Independence Day 2017 – Open letter to The Prime Minister of India
Shri Narendra Modi,
The Prime Minister of India
Dear Prime Minister,
On Good Friday 14th April 2017 (The Day commemorating the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ, instigated by the communal minded right wing religious and political leaders of the time), I had written an open letter to you expressing my concern as an Indian citizen about the state of affairs in the country. Perhaps you were too busy to respond to that letter or you thought it unnecessary to respond to an ordinary Indian citizen’s mann ki baat (which I could not transmit on national communication systems).
This time I write to you as an Indian spiritual seeker of God’s reign of justice, love and peace in our beloved country India. As all Indians go on to celebrate Independence day on 15th August 2017, and as we keep on hearing statements which stereotype Christians as being aliens or as being people whose patriotism is questioned, I would like to draw your attention to a very strong statement (with my added emphasis) made on “Church and State in Post-War India” by the National Council of Churches in India (an ecumenical body of Indian Protestant and Orthodox Tradition churches representing around 14 million Christians today) in its Council meeting in 1944:
“To the Christian conscience, the present relation between (the British) government in India and governed (Indians) in India is by Christian standards fundamentally unsatisfactory, and it is clear that the time has come when those relations should be radically altered. Imperialism is condemned by Christian conscience, and it is agreed that in India it should be brought immediately to an end. In all recent pronouncements of responsible Christian bodies the right of India to govern herself is taken as axiomatic.
But the mere proclamation of such sentiments is not enough. The time has come when government, political leaders, and others in positions of responsibility should take the necessary steps to implement these principles. It is the task of Churches and other responsible Christian bodies constantly to bring their influence to bear on governments and leaders, and to help them to the courageous fulfilment of their duties in this respect.
No way out of the present tangle of India’s political life can be found without the spirit of goodwill. No action would so greatly tend to the production of this goodwill as the release from prison of Indian national leaders in order that they may confer with others with a view to the formation of a national government. Britain should be willing to open negotiations with Indian leaders on terms in conformity with Christian ideals of freedom and progress. “
In the same Statement, the NCCI made it very clear that Indian Christians would participate in the national life of the country neither on communal lines nor by identifying themselves with any political party:
It is our conviction that Christians and churches should support the social policies and programmes of the state when these appear to be accordance with the mind of Christ; but that churches should never go so far as to identify themselves with particular political parties . . . It is not our wish that
Christians as a community should seek political influence for themselves. . . Communal divisions in Indian life are unhappily too well known and too deeply seated to be ignored. . . As Christians we deplore them.”
As followers of such spirituality, Christians in India have made, and persevere in making their contribution to our beloved country. Christians and Churches in India have continued to serve the country after Independence in a myriad ways. As one observation puts it: “Since independence, the number of services rendered by Christians has multiplied in various forms, like schools, rehabilitations centers, leprosy homes, orphanages, hospitals, dispensaries, colleges, vocational training centers, printing and visual media, social uplift programmes, social development initiatives, etc. Christianity in India, at present, is rooted from south Kanyakumari to north Jammu and Kashmir.” Throughout the country, “thousands of educational and non educational institutions are functioning as an expression of its (the Church’s) social commitment. Various developmental activities are taking place under the registered social service societies . . . Rural development activities and conscientization activities are initiated in recent times amidst strong opposition from fundamentalist and political parties who see the Christians as hurdles to gain their vested interest.”
