Sunday, July 12, 2009

`First punish all the real murderers of Swamiji and stop conversions to start peace process in Kandhamal’

May 4, 2009

By Sai Prasan

Kandhamal: The associates of Swami Laxmananada Saraswati’s Ashram located at Jalaspata in Kandhamal are not convinced with Orissa government’s projection of Maoist theory behind the murder of Hindu reformer last year August. They are furious, agitated as well as depressed that the internationalization of Nun rape case by the global media has slowed down the investigations of Swami’s murder case. They argue that Swami’s constant tussel with Christian leaders on the issues like Cow-slaughter and conversion over the years in Phulbani district is responsible for the brutal murder of Swamiji.

In fact, it is very interesting to witness the route to Jalaspata Ashram which is around 40-KM from Baliguda in Kandhamal. The road leading to Ashram is as good as any national highway, though a very houses are located at both the sides of the road. The entry of any stranger into the Ashram is allowed by the security forces after a through checking. The Ashram has been virtually cordoned off by the central security forces.

After the entry into the Ashram, the Ashramites also ask all kinds of questions to ensure that the visitors are not the representatives of Christian world. In a half-a-day long interaction, Kavichandra Nath, head of Jalaspata Ashram, has narrated how the murderers, a group of 12-15, have entered into the Ashram premises by jumping the boundary wall at 7.30 PM on August 23, 2008. The killers first killed two followers of Swamiji and then attacked Swamiji and pumped rest of the bullets into his body to ensure that he does not survive. The deep bullet marks still remain on the walls of the Ashram.

On the question of why Maoists killed Swamiji, Kavichandra Nath gets emotional and retorted back, “first you should understand the historical perspective of Swamiji’ murder, then you can come to a conclusion who killed him – Maoists or Christian missionaries”.

It is know to the people of Kandhamal that Swamiji had frequent tussles with the Christians leaders since his entry into Kandhamal way back in 1969. He had vehementally opposed conversions of Hindus into Christians. “Christian’s attacked him ten times earlier and he was killed on the eleventh attack”, he said. The previous attack on him was on December 24, 2009 in Darangbadi where Christian leader RK Naik has a strong hold.

Nath alleged that Christian leaders were considering Swami a hurdle to carry their agenda of conversions. He had time and again exposed the fake SC-ST certificates used by the Christians to avail the benefit of the government reservation. This irked Christian leadership including RK Naik and they developed a grudge against Swamiji. “The local police in tandem with the then SP of the district were also responsible for the murder of Swamiji”, he said.

Nath questioned, “why Maoists should murder Swamiji. They never had any clash with him”. The projection of Maoist theory behind Swamiji’s murder is misleading and far away from the truth.

With regards to conversions, “Christian missionaries use foreign funds to lure Hindus to convert. They offer education, medicine, cloths and all other things to convince people to convert”, he said.

Nath said a delegation of Peace Mission approached me to restore peace in Kandhamal. ”I asked them to first ensure to stop conversion of Hindus into Christianity to start peace process in the district. They returned back without commenting anything”, he said.

The Ashramites are yet to get over from the shock of Swamiji’s murder. The Ashram has 191 tribal girls studying from Class 6th to 10th. They study Indian culture and Sanskrit in their course curriculum.

The people of Kandhamal including Ashramites still suspect RK Naik and his associates responsible for the Swamijis murder. But, they get defensive when asked ”why Orissa government, where BJP was also a constituent, had withdrawn security cover just five days before his murder?”.

There appears to be a deep rooted political conspiracy behind Swamiji;s murder. Only an independent enquiry by a better equipped investigating agency like CBI can unearth the truth behind the murder of Swami Laxmanand Saraswati.

The author is a senior journalist. You can send your comments and suggestions at or visit for more information.

BJP to use Kandhamal for expanding its base in Southern Orissa-Coastal Andhra

By Sai Prasan

Kandhamal, April 18

BJP plans to expand its political base in Southern Orissa and Coastal Andhra by using the Kandhamal issue to the maximum. BJP candidate Ashok Sahu may loose Phulbani Lok Sabha seat to BJD candidate Rudramadhav Ray in the poll held on April 16th, but he plans to have a door-to-door visit after the announcement of the results for Lok Sabha and State Assembly poll as an exercise for the possible mid-term poll after two years.

In an hour long interaction through an informal channel, just before getting the bail from a district court on Friday, Sahu, lodged at G Udaygiri jail of Phulbani district, said that he is confident of winning this election. But, he also conceded that BJD candidate Rudramadhav Ray is at a advantageous position as the ruling party had been contesting the Parliamentary and six out of the seven assembly seats in Phulbani Lok Sabha constituency in the previous two elections. “BJP is organizationally not strong as it had contested only Baliguda assembly constituency in the previous poll”, he said.

