Mental shift

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Posts Tagged ‘Orissa’

Court asks nun to be present at identification parade

Posted by jytmkh on November 5, 2008

BHUBANESWAR: The nun who was raped in Kandhamal has been directed by a district court to be present at the test identification parade on November 10. The court of sub-divisional judicial magistrate at Baliguda issued the notice to the 29-year-old Catholic nun on November 1 after it was informed that the Crime Branch of police had failed to trace the complainant.


The court fixed November 10 as the date of the parade at Baliguda while hearing a petition filed by the Crime Branch investigating officer Dilip Mohanty. In his application, Mohanty told the court that the Crime Branch was facing difficulties in conducting the identification parade due to non-cooperation of the complainant who had lodged an FIR at the Baliguda police station on August 26 alleging rape. 

Though the Orissa government as well as the police had made several appeals to the raped nun, she did not turn up to assist the investigation. The Supreme Court in its order on October 22, had also asked her to assist in the probe. 

The nun, however, told reporters in Delhi on October 24 that she did not have faith in Orissa Police and demanded a CBI probe. “The court in its notice has asked the nun to be present during the TIP on November 10,” assistant public prosecutor B Loknath Dora told PTI. The court notice has been sent by post at the nun’s address at the Bishop’s house in Bhubaneswar.


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Sr. Meena Raped by Hindus while Police Watched

Posted by jytmkh on November 1, 2008

Asia News (

The courageous Sr. Meena Barwa speaks out on the brutal rape that she suffered at the hands of radical Hindus last August.”I was raped and now I don’t want to be victimized by the Orissa police.”
NEW DELHI (AsiaNews) – Here is the complete statement by Sr. Meena Barwa:

“On 24th August, around 4:30 pm, hearing the shouting of a large crowd, at the gate of Divyajyoti Pastoral Centre, I ran out through the back door and escaped to the forest along with others. We saw our house going up in flames. Around 8:30 pm we came out of the forest and went to the house of a Hindu gentleman who gave us shelter.

(Proud to be Catholic? Show Your Support Right Now! Virtual Vigil of Prayer and Solidarity for the Persecuted Church in India. Please Sign the ‘Catholic Action’ Petition!)

On 25th August, around 1:30 pm, the mob entered the room where I was staying in that house, one of them stopped me on my face, caught my hair and pulled me out of the house. Two of them were holding my neck to cut off my head with axe. Others told them to take me out to the road; I saw Fr. Chellan also being taken out and being beaten. The mob consisting of 40-50 men was armed with lathis, axes, spades, crowbars, iron-rods, sickles etc.They took both of us to the main road. Then they led us to the burnt down Janavikas building saying that they were going to throw us into the smouldering fire.

When we reached the Janavikas building, they threw me to the verandah on the way to the dining room which was full of ashes and broken glass pieces. One of them tore my blouse and others my undergarments. Father Chellan protested and they beat him and pulled him out from there. They pulled out my saree and one of the stepped on my right hand and another on my left hand and then a third person raped me on the verandah mentioned above. When it was over, I managed to get up and put my petticoat and saree. Then another young man caught me and took me to a room near the staircase. He opened his pants and was attempting to rape me when they reached there. I hid myself under the staircase. The crowd was shouting “where is that sister, come let us rape her, at least 100 people should rape.”

They found me under the staircase and took me out to the road. There I saw Fr. Chellan was kneeling down and the crowd was beating him. They were searching for a rope to tie us both of us together to burn us in fire. Someone suggested to make us parade naked. They made us walk on the road till Nuagoan market which was half a kilometer from there. They made to fold our hands and walk. I was with petticoat and saree as they had already torn away my blouse and undergarments. They tried to strip even there and I resisted and they went on beating me with hands on my cheeks and head and with sticks on my back several times.

When I reached the market the market place about a dozen of OSAP policemen were there. I went to them asking to protect me and I sat in between two policemen but they did not move. One from the crowd again pulled out from there and they wanted to lock us in their temple mandap. The crowd led me and Fr. Chellan to the Nuagaon block building saying that they will hand us over to BDO. From there along with the block officer the mob took us to police outpost Nuagaon, other policemen remained far.
The mob said that they will come back after eating and one of them who attacked me remained back in the police outpost. Policemen then came to police outpost. They were talking very friendly with the man who had attacked me and stayed back. In police outpost we remained until the inspector in charge of Balliguda with his police team came and took us to Balliguda. They were afraid to take us straight to the police station and they kept us sometimes in jeep. In the garage, from there, they brought us to the station. The inspector in charge and other government officers took me privately and asked whatever happened to me. I narrated everything in detail to the police, how I was attacked, raped, taken away from policemen paraded half naked and how the policemen did not help me when I asked for help while weeping bitterly. I saw the inspector writing down. The inspector asked me “are you interested in filing FIR? Do you know what will be the consequence?” At about 10:00 pm I was taken for medical check-up accompanied by a lady police officer to Balliguda Hospital. They were afraid to keep us in police station, saying the mob may attack police station. So the police took us to the IB (Inspection Bungalow) where CRP men were camping.

