By: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal
A violent anti-Christian Hindu pogrom erupted in Orissa (northeast India) on
23 August that has claimed dozens of lives, including that of a 20-year-old
nun burned to death in an orphanage. Numerous others have been injured, many
seriously, including another young nun who was pack raped. Casualties are
mounting daily in the wake of ethnic-religious cleansing.
Compass Direct (CD) reports (1 Sept): "While many parts of Orissa remained
under curfew today, over 13,000 people were reportedly living in relief
centers set up by the state government in seven places in Kandhamal." Dr.
Abraham Mathai, vice chairman of the Maharashtra State Minorities Commission
told reporters, "More than 50,000 Christians are living as refugees following
the violence in Orissa. All the political parties are sitting as mute
spectators." In Kandhamal district alone, around 1,000 Christian houses,
hundreds of churches and numerous Christian institutions and businesses have
been demolished by rampaging Hindus. (Link 1)
While this anti-Christian violence is shocking, it is not surprising. Hindutva
(Hindu nationalist) elements acting with legal impunity and state government
support have for decades been stoking the flames of hatred, cultivating an
incendiary environment in Orissa. Now Orissa, like Gujarat, is primed for
genocide. And hot on the heels of Gujarat and Orissa are numerous other
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled states.
It was a brilliant strategy of the Sangh Parivar -- a collection of Hindu
nationalist organisations co-operating towards making India a Hindu State --
to weave religion and politics strategically together in the Bharatiya Janata
Party (BJP) enabling the Sangh to exploit religion for political gain. Indeed,
the present persecution is not primarily about religion. India's Christians
are pawns in a deadly struggle between modernity and the beneficiaries of
traditional Hindu culture who are desperate to secure the political power that
would guarantee their privileged status into the future by perpetuating the
racist, fatalist, immoral Hindu caste system.
GUJARAT AND ORISSA PREFIGURE INDIAN CRISIS
The strategic brilliance and alarming effectiveness of the Sangh Parivar's
campaign for a Hindu Rastra (Hindu State) has never been sufficiently appreciated.
Even after the 2002 anti-Muslim Hindu pogrom in Gujarat that left some 2000
Muslims dead, India and the world failed to fully appreciate what was
happening. Then an anti-Christian Hindu pogrom in Orissa over Christmas 2007
left a swath of destruction and turned hundreds of thousands of Christian into
traumatised IDPs (Internally Displaced Peoples). Yet again India and the world
did not understand what was happening.
The ringleaders and inciters of the Gujarat 2002 and Orissa 2007 pogroms --
Narendra Modi and Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati respectively -- not only
remained free, but were elevated and to many they became national heroes! In
Gujarat, Narendra Modi was even rewarded by being re-elected as Chief Minister
-- twice! The "kranti" (revolution) in Gujarat, through which the majority,
caste-perpetuating Hindu community terrorised the minority Muslim community
into submission, is now held up by Hindutva protagonists as the model.
In January 2006 it became clear that the Modi government was planning to set
the Dangs (in Gujarat) alight with an anti-Christian pogrom following the
Shabri Kumbh Mela that February. (See link 2).
However, alarm bells rang out, opposition mounted and the Church prayed (see
And God answered the prayers of many. While the Shabri Kumbh Mela may have
effected mass religious-political conversions (converting tribal
Congress-voting animists into BJP-voting Hindus), the Sangh's strategy to
ignite another Hindu kranti -- this time a genocidal massacre of Christians --
The Christmas 2007 anti-Christian pogrom in Orissa however was not heralded.
Hindutva forces kept secret their plans for a pogrom for Christmas Day 2007
under the guise of a bandh (strike) in protest of the Pana (Dalit/Scheduled
Caste) Christians request for Schedule Tribe status -- something they need in
order to benefit from affirmative action programs in a caste driven society
that denies benefits to Dalits/Scheduled Castes that convert to Christianity.