It may be mentioned here that Christian voters numbering around 3,000, staying in the refugee camps in the Phulbani district, could able to cast their vote. But, a large number of Christians staying outside the district could not cast their vote because of the fear psychosis. Even Sahu also accepted the fact that the participation of Christian voters’, living outside the district, is limited. However, he claimed that he enjoys the support of Baptist Christians in the district.
Sahu said irrespective of the poll out come, any government both at the Centre and State will not be stable. A coalition government may be formed both at the Centre and State. Congress supporting BJD in forming a government in the state can not be ruled out, he said.

But, Sahu said that the mid-term poll is imminent in the next two and half years. “We will carry door to door campaign after the announcement of the current elections for the next poll”. Security forces have arrested innocent people in the recent Hindu and Christian riots. Old age people and children were also not spared. The anger is simmering among Hindus of the district due to the atrocities committed by the security forces on them, he said.

On the possible Maoist attack on him, Sahu said that he is prepared to face any challenge as he has faced similar threat in the past as a police officer from the militants in North-east region.

Sahu lamented that the security cover has been withdrawn just five days before the murder of Swami Laxmanand Saraswati and the state government is yet to explain the reason for this decision. “There seems to be a big conspiracy behind the murder of Swami-ji that needs to be probed,” he said.

Fear psychosis intensifies in Kandhamal as polling-date nears

By Sai Prasan

Phulbani (Kandhamal), April 13

Orissa police chasing Ashok Sahu, the BJP candidate for Phulbani Lok Sabha seat, for violating model code of conduct has jacked up the political temperature in Orissa’s riot hit Southern district. The Sangh Parivar leadership threatening of dire consequences, in a hurried called press conference here on Sunday night, in case of Sahu’s arrest has further intensified the fear psychosis in the district.

The Sangh leaders alleged that the M-3 factor is responsible for the move to arrest Sahu following an FIR by the district administration against the BJP candidate. By M-3 factor, the Sangh Parivar means Mukhyamantri, Maoist and Missionaries. This politically motivated statement before the polling date on April 16 has shaken all in the disturbed area.

The writers of this report found that the disturbed areas including Raikia, Tikabali, Phirmgia, Daringbadi and a few other interior pockets are virtually under saffron seize. The Saffron flag is waving at the top of the houses including some Churches. An uneasily calm is prevailing in the affected area..

Interestingly, the majority of Central forces prefer to move in the civilian dress mainly for two reasons. One, to avoid Red Rebels and second, to hide the identity from the locals who are opposed to their presence in the area.
The inhabitants of these areas monitor the movements of the strangers. And, they note down the number of non-local vehicles entering into the area and reportedly send to all other villages.

The violence is expected to resurface in Kandhamal in case Sahu is arrested before the polling date. The security has been tightened in Phulbani district to meet any kind of riot like situation.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Interview of Bishop Raphael Cheenath, Archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar

`Naveen is protecting a lie in order to be in league with BJP to retain power’
Sangh Parivar aims to establish the dictatorship of Brahmins to suppress dalits and tribals, says Raphael Cheenath, archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar

