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.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Evangelists tie up with Maoists to create mayhem in Kandhamal

By Debasis Tripathy in Bhubaneswar
The attack over the revered Swamiji opens the Pandora’s box of missionary activities in Kandhamal district. On the eve of Christmas day, the Christians made a decorative tent for the worship of Jesus Christ. It was forcefully built over a Hindu puja mandap, over which Hindus used to worship Goddess Durga. This misdeed of the missionaries was strongly protested by the local Hindus.
The aftermath of the attack on Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati is quite shocking. In the trouble-torn area of Kandhamal, the Hindus are worst affected as they are being victimised by the evangelist Christian hooligans. Their houses are burnt down, cattle are snatched away, women are outraged, followed by destruction of a good number of Hindu temples in different areas, even in the presence of the police. About four hundred Hindus have taken shelter inside the forests in order to save their lives from Christian attackers.

On December 24, when Swamiji was going to attend a religious satsang, he was attacked in the mid-way by a group of missionary goons. Despite the severe attack, his life was luckily saved. It is no secret that due to Swamiji’s relentless efforts since last 45 years, the evangelical activities of missionaries have suffered a lot. Swamiji is very much popular among the Vanvasi people, and has a very big influence over the natives particularly over the Kondh community. For his pro-Hindu activities, he was victimised by the missionary wrath in the years 1967, 1969, 1976, 1978, 1982, 1985 and 1995. And the recent attack was the simple repetition of those past years. The violence in Kandhamal district is not solely due to attack over Swamiji. It was simple a co-incidence which fueled the burning fire.

The Real Cause

The attack over the revered Swamiji opens the Pandora’s box of missionary activities in Kandhamal district. On the eve of Christmas day, the Christians made a decorative tent for the worship of Jesus Christ. It was forcefully built over a Hindu puja mandap, over which Hindus used to worship Goddess Durga. This misdeed of the missionaries was strongly protested by the local Hindus. It was finally turned into a clash between the two groups and the situation further aggravated when Pana Christians attacked the Kandhs.

According to the VHP sources, one such person promoting missionary activities in the area is R.K. Nayak, who after retirement from IAS has been elected to Rajya Sabha from Sonia Gandhi's Congress party. According to Swami Laxmanananda, Shri Nayak is a converted Christian but by producing false caste certificate as a tribal, he got himself selected for IAS. One can see a conspiracy in the fact that Swamiji was attacked in the ancestral village of R.K. Nayak. But Shri Nayak has cleverly clarified that he is not involved in the incident and he does not know who Swami Laxmanananda is! This statement of Shri Nayak is meaningless as even tiny tots know the revered Swamiji in the Kandhamal district, then how does this man of 65 does not know him? Among other such persons who are spewing venom are one John Nayak, a former DGP of state police and one Ijak Behera, an IAS (retd.). Both allegedly support the missionary activities, as they are converted Christians, revealed Shri Subhas Chauhan, national co-convener of Bajrang Dal.

“Demand for reservation to converted Pana Christians is the root cause of all problems. It creates turmoil among the Hindu Vanvasis. It is a matter of irony that even after having been converted to Christianity, the Panas enjoy all shorts of facilities meant for the Vanvasis,” said Sangh’s Prant Pracharak of Orissa Shri Ajit Prashad Mohapatra while talking to Organiser. “When a Vanvasi is converted from Hinduism to Christianity, he ceases his Hindu identity and as such he should not get any such facilities. In Kandhamal district, the government has no correct information regarding the real number of persons actually converted. The converted Christians also knowingly do not change their Hindu surnames even after the conversion. So they easily get all the facilities meant for Hindu Vanvasis. It is no secret that a number of Pana Christians have managed to get government jobs on the basis of false identification of being Hindu Vanvasis. It creates a havoc among Kandha Vanvasis,” Shri Ajit Mohapatra added with grave concern.

Destruction of Hindu religious places is another cause

The Pana Christians allegedly destroyed the shrines of Hindu Vanvasis, said Dr. Laxmikant Das of Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, who has been working in Kandhamal for last one decade. He says that the idols of village Goddess, popularly known as Dharani Penu, are forcefully thrown away by the Christian hooligans. According to him , about two hundred such incidents have occurred since last four years.

