In a recent Indian Express column, that great economist and a great juggler of numbers, Surjit Bhalla holds forth on Christians in India. Drawing profound comparisons with Sikhs – in arguments convincingly demolished in a rebuttal by Tony Joseph – Bhalla argues that the Christian population has held steady as a proportion of the population of India due to conversions. He even has a number: 3.7 milllion individuals who count themselves as Christian in India are converts. Perhaps, this number should be known as the ‘missing Dalits of India’ (of course the full count of missing Dalits would need to include those who were bumped off by upper caste Hindus)
Bhalla’s final hypothesis is that missionary organisations spend INR 1.1 lakhs per person on conversions. To arrive at that estimate, he (il)liberally terms 515 organisations as Christian missionary organisations – not clarifying if it includes many church-affiliated schools. It would be a pity if it does, since us non-Christians have on balance, benefited from these well-managed institutions.
On the other hand, even if the INR 11,000 crores went ‘mostly for conversions’, they are not quite enough to rival the INR 15 lakh Modiji had promised everyone, and not even enough to challenge the reward of INR 2 or 5 lakhs (depending on whether you are Christian or Muslim, respectively) offered by the great nationalist organisation, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad.
Also, by Bhalla’s own logic, if Christians are the richest and amongst the best educated communities in India, why cry foul? Instead, we should welcome such conversions with open arms.