Bishop Raphael Cheenath needs no introduction for those who tracked Kandhamal violence closely in 2008. He was widely quoted by the global media all through the year-long Kandhamal violence.
In an one and half-an-hour long interaction with Sai Prasan, a senior journalist, in Mumbai, Cheenath spoke on the reasons for Naveen Patnaik, Odisha chief minister, going slow in the investigations on Kandhamal violence to the different dimensions on the forthcoming state assembly and Lok Sabha elections scheduled to be held in mid-April. Excerpts:
How is the situation in Kandhamal now? Have the Pana Christians gone back or they are still staying outside the district?
Odisha government’s claim that the people have gone back to the villages and the situations is getting normalized is not true. The people have not gone back as they are afraid that they will inevitably be forced to go back to Hinduism. Thousands are living in Bhubaneswar and other places in the state. And, many have gone outside Odisha like Karnataka and Kerala and other states. On the other hand, there are sporadic instances where people are threatened. After Christmas, one man was killed and another man was killed last week. They were kidnapped and killed later on. People are afraid that they will be attacked in case they go back.
Why the law and order problem still continues inspite of Supreme Court’s direction to Odisha government to protect the people’s life?
Odisha government is maintaining right from the beginning before the judiciary that the situation is under control and normal. However, the Supreme Court could realize the seriousness of the situation and asked the state government to quit in case they are not able to protect the rights and life of the minorities. On the part of the state government, it was a total negligence or connivance with the law-breakers.
The present ruling BJD and BJP combine is dependent on the majority votes. If any step is taken by the state government in order to alienate the sufferings of the one per cent of the minority population, it might go against the feelings of the majority. Both BJD and BJP can not afford to loose the majority votes.
In fact, the government has successfully used Swami Laxmanand Sarasvati for polluting the minds of the people, creating a rift between SC and ST who were living together for the last several decades like brothers and sisters without any problem in Kandhamal. The Sangha Parivar is systematically dividing the SCs and STs.
So, is it a SC-ST conflict and not communal clash?
No, it is not true at all. The houses of dalit and tribal Christians have been looted and burned. It is a communal violence.
But, the major partner in the coalition state government is BJD. Then, why they are protecting communal forces?
BJD has come to the power with the support of BJP and the former can not survive in the government without the support of the latter. And, moreover, the BJD is negotiating with the BJP for the forthcoming elections in the state.
Do you think Kandhamal violence was well designed on the lines of Godhra in Gujarat with an eye to win elections?
Yes, the first experiment of Sangh Pariwar was Gujarat and the second experiment is in Odisha. Narendra Modi has followed the principle, “beat the minority and get the majority” to win elections. And, the same principal is being applied in Odisha too. The third experiment may possibly be in Karnataka. It is an irony that both Central and state governments have failed to control law and order. More than 50% of the media reports are based on only violence in the country.
After Kandhamal violence, do you think that Odisha is safe for Christians when the government is partisan?
As far as Kandhamal is concerned, Christians are not safe even after 15-months of violence. There have been attacks on Christians in Sambalpur, Berhampur and other parts of the state. So, Christians are insecure in the state and other parts of the country including Karnataka and Delhi.
Who is responsible for Kandhamal violence?
There are several elements who are responsible for this. It is the duty of the state government to protect the life of the people in which the state government has failed to do so. Secondly, the political parties have played a very dirty game. Finally, organisations like Bajarang Dal, VHP and RSS are responsible for this. And, of course, the poverty is also responsible for this kind of situation.
Are you satisfied with the investigations in the nuns rape case?
A charge sheet has been filed in the nun rape case. Now, the court has to look into the matter.
Are you satisfied with the investigations in Kandhamal?
The government has not given any proof to the 1,200 families living outside district that they are safe in Kandhamal on their return. The culprits are moving freely as they get bail after the initial arrests.
In Bible, Jesus said, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.” (Romans 12:19-21). Does this mean that Church should forgive those who commit evil against it. Don't you think the Church should forgo nun rape case and leave it in the hand of the God?
Jesus Christ has talked about ten commandments of love. There is God of Love and God of Justice. From ourside, we have to forgive. But, the law of the land will take its own course of action for violating the law in which no one can interfere.
Sister Jesme said that the Church should put its own house in order to fight Hindu fundamentalists. So, what is your comment on this?
We are a human society. There will always be weaknesses. Some people highlight that in order to get good things. She has to justify for leaving the Church after spending a large part of her life with the Church. I shall not comment whether it was right or wrong on her part on whatever she has written in the book.
Why France intervened in the Kandhamal violence asking the state government to maintain law and order problem while it is an internal issue of the country?
Italy was the first country and France joined later. The global media coverage on Kandhamal has drawn the attention of the western countries. The concern was why the freedom of religion given in Indian constitution should be curtailed for a section of the society. The law stating that an individual seeking permission from the authorities to change religion is a total infringement of an individual’s freedom. The logic that Christian organizations are exploiting the poor conditions of dalits and tribals is totally baseless. Till the last one or two decades, where were these Hindu fundamenatalists who are showing concern for the deprived sections of the society? Till today, they were humiliating them. This is not merely a conflict of Hindu and Christians. It is a struggle between the strong upper castes led by Brahmins on the one hand and the deprived section – dalits and tribals on other hand. The upper castes do not want the deprived section to come up in the society. They are putting Dalits and Tribals against one another by following divide and rule policy.
