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Modern Asian Studies 29, 1 (1995), pp. 171-201.

Printed in Great Britain

Paternalism and Freedom: The Evangelical Encounter in Colonial Chhattisgarh, Central India
SAURABH DUBE
University of Delhi

This paper traces aspects of the evangelical encounter in Chhattisgarh, a large region bound through linguistic ties in Central India.1 Evangelical missionaries, bearing the Cross and signs of civilization, arrived in Chhattisgarh in the 1860s. Oscar Lohr, the pioneer missionary of the German Evangelical Mission Society, chanced upon a group of heathens, the Satnamis, whose faith enjoined them to believe in one god and to reject idolatory and caste.2 Was this not the hand
' The paper draws upon my 'Religion, Identity and Authority among the Satnamis in Colonial Central India', Ph.D dissertation, University of Cambridge, 1992. The dissertation constructs a history of the Satnamis an untouchable and heretical group who combined the features of a caste and a sect and is under revision for publication. The themes addressed by this paper will only put in a cameo appearance in the book. Instead, they form a part of another study, 'Missionary Agendas, Indigenous Categories and Local Initiatives: Christianity in Chhattisgarh, Central India, 1868-1955.' The study broadly feeds into the team-project on 'Socio-religious movements and cultural networks in Indian Civilisation' of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla. I thank Ishita Banerjee for translating the German sources used in this paper. The paper uses the following abbreviations: ARM: Annual Reports of Missionaries; BMF: Bisrampur Malguzari File; CPG: Central Provinces Government; DDM: Der Deutsche Missionsfreund; EAL: Eden Archives and Library, Webster Groves, Missouri; FS: Folder on Satnamis; MPDP: M. P. Davis Papers, Webster Groves; MPSRR: Madhya Pradesh Secretariat Record Room, Bhopal; QRM: Quarterly Reports of Missionaries. 2 Satnampanth was initiated in the first half of the nineteenth century by Ghasidas, a farm servant, among the Chamars of Chhattisgarh. The Chamars, who collectively embodied the stigma of death pollution of the sacred cow, constituted a significant proportiona little less than one sixthof the population of Chhattisgarh. They either owned land or were share-croppers and farm servants. The Chamars who joined Satnampanth became Satnamis. They had to abstain from meat, liquor, tobacco, certain vegetablestomatoes, chillies, aubergines and red pulses. Satnampanth rejected the deities and idols of the Hindu pantheon and had no temples. The members were asked to believe only in a formless god, satnam (true name). There were to be no distinctions of caste within Satnampanth. With Ghasidas began a guru parampara (tradition) which was hereditary. Satnampanth developed a stock of myths, rituals and practices which were associated with the gurus.
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of 'divine providence'? The missionary, it seemed, had only to reveal the evangelical 'truth' to the Satnamis before they would en masse 'witness' and be redeemed by Christ-the-Saviour. The group did not see the coming of the millennium. It did not go forward to meet its destiny. The missionaries persevered. The halting enterprise of conversion in the region grew primarily through ties of kinship among indigenous groups and the prospects of a better life under the paternalist economy of mission stations. Bisrampur was a key mission station established by the missionaries of the German Evangelical Mission Society. In Bisrampur the missionary combined the powers of the malguzar, the owner-proprietor of land and a forest, and the pastor. The division between the spiritual and the temporal domains became blurred and got lost. The missionaries worked to rid the converts of flexible marriage practices and provided education, employment and the 'arts of civilization' to mould them into a Christian community. The converts at the station received missionary regulations through the grid of local culture. The new masters had to tend and reap a strange 'harvest'. From the 1920s the missionaries took steps to end the converts' reliance on the economy of the mission station in order to foster a self-dependent congregation infused with the ideas and principles of Christian charity and brotherhood. In 1929 they clearly separated the functions of the malguzar and the pastor in Bisrampur. This brought them into conflict with the converts of the mission station. The converts defended the paternalist ties which had bound them to the missionaries, turned the honour and chastity of women into an evocative metaphor for order within the community, asserted their self-dependence and set up an independent church. The converts seized the Christian signs of civilization and elements of missionary rhetoric and reworked them into their practice. Their challenge to the missionaries was constructed in a Christian idiom. A great deal of the literature on Christianity in South Asia has been generated by church historians. In these accounts the missionaries are, often, projected along the model of the New Testament accounts of the struggles of the apostles. The studies provide us at best with detailed chronicles of actions and events. The few other forays in the field have, once again, been guided by the simple-minded assumption that Christian converts in India made a break with indigenous institutionswith the possible exception of castein the image of the missionaries.3 More recent work which has explored the
Henry VVhitehead, 'The mass movements towards Christianity in the Punjab', International Review of Missions, 2 (1913), pp. 442-53; James C. Manor, 'Testing the
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meanings of'conversion' and the articulation of missionaries, converts and Christianity with indigenous schemes of rank, honour, caste and sect has focused on Orthodox Churches in South India.4 The evangelical encounter in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries remains a relatively neglected area of study.5 The theme raises a range of significant issues the links between evangelical Christianity and the cultural construction of the colonial order, the indigenous perceptions of the new faith, the converts' appropriation and refashioning of key practices of the mission project, the missionary participation in the creation of'indigenous Christianity', and the interplay of orality and writing in the making of myths, truths and historieswhich have been incorporated in the agenda of South Asian history only in fledgling and piecemeal ways.6 This paper explores a few of these questions. It traces the beginnings of missionary activity, the processes of
barrier between caste and outcaste: the Andhra Evangelical Lutheran Church in Guntur District 1920-1940', Indian Church History Review, 5 (1971), pp. 27-41; G. A. Oddie, 'Christian conversion in Telugu country, i860-1900: a case study of one Protestant movement in the Godavery Christian Delta', Indian Economic and Social History Review, 12 (1975), pp. 61-79; Duncan B. Forrester, Caste and Christianity.
Attitudes and Policies on Caste of Anglo-Saxon Protestant Missions in India (London, 1980).

Robert Frykenberg raises wider issues about conversion but does not really address the problems I have raised in his 'On the study of conversion movements', Indian
Economic and Social History Review, 17 (1981), p p . 187-243. 4 Susan Bayly, Saints, Goddesses and Kings. Muslims and Christians in South Indian

Society ijoo-igoo (Cambridge, 1989). See also R. L. Stirrat, 'Compradazgo in Catholic Sri Lanka', Man, 10 (n.s.), (1975), pp. 589-606. 0 Richard Eaton's work, which explores the changing encounter between Christian conceptions of divinity and the religious system of the Nagas to explore the strategies of Protestant missionaries and the Naga conversion to Christianity is an interesting but somewhat weak exception. The difficulties in Eaton's work stem from the rather rigid and formal opposition that he sets up between Christianity as a religion with universal characteristics and the religion of the Nagas as rooted in a narrow domain defined by local divinities. Thus, it was only when the conceptual universe of the Nagas broadened through an exposure to broader processes for instance, the Great Warthat large-scale conversions took place. The picture is much too neat and the opposition overarching. Eaton misses out on the wider issues raised by the historical and ethnographic record of the evangelical encounter. This contrasts, for instance, with David Scott's sensitive tracing of the genealogies of the formation of the specific anthropologized concept of 'demonism' in Sri Lanka. This involved the early British 'orientalist' understanding of religion in Sri Lanka, its expansion through encounters with Sinhala customs and the needs of colonial rule and, eventually, the evangelical missionaries' identification of the 'dangerous durability' of demonism. Richard Eaton, 'Conversion to Christianity among the Nagas, 1876-1971', Indian Economic and Social History Review, 21 (1984), pp. 1-44; David Scott, 'Conversion and demonism: colonial Christian discourse on religion in Sri Lanka', Comparative Studies in Society and History, 34 (1992), pp. 331-65. 6 These issues are suggested by studies in the anthropology of colonialism and Christianity and of 'radical culture contact.' I will address them in detail in my larger work on evangelical Christianity in Chhattisgarh that I have mentioned above.

