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Tehelka - A Public Faith Denigrated

By Dr. Abraham Mathai

10 February, 2004

A letter written to Tarun Tejpal, Editor of Tehelka

If ever there was a cheap way of getting publicity, this is one.
Hitherto, you were highly esteemed in my opinion. However, in your
very first issue of what is being called the 3rd relaunch of Tehelka,
dated 7th February, you have sought the easy path to appease your
afflicting demonizers in the Sangh Parivar and the BJP Central
Government. In what is being termed an "expose" you have sought to
cast aspersions on the validity of the Christian faith in India, and
have categorized the vast spread of Christians as nothing less than a
band of marauding CIA functionaries out to get your goat and perhaps
that of millions of others too.

In a fantastic Conspiracy Theory setting you have sought to align the
Christian movement in India to George Bush's agenda, and the
spreading of an American faith. I must point out here that the
Christian faith is not American or British, but it rather centers on
the person of Jesus who lived and walked 2,000 years ago in the dusty
streets of a Middle East habitat. Jesus didn't need George Bush then,
and Christians certainly do not need him now! In projecting George
Bush as a common link, you have sought to play on the anti-war
sympathies of Indians and subsequently to vilify the Christian faith
as a result.

You talk about communal harmony elsewhere; through the first issue of
Tehelka though it appears you seek to provide fodder for the canons
of the RSS and further blood-letting at the hands of the VHP and
Sangh Parivar. You perhaps condone the killing of Graham Staines
too and put it down to a casualty of missionary zeal and a price that
George Bush is willing in exchange for gaining ascendancy over all of
India. In a classic case of painstakingly one-sided reporting, you
have sought to play on everything that seems decidedly negative and
out of context and relate it to a larger conspiracy hatched by the
CIA, and therefore lend it some credence. Wonder if three months of
research threw up all of this, or if this is rather the handiwork of
careful networking with the top bosses of the Sangh and editors of
the Sangh mouthpiece - The Organiser. It appears that in the midst of
the agony of setting up Tehelka one more time, you somehow had the
luxury of time to draw up George Bush's entire Christian strategy,
gain information on funding sources, and was able to scan the Indian
landscape from Chennai to Karla in search of Christian fundamentals.
Perhaps the CIA will be willing to fund your newspaper too, given its
resourcefulness in exhaustive research. Perhaps, you forgot one
little detail, in the midst of the born-again assault on ignorant
India, our educated missionaries are also beaten up, burnt alive,
raped and dispossessed. I find these statistics in your all-
encompassing over-three-months vastly-researched survey strangely
missing. passing vastly researched orn-again assault on ignorant
India, our educated missionaries werIt may also be that we are taught
English in school is also a design by far to lure us to a Western

Further, in this rather "dare-devil" expose against the designs of
Christians in India, you have chosen a soft-target. Because
Christians do not retaliate, because their houses are broken down,
because their priests are beaten and their nuns raped, without so
much as a counter-attacking whimper, Your take is that we, as a
community, are ripe for the picking. In your quest for "first issue"
sensationalism, you have ignored your stated tenets of "Free, Fair
and Fearless".

You have taken a photograph of a Sikh being baptized of his own free
will and somehow equate that with a carefully hatched crime! You
also tail the Government's repressive view that every profession of
faith must have the district magistrate's signature, when it is
common knowledge that the profession of one's faith does not need the
endorsement of a District Magistrate or that of a repressive State
Government, in Kerala or in Guajarat. Propagating one's faith is a
right guaranteed by none less than the Constitution of India. In a
stark case of one-sided reporting Tehelka has somehow forgotten about
the hundreds of others who shave their heads in supposedly Christian
nations and join the Hare Rama Hare Krishna and many other movements
without fear of reprisal either from the CIA or George Bush's

Indeed, in Canada there is a compulsory law that overtly Christian TV
channels compulsorily ought to have other religious programming too.
Indeed, some governments go out of their way to make sure their
constitution guarantees liberties for practice and propagation of all
faiths. Or have we forgotten Mohammed Ali!

Propagating one's religion is practiced internationally by members of
all faiths. The VHP itself has initiated various "videsh prachar
yatras" without "missionary visas", and they continue to do that even
today, raising huge amounts of money towards recruitment, propagation
and building of temples around the world. And we haven't baulked at
the idea that there is a BJP-Sangh Parivar connection. Yet Bush
organizing relief work through the church network in the US thousands
of miles away raises a heckle. As if this should affect my faith as a
Christian because of the rights and wrongs of his policies. Indeed,
one of the most hotly debated topics amongst Christians in India was
the US war on Iraq, with a significant number of Christians
denouncing his act of aggression.

With this, the first issue of Tehelka Part-3, you appear to have made
peace with your BJP demonisers, and have chosen to tag the "well-
researched" and "contorted" views of the Sangh. Also, in placing a
strategic Cover Page photo-headline: "How Muslims helped create Hindu
heritage" beside a "vilified" George Bush, you have sought to adopt a
policy of "divide and rule", a strategy of creating an artificial
divide between the Hindus and Muslims against the Christians. What is
essentially an Sangh Parivar agenda, has been lifted straight off
their well and insidiously crafted research, and bestowed a hint of
credence through the well-wrung out spit and polish of the English

I hope Tehelka's stance will be seen for the pretense that it is and
will be roundly condemned by those who can read between the lines.
This is nothing short of an exchange of the "truth" with "cheap
sensationalism", thus further deepening the communal divide.

Yours truly,

Dr. Abraham Mathai
Vice Chairman, State Minorities Commission &
Gen. Secretary, All India Christian Council