Subj: India: The dictators of Hindutva aim for 'death blow' in Dangs
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal.
Before entering into the details of what is about to take place in Dangs district, southern Gujarat, India, I will clearly define the main terms for the benefit of those not totally familiar with Indian religio-politics. I will also outline the socio-economic and religious situation in Dangs.
The "Citizen's Inquiry Committee" (CIC) report mentioned and used as a primary source throughout this posting is entitled, "The Untold Story of Hindukaran (Proselytisation) of Adivasis (Tribals) in Dangs, Gujarat". It was published on 8 January 2006 in the Milli
- Hindutva: the ideology of Hindu supremacy which has as its goal the creation of a Hindu nation.
- Sangh Parivar: the umbrella body dedicated to the advancement of Hindutva.
- RSS: Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (National Volunteer Corps), the Sangh's paramilitary force.
- Bajrang Dal: the Sangh's ultra-violent Hindutva youth militia.
- VHP: Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council), the "cultural arm of the Sangh Parivar, committed to advancing Hinduism through"cultural" means.
- BJP: The Barantya Janata Party, the political wing of the Sangh Parivar.
- Adivasis: (literally: first inhabitants), the indigenous tribal people of India. Because Adivasis are considered to be outside/beneath the Hindu caste system they are massively and systematically discriminated against and exploited by Hindu Indo-Aryan society.
- Vanvasis: (literally: forest dwellers) the Sangh's hinduised name for Adivasis, whom the Sangh does not recognise as indigenous.
- VKP: Vanvasi Kalyan Parishad, an offshoot of the RSS comprising hinduised tribals.
- Kumbh Mela: a traditional Hindu pilgrimage/festival that takes place four times every twelve years and rotates across four set venues – Prayag (Uttar Pradesh), Haridwar (Uttar Pradesh), Ujjain (Madhya Pradesh) and Nasik (Maharashtra).
OUTLINE OF DANGS
Dangs district is in southern Gujarat. Gujarat, northwest India, is a BJP stronghold.
Dangs has more than 90% rich forest cover.
While the Christian population of Gujarat is 0.05%, the Christian population of Dangs is around 5%. The total population of Dangs is 186,000; of whom around 8,000 are Christian. Ninety-two percent of Dangs residents are tribal (main tribes: Bhils, Kokanis, Warlis).
The CIC report comments, "The post-1947 political economy of Dangs presents a typical case of utter neglect, dispossession and non-development. Over the last fifty years the Dangi Adivasis have been systematically deprived of their traditional rights over forestland, forest and forest resources and left to fend for themselves. Neither agriculture nor industry has been developed as a source of secure employment and income. Wages and working conditions are strongly exploitative. The social sectors such as health and education are in a state of utter neglect and disarray."
The CIC report explains how Dangi Adivasis aiming to reclaim their traditional rights and freedoms are being driven to take recourse through resistance and struggle. The state is keen to scuttle this, and is doubtless willing to divide the Dangi Adivasis, polarise them along religious lines and set them against each other. The report describes the Sangh Parivar as having tentacles in every nook and corner of Dangs for the purpose of suppressing religious liberty and diverting Dangi Adivasi anger into Hindutva zeal and sectarian conflict.
THE DICTATORS OF HINDUTVA AIM FOR "A DEATH BLOW" IN DANGS
The Sangh Parivar is moving its game to a whole new level. Having lost power in the centre, the dictators of Hindutva are sparing no effort to re-energise and advance Hindutva through an aggressive campaign to co-opt the tribals as BJP voters and VKP Hindutva militants.
Sangh Parivar strategy includes eradicating obstacles to Hindutva; the main obstacle being Christians who serve, empower and liberate India's impoverished, enslaved, sub-caste tribals. The Sangh is creating a whole new localised mythology and tradition with which to deceive, seduce, pressurise and Hinduise the tribals. If successful in Dangs, this strategy could be repeated all across the tribal belt of India.
Once again we are witnessing a battle between openness through liberty and literacy versus religious dictators who seek to enslave through false histories, lies, deceit, persecution, repression and the removal of liberty. The dictators of Hindutva, just like all religious dictators, are doing this not for the good of the people, but in an effort to shore up their own power and prosperity.