(Under the rules, Scheduled Tribes who convert to Christianity continue to
enjoy reservations/affirmative action, but Dalits/Scheduled Castes who convert
While police were withdrawing from the districts to take up their positions at
the Biju Janata Dal's (BJD) 10-year anniversary celebrations in the capital,
Hindus were felling trees and blockading roads around Kandhamal district in
preparation for the anti-Christian pogrom that Hindu communalists vowed would
"teach them a lesson!". (Link 4)
Thousands of Hindus then rioted crying, "Stop Christianity. Kill Christians!"
Across Kandhamal district alone, more than 700 Christian homes and around 100
churches and 95 Christian institutions were vandalised, looted, destroyed and
torched. Leading the incitement was the state's principal Hindutva ideologue
and proselytiser, Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati. After falsely claiming to have
been wounded in a violent attack by a vicious Christian mob, he told his
followers via a mobile phone message (in the presence of police and
journalists) to burn Christian homes and churches and repeat the kranti
(revolution) that brought "shanti" (peace) to Gujarat (i.e. the 2002 Hindu
pogrom in which some 2000 Muslims were brutally massacred). (Links 4 and 5)
(For a comprehensive account of the Orissa Christmas 2007 anti-Christian Hindu
Dr Angana Chatterji's sworn affidavit.
To The Commission of Inquiry of Honourable Justice Panigrahi
Re. Kandhamal, Orissa. Submitted 30 May 2008.
Dr Chatterji is an Indian citizen resident in the USA. She is Associate
Professor of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the Californian Institute of
Integral Studies. She has been conducting extensive research on the
communalisation of Orissa since June 2002.)
ORISSA: A TINDERBOX
In 1960 the RSS launched Goraksha Andolan, a Hinduisation program focused
initially on banning cow slaughter. In 1965 the Hindu paramilitary
organisation Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS: National Volunteer Corps)
deployed a Hindutva proselytiser named Lakan to oversee the implementation of
the Prevention of Cow Slaughter Act in Orissa. Orissa subsequently passed a
Freedom of Religion Act in 1967 which prohibited conversions to Christianity
by force or fraudulent means. (This Act was subsequently strengthened in
1999.) In 1969 Lakan establish an Ashram (Hindu religious centre) in
Kandhamal, changed his name to Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, and committed
himself to countering the work of Christian missionaries in Orissa.
While Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati never succeeded in stopping conversions to
Christianity, he did succeed in creating a tinderbox, hot with Hindutva,
anti-Christian hatred, majoritarianism and communalism. Appalling crimes have
been perpetrated against Christians in Orissa, with numerous forced
conversions into Hinduism, assaults and killings, including the martyrdom of
Graham Staines, burned alive with his two young sons Phillip and Timothy in
The advance of Hindutvaisation over recent years has given rise to some
alarming developments. Today it is not just individual Christian evangelists
at risk of assault and assassination, whole Christian communities are now at
risk of genocide. No longer are the murderers "loose cannon" Hindus and
militants from the Bajrang Dal (the Sangh's militant Hindutva youth militia),
they are simply local Hindus raping, beating, looting and killing their
Christian neighbours with impunity. Reporting on the Christmas 2007 pogrom,
Tehelka Magazine (an Indian magazine) noted in January 2008 that when a
1,000-strong mob of rampaging Hindus attacked Balliguda's Mt Carmel Convent,
the Carmelite sisters were shocked that local Hindu beneficiaries of Mt
Carmel's vocational courses were among the rioters. (Link 5)
According to Dr Chatterji, it is this violence with impunity along with a
complete breakdown in trust that has led to the "ghettoisation" of the
Christian community over recent years.
So at the behest of the Sangh Parivar and with the support and encouragement
of the BJP-BJD Orissa state government, Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati turned
Orissa into a tinderbox of communal tension, and on 24 December 2007 he lit
the fuse in Kandhamal.
23 AUGUST 2008: ORISSA BURNS AGAIN
Unlike the anti-Christian Hindu pogrom of Christmas 2007, the anti-Christian
violence that exploded in Kandhamal on 23 August 2008 was not premeditated. It
was however incited by VHP (World Hindu Council) activists. Immediately after
Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati (85) was ambushed and shot dead in a girls'
orphanage in Kandhamal district, VHP leaders were publicly charging that the
Christians were responsible. VHP state general secretary Gouri Prasad Rath
demanded a high-level probe and ban on churches in Kandhamal, and told the
media: "Christians have killed Swamiji. We will give a befitting reply." (Link 6)
This charge was levelled against the entire Christian community despite
evidence that it was a targeted assassination carried out by a group of some
40 well-armed Naxalite/Maoist militiamen. (Egalitarian left-wing
Naxalite/Maoists are natural enemies of caste-perpetuating right-wing Hindu
nationalists.) Many analysts believe the Maoists are intervening to take sides
in the communal tensions in Orissa in the hope of winning Christian support.