On 26th August around 9:00 am, we were taken to Balliguda police station. When I was writing the FIR, the IIC asked me to hurry up and not to write in detail. When I started writing about the police, the IIC told me “this is not the way to write FIR, make it short”. So I re-wrote it for the third time in one and half page. I filed the FIR but I was not given a copy of it.At around 4:00 pm the inspector in charge of Balliguda police station along with some other government officers put us in the OSRTC bus to Bhubaneswar along with other stranded passengers. Police were there till Rangamati where all passengers had their supper. After that I did not see the police. We got down near Nayagarh and traveled in a private vehicle and reached Bhubaneswar around 2:00 am on 27th August.
State Police failed to stop the crimes, failed to protect me from the attackers, they were friendly with the attackers. They tried their best that I did best that I did not register an FIR, not make complaints against police, police did not take down my statement as I narrated in detail and they abandoned me half of the way. I was raped and now I don’t want to be victimized by the Orissa police. I want CBI enquiry.

God bless India, God bless you all.”

Posted in Orissa | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

More Indian police sent to Orissa

Posted by jytmkh on September 27, 2008

 India has deployed several hundred more federal police to the eastern state of Orissa after another person was killed and several injured in continuing Christian-Hindu clashes.

A recent outbreak of violence over religious conversions has spread beyond Orissa and  claimed the lives of up to 27 people across three Indian states.

More than 700 federal police were being sent on Friday to bolster the 3,000 security forces already in Orissa.

Pradeep Kapur, the state’s inspector general of police in charge of law and order, said: “We have moved seven more companies of paramilitary forces to the troubled areas.”

In one of two incidents of violence in rural Kandhamal district on Thursday, police said about 50 Christians armed with knives, sticks and stones hacked a Hindu man to death in the town of Raikia.

Around 500 Hindus also attacked and burned about 50 Christian homes and two prayer halls in Beherasahi village, Kishore Pradhan, a police officer, said.

Christians account for about 2.5 per cent of India’s 1.1 billion population, while Hindus make up 80 per cent.

Clashes first erupted in Orissa after Swami Laxsmananda Saraswati, a prominent Hindu leader, was killed. Though Chritistians deny any role, Hindu religious parties say Christian fanatics were behind the murder.

Saraswati, who actively opposed conversions to Christianity, had survived at least eight previous assassination attempts.

‘Forced’ conversion

Orissa has a history of religious violence, usually sparked by Hindu suspicions over missionary work.

Hindu activists claim that Christian missionary groups are forcing or bribing people to convert. Church organisations deny anyone has been pressured or paid to change their religion.


Pope Benedict has condemned the attacks on Christians in India and Roman Catholic bishops have urged the EU to treat the situation as a humanitarian emergency.

Despite this, violence has continued, especially in Kandhamal, where thousands of Christians now live in government camps because their homes are destroyed or they are too fearful to return.

Hindus at some places have also been at the receiving end of the violence and been attacked.

Religious clashes have also been reported in Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka states.

India does not have a long history of attacks on minority Christians, but intolerance has risen in the past two decades with a revival of Hindu nationalism.

Hindu nationalists lead or share power in the three states where Christians have come under attack.


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Violence, floods keep Orissa CM on the edge

Posted by jytmkh on September 27, 2008

DN Singh

Be it a man-made situation or just circumstantial, but Orissa’s Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, known to be an accomplished survivor through political odds, is now on the edge. He appears to be badly divided between two bads: on one side is the spectre of communal violence in Kandhamal and the very recent being the spurt of an unprecedented flood throwing millions off balance.

