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Politique et religions en Asie du Sud

Christophe Jaffrelot
Aminah Mohammad-Arif

Minorités religieuses

Hindutva combats christianity in Orissa

Le combat de l’Hindutva contre le christianisme en Orissa

Pralay Kanungo


Cet article explore les raisons du succès qu’a connu l’Hindutva dans sa mission contre le christianisme en Orissa. Premièrement, il montre comment le christianisme a commencé à séjourner dans un Orissa dominé par l’hindouisme à l’époque du pouvoir colonial en classant les hindous en tant que « païens », le dieu populaire hindou Lord Jagannath en tant que « force maléfique » et en approuvant la perception qu’avait le gouvernement colonial des Adivasi, en particulier les Kandha de Kandhamal, considérés comme « sauvages », semant ainsi les germes d’une mentalité anti-chrétienne qui se cristallisa à mesure que les missionnaires chrétiens zélés appliquaient leur programme de conversion. Deuxièmement, l’article examine comment la conversion est devenue le point principal du discours anti-chrétien de l’Hindutva pendant le régime de M.S. Golwakar (1906-1973), second chef du Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sang (RSS), qui s’est plus tard matérialisé sous forme de campagnes virulentes et de violentes attaques entreprises par le Sangh Parivar sous le gouvernement du BJP à New Delhi. Puis, l’article contextualise ce discours et la mobilisation agressive dans le Khandamal postcolonial, épicentre d’une violence anti-chrétienne, expliquant comment la conversion des Dalit Pana au christianisme a communalisé la division ethnique Kandha-Pana, et comment l’Hindutva a provoqué les Kandha en présentant les chrétiens Pana comme leurs exploiteurs économiques et politiques, déclenchant ainsi une animosité anti-chrétienne qui a culminé durant les émeutes de 2008. Ensuite, cette étude tente de comprendre les raisons pour lesquelles de nouvelles confessions chrétiennes, à l’instar des pentecôtistes, se sont multipliées au Kandhamal, attirant de nouveaux convertis et élargissant de plus en plus un clivage communautaire. Et pour finir, il montre comment les chrétiens ont relevé le défi en construisant des alliances avec des organisations progressistes diverses et des sociétés civiles laïques aussi bien qu’avec les maoïstes.

Texte intégral

  • 1 As per the 2001 Census Kandhamal’s total population is 6,48,201: Scheduled Tribes 3,36,809 (51.96 % (...)

1Orissa’s population is overwhelmingly Hindu (94.35 %); Christians and Muslims respectively constitute only 2.44 % and 2.07 % of the state population. Surprisingly, in the last two decades, violence against the numerically insignificant Christian minority has become a recurrent feature in Orissa — the 2008 Kandhamal1 violence being the latest manifestation. If Gujarat is known to be the Hindutva laboratory against Muslims, Orissa has achieved the distinction of being the Hindutva laboratory against Christians. This article attempts to understand and analyse the Hindutva’s anti-Christian agenda in Orissa, particularly in Kandhamal.

2The first section describes how Christianity began its journey in Hindu-dominated Orissa during the colonial rule: Christian missionaries labelled Hindus as “heathens”, the popular Hindu deity Lord Jagannath as “evil” and endorsed the colonial government’s perception of Adivasis, particularly the Kandhas of Kandhamal, as “savages”, thereby germinating the seeds of an anti-Christian “mindset” which got further crystallized as the missionaries zealously carried out their agenda of conversion. The second section highlights how the issue of conversion became the main plank of Hindutva’s anti-Christian discourse during the regime of M.S. Golwalkar (1906-1973), the second chief of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which later concretised in the forms of virulent campaigns and violent attacks undertaken by the Sangh Parivar during the BJP rule in New Delhi. The third section contextualises this discourse and aggressive mobilisation in postcolonial Kandhamal, the epicentre of anti-Christian violence, explaining how conversion of Dalit Panas to Christianity has communalised the long-standing Kandha-Pana ethnic divide and how Hindutva has also mobilised the Kandhas by portraying the Christian Panas as their economic and political exploiters, thereby triggering anti-Christian animosity which culminated in the 2008 riots. The fourth section attempts to understand why and how new Christian denominations like the Pentecostals have proliferated in Kandhamal, attracting new converts and widening communal cleavage. The final section has shown how Christians have confronted Hindutva’s challenge by building alliances with various progressive and secular civil society organisations as well as with the “Maoists”.

Christianity in colonial Orissa: constructing “Heathen” and “Savage”

3When the British took control of Orissa from the Marathas in 1803, Lord Wellesley, the Governor General, specifically instructed the British officers not to show any disrespect to Lord Jagannath of Puri, the supreme deity of the Oriyas, and also not to offend the Brahmins. Shortly before the arrival of the British troops at Puri, the smart priests of Jagannath informed that they had consulted the Lord and he had given a firm answer that “the English Government was in future to be his guardian” (Kulke 2005: 346). After receiving the consent of the priests the British entered Puri without any resistance. Jagannath’s “firm answer” was used by the British as a stratagem to win over the feudatory chiefs of Orissa (ibid.: 346-47). Moreover, the British were pragmatic enough to take over the “superintendence and management” of the Puri temple and to continue with the Maratha practice of collecting the pilgrim tax.

4The missionaries, on the other hand, vehemently opposed the government’s association with the temple and exerted a constant pressure to sever its connection with idolatry. Claudius Buchanan, the first missionary to visit Puri, gave dreadful accounts of the “Moloch of the Heathen world”, which sent shock waves in Europe. In a speech at the University of Cambridge, on July 1st 1810, he observed:

I resolved… to visit the chief seat of Hindoo religion, for which purpose I made a journey to the great Temple of Juggernaut [sic!] which is to the Hindoos what Mecca is to Mohammedans, the stronghold fountain-head of their idolatry… Many of the pilgrims die by the way, and their bodies remain unburied, so that the road to Juggernaut may be known, at least for fifty miles, by human bones which are strewed in the way. On the great day the idol was brought out… It had the character of credulity and impurity [ibid.: 354-55].

5The missionaries’ description of the “carnage” at Puri was hardly based on truth; the various death statistics of the pilgrims was highly inflated and varied from each other. For instance, while Periodical Accounts of Baptist Mission estimated the annual death toll to be 1,20,000, Carey found it to be of twelve thousand. The missionaries’ account of the great “holocausts” at Puri stirred the public opinion in England who blamed the Home Government for its non-intervention. In India, the Serampore missionaries published a tract entitled Rise of Wisdom condemning the government’s support for idolatry; the government put restrictions on the circulation of the tract. Due to the pressure of the missionaries and the evangelists, in 1813, the House of Commons took evidence from some of the retired civil servants of the East India Company. Charles Buller, a former Settlement Commissioner at Cuttack, categorically contested Buchanan’s exaggerations (Swaro 1990: 98).