The Sanga Parivar is trying to Talibanise the tribal’s attire. They are asking the tribal women not to wear the modern dress, instead maintain the traditional minimum cloths on the body. This is absolutely a dictatorial attitude of Brahmanical order.
You have been asking Christians to strengthen themselves. What do you mean by this?
Strengthen means they should have unity among themselves. They should have good relationship with their Hindu and Muslim neighbours. We ask people to be a true Christian which needs lot of sacrifice. The community should look from within and renew itself. Church has to do a lot in this direction.
So, you are in favour of Ecumenical movement?
Yes, very much. On every third week of the month, all the major denominations have a meeting. The smaller demonimnations do not come. They do not listen to any one which has created a lot of problem. Several accusations which Bajarang Dal is making is due to their activities. We are also disowning them. Any one who is using money and allurements; we do not endorse.
Christian organisations are at the loggerhead in Odisha, but they enjoy a very good relationship with Hindu fundamentalists in Kerala, Chandigarh and other parts of the country. Why this double standard?
Alignment is a matter of political existence. Church has always supported those who have the political voice in the society.
Have you asked CM why the violence is still taking place in Kandhamal?
Naveen Patnaik is stating the same thing all the time - we have done everything possible. The Christian organisations have asked him to expedite the enquiry into the Swami Laxmanand Sarasvati murder case and punish the murderers. The whole lie will be over. Now, the government is maintaining the lie that Christians are responsible for the Swam-ji’s murder. Maintaining a lie is a part of a big political game. Christians have not killed Swami-ji. It is the Maoists who are responsible for his killing for pushing extreme-Hinduism. Maoists have claimed that they have killed Swami-ji and left two letters mentioning the reasons for his murder. Government has confiscated both the letters. Government is maintaining the lie that Christian leaders have killed Swami-ji in order to defend the killing of the innocent people in Kandhamal. If the truth will come out that Christians have not killed Swami-ji, then it will be very difficult for the state government to defend themself for the killings of the innocent people in Kandhamal. They have committed such a heinous crime without any reason.
Why Naveen Patnaik wants to hide the fact that Christians are not responsible for Swami-ji’s murder?
If the truth comes out that Christians are not responsible for Swami-ji murder, then it will be very difficult for him to justify whatever happened in Kandhamal. Who will punish all those who are responsible for the Kandhamal violence? The reaction will always be in proportion to action. There cannot be a mass upsurge and it can not be 100 times to the actual action. A planned design is responsible for the killings of innocents in Kandhamal.
Do you think that CM is aligning with BJP to win poll ?
CM has to win elections. Hence, he will align with BJP as it has a good presence in the state.
The tribals leaders are of the opinion that land is responsible for the Kandhamal violence….
These all may be secondary reasons. The land grabbing is there in Delhi and Mumbai for which the demolition is taking place. But, there is no such kind of violence there. What they are justifying is an anarchy; it is a mob rule which can not be justified.
There are allegations that a large number of Churches are built on the unauthorized land in Kandhamal and other part of the state…..
I give full authority to the state government to demolish unauthorized Churches. But, the same bulldozer should demolish hundreds of temples constructed at the unauthorized land and forest areas in Odisha. The law should be applied to all and not to Christians only.
What is the permanent solution to the Kandhamal problem?
There are two things which can restore peace in the state. First, the government should book the culprits and punish them. In the last 15 months, not a single man has been punished. Around 75 people were killed, property was looted and women were raped during the said period. Around 5,000 houses have been destroyed or burned. Many institutions like Churches, schools and hospitals were burned or destroyed or looted. The government has been able to control the Bombay terrorists attack in just three days. Similarly, the tension in Karnataka was diffused within a week. But, the violence in Kandhamal continued for fifteen days. According to the claims of the government, around 7,500 security personnels have been deployed in Kandhamal district. This force is enough to control law and order situation in the country. But, this force is not able to completely control the law and order situation in a district of Odisha. The government could not control the law and order problem in the last 15 months which clearly demonstrates the inefficiency on the part of the government or lack of will or its connivance with the law breakers.
Do you think that the Kandhamal violence is targeted with an eye on elections?
Not elections only. Their agenda is Hindu Rashtra. They are using politics, religion and ethnic reasons in order to achieve their goal of Hindu Rastra. They want to make India like a Southi Arabia.
Sangh Parivar want to establish a theocratic state…
They are not for a theocratic state. It is not religion as no religion including Hinduism endorses violence and the killing of innocents. In the name of religion, they want to establish the dictatorship of the upper castes led by Brahmins.
The state assembly and Lok Sabha elections are round the corner. To which political party, the Christian organizations will support in this poll?
People are free to vote anyone in the elections. However, the sizeable Christian population will not vote BJP in this election.
Have you placed any demand before the political parties for the welfare of Christian population?
We are for the party which is secular and protects the rights of the minority. And, the integrity of the candidates is also very important.
Your last word on the overall environment?
A question always haunts all the Christians whether there will be another attack in Kandhamal. In the present condition with the attitude of the government, I think that there will be repeated attacks. If today, no one is punished, then they are free to attack. The government should have been more sympathetic and considerate in a situation like this. Sangh Parivar wants to eliminate Christians in order to establish a Hindu Rashtra.
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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Interview of Sister Jesme, the author of “Amen – an autobiography of a nun”

