India is located in a southern peninsula of the Asian continent. Because of its size, this vast country may well be called a subcontinent.
India possesses a number of physiographic divisions. The northern mountains include the world-famous Himalayas with their snowcapped peaks of towering majesty. Here are found the sources of river systems such as the Ganges and the Brahmaputra.
The Great Plains lay in front of the Himalayas, fanning out at both ends to include the fertile Ganges delta on the east and the semiarid desert of Rajasthan on the west. The alluvium-filled Gangetic trough is one of the earth’s most fertile areas, but it is also the world’s second most densely populated river valley.
Stretching from the Arabian Sea on the west to the Bay of Bengal on the east is the peninsular plateau, known as the Deccan. The western edge is noted for its breathtaking grandeur. God’s creative beauty is manifest in the awe-inspiring peaks with cascading waterfalls streaming down timeworn channels. A panorama of precipitous valleys filled with a kaleidoscope of greens extends far below into the distance. This western ridge feeds three important rivers, the Godavari, the Krishna and the Cauvery.
India is rich in animal life, both wild and domesticated. The rare snow leopard lurks in the Himalayas, whereas the hardworking elephant is found in the forests of the south. In the west, the diminishing Asiatic lion is preserved, while the panther is found in almost all forests. The decreasing stately tiger roams most forests of India, but the vanishing rhinoceros is now free only in the northeast. In various areas, there are varieties of wild antelope, buffalo, dog, hyena, bear, deer and monkey.
Among the domesticated animals, water buffalo are bred specially for their milk. Agriculture still finds the ox indispensable. Donkeys, too, are employed as beasts of burden.
PEOPLE AND RELIGION
The people of India constitute about one seventh of the human race and are made up mainly of seven racial strains. However, the two dominant peoples are the Nordic, with their distinctly European features (residing in north India), and the Dravidians, dark-skinned and of slight build (inhabiting chiefly the southern areas).
The Indian Constitution recognizes fifteen official languages, the chief of which is Hindi, said to be spoken by 181 million people. Yet, some 872 languages and dialects are spoken by the various tribal and ethnic groups! At present, English continues to be the language of commerce and industry.
Hinduism is India’s oldest surviving religion. It prevailed here when Persia’s empire extended to India in the sixth century before the Common Era. Other indigenous religions are Buddhism and Jainism, both of which got started about the time the Jews were undergoing their Babylonian captivity in the sixth century B.C.E. Later, in the fifteenth century of our Common Era, Sikhism was founded. About 10 percent of the populace are Muslims, who first invaded India in the eighth century C.E. Only 2 1/2 percent of India’s 609 million people are members of Christendom’s religions. In 1973 there were nearly fourteen million professed Christians in India, a large percentage of whom live in Kerala, south India.
TRUE CHRISTIANITY COMES TO INDIA
It is claimed by some that the apostle Thomas planted the original seeds of true Christianity in the land of India. That, however, is mere legend. It is without reliable proof, in spite of the fact that in a suburb of Madras City there exists a small hill known as St. Thomas’ Mount. There the apostle is supposed to have suffered martyrdom. The hill is surmounted by a shrine dedicated to him. If the legend were true, it would also have to be said that Satan was very successful in planting his “weeds” among the fine seed of Kingdom sons, for apostate Christianity has flourished in that section of south India.—Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43.
Not legendary at all, however, is this: In 1905, S. P. Davey, a science student who had gone to America, met Charles Taze Russell, the Watch Tower Society’s first president. After spending some time with him in Bible study, Davey returned to his native Madras Province that very year to open up the Kingdom work. Preaching among his fellow Tamil-speaking people, he eventually established some forty Bible study groups in and around Nagercoil, at the extreme southern tip of the Indian peninsula.
In the same year, A. J. Joseph, a twenty-one-year-old student, began to search for Bible truth. Joseph and his parents belonged to the Church of England community. His parents had instilled in young Joseph a deep appreciation for the Bible. However, he was full of questions. Having come in contact with some Adventist publications, Joseph was seeking clearer explanations of the Bible. He was perturbed over the dogmas of the Trinity and infant baptism, which neither his father nor anyone he knew could explain satisfactorily.
Joseph’s father suggested that he write to P. S. Pulicoden, head of the Adventist movement in south India, asking if he had any books explaining the Trinity doctrine. Pulicoden sent the inquiring Joseph, Charles T. Russell’s volume The At-one-ment Between God and Man. This book enabled the youthful Joseph to see the truth about Jehovah God’s supremacy, the relationship between Jehovah and His Son, Jesus Christ, and the meaning of the holy spirit. After reading this volume of the series Studies in the Scriptures, and obtaining the Society’s address therefrom, it was not long before Joseph had all of Russell’s publications sent over from America. He became a regular reader of Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence. Joseph also started distributing The Bible Students Monthly and kindred tracts.
Early 1906 found the Joseph family living near the market town of Kottayam, a center of spice and rubber trading in the royal state of Travancore (Kerala). Eagerly, Joseph set himself to translating The Divine Plan of the Ages (Volume I of Studies in the Scriptures) into his native Malayalam. Study XII and its “Chart of the Ages” were then used by Joseph’s father and his cousin Oommen and young Joseph himself in zealously spreading Bible truth among friends and relatives. In and around the rice-growing villages and coconut plantations they trod the mosquito-infested paddies and steamy jungles to share with others their newly found beliefs.
Toward the close of 1906, Joseph contracted a severe lung ailment. On medical advice, he moved to the drier climate of Cuddapah, a town located in the eastern district of Madras State about 400 miles (644 kilometers) northeast of his home. Here, in a fertile river valley sandwiched between the Velikonda and Palkonda hills, he grasped the occasion to study the Bible intensively. Even before his recovery, he enthusiastically spread the truth by distributing tracts received from Brother Russell in America. To do so, Joseph even learned Telugu, the local language of the people among whom he now lived. Whether the drenching monsoon rams or scorching sun prevailed, in towns and villages Joseph labored to reach the people with the Kingdom message.
A SIGNIFICANT VISIT
An avid reader of The Watch Tower, Joseph learned that Brother Russell, while on a world tour during 1912, would visit India. Madras City was to be visited, so Joseph seized the opportunity to hear Russell and gain a personal interview. At Madras, Brother Russell lectured in the YMCA Hall and, though his schedule was full, he granted Joseph a personal interview lasting two hours. This resulted in laying a real foundation in India for the spread of Bible truth. Russell and his party also prepared the ground for future expansion by giving lectures throughout India at the religious city of Benares, the historical city of Lucknow, and at Trivandrum, Kottarakara, Nagercoil, Puram and Vizagapatam, as well as the commercial seaports of Calcutta and Bombay.
Upon Russell’s arrival at Trivandrum from Madras, S. P. Davey greeted Russell at the railway station and garlanded him in typical Indian style. The British government representative, known as the Political Resident, received Brother Russell hospitably and invited him to stay at the Residency. He arranged for the Society’s first president to speak at the city’s Victoria Jubilee Town Hall. Russell also spoke at a nearby village called Nyarakad, where Davey lived. Afterward the name of the village was changed to Russellpuram, meaning The Place of Russell, and so it is called to this day.
Such meetings came to the notice of Travancore’s maharajah, who invited C. T. Russell to the royal palace. The Hindu ruler treated Russell very respectfully and requested his photograph. Later, Brother Russell’s picture was hung in the maharajah’s palace. Russell also arranged for the maharajah to be presented with six volumes of Studies in the Scriptures, as well as the Bible.
Farther south, at Nagercoil, Brother Russell was met and garlanded by Brother Joshua Jacob. Russell’s Bible lecture there caused quite a stir among the London Mission church members. Sometime thereafter, this is what happened, as recalled by Brother Jacob: “One day I was giving a talk just outside the church when a rowdy knocked me to the ground. I got to my feet again and said, ‘We are proclaiming the second advent of our Messiah and you ought not to treat us in this manner.’ As a consequence of this scuffle, we had the opportunity of helping some of those London Mission church members to come into the truth.”
Sometime after these events, S. P. Davey became addicted to strong drink. He had purchased property for the holding of meetings with money given to him by Brother Russell. But upon getting into financial difficulties, he sold the property to a local religious mission. Those he had gathered into Bible study classes were scattered. Most of them returned to their churches. Others, however, remained faithful and became associated with Brother Joseph in the Kingdom work.
TRAVANCORE HEARS THE KINGDOM MESSAGE
Meanwhile, C. T. Russell had invited Joseph to take up the work of proclaiming the good news as a full-time career. He had uncertain health and modestly recognized his limitations. Moreover, it was a heart-searching decision to quit his secular post in a local government office. With a great deal of timidity, Joseph responded favorably to Brother Russell’s invitation. He felt like Jeremiah of old, unable to bear such a load of responsibility.—Jer. 1:4-8.
Joseph asked for assistance and got it. Brother R. R. Hollister of the United States was assigned to work in India and arrived in 1912. Together, he and Joseph formulated a plan for the translation of the Society’s publications into Malayalam for distribution throughout the coconut-palm-decorated state of Travancore.
Their first output was “The Signs of the Times,” taken from The Bible Students Monthly. Hollister assigned Joseph to supply a quantity of these tracts to a Brother Devasahayam at Neyyattinkara, a rice-producing town about ten miles (16 kilometers) southeast of Trivandrum. Devasahayam was also representing the Society in Travancore.
Traveling by bullock cart, Joseph circulated the tracts on his journey. The slow-moving oxen transported him along the winding lanes, skirting shimmering green paddy fields. They penetrated areca palm groves, while Joseph patiently endured the buzzing insects and sweaty conditions, constantly spreading liberating truths to Christendom’s members. Fording Travancore’s many rivers and circling the palm-fringed lagoons, Joseph moved ever southerly through this picturesque region, spreading the “word of life” until he eventually met up with Devasahayam at Neyyattinkara.—Phil. 2:14-16.
Travancore enjoyed the honor of having the highest percentage of literacy in all India. This was perhaps because many of Christendom’s educational missions were flourishing among the Malayalis. Dotted throughout the populace, whether the coastal fisherfolk, the rice farmers of the plains, or the tea-estate laborers, the teakwood-lumber workers, or the rubber producers, the mission educational programs had produced a larger number of professed Christians in this state than in any other throughout India. Travancore and its neighboring state of Madras being a fruitful field for the spread of Bible truths, our work moved forward. But Joseph was not satisfied; he requested more help, as Brother Hollister was not permanently settled in India.
Brother Russell invited A. A. Hart of London and S. J. Richardson, a colporteur in Singapore, to transfer to India. Hence, upon Hart’s arrival in 1913 he and Joseph journeyed to see Devasahayam at Neyyattinkara, and the three laid plans for the furtherance of the work. However, Devasahayam did not endure, and as to just what he did with the publications provided him there is no record. But the evidence is that he was like so many independent “evangelists” in India: He sought to have people follow him, rather than leading them to Christ. His work came to naught.
At Tiruvella in north Travancore, however, faithful Brother Joseph and his companion Brother Hart set up a temporary headquarters from which to cover the northern part of the state. In those days, the work consisted mainly of distributing tracts and giving public talks on “The Divine Plan of the Ages.” The work progressed well, particularly in this northern area. Meanwhile, Brother Richardson arrived from Singapore and started working in Madras City. He preached mainly among the literate and English-speaking Anglo-Indian community who already professed to be Christians. Thus, in 1913, a small Bible study group was rounded in Madras City.
In Travancore the work progressed rapidly, though not without much opposition. Public talks were delivered in most of the so-called “Christian” centers and principal towns. Before long, small Bible study groups were formed in many locations. But soon World War I was to break out.
In view of possible disruption of all communications with America and Europe because of the war, Hart and Richardson were recalled to Britain in November 1914. Joseph, full of zeal and enthusiasm, did his best to carry on alone, but soon began to appeal again for outside help. Brother Russell then asked Hart of London to return to India. Arriving in July 1916, Brother Hart soon went up into the northern provinces of the land, particularly distributing Bible study aids in English among the Anglo-Indians. These descendants from British stock were nominal Christians in their beliefs and ways of life.
In 1916 the brothers arranged for the first assembly of Jehovah’s people in India. It was held in December at the city of Tiruchirapalli, in south Madras State. Brother Hart organized this All-India convention of “Bible Students.” At least four friends came over from the island of Ceylon, and a total of thirty-five were in attendance on that historic occasion.
At that time the Eureka Drama slides of the Watch Tower Society’s Photo-Drama of Creation were used extensively. Many people in India saw this visual presentation of God’s purpose for earth and man. In those days, of course, the use of electricity was not so widespread as it is today. So these slides were projected by means of acetylene-gas generators.
Many tracts were published on “Where Are the Dead?” and “Our Lord’s Return.” The brothers were thrilled, too, that they had a translation of the book The Divine Plan of the Ages in Malayalam, in one volume. A number of honest-hearted church members were being awakened spiritually and were associating together in Bible study classes throughout the villages. Along the coastal plain of Travancore, these small groups sprang up at places such as Kottayam, Aymanam, Chingavanam, Talapady, Meenadom, Ayerkunnam, Kanghazha, Valiyamala and Neermankuzhy. In fact, Meenadom has the distinction of being the first congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses established in the land of India.
OPPOSITION AND A BAN
Following the publication of The Finished Mystery in 1917, real trials began. A. A. Hart himself began to oppose the very work that he had helped to get started. Some of the local believers in Travancore were stumbled over The Finished Mystery and sided with Hart. He published an open letter to the “Bible Students” of Travancore and himself returned there to try to persuade the brothers to support him in opposition to the Watch Tower Society. Some fell away and accepted the leadership of Paul S. L. Johnson of the United States, who had led a similar revolt in that country. But, in general, these efforts did not cause much disturbance in India.
Opposition, however, sprang up from a different source. When Brother Rutherford and his co-workers in the United States were arrested and imprisoned on the false charge of sedition in 1918, the news got into India’s newspapers. As a consequence, the British government began to take action against our brothers in India.
A. A. Hart, though becoming disloyal to the Society, was then completing a preaching tour of Ceylon and southern India. Upon reaching Brother Joseph’s house at Kottayam, Travancore, he was served with a notice by the local maharajah. Based on instructions from the British rulers, it required that Hart leave the country within seven days. He went to Australia. The Watch Tower Society’s books then were banned, though efforts were made to hide stocks on hand.
Nevertheless, during the ban, the Kingdom work continued advancing. It was at this time, in 1919, that Brother K. K. Ipe came in touch with the truth. Ipe was a Hindu and first saw the Bible when he was educated at a mission school. He had also had some association with the “Brethren” organization. But when he heard the truth at Kottayam, he recognized the voice of the “fine shepherd” and “consecrated,” or dedicated, his life to Jehovah.—John 10:14, 15.
Because the followers of Paul Johnson were very active in his area, how did Brother Ipe feel about them? “Well” he admitted, “it was all so confusing after coming out of Hinduism. The Johnsonites deceived me and I went along with them for a while. But I soon began to see the fallacy of their teachings and I quickly abandoned them in favor of Jehovah’s people and here I have stayed.”
Our work was carried on under the ban by using the Bible alone. Public talks and Bible study meetings continued with undiminished zeal by the faithful ones. In 1920, K. C. Chacko of Puthuppally fled from “Babylon the Great” and took his stand on Jehovah’s side. Speaking of the first Christian meetings he attended in Travancore, he said: “It was an accepted practice for the chairman to call on sisters for prayers.” But when corrective measures were taken, the brothers cooperated with them.
THE TRUTH SPREADS DESPITE OPPOSITION
The ban was lifted in 1920. Soon thereafter, Brother Joseph appealed to J. F. Rutherford for permission to reprint The Divine Plan of the Ages in Malayalam. Funds were furnished and, in 1923, 1,000 copies were supplied. This again gave a great boost to the work, especially in Travancore.
As the truth spread, so did opposition from the clergy. Church of England clergyman T. J. Andrew challenged Joseph to a public debate on the subject of the soul and the challenge was accepted. Andrew made his church building in the town of Thottakad available, and the debate was advertised by means of handbills. So on Sunday afternoon about 300 persons attended. The proposition was: “The Scriptures clearly teach that the human soul is immortal, eternal and can never die.” Andrew was to affirm; Joseph to deny.
Andrew first spoke for one hour, but the only text he used was 1 Corinthians 2:11: ‘For who knoweth the things of a man, except the spirit of man that is in him?’ (King James Version) Joseph replied with numerous scriptures, showing the difference between spirit and soul. A very favorable impression resulted and many came to Joseph after the debate, wanting to hear more. Then at this little township of Thottakad, in the heart of rural Travancore, a new congregation was formed.
Joseph now requested the Society to have more full-time helpers in India. Four brothers were chosen: His own cousin, Brother K. C. Oommen, and Brothers Mani of Thottakad, K. C. Chacko of Kottayam and K. M. Varughese of Talapady. Varughese was a schoolteacher and able to write Malayalam very neatly. For several years he transcribed for the printer the manuscripts that Brother Joseph prepared in Malayalam. The five brothers worked as a team, touring the towns and villages in Travancore, giving lectures, demonstrating Bible study classes and distributing the tracts and other Bible study aids.
Brother Joseph now sought to extend his work into other parts of India. While recovering from illness in Cuddapah, Madras State (now Andhra Pradesh), about seventeen years earlier, Joseph had learned Telugu. He now embarked on a tour of the old state of Hyderabad spreading Bible tracts and giving lectures. While doing so, he came across the Telugu journal Millennial Light, containing some extracts from the Watch Tower Society’s publications. This prompted Joseph to write Brother Rutherford for authority to publish some of our literature in Telugu. Consequently, 2,000 tracts on “Where Are the Dead?” and 5,000 on “Our Lord’s Return” were published. Joseph then made an extensive tour through the then state of Hyderabad, distributing these. He obtained a Directory of Christian Missions in India and from this was able to visit most of the Christian Mission centers.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in India, isolated attempts were being made to spread Bible truth. British soldier Frederick James, popularly known as Jimmy James, resigned from the army, “consecrated” himself to the God of Peace, Jehovah, and settled down at Cawnpore (Kanpur) in the northern United Provinces (Uttar Pradesh), where he worked as an electrical engineer.
In his solitary situation, Brother James preached God’s Word, particularly among his former military colleagues. One army man who especially expressed genuine interest was Jack Nathan. While serving in the British Army, he had heard from a clergyman that a “funny man” by the name of James had information on the Lord’s return. But Nathan had difficulty in finding Jimmy James. When at last he did, their first discussion went on and on until three o’clock in the morning, as they walked five miles back to Nathan’s barracks. Nathan immediately recognized the explanation for which he was looking. In 1921, Nathan attended the Lord’s Evening Meal at the home of James in Cawnpore. All together, five persons were present. Thereafter, Jack Nathan preached to his fellow soldiers, and upon returning to England in 1923, he was able to quit the army and pursue a life of dedication to Jehovah God. He now serves as a member of the Bethel family in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
OPPOSERS FACED WITH ZEAL
Sometime in the latter half of 1923, back in his native state of Travancore, Joseph was giving a Bible lecture in Pallam, a village south of Kottayam. On the roadside, under a shady tree, Joseph was speaking to a crowd of listeners when a bully rushed upon him, caught hold of his flowing beard (grown on his doctor’s advice to protect his throat and lungs because of his previous weakness) and disrupted the meeting. Brother Joseph was literally dragged for nearly four miles (6 kilometers) to the borders of Kottayam town before they let him go. But his zeal was not dampened.
A passerby who witnessed this ugly scene came to Joseph’s house to sympathize and invited him to come to his own village, Chingavanam, and stay for a week to give Bible talks. This God-fearing man built a meeting place with bamboo and palm leaves. Joseph had handbills printed to advertise the meetings, and for a whole week some 300 to 400 persons were able to receive instruction from God’s Word. This friendly man accepted the truth, and a congregation was rounded at Chingavanam.
These events attracted a great deal of attention. Roman Catholic and Syrian Christian Churches and the Church of England all combined to oppose the truth. They called the Witnesses atheists because they do not believe in the Trinity doctrine. And they published scandalous articles besmirching the character Charles Taze Russell. So Joseph obtained copies of the booklet A Great Battle in the Ecclesiastical Heavens, by J. F. Rutherford, and distributed these to all the English-reading clergy that he knew in that area. Note please, that this opposition was from people professing to be Christian; never from Muslims or Hindus. At every meeting held by our brothers at that time, there was some form of hostile pressure and rowdy disturbance. A favorite tactic of the opposition was for them to shout and beat drums and tin cans, in order to drown out the Kingdom message—their only argument against Bible truth!
Kozhencherry is a village situated within a pepper-and-ginger-producing area of Travancore and is a stronghold of the Marthoma (Saint Thomas) Reformed Christian sect. It was decided that the Photo-Drama of Creation should be shown to the residents of Kozhencherry, but the brothers had difficulty obtaining a convenient hall. Finally, permission was granted for use of the local government school. Joseph got there with his equipment, eventually assembled the projector with its acetylene burner, and proceeded with the program. Suddenly, misguided religionists led by their angry priest appeared on the scene. By clamorous shouting, they disrupted our meeting. Though an appeal was made for police aid, no help came.
Farther south, in Kundara, is an entrenchment of the Jacobite sect with its theological seminary. Kundara was another site of hostilities. Amid the peaceful surroundings of stately palms and lush banana trees, Brother Joseph was delivering a lecture explaining the “Chart of the Ages,” when a priest-led crowd marched on the scene, beating tin cans and raising a cacophony of deafening voices that drowned out the speaker’s words. The religious hooligans ripped down the “Chart of the Ages” and made away with it. Others hurled cow dung at Brother Joseph. A Hindu man intervened to see what the uproar was about and asked the priest if this was following the example of Jesus Christ or that of Christ’s opposers. He threatened to send for the police. At that the priest slunk away and the crowd dispersed.
PRESSING ON WITH THE WORK
Our work in Travancore was progressing. The Divine Plan of the Ages in Malayalam was in circulation and, in 1920, The Time Is at Hand (second volume of Studies in the Scriptures) was printed.
In 1924 paper was obtained from the Swiss branch office of the Society and a Malayalam edition of the booklet Millions Now Living Will Never Die was published.
In that same year, Brother Rutherford sent Joseph money to purchase land and to build a meeting place at Meenadom, where the oldest congregation in India was located. Nestled amid palm-fringed rice paddies and fruit-laden Jack trees, it proved to be a delightful place of assembly.
Also in 1924, Brother A. J. Joseph undertook an extensive railway tour of all India, speaking on such subjects as “The Lord’s Return” and “Where Are the Dead?” Leaving Kottayam, Travancore, this speaking tour took him northeastward until eventually he reached Calcutta.
Then from the famous jute capital of Calcutta, he continued northwest to the Hindu pilgrim city of Allahabad and thence north to Cawnpore, a site of the textile industry. His next speaking point was Agra, the city of the Taj Mahal. He then headed northwest to a military post at Ambala. Finally, he arrived back at his home deep in the south of India after covering about 3,603 miles (5,798 kilometers). It was certainly a noble endeavor for one to undertake singlehanded, but it was accomplished in the strength of Jehovah. (Phil. 4:13) In this way, the “soil” of India was being prepared for the future work of God’s people in this large country.
The next year was one of personal tragedies for Brother Joseph, but let him tell it in his own words: “In 1925 a great calamity occurred in my family. Because of a severe type of dysentery, three of my children died. This was a great shock to me and my wife, but we were comforted by our firm faith in the resurrection. Jehovah sustained us both to bear this calamity with courage and fortitude and to press ahead with the work.”
When the hysteria of World War I had died down, another attempt was made to establish the Kingdom work on an “All-India” basis. At the convention of “Bible Students” in the Alexandra Palace, London, England, in May 1926, Joseph F. Rutherford made inquiries about brothers in that land who could go to India to consolidate and extend the Kingdom work there. George A. Wright and Leslie Shepherd were selected, but for some reason Leslie Shepherd was replaced by Edwin Skinner.
Wright and Skinner, both young and single, left London by ship in July 1926, arriving in Bombay toward the end of the month amidst India’s pouring monsoon rain. They were met at the pier by A. J. Joseph and a companion of his named Abraham. Joseph stayed for a few days to give them firsthand information about the extent of the work already done in India and the results achieved. Names and addresses of interested persons known to be readers of The Watch Tower were obtained, chiefly Anglo-Indians employed in the government telegraph service and on the railways. These were just single families or small groups scattered over India from the far north at Quetta right down to Madras in the south. So the more centralized office of the Watch Tower Society in Bombay provided improved facilities and direction of the Kingdom work in India.
Brothers Wright and Skinner rented a house on Lamington Road in the central section of the city of Bombay. The branch administration was changed, with Edwin Skinner becoming the new branch overseer. The territory for the extended branch embraced all of India, Burma, Ceylon, Persia and Afghanistan, an enormous area with a vast population.
Their initial efforts were to advertise two public discourses, “Millions Now Living Will Never Die” and “Where Are the Dead?” For these, they rented the old Wellington Cinema at Dhobi Talao in Bombay. This resulted in their getting in touch with some of the public who attended and who left their names and addresses. The interest was followed up and a small group gathered for Bible study at the branch office. These people were nominal Christians associated with the German Basel Lutheran Mission operating mainly in the western areas of the then Madras Presidency at Mangalore, where Kanarese is the regional language. The discourses were given in English, that language being commonly used by the people of Bombay employed in commerce and industry.
