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THE KANDHAMAL CONTROVERSY

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-Anshul TewariKandhamal is a tribal majority district inhabited by the Kandha tribe. It is the poorest district in Orissa and one of the poorest in India. This district has witnessed a number of communal conflicts.

WHY IT ALL STARTED?
The conflict at Kandhamal was basically related to land alienation to the non tribals, particularly to the Pano(Dalit) community.

Pano considered themselves the most importane Dalit community in the district but the Kandha considered themselves superior to the Pano. In 1996, the Central Parliament enacted the Panchayati Extension to the Schedule Areas(PESA) Act.

The state already had a law banning transfer of tribal land to non tribals, but the act strengthened the clauses on protection of their land. This created a rift between the Kandha and the Panos and led to the 1998 communal conflicts.
It was during 1990’s that the Christian fundamentalist evangelical groups and Hindu fundamentalists led by Swami Laxmananda tried to convert people of the district into their own religion.
Around 1996, the Pano’s demanded SC status and a higher social status.
It was easy to counter this demand by giving it a communal dimension. As a result, what was the related Kandha-Pano tension came to be percieved as a Hindu-Christian conflict. The demand of Pano’s which was a threat to the tribals, was given a religious dimension and had become another “board game” for the politicians and fundamentalists.
Lets have a look at some facts here:
In 1999, one Catholic priest from Mayurbhanj- Arul Das was murdered; During 2004 Raika Catholic church was smashed up;In 1961, the Christian missionaries started their work and converted almost all the people. In 1961, the Christian population was 19, 128 and in 2001 it was 1,17,757(to be precise). This provoked Swami Laxmananda and the VHP.In 2005 while converting 200 tribal Christians to Hinduism at Malkangiri, Swami Laxmananda Saraswati roared, “How will we….. make India a completely Hindu country? This is our aim and this is what we want to do”. On 24th December 2007, a structure set up to hold Christmas celebrations in Brahamanigaon was attacked and destroyed. The provocation was nothing more than the pandal encroaching the main road of the town. In the late 60’s VHP leader Swami Laxmananda Saraswati set up an Ashram in Chakapad and they have been running Anti-Christian campaign in Kandhamal since then. The most recent incident which occurred was the killing of the Hindu fundamentalist, Swami Laxmanada Saraswati and three of his disciples, who was one of the founders of the Anti- Christian campaigns, and was also supposed to be involved in conversions of many to Hinduism.

Sangh Parivar’s allegation: The sangh parivar has been holding allegations that Christian missionaries have used allurements and incentives to convert the mostly poor and backward population.
The clashes between the Kandha and Pano has been taking place for a long time, even before the advent of VHP and Sangh Parivar. To cite an example, such a vociferous riot took place for about 3 months and 20 tribals were reportedly killed. Only then did VHP and Sangh Parivar start their work.

THE CURRENT ISSUE: The whole issue began with the murder of Swami Laxmananda and his four disciples. Houses and many sacred places were destroyed. But these were not aimed at Christian missionaries alone. It seems that that Hindu fanatics have massacred innocent Christians. Hindu fanatics here refer to VHP and Sangh Parivar. While this is not totally untrue, it’s difficult emphasizing which part of the story is incorrect.
The murder of Swami Laxmananda was an opportunity for those who wanted what is happening, to happen.
CONCLUSION : As of now, nothing is possible until we wash out hardcore fundamentalists, not through violence, but by spreading awareness, voicing ourselves, questioning the Government, and maybe at some point, joining the system, or atleast contributing to it in some or the other way. Breeding communal harmony immediately is the need of the hour. What we need to understand is that the works of VHP, Bajrang Dal, or even Christian Missionaries (due to their earlier work) is highly condemnable. Any person who is preaching forced conversions is nothing less than an anti-social element. Rather, he could be tagged as an anti-national. Our constitution gives us complete right to practice any religion with our own will. The Christian missionaries, had earlier used ways like financial allurements to convert the Kandhamal locals into Christianity. We need to understand that conversion of religion by providing financial allurements is highly unconstitutional as well as an inhumane act, as “Religion in India (where there are various communities and religions) is not for sale.” This is one side of the coin of conversions, the other side is the acts of VHP, Bajrang Dal and the Sangh Parivar. Their ways of converting people is worse, i.e, through violence. They beat up Christians and then convert them to Hinduism, without their will. They throw out those Christians and burn their homes who rebel. They destroy the property and take away their lives. They use one religion as a “dice” to play the game with other religions. This is the most anti-national and anti-social happening. Our duty is to “Live and Let Live”, any person will feel alienated in his/her own country until he or she recieves the dignity he or she deserves. That dignity is in a big way related to their religion. I, personally, condemn the acts of VHP, Bajrang Dal and the Sangh Parivar for all this. The Kandhamal issue is not one in which these organisations have behaved like this; In other parts of our country as well, their motive has been to convert everyone to Hinduism and create a Hindu state. Their thoughts as well as approach towards anything is certainly inhumane.

