Tuesday, September 2, 2008

India: Gujarat and Orissa prefigure Indian crisis.

Date: Tuesday 2 September 2008
Subj: India: Gujarat and Orissa prefigure Indian crisis.
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal


A violent anti-Christian Hindu pogrom erupted in Orissa (northeast India) on 23 August 08 that has claimed dozens of lives, including that of a 20-year-old nun burned to death in an orphanage. Numerous others have been injured, many seriously, including another young nun who was pack raped. Casualties are mounting daily in the wake of ethnic-religious cleansing.

Compass Direct (CD) reports (1 Sept): "While many parts of Orissa remained under curfew today, over 13,000 people were reportedly living in relief centers set up by the state government in seven places in Kandhamal." Dr. Abraham Mathai, vice chairman of the Maharashtra State Minorities Commission told reporters, "More than 50,000 Christians are living as refugees following the violence in Orissa. All the political parties are sitting as mute spectators." In Kandhamal district alone, around 1,000 Christian houses, hundreds of churches and numerous Christian institutions and businesses have been demolished by rampaging Hindus. (Link 1)

While this anti-Christian violence is shocking, it is not surprising. Hindutva (Hindu nationalist) elements acting with legal impunity and state government support have for decades been stoking the flames of hatred, cultivating an incendiary environment in Orissa. Now Orissa, like Gujarat, is primed for genocide. And hot on the heels of Gujarat and Orissa are numerous other
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled states.

It was a brilliant strategy of the Sangh Parivar -- a collection of Hindu nationalist organisations co-operating towards making India a Hindu State -- to weave religion and politics strategically together in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) enabling the Sangh to exploit religion for political gain. Indeed, the present persecution is not primarily about religion. India's Christians are pawns in a deadly struggle between modernity and the beneficiaries of traditional Hindu culture who are desperate to secure the political power that would guarantee their privileged status into the future by perpetuating the racist, fatalist, immoral Hindu caste system.

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GUJARAT AND ORISSA PREFIGURE INDIAN CRISIS
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The strategic brilliance and alarming effectiveness of the Sangh Parivar's campaign for a Hindu Rastra (Hindu State) has never been sufficiently appreciated.

Even after the 2002 anti-Muslim Hindu pogrom in Gujarat that left some 2000 Muslims dead, India and the world failed to fully appreciate what was happening. Then an anti-Christian Hindu pogrom in Orissa over Christmas 2007 left a swath of destruction and turned hundreds of thousands of Christian into traumatised IDPs (Internally Displaced Peoples). Yet again India and the world did not understand what was happening.

The ringleaders and inciters of the Gujarat 2002 and Orissa 2007 pogroms -- Narendra Modi and Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati respectively -- not only remained free, but were elevated and to many they became national heroes! In Gujarat, Narendra Modi was even rewarded by being re-elected as Chief Minister -- twice! The "kranti" (revolution) in Gujarat, through which the majority, caste-perpetuating Hindu community terrorised the minority Muslim community into submission, is now held up by Hindutva protagonists as the model.

In January 2006 it became clear that the Modi government was planning to set the Dangs (in Gujarat) alight with an anti-Christian pogrom following the Shabri Kumbh Mela that February. (See link 2).

However, alarm bells rang out, opposition mounted and the Church prayed (see link 3).

And God answered the prayers of many. While the Shabri Kumbh Mela may have effected mass religious-political conversions (converting tribal Congress-voting animists into BJP-voting Hindus), the Sangh's strategy to ignite another Hindu kranti -- this time a genocidal massacre of Christians -- failed.

The Christmas 2007 anti-Christian pogrom in Orissa however was not heralded. Hindutva forces kept secret their plans for a pogrom for Christmas Day 2007 under the guise of a bandh (strike) in protest of the Pana (Dalit/Scheduled Caste) Christians request for Schedule Tribe status -- something they need in order to benefit from affirmative action programs in a caste driven society that denies benefits to Dalits/Scheduled Castes that convert to Christianity. (Under the rules, Scheduled Tribes who convert to Christianity continue to enjoy reservations/affirmative action, but Dalits/Scheduled Castes who convert do not.)