The next-door neighbors of Brothers Wright and Skinner happened to be nominal Christians of the Anglo-Indian community. They helpfully explained to the newcomers where there was a concentration of “Christians” and particularly of the English-reading Anglo-Indian community. These areas were visited and the book The Harp of God was widely distributed among these people. This led the brothers to the district of Parel in the northern section of Bombay City, where the Great Indian Peninsula Railway had extensive workshops, with recreational facilities and a public hall.
Renting this Railway Institute Hall, our brothers advertised more public Bible lectures. These proved fruitful, leading to acquaintance with George Waller, a railway workshop employee who had previously had some of the Society’s publications and already was somewhat acquainted with our message. A weekly Bible study was then arranged in the home of one of the workmen. This, then, was the beginning of the organized Kingdom-preaching work in Bombay City. George Waller proved to be an exceedingly zealous witness of Jehovah. He died in 1963, faithful to the end.
INTO THE INTERIOR
Just two brothers were in the branch office at Bombay in 1926. This meant that only one ventured into the vast interior, while the other stayed in Bombay to care for branch responsibilities. Skinner first arranged to explore the territory to locate known interested Bible Students. He first journeyed by train to Madras City to meet Brother Wrightman, who was living in very poor circumstances with his wife and three children in the district of Royapuram. A small group was meeting at their house for weekly Bible studies. A British soldier then stationed in Madras also was showing interest, and he very kindly provided accommodations for Brother Skinner.
Three days later, Brother Skinner moved on from the east coast clear across country to the west, to Kottayam in Travancore, then a native state ruled by a maharajah. This was where the Kingdom work had first taken root due to the zealous activity of A. J. Joseph. Now it was progressing with some intensity. Skinner stayed in Travancore for about one week, serving a small convention. In this way, he was able to meet about forty of the most active and zealous brothers and sisters.
Progressing still farther south, Skinner paid his first visit to the tea-producing island of Ceylon, today called Sri Lanka. At Colombo he sought to assist the local congregation of some twenty Bible Students led by Brother Van Twest.
ANOTHER EFFECTIVE TOUR
About the beginning of 1927, Skinner undertook another tour, this time penetrating the northern sections of India. Equipped with the names and addresses of Watch Tower subscribers and Bible Students, he set off on a journey beginning at Agra, some miles south of Delhi. Here he met Frank Barrett, an Anglo-Indian man working in the Telegraph Department.
Barrett was an enthusiastic worker who had once been stationed at the Hindu sacred city of Allahabad. Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims periodically traveled there to worship their Hindu gods at the confluence of the “holy” rivers Jamuna and Ganga, more popularly known as the Ganges. So Brother Barrett would set up a stall and display the Society’s publications and tracts for sale and free distribution to the teeming throngs. Barrett had taken the initiative to have translated into Hindustani (Romanized) a tract on the subject Aabadi Zindagi (“Everlasting Life”).
Pushing on from Agra, Skinner turned northward to the cantonment town of Ambala, in the Eastern Punjab. There he found Clarence Manning living in the Government Telegraph quarters and encouraged him to do what he could to spread the good news of the Kingdom. It was there that the branch overseer discovered that northern India can be uncomfortably cold in January, for he reports: “I well remember sitting around the dinner table in the evening with the Manning family, with an overcoat on because of the cold. Houses in those parts were built with thick walls and high ceilings for comfort in the intensely hot summer months, with no heating arrangements for January.”
Continuing on in the Punjab (meaning “Five Rivers”), Skinner crossed the Sutlej, tributary of the Indus River. He stopped at the university city of Lahore, principal metropolis of the Punjab and predominantly Muslim. Here he met V. C. W. Harvey, another telegraph man, and stayed at his home. Harvey arranged for a public lecture in the Town Hall. For prestige purposes he persuaded an influential lawyer, not in the truth, to serve as chairman. Later, retracing his steps, Skinner returned to Bombay.
EXPANDING THE KINGDOM WITNESS
In the latter part of 1926, Sunday morning witnessing from house to house got started. In Bombay, such work promoted further progress in the Kingdom activity. But the principal idea was to leave literature with no thought of calling back to encourage Bible study, except in unusual cases where interest definitely was manifested. Even then, personal home Bible studies were not conducted. Rather, these people would be invited to come to the common meeting place for group studies. Believing that Armageddon would come very shortly, the brothers endeavored to cover as much territory as possible with the Kingdom message in printed form.
For the first few years, Wright and Skinner took turns traveling to distant places, particularly to “Christian” centers, with the sole idea of distributing literature. This was done chiefly at the railway colonies where there was always a concentration of Anglo-Indian “Christians.” These railway colonies consisted of anywhere from twenty or thirty to a few hundred families. Accommodations would often be available at the railway “running rooms,” where railroad men operating the trains stayed overnight.
About a year after arrival in India, Brother Skinner received a shipment of 10,000 copies of Deliverance, a paperback edition of the book released in 1926. Ten thousand books for just two pioneers! There was no storage space for such a quantity at the branch office; so they made immediate search for more commodious premises. An advertisement in the local newspaper led to the renting of an apartment along with commodious storage room in the suburb of Colaba. So the branch office was transferred from the central Byculla area to the southern suburb at 40 Colaba Road, which served well as headquarters for twelve years.
Soon after receiving this shipment of the book Deliverance, Brother Skinner went on a second trip into the northern province of the Punjab. This time he took a ship to Karachi, where he stayed a week at this important wheat-trading seaport. As was the custom, Skinner sought out the nominal Christians, again especially at the railway colony and in Anglo-Indian areas, placing many copies of Deliverance among them.
Leaving Karachi on the Indus Delta by railroad, he proceeded to the northern town of Quetta, the capital of British Baluchistan, situated some 5,500 feet (1,676 meters) above sea level and 536 miles (863 kilometers) from Karachi. Here was a Watch Tower reader, Walter Harding. Harding was a guard on the railroad, living in the railway colony. Harding’s wife, being a member of the local church, was somewhat averse to the Bible truths her husband was proclaiming.
Skinner was introduced to a rather jovial Methodist clergyman who invited him to an evening meal. There Skinner was able to meet other members of the Methodist flock and tell them about God’s kingdom and the hope of a restored paradise on earth. Harding himself was like a lone voice ‘crying in the wilderness’ of this outpost of Christendom.
Following the death of one of their sons, Mrs. Harding grasped the truth and so did all the children, some of them becoming full-time pioneers. So, with the Harding family at Quetta, and their later transfers to Rawalpindi, Karachi and Lahore, it can be said that the Kingdom work was firmly established here in the northern section of India, which was later to become the separate state of Pakistan, meaning “holy land.”
DECLARING THE GOOD NEWS BY RADIO
Expansion of the Kingdom witness by means of radio was attempted. A radio station was opened in Bombay in 1928 and permission was obtained to use it for broadcasting the Kingdom message.
The first ten-minute talk, given by Brother Skinner, was heard by Brother James in the faraway city of Cawnpore. He thereafter wrote to the branch office, commenting on the talk. After a few of such talks, however, further permission to use the broadcasting facilities was denied, the pretext being that only the orthodox churches should be allowed to broadcast religious topics.
REACHING PEOPLE OF MANY TONGUES
Ever conscious of the linguistic problem in India, where fifteen major tongues are used, ways were sought to make the Kingdom message available in more Indian languages. In the state of Travancore, the Malayalam-speaking brothers already had The Divine Plan of the Ages in their tongue. Now The Harp of God and the booklet Freedom for the Peoples were printed in Malayalam.
The booklet World Distress—Why? The Remedy was next made available in Kanarese for distribution in Bombay among the Basel Mission “Christians” and in their native state to the south.
Mangalore, a coffee and sandalwood export center on the coast, has a considerable Roman Catholic and Protestant population. It is the headquarters of the German Basel Lutheran Mission, with its extensive property and a college. Traveling there, Brother Skinner was entertained by one Mr. Aiman, himself a member of this Basel Mission and the editor of a small religious magazine published in Kanarese. After discussing Bible topics with Skinner, he arranged to publish extracts from our book Deliverance. In this way, the church members got some additional truths from the Bible in their own tongue. Arrangements were also made for Brother Skinner to give a public talk in the Basel Mission College Hall. The Harp of God was offered at the close of the lecture. Soon arrangements were made for members of this same Basel Mission to study the Bible weekly with the aid of The Harp of God in the Kanarese language.
Our work in Travancore relentlessly advanced despite difficulty. The brothers had to tramp many miles under a burning sun, with little accommodation for the personal comforts of life. During 1928, the fourteen native congregations, made up of forty-one active Kingdom publishers and thirteen pioneers, succeeded in arranging 550 public meetings attended by about 40,000 persons.
Indeed, by then there were sixty-two “class workers,” as we called them, loyally doing their best in India to spread the message of Jehovah’s kingdom. It was evident that more workers were needed to span the whole country. Hence, application was made to the Society’s headquarters for more pioneers. In response, four Englishmen sailed from Britain, bound for Bombay. Claude Goodman and his partner, Ron Tippin, stepped ashore in August 1929, just a few months after Ewart Francis of Gloucester and his partner Stephen Gillett had arrived. After a brief introduction to the brothers in Bombay and to the methods of doing things in India, these pioneers were assigned to their respective territories.
SOME SUCCESS IN THE PUNJAB
A further effort was now made to spread the Kingdom message in the Punjab. A short sea trip brought Claude Goodman and Ron Tippin to Karachi.
The following experience illustrates how Jehovah cares for his faithful servants: After spending about a week living in the cheapest accommodations available, Ron Tippin witnessed to the proprietress of a large hotel in Karachi. She took the literature and asked where he was staying. Upon being told, she invited these two brothers to be her guests for as long as they stayed in town. Since the pioneers received no personal allowance from the Society, this was indeed a marvelous provision enabling these two brothers to continue serving in a dignified manner with funds needed for the work ahead.
From Karachi, Goodman and Tippin moved northward to the desert city of Hyderabad in the province of Sind. Now it was a parting of the ways, as Tippin went north to Quetta to aid the Harding family, while Goodman traveled to Ambala to give encouragement to the Manning family. It was extremely hot in that summer of 1930 and most of the English-speaking populace had moved off to the cool hill resort of Mussoorie, some 6,600 feet (2,012 meters) above sea level in the Himalayas. So, by train and horseback, Goodman followed, to share the Kingdom message with them.
While there, Goodman learned that Mohandas K. Gandhi was in Mussoorie, as the guest of a wealthy merchant. Goodman reports:
“Gandhi’s name then meant nothing to me except that he was a very controversial politician intent on securing freedom for India from British domination. But he was a human and as much in need of the Kingdom message as anyone else. So when, in working the territory, I reached his temporary home, I decided to ask for a personal interview. After a while he came out dressed in his familiar simple homespun cloth, with staff in hand, and invited me to take a walk with him around the beautiful grounds. As we walked, we talked, and I painted a picture of the new world at hand. Gandhi promised that he would read our publications, as his host already had them in his library.” Thus, seventeen years before his assassination, the one who brought independence to India and who came to be called “Father of the Nation,” was given a personal opportunity to accept the rulership of God’s government.
After some time in Ambala, Goodman again was joined by Tippin. Together they set off for Lahore in response to many letters received from the villages in the Punjab around that city. The writer of these letters turned out to be a free-lance clergyman. Speaking no Punjabi, and having no Bible literature in that language, they could only give talks on the “Chart of the Ages,” using this clergyman as translator. Large crowds gathered to listen, but it was later learned that the villagers’ chief interest was for our “Mission” to build them a school or a hospital.
House cars were a new feature of service in India in 1929. Manned by two brothers and well supplied with literature, these vehicles were equipped with domestic necessities. With them the Society could now extend the Kingdom-preaching activity into more rural areas and be independent of hotels and public transportation. Living in a “mobile missionary home,” each crew searched out the so-called “Christian” centers throughout the length and breadth of this vast subcontinent, extending to these people the good news of salvation.
In many instances, our itinerant brothers called at Christendom’s mission places, even enjoying the hospitality of the local clergymen in their comfortable bungalows. At that time, the sharp differences between “Babylon the Great” and Jehovah’s organization were not so clearly recognized. (Rev. 17:3-6; 18:4, 5) However, divisions were created when the public talks were heard and our literature was read. Some of these European clergymen were more concerned with giving boys and girls vocational training in their schools and institutions than with providing religious instruction from the Bible.
In those days, road travel by house car sometimes turned out to be a rather daring enterprise, for roads often were no more than bullock-cart tracks, and rivers had no bridges. In the dry season riverbeds were more or less dry, with only shallow streams and sandy stretches. To cross these frequently required partial deflation of the tires and sometimes unloading the car and carrying the goods across a shallow stream on foot. Once safely across, the brothers had to inflate the tires with a hand pump and load up again before going on their way. In the rainy season, a sort of local ferry transport was arranged by tying two country craft together with wooden planks to form a platform on which a car or small bus could be carried. Bullock-cart tracks, of course, became mud ruts. Notwithstanding the hazards encountered, areas previously inaccessible were now being reached with Bible truth.
On one occasion in those early days, George Wright was touring by house car in the United Provinces (Uttar Pradesh) at the approach of the hot season. Brother Skinner joined him at Cawnpore. After staying overnight as guests of the James family, sleeping out under the stars because it was too hot in the sun-baked house, these two pioneers started out on the 225-mile (362-kilometer) journey to Nainital, an important summer resort 6,400 feet (1,951 meters) above sea level, in the Himalaya mountains. They climbed the narrow, winding road to the Tal, or Lake, of Naini. The only motorable road at Nainital was the level one around the lake, but the viceroy’s car alone was permitted to use it. All other vehicles were required to park in the municipal parking place at the bazaar near the lake.
Our brothers lodged at the YMCA Hostel and worked the residential homes scattered about on the steep hillsides. Paths led zigzag-fashion up the mountainsides, making house-to-house work somewhat laborious. Skinner, being a little younger and having a more robust constitution than Wright, took the higher elevations. Meanwhile, Brother Wright, who had a poor heart condition, visited the lower slopes. Much literature was left in the homes of these people.
From Nainital our brothers threaded their way through the mountains to Ranikhet, a cantonment where married British soldiers were stationed. There some of our literature was distributed. Pushing on from Ranikhet, the brothers arrived at the end of the motorable road at Almora. From there they could behold the breathtaking, mighty, snow-clad peaks of the Himalayas. At this distant township of Almora, Christendom had planted some of its religious missions. So these isolated people too were given the opportunity of receiving the witness of Jehovah’s established kingdom.
INTO A SECLUDED VALLEY
While in this highland region near Nepal, Skinner and Wright heard that Christendom’s famous Methodist bishop, Dr. Stanley Jones, had his ashram, or religious hermitage, tucked away in a secluded valley known as Sath Tal (Seven Lakes). “So off we went to seek an interview with this noted American missionary,” says Brother Skinner. “Motoring along a winding gravel road, we finally reached the place and discovered, nestling in this mountain valley, quite an extensive property composed of a main building and several cottages. The main building was comfortably furnished with a spacious dining room carpeted from wall to wall . . .
“Calling at the main building, we were introduced to Dr. Stanley Jones, who received us hospitably and invited us to have lunch with him and the twenty or so other missionaries living at the ashram. The meal was served in true Indian style—curry and rice served on a thali, or metal dish, and eaten with one’s fingers, with all participants sitting on the floor. George Wright and I were supplied with spoons!
“Following lunch came an open discussion on the work of these missionaries, all Protestants but from various denominational churches. I well remember Jones emphasizing the point that individualism was the key to progress, and self-determination the line for these missionaries to follow. No Scriptural basis was discussed for their mission activities. On being dismissed from the dining room, we made an attempt to draw Dr. Jones into a discussion of Bible doctrines, but he declined and would not accept one of the Society’s books.”
At this point Brother Skinner made an about turn. While Brother Wright continued working in the Nainital area, Skinner traveled by motor bus down the mountain road to the railhead at Kathgodam. There he boarded a train to Lucknow and headed across the vast sun-baked plains to Bombay, at the other side of the subcontinent.
PROGRESS IN THE PUNJAB
Early in 1931, Brother Skinner embarked on another tour in the province of the Punjab. This was to become an annual event during the cool season of the year, the tours normally commencing at the beginning of January. Skinner particularly selected the area of the great Indus Valley rivers, a land of open villages along the great irrigation canal system.
An Indian “Christian” schoolteacher by the name of Samuel Shad, living at Khanewal, offered to translate the Society’s booklets into Urdu, and to serve as translator while Skinner toured these villages. Selecting a number of villages composed entirely of nominal Christians, they would set off first by train from Lahore, next perhaps by horse-drawn tonga (a two-wheeled passenger vehicle), then sometimes on horseback. Two or three days were spent at each village.
The villagers lived in houses built of sun-baked mud, with roofs either thatched or timbered. Inside accommodations were primitive. A person slept on a charpoy, a four-legged cot of wooden framework with intertwined rope.
But these visits were always happy and refreshing experiences, for upon returning from their sugarcane plantations or grainfields, these farmers would sit around on their charpoys with the Bible in hand. Some would be smoking a hookah (a water-cooled pipe with a stem two to three feet long). But these individuals would be turning from scripture to scripture as God’s truth was explained to them. They were all nominal Christians associated with various sects of Christendom except Roman Catholic, as very few Catholic groups were in this area.
Public meetings were arranged in the larger places such as Raiwind, Renala Khurd and Okara. In time, some volunteered for the pioneer service, but with the coming of World War II most of this interest was lost. The ground was sown, however, in readiness for the Gilead graduates who would come to this area later, when the new state of Pakistan was formed.
These people were sorely oppressed by their mission masters. The missions had received grants of land from the government for cultivation, and, in turn, they let out the land to cultivators. This was done with the understanding that the cultivators contribute a portion of the value of their crops to the mission yearly until the land was paid for, and then it would become their own property. But, in most cases, that was only in theory. It merely required a poor rainfall, and sometimes a real drought, to reduce the value of their crops, with the result that these people were almost always in debt to their missions.
When the Kingdom message reached these people, they wanted to break away from the missions, but could not, or did not dare to do so. There were many cases of real suffering when some were deprived of their land settlements. Many compromised and never got free from the clutches of Babylon the Great. When World War II broke out and close contact with the branch office in Bombay was impossible, even Samuel Shad, who had done so much to open up this area to the Kingdom message, went back to Christendom’s organization for a livelihood and died in the grip of Babylon the Great.
TO PARIS AND BACK
The Society arranged for an international convention at Paris, France, in May 1931. Brother Skinner obtained permission to attend and because of insufficient time to book passage to Europe by sea, he traveled by way of the Persian Gulf and then overland through Basra, Baghdad, Istanbul and on to Paris.
At the Paris convention, Skinner had the privilege of a personal discussion with Joseph F. Rutherford, the Watch Tower Society’s second president. To intensify the Kingdom work in India, Brother Skinner obtained permission to purchase a vehicle for use as another house car.
NEW WORKERS IN THE INDIAN FIELD
While enjoying a short vacation with his family in Sheffield, England, Brother Skinner met Brothers Randall Hopley and Clarence Taylor, who were colporteurs (today called pioneers). Asked if they would like to serve Jehovah in India, they said that they would. So, with the Society’s permission, Brothers Hopley and Taylor, along with colporteur Gerald Garrard, sailed from London docks, arriving at Bombay in September 1931. Brother Skinner was on hand to welcome these pioneers as they stepped onto Indian soil.
After a week or so in Bombay getting accustomed to the heat and clammy humidity, the colporteurs moved off to their new assignments. Hopley and Taylor traveled to Poona up through the scenic Western Ghats. Soon they got busy distributing the Society’s publications among the inhabitants of this military station of considerable size.
After working in Poona for a few months, sickness prompted a 120-mile (193-kilometer) journey to Bombay. Upon recovery, they took up a new assignment of service in the province of Sind and also the Punjab in northwest India. Equipped with cartons of literature and bedrolls containing sleeping requisites, Hopley and Taylor set off by train, skirting the Aravalli Hills by way of Marwar Junction and Luni and on through Hyderabad to Karachi. The three-day, third-class rail journey was no joyride, but it was the cheapest.
Finding accommodations with Florence Seager, who treated them with extraordinary human kindness, Brothers Hopley and Taylor spread the Word of God in large sections of Karachi. From there they moved off the Indus Plain ascending northward into the Kirthar mountains to Quetta at about 5,500 feet (2,676 meters) above sea level. Quetta itself is situated on an open plain ringed by mountains, some over 11,000 feet (3,353 meters) high. Here, glad for the bracing climate in contrast to the heat of the plains, Hopley and Taylor spent many joyous days of Kingdom preaching. Soon, however, our two brothers were on the move again, this time to the capital of British India, Delhi, the headquarters of the historic Grand Mogul.
Delhi consists of two sections, Old Delhi and New Delhi. Since it was a much larger city than the previous ones they had visited, Brothers Hopley and Taylor were able to spend a longer time than usual. They found it easy to place literature in Delhi, but not so easy to convince the Hindus and others that life could come only as a result of Jesus Christ’s ransom sacrifice.
The brothers found the Delhi summer unbearably hot and so visited the hill resort of Nainital, nestled in the Himalayan foothills. Several European schools were situated there, and our brothers were able to extend the Bible’s message to the teachers, as well as the residents of the plains and wealthy professional folk who had sought refuge there from the summer heat.
Upon completing their work at Nainital, the two brothers set out on an extended railway tour that was to keep them busy for the next two and a half years. Following the custom of earlier pioneers at each place, they ferreted out the so-called “Christian” areas and distributed hundreds of books and booklets. Great stretches of country, particularly in the United Provinces, were covered in this manner. Mathura, alleged birthplace of Krishna, an immoral “god” of Hinduism; Agra, old capital of Emperor Akbar; Lucknow, an important railway junction; Cawnpore, a leather manufacturing city; Allahabad, sacred to Muslims and Hindus; and Benares, Hinduism’s “eternal” city—all were visited in their turn, and opportunity was afforded for them to learn about Jehovah’s purposes and organization.
Concurrent with these events, Claude Goodman and Ron Tippin had returned to India from an assignment in Burma. They docked at the inland port of Calcutta during the monsoon season. On seeing masses upon masses of people, they wondered how this teeming city could ever receive the good news. As far as they knew, not one person in Calcutta belonged to the “Way.” (Acts 9:1, 2) Securing a bare room near Free School Street, they used cartons for chairs, cartons for tables and the floor for a bed. A large percentage of the people knew only the Bengali language. So the pioneers could only concentrate upon the small number who read English. In this way the work got started in Calcutta.
“THE KINGDOM, THE HOPE OF THE WORLD”
In July of 1931, the Bible Students adopted their new name “Jehovah’s Witnesses.” Now, in a special campaign, the booklet The Kingdom, the Hope of the World was distributed to the clergy, politicians and big businessmen in the leading nations, notifying these prominent leaders of our new designation.
This campaign ultimately came to India and much of 1932 was taken up with translating the Kingdom booklet into native Indian languages. How the pioneers in north India rejoiced to have this booklet in Urdu, Gujarati and Hindi for use among the people of the Punjab, Bombay and the United Provinces! In Travancore and Madras Provinces the brothers were intensely occupied distributing the Kingdom booklet in Malayalam and Tamil. In the meantime, the pioneers were active in getting the English edition into the hands of the clergy. Of 7,320 English and 14,603 vernacular booklets, 2,468 went to Christendom’s church leaders in India. It was gratifying to see the enlargement of our translating activities.
BY HOUSE CAR ACROSS CENTRAL INDIA
The house-car witnessing work was developing too. Now there were two of these vehicles plying the Indian highways and byways. In August 1932, Claude Goodman and Ron Tippin were sent clear up to Jhansi, a historical capital of Mahratta warriors but now an agricultural trading center, there to take over one of the house cars. Quickly learning how to drive, Goodman and Tippin loaded up with essential supplies, including cartons of English literature plus Urdu and Hindi booklets.
These courageous pioneers blazed a trail right across central India. They became experts at fording rivers, stopping at practically nothing to get God’s Word to the people. The routine when fording was to deflate the tires partially, disconnect the exhaust system at the manifold, remove the fan belt, grease the ignition wires and plug the crankcase and any vents. Invariably, the roar of the engine would bring inquisitive natives, popping up from nowhere, it seemed. While fording the river Mahanadi close to the town of Sambalpur, they sustained a broken mainspring, which they patched up the best that they could and decided to push through to Cuttack without stopping to witness in the towns en route.
After passing through Rampur, they parked the house car about ten miles (16 kilometers) beyond it in the jungle and prepared to spend he night at this spot. Later, they heard a car pass along the road, which was a rare event, and later heard it again. Soon the sleeping brothers were awakened by loud shouting. It was a posse of policemen with the superintendent. The local rajah had passed by earlier and had seen the light in the house car. He required that they, return to Rampur and stay there or have an armed guard watch the “car” all night, as this was dangerous elephant and tiger country. Reluctantly, the brothers “limped” back under escort The next day, they decided to work the place. Everybody had heard the rajah’s story. and the brothers were almost celebrities. They distributed practically everything they had in the way of literature. It made the pioneers think of Jonah’s being ‘given a lift’ part way to his territory at Nineveh.—Jonah 1:17; 2:10; 3:1-3.
