Nationalism And Orissa: Minorities As Other
By Angana Chatterji
11 March, 2004
used in this article is derived from multiple sources, including interviews
with persons affiliated with Sangh organisations. As relevant, quotations
are anonymous or pseudonyms have been used, and place names changed,
listed or omitted, at the request of the contributor. Insertion(s) within
 in the quotations are the author's.
Your god has no eyes. He cannot
have a soul. Your god is violent, just like you are. A Hindu neighbour
charges Hasina Begum. With her technician husband, Hasina's is the only
Muslim family in a housing society in a small town in Orissa. They relocated
in 2003. Hasina and her husband are isolated with few acquaintances
in the area. Geeta, a Hindu woman, befriended Hasina only to be confronted
by others about such association with Muslims. Geeta slowly withdrew,
saying. We like you but we have to live in society here, do we
carry you with us, or carry them? What choice do we have? Geeta
and Hasina do not speak any more.
Hasina Begum tells
me, "We know that many Hindus hate Muslims and I know that Hindus
are in power. I am afraid for my daughter. I want her to stay at home
with me. She does not listen. So many times I am afraid for her, I beat
her to make her stay at home. She has marks on her back from my beating
her. I am ashamed. I feel isolated. If something happens to us, if someone
attacks us, robs us, who will be with us? We are asked, You have
no idols, so who is your god? Are you godless? I know that we
are not welcome here. There are stories about us 'Pathans' that circulate
in the market place. We have heard about Gujarat." People tell
Hasina that nothing has really happened, that she has not been attacked,
that she is overreacting. She replies, "Fear is attacking me. I
feel that they are watching me."
state convenor for the Bajrang Dal, the paramilitary wing of Hindutva,
claims, "In the country, Orissa is the second Hindu rajya [state].
Today, Sai [Christian] missionary and Islam, they both want to convert
the entire pradesh [state] into Sai and Islam. In the tribal belt they
have been planning to convert the people into Christians and Harijans
into Muslims. This work is moving with force in Orissa. This is the
reason the Bajrang Dal and VHP [Vishwa Hindu Parishad] have taken up
the task of consolidating Hindu shakti in Orissa. In the entire state
we have selected some [key] districts, such as Sai based Sundargarh
district, Gajapati zilla, Phulbani, Keonjhar, Mayurbhanj, Koraput, Nabarangpur
districts -- we are undertaking seva [service] work here, hospitals,
one teacher schools, Hari Katha Yojana, orphanage, these types of jojona
and seva work are being undertaken all over the state."
A secular activist
responds, "The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh [RSS] and Sangh Parivar
sailed in with the cyclone [in 1999], we are now drowning in their midst.
They are too many and everywhere. They are kind and giving to people
who abide by them, even as they are watchful and intolerant of people
who disobey them. They do more than the government, they work hard and
say that they are against corruption. But at what price? They are for
a 'clean' Orissa, they are cleaning out the filth, and Christians and
Muslims are the filth they want to sweep out."
have formed various campaigns to combat communalism in the state. Since
2002, secular meetings and marches have taken place in Beherampur, Cuttack,
Balesore, Bhadrak, Bhubaneswar, Sambalpur. Community and citizen's leaders
speak of alliance building. They warn about the futility of partnerships
with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Sangh Parivar vigilantes,
cautioning that alliance building requires shared commitments. They
urge for rallying progressive, democratic forces across the state.
lands reform movements, adivasi and dalit organisation for self determination,
and resistance movements confronting the devastation of dominant development
and globalisation, act as a bulwark against the escalation of the Sangh
Parivar. Adivasi and dalit self determination exists in opposition to
the state. Adivasis and dalits, within politicised contexts, do not
identify as Hindus and resist their incorporation into the Brahminical
(and elite) social order. In a Hindu majority state in India, Brahminism
enforces the supremacy of 'Hinduness', and defines norms, values, ethics
and morality. Ethnic, minority and marginalised groups are subject to
the political and economic violence of Brahminism via which they are
forced to frame their political and cultural aspirations.
The secular activist
continues, "[In retaliation] the Sangh Parivar is consolidating
its position in the mining belt and in all sensitive and tribal areas
in Orissa, where there are popular dalit or adivasi struggles for self
determination, trying to undercut them. Several developments are taking
place on the mining front, where the Sangh divides poor people, who,
driven out by corporations, are organising to resist." In Nayagarh
district, dalit communities watch Hindutva's voracious march. They speak
of malignant fictions circulated by the Hindutvadis that Christian missionary
activity is placing Hinduism at risk. Dalits, adivasis, Christians,
Hindus and Muslims speak of how their villages and watersheds intertwine,
and how crops are dependent on the run-off water from each other's lands.
