The Conversion Agenda

"Freedom to convert" is counterproductive as a generalized doctrine. It fails to come to terms with the complex interrelationships between self and society that make the concept of individual choice meaningful. Hence, religious conversion undermines, and in extremes would dissolve, that individual autonomy and human freedom.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Violence in Northeast India

Suffering the effects of poverty, neglect, exploitation and religious conversion

Turn on the television any day of the week, anywhere in the world, and you are sure to catch current news detailing terrorist atrocities occurring in Iraq and Afghanistan. Although similar violence is being committed by insurgents in Northeast India, these latter crimes are receiving surprisingly little news coverage.

On a single day in early October, 2004, militants set off bombs and opened gunfire all across India's Northeast, killing at least 46 people and wounding nearly 100. Two bombs exploded in a marketplace in Dimapur, the commercial center in the state of Nagaland. At the same time, a third bomb ripped through a nearby railway station. Twenty-six people died in the Nagaland attacks. Later on the same day, heavily armed Bodo tribal guerrillas in the neighboring state of Assam drove into a town square and gunned down eleven people who were shopping in a local market. Almost simultaneously, guerrillas of the United Liberation Front of Assam, the biggest of the insurgent groups in the Northeast, set off grenades at four places in Assam killing nine people.

India's mountainous Northeast is home to nearly 200 underground militant organizations, some of which have thousands of fighters. (See It is generally reported that a portion of these groups are seeking greater autonomy or statehood, while others are demanding secession and the formation of Christian states. In truth, however, what these groups really want depends on who you ask.

Dr. Arun Kumar Sarma, Ph.D., a Member of Parliament representing Assam Gan Parishad [AGP] in the Lok Sabha, told our Hinduism Today correspondent, Rajiv Malik, that he was not aware of any violent conversion efforts. "I am myself a Hindu, " Dr. Sarma said. "And I can tell you that the local Hindus of the Northeast are mainly concerned with immigrants, whether they are from India or from Bangladesh. These immigrants infiltrate the Northeast region of India to settle there and exploit business and employment opportunities that would ordinarily go to the native populace. What I want to emphasize here is that the insurgency exists for economic rather than religious reasons. Actually, a large portion of the Northeast is already Christian. Who is there left to convert? The government of India is primarily responsible for the lack of financial stability in the Northeast. They have no clear-cut policy for the economic development of the region. Most development funds go into the pockets of either corrupt politicians or insurgents who kidnap government servants for ransom. Among the Hindus, the high caste exploits the low caste, including the tribal people. In addition to all of this, Central Government is not doing anything for the preservation of Hindu temples and ashrams, although they conscientiously maintain Buddhist monasteries."

Offering a different perspective in an article written for Mainstream, commentator Kunal Ghosh states: "Baptist Christian terrorists are active in India's Northeast. They derive their financial support from the southern parts of the USA where the Baptist Church has a strong following. Funds are collected in the form of donations in various church establishments. Some of this money is spent in true philanthropic work such as spreading education and health care.

"However, it has been suspected for a long time that a part of these funds get diverted to the purchase of arms for Baptist terrorists of the Northeast. Ex-Chief Election Commissioner, T.N. Seshan, gave voice to this suspicion in a television panel discussion on Doordarshan back in 1993 when he said, 'Our Army is baffled by the seemingly unending supply of sophisticated and expensive arms and equipment flooding into the Northeast. Money generated by the local extortion of businessmen and citizens accounts for only a small fraction of funds collected. The greater part must be coming from abroad. It is suspected that the funds come from Christian sources such as the Baptist Church in southern USA and the Presbyterian Church of the UK.'

"The most prominent among the terrorist outfits of Tripura is the NLFT (National Liberation Front of Tripura). It employs terror tactics to effect mass conversion to Christianity and is a predominantly Baptist organization. On August 6, 1999, four RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) workers of Tripura, named Shyamal Kanti Sen Gupta, Sudhamoy Dutta, Dinendranath Dey, Shubhankar Chakraborti, were kidnapped by the NLFT and taken to a camp in the jungles of Bangladesh. A ransom of one million dollars was demanded from their parent organization. When the RSS refused to pay, they were put to death. Their 'sin' was that they were preaching among the tribals to preserve Hinduism. Although our constitution permits propagation of religious faith by any legitimate means, this crime of murder did not create a media sensation.

"This is not the first time that a Hindu preacher has been attacked in Northeast India. In 1999, Swami Gokulananda, the present head of the Ramakrishna Mission Ashram of New Delhi, says that during the 1980s when he was Secretary of the Khasi Hills Ashrama in Meghalaya, 'The hostile forces were against our movement as it was trying to bring back the lost tradition of faith among the people of the Khasi hills. They wanted to remove me. One day, a time bomb was planted in my room but they did not succeed in killing me.' "

On a map, the seven states of Northeast India look conspicuously orphaned. Attached to the rest of India only by a thin sliver of land that marks the juncture of Bihar and West Bengal, these "seven sisters, " as they are sometimes called, are all but separated from their mother Bharat by an imposing, wall-shaped Bangladesh.

The mountainous terrain of the area is rich with beauty and heritage, but the wedge of separation left in the wake of India's Partition in 1948 has severed valuable lifelines to the region and catalyzed violence through desperation. Ten thousand people have been killed here over the past ten years.


Post a Comment

<< Home

Home | Syndicate this site (XML) | Guestbook | Blogger
All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. Comments, posts, stories, and all other content are owned by the authors.
Everything else © 2005 The Conversion Agenda