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conversion, the building up of a paternalist enterprise and the drawing of the lines and contours of the Christian congregation in Bisrampur. This sets the stage for the next step. I rehearse the unfolding of the conflict between missionaries and converts in Bisrampur to explore the missionary efforts to regulate the community of converts and the converts' uses of Christianity. The singularity of the historical and cultural case reveals the wider implications of the evangelical encounter. Missionaries and the Mission Station, Conversions and the Community of Converts in Bisrampur In 1868 Oscar Lohr of the German Evangelical Mission Society began mission work in Chhattisgarh. Lohr, the youngest son of a surgeon, was born in Laehn, Silesia on 28 March 1824.7 He trained for three years as a surgeon at a private clinic and completed a course in pharmacy at Dorpat University in Russia. Lohr had decided to become a missionary while at university: close contacts with the Moravian Brethren in Riga strengthened his resolve and he joined the Gossner Mission Society in Berlin. In March 1850, after six months of training, Lohr was commissioned as a missionary among the Kols of Chota Nagpur. The young missionary's arrival in Ranchi in July 1850 coincided with the baptism of the first Kol converts. During the next seven years Lohr learnt Hindi and applied his medical knowledge as mission work expanded: by 1857, 'over five hundred Kols had become Christians, and the number of inquirers grew day by day.'8 The threat of an attack on the mission station during the rebellion of 1857 forced Lohr along with other missionaries to flee to Calcutta. Lohr and his wifehe had married the widow of a missionary in Ranchisailed for the U.S. and arrived in Boston in August 1858. In January 1859 Lohr was ordained and installed as a pastor in Elizabeth, New Jersey. He provided 'the first impulse' for the founding of the German Evangelical Mission Society on 9 March 1865 in New Jersey.9 The Society, like other Protestant mission organizations in the U.S. at the time, was based on the principle of inter-denominational cooperation in
' Typescript 'Autobiography of Oscar Lohr' (manuscript written in German in 1902 and translated into English in 1971) EAL; Theodore C. Seybold, God's Guiding
Hand: A History of The Central India Mission i868-ig6y (Pennsylvania, 1971), p. 1. 8 'Autobiography of Oscar Lohr', p. 2. 9 DDM, 2, 12 (Dec. 1867), p. 86, EAL.

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evangelical and mission work abroad. Its membership represented sixGerman Reformed, Dutch Reformed, Evangelical, Lutheran, German Presbyterian and the Moravian Brethren denominations. The aim of the Society was 'to take the gospel to the heathen, preferably to the Hindus of East India, to the glory of God.'10 It also decided to publish a paper called Der Deutsche Missionsfreund. In October 1867 the Society extended a call to Lohr to 'begin work among the Santals or some other allied tribe in East India . . . . ' " Lohr, carrying millenarian hopes strengthened by his experience in India and equipped with evangelical zeal and a knowledge of medicine and Hindi, reached Bombay at the end of April 1868. Lohr first heard of the Satnamis at a meeting of missionaries in Bombay. The Rev. J.G. Cooper of the Free Church of Scotland in Nagpur had made an appeal for a missionary to work among 'a peculiar sect of people' in Chhattisgarh. The appeal was backed by Colonel Balmain, the Commissioner of the Chhattisgarh Division. Lohr was told that the Satnamis spoke Hindi and that no missionary had ever worked among them. These were the two conditions laid down by the German Evangelical Mission Society for Lohr's missionary work in India. The Satnamis fitted the bill. Lohr travelled to Nagpur and met Rev. Cooper who informed him that the Satnamis had given up idol worship under the 'leadership of an apparently inspired man of their caste.' The Scottish Mission could not begin work among the group because offinancialconstraints. 'Recognizing the will of the Lord', Lohr decided to begin work in Chhattisgarh. A fortnight later the missionary and his family were in Raipur.12 Lohr found a patron and an ally in Colonel Balmain in Raipur. In the post-mutiny years, even as the colonial state sought to maintain its distance from the religion of its subjects, individual officers could take a keen interest in 'civilizing' the heathen through the agency of missionaries and Christianity. The Chief Commissioner advised Lohr to acquire a site for a mission station and informed him that a large tract of government waste land comprising 1544 acres was about to be put up for public auction. This dovetailed neatly with Lohr's plans to begin his 'work out in the district right in the middle of these people.' He bought the land, which included a deserted village, with financial aid from Colonel Balmain and 'other English friends.' Within a few months Lohr's family had moved into a bungalow with
10 11 12

Seybold, God's Guiding Hand, p.6. Ibid., p.8. 'Autobiography of Oscar Lohr', p. 2.

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outhouses. The missionary named the place Bisrampur, the abode of rest. The neighbouring village, with an area of 265 acres, was called Ganeshpur. The missionary was registered as the malguzar of Bisrampur and Ganeshpur with proprietary rights which extended to the forest on his land.13 Lohr's first encounters with the Satnamis did not await his move to Bisrampur. The missionary set up a school for Satnamis soon after his arrival in Raipur: his effort was to instruct the Satnamis in elementary subjects and Christian truths while finding out more about their sect. This contact led him, on the occasion of the community's 'annual festival', to Bhandar.
When we reached the Guru's residence he had me sit next to him, and after some semblance of order had been achieved with the help of considerable clubbing and beating, I was able to speak to this great mass. I explained to them that they really had no right to call themselves Satnamis, as they did not know the 'True Name' given to men that they might be saved, the name of Jesus Christ. For four long hours I continued speaking, then sat down, weary and exhausted. The Chief Priest himself now served me some refreshments of which I was in dire need. The next morning the crowd assembled once more and I was able to speak to them again. Later I met with smaller groups and answered their questions.14

The missionary was elated by the warm welcome he had received and stated that the Satnamis had stroked his beard to show him great honour and affection in their 'traditional way': 'This enthusiastic welcome given to a missionary on his first visit to the people he had come to serve can probably not be duplicated in mission history."5 But the stroking of Lohr's long flowing beard was, perhaps, little more than an instance of Satnami curiosity. Was the serving of refreshments by the guru the extension of hospitality to a white saheb? Or had the missionary lost the initiative? Had his visit to Bhandar on the day of gurupuja, along with thousands of Satnamis, unwittingly signified his acceptance ofand his incorporation as an affiliate in the domain of the guru's authority?16 The curiosity did not translate
Ibid., pp. 3-4. Der Friedensbote, 79, 20 (1928), pp. 309-15, EAL. 13 Thus the missionary Notrott in the manuscript of the first history of the mission at Bisrampur. The manuscript was written in 1892; Notrott revised and typed the history in 1936. Both copies are in German. Notrott (Typescript) 'History of Mission', p. 5, EAL. 16 See, for instance, Gwyn Prins, The Hidden Hippopotamus: Reappraisals in African History (Cambridge, 1980).
14 13

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itself into conversions, the hospitality was to be replaced by hostility. Lohr's visit to Bhandar set the pattern of differential perceptions which were a feature of the encounter between indigenous groups and the missionaries. Oscar Lohr baptised his first three converts soon after moving to Bisrampur. The Christmas service of 1868 had been attended by a thousand Satnamis. The following Sunday a larger crowd gathered to witness the baptism of three Satnamis who had attended Lohr's school at Raipur and had moved to Bisrampur with the missionary. Lohr asked the Satnamis to remove their janeu (the sacred thread) which they had received from the guru.17 The missionary's instructions created a furore. The converts who had gone through the motion of a 'public confession of their faith' later recanted. The Satnamis launched an offensive. The thirty-five Satnamis who attended the school in Bisrampur immediately confronted Lohr and told him that they did not wish to convert and would leave the school if they were not permitted to wear the sacred thread. Lohr refused. Twenty-two of the twenty-five students returned that afternoon after Lohr assured them that they would not be forced to become Christians.18 Until the critical moment of the first baptism, the basic principle of Lohr's teaching that a true Satnami had to believe in the 'True Name' of Jesus Christ did not, perhaps, compromise the structure of beliefs of the Satnamis. It may have seemed an elaboration, a variation on the theme of satnam. The missionary command to the Satnami converts to remove the janeu before baptism, on the other hand, challenged a principle of faith within Satnampanth. The initial millenarian hopes of Lohr were dashed.19 The Satnamis became wary of the missionary enterprise.
The janeu or the sacred thread is, of course, a mark of the twice-born castes in the Hindu social order. The Satnamis, considered an untouchable community, were barred from wearing it. Balakdas, the second guru of the Satnampanth, distributed the sacred thread among the Satnamis in the 1850s. Satnami myths rehearse the tale of Balakdas's wearing and distribution of the janeu as a simultaneous questioning of and challenge to upper caste authority and colonial power within the region. Saurabh Dube, 'Myths, Symbols and Community: Satnampanth of Chhattisgarh' in Partha Chatterjee and Gyan Pandey (eds.), Subaltern Studies VII: Writings on South Asian History and Society (Delhi, 1992), pp. 151-4. 18 Seybold, God's Guiding Hand, pp. 21-2; Der Friedensbote, 79, 21 (1928), pp. 32531, EAL. 19 In December 1869 a cautious but modestly satisfied Lohr had reported to the Home Board: 'I haven't baptised anyone but inspite of it I am happier than I was a year back. We have applications from a few Satnamis. But in reality there are more converts this year and it is I who hasn't baptised them. I have become more
17