6For the Christian missionaries, the Indian Empire, in fundamental ways, was a “Hindu Raj” (Frykenberg 2008: 268-300) and they vehemently contested this. In the context of Orissa, they ridiculed the pilgrimage to Jagannath which epitomised “suffering, loss of life and other evils” as “the greatest scourge”, and criticised the government’s decision to become the “church warden” of Hindu deities as “un-Christian”. Ironically, missionaries like Claudius Buchanan and his colleagues saw it as a golden opportunity to evangelise at Puri — the star in the east. Buchanan urged the missionaries to gather in large numbers at Puri and advocated the free distribution of ten thousand copies of the Bible annually. The missionaries came forward to serve the pilgrims: they distributed rice, though some pilgrims would not accept food unless cooked by Brahmins. On the pilgrimage route, they distributed tracts, fruits, clothes and medicines. Bachelor at Balasore and Phillips at Jaleswar treated a large number of pilgrims in their respective hospitals (Swaro 1990: 101). However, the Court of Directors did not show any interest in the agenda of the missionaries.

7An important change took place in the religious policy of the East India Company. Under the renewed Charter Act of 1813 the Company was forced to admit for the first time missionaries in the territories of India. The General Baptist Missionary Society (GBMS) sent two missionaries — Bampton and Peggs — to start the Orissa Mission in 1822. They came via Serampore with 400 tracts in Bengali, English and Oriya. Bampton came to Puri, adopted Oriya customs (by wearing a dhoti for instance), and died in Cuttack in 1830. Then the Baptist Missionary Society deputed some militant missionaries like James Peggs, who subscribed to Buchanan’s idea that Puri was the main seat of Hinduism and Jagannath “the stronghold and fountainhead of their idolatry” and assumed that “a blow at Idolatry here, will prove a blow at the root” (Kulke 2005: 355). Their blow however failed to “shake” the root. Contrary to their expectations, it took several years for the missionaries to find a convert among the followers of Jagannath. In 1827, Erun Senapati, a Telugu-Oriya weaver and an assistant to a missionary, was baptised; but the first Oriya convert was Gangadhar Sarangi, a Brahman of Tangi in Cuttack district. Gangadhar, who was baptised in 1828, was a disciple of Sadhusundar Das, a Hindu ascetic who preached monotheism and anti-idolatry. Though Das, who was impressed by Christianity, encouraged his followers to read Christian theology, he never wanted himself to be converted (Swaro 1990: 46-75). However, some of his followers embraced Christianity, boosting the morale of the early missionaries.

8The battle of the missionaries against the “British connections with idolatry” and against the Pilgrim tax was finally successful; in 1856, the government severed all connections and formalised its decision to hand over the superintendence and management of the temple to the Raja of Khurda. But they could not succeed in their struggle against “idolatrous establishment”; on the contrary, it was further strengthened under the new dispensation. Orissa never experienced a large-scale conversion to Christianity. Initially, each convert had to be won individually. And contrary to conventional wisdom, most of the early converts were from the upper castes and their motive was not material gain. They converted only after a thorough reading of the Christian scriptures, which they compared with the Hindu shastras. Subsequently, the missionaries won some converts through their schools and orphanages. In later stages, they moved into the tribal areas where they had a better success rate. And here, unlike the early stages of the evangelisation movement, there were multiple motivations for conversions, including material ones.

9The missionaries confronted many obstacles in their attempt to evangelise Orissa: social customs, unfavourable climate, lack of communication, and more importantly, the overarching influence of Jagannath. Undaunted by such odds, the missionaries continued their work: they opened asylums, orphanages, schools and hospitals for the poor, the homeless, the sick and the destitute. Their evangelical mission ushered in a new Oriya literary movement. The Reverend A Sutton compiled an Oriya-English grammar, an Oriya Dictionary, translated Gita Govinda, Amarkosa, Batrish Singhasan, and edited the Oriya Gazette; W.C. Lacey composed Oriya Grammar and J. Phillip authored Geography of Orissa. A number of newspapers and journals sprang up (Kanungo 2003).

10Along with these laudable efforts, the missionaries carried on with evangelisation, and consistently pursued an anti-Jagannath agenda. Ironically, this anti-Jagannath mission popularised the Jagannath cult further. The theological misunderstanding of the missionaries and their struggle against “idolatry” and depiction of Puri as the Mecca or the Jerusalem of the Hindus, had considerably increased the fame of Jagannath (Kulke 2005: 356-57). Secondly, while the East India Company could win the support of the Brahmins and priests of Puri, the continuous denunciation and misrepresentation of Jagannath and Rathyatra greatly antagonised not only the Brahmins and priests but also a whole range of Jagannath’s disciples across Orissa, particularly in coastal Orissa.

Christianity in colonial Kandhamal

11While in coastal Orissa Christian missionaries questioned the colonial government’s policy on Jagannath, in the tribal areas, they conveniently followed the government’s line. The British government’s Kondh/Kandha expedition started in 1835 when the Raja of Ghumsar, being unable to pay “tribute” in time, fled to the mountains and took refuge with the Kandhas. When the British pursued him, they were attacked by the Kandhas. In revenge, the British unleashed a war, killing many Kandhas and burning their villages. Thus began a series of “savage wars” which continued till 1865; the British used brute force to suppress the Kandhas, who were described by Campbell as a “degenerate race, with all the ignorance and superstition of savages” (Campbell 1864: 15).

12During the Kandha expedition, the British generals “discovered” the practice of human sacrifice, called “Meriah”, and grossly exaggerated its “savagery” and “cruelty”. Colonial interpretation was partly due to the ignorance of the Kandha universe and partly due to the arrogance of their “civilising” mission. “Meriah” sacrifice had its roots in the socio-religious customs of the tribe. The major objective of this sacrifice was to propitiate the Earth Goddess, as the Kandhas believed that without human sacrifice the land would not be fertile and their main crop, turmeric, would not get its red colour unless human blood was spilled on the ground. The British generals rescued Meriahs (victims) and the matter was reported in newspapers in Britain and India. In 1845, the colonial government appointed Macpherson as head of the Agency for the Suppression of Human Sacrifice and Female Infanticide in the Hill Tracts of Orissa — the Meriah Agency.

13Baptist missionaries got involved with the Kandha affairs around the same time; the rescued Meriahs were sent to their orphanages and Rev Brown, Baptist missionary, wrote articles against human sacrifice. Missionary propaganda played an important role in influencing the decision to end human sacrifice. However, colonial records do not adequately address many vital questions relating to Meriah sacrifice: what was the actual number of sacrifice and whether this practice was a kind of serfdom. In any case, the discovery and rescue of Meirahs legitimised and paved way for the colonial conquest. More importantly, handing over the Meriah had a symbolic value — the Kandha submission. Kandhas obviously resisted as they considered it as an attack on their freedom.

14Colonial administrators like Macpherson’s understanding and interpretation of Kandha religion was problematic as he privileged Bura Penu (god of light, supreme, benevolent) over Dharni Penu (earth god who propitiates) as the former resembled the Christian God. However, the majority of Kandhas believed in Dharni Penu. Though Campbell differed with Macpherson’s understanding, leading missionary Alexander Duff supported Macpherson. Thus, the missionaries played a complementary role, though formally separate from the colonial administration. Their mandate was to “conquer the minds” of the tribal people to draw them into the empire and “civilise” them more thoroughly. While colonialism first converted them by submitting them to a new order, the second conversion was carried out by the missionaries (Padel 2009).