No one needs to remind you that the very basis on which India was founded in 1947 was that of unity (as a country) in plurality (of religions, races, ethnicities, cultures, languages, etc.). “Gandhi never dreamt of establishing Hindu Raj in India. In 1924 he said that it was unpatriotic even to nurse the dream of Hindu Raj. Swaraj government, according to him, would be one established by the free joint will of the Hindus, Musalmans and others. Gandhi was no protagonist of religious nationalism. He never thought in terms of religious state. He believed that after Independence, India and not Hindu Raj, would come into being.”The constitution of India with its emphasis on secularism evolved out of such a spirit in 1950. There was no official declaration that India would be the country of the adherents of a particular religion. Therefore it is very hurting to hear statements being made contrary to the spirit of the founders of the country and its constitution. One is deeply pained by statements and actions which are antagonistic to the spiritual principle of vasudhaiva kutumbakam which asserts that the whole world (which includes India) is one family. Yes, in this one family, Hindu-Muslim- Sikh-Isai are all brothers and sisters. Don’t you think that it is most unbecoming of persons to enter worship places, disrupt their worship, desecrate their holy places, beat the spiritual gurus, level false charges, imprison them, and forcibly convert some of them? The heart of God cries out in anguish! You as the Prime Minister can set things in order. I discern the yearning of the God who has created you and all humanity, to bring such communal vigilantism to an end!
Talking of spirituality, you are well aware that the spirit of yoga in the vedantic sense is union and integration. It has deep implications for human relationships. The ideal of any type of yoga is that all should be centred in and around the Divine and the life of the practitioners of yogamust be founded on that firm foundation; their personal relations also should have the Divine for their centre. Sri Aurobindo asserted that all relations should pass from the vital to the spiritual basis with the vital only as a form and instrument of the spiritual — this means that, from whatever relations people have with each other, all jealousy, strife, hatred, aversion and other evil vital feelings should be abandoned, for they cannot be part of the spiritual life. However, today one sees practitioners of yoga doing it for earthly jiva (self)-benefit, without attending to the spiritual responsibilities of cultivating wholesome human and ecological relationships. If I say “I am attaining the ideal physical-emotional-mental union with my inner self/the Divine”, but in day-to-day life if I discriminate against or hate my neighbor, would my yoga be perfectly balanced or truly realized?
As we celebrate Independence Day on 15th August 2017, we will no doubt talk about all the development and progress the country has made. Yes, the media will proudly highlight all the economic and technological attainments. Yet the question remains: Have the poor of India really been benefitted or is it only the middle class, the rich and the super-rich, all of whom would constitute hardly 30% of the population? It is said that once Swami Vivekananda looked to the sky and wept asking, “Why is my country suffering with poverty in spite of so much spiritual knowledge?” On another occasion Swami Vivekananda lamented, “And, oh, how my heart ached to think of what we think of the poor, the low, in India. They have no chance, no escape, no way to climb up. The poor, the low, the sinner in India have no friends, no help — they cannot rise, try however they may. They sink lower and lower every day, they feel the blows showered upon them by a cruel society, and they do not know whence the blow comes. They have forgotten that they too are men.”  So Swami Vivekananda exhorts: Each one of us pray, day and night, for the downtrodden millions in India, who are held fast by poverty, priest craft, and tyranny – pray day and night for them. I am no meta physician, no philosopher, nay, no saint. But I am poor, I love the poor…. Let these people be your God – think of them, work for them, pray for them incessantly – the Lord will show you the way. Included among the poor are the oppressed dalits and the exploited and displaced tribals ad adivasis, and in particular their women. I am sure, in your quiet reflective spiritual moments, your heart goes out to all vulnerable people of our land.
I close with this prayer:
May the Spirit of Creator God make you a loving Father of every member of the Indian family!
May the Spirit of the God of Truth grant you wisdom to lead this great country in the way of holistic growth!
May the Spirit of the God of Justice empower you to stop all injustice in the land!
May the Spirit of the God of Peace fill you with the joy of having contributed to the reign of God on earth!
An Indian Spiritual Pilgrim
14th August 2017
Independence Day Eve.
 K. Baago, A History of the National Christian Council of India 1914-1964, Nagpur: the National Christian Council, 1965, pp.65-66.
“Indian Christian’s contribution to the field of Social Work,” https://sites.google.com/a/depaul.edu.in/de-paul times/022009/020906.
 Human relationships in Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s perspective, http://www.ipi.org.in/texts/nsip/nsip-abstracts/kvictorbabu.php
“ Swami Vivekananda’s anguish on India’s poverty,” http://www.universal-spirituality.org/povertyIndia.html
Open Letter Prime Minister of India from Rev. Dr. Roger Gaikwad.
Sent on August 14, 2017