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A year later the missionary baptised four converts two Satnamis, a Rawat (a member of the caste of village graziers and water carriers), and a Brahmanin January 1870. The two Satnamis had been students of the training school established in Raipur and then transferred to Bisrampur, the Rawat had been in mission service for two years, and the Brahman had come in 'a starving condition' during the famine of 1868 and had made rapid progress in learning at the training school.20 The Rawat and the Brahman decided to become Christians after they survived a prolonged illness which brought them close to death. Did the healing powers of missionary medicine and Christthe-Saviour embody for some a greater efficacy than local specialists and indigenous deities? Perhaps. The miraculous healing powers of the Lord continued to figure prominently in missionary accounts as a driving force which compelled people, 'equals in the Kingdom of God' who were exercising their self-determination and religious freedom, to embrace Christianity. At the same time, the missionary fixed upon the 'natural' ties of kinship as the basic building block for conversions: 'The two Satnamis . . . [as] members of large families . . . will become instruments of the conversion of many of their kinsmen.'21 The missionary's hopes were well founded. Kinship did indeed prove critical to the growth of the Christian congregation at Bisrampur. On 31 December 1871 Lohr wrote: 'Today I have again led twelve souls to Jesus through baptism: all of them Satnamis. . . . Among the people baptised were the father and mother of Paulus [the first Satnami to be baptised who did not recant], one of his sisters and his eight days old suckling babyalso his grand parents, daughter and uncle.'22 By July 1872 forty-four peopletwenty-seven adults and seventeen children had been baptised and 'the same number' were under religious instruction, 'ready to embrace Christianity.'23 Almost a third of these converts and enquirers were members of one extended family. The missionary enthused: 'From this far
careful and I don't want to please myself by gathering a group of nominal Christians. Besides what is required is a deeper understanding of Christian truth and a thorough grounding in the same than what the sons of wilderness can grasp in three or four months. Finally, decisiveness about what one feels and holding one's ground in the face of persecution and enmity is required from the heathens. This can be expected when the value of Christian religion is understood which is too much to expect from this folk in a few months, given the limitedness of their understanding and their materialist instincts.' DDM, 6. 4 (April 1870), p. 1, EAL. 20 Report of the Chuttesgurh Mission, June 1870-Juiy 1871, pp. 5-6, ARM, EAL. 21 Ibid., p . 5 . 22 DDM, 8, 4 (April 1872), p. 25, EAL. 23 Report of the Chuttesgurh Mission, June 1871-July 1872, pp. 8-9, ARM, EAL.

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spreading and numerous relationships among the Chamars, we may conclude, that hereafter the whole tribe will embrace Christianity.'24 The 'whole tribe' proved elusive. At the same time, Anjori Paulus and his relatives were not alone. The early settlers of Bisrampur were generally followed by their relatives and, over time, a significant proportion of the family was baptised. The missionaries described the process as the growth of Christianity from within: the naturalness of ties of kinship was, within limits, seen by the missionary as a counter to the materialist instincts of the converts.25 The converts were a part of the paternalist economy which developed around the missionary and the mission station. The mission employed the converts as coolies and servants and after a household had saved enough to buy a pair of oxen it was granted four acres of land. The converts who completed the course at the training school were employed as catechists and teachers in village schools and as Scripture readers. The missionaries trained the converts as masons, smiths and carpenters: most of them were employed at the mission station. The women converts were engaged as servants and employed as bible-women. The situation of the converts at Bisrampur stood in marked contrast to what they had faced as cultivators in their village. They received loans at low rates of interest and the missionary, unlike other malguzars, did not exact begar (forced labour) but paid them for labour on public works such as the building and repair of roads and irrigation tanks.26 The missionary, the ownerproprietor of Bisrampur and Ganeshpur, the malguzar and master, held together the economic system of the mission station.
24 Ibid., p. g.The missionaries more than colonial officials understood the difference between Satnamis and Chamars. This did not, however, prevent them at certain moments from referring to Satnamis as Chamars in their reports. 25 DDM, 8, 4 (April 1872), pp. 25-6; DDM, 9, 2 (Feb. 1873), P- I o ; DDM, 9, 11 (November 1873), P- 83, EAL. By 1883 the number of converts at Bisrampur had grown to 175 and there were other relatives of these families who were waiting for baptism. The baptismal register for Bisrampur shows that this process of slow growth went on till 1890 when the number of converts came to stand at 258. The famine years around the turn of the century witnessed a dramatic increase in conversions. But this was followed very soon by what was described by missionaries as a 'backsliding from Christianity.' Report of the Chuttesgurh Mission, 1883, p. 17, ARM, EAL; Bisrampur Baptismal Register, 1870-90, EAL. The conversions during the famine years and their aftermath are discussed in the reports of missionaries in DDM, 1898-1907. 26 Annual Reports of the Chuttesgurh Mission, 1870-71, pp. 5-6; 1871-72, pp. 4 8; 1874-75, PP- 813; 1876-77, pp. 8-10; 1878-80, pp. 6-11, 15-16; 1880-81, p. 6, 13; 1881-82, pp. n - 1 2 ; 1882-83, PP- 5~7. 8-10, p. 15, ARM, EAL. This picture is also confirmed by the missionary reports from Bisrampur published in DDM, 187090, EAL.

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The authority of the missionary was closely intertwined with a set of key practices, the arts of civilization, initiated by the mission. An early map of the Bisrampur mission station shows the imposing, square missionary bungalow in the centre; the other mission buildings were similarly placed at masterly discretion within the missionary's domain.27 A church, built in 1873 opposite the missionary's house, completed the picture.28 In another context, Jean and John Comaroff have argued that 'built form' and the spatial organization of activities among the church, the school, the dispensary, the printing press, and the fields, governed by western notations and divisions of time and labour, formed a part of the attempt of the evangelists in South Africa to 'rationalize' the indigenous community through the geometric grid of'civilization'.29 My point here is that the mission buildings and the spatial organization of work were imbricated in the everyday definition and reinforcement of missionary authority, the saheb who owned and regulated the fields, the forest and the mission station.30 Equally, the missionary had power to heal bodies through western medicine. This coupled with the control over the production and generation of the printed word, in the context of the importance which Protestantism attached to the convert's self-commitment to, and internalization of, the 'word' and the power of writing within an oral tradition, served to augment missionary authority. The missionary commanded knowledge, writing and the power to heal.31 Finally, the missionary was the model in the moral discourse about Christian decency, bodily
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DDM, 10, 8 (Aug. 1874), p. 57. While the church was being constructed Lohr, on 27 January 1872 had stated: 'The news has spread like wildfire because in Chhattisgarh the construction of a church is like a carnival . . . However, it is also of some significance or importance. If a large temple of the god was being built it would not be anything to be noticed. But a church is something new . . . In other words, the construction of the church draws a huge mass of people'. DDM, 8, 4 (April 1872), p. 26. 29 Jean Comaroff and John Comaroff, 'Christianity and colonialism in South Africa', American Ethnologist, 13, 1 (1986), pp. 1-22. 30 In September 1870 Lohr had written that he looked after the running of the station in mornings and evenings. At 9.00 a.m. he took a lesson in school, then breakfast, and at 10.00 he visited people who were ill. Till 2.00 p.m. Lohr taught the children and then took a lesson in catechism for an hour. From 3.00 to 4.00 he looked after the work in the fields, then had lunch and after that went off to inspect the garden. DDM, 6, 12 (Dec. 1870), pp. 89-90. 31 DDM, 6, 4 (April 1870), p.3; DDM, 8, 11 (Nov. 1872), p.82; DDM, 13, 2 (Feb. 1877), p. 11; DDM, 10, 10 (Oct. 1874), p. 74; DDM, 11, 2 (Feb. 1875), p. 13; Annual Report of the Chuttesgurh Mission, 1874-75, pp. 10-14, ARM, EAL.

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shame and physical modesty which turned clothing into a distinctive sign of indigenous Christianity. The men wore pyjamas, shirts and some even had shoes, the women full five-yard sarees and blouses, the little girls dresses sent by rich benefactors from across the seas. These garments and accessories were, of course, not worn at all times. To church and Sunday school. Certainly. At other moments gestures of decency and modesty were enough. The days of loin cloths, lugdas (short sarees), uncovered breasts and naked children lay in the past. The missionaries with their shirts, jackets, trousers, solar hats and dresses the insignia of the saheb and memsaheb's powerpresided over this public pantomime of propriety.32 The gains for the converts were at once material and symbolic and they fashioned a distinctive understanding of missionary authority. A Satnami convert on being asked to perform a menial village duty, for instance, had replied: 'No, I have become a Christian and am one of the Sahibs; I shall do no more begar.'33 At the same time, the key practices, the social instruments to make 'wilderness' bear 'fruit' and yield a 'harvest', had contradictory consequences. The 'sons of wilderness' came to recognize the signs of civilization as attributes of the power of missionaries but were also to deploy them in their questioning of this authority.34 The missionary was the master of the mission station. He combined the powers of the malguzar and the pastor. The provision of employment and aid to converts was accompanied by a drive to control and discipline the members of the congregation. In Protestant ideology marriage was a sacred contract between individuals and the monogamous household was the basic unit for the conduct of a Christian life. For civilization to flourish the Christian family had to triumph over the moral murk, sloth and chaos of the heathen world. Equally, the early evangelists had to direct themselves against the everyday customs and practices, the snares and traps of Satan, in the 'primitive' world of Chhattisgarh. The missionary together with the 'native' leaders of the Bisrampur convertsthe catechists and school teachersdrew up a set of regulations to order the life of the congregation which were embodied in
32 DDM, 8, 7 (July 1872), p. 50; DDM, 8, 11 (Nov. 1872), p. 85; DDM, 9, 8 (Aug. 1873), p. 58; See also the photographs of missionaries and converts in J. J. Lohr, Bilder aus Chattisgarh (Place of publication not given, 1899). 33 C. P. Ethnographic Survey XVII, Draft Articles on Hindustani Castes, First Series (Nagpur, 1914), p. 57. 34 These issues were played out in the context of the convert challenge to missionary authority and are discussed in the next section.