How Church trapped in quagmire can fight the raped nun’s case in Odisha?

Church is spending crores of rupees to hush up Sister Abhaya’s case in Kerala, says Sister Jesme, the author of controversial book, `Amen – an autobiography of a nun’

Sister Jesme, who quit Church order last year after spending more than 25 years, has currently occupied the front-page of the national media. Her controversial book – “Amen – an autobiography of a nun” ( released recently has rocked the Church establishment in Kerala.

In a free and frank interaction with Sai Prasan, a senior journalist, Sister Jesme spoke on issues ranging from the raped nun case in Kandhamal violence to the need for the Church to bring democracy and transparency within its own set up. Excerpts:

A nun was raped in Kandhamal violence. And, your recent book on the nuns says that they are not safe within the four walls of Church. How do you think that they can be protected within Church periphery as well as in open society?

The nuns can be protected outside only if they are first protected within the four walls of Church. If the nuns are not protected within the four walls of Church, they can fall prey in the hands of those who are in control of Church for the worldly pleasure including sex. The powerful women and priests can target nuns within the Church and they can also be the target outside the four walls of Church. The Church is fighting against the Leftist state government in Kerala, but the Church leadership was not much vocal on the atrocities done to the Christians and nuns in Kandhamal violence.

So, what should be done in this kind of situation?

First of all, the Church renovation should take place. For example, in the Sister Abhaya case ( in Kerala, Church is speaking in favour of the culprits. The Church is spending crores of rupees in order to hush up the case.

A nun was raped in Kandhamal by the Hindu fundamentalists. Do you think that the investigations is on the right track and she will get justice?

The fundamentalists should be defeated and women’s rights should be protected whether it is house wife or nun. All the dialogues on such kind of cases within the Church is a farce or fake. If someone raises voice or concern, then he or she are shouted out. That person is not given any important position, hooted out and orchestrated within the Church set up.

How do the Church treat the nuns who was raped like in Kandhamal case as they are not virgin which is a pre-condition for the nun-hood ?

The Church accepts such nuns and allows them to do the work as usual because it is not her fault.

Who is responsible for the Kandhamal violence?

It appears to be a political issue and I do not want to indulge into politics as that is not my area.

What made you to come out after 30 years from the Church set-up?

Church wanted to prove that I am mad to silence me. That is the trigger point. Otherwise, I would have still stayed with the Church. It was suffocating within the four walls, therefore, I came out.

So, due to think that Church operations are not transparent?

Not at all transparent. One should know that the powerful and wealthy people are always afraid of transparency. Because they are afraid of loosing power, wealth and position. The Sister Abhaya murder case is evident that these powerful people will not hesitated to murder if some one comes in between as their obstacle. The media by and large is also with them and do not report the events neutrally.

Do you think that the Church is not democratic also?

The Church is never democratic. It is hierarchical with the Pope heading it. The nuns and priests are expected to report to Bishop. The Church believes that the hierarchical set up makes it the most powerful entity in the world.

According to Bible, “For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it” Matthew 19:12 (King James Version). So, is the nunnery imposed by the Church?

There are different reason why girls enter into nunship. Some join because

Jesus calls them, some for name and fame and some for money to support their family. The nuns and priests are expected to live a simple life. There are complains that some nuns get foreign funds; but they are misusing.

In what situation, the nuns leave the Church?

There are plenty of cases where nuns leave the Church when they fall in love with some one. Some leave the Church because of their sickness and they can not attend the convent.

Sex is a basic instinct. Why Church has imposed celibacy on nuns and priests?

Yes, you are right - the sex has penetrated within the four walls in the 21st century. The nuns should be allowed to speak out and interact with the world. Let the nuns interact with the world and vice versa. Let Church enter into the world, and world enter into the Church. Then only there will be balanced view on the issues. The nuns should be allowed to see movies like Slumdog Millionare . And, those who want to leave Church, they should be allowed to do so. And, let the committed one stay within the Church. The Church should concentrate on the quality and not on the quantity.

Why the church is silent on the sexual exploitation taking place within the Church ?

They do not want to take any action. They want to hush-up such cases. The more such kind of cases are hushed up, the more such cases take place. Such cases should come into the public, then only some renovation can take place within the Church.

The nuns are working in the rural India while there are slums in the urban areas also.

No, some nuns are working in the slums also in the urban areas, though comparatively lesser in number. There are nuns who are working sincerely across the geographical areas. There are a large number of nuns who are holier than Mother Teresa, but they were not given sainthood like it was given to Mother Teresa. I sometimes wonder why these nuns were not given sainthood and they were being used as puppets. However, it is important to note that Mother Teresa took initiative on different fronts.

Why Missionary of Charities are located in cities and not in the rural India?

Yes, you are right. They are mostly located in cities and a very few in the rural areas. This issue, we too have raised before the Church authorities.

You are very vocal against Church. Do you have any life threat as Church is very powerful?

