Kandhamal competes with Bengaluru

Posted on August 16, 2010


Contrary to what Indians here and Christians elsewhere have been told by evangelical missionaries, media and seculars, the Kandhamal arson is not, as it has been concocted, a clash between Hindu and Christian faithfuls at all! The truth is that it is a continuation of the clashes that had started in early 1990s between the ‘Kandha’ tribe, who did not convert to Christianity and ‘Pana’ caste, most of whom had converted. Religion is the spice added to this mix.

Kandhas are a Scheduled Tribe [ST] and ‘Panas’ are a Scheduled Caste [SC]. Both are entitled to reservation benefits under the Constitution, yet, with a difference. While the ST reservation will continue even if the beneficiary becomes a Christian, the SC reservation will cease on conversion. So, when the Panas became Christians they lost their reservation rights. But, under the influence of the missionaries and secular parties, and claiming to speak the same language ‘Kui’ as Kandhas, they agitated for ST status. So that, despite becoming Christians, their reservation rights would continue if they got listed as ST. But, the Kandhas, who saw that their share of reservation would be cut into if the Pana demand were conceded, began resisting it. Thus, reservation is a cause of the Kandha-Pana divide, but not the only cause; dispute over land is another.

The Kandhas were the traditional rulers of Kandhamal and that is the reason the district bears their name. The lands at Kandhamal belonged to them by the traditional rights that go with the tribes. It was their misfortune that the Kandhas chose to remain true to their traditional faith and resisted conversion to Christianity. The Panas were fortunate as most of them became Christians accepting the allurements offered by over 360 evangelical outfits operating in Kandhamal and harvesting souls for The ‘Only True Faith’ and ‘God’ and, in the process, raking in millions and millions of dollars from global funds for the noble harvest. Besides the perks that conversion yielded, the Panas, as Christian minorities, have now the protection of the state, patronage of the media and secular parties, and above all, the powerful support of the Christian nations all over the world. The Kandhas, whose only fault was that they did not convert, have none of these. So they suffer all the limitations of the majority community under the skewed Indian Constitution that clubs the Hindus in Mumbai with the Kandhas in Khandmal! With such powerful secular forces ranged against them, the Kandhas are being further corned in two ways. One, the Panas who have become relatively better off have gradually taken over much of the lands of the Kandhas, by commerce and fraud, as the Khands see it. Two, on top of it, the Panas are also claiming the ST status to grab a share of the reservation from the Kandhas, and thanks to the secular parties’ support, seem to be nearly getting it. In substance thus, it is a Khand vs Pana war over land rights and reservation. Surprisingly, in the face of the ‘itch of his colleagues’ to paste Hindu-Christian label on Kandhamal, Shivraj Patil, the Union Home Minister, saw the truth and ‘refused to treat’ the ongoing clashes ‘as communal’! But, more surprisingly, only one newspaper, a financial daily, reported his view while others had blacked it out!!

This is not the first time that the Kandhas and the Panas are at war. In the year 1992, the war between them lasted for three months, resulting in over 20 deaths. The issue was then, as it is now, land and reservation, which was the very consequence of the conversion of the Panas to Christianity. The Panas got financial and political advantage and also gained lands that belonged to the Kandhas. But though they lost their reservation benefits in the bargain, they began reclaiming it through their demand for ST status. It needs no seer to say that it is religious conversions that sequenced into hostilities between the Kandhas disadvantaged as Hindu majority and the Panas protected as Christian minority. No major clash between the Kandhas and the Panas was reported before the missionaries entered Khandmal. The Christian population in Kandhamal which was some 2% in 1961 and 6% in 1971, rose to 27% in 2001.These numbers speak volumes without words. Yet, now the missionaries, media and the seculars shout from house tops that only after VHP and Bajrang Dal have entered the scene, there are clashes and the minorities are being butchered. In 1992 there was no VHP worth the name in Orissa; and the Bajrang Dal was not yet born. Yet bloody clashes did occur in Kandhaamal between the Khands and the Panas. This points to only the one and the only fact, namely, that it is not the VHP or the Bajrang Dal, but, the entry of global evangelism aided by unlimited global funds for harvesting the Panas to Christianity that has turned the Kandhas and the Panas hostile to each other and had led to clashes between them. Actually it was the unresisted conversions that brought the Hindu outfits into Kandhamal. Now their resistance is faulted. But what about the cause – the global evangelical conversions powered by huge global funds? Why is the entire secular establishment deafeningly silent on this.

And where does Swami Laksmananda fit into this theatre of Kandhas and Panas, evangelists and the seculars and why was he murdered? A vedanta scholar, his only fault was that, when the establishment had let down particularly the Khands, who refused convert, he stood by them. He did to resist what the missionaries did to convert. Namely, he ran schools, colleges, satsangs, and discourses that had become a great hit with the Kandhas and also the Panas who refused to convert. He became the biggest roadblock to the missionaries in their harvest. He was targeted by the evangelists for a long time. In December 2007 an attempt was made on him in the village of a Congress MP and a Christian convert. Again, some 24 hours before he was murdered, the Swami got a letter threatening that he would be done away with if he did not close down his work against conversion in Kandhamal. He personally lodged that letter as FIR with the police. Yet, the Swami, along with four of his disciples, was done away with the very next evening. The Kandhas reacted violently when their best hope, the Swami, was snuffed out. This was the context for the August 2008 clashes that was always waiting to happen between the Kandhas and the Panas. Yet it was no one-sided affair, as made out to be. A secular newspaper has investigated and reported that the Panas responded to Kandhas attack with gun fire and killed four which has alerted the State to the possibility of the emergence of Christian-extremist alliance in Kandhamal.

This the story of how Kandhamal, the backward district of Orissa, competes for global status with Bangaluru now, but for entirely different reasons. While the fortunate Bangaluru became the pride of India thanks to the twenty-year old software techies who have put the nation on the knowledge map of the world, the unfortunate Kandhamal has become the shame of India, thanks to the seculars aggregating votes and the evangelists harvesting souls, with the media turning blind eye to both and finally to truth.

By S. Gurumurthy