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Bisrampur Kalasiya ki Vishesh Agyayen (Special Rules of the Congrega-

tion at Bisrampur).35 These regulations and institutions governing the community, viewed through the grid of local culture, showed marked continuities with the rules of caste and sect. The converts could only marry other Christians. To join the church was to become the member of another endogamous group. A marriage with a nonChristian was valid ifs/he had joined the church. Equally, a wedding feast to the extended kin group and members of the community was critical for the sanctity of marriage among the converts. The feast signified the incorporation of a new member into a bounded group.36 The Christian concern with monogamy and fear of adultery, of course, meant that the converts were forbidden churi, secondary marriage. But this was also the area in which members of the Bisrampur congregation exercised considerable initiative, followed their earlier practices and flouted missionary authority.37 The institution of marriage then showed significant continuities between principles of sect and the community of converts. Moreover, the concerns of purity and pollution informed the practices of the church. The members of the Bisrampur congregation had to keep their distance from carrion because, 'Hindus and Satnamis look down upon us'. Similarly, the converts were forbidden liquor, opium and marijuana.38 The 'Special Rules for the Bisrampur Church', in fact, suggest the contours of a community which had not so much broken with, as rearranged, the regulations which had governed its lives in the past. The rules and norms were, of course, subverted.39 The transgression was dealt with through the mechanism of excommunication. The offenders were, in a characteristic if ironic move, 'outcasted' from the church.'40 Finally, the organization of the congregation was premised upon the institutions of village life. The church council with its prachin (elders) was
35

Bisrampur Kalasiya ki Vishesh Agyayen (Special Rules o f t h e C o n g r e g a t i o n a t Bisrampur) (Bisrampur, 1890). 36 Ibid., pp. 2-3. 37 Annual Report of the Chuttesgurh Mission, 1876-77, pp. 2-3. There were close ties between the converts and their relatives who followed them to Bisrampur. Since the families often retained relations of commensality, both the converts and their relatives were excommunicated from Satnampanth. The evidence we have, in fact, confirms the hostility of Satnami leadership towards conversions. At the same time, this hostility and missionary injunctions could not prevent intimacy and relationships between the converts and other Satnamis. DDM, 11, 1 i(Nov. 1875), pp. 81-3; DDM, 13, 2(Feb. 1877), pp. 18ig; DDM, (n.s.) 4, 4 (April 1887), pp. 29-31. 38 Bisrampur Kalasiya ki Vishesh Agyayen, p . 5 . 39 DDM, 9, 8 (Aug. 1873), p. 57; DDM, (n.s.), 4, 9 (Sept. 1886), pp. 68-70. 40 Bisrampur Kalasiya ki Vishesh Agyayen, p . 5 .

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fashioned along the lines ofthe jat panchayat with its sayan (wise men). The church council settled disputes, regulated the life of the congregation and excommunicated offenders.41 It could also, in the face of a threat to familiar norms, expectations, institutions and practices, challenge the missionaries. Poor Martyrs, Virgin Sisters and Oppressive Masters: Missionary Agendas and the Converts' Use of Christianity In the early 1930s the well-oiled paternalist machine of Bisrampur ground to a halt. The conflict between the missionaries and the Christian congregation had its apparent beginnings in adultery. The villagers claimed that Boas Purti had an adulterous relationship with Rebecca. Boas Purti, employed as the lambardar (man-in-charge) of the malguzari by the mission, was an 'outsider' who did not belong to the congregation at Bisrampur; Rebecca was a 'virgin Christian girl' of the mission station. Boas Purti, 'fattened' by his salary and flush with 'pride', had ensnared Rebecca into his 'net of love'. Rebecca became pregnant. Boas Purti's guilt could be established by looking at the child. The inhabitants of Bisrampur were incensed. In July 1933 a meeting of the church council found Boas Purti guilty; the missionary, J. C. Koenig, was alone not convinced of the lambardar's guilt. At the next meeting of the congregation the missionary was forced to declare that Boas Purti was out of caste.42 Boas Purti appealed to the India Mission District (IMD).43 In August 1933 members of the India Mission District committee reached its decision. Boas was not out of caste and the church council had been partial and unjust. The angry members of the Bisrampur church fell out with the missionaries.44 They set up an independent congregation,
41 Ibid., pp. 5-6; DDM, 9, 8 (Aug. 1873), PP- 57~8; Annual Report of the Chuttesgurh Mission, 1876-77, pp. 2-3. Apart from the reports included in the footnotes the arguments of the last three paragraphs are based upon the information contained in several issues of DDM between 1870 and 1900. 42 Immanuel Church, Bisrampur to P. A. Menzel, Secretary, American Evangelical Mission, U.S.A., 25 October 1933, BMF, EAL. The letter had 168 signatures. A number of the applications, notes and letters written by the converts are in Hindi. The translations are mine. 43 The India Mission District of the Evangelical Synod of North America was set up in 1924 as a self-governing church body in India. It was made up of missionaries of the American Evangelical Mission stationed at six mission stations. Seybold, God's Guiding Hand, p p . 7 5 - 6 . 44 J. C. Koenig, Bisrampur to F. A. Goetsch, St. Louis, 22 Jan. 1935, BMF, EAL.

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wrote letters to the Home Board of the mission in the U.S. and went on to appoint an honorary pastor who conducted a Sunday service, baptised new members and managed congregational matters. 45 The missionaries responded by locking up the church at Ganeshpur, confiscating the treasury, resorting to punitive measures against infringements of missionary property and closing avenues of employment within the mission station.46 They repudiated all paternalist ties. It was after more than two years, in the middle of 1935, that there was a return to a semblance of normalcy. We have seen that Bisrampur had developed as a paternalist institution. In a survey of Bisrampur carried out in 1925 Rev. Miller from Dhamtari sought to determine the economic status of people before they became Christians. 47 He divided the people of Bisrampur into three general divisions: total charity cases; those able to earn their livelihood; and those able to provide for their own livelihood. His conclusion was that before conversion about 40 per cent of the people had been total charity cases, 50 per cent had been semi-independent and 10 per cent had an independent livelihood.48 Three months later Rev. Goetsch reported from Bisrampur: It must be admitted that a large portion of the people who became Christians [in the nineteenth century] did so for economic reasons. The influx was not only due to the famine conditions which prevailed during several years of that period, but came about by the general wish to improve their economic condition. While such economic improvement was never held out as a bait by our missionaries, the news that those who became Christians were as far as possible provided with opportunities for work soon spread and brought the relatives and friends of the new converts in large numbers.49 By 1926 there had been 'a decided improvement' in the economic status of the Christian community at Bisrampur. Only a few widows
Premdas Jacob, Bisrampur to Chairman, Evangelical Synod of North America, Detroit, 17 April 1935, BMF, EAL; J. C. Koenig, Bisramput to F. A. Goetsch, St Louis, 22 Jan. 1935, BMF, EAL. 46 Premdas Jacob, Bisrampur to Chairman, Evangelical Synod of North America, Detroit, 17 April 1935, BMF EAL; Noordaas and Powel, Christian members, Ganeshpur (near Bisrampur) to Chairman Saheb (?), 29 March 1934, BMF, EAL. 47 Miller, 'Survey of Bisrampur', 1925, p. 4, BMF, EAL. Another survey conducted in 1943 revealed that about 96 per cent of the Christians of Bisrampur and Ganeshpur had descended from 'Satnami-Chamar' families. Moreover, the congregation at Bisrampur made for about 42.5 per cent of the total Christian members of the American Evangelical Mission. 'A study of Christian descendants from Chamars and Satnamis' (handwritten and typed note), 1943, pp. 1-5, FS, MPDP, EAL. 48 Miller, 'Survey of Bisrampur', p. 4. 49 F. A. Goetsch, Second Quarterly Report, Bisrampur, 27 July 1926, QRM, EAL.
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could 'legitimately be classed' as charity cases; 23 per cent, 42 out of 183 families, were semi-independent; and 76 per cent received an income of over ten rupees per month and were classed as independent.50 The mission station was the pivot of the local economy of Bisrampur. The missionary stood centre stage within the normative economy of the converts. The details bear repetition. The Christian converts of Bisrampur were settled on the land at the mission station, given loans at low rates of interest, trained as carpenters and masons at the training school, and provided employment as teachers, biblewomen, catechists and servants within the mission. They were paid for their labour when the mission as malguzar undertook public works such as the repair and construction of roads. Finally, the buildings of the Bisrampur congregation, including the church, had been maintained by the mission.51 The mission had built and dominated the economy of Bisrampur. At the same time, the missionaries had sought to discipline the lives of the converts. These interventions were geared to control the everyday matters of the congregation. In the pioneer mission station the work of missionaries, as a version of an inexorable project of education, had resembled the conduct of parents towards their children. The missionaries had projected themselves along the model of the New Testament accounts of the struggles of the apostles.52 The converts, although equal in the Kingdom of God, were childlike and struggling to grasp rational objective thought. They had to be nurtured, guided, and controlled. The converts and the missionaries were bound through complex ties of dependence and control. The missionary occupied the figure of the ma-bap, the paternalist master, in Bisrampur. At the same time, the converts had their own vision of paternalist ties. Deference to the missionary was one
50 The survey stated, 'out of a communicant membership of 575 [185 families] 176 families own their houses, 112 own land, 85 own teams of cows or buffaloes while perhaps 80 have savings in some form or other than those mentioned or other than regular household equipment.' Miller, 'Survey of Bisrampur', 1925, p. 5. *' Miller, 'Survey of Bisrampur', 1925, pp. 4-5; P. M. Konrad, Annual Report, Bisrampur, 1925, p. 2, ARM; Mrs T. Twente, 'Report on Bible-women's work', Annual Report, Bisrampur, 1927, pp. 1-2, ARM; 'Note on Christian descendants from Satnami families', 1940, pp. 1-5, FS, MPDP, EAL; E. VV. Menzel, Annual Report, Bisrampur, 1951, pp. 2-7, ARM, EAL. 02 According to Seybold, Pandit Gangaram, Oscar Lohr's faithful co-worker, had paid the missionary the finest compliment when he called him 'Apostle to the Satnamis'. Seybold, God's Guiding Hand, p. 57; E. W. Menzel, 'Note on Sixtieth Anniversary Celebrations at Bisrampur', Annual Report, Bisrampur, 1928. pp. 1-2, ARM, EAL; M. M. Paul, Evangelical Kalasiya ka Sankshipt Itihas (Allahabad, 1936), pp. 7 g, 22-3; Rev. Hagenstein, Satmat ka Updesh (Allahabad, 1934), p. 4.

