Once again violence has flared up in the Kandhmal district of Orissa. The law-and-order situation in the state is continuously deteriorating and is becoming a perennial cause of concern. To the extent that speculations are rife about enforcing President's rule there. What is striking is the fact that the incidents of rioting-arson attacks-pillaging and plundering in the twelve districts of the state ensuing the savage killing of Swami Lakshmananda Saraswati of Vishwa Hindu Parishad has sent normal life completely out of gear. The ashes of violence are visible everywhere and the embers of communalism are blazing underneath.
Swami Lakshmananda was a noted social worker and for decades had been engaged in mobilizing people against cow'slaughtering. He vehemently opposed those elements who were trading and trafficking in the name of service (sewa ke naam par sauda) and conspiring in the name of spreading education (siksha ke naam par sajish). He had full'fledged support of local tribals, however, had become quite an eyesore for those involved in conversion. He had received several death threats and eventually, on the day of Jammashtami, he was murdered.
Swami Ji used to run a Kanyashram (Girls' home). The ashram is situated in the mid sot a dense forest and the border of Kalahandi district starts close by. Thus, the work area of Swamiji comprised of sufficient part of both Kondhmal and Kalahandi districts. Various ashrams and voluntary organizations run by several hinduist organization in the service of forest'dwellers are extremely active in the forests of these two districts. In this region, the Christian missionaries have been in existence for many years now and all of them are engaged in 'campaign' to provide better lives to the impoverished and destitute. These Christian missionaries, in the name of education and health, are alluring and enticing people to convert to Christianity in all the ways possible; and to a large extent, they are succeeding in their campaign. Precisely because of these reasons, the hinduist organizations are leaving no stone unturned in the propagation of Hinduism throughout this region. A 'purification' drive, aided and supported by Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal, has been launched with the motive of reconverting the converted to Hinduism. The Christian missionaries and the activist of Bajrang Dal are fighting it out to death, thus causing a lot of social discord and sectarian strife. The people belonging to the local Panas people (Scheduled Caste) are the ones who have been converted the most. Whereas, the tribals have become Christians in relatively lesser numbers. However, they are invariably the best target of the missionaries because influencing them clearly means the total conversion of district. That is why Swami Lakshmananda maintained a commanding and overwhelming sway in this region.
Today Kondhmal is on the road to become next Arunachal Pradesh. Signifying thereby, that the game of conversion is in full swing over there. A peep into the world of statistics reveals that the fact cannot be denied that it is shear pauperization that has forced socially and economically backward people to embrace Christianity. In 1991, the number of Christians in Kondhmal was 75,597, which in 2001 rose to 1,17,950. That is to say, within the span of a decade there has been an increase of 64.09 percent in their population. Quite obviously, such an increased has been made possible only through conversion and not by childbirth. If we move a little more backwards, then as per the government report the population growth rate of Christian was a meager 6 percent between 1961 and 1971. What is remarkable is the fact that in 1967, the State government had even formulated a law in view of preventing conversion which was certainly effective then, however, with time became increasingly dysfunctional.
Although the Government of Orissa has considered the trend and process of forced conversion as well as conversion through inducement as serious offenses, however, so far no one has taken this law seriously. Ironically enough, there is a BJP supported government in power at this movement in the state; nonetheless the Christian missionaries are incessantly carrying out the conversion of people, in guise of providing blankets'bread'quinines tablets free of cost, and this is causing much distress and discomfort to Bajrang Dal. However, this is half-truth. Going by what the government says, if the missionaries are opposed from the echelons of powers, then it will certainly invite global condemnation and reaction. Precisely because of this the government, despite wanting to, is incapable of doing anything against these missionaries. However, the government has the statistics of the funds available to the Christian missionaries in the state from the Western countries since 1950 in the name of Service, and the figures are quite startling. This has been highlighted with much concerned in the report of Niyogi Committee. This much talked about report was prepared by keeping close tabs on the workings of 480 foreign missionaries in Madhya Pradesh.
According to the report, the children in the schools run by missionaries are pressurized into converting to Christianity. The children belonging to tribals and scheduled castes are asked everyday to sing 'the precious words of lord' in lieu of free education, accommodation and food. The classes of Bible are held separately in these schools. The report also reveals the cunningness with which the cross is being demonstrated and incorporated in the festivals and celebrations in Madhya Pradesh (in what is today known as Chhatisgarh too) and the neighboring state of Orissa and southern Bihar (now Jharkhand). The report also includes a lengthy discussion on the manner in which the people yearning for food and water during the times of famine are converted to Christianity by providing them with various facilities. That is why, the home coming movement is being run in these areas under the leadership of Dileep Singh Judev.