In a multi-religious country like India, we can’t exist, or fight against anything, until all communities and religions are taken into consideration and given due respect. It is our duty to do so, and until and unless, instead of conversion of religions, we convert our anti-national thoughts against other religions we can’t strive to be a better nation, be it in any way.

YOUTH KI AWAAZ: Our country is the only country in the world with so many communities united (well, few people are still united) together and co-existing on the same hand. Harping on a particular community has been our country’s political jargon. The mob mind can be easily manipulated with, and the politicians very well know how to manoeuvre the young mind for their selfish gains.

Why is it that we are justifying the whole scenario? Is it because religious chauvinism is now subduing the TRUE INDIAN SECULAR SPIRIT? Is it that we are weak enough to give in to the religious extremists’ stridently hawkish aims and mentality? Why don’t we realize that an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth is not the right solution to such crises. By justifying the perpetrators, we are just wronging ourselves. We need to introspect within ourselves, that by hurting the secular fabric, are we not hurting the true spirit of the constitution. We need to realize that our country is suffering a very serious communal crisis, and the gravity of the matter should not be vaporized by just justifying the religious vendetta.

It is very unfortunate that the hypocrite pseudo-secular government has not yet dealt with the culprits with an iron hand but just indulged in a blame game with the state government which is equally responsible for the worsened crisis.

We, the youth of india, should shoulder the responsibilty, of being seculars, and stem religious chauvinism and to not let this extremism subvert the spirit of the constitution and promote brotherhood,unity and love. We cannot compromise on our patriotism for the sake of religion and no religion preaches hate.
Moreover, those still justifying the arson on the christian community, should think again, doesn’t our religion preach ahimsa. If even the religion strictly prohibits such acts,isn’t this a paradox that these self-proclaimed sons of the soil and champions of the religion are hurting the most fundamental virtue of religion im their way.
We need to introspect, what we are leaving behind, and what we are heading for? A welfare state? Certainly not. Not this way atleast!

Visitors frequent similar articles, they read, they write, listen and move on thinking that they are contributing towards making a change. Well let me tell you all, the above has to be accompanied with action. Not individual, but group action.
What you can do is spread the word, create a awareness. Tell others to spread it further, join our discussion forum on Kandhamal violence. Post your comments.

You must be to comment.
  1. pratik

    good initiative!!!!!!
    keep up the good work…
    well! i think your youth ki awaaz shouldn’t just come up with its takes….it should also come up with possible solutions….

    On the issue raised by you:A bill to ban conversions should be brought to immediate effect to restore the social order. If we can talk about banning of ‘Bajrag Dal’ than we can should certainly not shy away from talking about the misadventures of Christian missionaries in India. The Niyogi Commission set up to enquire into Christian missionaries activities in India, suggested a complete ban on conversions unless explicitly proved to have been entirely voluntary. Taking clue from this the government can pass a legislation to shift the onus of proof on the missionaries and converts, thereby discouraging forceful conversion and giving validity to the genuine ones.

  2. Anshul Tewari

    Hi Pratik,
    Thanks for the great comment and a rather enlightening one.
    Well, the solution that you have provided is absolutely apt.
    Well, this is true, but i think that the kandhamal controversy was very much politically motivated. Passing of such bills would not curb the forceful coversions, untill and unless we enforce such laws, nothing is possible. I guess we can’t really change the mindset of the current hardcore fundamental politicians but with our idealistic approach can certainly contribute to making a change in the scenario, as we will be the future of our system. I think that we must pursuade people towards initiative against such issues by making them aware and giving them solutions like the one you gave.
    As your comment is one of the best comments i have come across, bringing out the solution to the problem, i will make it a point to put it in my best comments section. Do check it out, and keep visiting. Hope to see you as a regular reader and contributor.

    Thanking you-
    Anshul Tewari

  3. zacharia

    well, i would like to make a point here… there have been incidents where those wishing to convert to other religions have been harassed and tortured by the judiciary and the investigative agencies and the extremist groups.. so those converting to other religions from hinduism are scared to register those conversions… that is why there were only a minute number of registered conversions in kandhamal, the original number being in lacs…
    the evangelists’ misadventures need to be checked… agree with prateek… religion is too pure a virtue to be bought.. like the evangelists do… but religion doesn’t preach violence, dont the self-righteous “bajrangis” need an iron hand treatment as well??
    evangelists are more to be blamed… it’s very rare that the hindu sentiments are putforth in the form of an outroar.. grave misdeeds like forced conversions result in the above..

  4. Anshul Tewari

    Hi Zacharia
    Well, firstly and foremostly thanks for your comment. I completely agree with what you have written. I really liked your firm views and appreciate your participation.

    Well, i think that the Kandhamal issue needs to be looked at from all points of view.
    As Pratik suggested, i would also be coming up with possible solutions for the problems i write on.
    Anshul Tewari

  5. M. Savrimuthu

    Excellent Platform for Youth to interact. My best wishes.

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