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part necessary self-preservation and one part the calculated extraction of whatever was up for grabs. The initiative of the converts of Bisrampur was launched in the midst of the missionary efforts to dismantle the ties of paternalism and dependence. The structure of Protestant beliefs and theology was informed by and organized around a clear separation between spiritual and temporal domains. In Bisrampur, however, the missionary had been pastor and malguzar, the effective ruler of the mission station, for decades. The distinction between the two domains had got lost in practice.53 A move in 1929 sought to reconstitute the two separate spheres. The missionary came to look after temporal matters, the malguzari, in Bisrampur; an Indian pastor took care of the spiritual life of the congregation. The missionary effort was tied to their concern to make the congregation self-dependent. Members of the Bisrampur church were to pay for their pastor, maintain the church, contribute to the construction of roads and donate for Christian causes.54 For the converts at Bisrampur land, employment, the introduction of a regular cash flow, the supply of food during famines, the distribution of foreign goods, the construction of roads and Europeanstyle houses, and the missionary as a master who scattered benevolence and controlled the congregationall these were not incidental features of the missionary endeavour. They lay at the heart of the evangelical enterprise. It was within the matrix of a paternalist system that the converts had functioned as a community. Moreover, the group faced with a situation of land hunger and lack of employment had to cope with the appointment of 'outsiders', Christians who did not belong to Bisrampur, as mission servants by the missionaries.55 The dismantling of ties of dependence and the appointment of 'outsiders' was a blow to the normative economythe sense of proper functions and obligations of members of the Bisrampur community of the converts. A number of specific measures undertaken by the missionaries aided the process. It is significant that Boas Purti was the mukhtiyar of the village of Bisrampur. The mukhtiyar was entrusted with the
53 The missionary was 'the civic authority (through the Malguzari), the employer or landlord of most people, the legal guardian of many or the legal guardian of [villager's] children or other relatives, as well as the symbol in which ecclesiastical moral authority and charitable enterprises was more or less vested', E. W. Menzel, 'Note on Bisrampur', 1940, pp. 2-3, BMF, EAL. 34 Ibid.;}. Purti, 'Annual Congregational Report', Bisrampur, 1929, ARM, EAL. DD The difficult economic situation was evident in the early 1920s. F. A. Goetsch, Annual Report, Bisrampur, 1922, pp. 2-4, ARM, EAL.

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collection of payments from tenants and the collation of accounts. He wielded considerable power, encoded within the malguzari system, over the tenants at the mission station.56 The missionary had appointed an 'outsider' as the mukhtiyar and, subsequently, defended him. Moreover, in the eyes of the converts, the missionaries had become increasingly inflexible with regard to the forest owned by the mission station. The annual reports of missionaries indicate that the jungle was 'a constant source of irritation'; it could, indeed, provide a missionary with his 'most unpleasant experiences' in India.57 'During the rainy season and the cold season the people graze their cattle and steal the grass, and during the hot season they steal the wood.'58 The villagers of Bisrampur and Ganeshpur had claimed that in grazing their cattle and collecting wood and grass for everyday use from the forest they were exercising their customary rights. The missionaries had taken various preventive measures. They had been unsuccessful. The separation of temporal and spiritual domains was accompanied by the tightening of controls over the forest.59 The missionaries resorted to prosecution. The converts brought into play their customary usages and practice to criticize the highhandedness of the missionary: 'Women are habituated to take wood for fuel from the Machionery [missionary] Forest. The Machionery Saheb [missionary] called the police for the enquiries to take the objections.'60 Finally, it was the mission as malguzar which had, in the past, financed public works which in turn had provided employment to the villagers of Bisrampur and Ganeshpur. In other villages when the malguzar undertook 'public work' it was carried out using conscript labour or begar. The missionary insistence that the congregation at Bisrampur contribute to public works as a true Christian community ran counter to the normative economy of the converts. Such contributions appeared to them as a modified form of bhet-begar, free labour rendered under the duress of'custom'codified by British administrationto the malguzar. What made it worse was a sense that the missionary was withholding 'foreign gifts being sent for them.'61 The
E. W. Menzel, Annual Report, Bisrampur, 1938, p. 6, ARM, EAL. T. Twente, Annual Report, Bisrampur, 1929, p. 3, ARM, EAL; J. C. Koenig, Baitalpur to T. Twente, Bisrampur, 21 June 1929, BMF, EAL. 38 T. Twente, Annual report, Bisrampur, 1929, p. 3, ARM, EAL. 39 J. C. Koenig, 'Note regarding the Bisrampur jungle', Bisrampur, 5 May 1929, p. 1, BMF, EAL. 60 Noordass and Powel, Christian members, Bisrampur to Chairman Saheb(?), 29 March 1934, BMF, EAL. 61 E. W. Menzel, 'Note on Bisrampur', 1940, p. 3, BMF, EAL.
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mission in its efforts to foster a self-dependent congregation and to separate temporal and congregational matters invited 'the opprobrium in which the Malguzari system is held.' The 'outsiders' were classed as illegitimate intruders and the missionaries were fashioned as oppressive masters.52 The trouble had been brewing for some time. In early 1932, 'there was found fastened to the Imli [tamarind] tree near the [missionary] Bungalow a notice about balwa and swatantrata, revolution and freedom, the trend of which was to work for the removal of all employees from outside.'63 A little later, the villagers came to hear about the 'adulterous' relationship of Kenshwar Babu, an employee from another station with Naomi, the daughter of Buth Burwha of Bisrampur. Kenshwar had been found guilty by the church council. He was excommunicated and dismissed from mission service.64 It was less than a year when Boas Purti was believed to have followed Kenshwar in having an affair with a young woman of Bisrampur. The incident involving Boas Purti was seen as a part of a larger pattern. 'In American Mission Station Bisrampur there are servants as doctors, masters and clerks who have been called from other parts of India (outside mission) by your missionaries. Many of these have spoiled the character of our young Christian ladies.'65 Boas Purti had used his riches, accumulated in Bisrampur, and 'spread a net of love to catch a Christian virgin girl, Rebecca. He enjoyed with her for many days. And when the girl had a womb [sic] the secret was disclosed. At last the girl born a child [jfc].'66 Boas Purti was one among several outsiders who had 'violated the honour of Christian sisters.'67 It was the missionary who appointed the 'outsiders' as mission servants who because of 'high salaries and favour of these missionaries had become proud.' The missionary sahebs 'turned a blind eye' to the excesses of outsiders and, indeed, tried to hide their sins. Boas Purti as 'the agent of Rev. J. Gass' confirmed the complicity between the missionaries and 'outsiders'.68
62

Ibid., p . 3 .