They say that they cannot afford to hate each other.
In a massive mobilisation
drive in the mid 1980's the Jaganath Rath Yatra passed through Hindu,
Christian, dalit and adivasi villages across Orissa. The Yatra traversed
a thousand sites between March 1986 and May 1988, drawing 3-4,000 people
in each place. Local people met expenses totalling 2-4 million rupees.
As an outcome of this process, 1,600 permanent mobilisation units managed
by 500 committees were set up. The VHP and Vanavasi Kalyan Ashrams run
these units, carrying out their mission via Kirtan Mandals, Satsangs
and Yuvak Kendras.
Today, the annual
Jaganath Yatra and other Hindutva organised religio-nationalist spectacles
continue across the state. Muslims, and adivasi and dalit groups connected
to self determination movements in dissent to the Sangh Parivar, are
afraid as thundering mobs engulf their villages. On April 11, 2003,
communal tensions spiralled in Rajgangapur, an industrial town 400 kilometres
from Bhubaneswar, during a procession for Hanuman on Ramnavmi. Two people
were killed in police firing.
Over the last decade,
the Sangh has amassed 30 major organisations including political, charitable,
militant and educational groups, trade and students unions, women's
groups, with a massive base of a few million, the largest volunteer
enlistment in the state. The Prakalpa Samanvaya Samiti is a pivotal
Sangh organisation synchronising the activities of various faith and
welfare outfits. The Prakalpa Samiti operates a school at Chakapad,
3 student hostels, 20 weekly balwadis, and 300 night schools. It attends
to 20,000 patients each month through medicine distribution centres
and three mobile vans. The Prakalpa Samiti acts to drive Christians
In Orissa, the RSS
charges that hostile Hinduisation is a 'rational' and necessary response
to, among other factors, the growth of missionary activity leading to
an increase in the Christian population. Numerous groups are conflicted
about the need to direct 'equal' energy in assessing Hindutva, Christian
missionisation and Islamic fundamentalism in India. Violent Islamic
fundamentalism certainly requires deep scrutiny in South Asia, even
as Hindutva must command particular emphasis in India. Hindu nationalism
is linked to a state that authorises Hindutva's actions, lending it
linked to the United States, is endorsed by the current Bush administration.
Evidence suggests (American) evangelist participation in intelligence
operations in Latin America and elsewhere. Such activity and its relationship
to India should concern us only as it actually takes place. Christians
constitute less than 3 percent of the population in Orissa, with a one
percent increase since 1981. Neither does the Christian population in
India record any appreciable increase from 2.6 percent in 1971, to 2.43
in 1981, 2.34 in 1991, and 2.6 in 2001.
The Sangh Parivar
converts minorities to dominant Hinduism without distinguishing between
forcible conversions and the right to proselytise, and uses the converted
for sadistic ends. The Sangh does not acknowledge that tribal and dalit
conversions to Christianity are rarely coercive and occur in response
to oppressive and entrenched caste inequities, gender violence, and
chronic poverty. The Sangh's claim that Christians in India are anti
national facilitates violence against them. Dalit Christian activists
seek empowerment and understand 'decastification' as necessary to fighting
Hindutva. They also speak of challenging inherent inequities that are
often reproduced through the church, where, they say, pews are filled
on Sunday mornings with compliant people sitting in rows ordered along
The Sangh's voracious
assault organises the disenfranchised into a vicious political economy
structured by the caste system. RSS cadres working in Sambhalpur district
stress how critical it is that adivasis and dalits be converted into
Hinduism. They organise adivasi rallies where 'Garbh se kaho hum Hindu
hai' (say with pride that I am a Hindu) pierces the air. Badal Satpaty,
an RSS office bearer, stresses the importance of adivasi conversions
for Orissa. "Vanavasis [derogatory term for adivasis] are given
land by the government. If vanavasis see themselves as outside Hinduism,
then their lands too are non Hindu lands that are anti development and
cannot be used for the betterment of the nation. Bharat is a Hindu nation,
and these people and their lands are anti national."