AND NOW, SOUTHWARD
Cuttack is situated in the delta of the Mahanadi River and is the nodal point of the Orissa canal irrigation system. It was into this city that our travelers “hobbled” and eased their crippled van to a stop. After spending some days repairing the house car, getting literature supplies from Bombay and filling up with life’s physical necessities, Goodman and Tippin swung the wheel south, to follow the road along India’s eastern seaboard in the direction of Cape Comorin.
Sleeping in the jungles, washing in the rivers and witnessing along the way, the two pioneers slowly worked their way south. Since they informed the branch office at Bombay where they would be by a particular date, literature would be sent to renew their supplies. In this way, thousands of books and booklets were left behind, providing many families the opportunity to turn to the Bible for hope.
At Puri the brothers saw a huge religious vehicle, weighing perhaps twenty tons (18,144 kilos) and surmounted by the Hindu idol Juggernaut. This is a cult-title of the pagan gods Vishnu and Krishna, and the idol is dragged around the city every year. Before it hundreds of devotees prostrate themselves, as many others pull on the thick ropes. What a blessing to know the truth that sets one free!—John 8:32.
WITNESSING WITH SOUND AND PICTURES
In 1933, Florence Seager visited the branch office at Bombay and donated a Society-made transcription machine for use in India. The first of its kind in this land, this battery-operated machine had its own amplifier and a sixteen-inch turntable. With this gift, a new feature of our work was introduced in India. Now the house cars could be converted into sound cars. The transcription-machine work was launched at Bangalore, where there was a small assembly that year.
These house cars did an immensely valuable service in reaching countless places with the message of salvation. In minutes, the two horn-speakers could be mounted on the house-car roof and connected to the amplifier. Thus, in bazaars, parks, on main roads—wherever there were people—the recorded Bible lectures went “on the air.” On Sundays, a short distance from local church buildings, subjects like “Purgatory,” “Trinity” and “Why Do the Clergy Oppose the Truth?” were broadcast as the churches emptied and the members were returning to their homes. Often, many came to the car and requested literature. The clergy frequently tried to incite violence. And at times, primitive natives would clamber all over the house car trying to locate the source of the “voice.”
One of the house cars was operating a cinema projector. In distant places, native Indians beheld a new phenomenon in their lives-the Photo-Drama of Creation!
To use his house car for sound-car purposes, George Wright bought a motor generator. With a homemade coupling attached to the car engine, he produced his own electricity for the projection of the Photo-Drama slides. In those early days, the brothers had to improvise to make their equipment operational. For a projector bulb, Wright often used a bulb from the headlamp of a railway locomotive provided by a friendly loco-foreman.
About this time, Brother Skinner accompanied Brother Wright on a tour of the United Provinces. In one town, a school hall was hired to show the Photo-Drama. While George Wright was up in the hall showing the slides, Edwin Skinner remained seated in the car, keeping his eyes on the voltmeter and seeing that a standard speed was maintained to avoid blowing the bulb.
VALIANT WORKERS IN THE FIELD
Strides in producing vernacular literature for the entire Indian field were made in the mid-1930’s, with various booklets made available in Tamil and Urdu. For the first time in the history of our work in India, literature output reached the six-figure mark, as in 1934, 102,792 books and booklets were distributed.
Around this time, Gerald Garrard, a tall, lean, jovial pioneer, spent nine months witnessing to the inhabitants of Calcutta. He had his health problems, mainly due to the heat. One experience, however, compensated for all the inconveniences. While working alone in the business houses of Calcutta, Garrard contacted a man whose father was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses in London, England. Brother Garrard stimulated the interest of William King and he came right along into the truth.
Garrard’s later partner was a Brother Vanderbeek, who had been a sea captain. He worked as a loving example with Garrard in Calcutta and actually died there of typhoid fever. It was a poignant occasion. Brother Vanderbeek died on a Sunday night. Garrard buried his partner on Monday morning and then commemorated the Memorial of Christ’s death the same evening.
Maude Mulgrove, a slight yet vivacious woman who had been a hospital nurse, quickly came along in the truth at Bombay and took up the pioneer service in 1935. Immediately, she was sent to work in Bangalore, the capital of the native state of Mysore and a place noted for its fine silk. Being at an elevation of 3,113 feet (949 meters) above sea level, Bangalore possessed a healthful climate for its large military barracks of British troops. Here, Sister Mulgrove, one of India’s most successful pioneers, launched out on her full-time preaching career.
INDIA OF THE LATE 1930’S
About this time, Brother Randall Hopley toured most of southeast India. At Negapatam (now called Nagapattinam), he was joined by a youthful pioneer named George Puran Singh, a former member of the Sikh religion who had accepted true Christianity while living in Malaya. Hopley was able to help this young pioneer to develop his witnessing abilities as they worked together.
To the north, in the Punjab, much good work was being accomplished by four Indian pioneers and six other Kingdom proclaimers. In this fertile province, there were sixteen towns and villages where regular meetings were arranged, attended by 166 interested persons. It required determination and courage to endure in the work because the need for proper leadership and for strengthening weaker ones was evident. The Salvation Army ejected eight men from the land they were cultivating because these individuals had ceased identifying themselves with that religious organization and had become associated with Jehovah’s organization. Even so, in the Punjab the field remained vast and the workers few.
In December 1938, the branch overseer of Australia, Alex MacGillivray, visited India along with Alfred Wicke. A convention was held at the hill resort of Lonavla, eighty miles (129 kilometers) southeast of Bombay. To test the depth of a nearby lake for the immersion, Claude Goodman and Ewart Francis entered the water, even having a swim before returning to report. Two weeks later Brother Goodman was in the hospital dangerously ill with dreaded typhoid and Ewart Francis was dead. Possibly, this resulted from contact with infected water. The loss of one of our most efficient pioneers certainly was a blow to the work.
As a result of Brother MacGillivray’s visit and with the consent of the Society, arrangements were made for the Australian branch to supply India with a small printing press.
The years from 1926 to 1938 had seen an immense amount of rugged pioneering in India. Tens of thousands of miles had been traveled and great amounts of literature had been distributed. Many, many places had been reached. Yet, there was little to show for all of this by way of an increase. In 1938, there were eighteen pioneers and 273 “company publishers,” making a total of nearly 300 Witnesses in the entire country. These faithful brothers were scattered among twenty-four congregations, widespread throughout India. But the brothers were being made more conscious of the need to be proclaimers and teachers of the good news. Gradually, the work was becoming better organized in the way of reporting field service, making return visits and conducting home Bible studies.
For some time, it had been felt that the Society’s branch office in India should have more worthy quarters than those at 40 Colaba Road. Permission having been obtained, the Bombay office moved into other premises at 17 Bastion Road in the downtown business section of Bombay. In addition to the better facilities, the new quarters provided easy access to the railway station and other centers for the Society’s business. But soon after this move, World War II erupted.
WHILE THE WAR RAGED ON
War brought restrictions that progressively increased. So the branch office was moved back to its former location. Up in the Sind and the Punjab, the Kingdom work now became confined, more or less, to the two large cities of Karachi and Lahore. Not much preaching work was done elsewhere in those provinces. Nevertheless, some progress was made there in what is now Pakistan.
The British government, ruling India at the time, demanded that names of all male European British subjects be submitted for possible enlistment in military service. Jehovah’s Witnesses in India complied with this request of “Caesar” and Brother Skinner, the branch overseer, sent a list of names, along with a letter clearly presenting the Christian position of neutrality.—Matt. 22:21; John 15:19; 17:14; 2 Tim. 2:3, 4.
The result of the explanation was that the brothers who were subject to this National Service Act were given exemption from military service, although efforts were made by the British government to get our male pioneers to perform some national service. They were asked whether they would have any objection to doing Post Office work. Brother Skinner’s reply was to the effect that we have no objection to Post Office work as such, but our Christian work is to proclaim the Kingdom of God to the people, and we object to being taken away from that activity. Consequently, the secular authorities allowed the pioneers to continue free to perform their God-given service of proclaiming the good news.
COUNTERING THE INFLUENCE OF FALSE RELIGION
The evil influence of false worship was demonstrated by incidents that occurred in 1940. In one small town, a crowd of Roman Catholics tried to ‘frame trouble by decree’ by endeavoring to get the civil power to prohibit the use of our transcription machine. (Ps. 94:20) A petition signed by 150 people, including three Catholic priests, was sent to the magistrate, complaining about an alleged insult to their church. Upon inquiring into the matter, the magistrate warned the 150 signatories not to interfere with Jehovah’s Witnesses, and he allowed our work to continue.
Another religious skirmish occurred during the same year in another town. Two Indian pioneers were assaulted by a religious pastor for distributing literature among “his flock.” Immediately, the pioneers had leaflets printed, drawing attention to this unchristian “fight,” then distributed them throughout the locality. A sound car was rushed to the scene and some Bible lectures were broadcast. As a result, a group of Indian “Christians” got to see the difference between Christendom and Christianity, and became actively engaged in publishing the Kingdom message.
INTO REMOTE REGIONS BY BOAT
To the out-of-the-way reaches of Travancore’s tree-lined backwaters, the good news was carried by means of a boat. A party of Malayali pioneers hired a country boat propelled by oars. Touring the isolated villages in the backwaters, they were able to deliver public talks and distribute literature to more than a thousand people. Some six hundred books and booklets were circulated in sixteen villages, which otherwise were inaccessible. Thus, to this land of abundant rice fields and slender palm trees, an effective witness about God’s kingdom was extended.
INCREASING THE EFFORTS IN TRAVANCORE
A high point in the work in Travancore was reached about 1941 when The Watchtower first began to be published in the Malayalam language on the Society’s own printing press. You may recall that the Society’s Australian branch had supplied India with a small printing press in 1938. Pioneer Claude Goodman was assigned to oversee the printing of The Watchtower for the Malayali brothers.
“I knew nothing about printing and I did not know the Malayalam language in which The Watchtower was to be printed,” admitted Brother Goodman. “The first problem was overcome by reading books on the subject; the second, by sign language, as I explained to Brother K. M. Varughese what I was reading in the books. In a few months, we were printing our own Malayalam magazine as well as, or better than, the commercial firm had before.” No doubt about it, the introduction of the printing press was a definite forward step in advancing the Kingdom work in south India.
By sheer force of circumstances our house-car work now came to an end. Wartime restrictions had created an acute shortage of petrol (gasoline), and rationing limited the distances that could be traveled. Moreover, the Society’s branch office in India experienced a severe reduction in financial support from other foreign branches. So it was looked upon as Jehovah’s will that the house cars be sold and the money used in other avenues of Kingdom activity. However, a tremendous amount of satisfying work had been done with these vehicles in extending the witness about God’s kingdom in all parts of India.
DECLARING THE GOOD NEWS UNDER BAN
One day in the spring of 1941, Brother Underwood was preaching from house to house in Patna, the capital of Bihar State, where he had been assigned as a pioneer. Suddenly, the police arrived on the scene and arrested him, taking him along to the police station. There they confiscated all the literature he had in his bag. Subsequently, the particular publications Underwood possessed were officially banned by the government. What occurred in Bihar automatically followed in every state of India. Thus the government issued a notification No. 21-C of June 14, 1941, confiscating all of the Society’s publications.
The Watch Tower Society’s Bombay branch office was raided and all literature was taken away. But Jehovah’s hand was not short. Having no need to store large quantities of literature and being cut off from financial aid from Brooklyn headquarters, the India branch office was transferred to smaller and less expensive accommodations in the Colaba district. Even though The Watchtower now was banned, not one issue was missed during the entire period. Jehovah saw to it that the brothers were supplied with spiritual food. Frequently, merchant ships docking in Bombay harbor carried sailors who were Jehovah’s Witnesses, and invariably they brought the latest issue of The Watchtower to the branch office.
Then fearlessly, but discreetly, stencils were made and the material printed on a duplicating machine and supplied to the brothers scattered about in India. In later years, the books “The Truth Shall Make You Free” and “The Kingdom Is at Hand,” as well as a few booklets, were all published in mimeograph form, bound and distributed to the brothers. As a consequence, all through the period of the ban plenty of Bible study provisions were made available due to Jehovah’s loving care.
Out in the field, the brothers were experiencing interference from government officials affected by war hysteria. Down in Kottayam came the day when a police van drew up outside the Society’s depot and the small printing press was confiscated. It was held in police custody for the duration of the second world war. Up north at Calcutta, our pioneers were accosted by the police and deprived of all the literature they possessed.
An appeal for freedom of worship was made to the British viceroy, Lord Linlithgow, who simply turned a deaf ear to Jehovah’s people. The brothers, however, were determined to press the battle to the gate’ and the booklet God and the State was dispatched to all political legislatures and many of Christendom’s educational institutions, while as many clergy as could be found received the Theocracy booklet.
In January 1942 faithful and beloved Joseph F. Rutherford died. The Watch Tower Society’s new president, Nathan H. Knorr, immediately corresponded with all branches and, through a loving approach, established communications with them. It was reassuring to feel this close contact with headquarters amid hostile war conditions.
Soon, a new home Bible study campaign was implemented, each Kingdom proclaimer covering his own territory systematically, making a note of interested ones and calling back to conduct a Bible study in the home on a regular basis, if possible. Moreover, all the English-speaking full-time workers in India were invited to enroll as special pioneers, spending 175 hours a month in field service.
Up in Lahore, Jacob Forhan, a Persian, served as a special pioneer with his British partner, Clarence Taylor. Suddenly, in March 1942, both were arrested without charge and taken into custody. Taylor was released, but Forhan was detained for three months. Through repeated appeals and personal interviews, efforts were made to have the governmental authorities state the offense for which Brother Forhan was imprisoned. Strong suspicion existed that a Church of England clergyman named Johnson had made a false and malicious report to the police against this pioneer. When asked to his face whether he made such a report, Johnson denied it. Brother Forhan was not told what his offense was supposed to be, but, when released, he bravely continued to preach in the same territory.
Sister Kate Mergler, another special pioneer, also was having trouble. Down in the pretty southern hill retreat of Kotagiri in the Nilgiri Hills, she was ordered to leave the district within one week, in the month of July. This order was served by the governor of Madras Province, a Roman Catholic. The reason given was that her presence in Kotagiri was considered “prejudicial to the efficient prosecution of the war”! Our young sister chose to ‘obey God rather than man’ and carried on with her God-given preaching work. (Acts 5:29) She was arrested and sentenced to eighteen months simple imprisonment in the jail for women at Vellore, Madras Province. An appeal was made and Sister Mergler was released after being detained for about six months.
For some time, the branch overseer and his colleagues in the Bombay office had endured the distracting clangor of war equipment rolling through the streets at night. The office was on the road to the Bombay military area where British tanks, field guns and other heavy military supplies were stored. It was bedlam at night. Hence, with authority from the Society, the branch office again was moved, this time to 167 Love Lane, a more spacious and economical abode in the quieter district of Byculla. This location served as the hub of our Christian activity in India for the next eighteen years, until 1960, when the Society bought its own property in the suburbs of Santa Cruz, thirteen miles (21 kilometers) north of Bombay.
With the Society’s printing press confiscated and outside printers afraid to handle work for us, the south Indian Malayali brothers were unable to obtain literature for field service. Nevertheless, they persisted in witnessing solely with the Bible. A small amount of English literature, however, filtered into the state. Roman Catholic opposition increased and a Catholic mob once broke up a public meeting by throwing cow dung at the speaker. On the following day, our gallant brother visited every house in that same village and offered them the message of life.
Although the government had banned our literature, we never stopped trying to get something printed. In 1942 a sample copy of the Hope booklet arrived from Brooklyn. As this booklet was so obviously outside the scope of any Defence of India Rules, the branch office asked the government to guarantee that they would not confiscate it when printed. After considerable delay, the central government agreed to make an exception with this booklet, though taking great care to state that it did not preclude provincial governments from proscribing it if they saw fit to do so. The Hope booklet was printed by the Uniform Printing Press, Bombay. At the back of each booklet appeared these words: “By authority of the Government of India this booklet is exempted from the operation of Government notification No. 21-C, dated June 14, 1941.”
Among the notable assemblies of God’s people at that time was one held at Bombay in January 1943. This three-day gathering turned out to be the largest English-language assembly in India up to that time. Seventy-seven publishers were present, including two from Ceylon.
EARNEST EFFORTS REWARDED
A number of Burmese brothers and sisters had sought refuge from the Japanese occupation of Burma and these settled in the capital of India, New Delhi. Here amid the glitter of imperial ceremonies and spacious boulevards, a small congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses was formed. Sister Phyllis Tsatos had a relative working in the British military headquarters at Delhi. One day this relative introduced her to three British soldiers, with whom Bible studies were started. One of these servicemen was Peter Palliser, who became one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, served for a time as a circuit overseer in Britain and later had oversight of the Society’s branch office in Kenya. The eldest of the three soldiers had a wife in Britain who was a Witness and dutifully sent her husband every issue of The Watchtower. The Delhi brothers were able to send each edition to the Bombay office, where it was duplicated for circulation in India.
Many miles to the southeast, at Poona, pioneer sisters Maude Mulgrove and Edith Newland zealously were sticking to their assignment. Quite unexpectedly, a district magistrate ordered them to leave Poona. Although an appeal was made to the Bombay government, the order was upheld. The two pioneers took up an assignment, elsewhere in the same province, but the high-handed action resulting in their departure had become public knowledge. Fred Hurst, a Baptist preacher, read about it in the newspaper. This prompted him to seek out literature by the Watch Tower Society. He searched all the book shops and eventually found one of the volumes entitled “Vindication.” From it he got the Society’s address in India. A letter to the Bombay office resulted in a personal visit from Edwin Skinner. Clergyman Hurst immediately recognized the “Trinity” doctrine to be unscriptural and began to take an interest in the truth. His wife opposed him bitterly, but his heart was right. After some careful thinking, he resigned from the Baptist Church, went to Australia to earn a livelihood, and became a very active witness of Jehovah.
Earnest efforts continued in Travancore and our work there steadily advanced. It was done essentially in the vernacular among the native Indians. The brothers there were mostly poor in this world’s goods with an average wage of eight annas daily. In 1943 that amounted to only about two American cents. Their homes consisted of huts of dried palm leaves, or small houses made of laterite (a ferruginous clay that hardens when dried). Because of difficult circumstances, these people were so completely occupied with providing a living that they had little time for our message. In some cases, though, these conditions prompted them to seek the only remedy—God’s kingdom.
The special pioneers were building up a notable record of service. They were dotted about the country, one here, one there. Among them were stalwarts like George Wright, Clarence Taylor, Randall Hopley, Gerald Garrard and Jacob Forhan. The mighty mass of the population, not professing Christianity, were mentally averse to the Bible, and this made the really workable territories few and far between. One never came across blocks and blocks of houses affording much scope for Bible study activity. It demanded much time and energy to search out persons likely to show interest or those mentally able to understand the Bible’s message. To engage in field service for 175 hours monthly in such territory, in a temperature generally between 80 and 115 degrees Fahrenheit (27 and 46 degrees Celsius) demanded ‘both physical and spiritual stamina. But, by Jehovah’s undeserved kindness, these faithful servants did well. They could see some results for their years of service, for by 1943 there were thirty-seven congregations in India, with a total of twenty pioneers and 381 publishers.
THE WORK GOES ON DESPITE THE BAN
The brothers were hard pressed financially, being cut off from the Society’s headquarters in Brooklyn, New York. But again Jehovah’s hand was not short. (Isa. 59:1) From various sources, contributions came to keep the work functioning.
At Delhi thirteen clergymen belonging to six different sects (Anglican, Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, Roman Catholic and ‘American’) united in an attack against Jehovah’s Witnesses. They published a malicious leaflet entitled “A Warning to All Christians in Delhi.” It contained false allegations, among them that Jehovah’s Witnesses were banned on political grounds. Brother Basil Tsatos replied by publishing a tract of similar layout and bearing the same title but otherwise containing nothing but direct quotations from the Bible. Though this tract did not emanate from the Society, both the printer and Basil Tsatos were prosecuted.
These problems did not stop Jehovah’s people from getting on with their all-important work of preaching God’s kingdom and making Christian disciples. For example, in January 1944, a convention took place in Bombay, this time in the intensely Roman Catholic area of Bandra. Also, the revived “Servant to the Brethren” service (circuit work) was introduced in India during 1944. One of the special pioneers, Ronald Tippin, was trained for the work among the English-speaking publishers and he visited the congregations at Delhi, Calcutta, Bombay, Bangalore and four other places. A. J. Joseph, the depot servant at Kottayam, Travancore, undertook the work among the twenty-eight congregations in his own vernacular field.
Getting the brothers in Travancore well organized was an extremely slow process. Not all of them possessed a timepiece, which meant that punctuality in arriving at meetings and the duration of such gatherings were not strictly accurate. The position of the sun in the sky, or the feeling in the stomach, sometimes were the chief guides as to what time it was. In studying, the brothers became so engrossed that limiting studies to one hour seemed quite impossible. These faithful ones in Travancore had to copy all their Watchtower study material by hand. Yet they kept up-to-date with the regular weekly studies.
LIFTING OF THE BAN
Circumstances now developed slowly toward the lifting of the ban on the Society’s literature in India. Margrit Hoffman, a young Swiss national serving as a child’s nurse for a prominent British army officer in India, came in touch with the Society’s publications and corresponded for some time with the branch office in Bombay. When her contract expired she got baptized and later took up the pioneer service. While pioneering in New Delhi, Sister Hoffman visited the home of a member of Parliament from Madras. This politician gave her a hearing ear as she explained the nature of our work. She also raised the subject of the government ban on our work and how it was clergy-inspired. This friendly leader agreed to raise questions thereon in Parliament.
Meanwhile, Basil Tsatos was practicing physiotherapy and he was engaged to treat Sir Srivastava, the minister of food in the Viceroy’s Cabinet. While giving treatment, Tsatos witnessed to him, discussing the ban and the attitude of the clergy toward our work. He also mentioned that Mr. Skinner, our branch manager in Bombay, had made unsuccessful attempts to air the matter with Mr. Jenkins, the Home Member. To the delight of our brother, Sir Srivastava said: “Well, don’t worry. Mr. Jenkins is retiring in a few days and a very good friend of mine is taking his place in the Viceroy’s Cabinet. As soon as he does, ask Mr. Skinner to come up and I will introduce him to Sir Francis Mudie.”
Arrangements were made for Brother Skinner to visit Delhi and speak with Sir Francis Mudie, the newly appointed home member of the Central Government. Following this, all members of the Central Legislature were petitioned to assist us by raising official questions before the Legislative Assembly on why the ban had been imposed. Two non-Christian members of Parliament took up our case, were given the full details and tabled thirteen questions. A date was set for these to be raised in Parliament. Brother Skinner, Margrit Hoffman and Basil Tsatos were present in the visitors’ gallery on the day the questions came up for hearing.
The critical moment came when it was asked: “Is it true that the government of India has banned the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society’s publications and, if so, for what reasons?” Imagine the electrifying joy of our brothers when they heard Sir Francis Mudie say in reply: “The ban was imposed on precautionary grounds, but now Government has decided to rescind the ban.” This statement was made on November 21, 1944. Eighteen days later, on December 9, the ban was removed officially. Now we could import and print the Society’s publications and distribute them throughout India without threat of official interference.
During the last week of 1944, a convention was scheduled for Jubbulpore (Jabalpur), an important military and railway city, 616 miles (991 kilometers) northeast of Bombay. Being Christendom’s missionary center for the Central Provinces (Madhya Pradesh), it was an ideal location to let Christendom know that Jehovah’s Witnesses were no longer under government ban. For the first time in three and a half years, we distributed literature to the public on the streets and at their homes without fear of official interference.
EXPANSION DESPITE OPPOSITION IN BOMBAY
The ban certainly had not stopped the expansion in Bombay. Brother Kaunds was given the address of Benjamin Soans. Like Arthur Kaunds, Benjamin Soans was from the South Kanara area on India’s southwest coast, and they both spoke Kanarese. Soans had a knowledge of the Bible and was a writer for a Kanarese newspaper. However, he was employed in the Bombay Telephone Workshop along with about twenty others belonging to the same religious community, the German Protestant Basel Mission.
In a short time, Soans was talking to his workmates and soon he had others sitting in on the Bible study at his home. In a month, Benjamin Soans was conducting a Bible study himself with a group of friends, and within nine months—in early 1946—he was baptized. Immediately, he was assigned to complete the translation of “The Truth Shall Make You Free” into Kanarese, which had been started by Sister Rose Robello. Thereafter, Brother Soans was the translator of the Kanarese edition of The Watchtower until he died in December 1966. His daughter, Joanna Soans, succeeded her father as the Society’s translator of The Watchtower into Kanarese.
One evening many publishers of the Bombay Congregation were engaging in street witnessing at Flora Fountain when an unruly crowd of Catholic youths arrived on the scene to sell tracts advertising their cult. When someone stopped to talk to a Witness or take a magazine, a Catholic youth would rudely thrust his booklet under the person’s nose, trying to frustrate the Witness.
From week to week Catholic Actionists changed their tactics. On a later occasion, a number of Catholic rowdies would surround a single Witness, trying to divert attention from him. Such methods emboldened the Witnesses rather than intimidating them. The brothers reacted by calling out such slogans as “Why the Pope Fights Freedom.” This caused passersby to smile and brought discomfort to the opposers, who melted away, leaving the field to the Witnesses.