M. P. Davis, 'Report of the Bisrampur Church trouble', 28 Feb. 1934, p. ' , BMF, EAL.
64

63

Ibid.

Application from Immanuel Church, Bisrampur to P. A. Menzel, Secretary, American Evangelical Mission. U. S.A., 25 Oct. 1933, p. 1, BMF, EAL. 66 Ibid. 67 Bisrampur congregation to the Home Board in the U.S., 14 Dec. 1933, BMF, EAL. 68 Application from Immanuel Church, Bisrampur to P. A. Menzel, Secretary, American Evangelical Mission, U.S.A., 25 October 1933, BMF, EAL.

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The growth of an independent church was an important part of missionary rhetoric and informed their endeavour to separate spiritual and temporal domains and to foster a self-dependent congregation.69 The converts of Bisrampur seized the idea and reworked it into their practice. Their enterprise involved a play with balwa and swatantrata. The twin signs, important elements in contemporary political-cultural discourse (particularly, at the time of the Civil Disobedience movement), could be appropriated and deployed in different ways by local groups.70 Members of the Bisrampur congregation sought independence by rallying around the call for revolution and freedom to rid the mission station of'outsiders'. The converts invoked the threat to honour and chastity of the women of the community to question the presence and practices of these 'outsiders'.71 The Christian congregation of Bisrampur had, as we have seen, drawn upon principles of caste and sect and institutions of village life in constituting itself as a community. Moreover, the converts had faced the ire of missionaries and excommunication by the church council for forming liaisons along the lines of churi outside the legitimate space of Christian marriage.72 Members of the congregation now brought into play the need for maintenance of the boundary of the community and the Christian emphasis on adultery as sin to protest the intrusion of 'outsiders'. The honour of women was, simultaneously, turned into an evocative metaphor for order within the community and a symbol that constructed its boundary. Women had to be protected against acts of sexual transgression. The violation of their honour by an 'outsider' breached the boundary and disrupted the order of the community. Boas Purti's misdemeanour with Rebecca encapsulated the threat from the 'outsider' and evoked disruption and disorder within Bisrampur.
E. W. Menzel, 'Note on Bisrampur', 1940, p. 4, BMF, EAL. See, for instance, Shahid Amin, 'Gandhi as Mahatma: Gorakhpur district, eastern UP', in Ranajit Guha (ed.), Subaltern Studies III. Writings on South Asian History and Society (Delhi, 1984), pp. 1-55. 71 In a very different context, Lata Mani and Rosalind O'Hanlon have discussed how women increasingly came to be the key 'sign' in the nineteenth century debates about the status of Hindu tradition and the legitimacy of colonial power. These debates did not offer women a voice as subjects and denied them agency. Lata Mani, 'Contentious traditions: the debate on sati in colonial India', in Kumkum Sangari and Sudesh Vaid (eds.), Recasting Women, Essays in Colonial History (Delhi, 1989), pp. 86-126; Rosalind O'Hanlon, 'Issues of widowhood: gender and resistance in colonial western India', in Douglas Haynes and Gyan Prakash (eds), Contesting Power. Resistance and Everyday Social Relations in South Asia ( D e l h i , 1991), p p . 6 2 - 1 0 8 . 72 The annual and quarterly reports of the missionaries frequently referred to this problem. The missionary Goetsch provided a detailed comment. F. A. Goetsch, Annual Report, Bisrampur, 1925, pp. 2-3, ARM, EAL.
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The criticism of 'outsiders' by the converts of Bisrampur was accompanied by their questioning of the missionaries. The converts underscored missionary duplicity. At the meeting of the church council which discussed the case of Boas Purti and Rebecca, 'Rev. Keonig knew the real fact yet he wanted to hide his [Boas's] fault'.73 At the six-monthly meeting of the church council it was under 'the compulsion of the assemblage [sic]' that the missionary announced that 'Boas was outcasted.'74 At the same time, Rev. Koenig tricked the congregation. Before his announcement he asked the assembly if the members would abide by the decision of the India Mission District. The congregation had agreed. The missionary then hurriedly convened a meeting of the India Mission District in August instead of waiting until November when the meeting which decided such cases was normally held. The meeting of missionaries had 'solved the case and found Boas to be not guilty' while the members of the church council waited outside on the verandah of the missionary bungalow. The missionaries had not consulted the church council; the meeting had been held and the decision arrived at surreptitiously; the members, aware of their guilt and complicity, had tried to run away to a car at the back of the bungalow.75 M. P. Davis, the president of the India Mission District, after he was called by the Bisrampur congregation had unwittingly confirmed the villainy of the missionary Keonig: 'His speech told us that Rev. J. C. Keonig forcibly made them to write the three sentences mentioned above'; it was in keeping with his treachery and deceit that 'Rev. J. C. Keoing reminded us [of] our promise and asked us to obey and to accept the justice of the IMD Committee.'76 The converts drew a distinction between the church, on the one hand, and the 'outsiders' and missionaries, on the other. It was 'truth' that was at issue in the struggle between the church and the missionaries: 'The Church being weak could notfightwith them [the missionaries] for truth'.77 The converts offered the Home Board proof of the excesses of 'outsiders' and missionary complicity in the form of the written word 'If you may like you may look at our minute book'
Application from Immanuel Church, Bisrampur to P. A. Menzel, Secretary, American Evangelical Mission, U. S.A., 25 Oct. 1933, BMF, EAL. 74 Bisrampur congregation to the Home Board in the U.S., 14 Dec. 1933, BMF, EAL. 75 Ibid. 76 Ibid. 11 Immanuel Church, Bisrampur to P. A. Menzel, Secretary, American Evangelical Mission U.S.A., 25 Oct. 1933, BMF, EAL.
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which established both the legality and the truth behind their position. The missionaries, on the other hand, had transgressed their authority. The judgement of the IMD 'tells us that Boas cannot be outcasted for ever in any way. Now he [has] got a divine route from these members to enter in the heaven.' Equally, the decision was 'full of insult [to] the Church Council. No civilised person will write or say like this . . . \ 78 The questioning of the missionaries was conducted in the language and idiom of Christianity. The missionaries were constructed as tyrannical masters. The missionaries looked 'innocent and simple and faithful, but we the poor are being crushed by them. They have come to guide us in our lives' journey, to help the poor in spirit and body. They think quite opposite of it. By their doings it seems they have come to rule over us'.79 The simplicity of the people of Bisrampur made the missionaries condescending towards them. 'They think, these people of Chhattisgarh are ignorant and mad. What can they do? They eat opium and do not know anything. These missionaries want to be apart from us.'80 In was, in fact, the un-Christian character and behaviour of the missionaries which prevented a spread of the faith and tainted Christianity. 'These missionaries came to us in the name of God and faith and dominate us. They are oppressive and irreligious because of which the neighbouring Hindus reject us. This prevents a spread of the faith and we get a bad name and are criticised.'81 The traits of duplicity and domination distanced the missionaries and set them apart from the church which was poor and concerned about its spiritual well-being and the spread of Christianity. The converts, as a corollary, invoked the benevolent missionaries and paternalist ties of the past. In the past the converts were ignorant. 'We were in darkness'; the missionaries had 'showed us the light of salvation and saved us from destruction'; 'We remember our old masters (missionaries) who lived here fifteen years before.'82 But all that had changed. A missionary, looking into the situation, stated that
78
79

Ibid.

Bisrampur congregation to the Home Board in the U.S., 14 Dec. 1933, BMF, EAL; 'Note on missionaries' by Premdas Munshi, no date, BMF, EAL. 80 Immanuel Church, Bisrampur to P. A. Menzel, Secretary, American Evangelical Mission, U.S.A., 25 Oct. 1933, BMF, EAL. 81 Bisrampur congregation to the Home Board in the U.S., 14 Dec. 1933, BMF, EAL; 'Note on reasons for a split in the Bisrampur congregation', no date, BMF, EAL. 82 Bisrampur congregation to the Home Board in the U.S., 25 Oct. 1933, BMF, EAL.

