Indian Christian and Freedom Struggles and the ethos of Nation Building

By Johny Laldinthar F.Tusing

15th August, 2019.

Christianity in India is as old as Christianity itself. Christians are not alien to India. Christianity’s great contribution during the trying years of India fighting for Independence is worth to cherish and it must linger deep inside the heart of the general masses of the Indians today. The Christian community was active in aligning with forces that fought for the freedom of the country.

To many Indians, Christianity is a foreign religion. They regard Christianity, as a stumbling block for making India into Hindu Rashtra. Ironically, Christian’s immense contribution for India’s economic and developmental aspect is tremendous and viable in all sectors. Right from the very beginning of India’s struggle for Independence, Christians play important roles in mobilizing and fostering the movement from different angles. However, we deny it and turn a blind eye and a deaf ear from generation to generation as it unfolded in a reminiscent era of tyranny. The ramification of this ethos and notion needs to be diagnoses in time, like a cancerous cell and dissect it to remove the tumor. This is the need of the hour. This will shed light to the new Indian within the framework of our great constitutional legacy.

Respecting and acceptance of all religion stands true to our Preamble. The word 'Secular' was incorporated in the Preamble by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment in 1976. The term secular in the Constitution of India means that all the religions in India get equal respect, protection and support from the state. Articles 25 to 28 in Part III of the Constitution guarantee Freedom of Religion as a Fundamental Right. As the prologue of our Preamble clearly states that WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens. We need to introspect the reality and postmortem it, in the light of the fanatical ideology of Intolerance.

The prime motive of this writing is to pen down the Christian’s enormous contribution for India’s struggle for freedom movement and the ethos of Nation Building. The Christian plays an important catalyst to make India free from the yoke of the British regime. The supreme sacrifice of many Christians during the formative years were just a myth to many youngsters and their legacy were ignored and they were indeed forgotten in a pitiful dilemma.

Patriotism continues to be a Christian virtue. The Indian Christians have in the past, identified themselves with the Indian national movement and demonstrated their deepest concern for the cause. In fact, they were among the prominent persons who pioneered and shaped the goals of Indian nationalism. After independence, the community has been equally active in educating the young with the ideas of secularism, universalism and egalitarianism.

Those who oppose the Church or Christian as a whole are primarily those who are opposed to the idea of those who framed (framer) our Constitution. While the egalitarian ideas of Christianity are in consonance with the Constitution of India, they are not in harmony with the values of India’s Hindu caste-order.

The Christian has contributed indirectly in producing elites and the ordinary who have challenged the domination of the dominant castes in social and political system. It is precisely because of this legacy that the community has been under attack by the forces of feudalism and tradition.

Long time before the climax of freedom struggles, Christian were actively participated in Nation building.  At the Madras meeting of the Indian National Congress in 1887, out of 607 delegates, 35 were Christians.

There were Christian missionaries who had given full support to the nationalist cause to the embarrassment and indignation of the British colonial government. Among these missionaries the more well known names are: Stanley Jones, J. C. Winslow, Varrier Elwin, Ralph Richard Keithahn and Ernest Forrester-Paton. Some missionaries were even deported from India for their support to the freedom struggle.

A plethora of committed Christians participate in the Freedom Struggles. I would like to bring out few people who painstakingly participated during the freedom struggles with great commitment and dedication with a patriotic zeal and enthusiasm.

(1) Titus, a very committed Christian, was one of the 78 people Mahatma Gandhi chose to accompany him at Dandi March. At the civil disobedience movement, Titus burnt the British clothes (foreign clothes) in Kottayam and gave a fiery speech to thousands of Keralites.

(2) Barrister George Joseph, a Christian from Kerala was an active participant in Home Rule movement and closely associated with Annie Besant.  Jawaharlal Nehru makes a reference to him in his "Autobiography".

(3) A fearless Christian lady, Accamma Cherian was a freedom fighter from the erstwhile Travancore (Kerala), India. She was popularly known as the Jhansi Rani of Travancore.

(4) Dr. J. C. Kumarappa was an outstanding Christians, an Indian origin who took part in the freedom struggle. He was a veteran Congress leader. He was one of the close associates of Gandhi, strong supporter of Satyagraha, and encouraged Christian participation in the national movement. A regular writer for Young India he landed up as its editor.

(5) Paul Ramasamy, born in 1906, was another important Christian who took part in the freedom struggle. In 1930 he joined the freedom movement during the Salt Satyagraha days.

(6) Venkal Chakkarai (1880) participated in the Civil Disobedience Movement. He was a pioneer Indian Christian Theology.

(7) Brahmabandhab Upadhyaya (1861-1907), prominent Indian theologian and Christian thinkers, played a leading role in the Swadeshi Movement.

(8) M.M. Thomas (1916-1996), one of the most remarkable Indian Theologian and an outstanding Scholars was staunch supporter of Indian Independence Movement. He involed actively in the Indian Independence struggle in cooperation with Gandhi. Thomas was the Moderator of World Council of Churches (WCC) during the period of 1968-1975. He wrote a very thought provoking book called “Christian participation in nation Building” which was published by NCCI and Christian Institute for the Studies of Religion and Society, Bangalore in 1960.

