Hindu dharma is implicitly at odds with monotheistic intolerance. What is happening in India is a new historical awakening... Indian intellectuals, who want to be secure in their liberal beliefs, may not understand what is going on. But every other Indian knows precisely what is happening: deep down he knows that a larger response is emerging even if at times this response appears in his eyes to be threatening.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Swami Laxmanananda murder, Can't we stop conversion?

By MA Kharabela Swain

The gruesome murder of the Hindu saint Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati in the Vanvasi district of Kandhamal in Orissa and the subsequent attacks on churches have sparked off a debate in the entire country as to who has committed the crime and what is the motivation behind it. Not very long back in 1999 the burning of Christian priest Graham Staines and his two young sons invited an international outrage, in which even the then US President Bill Clinton through telephone expressed his deepest concern to the then Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. The German Parliament passed a resolution condemning the killing of Graham Staines.

And this time also, the national media and specifically the English ones have focussed more on the aftermath violence than on the Swamiji’s murder itself. The Catholic religion head, Pope Benedict XVI and the Italian Parliament have expressed their deepest concern on the incident of church burning, damage to Christian homes, property and their escapade to the jungle.

In the entire country the Christian money-backed media is again presenting the prejudiced viewpoints. It is spreading the news that it is rather the Vishwa Hindu Parishad activists who have killed Swamiji in order to tarnish the image of the Christian missionaries. Back in November, December, 2007 the same media and the same Christian machinery, by taking the advantage of racial violence in the same locality, painted it as a Hindu attack on the Christian. But the real conflict took place between the Scheduled Tribe “Kui” community and the Scheduled Caste “Pana” community. Coincidentally, while the SC Panas did convert to Christianity the ST Kuis proclaimed themselves to be Hindus.

The Christian Panas were better off socially and economically and were demanding to be given the ST status, which was vehemently opposed by the original ST Kuis. The simple Hindu Vanvasi Kuis do have a fear that if Panas are also given the ST status, then they will grab all the lands belonging to them as the STs. Now as per the present rule no non-ST can buy the ST land. But one ST can buy the land of another ST. Hence, the fear of the ST Kuis, to be deprived of their land once the Panas acquire their status, created the atmosphere of violent conflict between the two communities.

This time around, the entire blame for the cause of violence is being put on the Sangh Parivar for the simple reason that on the next day of the murder of Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, the DG, Orissa Police, publicly doubted the Maoists to have connections with the murder. But eyewitnesses say that the assailants were interacting in Oriya and they were very much locals who came their in motorbikes and a Bolero having their faces covered with black clothes. They knew that Swamiji was celebrating Janmashtami in the ashram on that day.

Till recently, the Maoists hailed Swamiji as pro-poor and messiah of the downtrodden. Then why should they turn against him? Also the attack did not occur as a Maoist operation. The Maoists know enough about warfare not to attack a crowded, enclosed place where there is a near certainty of collateral causalities. They would not have attacked when preparations for a grand puja were on and when there was a possibility of hundreds of people getting killed. Normally the Maoists try to avoid killing innocent civilians.

Besides, for removing such a high-value target, the politburo of the Maoists will have to take a decision by naming the target as a class enemy. Even after the killing no sign of any such decision having been taken at the highest level of the Maoist did appear. And there were no Maoist slogans and no propaganda leaflets left at the scene as happens in a Maoist operation. The Maoists, as their old practice, try to tom-tom their any such achievement by mailing high propagandas.

Deliberate misdirected propaganda

What appears in trickles pertaining to Swamiji’s murder are letters and posters claiming the extremists’ involvement in this case, which are being circulated basically in order to divert the attention from such killers.

One such so-called Maoist leader Azad has reportedly claimed responsibility for killing the seer. But he is an unknown leader in the Maoist circle and he belongs to an organisation ‘Pahadi Manch’ which had sent a threatening letter to the Swamiji some time before his murder.

Another leaflet purportedly circulated by the Maoists reveals the hands of the lower rank neo-Maoists who are Christians and who have been bribed by the missionaries for undertaking such killing.

Conversion is the cause

Though not yet conclusively proved about the motivation, a firm belief is spreading among the disciples of Swamiji that the Christian missionaries had hired a splinter group of Maoists to eliminate Swamiji, the main bottleneck on the way to proselytisation. Killing the seer with AK-47 rifles and 7.62 mm assault rifles and 9 mm pistols does prove such a nexus.

Actually Swamiji proved to be a great stumbling block in the way of the missionaries from converting the simple Vanvasis and others to Christianity by allurement, bribe and deceit.

Why no conversions of Muslims?

If the argument put forth by the missionaries that the Hindu society had deprived the Vanvasis of health, education and economic care and since the missionaries came forward to fill in such of their necessities, there is nothing wrong in converting the beneficiaries—the Vanvasis—to Christianity; then how is it that the missionaries have not been able to convert a single Muslim even though they have been dubbed as worse off than that of the Vanvasis in many cases, by the Sachar Committee Report? Why do the Christian missionaries only feel so duty bound to change the faith of the Vanvasis, while they restrain from doing so with the very poor Muslims? Is it not the truth that it is their deliberate design to target the simple, liberal Vanvasis as their target?

The Gajapati Maharaj of Puri and many other Hindu saints along with the Shankaracharya of Puri have openly and categorically declared that conversion effort by the Christian missionaries is the only reason for the murder of Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and the spread of violence.

If the Christian world is really concerned about the spread of violence against their community, why don’t they stop practicing conversion? If Hindus do not go for proselytisation and still survive as a major religion in the face of several serious onslaughts, then why can’t Christianity survive peacefully without any attack on them from any quarter? And they must realise that in Staines’ case, besides Dara Singh, all other person arrested under the charge of murder, were Vanvasis whose main grouse against him was that he and the missionaries did try to do away with their Vanvasi way of life, culture and belief.

(The writer is a Member of Parliament and can be contacted at 166, North Avenue, New Delhi.)

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