No, I am not afraid because Jesus is with me. He is the saviour. Amen.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Interview of RL Francis, president, Poor Christian Liberation Movement

Christianity is facing crisis like any other religion Message of Christ must spread without offending any religion, says RL Francis, president, Poor Christian Liberation Movement (PCLM)
The problems of the Dalits and Tribals have remained the same even after several decades of conversion into the Christianity. A large number of poor Christians have come together to form a common platform – Poor Christian Liberation Movement (PCLM) –and are demanding Church to meet the aspirations of the dalits and tribals.
In a long interaction with Sai Prasan, a senior journalist, RL Francis, president, PCLM addressed the issues ranging from Kandhamal violence, fraudulent conversions to the inner contradictions within the Church and among the Christian community at large. Excerpts:
PCLM has issued a press release on MP Minority Commission's observations regarding Church property. But, why you were silent on the Supreme Court recently criticizing Odisha government for its failure to protect the life of people in Kandhamal violence? And, you have spared even the Hindu fundamentalists for attacking Christians in Odisha?
Do not allege the things which are not true. We condemn any kind of violence on any religion. We support all the decision of the Honourable Supreme Curt of India in this regard. In several judgments, judiciary has saved the minorities in India.
You have termed the Christian conversions fraudulent and asked the Church to stop it. What is the basis on which you have alleged that the Conversions are fraudulent in India?
The act of conversion comes from within and is an spiritual attainment of an individual. The church itself is against conversions which are done through allurement and false promises. It has been observed that many conversions are done using questionable methods. The Poor Christian Liberation Movement (PCLM) is against such conversions. Several studies published and particularly in a book - "Changing Gods" by Rev. Fr. Rudolf Heredoro S.J. gives several example of fraudulent conversion. It is on the basis of these studies that the people allege that fraudulent conversions are taking place in India. Several priests themselves have said these things.
You have asked the government/s to appoint common man in the commissions and other forums and not the priests and bishops. Why you do not have faith in the Church?
According to World Council of Churches and Vatican II, the laity must be empowered. If the religious persons (priests and nuns) are appointed in the government formed commission, then the confusion will arise in the masses. After all, the Vatican has an ambassador in India who is the representative of Pope. And on the other hand, bishops and archbishops are also appointed by Rome. In this condition, it is difficult for priests and nuns to ignore the religious stand and sometimes they many act contrary to the interest of local people.
The roles of religious people are to do spiritual work and live the life of Christ. I need not elaborate that Christ himself never accepted any post in Roman Empire.
We further urged the government that no clergy (Bishops, priests and nuns) be appointed in the government committee, commissions etc. Instead, the government should appoint ordinary Christians as the members in such committees and commissions. It has been observed that due to such appointments, the Bishops, priests, and nuns are deviating from their original work of the Church and misusing their positions and funds.
What are the demands of poor dalits and tribal Christians from the Church?
The demand of poor christians is to uplift the poor christians who mostly come from dalit and tribal background. It has been noted that while the church is having buildings and institutions, the poor Christians are not admitted in it. Our demand is to give admission to every Christian child in Christian schools. After all, the Christians schools are violating the rights under minority rules.
As there are large number of administrative rules in the church institutors, we demand that the laity should be given more chance to the government the local church institutions.
We strongly demand that as per the teachings of Jesus Christ inaction within the church on the basis for caste must be stopped immediately. And separate graveyard for dalits and separate prayer arrangement for them must be changed into general equal rights.
We appeal to the bishops to see that priests, nuns and authorities stop supporting upper caste Christians against Dalit Christians and instead openly oppose discrimination and close down the churches and services in places where discrimination on the basis of caste is practiced.
Has the social and economic status of poor Christians after the conversions changed and these religious conversions brought any social change among the dalits and tribal?
Unfortunately not. Several studies by the Church and independent scholars suggest that they are large number of poor Christians' who still lack education and they are backward economically. They do not have jobs.
The poor Christians particularly Dalits are suffering in the same manner as Hindu dalits. Infact, this is the basis for demanding reservation for the Dalit Christians in the Church for several years.
PCLM has made allegations that the foreign funds coming to India are being mis-used by a section of Church. How do you think these funds can be properly used for the development of Dalit and tribal Christians?
St. Peter has two keys. One of the heaven and other one of the treasurery. The treasury key must be handed over to the laity for transparency.. Economic committees should be formed to oversee the fund's expenditure. In every diocese the treasurer must be a lay person appointed on the rotational basis - for two years. And must be changed after that. More economic owers must be given to nuns as they are honest and sincere.
Why are you opposed to the reservations of Dalit Christians in the government jobs?
We are looking for the long term interest of the community. After the government, the Church is the biggest employer in India. And as such what is the percentage of dalit Christians employed in Christian schools, colleges, hospitals and social service projects. We want first the Church to provide 60 % reservations to the Dalit Christians, 20 % to the Tribal Christians and 10 % for rest of the Christians in their own institutions.
In principle it also not justified to push back the Dalits Christians in the same category which they discarded and adopted Christianity. We demand that Catholic Bishop Conference of India (CBCI), National Council for churches in India (NCCI) and other church organizations to drop the demand for pushing back the poor Christians in to the category of Scheduled Caste status. The teaching of Jesus Christ does not permit a any one to discriminate among his followers. All Christians are born in the image of God.
If the Church in India pursues the reservation for Christians on the basis of caste then it must pay compensation to the poor Christians who got converted to the Christianity long back. We urge the Union government to institute a law allowing the Christians minority institutions to admit 50% student who are Christians. Any Christians educational institute claiming Minority Status be punished if they refuse admission to a Christian child. Currently, there is no such provision therefore the Church educational institutions are ignoring poor Christians. Those not following the directive be declassified and put under the Income Tax Act as commercial venture.
You have supported Madhya Pradesh Minority Commissions' statement to form Waqf board to monitor Church property. How do you think that it will help the poor Christians?
The large scale fraudulent deals and selling of mission properties in several places in India, the Madhya Pradesh Minority Commission has suggested to the State Government to set up a Waqf like Board to protect Church properties.
The church hierarchy should examine it with open mind and in sincerity. We have submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister Dr. Man Mohan Singh demanding an agency for the protection of Christian properties on the pattern of Waqf Board.
There is nothing objectionable in the proposal. If there was anything wrong in the Waqf board, then Muslim brethren would have opposed it. Therefore, it is not appropriate to oppose the proposal mooted by the M P state Minority Commission for setting up a Waqf like Board for the Christians.
Several cases of selling Church property illegally have come to the light in Jabalpur, Damoh, Indore, Ratlam, Raipur, Bilaspur, Nagpur, Agra, Saharanpur, Lucknow,Ludhiana, Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Calcutta and in other places. Therefore, it is in the interest of the Christian community to have a Waqf Board like national agency for the proper upliftment and protection of the mission property.
Your opponents among the Christian community alleged that the people like you are disgruntled elements as your line of thinking is similar to Sangh Parivar. Are you working in tandem with the Sangh Parivar?
Several priests and bishops are having dialogue with RSS. Are they also working in tandem with the Sangh Parivar?
Has PCLM sought Vatican City's intervention to resolve their problems?
We would welcome any move by the Vatican to solve the problems of Dalit Christians in India. Also we would like to involve World Council of Churches in this matter. And we cannot forget the evangelical groups who are also spreading the word of Lord. Above all the involvement of the leaders from India is also very important.
What is your last word on the overall situation?
In the 21st century all religion are facing crisis. So, the case with Christainity. I sincerely urge the Church leaders to prepare the laity for the more responsibilities so that the real message of Christ becomes acceptable to all without offending any other religion.The key word is respect all religions equally.