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according to the converts 'there is no love left in the present missionaries.'83 The moment for a return to the past had been crossed. The members of the congregation had fired their first salvo in the name of revolution and freedom. They worked their independence by separating themselves from the missionaries and the India Mission District. The first meeting after the converts rejected the decision of the IMD committee was held in the Ganeshpur church on 10 August 1933.84 The new mandli (congregation) appointed a new committee with Premdas Master as president, Premprakash Tailor as secretary and ten other members. The committee put forward eight resolutions which were accepted by the congregation. The Immanuel Mandli separated itself from the India Mission District, objected to its rules and regulations, and became self-dependent. The pastor sent by the IMD was to be dismissed after a month's notice. No one from another congregation was to be selected as the pastor. Women of the group were not to work at the house of a person from another mandli. If they did they were to be excommunicated and had to pay a fine of ten rupees. The Christians who had been turned out earlier 'due to the occupation of bones and skin' were to be accepted within the congregation. However, if they took up the trade in animal hides or ate carrion again, they were to be punished heavily under the new regulations. The twelve prachins (elders) were to perform 'all work of this Mandli except marriage matter.'85 The resolutions at the meeting had sketched out the basic features of the independence of the 'self-dependent' Immanuel mandli. The letters which the converts sent the Home Board in the U.S. stated their desire to be independent. 'We request you to cut the name of our Church from your A. E. Mission and give us a transfer certificate that we may join in any other Mission. And if you please, you may have other inhabitants for the spot.'86 The Bisrampur congregation, even as it left the path for reconciliation open, was not merely holding out an idle threat to the Home Board.87 The idea of a self-dependent congregation and a church independent of missionary authority had become an important part of their venture. After a
J. C. Koenig, Annual report, Bisrampur, 1934, p. 3, ARM, EAL. M. P. Davis, 'Report of the Bisrampur Church trouble', p. 1; 'Minutes of the first meeting of the Immanuel Mandli', 10 Aug. 1933, BMF, EAL. 8:> 'Minutes of the first meeting of the Immanuel Mandli', 10 Aug. 1933, BMF, EAL. 86 Immanuel Church, Bisrampur to P. A. Menzel, Secretary, American Evangelical Mission, U.S.A., 25 Oct. 1933, BMF, EAL. 87 J. Gass, Raipur to F. A. Goetsch, Raipur, 22 March 1934, BMF, EAL.
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meeting of the entire congregation organized by the pastor in January 1934 was sabotaged by the 'opposing group' the missionary warned them that the IMD would take over the running of the church if the rules of the constitution were not carried out. The statement was greeted with joy. 'The leaders of the opposition seemed to revel in the fact that the meeting could not continue.' A few of the members called out, 'Now we have no congregation, no constitution and no pastor.'88 The rebel converts from Bisrampur sought links outside the American Evangelical Mission. They had limited options. The close connections between the different missionary organizations in Chhattisgarh meant that the Bisrampur convents could not walk out of the India Mission District and join another mission.89 They showed an understanding of the situation when they requested the Home Board to give them a transfer certificate so that they could join another mission. The transfer certificate was, of course, not forthcoming. Equally, the relationship of the group with Satnamis was riddled with tension: the converts, perhaps, considered themselves superior to the Satnamis because of their association with the sahebs and to rejoin Satnampanth would have been to slide back into a position of the past from which they had extricated themselves; the Satnamis, in turn, caught in the midst of reform initiatives sponsored by an organization called the Satnami Mahasabha, were drawing rigid boundaries and would have wished to maintain their distance from the outcaste Satnami-Christians who were tainted with the stigma of engaging in the 'hide and bone business', the trade in animal hides and skins and the eating of carrion. We do not know if the converts tried to negotiate with local Satnami leaders. They turned instead to the local chapter of the Arya Samaj. 'I heard that the leaders of the group wrote to the Ayra Samaj . . . Brother Gass received a note from the police that a large number of Christians intended to turn to Arya Samaj and asking what the police should do about it.'90 The Hindu
M. P. Davis, 'Report of the Bisrampur Church trouble', 28 Feb. 1934, p.2, BMF, EAL. 89 The different missionary organizations at work in Chhattisgarh were all Protestant: the Disciples of Christ, the Missionary Bands of the World, the Methodists, the American Mennonite Mission and the General Conference Mennonites. These different groups all much smaller that the American Evangelical Mission cooperated with each other and worked together in an organization called the Chhattisgarh Missionary Association. Seybold, God's Guiding Hand, pp. 59-60; J. A. Lapp, The Mennonite Church in India (Scottdale, 1972), pp. 168-70. 90 J . C. Koenig, Bisrampur to F. A. Goetsch, St Louis, 22 Jan. 1935, BMF, EAL.
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proselytizing venture offered the converts a way to sever connections with the church and to enter the Hindu social order if they quit the 'hide and bone business.'91 This 'business' constituted an important strategy within the household economy of several families of converts in Bisrampur and Ganeshpur who, because of their Chamar past and their conversion, carried the stigma of the death pollution of cows and were outside the Hindu social order. The proximity of Bisrampur to a buchadkhana (slaughter house for cattle) facilitated the converts' practice of the trade. In 1929 the Bisrampur congregation had submitted a constitution, which was to regulate all its matters, to the India Mission District. According to the constitution, 'members of the Church engaging in the hide and bone business' were to be excommunicated.92 A missionary noted that Satnamis outcasted members of the community who engaged in the 'bone and hide business' but some of the converts persisted with the practice.93 There was a lot of effort expended to put the clause into effect. 'Inspite of great difficulties the Church Council is trying to uphold the constitution. Furthermore, each member of the congregation is urged to obligate himself (or herself) to uphold the constitution by signing it . . . it will take sometime to get all of the signatures.'94 The missionaries and the pastor were hoping for too much. The lapse of time did not bring in all the signatures. A large number of the members of Bisrampur were, in fact, excommunicated for persisting with the trade in animal hides and skins and for eating carrion. We need to recall that one of the eight resolutions passed in the meeting of rebel converts was to readmit members of the Bisrampur congregation who had been put out of caste, excommunicated from the church, on these grounds. The 'hide and bone business' was an important element in the articulation of independence by the Bisrampur converts. The resolution had, of course, stipulated that members should put an end to the business. At the same time, a number of Bisrampur converts had continued with the practices. It estranged them further from the missionaries, distanced them from the Satnamis and denied them entry into the Arya Samaj.
91 Ibid. It is difficult to say who these Arya Samaj leaders could have been; the formal Arya Samaj presence in Chhattisgarh was negligible. 'Memo of the Deputy Commissioner, Raipur', 3 Nov. 1939, CPG Political and Military Department, Confidential, no. 298, 1939, MPSRR. 92 J. Purti, Annual Congregational Report, Bisrampur, 1929, ARM, EAL. 93 J. C. Koenig, Annual Report, Bisrampur, 1930, p. 3, ARM, EAL. 94 J. Purti, Annual Congregational Report, Bisrampur, 1929, ARM, EAL.

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It was after the option of entering the Arya Samaj was closed that the Bisrampur converts set up an alternative, independent church. Until November 1934 the group occasionally held its own services but 'only a few went and many attended here, even occasionally some of the leaders.'95 A month later the group became active. 'They had their own Christmas celebration in front of the chapel in Ganeshpur and on Christmas morning Premdas Jakub baptised about fifteen children, mainly children of such who because of the bone and hide trade had not been baptised and on the following Sunday gave communion to, as I hear, about 40 people.'96 The group was in earnest and started a school in Gaseshpur. The missionary lamented: 'I am sorry to say that the majority of children go to their Sunday School, there being about thirty left in ours.'97 The converts in a letter to the Home Board reported, 'When the missionaries separated us from them we appointed one from among ourselves as an honorary pastor and have continued the work of Faith. He baptised 17 children on 25 December 1934 and 4 children on 1 January 1935 and communion was given.'98 The converts, like the local church organization, sent congregational reports to the Home Board. They also presented themselves as Christian martyrs whose faith had not been shaken by difficult and trying circumstances. 'We are about seven hundred people who have been sitting in dust, sun and mud [praying for several months].'99 They had been forced into this situation by the missionaries who had 'locked our Immanuel Church and confiscated our treasury."00 The move to set up a parallel church involved the converts in an effort to reclaim the chapel at Ganeshpur and the funds of the congregation. They collected signatures and money. The initiative had widespread support. 'I understand they got the signatures of about three fourths of the people of Ganeshpur and several of those in Bisrampur.'101 The group sought out Mr Chobbs, a Christian lawyer from Raipur to defend their interests. 'I received a notice from Mr Chobbs as the "pleader" for the Immanuel Congregation
90 M. P. Davis, 'Report of the Bisrampur Church trouble', 28 Feb. 1934, p- 1, BMF, EAL. 96 Ibid. 97 J . C. Koenig, First Quarterly Report, Bisrampur, 1935, p. 2, QRM, EAL. 98 Premdas Jacob, Bisrampur, to the Board of Foreign Missions, Evangelical Synod of North America, 17 April 1935, BMF, EAL. 99 Ibid. 100 Ibid. 101 J . C. Koenig, Bisrampur to F. A. Goetsch, St Louis, 22 Jan. 1935, BMF, EAL.

