Growing communalism in Orissa
It's been almost a decade now since the murder of a Christian missionary Graham Staines and his two sons in 1999 in Orissa. The latest incident in Kandhamal in which a girl was burnt alive in retaliation to the killing of VHP leader Laxmananda Saraswati only reminds the existence and the mounting communal hatred feeling in a state like Orissa. Nothing has changed in-between, but a reshaping of some evil political will by forcefully intersecting religion into it.
Religion has split Orissa several times but this time it is wide. A state without any history of fundamental religious clash a decade earlier is now a budding ground for growing fundamentalism like other parts of the country. The latest communal overturn has so far claimed eleven lives including four persons who were burnt to death after rioters set afire their houses. The state BJD-BJP government with no unequivocal and concrete stand so far tried to manage the situation only by putting the affected region under curfew, but to no avail.
In fact, the whole spiralling communal violence goes to the history of caste politics and their restructuring in the state. The state has been a centre of conversion and re-conversion by both Christian missionary and Hindu hardliners. Whatever be the means of conversion, by either force or allurement, it is directly linked to the future support base of political parties. The emergence of BJD-BJP coalition somehow aided the movement of right-wing further, or one can say overlooked the ground reality as a small incident.
The stark differences between caste and class in many ways give a hand to the hardliners to sow their entire agenda of religious fanaticism who claim to be opposing forced conversion by Christian missionaries. The last big incident occurred in Kandhamal on Dec 2007 is enough to understand what is planned for the years to come.
The issue of Kandhamal violence – as caste based opportunities and advantages – is now on its high point for yet another religious repercussion in the nation. It is to mention here that most of the Dalits in the tribal dominated district are Christians, categorised under the Scheduled Caste (SC); while the tribal Kandhas are under Scheduled Tribe (ST) enjoying more advantages in a caste based reservation system. Dalits like Kui-speaking people who possess similar origin as Kandha demanding similar status of ST has had brought opposition from the existing Kandha tribes that led to the last year violence.
However, both Centre and State administration has failed to embark upon the growing issues whether a caste based reservation or the religious hate campaign. Furthermore, the 2006 report by the India Peoples’ Tribunal on Communalism in Orissa highlights various facts related to the increasing criminal activities and human rights violations by Hindu right-wing activists in the state. It had recommended various methods to improve the communal status, but that went unheard. The administration can not afford to overlook such issues for long; any form of communalism should be resisted tooth and nail to protect democratic values.
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