In the State of Jharkhand (India), a group of Hindus is campaigning for the statue of a Jesuit missionary to be removed on the pretext that he worked against the Indian civilization. The quarrel should be considered in the perspective of the upcoming national elections in which the nationalist party currently in power is losing support.
“This statue insults local tribal leaders who fought foreigners for tribal rights,” explains a local nationalist leader, Ram Kumar Pahan, insisting that “Father Hoffmann and the British attacked the civilization and culture of the tribals; having his bust on tribal soil is unacceptable.”
In fact, these claims are very far from the truth. Fr. Jean-Baptiste Hoffmasn, SJ, (1857-1928), a highly qualified linguist, distinguished himself by drawing up a written code of law for the Indians of the region, respecting the laws of the tribal customs as much as possible in order to protect the rights of the natives from the greed of the English colonials.
The inventive Jesuit also created a system of food and bank co-ops in Jharkhland in order to protect the Indians’ autonomy.
If we add that the missionary is the author of an encyclopedia written to collect as many elements as possible on the Indians in the region, in order to enable them to access their own history, we are struck speechless by these accusations against Fr. Hoffman.
They have to be considered in the context of the crucial upcoming elections for the reigning Nationalist Party, the notorious Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that risks losing the elections in May 2019, which will accelerate the fall of the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.
During the past few weeks, in order to rally anew a wavering electoral base, the BJP has been multiplying its violence towards religious minorities and intensifying its anti-Christian propaganda, seeking to identify Christianity with the abuses of colonialism; in Jharkhland, most of the Catholics—1 million out of this State’s population of 33 million—are natives from tribes converted to the Christian Faith.