Whose nation? Adivasis
are 8.01 percent of the nation's inhabitants, yet 40 percent of the
displaced population. The Transfer of Immovable Property (by Scheduled
Tribes) Regulation of 1956 provides against land transfers in Scheduled
Areas. Outside Scheduled Areas, the Orissa Land Reforms Act of 1960
and subsequent amendments, guard against tribal land alienation. In
practise, an extensive 'land grab' has resulted from debt bondage and
indenturement related to land leasing and mortgage of adivasi and dalit
lands to large farmers and moneylenders, consolidation of land holdings,
strategic marriage alliances and corruption.
in forest villages are often evicted, their right to land dismissed
by the state's insistence on 'evidence' of ownership and residency.
Such demands evince the betrayal of old claims with new boundaries,
maps, roads, checkposts that insert violence into the everyday life
of the adivasi. Tribal testimonies are converted into 'lies' by the
apparatus of the state. A Gond adivasi elder testifies, "We live
in the village in the forest. We have lived here for generations. Our
houses are made of local mud, our roofs from local leaves from the forests.
Our diet, our thoughts, our language tells you that we have been living
here. You can see the shadows of our ancestors reflected in the pond,
our songs mimic the birds, they tell stories of the forest, our feet
walk these lands over and over. These [imprints] are our land records.
The forester does not believe us. Our lives are lies to them."
In India today,
about 86 percent of dalit families are landless or marginal landholders,
and 63 percent subsist on incomes from daily wage labour. Social violence
against dalits remains institutionalised. Legitimation of adivasi and
dalit rights has been a process laden with inequities, and the notification
and denotification of tribes is often used as a political tool to undermine
adivasi self determination by not recognising their status, claims and
rights vis-à-vis the state. The amputation of adivasi tenure
on forest lands has contributed to cultural genocide in Orissa that
supports the consolidation of national territory, corporate liberalisation
and the ethic of conservation inherent to modern nation states.
In July 2003, the
Orissa government permitted the unconstitutional transfer of lands in
Schedule V areas for mining and industrial use. Orissa's decision contradicts
the 1997 Samata versus Andhra Pradesh judgement, where the Apex Court
had ruled against the government's lease of tribal forest and other
lands in Scheduled Areas to non tribals for mining and industrial operations.
23, 2004, four adivasi villages, Borobhota, Kinari, Kothduar, Sindhabahili,
and their agricultural fields, in south east Kalahandi district, have
been razed by Sterlite industries, a multinational corporation building
an aluminium refinery near Lanjigarh, adjacent to Kashipur. Sterlite's
finances are generated from its partner company, Vedanta Resources.
Non resident Indians operate Sterlite and Vedanta, launched in London
in December 2003. Sterlite has a controversial history. Company chairperson
and managing director, Anil Agarwal, has denied knowledge of the Samata
judgement in the past. The Lanjigarh project will mine bauxite at 4,000
feet from the north west rim of the Niyamgiri mountains. The villagers,
forcibly evicted, without requisite compensation or rehabilitation,
are living in camps under police 'guard', their right to life placed
development in Orissa forces the incorporation of the poor into the
dominant order. The Sangh Parivar conspires with the Biju Janata Dal-BJP
coalition government in Bhubaneswar to enable this inequitable amalgamation.
Sangh activists have infiltrated deep into state run development agencies
such as the Council for Advancement of People's Action and Rural Technology
(CAPART), an autonomous institution that works to create rural development
partnerships between voluntary organisations and the government. CAPART
supports numerous RSS activities in Orissa diverting funds for Hindutva.
Badal Satpaty of
the RSS says, "It is because these people [dalits, adivasis] refuse
to integrate that all these problems arise. Why do they ask for special
rights? The motherland is good to us all. These people are lazy, they
live in filth, they are illiterate. How can we take them seriously without
civilising them? The RSS seeks to help in this mission, for the betterment
of the poor. The RSS is working with, first, the Hindu dalits to mobilise
them and tell them about the dangers of defection. Then, we are bringing
Christian dalits and adivasis back to the Hindu fold through education
and reconversion. We are also helping them economically."
to Hinduism are acquiescent and occur with the complicity of non Hindus,
acquiescence is produced by its intimacy with the dominant. For non
dominant groups, the landscape of Hindu supremacy shapes fear (of the
dominant), desire (to acquire privileges), hope (for 'acquittal', to
'pass' as non other) and internalised oppression. These complex forces
create agency on the part of the marginalised. Such agency is manufactured
in relation and response to Hindu ascendancy.