15Though the colonial officials were Christians, the colonial government was not a “Church Government”. For instance, when Meriah children were sent to the Mission orphanages, Campbell made it clear that they were not to be converted. When MacViccar wanted to participate in the Sunday service in a camp of the missionaries at Nowgam, he was asked by Macpherson not to do so. Moreover, there was a marked difference between administrators and missionaries in terms of class, education, and outlook; missionaries, often coming from working class background and adopting the native customs, did not quite relate to the officials. However, since the mid nineteenth century, it was widely perceived in Britain that both the empire and the spread of Christianity were providential, and therefore, “the flag and the cross, should advance together”. This perception got percolated down to Kandhamal; while missionaries like Rev Brown legitimised the Government’s action towards the Kandhas, administrators like Campbell kept close ties with missionaries.

16Though the Baptist mission entered Kandhamal much before the Roman Catholics, the latter soon made progress. The Sorada-based Catholic Mission, which was under the control of French missionaries of the order of St Francis de Sales, set up outposts in the Kandha hills at Digi and Katingia in the 1880s, and sent missionaries to the remote villages. As a result, Christian population around Sorada increased up to 3,200 by 1902; however, many of these converts deserted. Sorada Mission was taken over by Spanish missionaries in 1923. They were evidently stricter, and found only 100 “genuine Catholics” in their new flock. The first native priest was ordained in 1947, and in the 1950s the Catholic mission began their expansion among the Kandhas and met with more success than the Baptists.

Christianity failed to attract the Kandhas

17It is interesting to note that in both Baptist and Catholic missions, the first converts, as well as a large majority of later ones, were not Kandhas, but Panas. Why did the Kandhas reject Christianity? First, as the missionaries were complementing the brutal British administration, the Kandhas never trusted them. True, missionaries were formally independent and at times even came into conflict with the British administration, yet their mutual dependence and division of labour was very much evident in Kandhamal. While colonial government extended its patronage to missionaries, the latter helped the former to extend its domination over the Kandhas in various ways. Missionaries in turn also greatly benefited from this patronage as the colonial administration opened this difficult terrain for them by conquering and pacifying the Kandhas. In 1854, mission schools throughout India decided to accept government subsidies while Millman’s Kui school system and textbooks were accepted by the Government in at least 70 Kandha schools in the 1930s despite their explicitly Christian message. Many missionaries worked directly under the Government; some even accompanied Kandhas overseas in the first and second World Wars. In 1936 the Government appointed Baptist Missionary Reverend Grimes as the “representative and spokesman for the Hill Tribes” in the new Province of Orissa (Padel 2009). Thus, due to the blurring distinction between the government and the missionaries, the Kandhas extended their mistrust towards Christianity as well.

18Second, the entry of the Panas into the Church in large numbers discouraged the Kandhas to come closer to Christianity. Christians certainly played a historically progressive role in Kandhamal by bringing to their fold the outcaste Panas, who had been suffering social stigmas and exclusion for centuries. Most Protestant churches adopted the view that the struggle against caste was one of the most important tasks that confronted them in India. The Salvation Army worked among the Panas of Kandhamal, who were not only “untouchables”, but also stereotyped as “criminals”, restoring their dignity and raising their morale, confidence and social status. The elevation of the Panas in social hierarchy antagonised the Kandhas, who always perceived themselves as higher than the Panas in the caste hierarchy; they would not even accept cooked food or water from the latter fearing pollution. When Panas entered the Church, Kandhas obviously stayed away.

19Third, there had been a continuous Hinduisation of the Kandhas for a couple of centuries. In the pre-colonial period, Hindu kings patronised Kandhas and generally received ritualised allegiance thereby bringing them closer to Hindu customs and traditions; Kandhas occasionally travelled to take part in Hindu festivals as well. Kandhas also gradually came under the influence of the Jagannath cult because of its strong Adivasi connection (Nayak 2001). Thus, their acceptance of Hindu Gods and Goddesses and the sacred cow worked as anti-dotes to their conversion. Moreover, Kandhas never appreciated the way Christianity showed a fundamental prejudice against the Kandha culture and denounced their belief system.

20Despite its failure to attract the Kandhas, Christianity grew considerably between 1951 and 2001 in the post-colonial Kandhamal (from a population of 19,128 in 1951 it surged to 75,597 in 1991 which further went up to 1,17,950 in 2001). The Christian growth rate in the district between 1991 and 2001 is 66 percent vis-a-vis the overall population growth rate of 18.6 percent. The Orissa Freedom of Religious Act (1967), which came into force in 1989, makes it mandatory for individuals who change or adopt any religion to submit a form to the district magistrate. Curiously, the district administration has received only two applications between 1989 and 2008. Hindutva, quite early, marked Kandhamal as one of the potential areas in the country where conversion to Christianity had to be confronted. The Kandhamal confrontation could be better illustrated in the context of evolution of Hindutva’s anti-Christian discourse and campaign.

Evolution of Hindutva’s anti-christian discourse and campaign

21M.S. Golwalkar identified three enemies of the Hindu Rashtra in descending order: Muslims, Christians and communists (Golwalkar [1966] 1980). A sizeable Muslim population in India and a hostile Pakistan helped the RSS to invoke anti-Muslim sentiment and target Muslims from Ayodhya to Ahmedabad. Simultaneously, it pursued an anti-Christian agenda slowly and systematically. Portraying Christians as deceptive, Golwalkar accused that under the veil of compassion the “real and ulterior motive” of Christian missionaries had been proselytisation — to make India “a province of the Kingdom of Christ” and to destroy the religion, the philosophy, the culture of Hindus. A true religion, Golwalkar argued, does not need to proselytise and hence, unlike Hinduism, Christianity was not a true religion. Quoting from Tilak’s GitaRahasya, he further argued that even St. Paul was not a true Christian; thus, Golwalkar endorsed: “There was but one true Christian, and he died on the Cross!” (ibid.: 251) Interestingly, this has remained a pet theme in Hindutva strategy: to speak high of Jesus but to denigrate his followers; Christ is good, but Church is evil.

22For Golwalkar, Christian missionaries were irreligious as well as anti-national; they abused Hindu sacred scriptures, gods and goddesses in order to knock out the faith from the heart of the Hindu. Once faith was shattered, nationalism would be automatically destroyed, and a void would be created in the mind. Then it became easy for the missionaries to fill that void with Christianity. Thus, Golwalkar argued that Hinduism constituted the core of Indian nationalism and conversion to Christianity would lead to the loss of one’s national identity.

  • 2 Incidentally, the Niyogi Committee Report has been a very handy document for the Sangh Parivar lead (...)