While police were withdrawing from the districts to take up their positions at the Biju Janata Dal's (BJD) 10-year anniversary celebrations in the capital, Hindus were felling trees and blockading roads around Kandhamal district in preparation for the anti-Christian pogrom that Hindu communalists vowed would "teach them a lesson!". (Link 4)

Thousands of Hindus then rioted crying, "Stop Christianity. Kill Christians!" Across Kandhamal district alone, more than 700 Christian homes and around 100 churches and 95 Christian institutions were vandalised, looted, destroyed and torched. Leading the incitement was the state's principal Hindutva ideologue and proselytiser, Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati. After falsely claiming to have been wounded in a violent attack by a vicious Christian mob, he told his followers via a mobile phone message (in the presence of police and journalists) to burn Christian homes and churches and repeat the kranti (revolution) that brought "shanti" (peace) to Gujarat (i.e. the 2002 Hindu pogrom in which some 2000 Muslims were brutally massacred). (Links 4 and 5)

(For a comprehensive account of the Orissa Christmas 2007 anti-Christian Hindu pogrom, see:
Dr Angana Chatterji's sworn affidavit.
To The Commission of Inquiry of Honourable Justice Panigrahi
Re. Kandhamal, Orissa. Submitted 30 May 2008.

Dr Chatterji is an Indian citizen resident in the USA. She is Associate Professor of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the Californian Institute of Integral Studies. She has been conducting extensive research on the communalisation of Orissa since June 2002.)

ORISSA: A TINDERBOX

In 1960 the RSS launched Goraksha Andolan, a Hinduisation program focused initially on banning cow slaughter. In 1965 the Hindu paramilitary organisation Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS: National Volunteer Corps) deployed a Hindutva proselytiser named Lakan to oversee the implementation of the Prevention of Cow Slaughter Act in Orissa. Orissa subsequently passed a Freedom of Religion Act in 1967 which prohibited conversions to Christianity by force or fraudulent means. (This Act was subsequently strengthened in 1999.) In 1969 Lakan establish an Ashram (Hindu religious centre) in Kandhamal, changed his name to Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, and committed himself to countering the work of Christian missionaries in Orissa.

While Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati never succeeded in stopping conversions to Christianity, he did succeed in creating a tinderbox, hot with Hindutva, anti-Christian hatred, majoritarianism and communalism. Appalling crimes have been perpetrated against Christians in Orissa, with numerous forced conversions into Hinduism, assaults and killings, including the martyrdom of Graham Staines, burned alive with his two young sons Phillip and Timothy in January 1999.

The advance of Hindutvaisation over recent years has given rise to some alarming developments. Today it is not just individual Christian evangelists at risk of assault and assassination, whole Christian communities are now at risk of genocide. No longer are the murderers "loose cannon" Hindus and militants from the Bajrang Dal (the Sangh's militant Hindutva youth militia), they are simply local Hindus raping, beating, looting and killing their
Christian neighbours with impunity. Reporting on the Christmas 2007 pogrom, Tehelka Magazine (an Indian magazine) noted in January 2008 that when a 1,000-strong mob of rampaging Hindus attacked Balliguda's Mt Carmel Convent, the Carmelite sisters were shocked that local Hindu beneficiaries of Mt Carmel's vocational courses were among the rioters. (Link 5)

According to Dr Chatterji, it is this violence with impunity along with a complete breakdown in trust that has led to the "ghettoisation" of the Christian community over recent years.

So at the behest of the Sangh Parivar and with the support and encouragement of the BJP-BJD Orissa state government, Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati turned Orissa into a tinderbox of communal tension, and on 24 December 2007 he lit the fuse in Kandhamal.