I spoke with a dalit
RSS worker who said: "The RSS is helping us build a Hindu samaj.
We are poor, we have no assistance, we are fighting Christians and Muslims
for development money. The Christians, they have foreign missionary
money, what do we Hindu dalits have? The Sai [Christians] are also converting
our people to their religion. They eat meat, they touch leather, they
have bad morals. I am scared for my children. We are thankful that the
RSS has sworn to protect us." AC: "Have you seen these Christian
missionaries?" Dalit RSS worker: "No, but I have heard that
they are nearby." AC: "How many Hindus have been converted
in your village, or in any of the neighbouring villages." Dalit
RSS worker: "Nobody yet, but the RSS tells us that they [the missionaries]
might come soon. That is why we go to the RSS meetings, to become informed
about the troubles facing us, and how we can be strong and protect ourselves,
to become an army against these foreigners." Dalits continue to
suffer social ostracization and economic deprivation. They are manipulated
into joining the very Hindutva forces that have historically deprived
dalits of equity in order to use them against other mistreated communities.
At a 15,000 strong
Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram organised rally in Bhubaneswar in December 2003,
Dilip Singh Bhuria, Chairperson, National Commission for Scheduled Castes
and Scheduled Tribes, commended the BJP for its pro-adivasi policies.
Adivasis have historically voted for the Congress Party in Orissa and
have not benefited from this loyalty. Mr. Bhuria said, "We are
passing through a governance similar to Ram rajya," posing Ram
as the god, and BJP as the party, of adivasis. Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram
President Jagadev Ram Oram insisted that adivasis converting to Christianity
should not be allowed to access the benefits of reservation. Through
espousing another religion, he said, adivasis no longer retain their
tribal status. Speakers condemned Christian conversions declaring 'all
tribals are Hindus'.
Adivasis are taught
by Ekal Vidyalayas about the 'origins' of Jaganath in Hinduism, as Jaganath,
the famed tribal god of Orissa, is Hinduised. Since the inception of
Saraswati Sishu Mandirs, the Janata Dal, Congress, and other political
parties have endorsed the Sangh Parivar's network of educational organisations,
interpreting Hindutva education as secular. Consecutive governments
have abdicated state responsibility in building a quality education
system in the state. High levels of illiteracy among dalits and adivasis
proliferate simultaneous to the denigration of non Hindu traditions
In the absence of
viable educational institutions, Hindutva education offers a free, widely
available and rigorous curriculum. Students from these schools succeed
in state board examinations. Hindutva schools, runs primarily by RSS
organisations, are complemented by institutions that facilitate cultural
regimentation. The facticity of hate in this curriculum, the dismissal
of minorities, the assertion of Hindu supremacy is overlooked by many
In the current climate,
numerous Muslims retreat to madrasas. These institutions often teach
orthodoxy, deliberately mischaracterised by the majority community as
uniformly 'fundamentalist'. Hasina Begum offers, "My daughter is
in a good school but with those other children who do not like her.
She wants to play with the neighbours but they curse at her. They physically
push her around. Now we think we should find a madrasa for her. The
madrasa is orthodox, but they will protect us. The education is better
in the school but what if something happens to her?"
The adverse affects
of the Sangh Parivar on the social and economic health of Muslim communities
are apparent. Samshul Amin, a Muslim man from Bhadrak says, "We
trade in leather. We always have. The RSS and Bajrang Dal tell lies
about how we slaughter cows to shame Hindus. That we kill and send the
cows to Muslims in Bangladesh." A Muslim businessman in Jagatsinghpur
town confirms, "They threaten and at times beat Muslims on the
road, starting from Bhadrak, from Balesore, onwards up to Calcutta,
where the Bajrang Dal has a strong presence, there they are violent.
They stop cow transportations on Jajpur road."
Bajrang Dal State Convenor, indicts, "There is so much cow slaughter,
for example in Sundargarh, Bhadrak, thousands of cows. Every day about
200 trucks leave with cows for Bangladesh. We believe that the cow is
our mother, but they want to kill the cow. Also, if the cow stays it
is a financial security for the home. So, if necessary we will use a
suicide squad. To save the country and its sanskriti [culture], we will
do whatever is necessary."
