Maoist Guerillas Fight Hindu Fascism in Orissa
Posted by Sole on January 23, 2009
This article appeared in People’s Truth Bulletin No. 4. It was originally titled “Beat Back the Fascist Onslaught in Orissa”.
The recent and ongoing violence on Dalit Christians in Kandhamal once again highlights the need to fight the fascist Hindutva forces and thoroughly exposes the governments, both central and state. The state and central government’s refusal to restrain fanatic Hindu militias evidences their linkage with Hindutva (BJP), soft Hindutva (Congress), and the capitulation of a section of civil society to Hindu majoritarianism. The current violence started immediately after the killing of the notorious goon in saffron, Lakshmanand Swamy, a VHP leader who was working in this area for more than 30 years solely for the consolidation of the Hindutva forces. He along with his four associates was shot dead by the people’s guerillas on 23rd of August 2008.
The people’s guerillas had left a note on the spot explaining the reasons behind the elimination of Lakshmananda Saraswati and stated “We have decided to punish anti-people, fanatical leaders like Saraswati because of endless persecution of religious minorities in the country. There will be more such punishments if violence is continued against religious minorities in the country.” In spite of this clear statement, Hindutva forces used this incident to carry out massacres on Dalit Christians holding them responsible. Whenever the anti-displacement leaders and activists are branded as Maoists, the Sangh Pariwar people are the first ones to join the chorus. They also demand firm action against such leaders and activists. But in this case even after the Maoists owning the responsibility, they are not willing to believe this as these cowardly gangsters are afraid to confront the naxalites and prefer to hit soft targets, like Christian priests, women and children.
The violence started immediately after that incident. Attacks on innocent adivasis, dalits, women, children belonging to minority community were planned, led and carried out by the Sangha Parivar (RSS, VHP, Bajrang Dal, ABVP, BJP) without any limit. Beginning from raping nuns, lynching innocent women-men, disabled persons and others to burning houses, shops, schools, orphan homes, churches has been going as if, there is no end to it. As of today more than 20 persons have been killed for no fault of theirs. Thousands and thousands of people, who are no way connected to the killing of Saraswati, including pregnant women, toddlers and old ones were forced to leave their homes and are languishing inside the forests amidst rains without food, water, clothes till now.
There are enough grounds to believe that there was a deliberate move by a section within the government that crippled the administration and police – leading to the complete breakdown of governance systems. The hooligans under the direct command of the BJP and RSS leaders burnt down shops, houses of Christians, ransacked and looted several Churches, burnt down some NGO offices, lynched a girl student of a Kanyashram and a priest at Baragarh, killed 3 persons in Kandhamal in the presence of Police forces. The violence is not confined to Kandhamal district alone and started spreading to other districts. In several districts of Orissa there is tension and fear of further violence. Already the situation in Koraput district particularly Jeypore is very serious. Many people have fled from their homes and villages and are in the jungles for the last six days without any food, medical care and shelter.
More than 25 people are reported to have been killed. Tens of thousands of exclusively Dalit and Adivasi Christians, including women and children in Kandhamal district of Orissa, have been hiding in forests for close to a fortnight. Over 4,000 houses have been torched and 300 villages entirely obliterated. A nun has been gang raped, another woman has been burnt alive in a Christian orphanage, and over 60 Churches and Christian institutions have been razed to the ground, many for the second time (107 churches were set ablaze in December 2007), by the right-wing fanatics.
Profile of Kandhamal District
Kandhamal is a recently constituted district in 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. In this doleful land live close to eight lakh people. In terms of castes and tribes, the Kandha tribe constitutes more than half the population of Kandhmal. The Panos, who are the dalits, form the next big chunk. It is on this Kandha tribe the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is concentrating for bringing them into the Hindutva fold. The Panos are where the Christian community gets its numbers. 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. Kandhamal remains socio-economically vulnerable, a large percentage of its population living in poverty. Approximately 90 percent of Dalits are landless. A majority of Christians are landless or marginal landholders.
Hindutva ideologues say Dalits have acquired economic benefits, augmented by Christianization. This is not borne out in reality. The demographic Profile of Kandhamal suggests that in the last 40 years, the population of outsiders having migrated into the district has increased by 140%. They are all non-tribals and non-Dalits, who mostly belong to the upper castes – Brahmins, Karans, Telis, Sundhis, Kumudis, etc. They do trade and business with tribals and Dalits. The stories of oppression involving them can be narrated separately. Most of the fertile lands in the district are under the control of these trading communities. They are the people who provide a good base to all Sangh Pariwar outfits who operate in the district and play an active role in every communal violence in the district.
RSS activist, Swami Lakshmananda Saraswati, who was heading the VHP movement in Kandhamal is not a sadhu as being projected. He was a member of the VHP’s Kendriya Margadarshak Mandal, a powerful decision-making panel. He operated largely from two ashrams 150 km from each other. To his followers, Saraswati was the incarnation of Parashurama, the first warrior saint in Hindu mythology.. Saraswati saw himself as the saint who would vanquish the Christians. Saraswati was a member of what are now called the Most Backward Castes. He had to quit his job because of some irregularities and a police case for murder and criminal conspiracy is pending against him. He managed to escape many previous attempts on his life.