On top of that, what must be worrying Patnaik is the undertone of humiliation because of the Centre’s warning to invoke Article 355 and subsequently 356 unless the state government managed to restore harmony in riot-hit Kandhamal. The three consecutive notices from the Union Home Ministry (on September 6, 19 and on 26) are indeed hanging like the Damocle’s sword on Patnaik. It may be a far off possibility for the Centre to invoke Article 356 but the tenor of the notices have not only raised eyebrows nationally, but for the Chief Minister it could generate an atmosphere of negativity hardly six months before the upcoming Assembly polls. What further adds to the worry are the perfidious utterances of people who pose to be the harbingers of religious virtuosity and stoking the sentiments through websites.

At present Kandhamal is back in the news as the last three days were witness to three major incidents in which over 120 houses were burnt and a few prayer houses were torched. Four persons have been killed. What is bothersome is the state government’s decision, so far, to curb the unrest through the might of guns. More than 50 companies of Central and state security forces virtually lay seige to the district, yet the venom of hatred keeps boiling within.

Surprisingly, the CM till the other day appeared non-committal towards a process of dialogue, which was evident from his reply to a question from the scribes the other day that whether he had any plans to take recourse to dialogue for peace in Kandhamal. Patnaik parried the question saying that anyone is welcome to take any such initiative that can restore normalcy there.

However, like gold in the tooth of decay, the Chief Minister now seems ready for the truce and left for Kandhamal in a huff on Saturday last. There comes the poser that why this thought had not occurred to the state government earlier which heavily depends on bureaucratic wisdom. Was it the ‘notice’ from the Union Home Ministry which could create the significant erosion of the siege mentality of the ‘babus’ or electoral compulsion of Naveen Patnaik .

The damage is done and the clear polarization of the vote bank in Kandhamal and in a few adjoining districts, is inevitable. In the name of religion the ground reality cannot be masked. The inherent problems lie in the socio-economic roots. Tricks and tactics of surreptious nature had been played on this vulnerable section for decades and now when there is the backlash we want to styme their moral legitimacy to live through round the clock curfews and some remain confined to the relief camps gasping for breath. (ZEE News)

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Church attacks miff Centre; states warned

Posted by jytmkh on September 19, 2008

Centre has decided to invoke the Constitution to issue warnings to the Karnataka and Orissa governments after a series of attacks on churches and Christians.

This comes amid reports that members of the Sangh parivar like the VHP and Bajrang Dal are carrying out these attacks with the tacit approval of the state governments.

The Home Ministry will soon be issuing a warning to these states to put a stop to these attacks or face the consequences.

Sources say the warnings will be issued either under Article 355 or Article 365 of the Constitution– a last warning before the imposition of President’s Rule.

Article 355, which is an emergency provision, says it’s the duty of the Union government to protect states against external aggression and internal disturbances.

Article 365 says that the President can hold that the state is not acting in accordance with the Constitution. This is basically a ground to act against the state. (

Posted in Karnataka, Orissa | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

Was the carnage in Orissa necessary?

Posted by jytmkh on September 18, 2008

From Merinews (

By rhapsodysinger

JEWISH HISTORY is a history of Holocausts. The final destruction of the Temple marked just the beginning of the trials of the ordinary Jew. No wonder then, that the greatest Jew of all time is just a Marginal Jew. It is this idea of marginality or, in the Indian context — subalternity that distinguishes the path of this Marginal Jew. And the Lord of History has to repeatedly allow persecutions to beset those whom He loves to draw them closer to him once again. The real Panopticon is that of God’s who did not hesitate to crucify His own Son for the sake of defeating structures of sin. The ultimate woof of history belongs to God. It is keeping these aspects of the godhead and Jewish history that we should search for reasons for the carnage that is even now happening in Orissa. I write as a staunch Hindu, who nonetheless, believes in Jesus as my ’Ishta Devta’ and the Church as the rock on which the Kingdom of God is established. In other words, I witness as a Hindu Brahmin the wonders and the mysteries of Christ.

There are two angles to this simmering hatred that is boiling over in my nation: One is highly academic and thus, of only scholarly value; the other one is more plebian and thus, much more important for our discussion here.

After Vatican II the Church in India actively seeks to establish cultural roots here. There exists a large corpus of Christian theological exegesis which bolsters what is now known in seminary-circles as ’inculturation’. There is an ever increasing demand for dialogue and condemnation of what is termed as Hindutva. In other words, the Church desires to contextualise Hindu praxis within Her own matrix, namely, the liturgical practices of the Catholic Church in India. Putting it a bit more academically, the Roman Church in India wants to create a new grand narrative in contextualisation which deliberately wants to erase the old nakedly Eurocentric thrusts. At least, this is how the Church sees itself.

