Ram Puniyani : Then they came for the Christians...
- Then they came for Christians
Orissa is witnessing unprecedented violence against the tinyChristian minority. On August 23, 2008, Swami Laxmananand along withhis four followers was killed, probably by a group of Maoists.Immediately, anti-Christian violence began on big scale. The way itbegan it seemed as if preparations for it were well afoot. It wassystematic and widespread. It sounded as if preparation was alreadythere, just the pretext was being waited for. So far many innocentChristians have been killed, wounded and rendered homeless apartfrom many Churches having been torched. The RSS combine, VHP-AdivasiKalyan Ashram-Bajarang Dal, allege that Swami was killed byChristians, or there is collusion between Maoists and Christians. Itis unlikely that there is any such alliance between the two. Anyway, what is important is that the crime of murder of Swami must beproperly investigated and guilty must be punished as per the law ofthe land.
Just to recall anti Christian tirade was also launched in December2007, around Christmas time. That time also the pretext was thatChristians have beaten up Swami and so this ���revenge���. For RSScombine launching such bouts of violence by now is becoming achild���s play. Search for a pretext, launch your well oiledmachinery for the communal agenda, communalize the society alongreligious lines and strengthen your political base seems to be itstrajectory. The similar phenomenon was observed in Gujarat, afterthe burning of Sabarmati coach S 6 at Godhra. Modi announced that ithas been done by local Muslims. There was no need to wait for theproper investigation, no need to follow the norm of railway boardthat every such event must be investigated, and tirade was launchedwith full vigor, and split in the society along religious lines wasbrought in ensuring BJP coming back to power. This victory of BJPwas despite the decline of popularity of BJP. Anti incumbency wasnullified and Modi returned to power to further his agenda. Power ofpolarizing the society by communal violence was at display at itsworst.
This, by now is the standard technique, spread canards, myths,biases against minorities, look for pretext and go for the killunder the tolerating eyes of communalized state apparatus. If BJP isin power or is an ally in the seat of power, the job is easier. AntiChristian violence went on higher gear in the same year in which BJPcame to power in the Center in 1996. The pretext was that Christianmissionaries are converting the gullible Adivasis by force, fraudand allurement. This incitement was skillfully utilized by AdivasisKalyan Ashram, VHP and Bajrang dal, and the violence started goingup in intensity over the years. The most ghastly of this was seen inthe burning alive of Pastor Graham Stains along with his twoinnocent sons, aged 11 and 7 years. This was immediately followed bythe murder of Fr. Arul Das. Also Sheikh Rahman was killed on thecharges of trading in cows for slaughter. Anti Christian atmospherewas built up and as this was more in the remote places whereAdivasis do not have easy access to law, police etc, anyway thereefficacy in helping minorities from the onslaught of RSS combine isalso doubtful by now, the process has been going on and on. Theviolence kept on simmering and kept taking intense forms around theChristmas times. In a way a new Christmas ritual of burning churchesand beating up Christians around Christmas time became a sort ofannual event. It is immaterial that the number of Christians isminiscule in Indian society, it is immaterial that Christianmissionaries are working in India from first century A. D. itself,it is immaterial that the despite the allegations from RSS combine,the population of Christians as per the census figures has beendeclining constantly. In the face of these facts the argumentproffered was that since the converts to Christianity don���t wantto loose their privileges that don���t declare their true religionand are crypto Christians. The simple point is that Adivasis, wherethe missionary work is maximum, don���t loose such privileges afterconversion. Gobbles must be turning in his grave with his followerssurpassing him many times over!
In it not a mere coincidence that maximum violence in Adivasi areashas been seen in the poorest regions. Dangs in Gujarat is thepoorest district of Gujarat, and Orissa is amongst the pooreststates of the country. The main reason for violence againstChristians is to ensure that the welfare, educational servicesoffered by them do not reach the Adivasis and that they remain poorand illiterate, that the status quo in these areas prevails so thatthe democratic space for these wretched of the society is blocked bythe religiosity cultivated through Swamis. We saw two processes ofco-option and one political process of intimidation in theseregions. Through Swamis, Laxmananad (Orissa), Assemanand (Dangs) andfollowers of Asaram bapu in Jhabua area, they did the cooption work,Gharvapasi, conversion in to Hinduism. Through mega processes likeShabri Kumbh in Dangs, Hindu Sangams in other Adivasi areas, anintimidating atmosphere has been created to draw them to RSS fold.The other process is the political one. This is the building up ofmechanism where by Dara Singh���s, and his clones are ready waitingfor pretexts to pounce upon the social fabric of unity. The violenceis made to look as spontaneous and is a part of a process ofrevenge. It is neither, it is well planned un-folding of RSS agenda.Even Wadhva Commission, pointed out that there was no conversionactivity by Pastor Stains. The civic rights groups have pointed outthat the violence has political foundations and has nothing to dowith religion or conversion. A Peoples tribunal headed by retiredJustice Usha also warned about the preparedness of the communalorganizations for violence,
The case of Orissa was specifically investigated by India PeoplesTribunal, led by Justice K. K. Usha (retired) of Kerala High courtin 2006 (Communalism in Orissa). This tribunal forewarns about theshape of things to come. " The tribunal assessed the spread ofcommunal organizations in Orissa, which has been accompanied by aseries of small and large events and some riots���such violationsare utilized to generate the threat and reality of greater violence,and build an infrastructure of fear and intimidation." It furthernotes that minorities are being grossly ill treated; there is grossinaction of the state Govt to take action. Outlining the mechanismof the communalization, it points out, "The report also describes inconsiderable detail how the cadre of majoritarian communalorganizations is indoctrinated in hatred and violence against othercommunities it holds to be inherently inferior. If suchcommunalization is undertaken in Orissa, it is indicative of thefuture of the nation��� the signs are truly ominous for India'sdemocratic future." (p 70) In all the Adivasis areas, a dangeroussituation, and occasionally an apparent calm prevail. While swamiLaxmananand���s killers deserve the punishment, Swami���s followersare spreading hate in these areas and vitiating the atmosphere. Onecan also see the communalization of state apparatus and BJPprotecting its marauding mobs either by pulling the strings from theseats of power or by spreading the canards against the weakersections of society. Interestingly as pointed out above, theDecember 2007 violence was launched on the pretext that Christianshave beaten up the Swami! We do need to look back and check theactivities of those spreading hate in the name of religion.
While the Christian sects are dime a dozen, all are not in thebusiness of proselytization. Few of them must be indulging in wrongpractices, but surely law of the land can take care of those notfollowing it. Permitting violence by the state machinery tantamountto violation of the oath taken by those in power, and they should tobe suspended form the seats of power. And if they are not able toprotect the innocent citizens of their state, why should theycontinue to rule? The question is which political force is abovesuspicion and honest enough to abide by the laws of Indianconstitution? The question also arises, is the state bureaucracy andpolice honest enough to protect the minorities? Time to introspectand set the things right at deeper level of governance and politics.
Issues in Secular Politics