Anti Christian Violnce
By Ram Puniyani
Stains is a name etched in our memory for wrong reasons. Her husband
and two sons were torched to death around a decade ago in Keonjhar Manoharpur
Orissa. She wrote to Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh recently, to ensure
that communal peace is restored in Orissa. This she did in the backdrop
of the scattered attacks on Christians, over 40 churches torched in
Orissa (24 Dec. 2007). In the violence which broke out, many of the
people have been severely injured. Some of the priest and laity have
run for shelter, leaving their homes and hiding in the forests in the
biting cold. All this has happened in the Adivasi area in and around
Phulbani and Kandhamal. The timing is around the Christmas celebrations,
It is no
coincident that the BJP is part of the ruling coalition in Orissa, and
those involved in the vandalism are part of some or the other organization
directly affiliated with the RSS. The major such are Vanvasi Kalyan
Ashram, Bajrang dal and their local variants. While the media reports
are sketchy, the Citizens Inquiry team, which was to visit the area
has been denied permission to visit the districts and was escorted out
of the area.
The attacks on minorities and weaker sections is launched for short
term or long term political goals, but the care is taken that a pretext
is manufactured and then the attacks are unleashed. In this case it
has been said that Swami Lakkhanand was attacked by Christians and so
the retaliation. One is supposed to believe that a Swami from the majority
community, with sizeable following, will be attacked by the section
of miniscule minority!
The Christmas season is the chosen time for anti Christian attacks.
Earlier also such occasions have been chosen for beating and attacking
the Christian community, notably in Dangs in 1998. This time in Phulbani
area the declarations being made by the Swami and associates is that
the presence of Christians will not be tolerated in the Adivasi areas.
The visible attacks on Christian minorities started from 1996. The areas
selected for these attacks have spread over from Gujarat, Dangs on the
extreme West, to the Orissa on extreme east of the tribal belt. It is
in these areas that anti Christian violence have been going on in scattered
form since then. Most of these acts of violence have a bit different
characteristic, i.e. unlike the anti Muslim violence which is more in
the cities and occurs as spurts of killing hundred or thousands in a
single go, here the cauldron is kept boiling continuously, The intensity
is that of a slow but sustained intimidation and attack.
The most ghastly anti Christian violence was that done by Bajrang Dal
activist, Dara Singh, who instigated the Adivasis and led the burning
of Pastor Graham Stewart Stains. He and his organization kept propagating
for months that pastor has come from Australia for converting the gullible
Adivasis to Christianity, that his work amongst the leprosy patients
is just a ploy to do his ?real work? of conversions. The Wadhwa commission,
appointed by the NDA Govt. with Advani as the Home minister, in the
aftermath of this brutal killing, concluded that the pastor was not
involved in any conversion activities and that the percentage of Christian
population in the area has remained static despite the Pastor working
in the area.
At national level the attacks on Christians have been investigated by
different civic groups, compiled in 'The Politics behind Anti Christian
Violence' (Media House, Delhi) Most of the reports conclude that the
attacks have been deliberately stepped up in the Adivasi areas. The
main targets of these attacks are the Christian missionaries working
in the area of education. The contrast is very glaring. The city based
Christian mission institutions are upheld and respected for their contribution
in the area of education, while in the Adivasi areas the same are being
hounded out. The reports also observe that the RSS affiliates have been
trying to do anti Christian propaganda along with Ghar Vapasi (re-conversion
in to Hinduism) campaign. The major work of Ghar Vapasi has been undertaken
in the BJP ruled states, or in the states where BJP has been sharing
power. The subtle assistance of the state machinery in the anti Christian
tirade is always at the service of RSS affilaites. The Ghar Vapasi asserts
that Adivasis are basically Hindus, who had to flee to the forests to
escape the conversion by Muslim invaders, so they are 'nationally' Hindus,
who have forgotten the Hindu rituals and gods and so have fallen low
in the hierarchy of Hindu religion. This ritual of re-conversion is
supposed to religiously restore them to their old Hindu glory!
The case of Orissa was specifically investigated by India Peoples Tribunal,
led by Justice K.K.Usha (retired) of Kerala High court in 2006 (Communalism
in Orissa) This tribunal forewarns about the shape of things to come.
" The tribunal assessed the spread of communal organizations in
Orissa, which has been accompanied by a series of small and large events
and some riots?such violations are utilized to generate the threat and
reality of greater violence, and build and infrastructure of fear and
intimidation." It further notes that minorities are being grossly
ill treated; there is gross inaction of the state Govt to take action.
Outlining the mechanism of the communalization, it points out, ?The
report also describes in considerable detail how the cadre of majoritarian
communal organizations is indoctrinated in hatred and violence against
other communities it holds to be inherently inferior. If such communalization
is undertaken in Orissa, it is indicative of the future of the nation?
the signs are truly ominous for India?s democratic future.? (p 70)
In these Adivasi areas swamis have made their permanent Ashrams, Lakkhanand,
in Orissa, Assemanand in Dangs, and followers of Asaram bapu in Jhabua
area to name the few. Also Hindu Samgams, congregations, are being held,
the culmination of which was the Shabri Kumbh in Dangs where thousands
of Adivasis were brought. In those areas the Hindutva organizations
spread the intimidating rumors that those who do not attend these functions
will be dealt with in due course. Interestingly these are precisely
the areas which are the poorest; these are the areas where the problem
of land, education, water and food is the highest.
Anti Christian violence is in the continuation of RSS agenda of Hindu
Rasthra, Pehle kasai Phir Isai (First the Muslims then Christians).
There is an additional factor in the anti Christian violence. One concedes
that there may be many a Christian groups who might be focusing on the
conversion work, within the bounds of Indian constitution, of course.
But one has to note that in India, over all population of Christian
minorities is declining over a period of last four decades, ( 1971-2.60%,
1981-2.44% , 1991-2.34%, and 2001-2.30%). While Christianity is a very
old religion here, during last nineteen centuries or so only 2.odd percent
have become Christians.
The major problem is that the effort of missionaries to reach education
to the adivasi areas. Educated Adivasi, empowered Adivasi will be more
aware of her rights and that's precisely what RSS combine cannot stand.
That the tiny minority can be a threat to the huge majority of Hindus
is quiet a concoction. There is a need to deal these violations of human
rights firmly, there is a need to curb the hate other propaganda in
these areas and of course the need to promote modern education and other
welfare schemes in these areas. Christmas which should be a festival
of joy is being turned into an annual ritual of violence and mayhem
by the RSS combine.
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