Even a cursory glance at the available Catholic apologetics of our times reveal this much instantly. How does it go about executing this erasure of the old ways and the construction of new paradigms sensitive to the Indian ethos? This has been done with great visual and aural effects in three ways: through the changing of the age-old habits of the religious from European soutanes to saris and ochre robes of the Hindu sannyasis; adding Sanskrit songs and chants within the liturgy in the Latin rite and lastly, by creating Hindu temple like structures where the Virgin and the Lord are made too look like Hindu deities. And often on Sundays, one finds the religious at the Church doors, speaking in Hindu terms to their parishioners: Jai Yesu, for example. Then there is the endless discussion of Hinduism in seminaries and courses galore on comparative religions in Papal Seminaries throughout India. These are what the Church in India thinks as legitimate endeavours of a free people.

Let us now in all fairness see how these efforts are construed at the grass root level. Why should the Church do this and not simply condemn the barbaric and heinous nature of the assaults in Orissa? Why should she concede that fundamentalists are not the only ones to blame? The answer lies in Church history, suffering often has a message. May be there is too much counter-witnessing within the Church. When demoniac men burn alive other women and men, then the former need not be discussed in conciliatory terms but rather delegated to penal systems to see them punished suitably. What is this message? Is it possible that inculturation is simply not working in India?

The much touted dialogue in the Church is in reality only monologue. Hinduism is fundamentally a non-celibate religion. The Church being top-heavy in India naturally draws Hindu monks in its efforts to reach out to Hindus. While certainly the Church runs much coveted educational institutions all over India; they simply serve to weaken the Church here. It is true that most students in such institutions are Hindus but notice how often their parents are offended by seemingly powerful headmasters and principals. Notice how often these same women and men of the cloth are seen posing in photographs with business-scions and politicians. Also notice the unavailability of these same education-religious within the local social structures of the places where they live. And these are the most numerous amongst Indian Catholic religious.

The Catholic Church in India is certainly perceived as an educational behemoth which is elitist and exclusive in Her choice of pupils. The Church in India is firmly entrenched within a vicious circle of paradoxes and thus, runs the risk of being termed a chameleon which preaches sacrifices but serves hedonism. Walk into any of the urban schools and colleges run by the religious in India and all the efforts of the rural religious in inculturation will immediately seem hypocritical to even the least conscientious of men. How is it possible that those who profess Sanyasa, those who vow renunciation of the world and its pomps, live like feudal lords in the fiefdoms that are their institutions? So the average man on the streets lusts after the coveted seats provided by these established places of learning while at the same time cringing at the tortures and humiliations that the process of entry to these places often entails. It never helps that the Church in India keeps on boasting about the service it so kindly renders to the Hindu populace. This Janus-nature of the Indian Church, this deplorable polarisation between the much more honest rural Church and the Pharisaical urban Indian Church is its undoing here. The whiff of double-standards defeats any efforts at inculturation.

This is not to condone the violence that rocks my fellowmen. Yet my response is one of faith in both the truths of Hinduism and Catholicism. Everything that happens, happens only because God allows it and God speaks to us through daily occurrances. More than the hierarchy who suffer, it is the ordinary Christian who is persecuted. Let the Church note this.

The academic explanation for this violence should not only be located in the idea of anti-conversion laws in India or the rise of the so-called Hindutva. By being seminary limited and imitative of Western, South American theology movements, Indian theologians have created a morass of dead theologies which subtly bypass the more lived elements of both Catholicism and Hinduism. By blindly accepting Indian society’s structural injustices as given, Catholic theology in India seems always resistant to understanding Hindu sentiments which see this discourse merely as another western diatribe. Indian Catholic theology is merely a rehash of western movements and draws its inspiration from Patristic sources rather than any genuine appreciation of Anekattavadas.

Thus, the whole idea of studying Hinduism is defeated in Indian clerical circles. There are no Hindus really involved in this experiment. Everything is reduced to changes of names from erstwhile European ones to new Sanskrit ones. This nominalist effort as claiming everything Christian in India as ontologically native just remains polemical and superficial.

May be God wants to send a message across to the Indian Church to be more loyal to the Gospels first and then inculturate. And as a Church of praying people in pilgrimage across this vale of tears, I request your prayers for my Hindu brothers who are persecuting you. Father, they do not know what they do.

Om Shanti.

Posted in Orissa | Tagged: , , , | 7 Comments »

Rights body to probe anti-Christian violence in Orissa

Posted by jytmkh on September 17, 2008

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) will send a team to Orissa to probe the recent violence against Christians that led thousands of them to flee their homes.