In Pitaipura village,
in Jagatsinghpur district, a disturbing event occurred in the winter
of 2001 after Muslim graveyard lands were placed in dispute. According
to Hakim Bhai, a resident of the village, "The land record for
the village divides the 25 acres into two plots, one listed as a kabarstan
[graveyard] and another as 'gorostan' [also graveyard]. But [Hindu]
villagers insist that 'gorostan is 'gaochar' [grazing land] not a kabarstan.
We were harassed when funeral processions arrived or we read Namaz during
Id. We sat down together to resolve the dispute without any success.
Then we filed a case in court. The court did not resolve the case for
the longest time. The court then began mediating and declared a part
of the land as a graveyard, and held the rest as disputed. Once, the
night before the official was coming to measure the land, Hindus from
the village stole into the graveyard and placed a murti [idol] to mark
it as their land. We found out and went inside and took it out. The
next morning when the official arrived Hindus were angry that we had
taken the murti out. They threw stones at us, we threw stones back at
them. The crowd ran from the graveyard pelting each other. We were near
the Ma Durga temple. The Hindus started accusing us of throwing stones
at the temple. Then it began. "
inserts, "Perhaps our stones had fallen on the temple compound.
But we were not destroying the temple, we were responding to each other.
Once the word spread that we were destroying the temple, RSS youth arrived
from Bhubaneswar and mobilised people from surrounding villages. They
went around with loudspeakers to 20-30 Hindu villages accusing us of
destroying the temple. Our basti [hamlet] is in the middle of the village,
between Hindu hamlets. Five Muslim homes were burnt in our basti and
men were beaten. The police could not do anything. For three days during
that time we were very afraid, some hid in the forests. A peace rally
came to our village. They have not returned. The case is pending. No
resolution has happened. If we are left alone things might escalate.
Then what?" Hakim Bhai responds, "The RSS continues its meetings
in the Hindu hamlets regularly since the incident. These meetings are
not publicised, they spread through word of mouth. We Muslims have now
made our own shops in the basti, we have retreated to ourselves. Our
women are afraid and they do not want to go out of the basti. When we
go out Hindus call us names. Call us 'Pathans'. We are becoming isolated."
Shazia, a woman, adds, "Even our dead cannot rest in peace."
The extent to which
violence is inscribed disproportionately on women's bodies and memories
is rarely named or languaged. A Muslim woman in another district requests
anonymity. She says, "We came from Chhota Nagpur, displaced from
a mining town. Our village is surrounded by the RSS. We live like moles,
I teach my children to be unseen. If we are quiet people will leave
us alone. The men, it is not easy for them. Last month there was violence
in our village. Bajrang Bali's called us names, they threatened we would
never work again. Said we were dirty, that when we kill cows, we do
violence to Hinduism. They said they were watching us. My husband came
back, shaken. He brought fear with him into the house. He forced me
to have intercourse. It was not about intimacy, it is about power, about
feeling helpless and wanting control. So, here it is, in our kitchen,
in our bedroom, in our home. Even as we wait for it to strike, it already
The violence that
accompanies Hinduism is not new. Hindutva is its variant. It is not
about groups and peoples, but about the country, who belongs and who
doesn't. The imbrication of state disregard for adivasi and dalit human
rights with the grassroots mobilisation of Hindutva make Muslims, Christians,
dalits, adivasis, women's rights volatile in Orissa.
the impairment of women's rights that are already structurally limited
in the state, together with women's access to land, livelihood and well
being resources. A host of xenophobic women's organisation are in place,
including the BJP Mohila Morcha and the Rashtriya Sevika Samiti. Established
in 1936, the Rashtriya Sevika Samiti has been active in the crusade
against cow slaughter in Orissa. The Samiti organises state and district
level meeting, as well as daily and weekly sakha and prayer meets in
villages, towns and cities "to encourage physical education, intellectual
development, mental acumen".
Bidyut Lata Raja,
leader of Rashtriya Sevika Samiti, says that the Parivar helps discipline
the mind and wean people from 'pointless' activity. She says that the
Parivar functions as a family, each taking care of the other. "The
Parivar seeks to create unity. Dalits and adivasis say that Hindus are
outsiders. How can that be? We must create consciousness that we are
all one." The Samiti seeks to complement economic development with
building moral character to unite India through shared nationalism.
The Samiti supervises Balmandirs and Udyog Mandirs, celebrates the anniversaries
of influential Sangh leaders and religious festivals, hosts classes
on culture and ethics, organises Bhajan and Kirtan recitals, and runs
women's schools and hostels. The Samiti concentrates its volunteer based
social work services in adivasi areas, seeking to bring 'enlightenment'.