Today the situation is far worse. The fierce resentment of the people towards the Ajit Jogi government in Madhya Pradesh was precisely because vital impetus Christianity received during his tenure. Presently various educational and health centers aided by Church are being set up in Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Chhatisgarh. Bibles are being distributed in villages. The Report of Media House, New Delhi, published under the title 'The Politics Behind Anti-Christian Violence' clearly mentioned that, 'most of the attacks on Christians have been carried out in tribal areas, particularly on the educational institutions.' The missionaries are active as well as successful in the regions untouched by development, and this explains their popularity. A powerful class in the society, which though makes much hullabaloo about development, never thinks twice in wreaking havoc on the very elements associated with development. And such people do not desire development because issues thrive when there is no development and then these issues are much publicized and funds are extracted from the centre in the name of public welfare.
This is, however, an altogether different thing that no development occurs even then. In such a scenario, when people and institutions engaged in attaining their objective become active in public interest, then those misappropriating the funds allotted for development are bent upon violence. The assailants who have been inflicting sufferings on Christian argue that it is conversion and not development they are opposed to. Whether it is the incident of Bheel tribal dominated Dang locality (1998) or the immolation episode of Graham Stuart Stains, the Hinduists justify them on the grounds that the region stretching over from Dang to Mayurbhang are facing the wave of conversion today. The Trishul'wielders, who have till 24 December 2007 raised 40 churches to ground in Orissa itself, are hell-bent upon going to any extreme; well, it seems so if one catches a sight of the blazing Kondhmal.
Graham was not guilty. He was made a scapegoat. In other words, his killing was a mere warning to church. Through his assassination, this message became loud and clear that the Hinduists will not tolerate conversion. Through the home coming movement, the Hinduist forces want to convey that they have a massive mass support and their supporters oppose conversion. Dilip Singh Judev, the leader of the home coming movement popularly known as Ghar Wapasi, agrees that the missionaries have more funds available to them as compared to the ashrams and this very much describes the flourishing and thriving of Christianity in the forest.
However, from people like Judev to those belonging to Bajrang Dal never probe into the truth that as to why conversion is so widespread amongst the poor and deprived? How and why the missionaries are successful in their campaign in those regions where the government itself has been uncertain about its course of action? No text books are available to children where bible is being distributed? Where the endeavours are being made by the missionaries to boost the morals of people and acquaint them with their right to live, the government has remained silent when the poor are forced to sell their children? What has government done in those regions, where the missionaries have made accessible self employment to people through the agency of Self Help Groups, when people have mortgaged their ration cards and BPL cards? After all, why is it that the missionaries have solutions for most of the public grievances while the government and Bajrang Dal, or Vishwa Hind Parishad remain clueless.
The phase of Saffronisation amidst the process of uprooting cross from the tribal areas is undoubtedly an effort to set the tone for upcoming Lok Sabha elections. BJP will certainly make conversion an electoral issue in Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Chhatisgarh and Jharkahand. This is the political strategy for the future, however, how dreadful the present is, it is essential to know because the killings of Graham Stuart and Swami Lakshamannada Saraswati has drawn the attention of the entire world towards Orissa where the abominable game of impudent nationalism and communalism is being played out. Because the assassination of Graham Stuart was as heinous as the murder of Swami Lakshmanada Saraswati. Because hatred and abomination have neither any caste nor any religion.
This is, however, an altogether different thing that the Christians did not resort to violence in wake of Graham's association while the forests of Orissa are burning following the killing of Swamiji. This is an unsound aspect of Hinduist psyche. Because although Christians might be trading in the name of service and conspiring in the name of education, yet the way in which Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad are fuelling the passion and frenzy of tribals, will certainly have far reaching and fatal consequences. Religion does not pose any threat to a country, communalism does. Perhaps Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad are forgetting that the banner of Hindutva that they want to unfurl on the strength of tribals are not Hindus themselves. Hinduism is not their religion.
How many Kondhmals will blaze in the state post'Swami Lakshmananda Saraswati assassination, this dreadful question of future is as much a burning question of this century as much as it is disgraceful for the civilized society.