The panel’s move follows a petition submitted by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, seeking protection from violence at the hands of Hindu radicals.

“The petition raises serious questions about human rights violations and therefore the panel has sought a report from Orissa’s chief secretary and DGP (Director General of Police) within two weeks,” an NHRC official said.

Orissa’s Kandhamal district was hit by communal violence after Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Swami Laxmananda Saraswati and four others were shot dead by unidentified gunmen at his Jalespata Ashram in the district Aug 23.

Though police said Maoist rebels could have killed the VHP leader, Hindu groups blamed the Christians for the murder and went on the rampage against them. Christian groups have repeatedly denied the allegation.

The state has witnessed targeted violence since Aug 23 in which thousands of Christians have been rendered homeless.

“Some organisations had pointed fingers at the Christian community for the murder, and targetted the community,” the petition said.

It alleged that despite the assurance of protection from the government, the Hindu radicals were moving about with lethal weapons threatening Christians.

The petitioners said that the “destructive activities of the fundamentalists” even in the presence of police were forcing Christians to flee their homes and take refuge in the forest or even leave Orissa. (Hindustantimes)

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No let-up in Orissa, Karnataka violence

Posted by jytmkh on September 17, 2008

BHUBANESWAR: The faith-fuelled fire that erupted three weeks back continued to burn through tribal tracts of Orissa on Tuesday.

A policeman was fatally shot when a 500-strong mob of tribals stormed a police station in Gochhapada in a Naxal-style operation. The area is about 35 km from Phulbani, the headquarters of Kandhmal district, where scores of churches and prayer halls have been attacked and mobs have targeted Christians to vent their anger over conversions. ( Watch )

The latest hate fire was sparked off by the killing of Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati at his Jalespeta ashram three weeks back. The VHP leader had been in the forefront of opposing conversions and leading the campaign to re-convert those who had recently embraced Christianity to Hinduism.

Late Monday-Tuesday night, the tribal mob, which included women, burnt the police station and two vehicles and five motorcycles parked there. The tribals then proceeded to Balandapada, about 20 km from there, and torched the police outpost. At both places, they attacked other police establishments as well.

Anger among non-Christian tribals have been rising as police have arrested several from the community for attacking Christians and torching prayer halls in Kandhmal. DIG R P Koche said 26-year-old sepoy Bibhudendra Biswal was on night duty when the armed villagers launched the attack.

“We have deployed one company of CRPF in the area. Police action has been initiated, but there has been no arrest as yet,” the DIG said. This was the first police casualty reported in the state during the current phase of violence. On Saturday, one CRPF jawan had been shot during mob violence at Krutamgada, about 160 km from Phulbani, where three villagers had been killed in the police firing.

Police sources said that ahead of launching the attack on the police station, the tribal protesters had felled trees and blocked all roads leading to the area with huge logs. As they mounted the attack, most of the cops in the station fled. Biswal, who had recently joined the force, was on sentry duty but without a weapon. He, too, tried to flee when a bullet first hit him in the leg and then a second one in the head. Over 250 people have been arrested in Kandhmal district in connection with the communal violence. Night curfew is still on in several towns.

In Bhubaneswar, chief minister Naveen Patnaik reviewed the worsening communal split at a high-level meeting attended among others by the chief secretary, home secretary and the director general of police. The government has decided to retain about 43 companies of CRPF in the state, including 26 companies in Kandhmal district alone, till October-end.

Knives were out in Mangalore as 10 people were stabbed on the city’s outskirts and fires stoked by religious fundamentalists continue to burn the bustling commercial city for the third consecutive day. All schools and colleges were shut, shops remained closed and roads were deserted as Sri Rama Sena forced a shutdown in the city to protest the stabbing of an activist on Monday evening.

Even as the police claimed that all the stabbing incidents were not related to violent attacks on churches, dozens of people were taken into custody by the police. Around 175 people have been arrested in the city so far, over 50 of them for attack on churches and the rest for clashes with Hindu groups and police on Monday.

The trouble started here a couple of days back as Hindu groups began to target churches and prayer halls for the alleged conversion activities of some Christian groups, particularly a sect called the New Life Fellowship. The attacks on minorities in Karnataka seems to be taking a serious turn as violence continues in Orissa and shows no signs of abetting.