With the cessation of World War II in 1945, conditions in India rapidly deteriorated into a state of countrywide unrest. Vast numbers of men lost their employment. Released political internees resumed their fight for national independence. It was announced that Britain proposed giving self-rule to the people, and public affairs swiftly degenerated into a condition nearing anarchy. Religious communities vied with one another for power-even for their very existence, finally coming to violent blows in Calcutta and Bombay. The Indian navy and air force mutinied. Postal and telegraphic strikes crippled communications. Famine and death hovered over the land, threatening hundreds of thousands. Such were the conditions during 1945.
Allow Brother Garrard to relate an incident at this time: “During the anti-white riots, our being caught in mobs was not pleasant. However, our thoughts always went to Jehovah. I recall the first time a mob of about fifty threatened to kill me but did not know how to start! They eventually let me go because I was a preacher. At another time three of us got caught with mobs on both sides. Before the trouble starts you get ‘butterflies’ in your stomach, but once it begins you feel as calm as you could wish to be. Jehovah’s spirit seems to neutralize your own fear. You just trust him. There is nothing else to do, and in amazement you see how well everything turns out.”
The whole country was one seething mass of discontent. But in the midst of this raging sea of humanity, firmly stood an insignificant body of people, numerically speaking. Unmoved by the conditions, unshaken in their resolve to worship God and preach about his kingdom, Jehovah’s Witnesses were bidding the nations to be glad with his people.—Deut. 32:43.
SPIRITUALLY ALIVE AMID TURMOIL
To encourage the young congregation at Calcutta, the Society held a convention there in 1946. It was believed that the lecture “The Prince of Peace” would be soothing balm to the ugly wounds caused by the recent terrible bloodshed in Calcutta. The Muslim League had declared August 16 Direct Action Day. On that date a large number of Hindus were slain in Calcutta and their property was looted and destroyed. The city became the scene of one 0£ the most brutal communal riots.
Since 1940 the Muslim League had been agitating for a separate Muslim State of Pakistan. A prominent lawyer, M. A. Jinnah, proposed the idea for northwest India, as it was predominantly Muslim. In the provinces of Sind and Punjab, feelings of hatred between Hindus and Muslims grew to an explosive point. Amid these conditions in Karachi, Rawalpindi and Lahore, a few pioneers tried to keep the Kingdom work alive, but the frightening conditions distracted the masses. Even many Indian publishers stopped associating with the Society in its preaching campaign. Apparently, they had become Witnesses originally with an ulterior motive, hoping that financial support would be provided. Thus the work in the area that was to become Pakistan dropped to a low ebb.
TRYING TO FATHOM HINDU THOUGHT
Regarding the territory in India generally, the very first difficulty facing the Kingdom publisher is finding some platform upon which minds may meet. To a Hindu graduate, a thing may be both true and not true. If you think that fire burns, then that is true to you, and if he thinks that it does not, then that is truth to him. He will agree that your careful, logical argument is the truth, and the next minute he will agree with the exact opposite. Both are true, he says!
The Hindu may have a surface respect for the Bible, but in reality he has no regard for the Holy Scriptures as a whole. To him there are no such things as truth and error. All is truth and all is error. There are no such things as evil and good. Evil is good and good is evil. There is no God and there is no Satan. We are God and we are Satan. All is God. That chair upon which you sit—you think it lacks life? That is because you cannot detect its higher thought waves or communicate with its intelligence, which, he says, is higher than yours. That chair also is God, he says!
A HIGHLY BENEFICIAL VISIT
This was the type of territory in which a small handful of pioneers had been struggling for many years and where missionaries from Gilead School were about to serve. Coinciding with the arrival of the first Gilead missionaries in 1947, Brother N. H. Knorr visited India, the first visit of a president of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society since Pastor Russell had been here back in 1912.
On Monday April 14, 1947, Brother Knorr, accompanied by Brother M. G. Henschel, departed from Rangoon, Burma, by flying boat. They landed on the Hooghly River near Calcutta and the brothers met them at the riverside. Conditions were none too calm. The Hindus and Muslims were in a fighting mood and there were curfews in some sections of the city. As they traveled through Calcutta in a dilapidated bus, Brothers Knorr and Henschel got impressions such as these:
‘The dress of the people attracted us at first . . . Most of the men were wearing dhotis, which seem to be nothing more than a few yards of cotton wrapped around the lower portion of the body and fastened at the waist. Many were wearing pugris of various colors on their heads, a turbanlike indication of their nationality. In some areas the fez stood out. It was interesting to see the well-dressed Hindus wearing shirts such as are used in the Western world, but with the long tails hanging out. The women wore their bright saris and an abundance of bracelets and anklets of silver or gold. Some women wore earrings and rings in their noses; others had stones set in the sides of the nose. . . .
‘Then we saw our first cow walking on the sidewalk. She seemed to have the right of way and all people seemed to let her have full control of things. Then we saw more cows and sacred bulls. This was something new to us. We were used to seeing cows in a pasture or barnyard or in a barn, but to have them walking about the main streets of a city of four million people, helping themselves to some greens at a shop along the way and being chased away only to go to another shop, or eating something along the sidewalk that someone dropped, this was all so different from other countries visited! These were “sacred” animals. . . .
‘Soon we arrived at the Kingdom Hall, and the meeting was held with fifteen brothers. The curfew as announced by the police had kept some away. . . . We were able to tell them of the love and greetings of their brothers in other parts of the world, as well as to give them spiritual admonition . . .. Generally, throughout this metropolis, the air is stuffy, hot and sour. There was a good breeze that night. It was not exactly cold, but it was pleasant for the assembly of 100 persons that was listening to Brother Knorr speaking. . . . This was the last meeting we had with the brothers in Calcutta and it meant saying good-byes.’
In Bombay, there was much to do at the branch office, and the report continues: “Throughout the whole day we worked to the accompaniment of the cries of the beggars and the incessant honking of taxis and buses. There are so many people on the streets that the drivers just keep on honking their horns all the time.”
The assembly got off to a good start in the Lecture Hall of the College of Economics and Sociology, Bombay University, a delightful location in the heart of the city. On the first day—Tuesday, April 22—114 were in attendance and six were baptized.
Illustrating the religious superstition of the Hindus was an incident that occurred while Brothers Knorr and Henschel were going to the assembly on the second day. The report states: “On our way to the assembly hall we encountered a man carrying water. We were informed that he had ‘holy’ water from a near-by well. The well is considered sacred by Hindus and its water is drunk regularly by some. It was reported that some time ago one of the untouchables wanting water let down a bucket into the well and drew out some for himself. This ‘defiled’ the well and a riot ensued. But that did not clean the water. The only thing the religionists could do to make the water ‘holy’ again was to take seven bucketsful of manure from sacred bulls and throw it into the water. Thereafter the Hindus could again drink this ‘holy’ water and use it for sacred purposes. It is also stated that this well is one of the great causes of cholera in Bombay.”
At that morning session Brother Knorr outlined the work in India and what was proposed for the future. This was received well and the brothers were happy over the announcement of the reorganization of the work in India. In attendance were 120 from Karachi, Delhi, Madras, Travancore, Calcutta, Ceylon and many other places. Notable was their determination to proclaim the good news of the Kingdom.
For the public talk, “The Joy of All the People,” 504 were present. The information was especially designed for the people of the East. Parting at the end this assembly was not easy. But off our visitors went from the troubled land of India.
On February 20, 1947, the British Government declared its intention to quit India by June 1948, and appointed Lord Mountbatten as viceroy to carry out the transfer of power. The Muslim League reacted by bloody riots. Murder, looting, arson and general violence convulsed East Bengal, the Punjab and the Northwest Frontier Province. As a result, India’s native Congress political party accepted the division of India, resulting in a separate State of Pakistan.
The ultimate horror ‘erupted on August 15, when the country was split into Muslim Pakistan and Hindu India. Goaded by religious fanaticism, fear and poverty, Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims attacked one another with whatever weapons they could grab—knives, axes, swords and fire. Also, there was unprecedented two-way traffic of caravans. Millions were on the move Muslims fleeing from India to Pakistan and Sikhs and Hindus bolting from the Punjab into India. One correspondent described a certain caravan as being seventy-two miles (116 kilometers) long. Another report revealed a convoy of refugees to the number of 400,000, surely a record. It was a trail of misery, starvation and dead bodies both ways. There was a vicious chain reaction of reprisals, marked by cruelty and human butchery. Amid this unrestrained holocaust, Brother Cotterill found himself on the Pakistan side of the Partition, serving the brothers at Karachi.
Cotterill’s next assignment was a circuit assembly at Dehra Dun, one of the riot centers. The booking clerk tried to discourage him from traveling on what would be a nightmare journey. But Brother Cotterill reasoned, “If Jehovah wills, I shall try to get there.” He wrote:
“So after a happy few days with the brothers in Karachi I set off. The train moved, it seemed, cautiously toward the north through Multan and Montgomery. As we approached Lahore, there was much evidence of confusion, as many refugees were fleeing from Pakistan and others from India. A devout Muslim in my compartment put his prayer rug down many times and prayed to Allah, no doubt for protection. The scene reminded me of London during World War II. After sitting up all night on the platform, I got a train which was thought to travel to India. The carriage was crowded; I could sense the fear. All was quiet in my compartment. I read The Watchtower and gave a man at my side an Awake! to read. Our first-class compartment built to accommodate six eventually had forty persons in it!
“Crowds of people packed the platforms of each station. Traveling through the country, I observed multitudinous convoys of refugees with camels, horses, ponies, sheep and goats. Happily, I never saw anyone get killed. Yet trainloads of humans were being massacred, even the trainload just prior to ours. At Amritsar, Sikhs, armed with long knives on poles, searched every carriage ready to kill if they thought it right. I just prayed to Jehovah through his Son, Christ Jesus, to keep me calm and safe, if that be his will. I really felt quite calm as I continued to read his Word, the Holy Scriptures.
“Men women and children, and even goats, were piled on the carriage roofs, along with their luggage and possessions. An American Quaker . . . gave me an American army pack and I ate some biscuits and chocolate. Finally, we arrived at Saharanpur across the border, where I managed to get something to eat, along with the young man who had been reading Awake! I learned that he was a Muslim soldier of the Indian army returning to headquarters. He told me it had been the most terrible day of his life. If the others had known he was a Muslim, he would have been killed. He was probably the only Muslim on that train.
“Next morning I went by bus to Dehra Dun, where I gave the appropriate discourse ‘Blessed Are the Peacemakers.’ In that particular area, Sikhs and Muslims were killing each other. Brother Gerald Garrard and I accompanied the sisters safely to their homes. For the final assembly session we had about six in attendance because of the strict curfew that existed. My next stopping place was Calcutta, where Brother Randall Hopley was the servant to the brethren. We had our circuit assembly at the YMCA Hall in Chowringhee, where it was good for me to meet the Bengali-speaking brothers for my first time. Now began a very long train journey to Travancore. Here at Talapady, the Malayali brothers sang the opening song with all the older brothers sitting together choir-like. . . . It was necessary to offer the Malayalam-speaking friends some counsel on the fact that we are Jehovah’s Witnesses. Some of them had, when filling in government census forms, stated their religion as ‘Russellites.’ Imagine!
“Making an about turn, I made my way to Bangalore, where I met the brothers and urged them to appreciate the need to accept Jehovah’s invitation to support the circuit assemblies. Moving on to Madras to hold a small but happy assembly, I learned to have a deep love for the Tamil-speaking brothers. From Madras I returned to Bombay to rejoin Brother Carmichael in our Marathi-speaking missionary assignment.”
MORE HELP FROM GILEAD
Homer and Ruth McKay, graduates of Gilead School’s eighth class in 1947, surely found their new home in India to be quite a contrast with their former homeland, Canada. After a long voyage, they were greeted at Bombay by fellow classmates Dick Cotterill and Hendry Carmichael, along with other brothers.
Earlier in 1947, when Brother Knorr stood and surveyed the Bombay Bethel kitchen, he made the laconic remark, “That would break an American woman’s heart.” Well, now Ruth McKay was assigned to be the Bethel cook and housekeeper. But let her relate the story: ‘Here was a home like none I’d ever seen. The kitchen had no sink, just a tap in the corner wall with a raised strip of concrete to prevent the water from running all over the floor. It was not a 24-hour flow of water, but water had to be stored for times when the supply was cut off. The kitchen stove was a portable metal container called a sigri, which burned charcoal and could handle one pan at a time. There were no cold-storage facilities. So food was bought daily at the bazaar. Everything had to be covered, as I learned from experience that items left exposed were a welcome sight for crows. More than one egg was carried off. A pudding or pie had the center eaten out before I learned this lesson.’
Regarding the circumstances of the people, Sister McKay commented: “At first the very poor conditions of the people and the way they lived made us wonder how we would go on under such conditions. It was very depressing. But as time passed the necessity of helping them to learn the truth crowded out such thoughts. Over and over we told ourselves that truly the new system of things after Armageddon is the only answer to clean up this old world system.”
Homer McKay was appointed to be part-time servant to the brethren in the Bombay area. His circuit embraced a large area and population but few Kingdom proclaimers. To visit one isolated publisher, he traveled about 492 miles (792 kilometers) from Bombay to Hyderabad, about a fifteen-hour train trip. At another time he journeyed from Bombay. a distance of about 305 miles (491 kilometers) to visit an isolated family at Ahmedabad. Recounting his experience with a public meeting there, Homer McKay wrote:
“Ahmedabad is a large cotton-mill city of more than a million population, where we had hired a hall for our talk. However, the only advertising was the little work we had done during the week plus a homemade placard hung on the building. Apart from the interested family, there were only. three others—Muslims—in attendance. There was I in a large hall with a seating capacity of 500 and about seven in the audience!”
PRINTING ONCE AGAIN ON OWN PRESS
Immediately after World War II, the Society had been able to obtain sanction for the purchase of a Chandler & Price platen printing press from America. Eventually, it was installed in a small shed about two miles (3 kilometers) from the Bombay branch office. Malayalam types had been brought up from Travancore and some English types were purchased. Claude Goodman started operations, assisted by K. T. Matthew. Previously, the Malayalam edition of The Watchtower had been typeset at the Love Lane branch office; then it was printed at a commercial establishment. So now we were able to do both typesetting and printing ourselves. However, the printing of material in any other language had to be done entirely by commercial printers.
Incidentally, the Society’s press that was printing the Malayalam edition of The Watchtower originally was operated by foot pedal. This was hard work during the humid summer months and some time later the Society purchased an electric motor for the press and the operating difficulty was removed.
NEWLY FOUND INTEREST IN BOMBAY
One day in 1949 while Brothers Harsha Karkada, Senior, and Satyanathan were doing magazine street work near Flora Fountain, they placed a Kanarese magazine with a Mr. Rocky D’Souza. His residence turned out to be a place where about fifty bachelors dwelt dormitory-style, using part of the building as a men’s club to which others came for entertainment purposes. Practically all these club members were professing Christians from the area of Brahmavar on the Konkan coast of western India. Each week as Brothers Karkada, Sr., and Satyanathan visited Rocky D’Souza, they met different club members and held Bible discussions. Gradually, the interest developed into a regular study with twenty to thirty persons sitting in.
Opposition arose from other members. In the common hall there was a big altar with a religious cross and burning candles. Those studying soon saw that God was displeased with idol worship and waited for an opportunity to remove the cross from the club altogether. It came when the members arranged to whitewash the interior of the building and the altar was taken down for spring cleaning. It was never reinstalled, for the cross and altar just disappeared. This caused a commotion and a division among the club members; so it was decided to vote on it. By a narrow majority the interested persons approved of the removal. The president of the club, P. P. Lewis, became a dedicated Witness, as did Rocky D’Souza and a number of others. Regular public talks were given at the club every Sunday morning and were attended by forty to fifty persons, including the families of nonresident members. Developing this newly found interest proved to be a real stimulus to the work in Bombay.
EARLY CIRCUIT WORK IN RETROSPECT
In 1949, Hendry Carmichael took up his new assignment of traveling the length and breadth of India as the circuit overseer. New sites had opened up for visitation, including Kolar Gold Fields, where Brother Ponniah, a doctor, and Robert Rushton and his family were working with the local congregation. This visit proved to be interesting in more ways than one. Carmichael wrote: “Kolar Gold Fields is, as the name implies, the site of gold mines, claimed to be the deepest in the world. Going down Clifford’s Shaft, which is the deepest single shaft in the world, a drop of 6,500 feet [1,981 meters], was quite a thrill. It was truly amazing to see the immensity of the mine operations at this level, with workshops, fire department, explosive stores and a network of rail tracks for rolling stock. However, I had the opportunity of going down Heathcote Shaft to over 9,000 feet [2,743 meters] below the surface where, in spite of the enormous air-conditioning system, the temperature was 110 degrees Fahrenheit [43 degrees Celsius]. Here I was offered a chance to bore a hole into the rock-face where they were making a fresh cut across to a gold seam. . . .
“An outstanding event that year was that of making a circuit of twelve congregations and one isolated family in Travancore. In August, along with Brother A. J. Joseph, serving as translator to our Malayalam-speaking brothers, we covered about 600 miles [966 kilometers] by different means of transport plus eighty miles [129 kilometers] on foot. I can still recall a visit to Upputhara in the High Range where, after my arrival late at night, I found all the brothers waiting in their thatched-roof Kingdom Hall to hear the talk! . . .
“To visit the congregation at Kangazha, we boarded a bus to start our trip into the rurals. The seats were wooden benches stretching right across the width of the vehicle onto which passengers crowded in from each side with their purchases, which included goats, hens and other livestock, until the bus could hold no more. (But no limit is set. So if others want to travel they hang onto the sides and rear, wherever there is a foothold and one can grip on. They fill the roof until it looks like a crowd of people with an engine chugging along underneath.)
“This was just the first stage of our journey. At a certain spot we alighted and took to foot through the palm-tree forest single file. Darkness settled down, so we twisted palm fronds into a torch to light up our pathway. The walk seemed endless, but hours later we arrived and were given a warm welcome. . . .
“Travancore has a hot, steamy climate and is richly garmented with palm trees of different varieties interspersed with rice paddies and hamlets. While the inhabitants may not have much in the way of actual cash, they grow a lot of what they need and make bountiful use of palm leaves to thatch roofs and make eating trays. From coconut shells they make utensils. The rice-growing country is crisscrossed with irrigation canals, over which the only way to walk is along felled palm trees. This adds to the hazards of house-to-house witnessing. What amazed me was that, when a public talk was arranged, I was taken to a clearing or a junction of rural pathways amidst a palm forest. There I waited patiently and, just when I was about to conclude that no one was coming, the brothers would roll up. How they knew where the meeting spot was, I have never yet found out. Finally, about two to three hundred gathered to listen and they were never satisfied with just an hour. This was a big event and they wanted to hear all they could. There they sat on their haunches or on fallen trees or on the ground listening carefully and checking in their Bibles . . .
“The climax of this Travancore tour was a three-day assembly at Talapady from September 2-4, 1949. How glad we were when Brother Skinner came down from Bombay to deliver the public talk, to which 800 persons came!”
MISSIONARIES PERSEVERE IN CALCUTTA
The newly established missionaries at Calcutta were attempting to learn Bengali, the language of that area. To aid in opening the Kingdom work in that field, in 1949 the Society produced the Bengali edition of the booklet The Joy of All the People. Naturally, it took the missionaries a little time to get adjusted to the different conditions. Sister Marie Zavitz recalls: “When I was doing street work one day, I turned around and there was a man standing with a huge python about ten feet [3 meters] long. The snake was looking right at me. I don’t like snakes. I screamed and ran down the street.” It was merely an itinerant Indian snake charmer trying to earn a living.
Sister Zavitz continues: “There was another time when I was doing house-to-house witnessing and a lady wanted a magazine, but asked me to put it down on the step. So I did. Then the lady took the magazine off the ground and when giving me the contribution she dropped it into my hand so that her hand didn’t touch mine. I felt hurt because she felt so holy that she wouldn’t take the magazine out of my hand. It stemmed from their caste-system practices.
“One time I started a study with an Indian ‘Christian’ and I took her with me to another study. While on the way, we met a man on the street with whom I had placed a book. So we stopped to speak to him about the book. The next time I went to have a study with this Indian lady, she told me that she could not go out with me anymore. When I asked why, she said: ‘Well, you see I’m an Indian woman and I cannot be seen talking to a man on the street, because I would be disgraced in the whole neighborhood. I cannot speak to a man on the street even if he is a relative.’ But sometime later she offered to go out with me again, and got over that problem in time. She came into the truth and eventually became a special pioneer and walks about the streets alone now.”
Gerald Zavitz recalls: “We thought at first it was going to be a fruitful field, but we soon found that their interest was superficial. They were willing to listen, but they did not believe. They still clung to their own philosophy, and at first I thought I would try to reason with them over their idea of Karma, for instance. Their Karma theory teaches that everything is according to God’s will and that there is always some good in everything. So I tried to use a very definite illustration about Mohandas Gandhi’s assassination. Surely that was a fiendish crime; there could be no good in that! But no, there was some good in it; we just do not understand what it is. So I gave up on the idea of trying to reason with them on that theory. Although a couple of Hindus have come into the truth here in Calcutta, we find it more beneficial to study with Indian ‘Christians.’”
FURTHER ADVANCEMENT IN THE BENGALI FIELD
In the latter part of 1949, Gilead graduate Hendry Carmichael made a circuit visit to Bengal. He wrote: “While at Kanchrapara visiting the newly formed congregation, a trip was arranged to Chapra, a village about seventy-eight miles [126 kilometers] north of Calcutta. The clergy and missionaries of Christendom tried all they could to prevent the giving of a public talk at Chapra. But in spite of this, around sixty attended one bright moonlit night in an open-air clearing. Our artificial lighting was from a petromax lamp. After the talk an old Bengali lady said: ‘To think that I have been listening to the clergy all my life and I never knew that all these things were in the Bible!’”
Carmichael further wrote: “While going from house to house at Chapra, I started off with two companions and ended up with about fifteen persons trekking around with me. The houses were erected on sunbaked mud platforms about two feet [.6 meter] off the ground and the palm-leaf thatched roofs sloped right down, overlapping the mud platforms for the purpose of preventing driving rains from spraying the interior. When invited inside, we stooped to enter, stepping up onto the platform, then sat on the floor with all the other fifteen. All would listen and reason on the Scriptures as I discussed them. In this area, many times I would sit up into the early hours of the morning explaining Bible truths, yet be up at dawn to spread the good news farther afield.”
A GLANCE AT THE PROGRESS
By 1949, in India, there was one circuit overseer serving 270 publishers and 23 special pioneers in 29 congregations—13 Malayalam, 1 Bengali and 15 English.
About the time when the new Republic of India was born on January 26, 1950, the Society’s branch in Bombay was busy transferring its printing press from the suburb of Sewri to a warehouse near the Love Lane office. It was a relatively new press, but as it was being unloaded some wooden supports snapped and the press fell to the ground, breaking at a vital place in the machinery. Nonetheless, it was repaired and soon was operating well once again.
THROUGH CYCLONE AND AVALANCHE!
On one occasion when circuit overseer Hendry Carmichael was about to leave Darjeeling, a terrible cyclone ripped through the area. It was accompanied by torrential rains amounting to fifty inches (127 centimeters) in two days. This caused innumerable landslides that devastated the whole region, sweeping bustis, or villages, into oblivion and everyone in them to their death. In fact, the house next door to where Brother Carmichael was staying was swept away in a landslide. Rocks and rubble piled up against the place where he was, causing water and silt to pour in. Hearing that Darjeeling was cut off from the world and that it might take months to cut a way through, Hendry Carmichael and pioneer Melroy Wells-Jansz decided to take a chance on getting through on their own. Besides, they were scheduled to conduct a baptism at the next stage of the circuit tour.
“First we climbed a thousand feet [305 meters] up to an old military road that skirted the mountain ridge,” reported Brother Carmichael. “Upon reaching the road we found it in shocking condition we struggled over mounds of rubble and trees and eventually got to Ghoom. From there, dogged by hunger, we struggled wearily along the main road, which often collapsed behind us as avalanches roared down the mountains and swept it away. One avalanche fell between us, but we were able to reunite. At last we were forced to a standstill. Before us was a yawning gap about forty feet [12 meters] across and 2,000 feet [610 meters] deep, with a roaring torrent gushing down the gap into the gorge. All that remained of the former railway bridge were the two rails held together by the sleepers. It was swinging in mid-air close to the roaring waters . . .
“We took refuge that night in a railway hut perched on the edge of the ridge, above which was a great pile of rocks threatening to hurtle down at any moment. After a sleepless night of indescribable hardship, we went outside to face that pair of rails again. . . . The rains were pouring and the wind was swinging the rails, but eventually we were both on the opposite side. However, our troubles were not over, for soon we arrived at Sonada, where we were confronted with another chasm. But this time there was no rail track left. . . . We scaled the cliff edge to a height of 3,000 feet [914 meters], sometimes very cautiously with our backs to the cliff face, inching along perilous ledges until there was no ledge left. Landslides had swept even the ledge away, forcing us to retrace our way till we could find somewhere else to climb. Finally, we crawled over the cliff top, penetrating a forest, the haunt of wild bears. We made our way down to Kurseong after trekking two days and a night. We arrived hungry, covered with mud, with feet blistered and bleeding, but safe and otherwise sound. A Roman Catholic priest who saw our arrival spread the news to the townsfolk. Nevertheless, the purpose of our visit was achieved.”
