For how many years have the children been taken to Karnataka? How many have gone?
SB: I am not sure about the years, but I know there are more than 1,500 to 1,600 children in schools in Karnataka. Every year, Tukaram Shetty takes more children with him.
But why don’t you start schools here? Why send them to Karnataka?
PCK: In some villages, we help village councils run schools. We pay their teachers’ salaries. This isn’t possible in many villages since the Christians are everywhere here. This programme is also about culture. The children are sent to schools in Karnataka to imbibe good cultural values.
What values are you talking about?
SB: That we are all Hindus and that Hindus have to stick together…
PCK: (interrupts) When they stay in Karnataka, they are exposed to many other children. They learn to live in harmony with them. They carry the love and acceptance they get there back to Meghalaya and spread it to their parents. Right now, outsiders or dakkar are viewed with a lot of suspicion but this will change after some years, making our work easier.
‘We can’t call it a shakha yet, but give us another year’
What specific gains does the RSS hope for?
PCK: Since these children are educated in RSS schools, they will adopt the Hindu religion. Already, we have seen children refusing to eat meat when they return. They will also teach their parents to follow in their footsteps. Over time, the children who return will champion the Hindu way of life in Meghalaya.
That is a really long-term agenda.
PCK: We benefit immediately too. Four to five times a year, we hold compulsory meetings with the parents of children sent to Karnataka, usually in Jowai. RSS pracharaks attend these meetings. We share information with the parents and ask them if their children have been in touch with them and what they have been saying. Besides this, discussions also revolve around conversions and the problems that are created by Christians in Meghalaya. We can’t call it a shakha yet, but give us another year.