On Tuesday, even as Karnataka home minister V S Acharya was in the city to discuss with government officials and community leaders the measures to contain the uninterrupted violence, the city was in the grip of fear and anxiety. (TOI)

Posted in Karnataka, Orissa | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Bharat Mata is stifled by saffron

Posted by jytmkh on September 15, 2008

Ponni Arasu

I write this piece sitting in the capital of the only south Indian state which is ruled by the BJP. Within a few months of the BJP coming to power, the repercussions are crystal clear. Saffron shines through every nook and corner of this IT hub, which is already struggling to deal with  a range of inequalities. Churches, Christian schools and Muslim and Christian individuals  and communities are being attacked regularly in the state. The pattern is familiar. The Nazi model is sound and can be replicated anywhere and thus Karnataka is now replicating the realities of Gujarat and Maharashtra. Human rights activists, researchers and lawyers working on arrange of issue are beginning to come together to prepare for a long tussle with Hindu fundamentalist forces.   I wish this dramatic narration was an exaggeration. What is it that brings rights activists across the board together when it comes to Hindu fundamentalism in India? Is it just the magnitude of the issue that has hit us violently in the past? That seems to be too inadequate a reason. The essential reason is that the Hindutva ideology believes in building ONE kind of nation. In this nation there will be Hindus and those who agree to live subservient to the Hindus. These Hindus are also not a generic category. To be Indian is to be Hindu. The ideal Hindu is a ‘healthy’, upper caste, rich, heterosexual man. All other Hindus exist to assist in the life of this “complete man”. This man is to then ‘guard’ ‘mother India’.  It is these self-appointed ‘guardians’ of the nation who attacked cinema halls across the country which screened Deepa Mehta’s lesbian-themed film Fire. One such ‘guardian’ is vehemently contesting the challenge to Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalises the existence and the lives of LGBT persons, in the Delhi high Court. This is part of the long strenuous relationship between Hindu fundamentalists and sexuality rights activists in India. This relationship is not just a contestation over simpler questions of sexuality identities or practices. It is a question of culture and nation. Fire, they screamed, showcased things that are against Indian culture, as is Valentine’s day celebrations or even Eid and Christmas as they might soon declare. Poorer Hindu and Muslim men and women, those not part of the  Archies cards version of ‘love’, but who sneak away to local parks to whisper sweet nothings or just converse casually are assaulted by the ‘guardians’. Art exhibitions are ransacked and all those involved physically hurt for allegedly ‘disrespecting’ the ‘gods’ , who apparently cannot be, at any cost, imagined or portrayed by anyone else but the ‘guardians’, in a manner that they decide.  These ‘guardians’ are not just here to guard what they believe is theirs. They are here to decide how we ALL live; who we love, which gods we pray to and how. If you dare to exist any other way, you are to die. And die not as an individual but as a community. The list of people the VHP, Bajrang Dal or RSS attack in India today is eerily similar to those sent to concentration camps in Nazi Germany. Communists there — human rights activists here. Binayak Sen is a case in point. Jews there — Muslims, Christians, dalits, tribals and god knows how many other communities here. Both lists have one thing, literally, in common — homosexuals. The similarity between these lists is not a coincidence and does not end there. They have in common the focus on propaganda, the belief in violence and acts of social good (education and other welfare) as a tool to breed hatred of the imagined ‘other’.  This imagined ‘other’ in effect is each and every person who believes in the right to make one’s own choices in terms of god, work, love and life. This ‘other’ is one who believes that all human beings deserve equal opportunities and equal rights to live their lives with respect and dignity. This ‘other’ captures the spirit of the Indian constitution and our long history of social struggles for justice and equality.  It is the ‘guardians of this nation’ who seem to be out of place. What gave them the right to fix our ‘culture’? A culture is one that has space for everyone, equally irrespective of their caste, class, region, religion, gender or sexuality. It is this culture that gave us the sensuous sculptures of Khajuraho, the Kama Sutra, the love story of the Sufi saint Nizamuddin and Amir Khusro. It gave us the paintings of M F Hussain and movies like My brother Nikhil. This culture made space for queer columns in popular newspapers! Culture is an entity that is to give space for all those who choose to be part of it to change, transform and build so as to ensure warmth, love and camaraderie.


Whatever may be the violent dreams and  aspirations of these  alleged ‘guardians’, lives and struggles will go on with heads held high and hearts that have the courage to love. “Hate is more lasting than dislike”, said Adolf Hitler but then again “love will keep us alive and kicking!” (Expressbuzz)


Ponni Arasu  is a queer, feminist  activist and researcher  and currently works with  the Alternative Law Forum,  Bangalore. She can  be contacted at

Posted in Karnataka, Orissa | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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


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