REWARDING JOURNEY TO SOUTH INDIA
It was decided that Brother Skinner should make a trip to south India and visit the brothers in South Kanara and Travancore. Hendry Carmichael, the circuit overseer, though just recovering from a serious operation, accompanied the branch overseer on this tour. The two brothers left Bombay by coastal steamer and stopped off at Mangalore for a weekend. There they found a group of fourteen interested persons who quite regularly studied The Watchtower in Kanarese. None knew English very well and there was no interpreter. Therefore, the public talk was advertised as an English meeting, with Brother Skinner as the speaker. With only one day to advertise the talk, it was amazing to note that ninety persons attended.
At the next place, Cochin, an assembly had been arranged in an effort to start developing this part of the field. Under British rule, Cochin had been a state separate from Travancore, with its own maharajah and system of government, although the people of Cochin State spoke Malayalam, as did those of Travancore. Up to that point in time, however, most of the work in the Malayalam field had been done in southern Travancore State. The opening session at this Cochin assembly had 210 in attendance. Thirty to forty interested persons had come from Travancore. There were 110 Witnesses engaged in the assembly witnessing activity and the eyes of the people of Cochin fairly bulged as they saw twenty to thirty sisters walking around the town with placards advertising the public talk—a thing never seen before in Cochin. It is a city saturated with Roman Catholicism, with a resident bishop. Yet there was a final attendance of 1,022 at the public meeting, making it the largest assembly held in India up to that time. It was gratifying to observe twenty-five persons get baptized and to find a group of five English-speaking men desirous of being formed into a congregation.
APPRAISING THE INCREASE
The spreading of missionaries through the country was a stabilizing force and brought confidence to the local Indian brothers, as they unitedly worked together.
At Calcutta a number of Bible studies had been started with Hindus. Could this be a breakthrough in the Hindu field? Thirty-eight home Bible studies were being conducted among the Bengali Hindus and the report said: “This is just the beginning.” However, along with the hopeful comments were characteristic expressions: “They have studies out of politeness,” “to improve their English,” “for comparative study, but with the determination that they will never change their religion.” One report expressed a general truth revealing the attitude of most Hindus, saying, “There is general antipathy to any revealed religion, and they cannot accept the idea of a ransom.”
A questionnaire had been sent out to the brothers in 1950 to see just how many Bible studies were being conducted with those not professing to be Christians. The result showed that in all India 114 home Bible studies were conducted with Hindus, Buddhists and others who were not “Christians.” About a hundred had been started, but were discontinued. Thirty-four of these persons were attending our meetings, eleven had shared in field service and two were baptized. In 1951, the answers revealed that there were eighty-three Bible studies, a drop of thirty-one. But thirteen individuals who had not been nominal Christians were participating in the witness work and three were baptized. Consequently, the increase was coming chiefly from those professing Christianity. It had been encouraging to bring fifty-nine new disciples along to dedication and baptism that year, making a peak of 499 Witnesses.
TROUBLE AT POONA
Spreading true Christianity in India was not to the liking of certain religio-political movements, particularly the R. S. S. or the Rashtriya Seva Sangh (Servants of the Country), known throughout the land as the group who assassinated Mohandas K. Gandhi in 1948. In October 1951, they tried to create trouble during a circuit assembly at Poona. On October 14, Brother Skinner was scheduled to give the public talk at the Gokhale Hall in a solidly Hindu locality. But a crowd of anti-Christian rowdies broke up the meeting and the brothers had to leave amid the jeering shouts of “Quit India!” Violence was threatened at the same time. Even the police were unable to restore law and order.
All the brothers met at the Poona Kingdom Hall, where they completed the assembly program. Afterward, Brothers Skinner and Carmichael went to the police station and registered a complaint. Then plans were made to hold another public meeting in the same hall on October 31, but this time with police protection. The brothers organized another advertising campaign and distributed 10,000 handbills in both the Marathi and English languages. When the time came for the meeting to begin, there were two police officers and about twelve constables present. Brother Skinner had scarcely got through his introduction when trouble broke out again. The police intervened but quickly were outnumbered and soon great crowds of shouting people gathered, so that it appeared that the assembled brothers and interested persons were endangered.
However, an arrangement was made with a neighbor whose rear gate opened onto the hall grounds that, in the event of trouble, he would open the gate and allow the brother’s to escape. So, as the police were battling against the tremendous odds at the front, the brothers quietly filed out without observation and all escaped injury. Later, the newspapers gave considerable publicity to the affair, much of which was unfavorable to Jehovah’s people. A letter of protest against the infringement of the Witnesses’ constitutional rights to freedom of speech and worship was sent by the branch overseer to the minister of home affairs, Government of Bombay, with copies to Prime Minister Nehru and the inspector-general of police, Bombay State.
ANOTHER VISIT AROUSES OPTIMISM
An outstanding event for India occurred when Brothers Knorr and Henschel arrived in January 1952. They parted company at Karachi, Pakistan, Brother Henschel going to Delhi and Calcutta and Brother Knorr to Bombay and south India.
At Madras Brother Knorr met with a group of missionaries. That same day, at 4:00 p.m., fifty-seven brothers gathered together to hear a discourse. At 6:00 p.m., ninety-five came to the public lecture.
The following day, Brothers Knorr and Skinner were on their way to an assembly in Ernakulam, across the water from Cochin. Waiting to greet the travelers were 260 smiling Travancore brothers. “Though we could speak to them only through an interpreter, their theocratic love was as manifest as that found with Jehovah’s people anywhere,” wrote Brother Knorr. The assembly audience was thrilled with the release of the book “Let God Be True” in the Malayalam language. In the evening, the public meeting was attended by 700 persons.
“The next day we caught the plane for Bombay, where I rejoined Brother Henschel and heard his experiences in Delhi and Calcutta,” wrote Brother Knorr. At Delhi Brother Henschel found a number of interested persons, particularly while working from house to house with a local pioneer brother. His first night’s talk was greatly appreciated by the brothers and the second day seventy-three came to the public meeting, their largest attendance till that time.
In Calcutta, seventy-five persons packed out the Kingdom Hall for Brother Henschel’s visit. The small but growing congregation there was being helped by the five missionaries, Brother and Sister Zavitz, Marjorie Haddrill, Florence Williams and Joyce Larke. Brother Knorr stated: “Artistry House, famed for painting and weaving exhibits, was rented for the public talk and 205 heard the question answered, ‘Will Religion Meet the World Crisis?’ Here again was an encouraging margin of new interest to further develop in the future.”
Interestingly, Brother Knorr also wrote: “One pioneer working in Darjeeling, on the border of Nepal, told of hundreds of sectarian missionaries there who came in from China because of the persecution. Darjeeling is not a very large city, and one wonders what so many missionaries could be doing there. The brother explained that they do not do much. Some of them gather little children together and teach them hymns, for which the children receive promised portions of rice. It is the food that brings the response, and when food is scarce in the land greater numbers come. However, the children learn nothing concerning what the Bible teaches. Other missionaries put on afternoon teas without charge, and when people assemble for the tea and the children are singing, photographs are taken, which the missionaries are fond of sending to America or elsewhere to prove what they are ‘accomplishing.’ On this basis they ask for more money, thus making the practice a fraud.
“Because the truth shows up such rackets and hypocrisy, these sectarians much resent Jehovah’s witnesses and the presence of their missionaries in India. They often try to force the people into rejecting our message by threatening loss of job, health treatment or education for their children. But it quickly becomes plain as to who are the people’s true friends. When government changes from time to time place the so-called heathen in control, the pseudo-Christian missionaries frequently pull out to move on to a place where living is easier. Therefore, not living up to the apostolic requirements,. . . a weighty blame must fall upon them for the way in which their false religion has thus failed mankind.”
The principal assembly then scheduled for India was in Bombay. It opened on January 14, 1952. Then, in a private session, the missionaries were urged to learn the language spoken by the majority in each locality.
“Great joy seized this assembly with the release of ‘Let God Be True’ in Kanarese,” wrote Brother Knorr. “A further highlight came in the public meeting. I had received a threatening note marked by Communism’s hammer and sickle. The writer referred to a previous disturbance that had interrupted a public meeting in Poona some months earlier. The police were notified, but all went smoothly and a grand attendance of 784 heard the talk. Many asked questions afterward. It must be mentioned that forty-three presented themselves for water immersion.”
Incidentally, twenty-nine of the persons baptized at that assembly were Kanarese/Konkani-speaking brothers who had come out of that one community club found by Brothers Karkada, Sr, and Satyanathan back in 1949. During the assembly Brother Knorr spoke to Arthur Kaunds, saying that he would like to see six of these Kanarese/Konkani-speaking brothers move off into their language field as special pioneers. Soon after Kaunds made this known to the brothers, pioneers John Maben and Raphael Louis left Bombay to serve where the need was great. Later, others followed, including Ruzario Lewis. He went off to Coondapur, then to Brahmavar, where he energetically worked to establish congregations.
During the brief interval between Brother Knorr’s 1947 and 1952 visits, there had been increase. In 1947 there were but 198 publishers in British India. However, November 1951 found India with a peak of 514. Moreover, there were twenty-three missionaries and eighteen local pioneers serving in India. Understandably, our visitors from the Society’s headquarters departed with a feeling of optimism for an intensifying of Kingdom proclamation in this vast land.
MISSIONARIES A SOURCE OF ENCOURAGEMENT
True enough, increase continued during the year 1952 despite religious opposition. Now that Sister Jeffries had left Bombay to work with Marjorie Haddrill in the Calcutta missionary home, Margrit Hoffman’s new partner was Nasreen Mall, an Indian pioneer sister.
There in Bandra, Sisters Hoffman and Mall were working in a very poor locality among poverty-stricken people living in huts when they met with some severe opposition from a Roman Catholic priest who had entered a hut where Margrit Hoffman was discussing the Bible with a Mr. William Parmar. The priest completely lost his temper, snatched some booklets from Sister Hoffman’s hand and tried to kick her. He tore the booklets to pieces and threatened violence, saying that these people were “his flock.” Neighbors quickly gathered around and children were induced to abuse the sister whenever she went near the place again. But Margrit Hoffman persisted and the man in whose hut this scene took place became a regular publisher of the Kingdom. Brother William Parmar had the courage to stand firm for what was right. Seven Kingdom publishers from that little group of huts eventually rejoiced in their liberty from their Roman Catholic “prison house.”
Delhi, the capital of India, became a new location for a missionary home. In early 1952 Canadian brothers Bernard Funk and Peter Dotchuk landed in India from Gilead School and were soon sent off to the capital. The Society transferred Brothers George Singh and Arthur Sturgeon from Madras to join them in working with the small, growing congregation there.
It did not take long for the new missionaries to learn what they were up against with the non-Christian population. For instance, to Bernard Funk, “Hindus appeared elusive and evasive in everything that was brought up for discussion.” He also noted a tendency to evade responsibility, as when “a householder referred us to ‘the older brother,’ then the older brother referred us to the father and the father to the landlord.” Moreover, Brother Funk observed that Christendom’s churches had taught people to expect religion to provide some material benefits, “so that many pretended to be interested while they really had some other motive at heart.” Then, too, he found social customs so directly linked with worship ‘that a change of religion meant the breaking of most customs, which many could not see themselves doing.’ However, the missionaries persevered, declaring the Kingdom message and being a source of encouragement to the local Witnesses.
GOOD RESULTS AT BRAHMAVAR
Missionary influence was also a stimulus to the Kingdom work at Brahmavar. On the Konkan coast of India around the Brahmavar area there are numerous estuaries dotted with small islands, on many of which were families interested in the truth. Brother Carmichael reminisced of his activity there in circuit work: “The means of communication among the backwaters was a hollowed-out tree trunk propelled by long poles. Wherever we spoke to open-air crowds of hundreds, interest was manifested.”
Concerning the same circuit visit, Arthur Kaunds wrote: “Around Brahmavar and adjoining villages, studies and interest developed on several river islands. These ‘Christians’ with Syrian and Roman Catholic backgrounds were learning the truth. We would sit around a kerosine lamp in their mud houses learning and singing Kingdom songs. Among these villages a fair number of the ‘Christian’ population have become Jehovah’s Witnesses, the truth originally spreading to them from their believing relatives from the community club in Bombay.”
During that circuit tour of Brahmavar and district, a public talk was arranged at one village in a theater constructed of grass matting. One hundred arid thirty persons came to hear the talk, but all got drenched when a rainstorm burst over them. Undaunted, they advertised a repeat meeting for the next day: At that time 300 persons attended and many left their names and addresses for the pioneers to visit them. At a nearby town a public meeting was held, but opposition prevented obtaining a public hall. So an open-air gathering was arranged. The whole town was agog with excitement as advertising was being done, and 150 turned out to hear the speaker. Again several names were turned in and the Kanarese pioneers were given a fine start in their new assignment.
PROBLEMS WITH MISSIONARY ENTRY
From then on difficulties definitely began increasing in getting missionaries into India, particularly American citizens. The Hindu community as a whole resented the presence of “Christian missionaries. There were always some small sects of Hindus appealing to the government to curtail missionary activities. The year 1953 began to see the development of this. movement. Apart from some localized yelling and disturbances, however, it did not affect the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses as a whole.
While the government had been induced to investigate the work of some of Christendom’s missionaries and even took action against a few for what appeared to be their meddling in political affairs, we were grateful to God that no serious interference was experienced by Jehovah’s Witnesses. The public press had been the forum of much argument for and against “Christian” missionary work. Protagonists in the fight against evangelical activity organized public meetings to arouse popular feelings against the work of missionaries. One newspaper report said: “The president of the extremist Hindu Mahasaba Party told a public meeting that the work of 5,000 missionaries here in India is a threat to the solidarity and integrity of India.”
In 1952 there had been some prolonged difficulty in getting a Watch Tower missionary into the country. After a great deal of trouble in obtaining an entry visa, Howard Benesch arrived to marry missionary Molly Thompson in Bangalore. They stayed on in Bangalore, but he was not allowed to remain in India very long. The government refused to extend his residential visa after twelve months. So the Society sent Brother and Sister Benesch to Dacca in East Pakistan to try to develop the Kingdom work there. They were the only Witnesses of Jehovah in East Pakistan.
Some Gilead graduates who were American citizens were assigned to missionary work in India in 1953, but were flatly refused permission to enter the country. From then on, only citizens of the British Commonwealth who had received Gilead training were assigned to India since it also was a member of the Commonwealth.
Now that a missionary home had been opened at Ernakulam in Travancore, it was decided to have an all-Malayalam assembly. The site selected was Upputhara, a village away up in the High Range, and the assembly was organized by circuit overseer V. C. Itty. The place was out beyond the tea estates fifteen miles (24 kilometers) from the nearest post office. But in 1953 there was a small congregation of some twenty publishers there. The local brothers made their livelihood from cultivating pepper, ginger and other spices. Brother Skinner was present at that assembly and recalls:
“The brothers had erected pandal, that is, a protective roof made from plaited palm leaves and supported by bamboo poles. The structure had no sides, so that the breeze could waft through and bring some relief from the heat. They rented a portable generator, which provided three electric lamps over the platform and 30-watt loudspeaker equipment. Advertising was done by banners, posters and handbills over a radius of from five to ten miles [8 to 16 kilometers]. The first session opened with an attendance of 283, including many interested persons, and at the public meeting we counted 522, but many more were able to hear from a distance by means of two loudspeakers placed on trees outside the pandal. Unfortunately, a thunderstorm blew up at the time of the public meeting and rain no doubt kept some from attending the meeting. Twenty-seven were immersed in a nearby river.
“One thing that pleased me most was the way in which the two missionaries tackled the Malayalam language. Douglas Fraser gave a talk in English, but with a five-minute introduction in Malayalam. He also concluded in Malayalam. His brother Donald put over a forty-minute demonstration, with the assistance of two local brothers, all in Malayalam.”
NEW WORLD SOCIETY ASSEMBLY
The New World Society Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses was scheduled at New York city in 1953. A wave of excitement rippled among the brothers in India when it was announced that Indian delegates would attend. What a delight it was for Brother A. J. Joseph to have had his youngest daughter, Gracie, attend Gilead School along with her Indian classmate Nasreen Mall. Little did they realize that they would be bringing to their native land a good number of other missionaries. Among delegates from India attending the famous international assembly in New York in 1953 was Brother A. J. Joseph. Later, the delegates shared with the brothers in India the good things they had heard, doing so at an “echo” assembly in Bombay. There were 358 brothers present at the Bombay gathering and forty-eight persons got baptized. A final crowd of 707 came to hear the public talk “After Armageddon—God’s New World.”
BASIS FOR EXPANSION
Ground was laid for further expansion in India just after this assembly because of more Gilead graduates arriving along with Sisters Gracie Joseph and Nasreen Mall. A second missionary home was furnished at Trichur in Travancore. There the missionary family was assigned to the Malayalam-speaking field, with Sister Joseph as their language instructor.
Farther north, at Ahmednagar, Brother Cotterill was joined by a new missionary, Percy Gosden from Australia. There they worked the Marathi-speaking field together. Still farther north, in the plains of the Sutlej River in east Punjab, another missionary home was obtained at Jullunder. Five missionaries were assigned there, including Nasreen Mall, who could now work in her own language-speaking area of Urdu. Thus, thirteen more Gilead graduates had arrived in India, swelling the figure of these well-trained workers to thirty-one.
A SIKH ACCEPTS THE TRUTH
About this time, Samuel Waller of Bombay was witnessing on the street, advertising a public lecture, when a young man of the Sikh religion stopped to take a handbill. Imagine the surprise of the brothers when this turbaned Sikh walked into the Kingdom Hall to hear the talk. His name was Harjit Singh Dadyala. He agreed to a Bible study using the book “Let God Be True.”
In the Sikh religion all the men let their hair grow long and they never shave. They coil their long hair, of which they are very proud, into a ball on top of their heads and cover it with a turban. So, it caused further amazement to the brothers when this Sikh gentleman walked into their Kingdom Hall in Bombay one day with his hair cut and brushed in Western style and his chin shaved clean. Clearly, he was humble enough to be taught and was not afraid to follow the path of truth. It was not easy for Harjit Singh Dadyala to make a dedication to Jehovah and get baptized. Twice he was turned away from his father’s house, was beaten and was threatened with death if he did not renounce Christianity. Later, he applied for pioneer enrollment. Brother Dadyala gradually progressed to the point that he was given the opportunity of receiving Gilead training.
GOOD WORK BY INDIAN WITNESSES
Indian brothers were doing a fine work throughout the field. In Delhi, elderly Brother Addison was employed in a central government office where he witnessed to his staff while waiting for the bus each day. This led to sarcastic remarks from many, but to investigation by others. Soon a Hindu began to study the Bible and attended some meetings. Quickly, he enrolled in the Theocratic School and began engaging regularly in the field service. He was baptized at a circuit assembly in Jullunder. This new brother, R. P. Nigam, influenced his Hindu nephew, I. P. Nigam, to study the Bible and he, too, began to attend the meetings regularly.
In south India there was also a surge forward in spreading true Christianity to non-Christians. Young Brother Eric Falcon, who was operating a farm on the southern outskirts of Bangalore, began introducing the truth to his farm workers. Falcon’s farm laborers were mostly illiterate. Their mother tongue was Telugu. Brother Falcon knew that language and was able to tell them about the true God Jehovah and His Son, Jesus Christ. There must have been about a hundred workers on the farm, with their families. Eventually, about twenty of these laborers dedicated themselves to Jehovah and got baptized. In spite of being illiterate, they went to neighboring villages on weekends to share with others what they had learned about Christ and God’s Kingdom.
TROUBLE AGAIN AT POONA
At Memorial time, 1954, trouble arose once more at Poona. Richard Cotterill, who was working as a missionary at Ahmednagar, was assigned to travel to Poona and handle the Memorial arrangements there. The small group celebrated it on Saturday, and Cotterill stayed to give a public talk the next day. He tells what happened:
“We had just had the Watchtower study when a large crowd of Marathi-speaking Hindus, headed by one of their leaders who had broken up the previous meetings, came in just before the talk began. After about the first sentence, they clamored, ‘Speak in Marathi! Speak in Marathi!’ They were reminded that the talk was advertised to be given in English, that we arranged for talks in Marathi and had given these in Poona many times. But they were out for trouble. We tried to move into the hotel hall, as we were outside in the garden. But they prevented us from giving the talk there. Then they had the police take Sisters Mulgrove and Newland and me to the police station. One of their leaders stood on a raised platform . . . and chanted, ‘We love you Mister Skinner.’ Then came the chorus, ‘But get out of India.’ ‘We love you Mister Cotterill’—then the chorus, ‘But get out of India.’ Later we heard that people in the cantonment area of Poona were told not to take literature from Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
Not long after this incident, Brothers Cotterill and Percy Gosden were transferred from Ahmednagar to Poona. The move seemed practical, as Poona was a larger and more cosmopolitan area. Some interest in the truth was being shown by a number of Marathi-speaking families in Poona and it was possible for the two missionaries to build up the small congregation there. To aid and encourage them in their activity, the Marathi edition of “Let God Be True” was made available by the Society that year.
Due to the fine examples of the missionaries, the special pioneer work among the local brothers continued to expand. Ruzario J. Lewis, one of the Konkani/Kanarese-speaking brothers, became a special pioneer and was working in his original native district on the Konkan coast around Brahmavar. His energetic activities did not escape the notice of the local Catholic religious leaders who incited their members to oppose his work. On one occasion, they even burned his little canoe. In it Brother Lewis had traveled while witnessing along the backwaters of Brahmavar. Nevertheless, he stuck to his assignment and honest-hearted ones responded. For instance, the Catholic clergy and leaders tried to impose a ban on his activities, endeavoring to have him sent away from the area. But Brother Lewis appealed to the local village head, called the Patel. The Patel called a meeting of the Catholics and Lewis, to hear both sides. After hearing Brother Lewis’ Biblical explanation of his God-appointed work, even though the village head was a Hindu, he announced that Lewis could stay and continue with his preaching activities.
This did not stop the Catholics, however. They set out to have Brother Lewis killed. One night, as he was returning home after spending the day in field service, he was walking along the jungle path in the dark. As he was approaching a pond, a bully jumped at him to push him in the pond and drown him. They struggled together on the edge of the water and, providentially, someone came along, whereupon the assailant broke away and fled. Thereafter, Brother Lewis always planned different routes in traveling to and from his territory.
At one village, an interested person’s ten-day-old baby died. Among these villagers, one of the most common excuses for not taking an interest in the truth centered around the question, “Who will bury me when I die?” The death of this baby caused speculation there as to what Jehovah’s Witnesses would do about it.
The local Catholic Church would not allow the baby to be buried in its cemetery. So, Ruzario Lewis got busy. After approaching the local authorities, he was granted a plot of ground so that Jehovah’s Witnesses could have their own cemetery. Brother Lewis gave such a fine sermon at the burial that hundreds of people got to hear about it and much interest was aroused. Incidentally, during a twenty-two-year period beginning in 1954, Ruzario Lewis aided ninety-four persons to become dedicated publishers of God’s kingdom.
COPING WITH RESTRICTIONS
The book What Has Religion Done for Mankind? was highly appropriate for the peoples of Asia, as it contained many important truths concerning Buddhism, Mohammedanism and Hinduism. However, some people did not like what it said about these non-Christian religions. So in 1955 the Indian government prohibited the public distribution of this book, though allowing the brothers to possess their own personal copies. They could study this publication together and use what they learned in their field service.
Restrictions were being placed on foreign missionaries as a whole, with a view to limiting missionary activity to purely social, educational or medical work. A government committee was formed to inquire into the activities of Christian missions. In 1955 a copy of the booklet Christendom or Christianity—Which One Is “the Light of the World”? was sent to the chairman of this committee. He acknowledged receipt of the booklet and replied: “As Christendom is different from Christianity (as your booklet states) so is Christianity different from Jesus the Son of God. It appears to me that the human mind has outlived the institutional type of religion (of temple, church and mosque), and is seeking for new light so that man will meet man under the vast canopy of heaven with the truth as his scripture and heart animated by loving kindness.” The writer was a Hindu and his statement probably reflects the general thought of the average educated Hindu. Many never enter their Hindu temples. They claim to be seekers after truth, but they rely on the philosophies of men.—Col. 2:8.
ADJUSTMENTS AMONG THE MISSIONARIES
Now a new missionary center sprang up at Ahmadabad in Gujarat. Outside of Bombay City, this was about the start in opening up the Gujarati-speaking field. Ahmadabad is a city noted for being a meeting place of Hindu, Mohammedan and Jain architecture. It had developed into a cotton- and silk-manufacturing city, where such things as lace, jewelry and wood carvings also are produced. In time, a number of Gujarati-speaking families from among the professing Christians there accepted the truth.
Brother Cotterill was now appointed to circuit work and his activity took him from virtually one end of India to the other. He traveled to the missionary homes in Travancore, Bangalore and Madras, then up to Calcutta and on to Darjeeling and Kalimpong. In 1955, at Darjeeling, the starting point for Himalayan mountain climbing, Cotterill met Sherpa guide Tenzing Norgay, the man who was the first to reach Everest’s summit with Sir Edmund Hillary. Brother Cotterill witnessed to Tenzing, talking about living forever and enjoying Jehovah’s lovely mountains under perfect conditions. Tenzing responded in a friendly way and promised to read the booklet Basis for Belief in a New World.