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Spurned tribals to intensify fight against Odisha government

We will not support Naveen led ruling combine in next poll if our demands are not met, says Lambodhar Kahar, the tribal chief

Not many people were aware of Lambodhar Kahar, secretary general, Kui Samaj Co-ordination Committee and president, Odisha Advasi Co-ordination Committee before the news of Kandhamal violence went into the global network last year.

In a long interaction with Sai Prasan, a senior journalist, Lambodhar Kahar spoke fearlessly on the failure of Odisha government in taking the preventive measures to avert Kandhamal clash and suggested the ways and means to resolve the problem. Excerpts:

Sai Prasan: Who is responsible for the Kandhamal violence?

Lambodhar Kahar: Odisha government is mainly responsible for Kandhamal violence. The indifferent attitude of the state government has led to the Kandhamal violence. Had the government fulfilled the demands of the Kui Samaj, then this violent incident would not have happened. The government has fulfilled only four out of the 42 demands. And, 38 demands are still pending. We held a meeting in this regard on February 14, 2009 (Saturday) in Bhubaneswar.
I would like to draw people’s attention that Kui Samaj has presented a charter of demands following the violence in late 2007. The government had not conceded the demands of the Kui Samaj due to which the community was uphappy.
Unfortunatley, Swami Laxmananda Saraswati was murdered on August 23, 2008 at a time when the Kui Samaj was getting agitated because of the state government’s indifferent attitude. Both, I and Laxmananda have received threathening letters. The senders of the letter stated that they will kill Laxmananda within seven days and me within fifteen days. Laxmanda was killed as he was not given an adequate security which can also be cited as one the reasons for his murder.

SP: What are your demands?

LK: Odisha government is running the show in the name of tribals; but it is not doing anything for their welfare. Our demands are very simple. We are asking that those who are responsible for the violence should be booked. The government should restore the land rights of the tribals whose land has been occupied by SC and non-tribals in the area. The SCs are obtaining fake ST certificate and they are entering into Parliament, state assembly and panchayati-raj institutions. The government is not doing anything in this regard. It is the reason that the agitation is continuing. And, the Kui Samaj has passed a resolution on February 14th meeting to intensify the agitation against the state government on these demands.