In the 7th Century, Mohammad won the allegiance of the pagan Arabs of Mecca primarily by letting them keep the pre-Islamic pagan practices that sustained their economy and formed their tradition. Thus he redefined as Islamic and absorbed, the crescent moon, the kahba, the month of fasting, the pilgrimage to Mecca, and more into his religion of Islam, making it easier for the Arabs to accept.
A very similar process is gradually and quietly underway throughout the tribal belt of India. One of the main strategies used by the Sangh Parivar to win the allegiance of the tribals is the campaign to convince them that they are actually Hindus who are just practising local and maybe corrupted expressions of mainstream Hindu traditions. Slowly the animist practices are redefined as Hindu, given Hindu names, and gently refined to suit Brahmin sensitivities.
Part of this campaign is the renaming of the Adivasis (first inhabitants) as Vanvasis (forest dwellers). Upon this foundation the proponents of Hindutva then claim that the tribals and the
Indo-Aryans are all one people (there is no indigenous population and no Indo-Aryan invasion) and the "Vanvasis" are really historically Hindu. They use this lie as a basis to "re-convert", absorb, communalise and exploit the Adivasis.
CREATING NEW MYTHOLOGY
When the BJP first wanted to create sectarian tensions for the purpose of promoting Hindutva for electoral gains, they laid claim to the 16th Century Babri Mosque in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh. The Sangh Parivar alleged that the historic mosque was actually the very site where Ram, the main god of the high caste Brahmin, was born! In 1991 the BJP promised to demolish the historic mosque and replace it with a temple to Ram.
On 6 December 1992, after a year of communal sectarian tensions, the RSS led the demolition of the Babri Mosque in a violent rampage that cost many hundreds of lives. Following the destruction of the mosque, the BJP swept to power in the northern states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh on the strength of its Hindutva campaign.
A reverse, but similar process is being undertaken in Dangs, where the Sangh has recently declared that the goddess Shabri, a devotee of Ram, was a Bhil tribal who lived in Dangs and even met Ram there on the hill Chamak Dongar. According to the myth, Shabri washed Ram's feet and fed him berries (tasting them for him first, lest they be bitter). Shabri, a tribal woman who allegedly served and adored Ram, is being held up as the goddess and role model for the "Vanvasis".
In 2004 the Sangh built a huge temple at the alleged site of Shabri's meeting with Ram. A Dangi local was forced to "donate" more than 10 acres to the Assemanand and Kumbh Trust for the Temple site. The hot springs at Uni are now being said to have been created by Ram. A pond has been built on the Purna River at what is allegedly the very place where Shabri's guru used to bathe. The site is being developed to accommodate the 500,000 pilgrims (religious tourists) who will soon invade this densely forested, sparsely populated, environmentally sensitive area for a holy dip during the Sangh's Shabri Kumbh Mela. Protected forest is being felled and forty temporary villages (holding 5,000 people each) are being built. (Remember: the total population of Dangs is normally only 186,000.)
SHABRI KUMBH MELA
The Shabri Kumbh Mela will be held in Dangs from 11-13 February. This is not a traditional Kumbh Mela. It is the recent invention of Hindutva forces. It is a new tradition, built upon a new mythology created for the purpose of Hinduising the Dangi Adivasis. The main aims of this pseudo-Kumbh are:
- to bring the tribals into the "mainstream" (ie. Hinduise and communalise them) for the purpose of increasing electoral gains and militant strength;
- to stir up hatred against Christians whose welfare and education ministries threaten the Sangh's ability to enslave the tribals into the future. In fact the Shabri Kumbh Mela official website declares that the event is designed specifically to "...deal a death blow to such anti-dharmic and anti-national activities" as Christian missions (see link below);
- to shatter Adivasi solidarity (and maybe even reduce the Adivasi population) by polarising the Adivasis along religious lines and setting them against each other.