Various circumstances developed that left vacancies in some of the missionary homes. For instance, Nasreen Mall, then assigned to Kanpur (Cawnpore), became very ill and had to undergo a serious surgical operation, from which she never recovered. It was a blow to the missionary field when Nasreen Mall died.
THE PROBLEM OF GETTING ADJUSTED
In July 1955, at Yankee Stadium, New York city, the twenty-fifth class of Gilead School was graduated. Among the graduates was Mammoottil Aprem Cheria, formerly of Bombay Bethel, who had also pioneered down in Travancore. He and others from that class were assigned to India.
On November 17, 1955, when two of the missionaries, June Riddell and Brenda Stafford, arrived in Bombay, there were riots in the streets, with shooting and burning of buses. This, of course, did not lessen the problem of getting adjusted to new circumstances. Sister Riddell (now Mrs. June Pope) said this of her early impressions: “After a long sea journey, when the ship finally berthed and we stepped ashore, the heat seemed to envelop us like a blanket. Suddenly we caught sight of a beautiful lady, attired in what struck me as the most graceful dress I had ever seen. Yes, it was the sari. The lady looked like an Indian princess. She was beckoning to us and, as we approached to speak to her, she identified herself as Sister Agnes Kamlani. As we sped along in her car, she told us that her husband, in the truth, was formerly a Hindu. He was a film actor, a comedian, but now he was going to be entertained by our reaction to the things new to us. . . .
“In the night jackals howled, and we quickly closed all the windows imagining that there might be tigers also. During that first week, a robbery occurred at the Kamlani home. The robbery plus the riots added to a growing sense of desolation.
“Then, too, the poverty, disease, heat and, outstandingly, the philosophical Hindu mentality, made me feel increasingly aware of the fact that if I were to endure this assignment in India, it could be only through Jehovah’s spirit. He has proved to be a refuge at all times, always manifesting his continued concern for those serving him. It has been fully worth while to give the witness in this land. I feel it is a privilege. There are lovable people here, as in all other lands, and to have a small share in helping someone to serve Jehovah has more than made up for any lack experienced.”
Sisters Stafford and Riddell were assigned to Kanpur to join Sisters Moss and Haddrill. As they set off on their 837-mile (1,347-kilometer) train journey, they were so nervous that they locked all doors and windows. Sister Stafford (now Brenda Norris) tells of this embarrassing incident en route: “When the train pulled into Jhansi Junction and eased to a stop, June and I decided that we would buy a few bananas from a vendor on the platform. So I bravely alighted from the train and was in the process of getting the bananas when suddenly the train started moving off with some speed. I quickly ran after the train, but the faster I ran the faster the train seemed to move. June was waving frantically from the train window, urging me on and on. Then just as unexpectedly as it had started, the train stopped. It was being shunted onto another track. What a wave of relief swept over me to realize that I was not to be left behind in a strange land after all! But what embarrassment when I had to retrace my steps, head down, past all the people who had stared at me in amazement as I ran down the platform!”
MISSION TO MANGALORE
The Society had arranged for new missionaries Christiansen and Norris to open up the Kingdom work in the Kanarese-speaking field with its headquarters at Mangalore. They, too, would have some problems getting adjusted. Hendry Carmichael, who had very recently married a local Anglo-Nepalese sister, Joyce Webber, was assigned to take the two new missionaries down to Mangalore, find a suitable home and establish them in their assignment. Brother Carmichael said: “I’ll never forget their looks of fright and anxiety when we encountered so many Mangalorian people suffering from that dreaded disease elephantiasis. One out of every four persons is said to suffer from the disease in that city. However, they were reassured when I informed them how they could keep clear from the disease by sleeping under a mosquito net.”
Two weeks were spent searching for and furnishing a house in Mangalore. In the meantime, the three brothers stayed at a hotel. ‘During those two weeks we walked around in a daze,’ Brother Norris later admitted. ‘The time was used getting accustomed to the strange surroundings and unusual sights. That first case of elephantiasis was the worst that I ever saw. We saw this case every day for two weeks because the sufferer was a Hindu Brahmin beggar who came to our hotel room daily begging for money. We learned from the start not to entertain beggars.
‘At our first meal in Mangalore, the waiter simply wore a dirty loincloth with a few strings around his shoulder to indicate that he was a Brahmin. He placed three large banana leaves on the rough wooden table and threw water across them. With this we were supposed to wash the leaves. Next he brought a great helping of boiled white rice and placed it in the center of our banana “plates.” Then from various containers he spooned out blobs of different curried vegetables, but we did not know one from the other. They were all so hot with spices! There was no cutlery, so we dug in with our fingers. Soon, with eyes watering, noses running and tongues burning, Brother Christiansen and I looked at each other and wondered what we were eating.’
Despite the problems of adjustment however, the missionaries persevered. Brother Norris wrote: “We settled into our assignment where we worked along with a congregation of about thirty Kanarese-speaking publishers and two special pioneers, Harsha Karkada, Jr., and Raphael Louis. Harsha Karkada, Jr., taught us the Kanarese language. Soon I started a Bible study with a Mrs. Soans, who knew no English. Every Friday we sat together slowly going through the Kanarese book ‘Let God Be True.’ It was a great help to me in learning the language and when it came time to be transferred to another assignment, Mrs. Soans had started attending the meetings. We cultivated a genuine love for the Kanarese brothers.”
PROGRESS IN THE TAMIL FIELD
A great stride forward in developing the Kingdom work among the Tamil-speaking people of India and the world was taken in 1956 when the Society began to print monthly The Watchtower in the Tamil language. This was now the fourth Indian vernacular edition of The Watchtower. The others were Malayalam, printed since 1927, Urdu since 1953 and Kanarese since 1954.
The big problem of obtaining capable and reliable translators always remained. For the Tamil edition, there was a widowed sister in Madras with two small children to support. To earn a livelihood, Lily Arthur was a teacher. The Society appointed her as a special pioneer. Sister Arthur could then devote her full time to translation service and actual pioneer work in Madras City. Lily Arthur persevered in her worship of Jehovah and developed into a fine, reliable worker for God’s people. Her daughter Rathna was brought up in the “mental-regulating of Jehovah,” became a special pioneer and married special pioneer Richard Gabriel. The three of them then cooperated in the Society’s publication work in Tamil and in pioneering at Madras.—Eph. 6:4.
Sister Lily Arthur says this about the progress of the Tamil-speaking brothers over the years from about 1956: “When we first started in our preaching work we had no literature in our mother tongue. We found it very hard to present the Kingdom message in Tamil. When doing the witness work in Tamil we passed over the houses that knew only Tamil because we were still filled with Christendom’s vocabulary. I myself, being a clergyman’s daughter, was full of it. We had to strip off completely our old vocabulary and learn the new theocratic one before we could start explaining the pure word of truth to the Tamil people. The Watchtower in Tamil has helped all of us Tamil brothers to do so. Over the years, I have had the privilege of observing the brothers gradually build up a new vocabulary with the help of The Watchtower and begin giving an effective witness with freeness of speech. As a result of this, we have seen an increase in the number of Tamil brothers as evidence of Jehovah’s blessing.”
A TIME OF CHANGE
The new Republic of India felt the need to make adjustments within its borders. So, a great plan of state reorganization went into effect in 1956. Many of the former divisions were readjusted, perhaps some small divisions were combined and enlarged, other large divisions were reduced and some names were changed. The chief determining factor in reorganizing the states was language. For example, the two former states of Travancore and Cochin both used the Malayalam language. So, those two states, plus the Malayalam-speaking section of Madras State, were combined under the new name of Kerala. Certain sections of Madras State where Kanarese was spoken were severed from that state and merged with Mysore State, in which the predominant language was Kanarese. This aroused resentment among certain sections of the people, particularly at the borders where these changes were mostly felt. Resentment erupted into violent unrest and shootings and this was one of the causes the riots in Bombay at this time. Bombay City was allocated to Maharashtra State, which the Gujarati-speaking people very much resented. They manifested their anger by violent riots in the streets of Bombay. Eventually, however, conditions became settled and the people have grown accustomed to the new state setup.
In the new state of Kerala, the Roman Catholic community was a fruitful field for our publishers. Brother K. T. Varghese contacted a young man by the name of Mr. Joseph in Trivandrum. He began to take a firm stand for the truth, although not without opposition from his family. His parents wanted him to be educated for the Roman Catholic priesthood and sent him to a Catholic institution in Portuguese Goa. Due to poor health, Mr. Joseph returned to Trivandrum, where he got a job in an office where Brother K. T. Varghese worked. Brother Varghese tactfully talked to this twenty-one-year-old man about the Bible and kindly answered his many objections, as he believed the Roman Catholic Church alone taught the truth. When his questions were answered Biblically, he agreed to a home ‘Bible study. Soon he was convinced that he was really learning the truth and could see the errors of Catholic doctrine. Mr. Joseph formerly was a member of the “Legion of St. Mary” at Trivandrum, and this organization tried in vain to break his integrity to Jehovah. He soon got baptized.
AN ENCOURAGING VISIT
During 1956, India enjoyed a visit of a representative from Brooklyn Bethel, F. W. Franz. He rounded the world on a service tour and his trip included India. After spending eight hours of anxious waiting in quarantine in Pakistan, Brother Franz was at last in position to keep his appointments within the next nine days without any delays. It was a big surprise when Brother Franz called on Stephen Smith in New Delhi, in midmorning of Monday, December 24. The missionaries and local brothers at Delhi had arranged to meet him at Palam airport at 6:40 that evening and here he was already in town, with the majority of brothers unaware of it! So, the process was reversed. Brother Franz went to the Palam airport to meet our Indian brothers there. It was a very pleasant surprise when he came in the car of an interested person and met the welcoming crowd. In the usual Indian fashion, a sister of tender years garlanded him about the neck with a sweet-smelling wreath of roses and chrysanthemums, as a traditional welcome to this great subcontinent.
The next day was “Christmas.” In India the Hindus, along with the nominal Christians, make the most of December 25, sending cards to one another and getting the so-called Christmas spirit. The brothers in Delhi took advantage of the holiday to engage in magazine activity. In all, twenty-eight brothers and sisters participated in field service that morning, and Brothers Franz and Smith took turns witnessing at the houses while working together.
The brothers then assembled in the Corporation Public Works Department Assembly Hall. At 4:00 p.m., after a fine dinner, an audience of eighty-five heard Brother Franz speak on the subject “New World Peace in Our Time—Why?” Present were Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Mohammedans and professed Christians. After the talk, the speaker mixed freely with the audience and was happy to discuss in detail matters in which they were interested.
It was only a one-day assembly. So the following day Brother Franz was taken to see some of Delhi’s famous sights. On display at the modern temple called Birla Mandir were such Hindu deities as Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva and the goddess Durga. Painted on the right side of the main entrance in Sanskrit, Hindi and English were the words, “He who is known as Vishnu is verily Rudra, and he who is Rudra is Brahma, one entity functioning as three gods, that is, Rudra, Vishnu and Brahma.” How amazingly like the Trinity creed of Christendom!
Brother Franz next went to Calcutta, where a two-day assembly had been planned. Two hundred posters and 5,000 handbills were used in advertising the assembly. The two-day assembly program allowed for one morning of field-service activity and also for a Bengali session. Brother Franz then spoke to sixty-nine Bengali-speaking brothers through an interpreter. He emphasized the need not to listen to those who speak against Jehovah’s organization and its theocratic ways of preaching. An appeal was made to do pioneer work in the Kingdom proclamation.
On the assembly’s second day, ten candidates presented themselves for baptism—three Bengalis, three Hindustanis, one Bihari and three Anglo-Indians. That evening the conventioners were very happy when the Artistry House was filled with the biggest crowd yet for Calcutta, and 261 listened attentively to the talk “New World Peace in Our Time—Why?” For the final session, 135 stayed to enjoy the remarks of Brother Franz, as he showed the necessity of staying in the organization by cleanness, obedience and faithfulness. The next morning, forty-nine brothers went out to Dum Dum airport to see Brother Franz depart by plane for Rangoon, Burma.
ANOTHER VISITOR UPBUILDS US
While F. W. Franz was at Delhi and Calcutta, Brother N. H. Knorr was visiting Bombay. The finest auditorium in the city, the Sir Cowasji Jehangir Hall, had already been booked by the Railroad Passengers Association for a conference. But the Association’s secretary agreed to change their conference date so that we could use the hall while Brother Knorr was in Bombay. The only charge to us was the cost of postage to notify their members that the third day of their conference had been canceled.
Excellent advertising was carried on for weeks prior to the assembly, and the brothers felt very well rewarded, because 1,080 packed out the auditorium—the biggest public audience at one of our assemblies in India to that time. The subject was “Peace in Our Time—Why?”
Brother Knorr said this about his visit to India in 1956: “It was . . . necessary for Brother Skinner and me to travel to different parts of Bombay itself in trying to find a better location where we can construct a Kingdom Hall, a branch office and a small printing establishment to take care of our work. . . . Now it appears that soon we shall have a good location and be ready to construct our own quarters and move from our present place on Love Lane. . . . When this was announced at the closing session of the convention, the brothers became tremendously enthusiastic, happy to realize that something new would be built for India, for this was another evidence of the expanding activity in this great land of many millions of people. . . .
“The brothers in India were delighted that they were able to operate their own cafeteria, India’s first; and they did very well. The brothers at the branch would get up early and go down to the hall to get things started for the feeding of the crowds.”
SPIRITUAL PROVISIONS INCREASE
In 1957 the first issue of The Watchtower in Bengali came off the press. From then on the brothers of the Bengali region, in cities like Calcutta and in the outlying towns of Kanchapara and district, could receive a regular supply of material both for their spiritual sustenance and their disciple-making work.
During 1957 the Society was producing 2,100 copies of each issue of the Tamil Watchtower, mailing some of them to Ceylon, Burma, Singapore, Fiji, Mauritius, South Africa and Surinam. However, arrangements then were made to print the Tamil edition of The Watchtower from type rather than duplicating it.
INDIAN PIONEERS STICK TO THEIR WORK
Consider now the work that the Indian pioneers were doing. A rare incident occurred when an isolated pioneer got a Hindu man to study the Bible. The interested Hindu had a brother who was a sanyasi (a Hindu ascetic) who had visited almost every place of pilgrimage in India. He came to live for a while with his brother and was surprised to find him studying the Scriptures. He, too, started reading the Bible. This prompted much discussion with both the brother and the pioneer. “Now,” wrote the pioneer, “to our astonishment, the long, dirty, matted hair and beard, which had not taken the perfume of oil or cream for many years, had disappeared. He . . . attended the ‘Watchtower’ study along with his brother.”
DIVINE WILL ASSEMBLIES
Twenty-one delegates from India attended the Divine Will International Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses at New York city in 1958. Four of the Gilead students who graduated there were Noel Hills, Gerald Seddon, Alice Itty and Sarah Matthew, all from India.
India’s own Divine Will Assembly was held at Bombay, October 27-30, 1958. The Witnesses there got busy searching for accommodations for the brothers coming from all over India. Jehovah’s blessing was evident in that an unoccupied palatial residence of one of India’s former maharajahs was obtained. In it sixty-five brothers, using their own bedding, slept on the marble floors. A Muslim charitable organization made available two whole floors of a recently built four-story hostel, which had space for some fifty brothers.
The assembly sessions were in seven languages. At the public talk “God’s Kingdom Rules—Is the World’s End Near?” a total of 1,009 filled the auditorium, much to our delight. Also, during this assembly forty-five new brothers and sisters symbolized their dedication to Jehovah by getting baptized in water.
OVER A THOUSAND PREACHERS!
By that time there were forty Gilead graduates working in India in various assignments. They, in association with their brothers here, had worked industriously, and the year 1958 brought great joy to all. The publisher figure went over the 1,000 mark for the first time in India’s history’ Our monthly average of publishers for 1958 was actually 1,091. It had taken fifty-three years to reach the first thousand Kingdom publishers.
Now with more than a thousand publishers spread over India, plus another thousand showing interest, as indicated by the 1958 Memorial attendance, there was a need to strengthen the district and circuit work in this country. This, in turn, would strengthen the organization as a whole.
At about this time Sister Pope was studying the Bible with a Mrs. K. Peters, a doctor’s wife who was a schoolteacher for the Seventh-day Adventist sect. Once convinced of the truth, even a visit from one of her leading European ‘pastors’ failed to turn her aside. After this encounter, he remarked to Sister Pope: “You are taking away one of the best Indian workers.” Indeed, Sister Peters became an extremely zealous Witness. Some of her advanced academic qualifications were put to good use in translating the Society’s publications into Hindi.
As the increase came to India, all kinds of persons were responding to God’s message, and, in many cases, it took a long time to clean up from customs of this system of things. Some just could not make the needed transformation and others reverted to their old ways. Since the propriety of disfellowshiping had been made clear in 1952, the number of cases had not been so noticeable among Witnesses in India. But during 1959, with fourteen persons disfellowshiped in one year, the need for keeping Jehovah’s organization clean and pure was forcibly brought to the attention of the branch office. Up to that time, eighty-one persons had been disfellowshiped. This, however, paved the way for a stronger organization.
CIRCUMSTANCES REQUIRING IMPROVEMENT
There had been no uniform methods in pursuing the district and circuit work. For example, circuit assemblies were held only when convenient. The congregations were not being visited regularly by the circuit overseers. Visits could be for two or three days and consisted primarily of special meetings, with the circuit overseer giving many long talks. But the circuit overseer’s visit was not viewed as a time for increased field-service activity.
Regarding conditions at that time, Hadyn Sanderson, in his traveling assignment, reported that in one congregation in Kerala there were more than a hundred persons, most of whom were baptized and were attending the meetings regularly. However, only sixteen were reporting as publishers. If asked, “Are you a Russellite?” most would answer “Yes.” Brothers would attend the meetings according to the sun’s position in the sky. There was no such thing as starting a meeting at a given time. In some congregations, a bell would be rung for five minutes before starting time; then the meeting would not begin until all the brothers had arrived. Brothers would sit on one side of the meeting hall and their wives and sisters on the other, according to their local religious custom. So families would not sit together in their meetings.
Brother Sanderson also reported that circuit assemblies were enjoyed greatly, but not much attention was given to the program. Brothers had a custom grouping together on the platform after the sessions and singing Bible themes set to popular film music. Chairmen at the public talks always gave long introductions. One brother spoke for twenty minutes before he introduced the speaker.
As Brother Sanderson traveled in the district work, not only were Bible principles taught, but details on organization were emphasized. Circuit overseers were trained, and then other overseers were aided. Willingness was there, but not know-how. Regular visits to congregations were scheduled, plus systematic visits to the circuits. Now for the first time, circuits were planned in such a way that each could have an assembly every six months.
Beginning with December 1959, there were eight circuits in India. The travels of Brother and Sister Sanderson were arduous. He said: “We had our trunks in the Madras missionary home, but no accommodation. We would pick up what was needed for the next six months as we passed through the city. On Sunday we were serving an assembly in Bangalore and on the Tuesday following we were scheduled to be in Darjeeling, a distance of 1,665 miles [2,679 kilometers], and it involved five train changes on the way there.” The perimeter of the one district at that time ran from Trivandrum through Bombay and Ahmadabad, across to Delhi, Darjeeling and Calcutta and then down to Madras and back again by way of Bangalore to Trivandrum—about 4,000 miles (6,437 kilometers).
A NEW BRANCH BUILDING
In the meantime, there were significant developments in Bombay. The growing number of Witnesses in India called for a new branch building to provide for improved facilities to aid the brothers in the field. Thus, in November 1959, a contract was signed to erect a building in the pleasant residential area of Santa Cruz West, thirteen miles (20.9 kilometers) north of Bombay’s center. The plot of land itself measured 125 feet by about 90 feet (38 by 27 meters). The contractors got busy on construction work on November 2, 1959. Considerable difficulty was encountered in obtaining cement. Supplies were controlled and rationed. Although the Society was able to get all the cement required, this was accomplished only through a slow process involving various formalities.
During the next twelve months the building took shape. It was a two-story structure of concrete frame, with brick filling. The entire front was faced with stonework, which added beauty and dignity to the building. At one end was a main entrance flanked with gray marble panels, and on each side of the steps were built-in boxes for flowers. The entrance lobby also formed a reception room, and this was beautified by a panel of deep-etched glass portraying the paradise earth. On the ground floor were the dining room, kitchen, general storage facilities and the branch office. The structure also included six bedrooms and a spacious well-lighted Kingdom Hall that accommodated 150 persons. Up on the terrace roof was adequate space for open-air meetings. The whole building was enclosed in a garden of paradisaic beauty.
We moved into the office in November 1960, just twelve months after construction began. The new branch building was dedicated to Jehovah the next month, December, when zone overseer G. D. King visited India. Brother Skinner, one of the speakers, sketched the early beginnings of the Kingdom work in India and its growth until that time, relating this to the prophecy of Zechariah 8:23. In the dedication talk, Brother King expressed gratitude to Jehovah, the Giver of this fine new building, which was to be exclusively devoted to the doing of His will.
REACHING MANY LANGUAGE GROUPS
A pioneer relates how the brothers often had to overcome language problems. Most people know that India is a land of many languages, but it sometimes is difficult to convey a clear idea of what the problem really means. This pioneer found much interest among a group of Tamil-speaking Catholics in a town where that language is not normally spoken. The pioneer’s mother tongue was Kanarese, but he knew English also. To get over the difficulty of conducting Bible studies with these Tamilians, twice a month the pioneer took along a local man who knew both Tamil and English and they cooperated as a home Bible study was conducted with the aid of an English book. One of the sisters wrote: “Oh, you should have been at our study last Tuesday! Twelve of us were there: Kanarese-, Marathi- and English-speaking people. One brother explained what was said to the Kanarese folk, another brother said the same to the Malayalis and I spoke in Hindustani for the Maharashtrians. It was such a happy group!”
As the brothers developed skills in the disciple-making work, increased supplies of literature were needed, particularly in the Indian vernacular languages. Thus in 1960 the Society began publishing Awake! in Malayalam—a breakthrough for that journal in an Indian language. In 1961, Awake! was published in Tamil at Madras. By that time, the Society was providing The Watchtower in six vernacular languages—Malayalam, Kanarese, Tamil, Urdu, Marathi and Bengali. Other Indian vernacular publications (books and/or booklets) provided over the three-year period of 1959-1961 were distributed in nine languages. These tongues were Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kanarese, Marathi, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam and Urdu. Thus the Society made a genuine effort to stimulate incentive to reach the peoples of India with the Kingdom message.
For some fifty-five years, Brother A. J. Joseph had been the Society’s chief translator in the Malayalam language, but in recent years he was becoming weaker with old age. Brother Joseph’s health gradually failed until he was unable to continue with his translation work and so he was relieved of this responsibility at the age of seventy-seven in 1961.
KINGDOM MINISTRY SCHOOL AN AID
The official government census of 1961 revealed India’s population to be more than 439,000,000, and of this number only 24 percent were considered literate. We then had a ratio of one Witness to every 303,129 inhabitants. Furthermore, 97 percent of India’s people lived in unassigned territory. This meant that Jehovah’s Witnesses in India were preaching among 4,392,347 people or only 3 percent of the inhabitants! Assuredly, ‘the workers were few.’—Luke 10:2.
Indeed, a vigorous training work was required to equip the brothers still further to make their efforts count and to improve the quality of their preaching work. To this end, the Society introduced the Kingdom Ministry School to India in December 1961. The first class of twenty-five English-speaking students was made up of circuit overseers, special pioneers, missionaries and congregational overseers. By living and working at the Bombay Bethel, the students saw something of branch organization. It was an experience that they appreciated.
The graduation of the second class of Kingdom Ministry School was particularly impressive, as some of the students were handed new assignments to places far away from their hometowns. New territories now began to be opened up. Brothers M. A. Cheria, M. C. Joseph and P. J. Matthew were sent as special pioneers as far away as Shillong in Assam, some 2,500 miles (4,023 kilometers) from Bombay.
These three brothers obtained well over 200 subscriptions during their first two months at Shillong. It was not long, of course, before the religious leaders got alarmed. On one occasion a Roman Catholic priest from a local seminary, along with some of his students, sought an interview with Brothers Cheria, Joseph and Matthew, and this was arranged. The first problem that troubled the priest was the Trinity doctrine. From all accounts, the brothers certainly won out in the discussion, for two days later one of the students met P. J. Matthew and threatened to beat him up, saying, “You puzzled our ‘father’ and he is our professor.” Numerous warnings against Jehovah’s Witnesses then were issued from the church pulpits. In spite of this, however, many good Bible studies were started.
At the beginning of 1963, and over a period of twelve months or so, sixty-eight students benefited from the second round of the Kingdom Ministry School in India. They were divided about evenly into three different language groups—Kanarese, English and Malayalam. Since Brother R. J. Masilamani spoke five Indian languages, he was able to instruct the three classes. The Malayalam class gathered in the state of Kerala, and the other two at the Bombay Bethel.
A ZONE VISIT PROMOTES PROGRESS
The annual visits of the zone overseers brought the Indian field and branch into more definite unity with the Watch Tower Society’s world headquarters at New York. In the role of zone overseer, M. G. Henschel now was coming to India from Middle Eastern countries by way of the mountainous land of Afghanistan. On February 3, 1962, Brother Henschel landed at Santa Cruz Airport, Bombay, for his visit to the branch here.
