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.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Facts on Christian-tribal clashes in Kandhamal, Orissa

Sunday, 01.06.2008, 10:47pm (GMT-7)

Reports of communal vio-lence involving the con-verted Christians led by the missionaries on one hand and tribals on the other, in Kandhamal District of Orissa by the media since December 25 are vastly distorted and motivated which in public interest need be clarified lest the national image is tarnished before the general public and the international community.

The whole series of incidents started from unprovoked and preplanned attack on Vedanta Keshari Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati who was visiting his disciples in Darsingbadi village in Kandhmal District on December 24. Swamiji, 82, has been working relentlessly in the district since 1967 to protect the local population where more than 75 percent are below poverty line and are not literate. Swamiji has opened schools and hostels, hospitals and temples to protect mainly the tribals and the down-trodden from the clutches of missionaries who are operating with massive funds from foreign countries pumped into NGOs in disguised operations to convert the local tribals to Christianity.

Chief of such NGOs is 'World Vision' patronized by one Radhakanta Nayak, a local of Darsingbadi village from 'Pana' community who later got converted to Christianity. He happens to be an employee of the State Government promoted to the IAS and retired, and now a Member in the Rajya Sabha. His henchmen were the assailants who attacked Swamiji on December 24. Meanwhile, Nayak has incited Kui tribals among the Kandhs to agitate for getting his 'Pana' community, who are scheduled castes, relisted as scheduled tribe along with the Kui on the ground that the former also speak the Kui dialect.

Various reservation facilities to which scheduled tribes are entitled are not available to persons converted to Christianity. On hearing the assault news on Swamiji, the already agitated Kui community reacted and protested throughout the district against the 'Pana' community converted to Christianity. Interestingly, the Maoist (Naxalites) activists in the district are also mostly from among the recent converts to Christianity.

From the 47 Maoists arrested in connection with recent burning of villages inhabited by Hindus (Brahmanigaon, Jhinjiriguda, Katingia, and Godapur) as a counter to attacks by tribals on the churches, 20 guns have been recovered by the security forces. It is evident that the Maoists and the Church are hands in glove to spread fratricidal killings and clashes among the tribals which is evident also from incidents in Karbi-Anglong and North Cachar Hills districts in Assam. Conversions of poor tribal villagers are being conducted at gun point and by spreading terrorism.

While in active government service Radhakanta Nayak and John Nayak IPS (Retd.), both converted Christians, were instruments of the Church to proselytize the poor and illiterate 'Pana' and tribal communities. Under guise of NGOs thousands of dollars are pumped into the country for conversion of tribals in Jharkhand, Chhatisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and the North-East.

Taking advantage of the poverty and lack of education, thousands of converted are being trained for separatist movements like NSCN in Nagaland and Maoist insurgency in the aforesaid states. This trend is more pronounced since 1970 which is evident from the census reports till 2001.

In Kandhamal District alone the Christian population has increased from 6 percent in 1970 to 27 percent in 2001, despite an Act enacted by Orissa Legislature in 1967 to prevent conversion. Swamiji has been fighting a lone battle by making the tribal district his home for last 40 years, and he is targeted by the Church. Earlier, there were two other lethal attacks on Swamiji in 1971 and 1995.

Since then the government has provided armed protection to Swamiji. In spite of that, he was attacked by armed assailants on December 24 in which he and his driver and armed security personnel were seriously injured and hospitalized in Cuttack Medical College Hospital.

Hence, the recent clashes manifest the various ramifications of the socio-economic, political and cultural tribal issues and the deep-rooted conspiracy by the Church to destabilize our society and our economy. Let the Nation awake and protect our tribal brethren and the national media stop distorting the facts.

Ashok Sahu, IPS (Retd.) Former Inspector General of Police

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