(See link 7)
However the VHP subsequently claimed to have received a letter from the
Maoists denying any involvement but offering that some wayward cadres may have
been paid by "communal Christian miscreants" to murder of the VHP leader. The
alleged letter stated that Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati was murdered because
of his opposition to religious conversion. (Link 8)
According to a CD report entitled, "Maoists in India Say They Killed Hindu
Leader" (1Sept): "The Central Committee of the Communist Party of
India-Maoist, an extreme Marxist group banned by the Indian government,
released a statement today saying that Sangh Parivar . . . have deliberately
misled people about Saraswati's death.
"The Maoist statement warned the VHP of 'more such punishments if it continued
violence against religious minorities in the country' and called for a ban on
groups linked to the Sangh Parivar, such as the VHP, its youth wing Bajrang
Dal, right-wing Hindu political party Shiv Sena and the Hindu nationalist
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)." (Link 9)
STRATEGY OF SANGH PARAVAR
WEA RLC has stated numerous times over several years that the strategy of the
Sangh Parivar is brilliantly strategic and hugely successful.
As noted in the WEA RLC News & Analysis annual Religious Liberty Trends
posting of 2006-07 entitled Hindutva's Advance: "Because the Hindutva forces
are active primarily in the religious sphere -- Hinduising the animist tribals
and creating new exploitable Hindu mythology -- their activity is slipping
under the radar of most political analysts. But while the Hindutva forces are
focusing on the religious sphere it is all for political gain. This strategy
of effecting political conversion by means of religious conversion is hugely
successful." (Link 10)
In her sworn affidavit, Dr Angana Chatterji comments likewise on the strategy
and methodology of the Sangh Parivar, noting that instead of pursuing its
earlier strategy of conversions by means of forced re-conversion ceremonies,
"The Sangh Parivar has instead increased its emphasis on the Hinduisation of
Adivasis [indigenous tribals, traditionally animists] by making them a part of
Hindu rituals and ceremonies (as during the Sammelan), which, in effect,
'converts' Adivasis into Hinduism by assuming that they are Hindu. Such
'conversion' tactics are diffused and no longer have to negotiate certain
legalities, which public and stated conversion ceremonies did. On
converting/'reconverting' to Hinduism, Adivasis are expected to join Hindu
caste society as Sudras, a 'higher' placement than Dalits in the caste
hierarchy, Sangh activists say.
"Dalit Christians are doubly discriminated against, as Dalits and as
Christians. Post-Hinduisation, Adivasis are being mobilised against Christian
groups. Adivasis are incited into targeting Dalit Christians, both fomenting
Adivasi-Dalit divides and vitiating the historical solidarities between them.
This is crucial to Hinduisation. It also acts to warn non-Christian Dalits
against conversion to Christianity.
"The Hindutvaisation of the Hindu community, and Hinduisation of the secular,
allows the Sangh's escalation. This process unfolded in Brahmanigaon, for
example, where the growth of the business community has supported the rise of
the Sangh Parivar. Hindutva conversions served to terrorise the Adivasi and
Dalit community, via which the Sangh Parivar achieves its preliminary
expansionist goals. While ceremonial conversions continue sporadically, a more
protracted and dispersed strategy of Hinduisation through incorporation and
assimilation is aggressively pursued as effective methodology."
This Hinduisation by means of "incorporation and assimilation" was described
in the WEA RLC News & Analysis posting of January 2006 (link 2): "One of the
main strategies used by the Sangh Parivar to win the allegiance of the tribals
is the campaign to convince them that they are actually Hindus who are just
practising local and maybe corrupted expressions of mainstream Hindu
traditions. Slowly the animist practices are redefined as Hindu, given Hindu
names, and gently refined to suit Brahmin sensitivities.
