no fear in saying that forced conversions by portraying the tenets of Hinduism as evil is wrong. Because no religion including Christianity has the sole right to claim that God is their jurisdiction. God is above all religion and if you truly are a follower of God then you are walking a path of spirituality. To me religion is just a map to a door, spirituality is the experience you have when you open that door and walk in.
My appeal to my Christian sisters and brothers is that no matter what any Christian, Hindu or Muslim religious zealot tries to make you fell as an illegitimate child of this nation, your are a child of BharatMata, because you are an Indian – you love her and will strive to making her a beautiful and secular nation.
My appeal to my Hindu sisters and brothers, there are many things wrong done by institutions representing Christianity in India just as there has been many wrong done by institutions representing Hinduism that does not make a Christian an illegitimate child of BharatMata.
We must set aside our perceived differences on account of religion and learn to accept and respect everyone as children of BharatMata – Indians.
Just for the record. I will never change my name from Savio Rodrigues to Arihan Velingkar because nothing will ever change my love for Bharat Mata. But if anyone has a problem with my name, you can think of me as Arihan and not Savio.
Jai Hind…Bharat Mata Ki Jai.