23Citing the Niyogi committee report,2 Golwalkar observed that the philanthropic acts of the missionaries were simply a mask for carrying on proselytisation, by coercion and by allurement (ibid.: 251). More importantly, they also harboured political ambitions by engineering “separatist” movements in Nagaland, Meghalaya and Jharkhand. Thus, the Christians were out to demolish not only the religious and social fabric of India but also to establish their political domination, argued Golwalkar.

24Golwalkar further observed that while Jesus had called upon to give everything to the poor and the downtrodden, his followers “have proved to be not ‘blood-givers’ but ‘bloodsuckers’!”; wherever the so called disciples of Christ have stepped, “they have drenched those lands with the blood and tears of the natives and liquidated whole races” (ibid.: 255). Golwalkar reminded how they had annihilated the natives of America, Australia and Africa, and they carried sword and fire in Goa and elsewhere. In similar vein, another Hindutva protagonist Sitaram Goel argues: Christianity “has never been a religion; its long history tells us that it has always been a predatory imperialism par excellence” (Goel 1998: 3).

25Golwalkar finally comes to the point:

So long as the Christians here indulge in such activities and consider themselves as agents of the international movement for the spread of Christianity, and refuse to offer their first loyalty to the land of their birth and behave as true children of the heritage and culture of their ancestors, they will remain here as hostiles and will have to be treated as such [Golwalkar (1966) 1980: 256].

26In 1964 Golwalkar created the VHP to systematically take on Christian missionaries, who were converting Hindus, especially the Scheduled Castes and Tribes, in various parts of the country. To counter them in North Eastern India, the Sangh Parivar launched several welfare projects in the region, with a special focus on Arunachal Pradesh by establishing schools, medical centres and religious organisations. Similar activities were initiated in the tribal areas of Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Gujarat as well. The Sangh Parivar’s agenda got a boost when some state governments passed the Freedom of Religion Bill: Orissa in 1967, Madhya Pradesh in 1968 and Arunachal Pradesh in 1978. O.P. Tyagi, a former Jana Sangh Member of Parliament, introduced the “Freedom of Religion Bill 1978” in the Parliament with an objective of promulgating a national act prohibiting conversion. Though this Bill was not adopted, it generated debates on conversion to Christianity. Meenakshipuram (1981) again brought out the issue of conversion to the public domain. In this village of Tamil Nadu some 1500 Dalits got converted to Islam. The RSS called upon the government to impose a legal ban on conversion. Though in this case, dalits got converted to Islam, the RSS used it against Christians more than against Muslims.

Anti-christian campaign during the BJP regime

27Before the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government came to power at New Delhi in 1998, anti-Christian violence was relatively low. There were only 38 incidents of violence against Christians between 1964 and 1996, and not more than 15 instances were reported even in 1997. In contrast, 1998 witnessed more than a hundred incidents of attacks, particularly in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa (Frontline 1999). These unprovoked physical attacks, arson and intimidation were engineered by the storm troopers of the Sangh Parivar and this trend continued unabated throughout the BJP regime.

28In Orissa, Hindutva activists allegedly attacked Ramgiri-Udaygiri villages in Gajapati district, setting fire to Christian homes and to a church. A mob barged into the local jail and burned two prisoners to death, who were Christians. In Manoharpur village of Keonjhar district, Australian missionary Graham Stewart Staines and his two sons, aged seven and ten, were burned to death in January 1999 by Dara Singh. In Mayurbhanj district, a Catholic nun was reportedly raped and Arul Das, a Catholic priest, was murdered in Jamabani. In 2004, seven women and a male pastor were forcibly tonsured in Kilipal, Jagatsinghpur district in coastal Orissa, and a social and economic boycott was enforced. In Raikia of Kandhamal, a Catholic church was vandalised and statues of Mary and Jesus were damaged (Chatterjee 2009).

29Instead of acting against the culprits, the BJP leaders seemed to justify violence by shifting the blame to the victims. In Gujarat, conversion in the Dangs was invoked as an excuse; even the Prime Minister Vajpayee called for a public debate on conversions. L.K. Advani’s Home Ministry issued a circular instructing the police to undertake a census of the Christian population in Gujarat. Christian schools in the state also received a further circular requesting information on their country affiliations and foreign funds (Bhatt 2001).

30Along with these attacks, a systematic campaign was launched against Christians as well. While Sitaram Goel, Arun Shourie, S. Gurumurthy and Govindacharya provided intellectual rationale, provocative literature like Yeh Hai Asliyat (This is Reality) and Bharat ko Isai Banane ka Shadyantra (A Conspiracy to Make India a Christian Country) attempted to incite Hindus. This campaign underlined a global Christian conspiracy: Congress’ leader Sonia Gandhi’s Catholic-Italian origins were invoked to accuse of trying to make India a “Christian land”. Even the 1998 Nobel Prize winner Amartya Sen was not spared. The VHP working president Ashok Singhal sensed a Christian conspiracy to promote an “alien” religion in India through the anti-poverty, educational and developmental programme that Sen advocated (Bhatt 2001: 199). However, certain developments like the US Christian evangelical and fundamentalist AD 2000, Joshua Project 2000 and the Celebrate Messiah 2000 campaigns gave strength to Hindutva campaign as each of these projects aimed to provide every person with the gospel for by the year 2000.

  • 3 According to the Home Ministry of India, under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA), du (...)

31Govindacharya found that there was an international Christian conspiracy to destabilise the BJP government. Gurumurthy raised a set of issues. First, the Church in India was still controlled by foreign countries and there was no Indian National Church. Second, the Church wields influence disproportionate to the numerical strength of the Christian community in India (Gurumurthy 1999). Citing from a Church source, he wrote that the Christian population increased from 46 % in 1951 to 88 % in 1991 in Nagaland, from 35 % to 67 % in Meghalaya; from 12 % to 34 % in Manipur; from 46 % to 88 % in Mizoram and from 0 % to 11 % in Arunachal Pradesh. Thus, according to him, the conversions had reached such a scale in the North East that the region was no longer a place for social service, but had become a political assembly of Christians (ibid.). Moreover, he alleged that with the rise of Christianity the North East became the hotbead of insurgency and terrorism arose in the North East; Gurumurthy charged the missionaries of actively assisting Bodo militancy. Hindutva protagonists also pointed out that Christian organisations were receiving huge amounts of foreign funds3 to carry out conversion. Thus, Hindutva made a concerted effort to build up an anti-Christian fervour around conversion.

32While making their arguments primarily on the basis of rising Christian headcounts and questioning the motives of the missionaries, Golwalkar and other Hindutva protagonists hardly reflect upon the complex philosophical, political, and ethical questions surrounding conversion. Conversion does not happen at a stroke; it passes through three moments: first, a turning away or separation; second, a state of suspension; third, a turning toward. Theological understanding of conversion is no more confined to mere “God talk”; it is both event and process involving at least three interlocking and interdependent dominant symbols: God, world and human beings —  “cosmotheandrism” (Robinson & Clarke 2003: 3).