Brothers from all over India came to Bombay for the district assembly arranged to coincide with Brother Henschel’s visit. Those from the villages of Kerala in the south saw a modern city for the first time. Others came from the far north. One family traveled all the way from Nepal in the Himalayas. Their four-day journey started off through snowdrifts and ended up in tropical heat.
During one assembly session, Brother Henschel spoke to 770 conventioners on the importance of taking in Bible knowledge because of the efforts of the Devil to turn God’s people away from the Scriptures. He also emphasized the need to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. (Phil. 2:12) On another occasion, Brother Henschel put on a program of beautiful, colored photographic slides depicting the work of our brothers around the world. It was thrilling to hear how Jehovah is causing his name to be declared in all the earth. This undoubtedly strengthened the determination of all the assembled brothers to stick loyally to Jehovah’s earthly organization.
Assembly delegates spoke nine different languages, including English. The auditorium was divided up into language sections and the English talks were conveyed through loudspeakers to each of these. There translators could pick up the information and translate it into their respective tongues. This assembly was truly another stepping-stone in the advancement of the united organization of Jehovah’s people in India.
As a result of Brother Henschel’s zone visit, some advantageous adjustments were made. It was believed that having Indian brothers trained in organizational responsibilities at the branch would be beneficial in the event of missionaries leaving the country. There were mounting difficulties in getting and keeping missionaries in India.
COPING WITH PUBLICATION OBSTACLES
However, the growing flock of Jehovah’s people in India was not finding things easy, due to the newly developing national government. In an endeavor to promote home products, restrictions were being placed on imports. Because of a recent Government Import Trade Controller’s official ruling that Indian vernacular publications could not be imported, an attempt was made to prohibit the import of the Society’s English publications. Though they relaxed the ruling on the English publications, the quantity of English imports was greatly restricted. Consequently, from 1962 onward, the Society’s branch office was permitted to apply for an import license just once a year and only for English publications.
To offset this obstacle, Brother Knorr authorized the branch to have its own vernacular publications printed in India. In their efforts to do so, the brothers were confronted with another obstacle—obtaining sufficient quantities of newsprint. Imports thereof were also being controlled and it became illegal to buy newsprint without a government permit. The purchase of newsprint was restricted according to the circulation needs of the Society. This posed great problems when we tried to increase the circulation of the magazines. In spite of the need to go through many official formalities, however, the India branch has been able to keep the brothers in the field supplied with vernacular publications.
GETTING STARTED IN GOA
The Portuguese-owned enclave of Goa was a constant ‘thorn in the flesh’ to India’s government. In 1961 the Indian army marched into Goa and ejected the Portuguese rulers. During 1962 the Indian army pulled out, leaving Goa to be administered by a civilian government.
Though efforts were made to get pioneers into Goa, for the first few months no one was permitted to enter without a permit. Even when that restriction was lifted, it was difficult for non-Goans to get in. Nevertheless, the Society succeeded in sending special pioneers Benedict and Gretta Dias to Margao in the Salcete district of Goa. Since Goa was a staunch Roman Catholic stronghold, progress was slow for the first few years. But Brother Ruzario Lewis was able to build up the local interest until it became a progressive congregation.
AID FOR TRAVELING OVERSEERS
Because of India’s expansive circuits, a traveling overseer sometimes spent a day journeying between congregations and isolated groups. In some places, these brothers and their wives had to stay with very poor Witnesses who had no facilities to accommodate them. At other places, hotels would supply a room with no bedding. If there was bedding, it had been used, or was bug-infested. So now the Society provided the circuit overseers and their wives with bedding, sheets, pillows, towels, a plastic bucket and washbasin and even soap. These provisions meant that the traveling brothers always had lots of luggage with them on their long train journeys. But this inconvenience was well worth it, since they could take care of their domestic needs and get a good night’s rest. This also meant that they could do better in serving their fellow believers.
ON TO THE ANDAMAN AND NICOBAR ISLANDS
Jehovah’s people in India have sought all opportunities to get the Kingdom message to the outer reaches of their territory. In the year 1963, Sister Mariamma Enose began sowing seeds of truth in the Andaman Islands at Port Blair and vicinity.
The Andaman and Nicobar Islands form part of a lofty range of submarine mountains that protrude from the waters of the Bay of Bengal and stretch for about 500 miles (805 kilometers) between Burma and Sumatra. The Ten Degree Channel separates the two groups of islands. The Andaman Islands consist of about 239 large and small islands; the Nicobars are nineteen islands in number. The capital is Port Blair, situated on South Andaman.
Most of the 115,133 inhabitants of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands originate from India and earn their livelihood from the padouk tree and teak-lumber industry, plus the cultivation of rubber, pepper, coffee, coconuts and cashew nuts.
By 1964 there were sufficient publishers on these islands to warrant the sending of a circuit overseer to encourage and train them. On the first visit to Port Blair, Robert Masilamani was introduced to three Hindus who worked in the same stone quarries as the husband of Mariamma Enose. All were showing keen interest in Bible truth. Previously, one of them was devoted to the Hindu god Shiva. In order to fulfill a vow, he was growing long hair and a beard, which were to be shaved at the temple. However, his religious devotion did not prevent him from gambling during that time.
While preaching from house to house, Brother Masilamani met two Telugu-speaking men from the Methodist Church. One was the president of the local church and the other was the treasurer.
During Brother Masilamani’s second visit to the Andamans, the church president, Mr. Asirvadam, manifested definite interest. He, with his family, resigned from the church and later became dedicated and baptized Witnesses. On subsequent visits, the. treasurer, Mr. Solomon Raju, along with other families of the same church, resigned their membership and took the step of baptism. In time, many former Hindus were part of the Port Blair Congregation.
“EVERLASTING GOOD NEWS” ASSEMBLY AT DELHI
Most assuredly, the “Everlasting Good News” Assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses, which moved around the world in 1963, was a contributing factor in the advancement of Jehovah’s emerging organization in India! There were 583 assembly delegates rounding the world for this international assembly.
Reporting on the New Delhi juncture of the around-the-world assembly, Edwin Skinner writes: “Permission had been obtained for a group of brothers and sisters to enter the customs enclosure at the airport to assist the visitors and guide them through the health, immigration and customs formalities. Additionally, the Indian sisters, clad in their graceful and colorful saris or the salwa-kamis dress of northern India, greeted every delegate with a garland of flowers and the traditional Indian salutation Namaste (‘I salute you’). . . . Each flight during the four days of arrivals was greeted in the same manner, whether day or night.
“Delegates were present from twenty-seven different countries. One small group came by road from Kabul, Afghanistan, across the rugged mountains of the Khyber Pass, through Pakistan and on into India. . . . A group of 110 came from Ceylon, crossing by boat what is known as ‘Adam’s Bridge’ separating the island from India’s mainland, and then traveling by rail for 1,432 miles [2,304 kilometers] one way to Delhi. A 1,400-mile-rail journey in India, with third-class accommodations, without sleeping facilities or air conditioning, and with primitive toilets, is something to experience for it to be properly appreciated. But the brothers were happy.
“Brothers living in south India also formed a large party and made the similar long rail journey of well over 1,000 miles to Delhi. To them it was like a trip to a foreign land. For the first time in their lives, they heard people speaking a different language, saw people wearing different clothing, living in different types of houses, and in country quite different from their own native Kerala or Madras. For many, it meant spending their very meager savings in order to meet with their brothers from other lands.”
Describing the convention site, Brother Skinner wrote: “The assembly was held in the impressive and beautiful Vigyan Bhavan (House of Science), India’s prestige hall. This fine building contains a luxurious auditorium accommodating 1,069 persons.
“Once inside the auditorium, which is carpeted throughout and air-conditioned, the delegates settled into the comfortable seats. Each chair had its own writing table and was equipped with earphones, with selector switch and volume control, by which one could switch into any one of four language translations in addition to the speech from the platform. Almost half the auditorium was exclusively used by the Indian delegates listening to the discourses in Kanarese, Malayalam, Tamil and Urdu/Hindi. The Marathi-speaking brothers were also cared for, either by direct translation from the platform or in a separate room.”
The 583 around-the-world visitors were housed in the fine government-owned 320-room Ashoka Hotel. For five days the dining room at mealtimes was predominantly occupied by Jehovah’s Witnesses, all wearing convention lapel badges. They chatted so warmly that some of the hotel staff found themselves talking about the “brothers sitting at this table,” or saying, “that brother over there wants to speak to you.”
Someone belonging to a sect of Christendom asked the hotel manager how he was faring with all these “Jehovah people.” The manager replied: “They are the best disciplined people we ever had in the hotel. We would be happy to take a thousand of them if we had the room.” He added, “We sometimes have more trouble with fifty people than with this whole group of 583.”
But, what about the convention program? It was spiritually beneficial, indeed. For instance, speaking on the subject “Faithful Women in the New World Society,” F. E. Skinner pointed out that in India there were many faithful, capable and mature Christian women. But Skinner said that too many women were burdened down like slaves in the home and had very little time or encouragement to study. He appealed to husbands to care for their wives in the same way that Christ cares for his wifely congregation.—Eph. 5:21-33.
The big day of the assembly in Delhi was Thursday, August 8, when the program featured the reading of the Resolution, which was adopted enthusiastically by the 901 delegates present. Among the stirring discourses was the public talk by Brother Knorr on “When God Is King over All the Earth.” For it the attendance was the largest that Jehovah’s Witnesses had ever had in India—1,296, including about 350 strangers, despite a very wet evening.
Brother F. W. Franz gave the discourse “Of Which God Are You a Witness?” This talk on Isaiah, chapters 43 and 44, was the turning point for one Hindu in the audience who had associated with Jehovah’s Witnesses for some years, but never made a dedication to God. When Franz explained how the pagan worshiper cuts down a tree, using half of it to carve for himself a god before which to prostrate himself and the other half to make a fire to warm himself and bake his bread, this Hindu saw the nonsense of it all. That very evening he expressed his dedication to Jehovah and was baptized the next day.
Among the forty-four baptismal candidates at this assembly was Annabelle Lartius, from Allahabad, who had observed her own brother, George, pursue a steadfast course in the face of parental opposition. She had been forbidden to go out in field service. In India it is rare for a woman to assert her right to obey God rather than men, but Miss Lartius had done what field service she could. (Acts 5:29) With difficulty she got to the assembly and, having made a dedication, she underwent baptism.
NEW EXPERIENCES IN FIELD SERVICE
The thing most enjoyed by the around-the-world travelers was the field service. Most of the visiting brothers were able to witness several times in English.
One American brother of Jewish descent engaged in Bible discussion with a Hindu gentleman, who interrupted, saying: “But this message is for the Western people more than for us. We are a peace-loving nation and believe in equality. It is you people who segregate black men from white. Why should I read your holy book?” The brother tactfully pointed out that he was not calling as a representative of America, or any so-called Christian country, but of a group of people who follow Bible principles. He showed that the Bible teaches that God is not partial, but that in every nation the man who works righteousness is acceptable to him. (Acts 10:34, 35) Just because the so-called Christian nations did not follow these good principles, he showed, that did not make the Bible valueless. Rather, it contained wisdom for people of every nation. The Hindu gentleman appreciated this argument and gladly accepted some literature, especially when he learned that the brother himself knew what discrimination meant, being of Jewish descent.
The visitors also had some new experiences as they went on tours that had been arranged. Tramping now in the pouring rain, the visitors experienced something of the Indian monsoon weather. But their spirits were high and they enjoyed it all. Then, with dripping umbrellas, wet raincoats, and water-soaked shoes, they piled into their buses for a ride through the real Indian bazaar streets. Here they saw beggars deformed from youth, crawling on hands and stumps of legs, bicycle rickshaws, bullock carts, cycles, pedestrians and cars, along with the ever-present cows—all fighting for space on the congested, narrow street. Little smoke-filled tea shops and eating houses were dotted about everywhere, with their charcoal fires at which men, naked to the waist, prepare with their bare hands the tasty chappaties and other delicacies so dear to the Indian palate.
One of the buffaloes, which supply the milk for the people of India, came meandering down the street like a queen. At the corner of a street a man was squatting in front of a fire hydrant calmly enjoying a bath. Then, in the midst of it all, along came a Muslim funeral, only men, and they took turns carrying the body, which lay on an open stretcher. Muslims bury their dead. Hindus always cremate them on an open funeral pyre.
There was a cow eating some vegetables set out on the sidewalk for the housewives to buy. One thing that caused no little amazement to the foreign delegates was the story about the ‘sacred cow.’ Temple servants collect cow’s urine for use in their ritual, and even put drops of it into their ‘holy water’ to drink. Not only Hindus do this, but Parsees also.
The “Everlasting Good News” Assembly was a milestone in the forward march of the Kingdom work in India. Brothers who came to New Delhi from Iran and Afghanistan felt especially blessed, as they do not have sufficient numbers to enjoy assemblies in their own countries. It was also a unique experience for the Indian brothers to meet fellow servants from other lands and work with them. What a delightful evidence of the unity existing in the New Order society, where nationalistic barriers do not exist!
AIDED IN VARIOUS WAYS
A fine way of aiding and educating the brothers has been by means of the life stories of faithful Christians, as published in The Watchtower. The story of Brother A. J. Joseph appeared in the issue of January 15, 1964. Brother Joseph, who claimed to be one of Christ’s anointed followers, died at the age of eighty years on December 18, 1964. He had really been instrumental in establishing the Kingdom work in India and saw the organization here grow from one man to more than two thousand. Fifty-nine years had passed since Brother Joseph began his search for Jehovah, the true God, in 1905. Indeed, progress had been slow in this non-Christian land. But in 1964 there were definite outlines of a theocratic organization evident throughout India.
In 1968 at a district assembly at Bangalore, in the Raja Venkatarama Hall, some local Hindu fanatics attempted to ruin the gathering. On Saturday night they smeared cow dung over the banner advertising the public talk and on Sunday over the entrance doors and walls. The brothers had this cleaned up before the morning session started, and so this went unnoticed by the brothers in general. As a result of good newspaper publicity, the state government took an interest in the assembly. They assigned police inspector Dennis to attend all sessions and prepare a full report to the government on what had transpired at the assembly.
Inspector Dennis informed Brother Hongal, the assembly overseer, that the main things he had to report were whether any conversions took place at the assembly, whether any particular community or religion had been criticized and whether politics had been discussed. On the final day, Hongal asked the inspector what opinion he had formed. Dennis replied that he had been impressed by the things that he had seen and heard, the smooth running of all the departments and the willing cooperation of the brothers.
Then, in a disarming manner, Brother Hongal asked Dennis what kind of report he intended making. The inspector answered: “I am in a quandary about that. The report is to be sent to the minister of the ruling party, so that if any opposition members raise the subject of the assembly of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the State Assembly, the minister may be able to give them specific information regarding the assembly. However, if I put in my report that all the speakers kept saying, ‘Turn to Revelation, or Mark, or Psalms,’ neither the minister nor the opposition members will be able to fathom what the report is all about. So, I will keep my report simple and brief and merely state that nothing objectionable was indulged in.”
The outstanding feature of the entire series of assemblies during 1968 was the combined attendance of 3,132 at four gatherings, with 122 taking the step of baptism. This is noteworthy, in comparison with the total number of Witnesses then in India—2,337. It thus revealed a realistic potential for the organization to continue growing in India.
The assemblies from 1964 to 1968 trained the Indian brothers in efficient organizational procedures. And it was gratifying to note that at the 1968 Bangalore assembly, the entire administration was under the direction of Indian brothers, with Victor Hongal serving as the assembly overseer and Prabhakar Soans as assembly chairman. Moreover, for some years, in Kerala the assemblies were operated entirely by our Indian brothers. For a certainty, a strong, unified Christian organization was making itself evident in India.
GROWTH IN THE PIONEER RANKS
Pioneer enrollments increased year by year, as Jehovah moved his people to respond to the need for full-time preachers. From 1965 to 1970, there was an increase of 179 pioneers (66 special and 113 regular pioneers), making a total of 375 pioneers by 1970. The pioneers certainly formed the backbone of India’s activity in the field, expanding the Bible study work considerably, to a weekly average of 3,024 in 1970.
CHRISTIAN NEUTRALS FACE TRIALS
During the disturbances of the undeclared war between India and Pakistan in 1965, Jehovah’s people, though few in number, stood like a lighthouse amidst the sea of restless millions, beckoning them to the safe confines of God’s organization. Some inconvenience was encountered due to blackouts in the cities, making evening meetings difficult. People in Bombay had to be indoors by 8:00 p.m. and no transport was allowed after that hour. But that war of forty-eight days had no damaging effect on the Kingdom work.
In Allahabad, Brother Norris was accused of being a spy for Pakistan just because he was making notations on his house-to-house record while in the preaching work. He was beaten by a fanatical patriot who gathered a mob that threatened to attack the missionary if he made any indiscreet move. The police were sent for and arrested the missionary, while his attacker was allowed to go free. The district superintendent of police dismissed the affair by saying: “The people are overly patriotic. We have asked them not to take the law into their own hands.” Unperturbed, however, God’s people continued on with their vital lifesaving work.
Because of the increasing hatred between the nations, stricter nationalistic measures were taken by the respective governments. Such measures created a serious problem for our schoolchildren. They were faced with the issue of Christian neutrality by reason of the adoption in all schools of the ceremony of singing the national anthem. In a few cases, children were refused exemption from participation. Several Witness children were expelled from school and others simply ceased attending. Some of the brothers acted on Scriptural advice that they obtained, whereas other parents appeared to ignore it.
The district overseer in the state of Kerala in 1965 was able to speak to a number of schoolmasters about the Christian neutrality of Jehovah’s Witnesses. For instance, traveling overseer Funk spoke to the headmaster of one school in which our children were enrolled. The headmaster gave a sympathetic hearing and granted exemption to Jehovah’s Witnesses from the anthem ceremony. At the time of the next examination, however, the headmaster was not present and a Roman Catholic teacher refused to have our children sit for the examinations because they did not share in the anthem ceremony that morning. A letter of explanation was sent to the district education office at Kanjirappalli, Kerala, along with a petition by the parents of the children attending that high school. But this brought no favorable results. Some of the older children, now deprived of their secular education, enrolled as pioneers and continued pursuing their education for life, helping others to do the same.
In New Delhi, a lawyer who practiced in the Supreme Court of India edited a magazine called “The Indian Jurist.” This lawyer obtained permission from the Society to reproduce in full the article “The Flag, The Pledge, and God,” appearing in Awake! of June 8, 1965. This clearly put the controversial flag issue before the legal profession in India and revealed the Biblical stand of Jehovah’s Witnesses in this matter.—Ex. 20:4, 5; 1 John 5:21.
PUBLICATION WORK ENLARGED
Publication work was pushed further when preparations were made to publish The Watchtower in Hindi, India’s national language. There were prolonged delays in getting official permission because of the formalities required. First, a declaration had to be made by the Society’s representative before a magistrate in the city where the magazine was to be published, which in this case was Ranchi. Then work proceeded no further for some weeks, but finally authority to print was given in November 1965. The first issue of The Watchtower in Hindi rolled off the press in January 1966, with a printing of 1,500 copies.
One day early in 1966, special pioneer George Gregory was waiting for publishers to meet at a given road junction in Secunderabad. He noticed the local manager of the Bible Society of India leaving his shop. Brother Gregory quickly approached him and offered him the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures. The manager readily accepted it, along with a few booklets. Some days later, Brother Gregory received a letter from this Bible Society manager asking for three more copies of the New World Translation. Upon delivering the Bibles, Gregory discovered that the Bible Society was preparing a revision of the Scriptures in the Telugu language. The Telugu translation group were so impressed with the New World Translation that they had decided to make use of it in their revision. The local bishop reportedly had said that the New World Translation was the finest English translation he had ever read.
Both the bishop and the manager came to the Kingdom Hall to hear the next public talk. They invited Brother Gregory to sit in while the Telugu translation committee did their work the next day. Gregory did so and four more New World Translation Bibles were placed with them.
UNDAUNTED BY SETBACKS
It was gratifying to see the Indian brothers coming forward to volunteer for special pioneer service, because it was becoming more and more difficult to get missionaries into India. They could come in only as replacements of those missionaries who left India. In the period from 1965 to 1970, India lost a number of missionaries for various reasons.
Still later, the government removed the concession of allowing even missionary replacements into the country. Now no more foreign missionaries!
Notwithstanding these setbacks in the missionary field, the work in India progressed. Indian brothers attained greater spirituality and made themselves available for special pioneer work and positions of oversight. Thus from 1965 to 1970, for example, a number of Indian brothers were appointed as circuit overseers, two of them being ex-Hindus. The fact that India now was producing its own circuit overseers was another indication that a mature theocratic organization was emerging.
THE “TRUTH” BOOK A BLESSING
In 1968 the wonderful Bible study aid The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life was provided. Publishing this book in Hindi, Kanarese, Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu entailed a vast amount of translating, checking, proofreading, typesetting and printing. The printing was accomplished by outside commercial firms, but supervision of this work by the branch office was possible through special pioneers working in the towns where the printing was done. All the translators were Jehovah’s Witnesses who had a good grasp of English, as well as the Indian language, and of the truth.
For the branch office to direct this entire work at remote distances was something like an airport control tower directing a number of aircraft by radar in foggy conditions. Nevertheless, the work was accomplished by Jehovah’s undeserved kindness. Ultimately, many home Bible studies were being conducted with interested persons in the vernacular editions of the Truth book.
To illustrate: A group of forty persons began studying the Truth book in the Malayalam language. When the local priest got to hear of it, from his pulpit he denounced Jehovah’s Witnesses as drunkards and rowdies. A woman immediately stood up and shouted: “That is false. My son was a drunkard when he attended your church, but now that he is studying with Jehovah’s Witnesses, you see him carrying a Bible in his hand instead of a bottle.”
In another case, a Roman Catholic read the Truth book within one week. When the publisher returned, the Catholic remarked: “That book is necessary for all Christians.” A study was started immediately. They came to the subject of worshiping God with spirit and truth. (John 4:24) The following week the publisher found all the religious pictures removed from the walls and in their place a simple Scripture text: “As for me and my household, we shall serve Jehovah.”—Josh. 24:15.
A BRIEF, BUT HELPFUL VISIT
Meanwhile, Brother Knorr was on an extensive service tour of the Far East, making his way back to Brooklyn by way of India and Europe. On this visit in May 1968, Brother Knorr’s concern was primarily to inspect the branch office. He was glad to view the India branch building for the first time since it was constructed in 1960. But he also spoke to the brothers at an open-air theater in Bombay. More than 600 were present for his talk on the subject “You Must Not Forget.”
Brother Knorr’s visit also afforded opportunity to discuss current printing problems and cost of operation. The Watchtower was being published in seven languages—Bengali, Hindi, Kanarese, Malayalam, Marathi, Tamil and Urdu. Awake! was being published in two languages, Malayalam and Tamil. All the printing was done by outside commercial firms, as it was not economically possible for the Society to do the printing.
Brother Knorr granted permission to purchase a “Bradma” embossing machine, with its companion printing machine, made in India. This facilitated quick dispatch of magazines and provided a more efficient means of maintaining pioneer and congregation address files.
Since storage facilities at the branch then were proving inadequate, Brother Knorr approved the building of an outside garage for the branch office vehicles. The existing garage in the main building could then be employed for additional storage space for literature stocks.
ASSESSING THE IMPACT OF OUR WORK
Indicative of the fact that Jehovah’s pure organization was emerging more prominently amid the tangled growth of false religions in India was the quiet but effective impact it had on certain members of the country’s giant religions. Just as ceaseless dripping of water can wear down a rock, so the ceaseless activities of Jehovah’s organization wore down the hardhearted resistance to the Kingdom message. Most Hindus make no meaningful investigation of Jehovah’s foretold purpose by a study of the Bible. Christendom’s false religious dogmas and evil practices have done much to prejudice the minds of sincere Hindus. But some gradually responded to the truth. Six percent of India’s total publishers in 1969 were former Hindus.
While working in the city of Hyderabad, Brother Boothapaty, a special pioneer, had this experience: “When calling on a Hindu home I observed that the father and four children were giving rapt attention, thrilled at the prospect of a righteous new system to come. A Telugu booklet was readily accepted and on the return call a Bible study was started.
“The father, who was a mechanic, soon had another family sitting in on the study, making a total of ten to twelve persons attending weekly. When the Telugu Truth book was received, we quickly got started on that. Because of its simplicity and straightforward statements, progress was rapid. Being Hindus, family opposition manifested itself and attempts to ruin the study were made. However, a strong foundation had been laid and the family withstood the pressure. Quickly they began attending meetings even though these were four miles [6 kilometers] away. They broke all their ties with Babylonish religion and became regular publishers of the good news.”
To accomplish this with a family of Hindus within nine months is quite a feat in India. Of course, to Jehovah goes the credit for such an accomplishment.
On the other hand, in 1969, 93 percent of the Kingdom publishers in India were formerly associated with the various sects of Christendom. Actually, a good percentage of Jehovah’s Witnesses in India in 1969 were formerly Roman Catholics. An example was a young student priest at Melukavumattom, Kerala. He had studied seven years in a seminary to become a Roman Catholic priest, but during those years he had observed much partiality and unrighteousness. This convinced him that Roman Catholicism was not the truth and so he quit the seminary. His aunt, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, visited him and interested him in her understanding of the Bible. She invited him to her home in Heaven Valley, a tea estate in the High Range.
