The rise of missionaries
Initially two youngsters were converted into Christianity by baptism. Subsequently many army jawans adopted Christianity between 1880-85 in Secunderabad cantonment.
By Prof. Adapa Satyanarayana,
Wesleyan Missionaries started several schools in Hyderabad and Secunderabad. Missionaries also started separate schools for boys, girls, women and men. They also established schools for boys and girls in the districts along with Hyderabad to provide education to dalits and bahujans.
Education, healthcare, employment and rehabilitation activities undertaken by the missionaries helped transformation of Christianity into a people’s movement in Telangana districts. Leprosy rehabilitation centre named Victoria Hospital, started in 1915 in Dichpally of Nizambad district, was the first modern hospital for care of leprosy in Hyderabad State. Methodist missionary Rev George Kerr and his wife Dr Isabel Kerr (1875-1932) established this hospital and rendered service to several leprosy patients.
Isabel was born in Scotland in 1875 and obtained a medical degree in 1903 from University of Aberdeen before her marriage with George Kerr. Isabel, along with her husband, developed several educational and medical institutions. Victoria Hospital is a splendid example of the remarkable service rendered by the missionaries.
It was a norm for the Christian preachers to carry some medicines whenever they visited the villages. Missionaries distributed free medicine to arrest cholera and treat fevers in the villages. They provided free medical services to the general public by establishing well equipped hospitals and dispensaries in all missionary centres across Telangana.
Under the leadership of Dr Isabel, several Christian women studied medicine and provided healthcare to the rural people. Medical institutions started by missionaries without religious or caste prejudice gained great popularity. Especially lady missionaries not only visited homes of Hindus and Muslims without discrimination to provide medical advice but also provided treatment of ailments of children and women.
Influence of Christianity helped Dalit communities to become partly free from feudal exploitation and vetti. Dalits experienced social and economic development by getting educated which helped to get into jobs in private enterprises and government service, education department and railways.
For the first time Dalit women also had the opportunity along with men to enter into education and medical fields. Dalit women who studied in missionary schools played important role by working as teachers, nurses and self employed entrepreneurs.
Women missionaries who worked as ‘Bible –Janana’ contributed significantly to the growth of Christianity, and women empowerment by supporting self sustaining groups of women through training in handicrafts.
Dalit youth played active role in the Adi Hindu and Adi Andhra movements in the early decades of 20th century due to new thought stimulated by the influence of Christianity. In fact Bhagya Reddy Varma, the father figure of Dalit movement in Hyderabad sansthan, who sowed seeds of dalit liberation was educated in the company of Christians. Along with him several other active members of Adi Hindu movement obtained education from missionary schools and worked as school teachers or in low rank jobs in postal and railways departments. The Western educated first generation dalits fought against exploitation and social evils.
The contribution of dalit intellectuals to the building self respect, dignity, and confidence cannot be ignored. There is no exaggeration in saying that efforts of missionaries in Telangana in pre-independence era was partly responsible for the rise of organic intellectuals among dalits and the anti-caste and dalit liberation struggles.
By Prof. Adapa Satyanarayana, Retired Professor, Department of History, OU
Courtesy : Telangana Today
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