George Joseph, the Life and Times of a Kerala Christian Nationalist

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Orient Blackswan, 2003 - Kerala (India) - 272 pages
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This book looks at the life of George Joseph (1887 1938), a South Indian Christian nationalist whose contributions to the Indian freedom struggle have been generally neglected in the literature of the Indian national movement. The book is not a straightforward biography; it attempts to place the subject of the study in the political and social context of modern Indian history but provides personal glimpses of the man and his humanity. Further, the book examines how George Joseph influenced or even initiated debates on issues such as the meaning of secularism in India; the position of religious minorities of India, the reality and extent of the North-South divide and the scope and limits of affirmative action for disadvantaged groups- all issues of great relevance even in today s India.
 

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The rise of George Joseph is a typical example to show how the early Christians in Kerala who were converted by missionaries from Persia and who lived in great distress and poverty because they were not protected or aided by the missionaries. After conversion, most of the missionaries did not stay in Kerala and others visited occasionally. . In a caste-ridden and superstitious Hindu society,Christians were marginalized and treated with contempt like other lower castes. Fortunately, the Portuguese came to Kerala and ruled for about 150 years. Portuguese wanted loyalists in a foreign country, and Christians were shown special favor. Even Kings were under their control and as a ruling authority they elevated Christians by giving them government jobs, including them in their army, educating them by opening theological schools, and using them as commercial agents (Tharakans). The arrival of CMS missionaries further enhanced the position of Kerala Christians. George Joseph is a product of CMS College, Kottayam..He is indebted to these missionaries for his success in his career. 

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Kerala History is replete with conversions by Muslims and Christians. St.Thomas was a Jew and there is nothing on record to show that he married any Hindu in Kerala. After the martyrdom of St. Thomas there was a period of lull,in Kerala, although Mylapore would have remained a center of Christian activity. After a long interval, it is believed that some Persians came to Kerala to preach the Gospel. Persians also went to Ceylon. There is nothing on record to say that Persian missionaries married local women. They were mere sojourners. Here in this book it has been specifically mentioned that Syrian Christians followed the customs and beliefs of Hindu Nairs and Nambudiris to appropriate superior caste status Most of the Hindu customs are being followed by lower castes such as Hindu Pulayas and Parayas, and there is nothing extraordinary for Syrians to claim superior caste status on this count Pulaya Christians in Madhya Kerala still follow Hindu customs and rituals.Tali tying is a common marriage ritual of untouchables such as Pulayas and Parayas. Population is the main factor to know how many Nambudiris and Nairs were converted. . Even before the arrival of European powers, the population of Christians was greater than Nambudiris and it is a positive evidence that Syrians were not converted from Nambudiris. There is also nothing on record in Nair or Nambudiri family and social histories that there was a mass conversion of Nairs and NBambudiris. Conversely, there were often conflicts between Christians and Nairs when they were forced to do compulsory free service (oozhiyam) in Nair and Brahmin paddy farms. . So the claim of Syrian Christians that they are Nair or Nambudiri converts cannot be substantiated by literary, inscriptional or sculptural evidence.But there are concrete evidences in missionary records and Travancore history archives that Syrian Christians were converted from untouchable castes such as Ezhavas, mukkuvas, washer men, slaves etc Minutes and diaries of missionaries tell about large scale conversion of untouchables, especially Ezhavas.The Portuguese elevated Syrians economically and the British educated them. George Joseph studied in CMS College, Kottayam. Portuguese and British rule liberated and educated them. They got economic, educational, social and cultural superiority over Nairs and Nambudiris(who once oppressed them) with the help of Portuguese commanders and British Residents  

Contents

The Syrian Christians of Kerala
25
George Joseph in Britain
43
The Road to Madurai
65
George Joseph and the Home Rule Movement
80
Sojourn in the North
101
Chauri Chaura and the Aftermath
129
The Vaikkom Satyagraha
158
The Return to Madurai
183
The Metamorphosis of George Joseph
206
His Last Days
233
Bibliography
256
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