33Hindutva projects Christianity as exclusivist as it preaches that the only way to God is “through Jesus” and that “outside the Church there is no salvation”. Yes, this may be only one aspect of Christianity. But Christians exhibit multi-pronged approaches towards other religious traditions: besides Exclusivism, there are Inclusivism and Pluralism as well (Shannon 1996: Epilogue). Hindutva also harps on the Indianisation of Christianity. Even during the colonial period, Christian missionaries Indianised themselves by adopting Indian lifestyles. For example, the Christan Seva Sangha, which was founded in 1922, included a community of Englishmen and Indians living together and observing Indian customs. Their aim was to adapt the Christian gospel to India, and eliminate as much as possible purely British or European elements. In the postcolonial period, Indian Christianity has consciously got indigenised, shedding off most of the colonial legacy. Thus, the Hindutva campaign for indigenisation primarily aims at questioning the loyalty of the minorities — both Muslims and Christians — towards the Indian nation, perpetuating the myth of their extra-territorial loyalties, and establishing the nexus between the Indian Christian establishments and the Western powers (Malhotra & Neelakandan 2011).

  • 4 On this point see JONES (1927: 95).

34Some of the Hindutva protagonists started quoting frequently Mahatma Gandhi’s views on conversion. Admittedly, Gandhi was opposed to conversion because he believed that the convert had an inadequate understanding of his or her own faith, and moreover, he did not think that any one religion was superior to another. However, Gandhi would not oppose a person’s freedom and desire to convert, and certainly he would not allow any kind of violence to prevent conversion. On one occasion, Gandhi, instead of making the speech that his audience expected, read the beatitudes from the New Testament, and said: “That is my address to you. Act upon that.”4 Thus, Gandhi’s religious world-view and idioms completely contradicts Hindutva.

35Hindutva’s anti-Christian discourse and campaign took an aggressive turn in tribal areas, bringing about the “reconversion” of Christian tribals, who, according to the VHP, had been led astray by “the beef-eating denominations” through “inducements” “fraud” and “coercion”, to Hinduism. Various Hindu religious leaders were roped in. Vidhyasagar Bharati, the Sankaracharya of the Karveer peet, asked the Christian missionaries to leave the tribal areas: “request them once, twice, thrice and if they do not refrain from their activities, then take the next step” (Bhatt 2001: 200). While Swami Aseemanand mobilised against Christians in the Dangs, Gujarat (Kanungo & Joshi 2009), Swami Laxmanananda speeded up his campaign in Kandhamal, Orissa.

Hindutva mobilises Kandhas against Christian Panas

36The key Hindutva leader who became a nucleus of anti-Christian campaign in Kandhamal was Swami Laxmanananda. More than five decades ago, he left his family in Dhenkanal to become a sadhu. After spending some years in the ashrams of north India, he participated in the 1966 Gau Raksha Andolan and then joined the newly formed VHP. As part of the RSS-VHP strategy, he came to Kandhamal in 1969 and set up his base at Chakapada with two-fold objectives: Hinduising the Adivasis and countering the proselytising activities of the Christian missionaries. Saraswati systematically worked among the Kandhas in order to bring them closer to Hinduism. He introduced Satsangs and Yagyas, Hindu Gods and Goddesses, Hindu religious scriptures and modes of worship, and organised mega religious congregations (Ashtaprahara Namayagyas) attracting and mobilising the Kandhas in a big way. Laxmanananda found Kandhas receptive as many features of their religious system were not sharply distinct from Hinduism and certain Kandha myths had clear connections with Hindu mythology. At the same time, Kandhas had many differences with Hindus. Laxmananda’s aggressive Hinduisation campaign systematically blurred those differences (Kanungo 2002, 2003).

37Laxmanananda launched an alternative welfare system challenging Christian missionaries who monopolised education and healthcare services in the non-state sectors. Laxmanananda opened schools, colleges, hostels for the AdivasI boys and girls; the Sangh Parivar trained them ideologically and created a pool of permanent cadres. Though Hinduisation did not offer any substantive socio-economic empowerment to the poor Adivasis, yet the VHP’s “packaged Hinduism” gave them a sort of religious and cultural gratification; in an otherwise hopeless existential world, it perhaps generated some hopes under a larger Hindu identity. While Hinduising the Kandhas, Laxmanananda demonised the Christian Panas as the exploiters of the Kandhas, thereby further widening and communalising the traditional Kandha-Pana ethnic divide. The Kandhas found a purpose to be part of Hindutva as they found Laxmanananda championing their struggle vis-à-vis their “other” — the Panas.

The Kandha-Pana divide: ethnic to communal

38The Kandha-Pana ethnic divide is not of recent origins. O’Malley describes:

  • 5 See O’MALLEY (1908), District Gazetteer, Angul, p. 99.

In the Khondmals, the Pans were the serfs of the Khonds. They worked on their farms and wove cloth for them, in return for which they obtained a small area of land, grain for food, and all their marriage expenses; they also used to procure victims for the Meriah sacrifices. Their serfdom was so well recognized that if a Pan left his master and worked for another one, it caused serious dissensions among the Khond community. To this there is a settlement of Pans — a kind of Ghetto — attached to every Khond village, where they weave the cloth the Khonds require and work as farm labourers.5

39Thus, historically, Kandhas, the original inhabitants of Kandhamal, due to their control over land, perceived themselves as “Rajas” (Kings) and the migrant landless Panas from the planes as their “Prajas” (subjects).

40This sense of superiority was extended to the social and cultural spheres as well. However, colonial intervention changed this scenario by introducing new land relations and depriving Kandhas of their traditional rights over the forest land. Moreover, refusal by Kandhas to directly deal with the outside world, gave a material and political opportunity to the Panas. Though Kandhas used Panas as “middle man”, they nonetheless despised this role and their literature depicted Panas as “liers”, “cheats” and “hypocrites”. Perhaps, this resentment was partly due to the relative success of some Panas, who made little gains in getting petty jobs, undertaking small trade, and even acquiring land under the colonial rule.

  • 6 The Ranganath Mishra Commission has recommended reservations for the Dalit Muslims and the Dalit Ch (...)

41In the post-colonial period, the resentment of Kandhas grew further as they came to believe that a large number of Panas had illegally usurped their rights in two important matters: first, they trampled over their legal entitlements over land, which are guaranteed under the Orissa Scheduled Areas Transfer of Immovable Property by Scheduled Tribes Regulations (Regulation 2 of 1956); and second, they grabbed reservation benefits for Government jobs under Scheduled Tribes (ST) category by illegally obtaining false ST certificates. Under the present constitutional framework, whereas a member of the Scheduled Tribe can belong to any religion, no one can belong to the Schedule Caste Category unless he or she professes Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism or Sikhism.6

42Land for the Kandhas is much more than a means of livelihood; Dharni Penu (earth deity) remains at the core of their entire life-system. Their social, cultural, economic and religious world revolves around land and forest. The Kandhas have always believed themselves to be the traditional owners of the entire land of Kandhamal. The Colonial government “reserved” their forest and the postcolonial state inherited about 80 % of the land of Kandhamal. Even the rest of the land did not remain with the Kandhas; increasing poverty compelled them to yield some of their lands to the migrant communities including the Panas. Traditionally, the nature of land transaction among Kandhas, has been more of a cultural affair than a legal one. An oral commitment in the presence of one’s fellowmen and the deity has been absolutely binding. Though Panas have not really taken away substantial parts of the Kandha land, the Kandhas perceived them as exploiters and land snatchers; Hindutva added fuel to the fire by its propaganda machine.