Hindus are more affected

In the recent planned violence by the missionaries, the Vanvasis are the worst affected in the area. About 500 Hindu houses have been burnt down, five temples have been destroyed, two Hindus have been inhumanly killed and about 400 Hindu families have left home to save their lives. One Shiva temple of Brahmanigaon, one Hanuman temple at Jaleshpatta, one temple of Goddess Dharani Penu at Tumudibandh, one Shiva temple at Baliguda and one Hanuman temple at Daringbadi have been badly destroyed by the missionaries. Similarly two Hindus were brutally killed. One Khgeswar Mallik, aged about 30 years, of village Barakhamba is murdered by the Christian attackers by pelting stones. Another Hindu of Brahmanigaon, namely Sethi Taili is killed by Christian goons. Villagers of Gadapur and Kitingia have taken refuge into the forest in order to save their lives. The latest information reveals that no relief has reached to them from the state government. These distressed and helpless Hindus have no other way left, but to sleep under the open sky. On December 30, 70 Hindu families wrote a letter to the Chief Minister in which they appealed to him not to send them back to their villages as their lives are not secured in the hands of the evangelists. They have demanded proper security for their lives and faith.

Maoists Involved

Involvement of Maoists in the Kandhamal violence is becoming increasingly clear. They were summoned by the missionaries of this district to attack the Hindus. The nature of attack and arms and ammunition being used for that purpose make their suspected involvement more clear. If Superintendent of Police Shri Amitendra Nath Sinha, IPS, is to be believed, the fact is substantiated. Shri Sinha, who luckily escaped an attack at Brahmanigaon, told Organiser about what he experienced regarding the involvement of Maoists. “On December 28, I was at Brahmanigaon accompanied by 40 constables of OSAP and SOG. We saw that the attackers suddenly marched towards us. They set the Hindu houses afire. We warned them and fired tear gas shells. But they were undeterred. Suddenly, a member of them came forward, took position and started firing bullet on the police like a trained Maoist. That bullet passed by my right side and hurt a constable. Then the attackers fired 100 rounds of bullets and used automatic rifles for that. It astonished me because on the basis of my observation in police, I can say that it was not the work of mere rioters. However, our bullets killed one of them. Later we came to know that the deceased gunner was an outsider; he wore a white scarf on his head. But we were further surprised when the attacker’s dead body was taken away by his associates. The manner in which that was taken, is nowhere seen except in Maoist circle. I cannot deny the participation of Maoists in the attack,” he revealed. Shri Sinha’s statement is corroborated by the incident occurred at Brahmnigaon on December 31, in which 12 SLR guns, eight AK-47 rifles, 15 landmines and five bombs were seized by the police. How did these sophisticated weapons reach there which are only available to either police or to Naxals? It is an admitted fact that not less than 366 Christian agencies are working in Kandhamal district. They receive huge funds from abroad for their conversion activities, which are being spent through different NGOs. It may be recalled here that a news-item was published in Organiser (2-12-2007, page-17), titled as “NGO’s funds go to Maoists”. It was reported that the police administration of Western Orissa warned the government to ban the NGOs working in the tribal areas because, they alleged, the NGO funds directly go to the Maoists. If this is to be believed, the alliance between Maoists and Christians and participation of Maoists in the Kandhamal violence do not deserve an iota of confusion. Again, on December 31, the Maoists and Christians in two different press releases have demanded the arrest of Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and ban on VHP and Bajrang Dal. Through this statement, the Maoists have already clarified that they are on Christians' side.

VHP meets the CM

A high-level delegation of VHP headed by its state president, Shri Bipin Bihari Rath presented a memorandum to the Chief Minister Shri Naveen Patnaik. Shri Rath and Justice (Retd.) M. Pappanna told Organiser: “We expressed our concern over the plight of Hindus in Kandhamal and urged the government to take immediate action against the culprits who attacked our revered Swamiji. We also demanded the increase of security to Swamiji, a scrutiny into the church funds and implementation of the Orissa Freedom of Religion Act, 1967, followed by an amendment.”

Package for Kandhamal

On December 31, the state government has announced a package for the traumatised Kandhamal district. A high-level meeting was held at the state secretariat presided by the Chief Minister Shri Naveen Patnaik. The government has declared the following package:
  • Pana Christians will not get the status of Vanvasi.
  • Caste certificates will be verified.
  • Rs. one lakh compensation for every death.
  • Rs. 10 thousand compensation for each broken house.
  • New houses for every burnt house.


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