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The RSS Position

Madhavankutty Pillai has no specialisations whatsoever. He is among the last of the generalists. And also Open chief of bureau, Mumbai  
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The contradiction of expecting selfless service from Mother Teresa
To appreciate whether missionary work is selfless service, one needs to cast one's eyes to the good work that the RSS and its sister organisations like the Vanvasi Kalyan Parishad are doing with tribals in areas like the Dangs in Gujarat. It goes by nomenclatures like Hindukaran or Ghar Vapsi and it is either conversion or reconversion depending on how you look at it. But what is important to note are the accouterments of the movements--schools and hospitals, noble instruments to better the lot of mankind which have for long been also used to capture his soul.

When RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat says that Mother Teresa's social service had a primary agenda of conversion he is probably right. The RSS knows well the strategies of missionaries because the organisation itself has adopted it to counter them in tribal areas. In the social service that the RSS does in tribal areas, the primary agenda is retention of the Hindu flock, not selfless service either.

The chinks in Mother Teresa's halo and her religious motives have been well documented in documentaries and numerous books. One of the most quoted is still Christopher Hitchens' book The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice in which he makes forcible arguments against the public perception of Mother Teresa; her glorification of poverty, her courting of dictators with nasty human rights records, her virulent opposition to contraception and the subtly deceptive collection of souls for Christ. Hitchens quotes from a then unpublished manuscript of Susan Shields, a former nine-year member of the Missionaries of Charity who wrote from first hand observations: 'For Mother, it was the spiritual well-being of the poor that mattered most. Material aid was a means of reaching their souls, of showing the poor that God loved them. In the homes for the dying, Mother taught the sisters how to secretly baptize those who were dying. Sisters were to ask each person in danger of death if he wanted a "ticket to heaven." An affirmative reply was to mean consent to baptism. The sister was then to pretend she was just cooling the person's forehead with a wet cloth, while in fact she was baptizing him, saying quietly the necessary words.'

Even if true, it is not really such a bad thing. If I don't know that I have been converted then what do I have to lose. If while tending to the poor, she is also offering a ticket to open what she thinks are heaven's gates without making onerous demands on the subject then so be it.

It is also worthwhile to meditate over the other part of Bhagwat's statement: that a good service where the motive is something else devalues the service. It sounds grandiloquent enough to be convincing until one asks how exactly is it devalued? And in whose minds is it devalued? Not to the one who is being tended to, not to the person who is offering that care. It is devalued in the minds of those who think a conversion threatens their own religion by reducing its numbers and in the minds of those who are insecure about the strength of their own gods to withstand such bribery. But all religion is an elevated form of superstition. There is no Hindu god or Christian heaven. The converted and the reconverted all go into the nothingness they came from.