While the former seminarian was there, V. P. Abraham, the circuit overseer at that time, visited the congregation, met this young Catholic and got him to attend the local meetings. What a difference’. The young man immediately noticed the real love and unity that prevailed among the Witnesses. Impressed, he returned to Melukavumattom and began an eager study of the Bible with the Society’s publications. Special pioneer A. D. Samuel conducted the study and, although the meetings were held at a distance of twenty miles (32 kilometers), the young man attended them regularly. Soon he was sharing the good news with others and informed his friends, relatives and his former seminary authorities about his new way of worship.
HONESTY AND DETERMINATION
Slowly, but surely, an organization of upright worshipers was being built up in India and became known for its integrity to true Christian principles. Highlighting this was an instance at Gajalakonda, in Andhra Pradesh, where there was a small congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses. One of the sisters there was a teacher at a school where it was common practice to falsify attendance records. Why did the teachers do this? To create a good impression with the school authorities. Our sister refused to falsify her records and was called before the headmaster to explain why she gave accurate figures, since these were affecting the school’s averages. She was threatened with a transfer to another school if she did not comply with the dishonest school custom. Our sister remained true to her Bible-trained conscience and sense of Christian honesty. She explained to her school superiors what her understanding of Christianity really was. Evidently they were impressed, for she was retained as a teacher at the same school.
Further evidence of the emergence of a strong organization of united Christians in India was the bold effort by the brothers in Madras City to build their own Kingdom Hall. Brother F. P. Anthony, a civil engineer in the Madras City Public Works Department, was given supervision of the purchasing of the plot of land and the erecting of the building. The Society arranged for the congregation to obtain a loan. A suitable piece of ground was purchased on Brick Kiln Road in the Vepery suburb of Madras. After satisfactory plans were drawn up, a fine new Kingdom Hall was constructed, large enough to seat about 150 people. The congregation thereafter made rapid progress and grew to be the largest in India. Eventually, it was divided into two congregations, making a total of four in Madras City.
“PEACE ON EARTH” ASSEMBLIES
These were held at Bombay, Madras and Cochin. Five hundred brothers from fourteen different states came to Bombay, some all the way from Sikkim, the Himalayan kingdom to the north. Rooming accommodations presented a problem, as Bombay is notably overcrowded. Right across from the assembly hall was a Roman Catholic girls’ school. The principal was most cooperative in permitting us to use it as a dormitory, and about eighty of the brothers were accommodated there. Another unexpected provision was made in a maharajah’s bungalow, where the mother of one of the brothers worked. Accommodations for thirty brothers were secured there. Then Brother Jack D’Silva of Bombay persuaded his company to allow the brothers to use their luxurious flat reserved for company guests. There another thirty were accommodated. The Bombay assembly was conducted in five different languages. Surprisingly, during the Bible drama on Jonah, in walked ten Roman Catholic nuns from a nearby convent.
The Madras assembly in this series was held in the spacious Museum Theatre, with the Telugu sessions in a separate hall. Everything was translated for our Tamil-speaking brothers in the main hall. Out on the grounds of the assembly hall, a pandal, or thatched shed, was erected for the cafeteria. The public meeting attendance was 814, with forty-two new ones taking the step of water immersion.
The third and final assembly was at Cochin, the seaport and Indian naval station on the west coast of what is now the state of Kerala. This assembly was held at the Nehru Memorial Hall. Hundreds of brothers were glad to sleep at the hall itself; it was cheap and convenient. Even the mayor of Cochin assisted in the rooming work. He made available to the brothers a number of government bungalows, usually reserved for officers. All free accommodations were assigned to publishers who could be relied upon to leave a favorable impression with their hosts. Many householders attended the assembly, and when it was all over, they were in tears at having to say good-bye to their Christian guests.
Out of the 1,253 in attendance at the public talk, 153 were pioneers. Another forty-three candidates were baptized.
REACHING THE PEOPLE OF SIKKIM
The mountainous state of Sikkim comes under the Watch Tower Society’s India branch. Here is how Brother Pope described one of his early journeys to reach the brothers in the rugged land of Sikkim:
“The main mode of transport is the train, which we usually prefer. Often one has to move around in a jeep or a bus in the steeper tracts. Here very roadworthy vehicles are called for, but often do not exist . . . The result is that the passengers’ nerves and equanimity are severely tested. One such instance was during a trip through the Himalayan foothills to reach Darjeeling, when the jeep developed a most disturbing shudder in the front wheels after every mile or so. This necessitated violent braking to prevent loss of control of the vehicle. After negotiating a steep gradient on a narrow mountain roadside with precipitous drops on one side, we reached a compulsory stop at a police checkpost. Here, upon closer investigation, it was discovered that the steering was defective, since the steering wheel could be moved 120 degrees right or left before the mechanism engaged in the front wheels. When this serious defect was pointed out to the driver, he insisted that it would be thik hojāega, meaning that it would be ‘all right.’ We did manage to negotiate a fifty-mile [80-kilometer] stretch of mountainous road without deviating from it completely; so maybe the driver was right in what he said. The severe headaches that we developed, though, showed that we were not in agreement with him.
“It was a joy to visit close to the Sikkim border. Even though we were unable to enter, the brothers would always take time off to visit us in nearby Darjeeling. Often, early in the morning, there would be a timid knock on the door, where they presented us with eggs, oranges and vegetables as a token of their appreciation. Depending upon the availability of funds and transport, it meant that they came fourteen miles [22.5 kilometers] from Sikkim, often by foot. During the week they would travel back to the village by the same means to check to see if things were all right with the aging family members, and then return.
“The thing that makes this more unusual is that the families concerned were previously Hindu, but due to the zealous lead of one member of the family, others were greatly encouraged. This zealous member of the family, who is now a brother, heard and liked the sound of the truth. He gives good help to the others in that isolated mountain territory of Sikkim who are seeking the road that leads back to peace in paradise.”
Sikkim is mostly in the Himalayas, and Buddhism is the State religion. About one quarter of Sikkim’s 2,818 square miles (7,299 square kilometers) of mountainous territory is forested. Areas of giant coniferous trees reach to the snow line in northern Sikkim. Orchids add color to this small Himalayan state. Forests of rhododendrons cover entire mountainsides. Alpine flowers carpet the higher valleys and passes. In this picturesque setting, there are twenty-two publishers of Jehovah’s kingdom proclaiming the good news among the estimated 194,000 inhabitants, most of whom are Buddhists and Hindus.
THE “GOOD NEWS” REACHES NEPAL
The neighboring land of Nepal, the only Hindu independent state in the world, also comes within the picture of India’s theocratic activity. The country lies on the southern slopes of the Himalayas. It is bounded on the north by Tibet, on the east by Sikkim, and on the south and west by India. Nepal has a population of around twelve million. It has the distinction of containing the world’s highest peak, Mount Everest, and also of producing some of the toughest fighting men in the world—the Gurkhas.
Some time ago, the family of Brother A. B. Yonzan, a Nepali national, moved from Kalimpong, India, to Katmandu, the capital of Nepal. Even though proselyting is forbidden, resulting in limited field service, this family did some excellent work in declaring the good news of God’s kingdom to the people of that land. Brother Yonzan’s secular work has put him in close contact with government officials, and even the royal court. Consequently, our Christian publications have reached the royal family.
The year 1971 brought to India the foundation for a new feature of theocratic organization. Through the “Divine Name” District Assemblies, held at seven widely scattered places, the apostolic arrangement for governing the early Christian congregations was outlined. The desirability of administrating the present-day congregations by qualified, bodies of spiritual elders was explained in the talk “Theocratic Organization Amidst Democracies and Communism.” How fitting that this presentation was also made at an assembly in Kerala State, where democratic India has one of its strongest Communist elements!
This was the largest gathering of Jehovah’s people ever in the very area where God’s work first got established in this land. Because there was no hall large enough in Kottayam City, the huge Police Parade ground was obtained. There a large, shady canopy was constructed from coconut-palm branches. In this warm, tropical setting, 2,259 persons heard how Christian congregations would be governed in the future.
Early in 1972, the circuit work in India was thoroughly reorganized. Visiting overseers gave less attention to records and figures. Emphasis was placed on encouraging brothers in field service and building up the spiritual condition of the congregations.
In September 1972 the Indian congregations implemented the administration by bodies of elders. This proved to be a great stride forward in stabilizing the congregations spiritually. Most of the congregations in India accepted the arrangement with enthusiasm.
The arrangement, however, revealed a relatively low level of spiritual maturity and lack of experience in dealing with local problems. Some initial difficulties indicated that certain appointed brothers had wrong motives or lacked spiritual qualifications. The elder arrangement also pinpointed congregations in need of spiritual help. For example, in a total of 247 congregations (including places where only one or two brothers live), up to mid-1976, only 121 had appointed elders. Hence, many of the 416 appointed ministerial servants needed to serve as substitute overseers.
Undoubtedly, the general effect in India has been to tone up the standard of oversight. This has also contributed to the 22-percent increase of Jehovah’s people in India during the years since the inception of the elder arrangement. But, more importantly, the new organizational developments have shown that God’s work is not dependent on any man. Rather, attention is focused on Christ as head of the congregation, with appointed elders as an interdependent, united body slaving for their brothers.
UNTOUCHED REGIONS EXPLORED
In the northeastern extremity of India, untouched territories were explored and the truth penetrated into almost inaccessible regions. This section of India lying within the Tropic of Cancer is comprised of seven separate territories. In the north, bordering Tibet and China, is Arunachel Pradesh. Southward, touching Burma’s frontier, comes Nagaland first, then Manipur. Southeast of Manipur are Mizoram and Tripura. Meghalaya rests between Bangladesh and the Brahmaputra Valley. Finally, straddling the giant Brahmaputra River is Assam, partly forming the “bottleneck” passage into Bengal and the rest of India.
These areas are mainly the foothills at the eastern end of the Himalayan mountain chain, ranging in altitude from 2,600 to 4,800 feet (792 to 1,463 meters) above sea level. What scenic beauty, with towering peaks, rushing rivers, waterfalls, mountain lakes, green valleys and meadows! The valleys are inhabited by scores of tribes. Each valley has a different tribe with its own dialect. Certain tribes adhere to matriarchal customs. Others until recent times were headhunters. Now, for the first time, these tribes began to hear the message of God’s kingdom.
For some years, Kingdom-preaching work was done by special pioneers based at Shillong in Assam, and from there the truth spread out. Brother Basumatary learned the truth in Shillong and later set off for his jungle village, Dighaldong, to share his newly found ‘treasure’ with relatives and fellow villagers. (Prov. 2:1-5) This journey of about 124 miles (200 kilometers) requires a trip by rail, then by bus, next by oxcart, and finally by a walk through the forest.
Brother Basumatary soon got busy, built a simple Kingdom Hall and began to hold regular Christian meetings. Later, a visiting special pioneer was astonished to find eighteen persons assembled at Brother Basumatary’s house. They had many Bible questions. The special pioneer reported: “Twelve had already left the Lutheran Church and were attending the Kingdom Hall meetings. I was greatly encouraged to meet a seventy-year-old man who had been a Lutheran preacher for sixteen years, but had now severed all connections with that religion. He was deprived of his livelihood as a result, but he exclaimed, ‘I have got out of “Babylon the Great” and now I am in God’s organization.’” The congregation at Dighaldong now spreads the good news to the neighboring villages in that far-off area in Assam.
The truth also is reaching out to the Khasi Hills in Meghalaya State. There the matriarchal system obtains among the tribes and headship devolves on the wife, with sons and daughters taking the name of the mother. Nevertheless, a Khasi woman accepted the truth and recognized the need to make changes in her life. Although belonging to the Presbyterian Church, she had lived with a man for twenty years and had borne seven children without the benefit of marriage, though with their pastor’s approval. Now, knowing the truth, this Khasi woman discussed these matters with her partner. He found it odd that she should suggest that they legalize their marriage and that he should be the head of the house. At first, he refused to shoulder these responsibilities, but eventually realized his position. They legalized their marriage, and the woman and her children came to carry the man’s name. Soon, this Khasi woman was baptized, and it is encouraging to see her joy as she and her children attend the meetings and share in preaching the Kingdom message to others in the Khasi Hills.
ADDITIONAL RESPONSIBILITY IN BANGLADESH
Back in December 1971, India found herself at war with neighboring Pakistan. On December 3, the day that hostilities broke out, Indian troops entered East Pakistan. Three days later a new country was born—Bangladesh. The thirteen-day war ended on December 16, 1971, with Bangladesh severed from Pakistan and an ally of India. In 1973, the Watch Tower Society’s Bombay branch office was asked to care for the work in Bangladesh. As far as was known, no active Kingdom publishers lived there, though there had been some subscribers to our magazines in that region. Letters were sent out to these subscribers, but only one person responded to the degree of taking active interest in studying the Bible. Although it was not possible for Indian pioneers to obtain residence permits, Brothers P. Singh and P. Mondol, Indian special pioneers, were sent to Bangladesh for a limited period time.
“DIVINE VICTORY” ASSEMBLIES
India’s “Divine Victory” national assembly at Madras in September 1973 was something of a mini-international assembly. Brothers from nine different nations were present and sessions were held in nine Indian languages plus English. It was the biggest convention India had ever had! The attendance for the public talk was 3,225. At this assembly, 175 persons were immersed—India’s largest single baptism.
Our assembly site, known as Abbotsbury, had witnessed a ‘prestige wedding’ in the early part of the month. For it a temporary structure had been erected. But the grounds had been left in a near chaotic state. The work seemed too great for the few brothers available prior to the convention. However, assembly overseer Bernard Funk remarked: “Just one week before our assembly, India’s prime minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi, visited Madras City and it so happened that it was arranged for her to speak at the assembly grounds! So the whole place was tidied up and given a ‘face-lift’ just in time for the ‘Divine Victory’ Assembly!”
“KINGDOM NEWS” TRACTS DO GOOD WORK
Shortly after the Madras national assembly the Kingdom News tracts were distributed with great zeal. This work provided tremendous stimulus in aiding newly qualified persons to get started in the preaching activity. No human really knows the extent to which this tract distribution is having effective results. But there is no doubt that much is being accomplished by this work.
For example, at Madurai, in south India, a man received a tract in the regular house-to-house distribution. When he visited his father in a remote village, he took the tract with him. He thought that his father, a local preacher, would be interested in it. So he was! Mr. Solomon wrote to the branch office for additional information, and instructions were sent to the Madurai Congregation in Tamil Nadu.
At once, Brother Alexander, an overseer and a special pioneer, went in search of Mr. Solomon. He traveled as far as the bus would take him and then walked another six miles (10 kilometers) under the burning sun and eventually found him. A Bible study was immediately begun. Some months later, at the “Divine Sovereignty” District Assembly at Madurai in 1975, Brother Solomon was baptized. Indeed, a fine result of tract distribution!
EXPANSION AT HEADQUARTERS
It was realized in 1973 that the Society’s branch building in India needed to be expanded in keeping with the increasing nationwide activity and Bombay City assembly requirements. The new architectural plans were prepared by one of India’s senior architects. Construction work began on December 8, 1973, under the supervision of Frank Schiller, a Canadian brother serving where the need is greater.
A roof was built onto what was the open terrace and the terrace itself then was converted into a beautiful Assembly Hall for Bombay. This was the first of its kind in India and accommodates about 600 brothers in comfort. The Assembly Hall also serves as a Kingdom Hall for two of Bombay’s congregations.
This construction enabled the Society to convert the former Kingdom Hall into suitable office space, besides providing for an extra Bethel bedroom. The original ground-floor office was utilized for the magazine and subscription departments and for additional storage purposes.
June 15, 1974, was set as the structure’s “dedication day.” This served as an incentive to keep the construction work moving ahead. As planned, the extended facilities were completed and the dedication took place right on schedule.
SIKKIM MERGED WITH INDIA
In September 1974 the Indian Parliament conferred upon Sikkim an “associate” status with the Indian Union. At the time, there were twenty-one witnesses of Jehovah in Sikkim. In view of that country’s political connection with India, it was deemed suitable to incorporate Sikkim’s field service reports with India’s.
Gangtok is a scene of energetic Christian activity. There four special pioneers work with the congregation. Other congregations functioning in Sikkim are located at Chungbung and Samdong.
In 1976, Robert Rai, a Sikkimese brother and elder living in London, England, motored with his wife all the way to Sikkim with funds to build a Kingdom Hall at Chungbung. Within two months they had succeeded in constructing a substantial structure able to accommodate sixty persons. Having done this, Brother and Sister Rai returned to their home in London.
1975—A MEMORABLE YEAR
Truly, the year 1975 was an exciting time for the brothers in India. Early in the year we enjoyed the memorable visit of two members of the Governing Body, N. H. Knorr and F. W. Franz. Witnesses from distant parts of India journeyed to Bombay to hear the visiting brothers. For two spiritually upbuilding days, 948 packed out all corners of the newly extended branch building. Among other things, Brother Knorr urged that young men reach out for responsibilities in the congregation.
The next thrilling event was the Lord’s Evening Meal, on March 27. For the first time in India, the attendance topped the 10,000 mark. This showed that the 4,531 Witnesses here really are busy, and it gave them incentive to keep working hard in Jehovah’s service.
In the meantime, brothers in the field were growing stronger in appreciation of the need for sticking to Bible principles. To illustrate: Sister Muniyamma, a special pioneer of the Paradise Farm Congregation near Bangalore, developed a serious abdominal tumor, lost a lot of blood and became very weak physically. When she refused to accept a blood transfusion, a church-owned hospital rejected her case. Sister Muniyamma was taken to another hospital, which also refused to operate without blood. The case was critical by this time. Meanwhile, Brother Mall of Bangalore, a relative of the chief medical officer of the first hospital, had prevailed upon him to accept Sister Muniyamma’s case. The doctor operated without blood and Sister Muniyamma survived. This was a tremendous witness to the church authorities governing the hospital, and the entire hospital staff developed a respect for Jehovah’s Witnesses. Now Sister Muniyamma is back in her pioneer assignment, sharing the message of life with others.
SPREADING OUT THE WITNESS
Kingdom-preaching work is moving ahead in the far northeastern territories. For example, at Imphal in Manipur, special pioneer K. V. Joy found a teen-ager of the Tangkhul Naga tribe. Though the lad began to study the Bible immediately, doubts soon developed due to pressure from fellow Baptist religionists and he stopped his study. But this Naga, whose name is Grace, later found God’s name, Jehovah, in a school book and also learned from that publication that some popular “Christian” customs are of pagan origin. He resumed his Bible studies with Brother Joy.
Now religious community pressure became severe. The youth reports: ‘My tribal village leaders threatened me with the following alternatives: forsake my new religion and return to the Baptist Church; or pay a fine of 250 rupees; or be killed according to tribal custom. These threats were ignored and in time my elder brother, Angam, my cousin Narising and I resigned from the church. During 1975 I was baptized in symbol of my dedication to Jehovah. Soon afterward Angam and Narising also were baptized and they remained in my village to spread the truth to members of my tribe, who, until recent years, were headhunters. Even now at the front of some homes in my village human skulls are hanging on display as a reminder of the grim past.’
God’s truth in printed form also radiates through the northeastern tribal areas. There were 4,769 books and about twice as many magazines distributed by some seventeen special pioneers there between 1973 and 1975. Most of those special pioneers were from distant Kerala State, which has the largest concentration of Witnesses in India. Those pioneers from south India willingly left their native homelands to serve in strange territories nearly 1,200 miles (1,931 kilometers) away. It was like a foreign assignment for them, learning new languages and working among people of an entirely different nature. Within a few years the truth spread, and fifty local persons from those tribal territories were baptized. Some became available to translate literature into their own dialects.
As more workers became available, the Society opened up the work in large cities hitherto “undeveloped” as far as Kingdom preaching was concerned. For instance, a missionary home was set up at Patna, in Bihar State. There the Alford family served. Mrs. Barbara Alford and her four children were Indian citizens who had emigrated to Canada and had found the truth there. Eventually, Josephine Alford attended Gilead School and was assigned to India. So the mother, Barbara Alford, and her children all volunteered to return to India to serve in the Patna City missionary home.
DEVELOPMENT OF PUBLICATION WORK
In India, states are mostly determined according to local tongues, each having its own language. A book in a certain language had to be printed where that tongue was used. We had to find a location with a good press and where special pioneers were available to supervise the printing. In most cases, pioneers had to be trained to know how a good book could be produced, and this training was accomplished through correspondence from the branch office. Volumes of letters were exchanged in the process! Pioneers also had to improve in knowledge of their own language to qualify them to check accurately on the printing work. In this way, the Bombay branch office operates its printing organization at eleven different locations by a ‘remote control’ system.
However, in many cases this arrangement also has involved teaching commercial printing firms how to produce books of the high standard required by the Society. In various places, these printers felt that their higher standard of printing was due mainly to the training received through the careful supervision of the pioneers who cared for the printing of the Society’s publications.
Jehovah’s servants long have been interested in getting Scriptural truth into the many languages of India. As early as 1912, the Watch Tower Society’s first president, C. T. Russell, arranged for our booklets to be translated into Hindustani, Gujarati, Malayalam, Telugu, Marathi and Tamil, the six principal languages of India. By early 1976 India’s branch office was providing literature for its own field in twenty different languages. During the past five years, 636,677 of our books were printed in this country—over 500 percent more than in the previous five years. The Watchtower is prepared in seven languages, with the prospect of two more in the near future. Awake! is published in two Indian languages. Magazines are mailed from this branch to seventy-three other countries. To get all this publication work done, more than fifty brothers work in translating, printing and mailing operations outside the branch office.
Due to the recent policy of the Indian government, literature imports have been limited severely. Application was made regularly to import publications to the value of 40,000 rupees ($5,000). Yet, year after year this was cut to a value of 10,000 rupees. In 1975 we applied for an import license valued at 50,000 rupees worth of books. Imagine our glee when the license arrived authorizing importation from Brooklyn of books valued at 50,000 rupees! Jehovah’s blessing had resulted in rich supplies of spiritual food for India.
DISTRICT ASSEMBLIES REVEAL STEADY GROWTH
As each year has passed, district assemblies have been held regularly, and an increasing number of cities throughout India have received a more intensified witness. The assemblies have revealed a steady growth in the number of people showing interest in Jehovah’s purposes. For instance, at the fifteen “Divine Sovereignty” Assemblies held here during 1975, there were 243 persons baptized and the public meeting attendance was 6,061. At that time there were 4,300 Kingdom publishers in India.
Producing Bible dramas for these assemblies has increased the work at headquarters. Imagine the amount of work done to produce drama tapes in ten languages at or under the supervision of a small branch office! First, the material needs to be translated. Then individuals must be trained to portray Bible characters for tape recording. Next the big problem is recording on tape. Dramas in only four languages are prepared at the branch office. The remainder are done by brothers scattered in the field. In most cases, they have limited equipment and encounter difficulty in finding enough competent brothers and sisters to fill all the character parts.
Their recording ‘studio’ may be a very humble home. Often the brothers do not start their recording work until about one o’clock in the morning, for then the daily sounds of life are subdued. In one instance, two brothers were assigned to throw stones into nearby ponds to silence the noise of croaking frogs. To get a program ready for a district assembly involves six months of hard work. But the appreciation shown by persons attending an assembly in their mother tongue makes every minute worth while.
NEW BRANCH ADMINISTRATION
As in other lands, at the beginning of 1976, oversight of the Kingdom-preaching work in the Indian field was transferred to a branch committee with a rotating chairman and a permanent coordinator. This arrangement was seen as a forward step, particularly in caring for a weightier work load and any possible problems. It broadened the responsibility of oversight more to local brothers and also allowed for a wider grasp of field problems by providing for a committee member in closer contact with field operation.
BASIS FOR FUTURE WORK WITH GOD
With keen anticipation of wonderful events to take place within this generation, Jehovah’s Witnesses in India, Nepal and Bangladesh prepare for the trials ahead by keeping close to Jehovah’s visible organization. The latest peak of publishers in India was 4,687, and 11,204 people attended the Memorial of Christ’s death on April 14, 1976. Only eleven true Christians in India professed to be Jesus’ anointed followers.
India, though vast in area and population, is receiving a witness about Jehovah’s established kingdom. Particularly since 1912 has Bible truth been declared among India’s teeming millions. Strenuous efforts have been made to bring it to the people—by such means as distribution of thousands and thousands of Bibles and other Christian publications, sound-car public lecture campaigns, phonograph work, house-to-house presentations of Bible information, return visits and home Bible studies. Despite very difficult climatic conditions, health hazards and other hardships, millions have had the opportunity to hear the Bible’s message of salvation. It is gratifying that some thousands have responded favorably.
India has experienced the gradual growth of a theocratic organization from scattered groups of isolated publishers in different language areas to a closely knit, united body of Christian evangelizers. This has resulted in spite of false religious indifference and sporadic outbursts of fanaticism, bans during two world wars, political struggles and other problems. In all these circumstances, Jehovah has been with us, and as his witnesses we are deeply grateful to be ‘working together with God.’—2 Cor. 6:1.
[Picture on page 53]
A house car, with transcription machine, used to preach the “good news” in the 1930’s
[Picture on page 109]
Branch office in Bombay