Mental shift

Manage your mind and you can manage your life

In the name of God

Posted by jytmkh on September 10, 2008

VIJAY SIMHA examines the consequences of lessons taught by men of religion, among the desperately poor in Orissa

WHEN THEY came for Narmada Digal, she wasn’t there. She had fled, five children and mother-inlaw in tow, to the safety of the jungles a kilometre away. So, they set about what she left behind. A framed picture of Jesus, a Bible in Oriya, utensils in the kitchen, some clothes, and linen. By the time Narmada tiptoed back, her home was gone. What was left was still hot from the ashes, and smoking. The neighbours came to commiserate. Narmada took a good look, stood erect, and pulled her sari over her head. She began to pray.

“Lord, forgive us our sins. Jesus, you are the only one. Save us from our misfortune. Free us, Lord.” The words are tumbling out. Narmada’s children have joined her. She is weeping as she pleads for deliverance. So is everybody else. It’s a simple bond that no human wrath can sever, a woman and her God. “I will die. But I won’t stop being a Christian,” Narmada says.

This is in the heart of Kandhamal, a district at the geographical centre of Orissa, ravaged by probably the worst fighting in India between Hindus and Christians. Kandhamal is young, constituted as recently as 1994. It has 2,515 villages spread over 7,649 sq km. The terrain is inaccessible, full of hills and narrow lanes crisscrossing the villages. There isn’t a single industrial unit here. There are no railway lines, and so no trains come here. Buses are rare. It’s so far behind that even the official website of Kandhamal says, “Overall, the district is ranked as a backward district in the state of Orissa .”

In this doleful land live close to eight lakh people. In terms of castes and tribes, the Kandha tribe constitute more than half the population of Kandhmal. The Panos, who are the dalits, form the next big chunk. The Kandha tribe is almost fully under the control of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), an 83-year-old socio-political organisation, which is the fountainhead of many Hindu outfits in India. The Panos are where the Christian community gets its numbers.

In terms of population, nearly a quarter of Kandhamal are Christians, the rest almost wholly Hindus. The percentage of Christians in Kandhamal — 25 percent — is astonishingly high compared to the 2.44 percent for the whole of Orissa. In percentage terms, Orissa has the third-largest concentration of Hindus in India (nearly 95 percent in the 2001 Census). Muslims are barely two percent.

The rise in the number of Christians in Kandhamal is offering radical Hindu outfits like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) the perfect alibi to launch an aggressive anti- Christian movement. The movement has two aims: to reconvert Christians to Hinduism, and to stop the alleged slaughter of cows.

An 81-year-old RSS activist, Swami Lakshmananda Saraswati, was heading the VHP movement in Kandhamal. He operated largely from two ashrams 150 km from each other. He was a member of the VHP’s Kendriya Margadarshak Mandal, a powerful decisionmaking panel. On August 23, Saraswati was gunned down in one of the ashrams at night while celebrating Janmashtami. It was the tenth attempt at killing Saraswati, a figure disliked by the Christians, but revered by a band of fanatic Hindu male followers in his ashram.

Full article (with pictures): In the name of God

Source:Tehelka

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