23 AUGUST 2008: ORISSA BURNS AGAIN

Unlike the anti-Christian Hindu pogrom of Christmas 2007, the anti-Christian violence that exploded in Kandhamal on 23 August 2008 was not premeditated. It was however incited by VHP (World Hindu Council) activists. Immediately after Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati (85) was ambushed and shot dead in a girls' orphanage in Kandhamal district, VHP leaders were publicly charging that the Christians were responsible. VHP state general secretary Gouri Prasad Rath demanded a high-level probe and ban on churches in Kandhamal, and told the media: "Christians have killed Swamiji. We will give a befitting reply." (Link 6)

This charge was levelled against the entire Christian community despite evidence that it was a targeted assassination carried out by a group of some 40 well-armed Naxalite/Maoist militiamen. (Egalitarian left-wing Naxalite/Maoists are natural enemies of caste-perpetuating right-wing Hindu nationalists.) Many analysts believe the Maoists are intervening to take sides in the communal tensions in Orissa in the hope of winning Christian support. (See link 7)

However the VHP subsequently claimed to have received a letter from the Maoists denying any involvement but offering that some wayward cadres may have been paid by "communal Christian miscreants" to murder of the VHP leader. The alleged letter stated that Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati was murdered because of his opposition to religious conversion. (Link 8)

According to a CD report entitled, "Maoists in India Say They Killed Hindu Leader" (1 Sept): "The Central Committee of the Communist Party of India-Maoist, an extreme Marxist group banned by the Indian government, released a statement today saying that Sangh Parivar . . . have deliberately misled people about Saraswati's death.

"The Maoist statement warned the VHP of 'more such punishments if it continued violence against religious minorities in the country' and called for a ban on groups linked to the Sangh Parivar, such as the VHP, its youth wing Bajrang Dal, right-wing Hindu political party Shiv Sena and the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)." (Link 9)

STRATEGY OF SANGH PARAVAR

WEA RLC has stated numerous times over several years that the strategy of the Sangh Parivar is brilliantly strategic and hugely successful.

As noted in the WEA RLC News & Analysis annual Religious Liberty Trends posting of 2006-07 entitled Hindutva's Advance: "Because the Hindutva forces are active primarily in the religious sphere -- Hinduising the animist tribals and creating new exploitable Hindu mythology -- their activity is slipping under the radar of most political analysts. But while the Hindutva forces are
focusing on the religious sphere it is all for political gain. This strategy of effecting political conversion by means of religious conversion is hugely successful." (Link 10)

In her sworn affidavit, Dr Angana Chatterji comments likewise on the strategy and methodology of the Sangh Parivar, noting that instead of pursuing its earlier strategy of conversions by means of forced re-conversion ceremonies, "The Sangh Parivar has instead increased its emphasis on the Hinduisation of Adivasis [indigenous tribals, traditionally animists] by making them a part of Hindu rituals and ceremonies (as during the Sammelan), which, in effect, 'converts' Adivasis into Hinduism by assuming that they are Hindu. Such 'conversion' tactics are diffused and no longer have to negotiate certain legalities, which public and stated conversion ceremonies did. On converting/'reconverting' to Hinduism, Adivasis are expected to join Hindu caste society as Sudras, a 'higher' placement than Dalits in the caste hierarchy, Sangh activists say.

"Dalit Christians are doubly discriminated against, as Dalits and as Christians. Post-Hinduisation, Adivasis are being mobilised against Christian groups. Adivasis are incited into targeting Dalit Christians, both fomenting Adivasi-Dalit divides and vitiating the historical solidarities between them. This is crucial to Hinduisation. It also acts to warn non-Christian Dalits against conversion to Christianity.

"The Hindutvaisation of the Hindu community, and Hinduisation of the secular, allows the Sangh's escalation. This process unfolded in Brahmanigaon, for example, where the growth of the business community has supported the rise of the Sangh Parivar. Hindutva conversions served to terrorise the Adivasi and Dalit community, via which the Sangh Parivar achieves its preliminary expansionist goals. While ceremonial conversions continue sporadically, a more protracted and dispersed strategy of Hinduisation through incorporation and assimilation is aggressively pursued as effective methodology."

This Hinduisation by means of "incorporation and assimilation" was described in the WEA RLC News & Analysis posting of January 2006 (link 2): "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."