SP: What is your next course of action?

LK: We will intensify our agitation till the demands of the Kui Samaj is not fulfilled by the government. And, the tribals will not extend their support to Naveen led ruling combine, in the forthcoming state assembly and Lok Sabha poll scheduled to held in April if our demands are not met.

SP: What is the alternative?

LK: We will look for an alternative. It may be possible that without our support the ruling party may not come to the power in the next election.

SP: What is the role of the Central government in diffusing tension in Kandhamal?

LK: The central security force – CRPF is not there for diffusing tension. They are deployed in the district for beating tribals. The SC Christians are helping CRPF to harass tribals. The tribals are getting victimized both in the hands of the CRPF and SC Christians turned naxalites. We are demanding government to immediately remove CRPF from Kandhamal.

SP: Who is responsible for the murder of Swami-ji?

LK: The naxalite cadre consisting of Pana Christians were responsible for the murder of Swami-ji because he was following an extreme Hindutava which was hurting the interest of Christians organizations.

SP: Why tribals attacked Pana Christians?

LK: Tribals have not attacked Pana Christians. It was the followers of the Swami-ji who took revenge to his murder. Earlier, they have not harmed any Pana Christian, why they have done it now; this question should be addressed.

SP: Kandhamal conflict is a SC and ST conflict or a Hindu and Christian clash?

LK: It is neither a SC-ST conflict nor Hindu-Christian clash. It is basically a fight of social forces against the anti-social elements in Kandhamal. The illegal actions of anti-socials of the society had hit the interest of the justified people which led to a backlash in the district.

SP: How the problem of Kandhamal can be solved?

LK: Kandhamal problem can be solved only if the government will have a strong will power to do so. Odisha government can follow Orissa Caste Certificate (For Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes) Rules, 1980. According to this, if an official detects that a fake certificate was issued to a person, then the same official has the power to cancel such fake certificate. The government should direct the district officials to identify the fake certificates obtained by the SCs to avail the privileges given to the tribals. It should cancel all the fake land pattas given to the SC and non-tribals in Kandhamal and restore the land rights to the tribals. More than ten thousands (10,000) fake ST certificates were issued in Odisha on the basis of which non-tribals are enjoying jobs and land rights. The government should follow the rule that in the gram sabha area of Kandhamal, land can not be given to any non-tribal. And, the government should cancel all the fake ST certificates given to the non-tribals. This will immediately solve the problem in Kandhamal.

SP: Why government is not taking interest to solve the problem?

LK: Do not ask me this question. You better shoot this query to Odisha government, why they are delaying in solving the problem?

SP: Sangh Parivar had withdrawn its call for Odisha bandh on December 25, 2008 demanding the immediate arrest of the Swami-ji’s murderers. What was the reason that the Sangh Parivar has withdrawn the bandh call?

LK: I can not comment any thing on that issue as I do not have any relationship with Sangh Parivar. Kui Samaj has promised to observe Saheed Diwas which we followed.

SP: Both Hindu and Christian organizations are trying to take the tribals to their side. Why both the sides are trying to take tribals to their respective fold?

LK: The Hindus are not forcing tribals to convert. They are changing their mind set on the lines of Hinduism. Both the sides take the advantage of the innocence and ignorance of the tribal population as they can easily influence them.

SP: Are the tribals Hindus? Because, the Christian organizations are saying that they are converting them into Christianity as they are not Hindus?

LK: Originally, the tribals are not Hindus. The Hindu organizations are claiming that the tribals are Hindus. The tribals are not aware that they are originally not Hindus. The Christians can convert tribals without offering them any allurement. They should not offer any allurement like offering construction of house or vehicle for conversion.

SP: What is your impression on Hindu and Christian organizations?

LK: The Hindu organizations have better hold over the tribals than the Christians as Hinduism is an indigenous religion. More than 80% of tribals have come into the fold of Hindu organizations before the entry of Christian organizations who entered late in India. Now, the Christian organizations are working hard to convert the tribals into Christians. And, there is virtually an intense competition between both the sides due to which the tribals are getting sandwiched in between.

SP: Has Hindu and Christian organizations have contributed in the upliftment of the social and economic status of the Tribals?

LK: The conversion has not helped the tribals as their social and economic status remained the same. The social and economic status of Pana Hindus has gone up after the conversion into the Christianity as they bargain hard with the Christian organization for getting a good price for the conversion. And, they try to exploit the maximum after the conversion. This was one of the reasons for the Kandhamal violence. Contrary to this, the tribals can not bargain as they are innocent. This is the reason that the status of the tribals has remained the same even after conversion.