  • 7 These are not mere allegations. After an inquiry, the state has found that a few hundred individual (...)

43In the post-independence period this has got further crystallized with another perception that Panas, with the help of the State as well as the Church, have been cornering the maximum benefits of constitutional reservations due to their educational and economic advantage. This perception is little misplaced as a large majority of the Panas is poor and moreover, being dalit Christians, they are constitutionally deprived of the benefits of reservations. Kandhas, however, allege that Panas hide their Christian identity and even claim themselves as either Scheduled Tribes or Hindu Scheduled Castes by producing forged certificates.7 Panas, they fear, are out to dominate them economically, politically and culturally.

44True, a small section of the Panas, benefiting from the education imparted by the State and the Church, has entered into bureaucracy and politics thereby acquiring visibility and prominence in an otherwise poor district. Moreover, this elite, though primarily self-serving, occasionally takes up the issues of the community and does not shy away from showing off its clout. In the process, they have become a kind of role model for the poor Panas — arousing their consciousness, enhancing their aspirations, and giving them a sense of empowerment. The emergence of Panas as an assertive community has become an eyesore for upper caste Hindus, not only in Kandhamal but also in other parts of Orissa. Thus, the stereotypes of Panas as “betrayers”, “cunning”, “deceitful”, “exploiters”, etc. have entered the caste discourses in Orissa.

45Beside Kandhas and Panas, the third major segment of Kandhamal’s population is constituted of caste Hindus, who are mainly migrants from the neighbouring districts. Brahmins, Kumutis (petty traders) and Sundhis (distillers) have migrated from Ganjam and have dominated the government service and controlled trade and commerce. Most of the Hindutva leaders, including Laxmanananda, have also migrated from outside. Caste Hindus and Sangh Parivar leaders, both being outsiders in the district, enjoy a symbiotic relationship. They find it hard to digest the growing assertion and clout of the Panas, who used to be untouchables and at the bottom of the social ladder. Both see the assertive Panas as threat to their hegemony; they would prefer a “docile” Kandha to a “defiant” Pana; it is not really so much the latter’s religion that bothers them but rather their informed consciousness. However, religion here becomes a handy tool to beat dalit Panas. Hence, the Sangh Parivar, in collaboration with the upper caste elite and the middle caste petty bourgeoisie, has been mobilising the Kandhas as Hindus against the Panas who are dalit Christians by adding communal colour to the confrontation and thereby constructing an ethno-communal cleavage.

46Thus, the Kandha-Pana ethnic divide has been conveniently converted into a Hindu-Christian communal confrontation. There have been periodic eruptions of ethno-communal violence in Kandhamal particularly since the early 1990s. During the Ramjanmabhoomi agitation when yatras were undertaken by the VHP, churches were vandalised though Christians had nothing to do with the Babri Masjid. While the mobilisation was anti-Muslim everywhere else, it was anti-Christian in Kandhamal, understandably because of the negligible Muslim presence. Ramjanmabhoomi agitation brought many Kandhas to the Hindutva fold. In 1992, the Kandha-Pana violence continued for a long spell. In 2004, the Catholic church was vandalised in Raikia. In 2006, Laxmanananda organised a massive congregation of 4-5 lakhs people at Chakapada to commemorate Golwalkar’s birth centenary; the entire Parivar and the state machinery were present. And the fall out was expected sooner or later. In 2007, the matter got further worsened when the Panas demanded ST status because like the Kandhas they also spoke the same “Kui” language. This infuriated the Kandhas as their rivals would not only snatch away their economic resources but also sacred cultural resources by claiming an equal status. The Sangh Parivar soon started a campaign against this demand and mobilised the Kandhas under the Kandhamal Kui Samaj. Thus, a violent Hindu-Christian confrontation started in 2007, on Christmas Day. Christians retaliated for the first time; some Hindu houses were burnt in Brahmanigaon.

47However, the 2008 riots surpassed all the previous violent outbursts in their ferocity. On the night of August 23, 2008, Laxmanananda Saraswati, the Hindutva crusader in Kandhamal, and his four associates, who were celebrating Janmashtami (celebration of LordKrishna birth) at Jalespata Ashram, were killed by a group of armed assassins. It was followed by the worst-ever in India anti-Christian violence — churches set on fire, Christian institutions, orphanages and hamlets destroyed, pastors attacked; even a nun was raped and a woman caretaker of an orphanage was burnt alive. While about 50 people were killed, thousands of Christians fled their homes to take shelter in the forest. Communal tremor was not confined to Kandhamal, the epicentre; it shook other districts as well, killing, injuring and terrorising Christians and rendering thousands homeless. Terror and violence continued for a couple of months. About 40,000 Christians lived in the camps as refugees for few months before returning to their homes.

48If the 2002 Gujarat riots demonstrated Hindutva’s attempt towards “cleansing” of Muslims, the 2008 Kandhamal was the first instance in the country where a sort of “cleansing” of Christians was carried out. Though the state finally acted, it did so fairly late as the BJP was a coalition partner in the Orissa government. The victims were paid compensation and the state supported their rehabilitation. Though people returned to their homes, they still lived in fear for quite some time; some even had not yet returned to their homes fearing their lives and would perhaps never return ever. Many attackers have been arrested, fast track courts have been set up and the culprits have been punished. Compared to the Gujarat government, the Orissa government’s track record in handling the post-riots situation appears to be fairly impartial and efficient; the break-up with the BJP perhaps has given it full autonomy to show its secular commitment. However, the might of Hindutva’s anti-Christian fury will remain in memory for years to come.

Christianity in postcolonial Kandhamal: the emergence of the Pentecostals

49Hindutva always talks of conspiracy by the Church, thereby suggesting the hegemony of a single institutional structure over the entire body of Christianity across the globe. However, we live in a time of “divided” Christianity and Kandhamal is no exception. The divisions are not only denominational but also more importantly, paradigmatic, manifesting contestations between the mainline and the emerging Christianities. One is confronted here with multiple Christianities — the first revolving around faith, the second around transformation, and the third combining faith and transformation (Borg 2006). Even within each category, there are variations. During the colonial period and also in the initial decades after independence, the mainline denominations — Catholics and Baptists — dominated the Christian landscape. The challenge came when new Protestant groups and Pentecostals entered the scene around the 1970s and proliferated in the subsequent decades.