The Rashtriya Sevika
Samiti seeks to organise and train women in self defense, "to increase
their physical and mental capacity to encourage them to protect their
nation, dharma and culture." Stringently heterosexist and mired
in sexism, the Samiti is dedicated to supporting women in their youth,
in marriage and motherhood, work, and leadership, indoctrinating the
practise of Hindutva as patriotic, the saffron flag as the national
emblem, insisting on the loyalty of its followers to their husbands,
families and the Hindutva leadership.
The Sangh Parivar
asserts that relations between higher caste, dalit and adivasi groups
have improved in rural Orissa. It ignores that lower class and caste
and adivasi people are seldom acknowledged as social equals. In an interesting
display, while all residents of a particular village, including adivasis,
may contribute financially to the major annual Hindu pujas (prayers),
higher caste people control the preparations and ceremony. It may be
appropriate for a member of the dalit or Muslim community, if invited,
to eat at a general caste home usually seated in a demarcated space,
and internalise the invitation as demonstrative of the 'charity' and
'tolerance' of the upper caste toward 'lower caste' people. The reverse
is nearly impossible. Inter-caste alliances, marriage between non comparable
social castes, are more evident even while often socially ostracised.
Hindus and non Hindus remain strained in the state and frequently prohibited.
In upper caste rural Orissa, poor Muslim communities are as socially
unacceptable as adivasis, and constitute a 'lower' social strata than
dalits. Gender and ethnicity are central to how resources and power
are allocated and rights disbursed, both nationally and locally, and
are salient to the organisation of legal, cultural, economic and political
infrastructure and institutions. The imposition of Brahminical language,
ritual and memory seeks to incorporate the marginal into the dominant
polity simultaneous to segregationist arrangements for water use, food
and forest resource sharing.
BJP and Sangh Parivar
organisations have a significant strategy of manoeuvring Muslims in
middle class neighbourhoods and villages by forming alliances with the
local leadership. In Banamalipur and Jadupur village, neighbouring Bhubaneswar
in Khurda district, Muslims leaders spoke of their alliance with the
BJP. Poor communities in these villages say this allows local Muslim
politicians access to electoral seats leaving the disenfranchised without
trustworthy representation. Minority resistance is frail with few options,
progressive Muslims say. A Muslim activist from Bhubaneswar states,
"We are isolated. We do not want to identify with the madrasas
and we do not have a mass movement that accepts us."
The actions of Sangh
organisations are often triangulated, with parallel components for edification,
mobilisation and service. For example, Vidya Bharati (known as Shiksha
Vikas Samiti) directs 391 Saraswati Shishu Mandir schools in Orissa.
Sangh students are inducted into the cadre via a formal curriculum that
emphasises Hindu nationalism, along with informal training in cultural
values and defense. In addition, these students and their families are
expected to volunteer in mobilisation and developmental work, in local
fundraising. They are even expected to participate in temple inaugurations.
polity and education are used by Sangh Parivar organisations to facilitate
recruitment into Hindu extremism. An army of Parivar organisations fundraise
abroad as registered charities to support sectarian development in India.
Funds from the US and UK amounting to millions of dollars were raised
by Sangh organisations during the Gujarat earthquake and Orissa cyclone,
substantially aiding the expansion of Sangh networks in both states.
The US Commission
on International Religious Freedom recently designated India as a 'country
of particular concern', asking for US investigations into RSS organisations
registered as charities in the US. India Development Relief Fund is
one such organisation that, post cyclone, raised $90,660 for Sookruti,
$23,255 for Orissa Cyclone Rehabilitation Foundation, and $37,560 for
Utkal Bipanna Sahayata Samiti, as documented in the report 'Foreign
Exchange of Hate' in 2002.
In the United Kingdom,
the Seva International UK (fundraising wing of the Hindu Swayamsevak
Sangh, RSS equivalent in UK and US) sent a majority of the £260,000
raised for cyclone relief to Utkal Bipannya Sahayata Samiti, an RSS
organisation in Orissa, detailed in the report, 'In Bad Faith? British
Charity and Hindu Extremism' by Awaaz, 2004. Currently, Utkal Bipannya
Sahayata Samiti undertakes sectarian disaster relief work, and has been
working with approximately 50,000 beneficiaries after the floods of
2001, funded by RSS organisations abroad.