It must be noted that the BJP unexpectedly lost power in the May 2004 elections by only the slimmest of margins and on 22 July 2008 the Congress-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh only survived a confidence vote by the slimmest of margins, having lost the support of its left-wing allies. Meanwhile, the Sangh has been busy Hinduising the masses with a strategy so brilliant and so successful that it is quite likely that the 2009 federal elections could restore the BJP to power in the centre. And this at a time when increasing numbers of radicalised individuals -- indeed whole Hindutvaised communities -- are ready to kill, terrorise and ethnically-religiously cleanse Muslims and Christians on command, ostensibly in defence of the motherland.

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Has the future of India been prefigured in the Hindu pogroms in Gujarat and Orissa? Let India and the world be warned: if the violent, fascist Hindutva fire that the power- and privilege-hungry Sangh Parivar is presently spreading across the nation is not successfully challenged and countered soon, then a holocaust surely awaits.

By Elizabeth Kendal

Links

1) Orissa: Hindu extremists burn one nun alive, rape another
25 August 2008, by Nirmala Carvalho
http://www.asianews.it/index.php?l=en&art=13056&size=A
ALSO
Thousands homeless after Hindu-Christian violence in India
By Hari Kumar, 29 August 2008
http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/08/29/asia/29india.php
FOR UPDATES follow the news and Compass Direct http://www.compassdirect.org

2) India: The dictators of Hindutva aim for 'death blow' in Dangs
WEA RLC News & Analysis, 26 January 2006
By WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal.

3) India Shabri Kumbh Mela Threatens 8000 Christians in Dangs
WEA RL Prayer 364, 8 February 2006

4) Dr. Angana Chatterji's sworn affidavit
To The Commission of Inquiry of Honourable Justice Panigrahi
Re. Kandhamal, Orissa. Submitted 30 May 2008.
http://www.sacw.net/DC/CommunalismCollection/ArticlesArchive/angana_may2008.html

5) Next Stop Orissa
Tehlka Magazine. Vol 5, Issue 2, Dated 19 January 2008
http://www.tehelka.com/story_main37.asp?filename=Ne190108next_stop.asp#
NOTE: Tehelka is an independent Indian magazine committed to investigative
journalism. Whilst it can be commended for its investigations into high level
government corruption and destructive communalism, its hugely controversial
and provocative claims against the CIA, NGOs, missionaries and Christians in
its January 2004 feature entitled "Preparing the Harvest" reveal just how
widely the Sangh's anti-Christian conspiracies are accepted.
See "India: Liberty, persecution, and conspiracy theories."
WEA RLC News & Analysis 20 February 2004
By WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal
http://www.ea.org.au/default.aspx?id=bf0c29b8-1f75-4408-8e4b-c504f91a6221
This must be noted as the article linked to above -- Next Stop Orissa --
whilst detailing and condemning the Hindutva violence, also perpetuates the
conspiracy theory that Christian NGOs are actively supporting the Maoist
insurgency.

6) Leader's death: VHP calls for Orissa bandh
25 Aug 2008, By Sandeep Mishra, TNN
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/India/VHP_calls_for_Orissa_bandh/articleshow/3400754.cms

7) Indian Maoists kill Hindus over Christian conversions
DAILY TIMES (Pakistan) 25 August 2008
http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2008\08\25\story_25-8-2008_pg4_10

8) Maoists deny role in VHP leader's murder. 29 August 2008
http://www.thehindu.com/2008/08/29/stories/2008082952080300.htm

9) See Compass Direct News
ALSO
Orissa: Maoists warn of more attacks. 1 Sep 2008.
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/India/Orissa_Maoists_warn_of_more_attacks_/rssarticleshow/3429413.cms

10) Religious Liberty Trend (2) - India: Hindutva's advance
WEA RLC News & Analysis, 5 February 2007
By WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal

ANOTHER REPORT ON THE DEC 2007 ORISSA POGROM
Continuing Orissa Riots: First Report By A Fact-Finding Team
BY Professor Prabhu Guptara. Published 14 January 2008
http://www.southasianconnection.com/blogs/561/Continuing-Orissa-Riots-First-Report-By-A-Fact-Finding-Team.html

Human Rights Watch report on the 2002 Gujarat pogrom.
"We Have No Orders To Save You"
State Participation and Complicity in Communal Violence in Gujarat
http://www.hrw.org/reports/2002/india/