50Pentecostal preachers teach that poverty or ill-health are the result of insufficient faith and low levels of spiritual commitment or alternatively the product of demon possession. Pentecostals give primacy to experience over doctrine and oral communication over written word and adapt to the local environment. Personifying sacred revelation and power becomes more attractive than Canonical texts to the poor and the uneducated. These groups self-consciously separate themselves from mainline Christian denominations, invoking glossolalia, healing and prophesy, personal testimony, and consciously cultivate liturgical spontaneity. The poor believers in Kandhamal find it exciting to experience the miracles of the Holy Spirit that would cleanse the heart and transform human nature.

51Pentecostalism may be a kind of conservative Protestantism in Kansas. But in Kandhamal, Pentecostals are not part of the Christian Right though one may not rule out the American funding of some of these groups. Many of these groups may be theologically conservative, most are not politically conservative. For these poor converts, Jesus cannot but be pro-poor and their Christianity is rather a struggle for equitable distribution of resources, social justice and human dignity. Thus, one can see the emergence of “progressive Pentecostalism” that adopts a more holistic approach and stresses the need to deal with people’s material and physical well-being as well as with their spiritual condition. Such groups encourage activism that may contribute to social transformation from below by stressing human dignity and rights of all to a decent quality life. Moreover, Pentecostal groups, instead of being anti-modern and revivalists, adapt themselves to the modern and even post-modern cultural conditions.

52While Pentecostal and other evangelical groups have local pastors, the Catholic Church is run primarily by clergies who are mainly from Kerala. Hence, the local believers have to some extent become alienated as they could never feel comfortable in terms of language and culture. Secondly, the poor uneducated Catholic believers felt marginalised as the Church preferred to identify more with the educated elites of the district. Third, its hierarchical organisational structure, networking, proximity with political power created a sense of awe among the poor believers developing a distance between the Church and the believers. The Catholic Church also acquired clout because of its hold on educational and development sectors. It floated its own non-Government organisations like the Janavikas, which became powerful in the NGO sector in the district. Unfortunately, the catholic NGOs were perceived as sectarian organisations, thereby annoying not only the non-Christian adivasis but also alienating other Christian sects.

53On the other hand, though the Baptist church appointed Oriya clergies, it tried to control Kandhamal from the coastal city of Cuttack, thereby creating a regional hierarchy and throttling local aspirations. Moreover, Cuttack Baptists, who are primarily upper-caste converts, show reluctance to identify themselves with the Pana Christians of Kandhamal. Thus, caste still remains relevant among Christians.

54In contrast to Kandhamal’s imposing and impressive buildings of Catholic Churches, the Pentecostal churches are thatched or semi-pucca structures. Congregations in these “para-churches” are more informal and show greater intimacy and accommodation than the conventional congregations in the mainline churches. These new denominations offer pastor-hood to the unemployed youth on a nominal payment. Even the meagre amount of five hundred rupees per month becomes a major source of income. Further, on certain occasions, these churches take them to other cities and even outside the state for education and training. These outings consolidate their connection with the church and motivate them to preach the gospel facilitating the expansion of the church. Hindutva wrongly describes the proliferation of Pentecostals as the rise of fundamentalism. In fact, fundamentalists, who believe that Bible alone is perfectly sufficient in guiding Christian moral, religious, and political action, do not appreciate at all the open-ended character of Pentecostalism. However, Pentecostal groups, unlike the mainline churches, are hostile to syncretism and undertake an aggressive posture towards other religions and cultures; in Kandhamal it becomes more complicated as the Dalit Panas, after their conversion, sometimes flaunt their new-found liberation and empowerment at their Hindu neighbours. Hindutva makes this an issue in mobilising Hindus.

55In the contemporary world, faith has moved beyond the privatised life-world to the glare of public sphere. “Invisible religion” is hardly considered to be a religion; religion is nothing if not visible — from Mega Churches to Tele-evangelism to large faith-healing congregations by Paul Dinakarans to world-wide-web (James 2010). And Kandhamal is no exception. Amidst the mass of poverty-stricken believers, there are a few socially and economically powerful who mediate and connect. Modern Hinduism is no less savvy in this regard. But Hindutva objects when other religions follow the same trajectory of propaganda and show business.

56The emergence of the “new” Christianities in Kandhamal does indicate that the new converts and break-away groups not only protest against the callous and discriminatory attitude of the mainline churches, but they also show enough determination to fight the Hindutva menace. Mainly coming from the poorest of the poor and empowered with the newly acquired “spiritual” energy, they sometimes show matching aggression towards the Hindutva forces. More importantly, their vociferous demands for recognition, rights, equality and social justice antagonise the upper-caste Hindutva supporters.

Christianity looks for alliances

57The 2008 violence, however, have been indiscriminate: both mainline churches as well as the new denominations have faced the fury of Hindutva as it fails to understand the nuances of religion. Thus, all Christian churches, houses and institutions have been targeted — from small hut-like structures to big buildings and from hostels to hospitals; so also all Christians, irrespective of their age, gender and class. The divided denominations had no other option but to close their ranks and build a united front to resist the might of the RSS.

58Over the years, the growth of the RSS in Orissa has been spectacular. It runs about 1500 shakhas and has about 25 active affiliates like the VHP, the Bajrang Dal, the Durga Vahini, the BJP, the VKA, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidhyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), the Saraswsti Shishu Mandir (SSM) and the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) working among students, youths, women, farmers, workers, tribals, intellectuals, journalists, etc., and covering every sphere of civil society. These organisations have spread their network into both urban and rural Orissa, continuously disseminating communal common sense under the pretext of Seva (service), Sangathan (organisation), and Dharmraksha (protection of religion). Saraswati Sishu Mandirs are popular among the middle and lower middle class Oriya parents. In 2010, out of first 100 rank holders in the Class-X examination, 55 are from Saraswati Shishu Mandirs. The print media, which was once secular, has by and large internalised the Sangh discourse. Newspaper like Samaja, which played a historic role during the freedom struggle and had been a carrier of secular Gandhian ideology, now gives generous space to Hindu communal writings and even blacks out secular write-ups. Moreover, the RSS, with the support of the BJP, which remained a partner in the state government for about a decade, not only had access to the state power but also to both material and cultural resources. For instance, the RSS strategically kept the education portfolio to facilitate its ideological penetration in educational institutions.

59Parivar’s deep entrenchment and continuous anti-Christian campaign, harping on the large scale conversion in tribal areas, has created a communal common sense in the state. Along with this there is a wide spread belief that Christian organisations are receiving huge foreign contributions. For instance, when World Vision premises were ransacked everywhere during the 2008 riots, the Oriya intelligentsia did not sympathise with this “dubious” NGO. Moreover, the emergence of new churches in coastal areas in the post 1999 super-cyclone period has raised the fear of conversion, creating resentment among the middle class in coastal districts. Finally, the cow still has a great symbolic and emotional value for the Oriyas in general; a few days prior to his murder, Laxmanananda went to a Christian village in Kandhamal to stop the killing of cows. Incidentally, the present Gajapati King, the representative of Lord Jagannath, castigated Christian missionaries on these grounds. All these perceptions help to further communalise the civil society.