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members who have severed their connection with the American Evangelical Mission. The notice is: to open the doors of the Ganeshpur Chapel and to turn over the funds of the congregation to his clients."02 The converts in a last ditch attempt had invoked the idiom of law and threatened to resort to the colonial court machinery. At the same time, the dice was loaded against them. The affairs of the congregation had been carried on according to the constitution of the India Mission District. Premdas Jacob, the honorary pastor of the independent congregation, was the first signatory to the document. The Satnami converts of Bisrampur did not carry through the idea of going to court. The group had made its last concerted move to establish an independent church and congregation. After a meeting with Mr Hodge, the secretary of the National Christian Council, in January 1935 the rebel group decided to go to the negotiation table. On 12 February 1935 the rebel group met Mr Hodge and the missionaries on the IMD committee. The two sides agreed to reconcile their differences without conditions. An obviously satisfied missionary, J. C. Keonig wrote: 'I am very happy to report that the troubles in the large congregation at Bisrampur have ended. The important principle has been established, that the District has the power to overrule obviously unfair or harmful decisions of the individual congregation."03 The problems, however, were not over. In a letter to the Home Board Premdas Jacob complained that the matter of Boas Purti and Rebecca had not been settled. The missionaries had 'forced conditions on us and force us to comply with them which is against our wishes and thoughts and in which we do not believe."04 He persisted with the earlier critique of the missionaries. The lone confrontational voice of Premdas Jacob was silenced by the conciliatory tone to the other members of the congregation. In an application to Rev. Goetsch, during his visit to the Indian mission field as a representative of the Home Board in early 1936, the converts reiterated a number of earlier themes but dropped their criticism of the missionaries. They invoked the then : now distinction to contrast the flourishing state of the congregation in the past with what it had become in the present.105 There was only an oblique
Ibid. J. C. Koenig, Annual Report, Bisrampur, 1935, p. 2, ARM, EAL. 104 Premdas Jacob, Bisrampur to F. A. Goetsch, camp Baitalpur, 15 Feb. 1936, BMF, EAL. lcb Earlier 'people had a desire to educate their children and were interested in Church, Sunday School and religious matters, they zealously carried out their duties and wanted the improvement of the congregation,' However, 'the condition of the
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reference to the policies adopted by the missionaries. The demands were more forthright. The converts asked for greater educational care for their children so that they become reliable pillars of the church, and for financial assistance and free medicine for those seriously ill in the congregation. The problem stemmed from unemployment and poverty. What followed was a repeated emphasis that members of the congregation, rather than 'outsiders,' be appointed as catechists, preachers, bible-men, teachers, pastors and other employees of the mission. The measure would end unemployment in the large congregation and 'strengthen the religious feeling of the people."06 Moreover, the issue was tied to the question of the self dependence of the congregation. The time for the congregation 'to stand on its own feet' had come. It was, therefore, logical that their own leaders be appointed. Finally, the converts sought to secure their demands through the invocation of the metaphor of the household. 'You know that in your time our household was small. But it is a matter of regret that now our household has grown larger than before and we have been removed from mission employment. We find it very difficult to look after ourselves and our household."07 Premdas Jacob adopted a similar tack, 'If you really want the progress of this congregation then (a) give us a capable Chhattisgarhi pastor (b) For you know that a household which has two women in it is destroyed. In the same way because there are people from two Missions in the congregation it is being destroyed."08 The metaphor of the household served as a device of equivalence. It emphasized the solidarity of the Bisrampur converts as a group and made an evocative appeal of a family-in-distress. The charter of demands ended on a dramatic note. 'We should be freed from our bondage."09 The missionary response to the conflicts engendered by the Boas Purti case was to formulate clearly and consolidate policies that underlay the problem. A 'paternalist relationship' stood 'definitely repudiated."10 The missionaries held on to and worked towards a
present congregation between 1927 and 1935 makes us want to cry, after the workers trained by you die our condition will become like our ancestors before they became Christians.' S. Tilis, Ganeshpur to F. A. Goetsch, camp Bisrampur, 4 Feb. 1936. The letter had 135 other signatures. 106 Ibid. 107 Ibid. 108 Premdas Jacob, Bisrampur to F. A. Goetsch, camp Baitalpur, 15 Feb. 1936, BMF, EAL. 109 S. Tilis, Ganeshpur to F. A. Goetsch, camp Bisrampur, 4 Feb. 1936, BMF, EAL. 110 E. W. Menzel, 'Note on Bisrampur', 1940, p. 7, BMF, EAL.

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nial cultures of rule; and the interface of Protestant theology, evangelical beliefs and the practices of missionaries with the principles of caste and sect and the institutions and dynamics of village life. The missionaries and the members of indigenous congregations were agents and actors in a play of differential perceptions and contradictory practices. What were the links between the mission project and colonialism? Evangelical missionaries in Chhattisgarh could be supported by colonial administrators but they rarely intervened in the area of institutionalized 'polities'. Moreover, it is an insidious and pernicious naiveteshared by several historians and theorists of colonial discourse which assumes the working of a seamless web of colonial interests with a uniform Western mentality. We need to turn instead to the contradictory location of the mission project within colonial cultures of rule. The missionaries described the converts as equal in the Kingdom of God. However, they also constructed powerful images of the non-western Other: the stock and evocative metaphors and the routine and emotive images of missionary representations that we encountered in passing formed a part of the powerful cultural idioms of domination that were invested in by western communities. Moreover, the missionaries invoked the precept of individual selfdetermination to argue for the religious freedom of the convert. But these converts were childlike and had to be nurtured and controlled by a paternalist authority. Finally, the mission project was committed to civilize the converts through key practices revolving around buildings, clothes, writing and the printed word. At the same time, these were also the critical instruments through which the missionaries participated in the conscious fashioning of the boundaries, embedded in distinct life styles, of the 'community' of white settlers. It was arguably within the interstices of these contradictory movements that the missionary constructed a sense of belonging to a community of white settlers, reinforced the familiar symbols and signs of the cultural order of colonial rule, invested in colonial mythologies of racial supremacy and established structures of paternalist authority. It is the cultural and discursive agendas of the mission project in Chhattisgarh which help to unravel its colonial connections and political implications. Did the locus of the initiative in the process of cultural encounter always lie with the white man? In their early encounters the missionaries could be incorporated as affiliates in the domain of the authority of gurus and deities. Similarly, it was within the matrix of local

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the practices initiated by the mission project. The 'arts of civilization' had contradictory consequences: they were imbricated in the everyday definition and reinforcement of missionary authority; and the converts deployed them in their challenge to the missionaries. These are two examples which suggest the working of a broader process of the apprehension, appropriation and refashioning of the 'word' and the 'book', of Christian divinities, saints and martyrs, of clothes and buildings, of western notations of time and of the spatial organization of work, and of the regenerative powers of missionary medicine and Christ-the-Saviour, within the modes of worship and practices of the communities of converts. What was the nature of the convert communities that developed in Chhattisgarh? Ties of kinship and the paternalist economy of the villages around mission stations, it would seem, proved critical to the growth of Christian congregations. The missionary was the malguzar, the owner-proprietor, and the pastor of these villages which obscured the division between temporal and spiritual power. The missionary along with the 'native leaders' of the converts drew up rules to order the life of congregations: these regulations, viewed through the grid of local culture, show continuities with rules of caste and sectthe mechanisms of incorporation and ostracism and the concerns of purity and pollutionand the institutions of village life, which were rearranged and acquired new meanings within the relocated communities. Clearly the missionary participatedas an active agent and a hapless victimin the subversion of a principle of Protestant theology and in the creation of 'indigenous Christianity.' The missionaries' concern with monogamy and their fear of adultery meant that the converts were forbidden secondary marriages. The evangelical benefactors indeed saw the practice as an instance of the moral sloth of the world of 'wilderness' and sought to impose marriage as a sacred contract between individuals. But this was also the area in which the converts consistently flouted missionary authority and continued to form 'adulterous' relationships of secondary marriage. In the 1930s they drew upon the missionary injunctions against adultery and the principles of maintenance of boundaries of groups, embedded within rules of caste and sect, to invoke the threat to the chastity of 'virgin Christian sisters' and turn the honour of women into an evocative metaphor for order within the community and a symbol that constituted its boundary. The converts defied the missionaries in fashioning their understanding of sexual transgression.

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The converts' criticism of the missionaries in the 1930s highlights their uses of Christianity. Their initiative centred on a pervasive us : them, community : outsider divide. The community was formed around the converts of Bisrampur; all employees who did not belong to the mission station were 'outsiders'. What was protested was the increasing intrusion of these 'outsiders' into the affairs of the community. Moreover, efforts by missionaries to dismantle the ties of dependence of the converts and to make the congregation selfdependent got entangled with their defence of these 'outsiders'. There was a disruption of the normative economythe pattern of expectations and obligationsof the Christian community of Bisrampur. The figure of the missionary was transformed from the benevolent ma-bap of the past into a tyrannical malguzar. Finally, the assertion of independence by the Christian congregation of Bisrampur involved a defence of the paternalist ties which had bound them to the missionaries through complex ties of dependence and control: deference to the missionaries was one part self-preservation and one part the calculated extraction of land, employment and charity. The converts worked on missionary rhetoric in their practice and their challenge to missionary authority was constructed in the language of evangelical Christianity.

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