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Policies adopted by the Portuguese colonialists to convert Hindus to Christianity


So the Portuguese had two kinds of policies. One was to make life so difficult for Hindus that being Hindu became a huge burden, a remaining Hindu became a huge burden and on the other hand if you became a Christian you had all sorts of incentives, you had financial incentives, you had social incentives, you had all sorts of incentives. Anti-Hindu laws had made life hell. In 1560 the Viceroy ordered the Hindus to be thrown out of Portuguese territories because those Hindus refused to convert. They were given one month to dispose off their property; otherwise it would be taken over by the Crown. So you can imagine, people basically sold everything they could in a distress sale to whomever, and who would buy it? Obviously people who had converted to Christianity. Hindus were forbidden to wear the sacred thread. Government employment and contractual work was given only to converted Christians. Hindus were prohibited from holding public offices. Village assemblies, every village in those days had an assembly which had the Gaonkars, the local inhabitants of that village who formed the gram sabha and they would take all the decisions.

So some people converted obviously for whatever reasons, so the Portuguese issued an edict that no gram sabha could be held unless there were Christians Gaonkars in it. So even if in a village, there were Hindus in a majority and the Christians were in a minority, the Christians had to be there in the gram sabha. Otherwise you couldn’t hold a gram sabha. And in villages where the Christian Gaonkars outnumbered more than the Hindu Gaonkars, Hindu Gaonkars were not allowed to be even represented. So that gram sabha would be only Christian Gaonkars. Hindu Gaonkars, even if they were there, they were told that you can’t participate. So obviously, a lot of monetary things, everything was related to land, right? So if the Gaonkars were told that you can’t have any part in the affairs of the village, they would at some point of time say that, ok I will become Christian. So that was the kind of policy that was made.

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