60The educated Oriya middle class forgets that Christians played an important role in the formation of modern Orissa. Christian missionaries brought the first printing press, prepared Oriya dictionaries, opened schools, hospitals and orphanages and had been tirelessly working in the most inhospitable terrain serving the poor and the destitute for more than a century. and Barrister Madhusudan Das, one of the founding fathers of modern Orissa, was a Christian. Despite being a Christian, he publicly appealed to the Lord to protect Orissa and Odiyas. Despite being a Christian, he fought the famous Jagannath Case against the British defending the rights of the Lord and the Puri King; ironically, the present Gajapati now takes a strident anti-Christian position.

  • 8 See Fakirmohan’s autobiography in Oriya, Atma Jibana Charita, Fakirmohan Granthavali, pp. 64-65.

61Two great literary figures of colonial Orissa, namely Fakirmohan Senapati and Radhanatha Ray decided to embrace Christianity together. As Radhanatha backed out at the last moment, Fakirmohan decided not to go ahead with the decision.8 On the contrary, in the postcolonial period, a large section of writers in Orissa have gradually tilted towards Hindutva. For instance, Ratnakar Chayani, a respectable award-winning writer became the President of an RSS front which was created after the killing of Laxmanananda Saraswati, thereby legitimising anti-Christian violence. Strangely, the benign role of Christianity, once part of Orissa’s popular discourse, has been systematically erased by the RSS.

62Hindutva’s ideological penetration in Orissa has shrunk secular space in civil society quite considerably. In this grim scenario, when Christianity looks towards different progressive civil society groups of Orissa for support in order to counter Hindutva politics, it becomes frustrated. No doubt, many left, socialist, secular and Gandhian groups and some NGOs have come out strongly against Hindutva during the 2007 and 2008 Kandhamal riots. However, they could not effectively counter the Sangh Parivar’s strength. In this situation, some Christian groups have reportedly sought collaboration with the “Maoist” groups, particularly during the 2007 riots. This collaboration perhaps led to the murder of Laxamananda.

63Though Laxmanananda’s killers are yet to be apprehended, the Maoists have taken the responsibility of his killing. But the Sangh Parivar blames Christians for the murder. However, some believe this to stem from a collaborative effort between some individual Christians and Maoists. Hindutva has been a common enemy of the Maoists as well as of the Christians. The Maoists, who had been looking for a base in this district, could not find it easy as long as Laxmanananda was alive. Moreover, the more the tribes were getting Hinduised, the more difficult it became to indoctrinate them with Maoist ideology. Similarly, Christians found Laxmanananda a bully and a major deterrent to the spread of Christianity; his violent anti-Christian campaigns also made them angry. At the level of ideology, progressive Christian groups and Maoists share some commonalities like their commitment to fight against poverty, social hierarchy and desire to establish a socio-economic order based on equality. Though in the Christian-majority states like Nagaland and Mizoram, communism has never been supported by the Church, in Christian-minority areas the Church perhaps opts for such tactical collaboration. For the Maoists, the Church resources and support would give them leverage in a virgin region. In post-Laxmanananda Kandhamal, the Maoist activities have increased considerably. It is hard to assess for how long the Maoist-Christian collaboration would remain intact as contradictions and polarities are likely to emerge soon, particularly on questions of religiosity and political violence.


64In the colonial period, Christianity could not make much headway in Orissa’s coastal areas due to the scurrilous attacks it launched against Lord Jagannath, the supreme deity of Hindus; even in the tribal areas of Kandhamal, the collaboration of missionaries with the colonial government which used brutal force against the Kandhas alienated the latter. Golwalkar’s anti-Christian discourse around conversion and missionaries continued to guide the Sangh Parivar, which manifested in violent attacks on Christians during the BJP regime at New Delhi in the late 1990s – from Gujarat to Orissa and from Madhya Pradesh to Karnataka. Orissa emerged as a key state for Hindutva’s anti-Christian experiment. In the postcolonial Orissa, the expansion of the Sangh Parivar in Orissa and its aggressive campaign against conversion and cow-slaughter, along with the mobilisation of the Kandhas against the Christian Panas created a communal atmosphere and ignited a large-scale anti-Christian violence in Orissa, particularly in Kandhamal. The Oriya middle class and intellectuals by and large shared the Hindutva campaign that Christianity has been expanding rapidly and poses a threat to Hindus, and hence has found a rationale in anti-Christian violence. Some Christians, being pushed to the wall, have made an alliance with the Maoists to resist Hindutva’s onslaught, forgetting perhaps the imminent contradictions and contestations that may soon develop between Christianity’s message of peace and the doctrine of political violence by the left-wing extremists.



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1 As per the 2001 Census Kandhamal’s total population is 6,48,201: Scheduled Tribes 3,36,809 (51.96 %); Scheduled Castes 1,09,506 (16.89 %); and others 2,01,886 (31.15 %). While the Scheduled Tribes population is constituted mostly of Kandhas, the Scheduled Caste population is constituted primarily of Panas. In terms of religious affiliation, while the number of Hindus is 5,27,757, there are 1,17,950 Christians constituting 18.19 % of the population. While a large majority of the Kandhas have enumerated themselves as Hindus, most of the Panas have converted to Christianity.

2 Incidentally, the Niyogi Committee Report has been a very handy document for the Sangh Parivar leaders to malign Christian missionaries. For more on this, see BAUMAN (2009).

3 According to the Home Ministry of India, under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA), during 2005-06, Rs 7,877 crores were given by way of foreign donations to various NGOs, up from Rs 5,105 crores in 2003-04. Tamil Nadu (Rs 1,610 crores) and Andhra Pradesh (Rs 1,011 crores) were among the highest recipients. The highest foreign donors were Gospel Fellowship Trust USA (Rs 229 crores), Gospel for Asia (Rs 137 crores), Foundation Vincent E Ferrer, Spain (Rs 104.23 crores) and Christian Aid, UK (Rs 80.16 crores). The largest recipients were World Vision (Rs 256 crores), Caritas India (Rs 193 crores), Rural Development Trust Andhra Pradesh (Rs 127 crores), Churches Auxiliary for Social Action (Rs 95.88 crores) and Gospel For Asia (Rs 58.29 crores).

4 On this point see JONES (1927: 95).

5 See O’MALLEY (1908), District Gazetteer, Angul, p. 99.

6 The Ranganath Mishra Commission has recommended reservations for the Dalit Muslims and the Dalit Christians.

7 These are not mere allegations. After an inquiry, the state has found that a few hundred individuals have used forged certificates as Scheduled Tribes to claim the benefits of reservations in government jobs.

8 See Fakirmohan’s autobiography in Oriya, Atma Jibana Charita, Fakirmohan Granthavali, pp. 64-65.


He is Professor at the Centre for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He taught at the University of Delhi and was a Fellow at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library.

– 2002 RSS’s Tryst with Politics : From Hedgewar to Sudarshan, Delhi, Manohar.
2011 D. Berti, N. Jaoul. & P. K., eds., Hindutva’s Cultural Entrenchment : Local Mediations and Forms of Convergence, New Delhi, Routledge.

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