Monday, May 24, 2010

Social kumbhs, Hindutva, and the politics of perpetuating caste privilege

On 20 May 2010, Compass Direct News issued an immensely important News Flash entitled: "Hindu Nationalists Plan 'Religious Cleansing' in Madhya Pradesh District".

As Compass Direct News (CDN) reports, the Indian State of Madhya Pradesh will host a social kumbh (pilgrimage / festival) on 10-12 February 2011. It will be held in the predominantly tribal Mandla district, in Mandla city which is situated on the banks of the Narmada River. Some "20 lakh" (i.e. 20,00,000 or 2 million) Hindu devotees are expected to attend this Maa Narmada Samajik Kumbh (Mother Narmada Social Kumbh).
See also:
Mahakumbha to be held from Feb. 10 to 12 in Mandla
Maha Media, 19 April 2010

Vanvasi Mahakumbh at Mandla from February 10 to 12 next year
15 April 2010 press release, Dept of Public Relations, Madhya Pradesh

The Social Kumbh

A "social kumbh" is not a traditional Kumbh Mela, but the recent invention of Hindutva (Hindu Nationalist) forces. It is a new tradition, built upon new mythologies.

The Hindu nationalists instigate social kumbhs for the purpose of:
  • bringing the traditionally animist Adivasis (lit. first inhabitants) -- whom the Hindutva forces call Vanavasis (lit. forest dwellers) -- into the "mainstream": Hinduising them (effecting religious conversions that translate into political conversions) and communalising them so they can be recruited into sectarian militias;
  • stirring up hatred against Christians whose welfare and education ministries threaten the Hindu elites' ability to enslave the tribals into the future; and
  • shattering Adivasi minority solidarity by polarising the indigenous tribal communities along religious lines and setting them against each other.
Integral to the Hindutva strategy is the demonisation of Christians as evil and of Christianity as a foreign conspiracy and existential threat to Indian national security and sovereignty. Indian unity, under the banner of militant Hindu nationalism, is then presented as the only solution.

Shabari kumbh - Feb 2006

In February 2006, the Shabari Kumbh Mela -- a social kumbh organised around newly invented, purpose-built mythology -- seriously threatened the lives of some 8,000 tribal Christians living in Dangs, Gujarat.

For full background see:
India: The dictators of Hindutva aim for 'death blow' in Dangs
By Elizabeth Kendal, for WEA RLC, 26 January 2006 2006 (this site contains a number of articles that exemplify Hindutva rhetoric against Christianity and freedom of religion)

God intervened in Dangs in February 2006 in answer to the prayers of many (2 Corinthians 1:11) and despite unprecedented incitement, the planned "cleansing" -- the Hindu "kranti" (revolution) -- did not materialise. Regardless, after the event the Sangh Parivar (body of Hindu nationalist organisations) boasted of "great gains" in Dangs -- i.e. many tribals allegedly made the religious-political conversion to Hindutva.

Abhishek Kapoor reported for Ahmedabad Newsline (13 February 2006): "End of the three-day Shabari Kumbh here marked the beginning of a new experiment on mobilising Hindu forces. Led by the RSS, organisations have planned to use this new tool — more such kumbhs across the country in a semi-religious setting — to gather Hindus to counter Christian missionaries and conversions.

"According to plans, these congregations would be different from the regular Kumbh Melas held at Prayag, Hardwar, Ujjain and Nashik and focus on reform and social engineering within Hinduism to consolidate its followers as a single block."
RSS wants more such kumbhs
Abhishek Kapoor, Express India, 13 Feb 2006

India: Hindutva advances while communal violence bill flounders.
By Elizabeth Kendal, for WEA RLC, 3 March 2006

India: Gujarat and Orissa prefigure Indian crisis
By Elizabeth Kendal, for WEA RLC, 1 Sept 2008

The Shabari Kumbh Mela held in Dangs, Gujarat, in February 2006, will doubtless be the prototype for the Maa Narmada Samajik Kumbh to be held in Mandla, Madhya Pradesh, in February 2011.

As with the February 2006 kumbh in Dangs, the Mandla social kumbh will likewise be built on a foundation of lies and incitement. Sectarianism and violence against Christians is destined to escalate. According to the report by CDN, this is indeed the stated intent of the Sangh Parivar.

Mandla kumbh -- Feb 2011

On 22 April 2010, Hindu nationalists held a ceremony at the proposed site of the Mandla kumbh to break ground for the event.

Compass Direct News (CDN) reports: "More than 100 Hindu devotees from Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra attended the ground-breaking ceremony in Mandla, reported Patrika newspaper. A source present disclosed that leaders announced a list of objectives to be achieved before the festival, with one prominent agenda item being to drive away Christian pastors, evangelists and foreign aid workers from the district.

"The newspaper quoted four Hindu leaders who have spoken out against foreign Christians and renewed their oath to obtain 'reconversions' from supposed Hindus who had become Christians. The leaders pledged to 'cleanse Mandla of Christians' and cleanse the Narmada River by means of the kumbh."

On Sunday 2 May 2010, only 10 days after the ground breaking ceremony, local pastor Bhag Chand Rujhiya (36), his family and his fellowship were attacked by a mob of around 40 armed, abusive and belligerent Hindu militants. Eventually Pastor Rujhiya was taken away by police to be interrogated, intimidated and harassed. He was released from detention after being forced to sign papers promising that he would cease evangelisation in the area, and would no longer lead worship or prayers.

Forced into hiding for a time, Pastor Rujhiya returned to his village on 7 May, though he said he was still fearful as threats from Hindu nationalists continued. "My wife and children say that we are ready to face whatever comes our way", he told CDN. "We will not renounce our faith."

Hindutva: the politics of perpetuating caste privilege

Because Hindutva forces target their activity to the religious sphere, it slips under the radar of most political analysts. But while the Hindutva forces target the religious sphere, it is all for political gain.

Hindu nationalism (Hindutva) is all about politics -- about securing Hindu power in a Hindu State for the sole purpose of perpetuating racist caste privilege. The social kumbhs merely provide Hindu elites with a religious platform upon which they can lie and deceive, whipping up fear and hatred for the sole purpose of dragnetting the tribal masses for exploitation as vote cattle.

What the tribals do not seem to realise, is that by believing the lies and being drawn into religious-political conversion, they are voting to perpetuate their own enslavement.

By Elizabeth Kendal

an old but excellent and extremely helpful report:
Human Rights Watch
Attacks Against Christians in India
October 1999 Vol. 11, No. 6 (C)