"Part of this campaign is the renaming of the Adivasis (first inhabitants) as
Vanvasis (forest dwellers). Upon this foundation the proponents of Hindutva
then claim that the tribals and the Indo-Aryans are all one people (there is
no indigenous population and no Indo-Aryan invasion) and the "Vanvasis" are
really historically Hindu. They use this lie as a basis to 're-convert',
absorb, communalise and exploit the Adivasis."
It must be noted that the BJP unexpectedly lost power in the May 2004
elections by only the slimmest of margins and on 22 July 2008 the Congress-led
National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
only survived a confidence vote by the slimmest of margins, having lost the
support of its left-wing allies. Meanwhile, the Sangh has been busy Hinduising
the masses with a strategy so brilliant and so successful that it is quite
likely that the 2009 federal elections could restore the BJP to power in the
centre. And this at a time when increasing numbers of radicalised individuals
-- indeed whole Hindutvaised communities -- are ready to kill, terrorise and
ethnically-religiously cleanse Muslims and Christians on command, ostensibly
in defence of the motherland.
Has the future of India been prefigured in the Hindu pogroms in Gujarat and
Orissa? Let India and the world be warned: if the violent, fascist Hindutva
fire that the power- and privilege-hungry Sangh Parivar is presently spreading
across the nation is not successfully challenged and countered soon, then a
holocaust surely awaits.
By Elizabeth Kendal
1) Orissa: Hindu extremists burn one nun alive, rape another
25 August 2008, by Nirmala Carvalho
Thousands homeless after Hindu-Christian violence in India
By Hari Kumar, 29 August 2008
FOR UPDATES follow the news and Compass Direct http://www.compassdirect.org
2) India: The dictators of Hindutva aim for 'death blow' in Dangs
WEA RLC News & Analysis, 26 January 2006
By WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal.
3) India Shabri Kumbh Mela Threatens 8000 Christians in Dangs
WEA RL Prayer 364, 8 February 2006
4) Dr. Angana Chatterji's sworn affidavit
To The Commission of Inquiry of Honourable Justice Panigrahi
Re. Kandhamal, Orissa. Submitted 30 May 2008.
5) Next Stop Orissa
Tehlka Magazine. Vol 5, Issue 2, Dated 19 January 2008
NOTE: Tehelka is an independent Indian magazine committed to investigative
journalism. Whilst it can be commended for its investigations into high level
government corruption and destructive communalism, its hugely controversial
and provocative claims against the CIA, NGOs, missionaries and Christians in
its January 2004 feature entitled "Preparing the Harvest" reveal just how
widely the Sangh's anti-Christian conspiracies are accepted.
See "India: Liberty, persecution, and conspiracy theories."
WEA RLC News & Analysis 20 February 2004
By WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal
This must be noted as the article linked to above -- Next Stop Orissa --
whilst detailing and condemning the Hindutva violence, also perpetuates the
conspiracy theory that Christian NGOs are actively supporting the Maoist
6) Leader's death: VHP calls for Orissa bandh
25 Aug 2008, By Sandeep Mishra, TNN
7) Indian Maoists kill Hindus over Christian conversions
DAILY TIMES (Pakistan) 25 August 2008
8) Maoists deny role in VHP leader's murder. 29 August 2008
9) See Compass Direct http://www.compassdirect.org
Orissa: Maoists warn of more attacks. 1 Sep 2008.
10) Religious Liberty Trend (2) - India: Hindutva's advance
WEA RLC News & Analysis, 5 February 2007
By WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal
FOR PRAYER: SEE ALSO
India: Hindu Nationalist Confidence Grows
WEA Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | No. 486 | Wed 09 Jul 2008
ANOTHER REPORT ON THE DEC 2007 ORISSA POGROM
Continuing Orissa Riots: First Report By A Fact-Finding Team
BY Professor Prabhu Guptara. Published 14 January 2008
Human Rights Watch report on the 2002 Gujarat pogrom.
"We Have No Orders To Save You"
State Participation and Complicity in Communal Violence in Gujarat
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