The Rise of Hindutva Forces in Orissa
What has happened in Kandhamal is not an isolated event. It’s an outcome of a sustained effort of the Sangh Parivar to spread the poison of communal hatred in Orissa. A series of anti-Christian episodes, such as the gruesome murder of Graham Staines and his two sons in 1999, marked the onset of aggressive Hindutva in the Orissa.
The Sangh’s history in postcolonial Orissa is long and violent. Virulent Hindutva campaigns against minority groups reverberated in Rourkela in 1964, Cuttack in 1968 and 1992, Bhadrak in 1986 and 1991, Soro in 1991. The Hindutva forces had witnessed a phenomenal rise after the Bharatiya Janata Party’s coalition government with the Biju Janata Dal came to power in 2000.
However we can’t put the entire blame on the BJP alone for the consolidation of communal forces. The role of all mainstream political parties is equallycondemnable. The local leaders of the main opposition Congress partyare mostly with the Sangh Pariwar, which is the reason why violence onminorities could not be prevented even in pockets where the Congress partyhas got good influence. The local leaders of the Congress have alwaysextended good help to Swami Lakshmanananda whenever the Swami hadorganized yajnas or other communal rituals. If one recalls the kind ofrole that the Congress played during the Gujarat riots and in the daysfollowing the riots, one would find a similar role played by theCongress in Orissa in the Kandhamal situation.
At present VHP has claimed 1,25,000 primary workers in Orissa. The RSS is said to operate 6,000 shakhas with a 1,50,000 plus cadre. The Bajrang Dal has 50,000 members working in 200 akharas. BJP workers number above 4,50,000. BJP Mohila Morcha, Durga Vahini (7,000 outfits in 117 sites), and Rashtriya Sevika Samiti (80 centres) are three major Sangh women’s organizations. BJP Yuva Morcha, Youth Wing, Adivasi Morcha and Mohila Morcha have a prominent base. Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh manages 171 trade unions with a membership of 1,82,000. The 30,000-strong Bharatiya Kisan Sangh functions in 100 blocks. The Sangh also operates various trusts and branches of national and international institutions to aid fundraising, including Friends of Tribal Society, Samarpan Charitable Trust, Sookruti, Yasodha Sadan, and Odisha International Centre. Sectarian development and education are carried out by Ekal Vidyalayas, Vanavasi Kalyan Ashrams/Parishads (VKAs), Vivekananda Kendras, Shiksha Vikas Samitis and Sewa Bharatis — cementing the brickwork for hate and civil polarization.
The real reasons behind the “Communal Violence”
The present violence in Orissa is not exclusively a religious violence. It must be seen as part of the evolving social economical and political conditions in the country in general and in Orissa particular. Orissa has a share of 6.6% of total value of the mineral resources but constitutes only 1.6% of the national industrial production. This huge mineral resource obviously makes Orissa a lucrative destination for the world’s biggest multinational companies and private capital. The Orissa government has ruthlessly pursued land acquisition for mining companies and for exploitation of other natural resources through brute force as witnessed in Kashipur, Kalinga nagar, Jagatsinghpur and Hirakud to honour the commitments that it has made to various companies.
On the other hand we can also see the rising people’s resistance to these globalization policies and economic plunder by imperialists. The ruling classes aware of this reality are finding ways to contain the mass opposition. The Sangh Parivar is working precisely for imperialists through its divisive politics of creating communal tensions and pitting the most marginalized groups against each other; in this case the Adivasis against Dalits, majority of whom happen to be Christians. The Sangh Parivar makes false claims that Christian missionaries and Muslim traders are responsible for illegal acquisition and grabbing of lands of Adivasis. The notion that Dalit Christians are responsible for the landlessness of the Adivasis is untrue. The fact is that there is a real decline in the actual number of available employment and income generating opportunities in the area, despite the ruthless mining and industrialization in some areas.
The Sangh Parivar is also trying to emulate the example of Gujarat like situation in Orissa by Hinduizing the huge tribal population. Orissa has about 22% tribal population and in some districts like Koraput, Keonjhar, Phulbani, Sundargarh and Kandhamal they are a majority. They are also an important base for the Maoists who are spearheading the fight against the mining mafia.
The present violence in Orissa must be seen as part of overall strategy of ruling classes to divide the people and contain the rising people’s movements. The acute worldwide economic crisis will have serious repercussions in India, particularly in an already impoverished state like Orissa. The resulting impoverisation will lead to more virulent revolts of the people against their oppressors. The sangh pariwar’s job is to divert this into internecine battles in order to save the rulers and the moneybags. It’s not surprising that their coffers are filled with funds from these sources for whom they work. The Sangh Parivar, with the help of government is already making plans to set up reactionary militias in Orissa with tribal people along the lines of the “Salwa Jhudum” for suppressing the people’s movements. No doubt, as in Chattisgarh, they will be given a fitting reply by the masses led by the Maoists. Meanwhile a month back the newspapers reported that the people’s guerrillas killed one more of the notorious Bajrang leaders.