A central slogan of the Sangh's message is, "Hindu Jago, Christio Bhagao" (Arise Hindus, throw out the Christians). According to the recent CIC report, "The intense hate propaganda against Christians has started resulting in the intimidation of [the] Christian community as a whole. We could see the fear writ on the face of most of the Christians we met."
Augustine Rajwade, a fourth generation Christian told the Citizens' Inquiry Committee that Christian missionaries have been working in this area from 1885. He said that some tribals become Christians because they are impressed by the spirit of service of the missionaries. In some cases one family member will become Christian and the others follow later. He said that the government does nothing to help the Dangis struggle to deal with sickness and death, while the service and prayer healing of some missionaries often works and relieves, leading to conversion. He said his elder brother converted through healing.
The CIC report notes that even though Christian missionaries had been active in Dangs for over a century, sectarian tensions did not rise against them until 1998. It was BJP power in north India, followed by the BJP gaining power in the centre in 1998 that gave the Sangh Parivar great power and freedom to propagate its Hindutva ideology and strategies. After losing power in the centre in 2004 the Sangh is striving to convert as many tribals as possible to its Hindutva version of Hinduism, thus creating votes and militant muscle against its "enemies" (those who threaten its power).
The CIC report says that the Sangh has prepared highly professional materials, including CDs, that propagate an ideology of feverish anti-Christian hate. Christianity is described as foreign and dangerous, a threat that must be destroyed in the same way that Ram killed the demon Ravana.
As the CIC report makes clear, "The core issue is that of Adivasi empowerment. Adivasi land has been as such grabbed by outsiders. The education process run by Christian missionaries is a threat to the designs of upper caste/ upper class. So Christian missions need to be thrown out from these areas."
The leading Hindutva ideologue behind the Shabri Kumbh Mela is Hindutva activist and VKP hard-liner Swami Aseemanand. According to the CIC report he maintains that the Shabri Kumbh Mela will be held every four years and will "...end missionary activity in Dangs and establish it as a key pilgrimage centre of India". This is the same Swami Aseemanand who a few years ago was quoted in the Times of India as saying, "Dangs cannot know peace so long as even a single tribal remains Christian." (11 Feb 1999, see link below)
The forthcoming Shabri Kumbh Mela is being prepared with the full knowledge, cooperation and assistance of the BJP state government of Gujarat, using funds meant for humanitarian development.
Christian leaders are greatly concerned that the Shabri Kumbh Mela will trigger wide-scale anti-Christian violence. According to the All India Christian Council, the BJP government in Gujarat has been busy fixing flags to the homes of Dangi Christians so they will be identified. Indeed, the CIC report warns, "The openly partisan support of the state government for the dangerous sectarian objectives of the Sangh needs to be combated, and the safety of minorities secured, else the tribal regions of India, already dispossessed and pauperised, will flow with the blood of sectarian hatred."
- Elizabeth Kendal
The Shabri Kumbh Mela official website specifically states that the Shabri Kumbh Mela is "...for the defense of Hindu society in general and the vanavasi/tribal Hindus in particular... The sustained conversion activities carried out by Christian missionaries with the help of their foreign masters has altered the religious demography of large parts of our country. The tribal areas of our country are a special target of this missionary offensive. This has caused self-alienation among the tribals and fanned separatist and terrorist activities. The Shabarikumbh has been organized to deal a death blow to such anti-dharmic and anti-national activities..."
Times of India
Dangs Violence is A Story Foretold
by Arun Varghese, 11 Feb 1999
NGOs accuse Sangh, Gujarat Govt. of converting Christian tribals in
Dangs. 11 Jan 2006 http://in.christiantoday.com/news/gen_631.htm
Rightwing Hindu militants target Christian aborigines
By Sankar Ray from Kolkata. 11 Jan 2006
Hindu festival in Dangs region may stoke communal violence, fears
AICC. 12 Jan 2006 http://in.christiantoday.com/news/gen_633.htm
CSW's All Indian Christian Council Meets With Government to Prevent
Attacks. 21 January 2006
A Report by the Citizen's Inquiry Committee
"The Untold Story of Hindukaran (Proselytisation) of Adivasis
(Tribals) in Dangs, Gujarat". 8 January 2006