Indian Christians and the National Movement. (A case study on the role of the India chapter of the YMCA and its leaders)


General Dyer’s infamous 1918 carnage at Jallianwalla Bagh in Amritsar, fanned into flame the undercurrent of anti-British sentiments. Mahatma Gandhi gave the call for non-cooperation. The whole nation was convulsed. Indian Christians could no longer be fence sitters. On one hand was the missionary conviction that British rule was a sign of God’s concern for India. On the other hand, fraternal loyalty demanded empathizing with their countrymen.

The Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) dominated by expat secretaries was slow to respond to this rising nationalism. Indian leaders K.T. Paul and S.K. Datta took a counter-cultural view and castigated the callousness of the British in the July 1920 edition of the Young Men of India. This led to a storm of criticism against the YMCA.

In particular the role played by two notable Indian Secretaries of the YMCA, K.T. Paul and S.K. Datta. K.T. Paul, the first Indian to become the National General Secretary of the YMCA in India, drew a fine line between supporting Mahatma Gandhi and obeying the Apostle’s command in Romans to submit to authority.

K.T. Paul’s balance was deeply appreciated by the British Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald during the First Round Table Conference, held in London from November 12, 1930. After K.T. Paul’s demise S.K. Datta stepped into his shoes and hoped the Congress under Nehru would nominate him as a delegate to the second Round Table Conference. Despite his closeness with Nehru, that was not to be and he attended at the invitation of the British Prime Minister.

This paper offers an insight into how political expediency has hindered giving due recognition to the contributions of Indian Christians to nation-building, right from the dawn of the freedom struggle in the early part of the 20th.century.


This paper written by Dr. M.D. David, President, Church History Association of India (CHAI), Western India, first appeared in the CHAI publication, India's Christian Heritage, 2011, and is reproduced with permission.