(9) Joachim Alva (1907-1979) a dedicated Christian was another outstanding personality in the history of the freedom struggle. Influenced by the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi, he was the pioneer of the youth movement in India. He gave whole-hearted devotion to the national movement and gave up his lucrative job in order to dedicate himself for the freedom struggle. 

(10) In the freedom and pro-democracy movement in 1930s and 1940s, prominent Christian leaders like T.M. Varghese, A.J. John, Anne Mascarenes, Philoppose Elanjikkal John and were pioneering forces.

(11) N.H. Tubbs, the Principal of the Bishop College, Calcutta motivated his Christian students to participate in freedom movement. In 1930, the editor of The Guardian said that a number of Christian young men have joined the Civil Disobedience Movement under his influenced.

(12) Jerome Saldanha, a dedicated Christian who represented the South Kanara District in the Madras Legislative Council was a great supporter of Mahatma Gandhi. Jerome presided the public meeting addressed by Mahatma Gandhi at Mangalore in 1927. Jerome supported the freedom movement through articulation in writings, and inspire many youth to take part in the movement.

(13) Maurice Sreshta, a government servant under British Raj, who retired as Post Master General, Ceylon was a Christian but he extend his full support for Freedom movement. He even adopted Indian name as Sreshta.

 (14) Felix Albuquerque Pai, magnate of the Albuquerque tile factory in Mangalore was a dedicated believers. When Jawaharlal Nehru came to Mangalore in 1933, he first landed at the Albuquerque residence at Bolar and was then taken in a procession to Falnir where a public meeting was held, the reception being financed by Felix Pai.

(15) In 1930 three Canara Christian couples enter into the freedom movement—Thomas and Helen Alvares, Cyprian and Alice Alvares and Joachim and Violet Alva. Helen herself adopted the name of Alva Devi. She was a great votary of Satyagraha and articulated it through public speeches. Among the other couple Cyprian and Alice, Cyprian was arrested in 1930 during the Wadala Salt Satyagraha and was one of the few freedom fighters. His wife, Alice, joined Quit India Movement with her husband and went underground. But both were arrested in November 1942 and put in separate lock-ups in Bombay.

(16) John Francis Pinto, actively participaed in the Civil Disobedience Movement in the 1930s, he acquired the nickname of “Gandhi Pinto”.

(17) Rev. Kalicharan Banerji along with G.C. Nath from Lahore, and Peter Paul Pillai from Madras (present-day Chennai), represented the Indian Christians at the four sessions of the Congress between 1888 and 1891, and became a prominent leader in the Congress in the early years of its formation.

(18) Pandita Ramabai Saraswati (1858-1922), Mrs Triumbuck and Mrs Nikambe were three Christian women among the ten women delegates in the Congress session of 1889.

(19) There are records of active Christian participation in the Swaraj Movement (1905), the Non Co-operation Movement (1920), the Civil Disobedience Movement (1930) and the ‘Quit India’ Movement (1942). Since the 1920s, many Christian institutions and organizations that had passed resolutions expressing complete solidarity with the freedom movement.

(20) M.V. Kamath (1921-2014), an RSS ideologue testified Christian participation in freedom movement by saying, “It is necessary to state that many Christian, I personally know of were very much in the freedom movement and national mainstream.”

Beloved John The Apostle, penned down in The Gospel of John regarding Jesus deeds as “If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” I would rather say in the same gravity in regards to Christian involvement and participation of Freedom struggles for our Independence. All these men and women have sacrificed their life in supremacy for the cause of India freedom movement. These are the historical event that took place during the trying years on the road to sovereign Nation. Plethora of evidences can be seen from many writings. We salute their great contributions that paved the way for many Indians to celebrate our freedom.

Our President Ram Nath Kovind on March 26, 2010 says that “Christian is alien to the nation and Christian converts should  be‘scrapped’ from all their privileges.” Nevertheless, as Jan Hus phrase echoed "Seek the truth, hear the truth, learn the truth, love the truth, speak the truth, hold the truth and defend the truth until death." After 8 years, our President turned his spoken words upside down by reaffirming Christian great contributions in Nation building in the field of education, medical and social services. No one can deny the facts and truth because they are many historical events where the Christian painstakingly shook the foundation of our country for what we achieved today. Quote unquote from George Washington “Truth will ultimately prevail where there is pains to bring it to light.”  The pathos of suffering during our freedom struggle for Independence was a sweeping revolutionary movement that turns the tide and transcends all religious boundaries. Christians are the forerunner of our freedom fighters and continue to be a staunch supporter of our Father of our Nation Mahatma Gandhi and his contemporary leaders in all possible ways. The aftermath of Republic and Sovereign nation, in the post Independence era, Christian continue to be part and parcel of nation building in all aspect of making a strong nation.

Indian Christian should be proud of what they are and should continue to cherish the great legacy of those pioneers (Christian faith adherent) during the trying years. Christian should reflect our patriotic endeavor for our country and be agent of transformation even in the days to come. In spite of its major contribution in the fields of education, health and social sector, even after 73 years of Independence, the Christian community as a whole finds itself insecure and falls into the pit of victimize due to intolerance due to the politics of hate and vicious propaganda. Yet, we need to live a life The Salt and The Light of the World.



We are the Bibles the world is reading; We are the creeds the world is needing; We are the sermons the world is heeding.

~Billy Graham

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