Fr George Pattery S.J.
Provincial of South Asia
What is the content of the letter you wrote to the members of the Jesuit Order as the Provincial of South Asia?
We formulated a statement about the situation our country is going through and circulated it. It was done on my personal initiative. When the issues of fundamentalism and RSS control on the government surfaced, I appointed a commission to study them in order to provide me some insights for formulating some kind of a response. This core team prepared a statement, which I sent to the various provincials for their endorsement. After getting their endorsement, I circulated it as a statement issued by the Provincial of South Asia to all provincials and from there to all communities and institutes.
You have taken an extremely good stand on the harm done by Hindutva to the whole nation. Why do oppose Hindutva at all?
For the imple reason that it is reducing a beautiful religion like Hiduism into an ideology which is actually an agenda that was devised for the nation by the RSS prior to the independence struggle. I call it a kind of unfinished agenda of the freedom movement. Gandhiji had concentrated mainly on three subjects: colonial power, fundamentalism and the Indian economy. He could not do anything regarding the last two.
The Hindu Mahasabha was in existence at the time of independence as a movement of people of the high caste. Hegemony of the high caste is what they intent to achieve. That is very clear. Why are the people now accepting something that they had rejected seventy years ago?
After seventy years of independence, the people are a little fed up with the lack of progress and inefficiency and the corruption that has been happening in the country. There is dissatisfaction among the people with the country’s performance of the last seventy years. That dissatisfaction is benefiting those who preach the Hindutva ideology.
The idea of India is being completely de-constructed. The ideology of the RSS is gaining acceptance among the general public, including the rural people. It is Manmohan Singh who opened India to the market economy. Is the RSS becoming the beneficiary of it?
In a sense they are reaping its benefits. On the one hand, Manmohan Singh had no other option but to open up the economy. The RSS has taken full advantage of it by consistently supporting it.
Market economy in general has brought with it some sort of nostalgia for the past in people all over the world. This nostalgia has also aroused fundamentalism, as you find in the Arabian countries. Don’t you see a similar pattern in what is happening in India now?
Yeah, it seems there is a marriage between what we call capitalism or market economy and fundamentalism. This is happening across the world and is evident in the acceptance that the RSS ideology is receiving. We have highlighted this connection between fundamentalism and corporate business houses in our statement.
Do you see a parallel in it with what happened in Germany in the 1940’s?
I think we now have clear symptoms of that parallel. Besides, the RSS has openly said it is drawing inspiration from Hitler. My only hope is that it may not work exactly in the same way as it worked elsewhere, because India has a pluralistic society and a much enriched democracy. Hopefully, there will be some kind of resistance to a fascist takeover.
Your letter also points out that the media is either becoming silent or allowing itself to be bought over by the ruling party. Does it not pose a very serious threat to Indian democracy?
It is very sad that media, judiciary etc. are being influenced. What people once thought of as innocuous is becoming very serious now. I hope they will recognize the implications of it and come forward to resist it. But the pity is that the youth of today is subscribing to this ideology.
India is going through a precarious situation. Is the Christian community rising to the situation?
I am afraid it is not. That is one reason why I already took a stand and wrote a letter on my own. I thought it would have been nice if the CBCI had formulated something similar. But I think they are prevented from it by many pulls and pressures arising from among them. I don’t think they are able to come to a common agreement and articulate it properly. So I chose not to wait for them to act.
Recently a documentary film on Nobel laureate Amartya Kumar Sen was denied permission to be screened on the ground that it contained words like ‘Gujarat,’ ‘cow‘ and ‘hindutva view of India.’ There are people like Amartya Kumar Sen who are very worried about the idea of India getting lost. Do you think the idealism of the Indian constitution is going to be some way de-constructed?
That is already happening. We now have a Prime Minister, a President and a Vice President who are all from the RSS brigade. Every thing except a two-third majority in the Rajya Sabha is now set to re-do or re-write the constitution. But I think the opposition is getting alerted on this and are aligning to resist it.
There are two aspects to it: the first is the awareness within the country’s political parties about the seriousness of the danger and the second is the stand the world community is taking on it. The Prime Minister is touring countries and winning their good will. Is the world community aware of the implications of what is happening in India?
I think both the Indian diaspora and other communities are becoming more and more aware of it. For example, in his last visit to the United States, Modi faced a lot of protests. Though the Indian media did not report them, they reached us through the social media. I think the world is increasingly getting a real picture of what is happening in India.
As a Christian leader, what have you to tell the Christians of India regarding the danger that is looming over the country?
On the one hand they have to study the situation and take a united stand against Hindutva and on the other they should enter into real dialogue, discussion and openness with the people of other communities and convince them of the need to stand together to protect the secular values of the country. Both have to go together.
In India, the Goan Christians have already taken a stand in favour of the BJP by being part of a coalition government. Do you expect the Kerala Christians to follow their example?
I cannot for sure say what will happen. But Kerala has the advantage of having robust Leftist parties. They have been consistent in their approach, and their stand will be much more critical in this kind of a situation. In that sense, it may be important for the Church in Kerala to have a positive dialogue with them, mindful of the political ramifications that it might have in the State.
There has been a talk for some time now that the Kerala Congress is planning to become an alliance partner of the BJP. How do you see it?
What they are interested is in political gains. They don’t look at the larger picture. That is unfortunate. I hope they will look at it from an ideological point of view rather than from just a practical or political point of view.