RSS cadre mobilise
sakhas around minority villages in Orissa. Each sakha begins with an
organiser and a few members who meticulously monitor the area, teaching
people to describe themselves as 'communal, a new identity that
denotes Hindu cultural pride. Minorities worry as, under the watchful
eye of the RSS, cricket conflicts, harmless fracas between children's
winning and losing teams, turn into communal skirmishes. Green flags
of stars and crescent used by madrasas are depicted as adhering to Pakistan,
linked to terrorism and the Inter Services Intelligence.
VHP, RSS and Bajrang
Dal leaders and their cadre in Orissa reiterate that charges of fundamentalism
cannot apply to Hindutva. It is not an ideology, they say, but integral
practise, a lifestyle for nationhood. Hindutva functions as a meta narrative
in manufacturing foundational truths to build and govern the nation.
Hindutva assimilates the plural traditions within Hinduism to create
a narrow centralized code that promises to unite Hindus. These principles
are universalistic, in action segregationist. This strategy thwarts
the complex search for cultural identity that confronts the vast diversity
of peoples in India living at the pre and post modern intersections
of nation making and globalism.
practices of domination in ways that ignore the power dynamics of its
discourse. There is no pluralism in its agenda -- Hindutva is the only
'right' way to be human within its specified territory, any other must
be annihilated. Hindutva invokes difference and plurality in the name
of domination. What are the effects of Hindutva's practise? Hate. Cruelty.
Terror. To realize its mission, Hindutva, anathema to democracy, defines
minority interests as oppositional to Hindu, and therefore national,
interest. The struggles for justice of marginal groups organized around
ethnicity, religion, class, caste, tribe, gender, or culture become
hostile to national unity.
in nation making, the annexation of territory and resources from the
disempowered, the imposition of violent ideologies and alienating identities,
and subaltern resistance, have produced contested meanings and practices
of democracy. Through the amassment of identity politics, reinvention
of history, the normalisation of difference, the extension of its power
into private and social life, Hindu majoritarianism exhibits scorn for
those its finds unincorporable and inassimilable into its governing
imaginary. Hindu nationalism is aided by the state as it operates as
legatee to its imperial coloniser, inheriting and modifying its biopolitics.
What are the reasons
for Hindutva's conquest in rural and urban Orissa? What prevents a resonant
secular counter-response? Praveen Togadia, International Secretary of
the VHP, visited Jajpur on February 16 and Beherampur on February 29
continuing his seditious campaign for Hindutva, amidst rousing protests
from local groups. Since the assembly elections the BJP has gained in
strength. As Orissa gears up for the next round, the BJP is using the
'jal, jungle, zameen' (water, forest, land) platform, appropriated from
land reform movements, to persuade adivasis in Orissa. The Vanvasi Kalyan
Ashram is the key strategist and organiser for the BJP in the tribal
belt. Having won Chhattisgarh, the BJP is confident. Tribal culture
is being glorified as artefact, objectified, made distant from its political
reality while the relentless decimation of these very cultures continues.
Subash Chouhan of
the Bajrang Dal resumes, "We in the VHP believe that this country
belongs to the Hindu's. It is not a dharamsala [guesthouse] and people
cannot just come here and settle down and do whatever they want. That
is not going to happen. We will not let that happen. Whatever happens
here will happen with the consent of the Hindu's. If you come to another's
house and live as a guest and then start doing what you please, that
is not going to happen. What ever happens here, say politics happen,
it will have to be Hindutva politics, with Hindutva's consent. India
is a world power, what is in India is nowhere else, and we want to create
India nicely in the image of Ram Rajya."
of culture and nation escalates, celebrated by breakdown, rupture, violence.
As I write this, the second year closes on Gujarat. Justice remains
beyond reach for Muslim minorities in the complex duplicity of state
negligence, judicial oversight, and the deep fragmentation of political
community in India. Gujarat represents an end and a beginning, a marker
in Hindutva's malevolent reach for a Hindu state. The end of lives,
the culmination of brutality. I am reminded of a dalit boy, age 8, in
a decimated colony in Ahmedabad, in June 2002, who said, "I am
not afraid of death. I am frightened by life. Look what happens in life,"
as Muslim and dalit women stared each other into silence across a boundary
Angana Chatterji is associate professor of Social and Cultural Anthropology
at the California Institute of Integral Studies. She is currently completing
a book on this subject, titled, 'Violent Gods. Hindu Nationalism in
India's Present', forthcoming from Three Essays Press Collective in