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.

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