The report is mischievous because it reports anecdotes without an understanding of the root of Hindu rage in Kandhamal: assassination of Swami Lakshmananda Sarasvati and 4 of his associates. There is also no reporting of the facts brought out by expert investigators in many reports on the situation created by christists indulging in unlawful activities and in tearing asunder the Hindu community through conversions through allurements and other means.
The fundamental question of who assassinated Swami Lakshmananda remains unanswered by this investigative reporter. It doesn't behove of objectivity of New York Times to allow such flippant reporting to pass muster on its newspaper pages.
Is the US media also in league with the evangelising christists?
To show the nature of the half-truths indulged in by Somini Sengupta, I append the report of Ashok Sahu, former Addl. Director General of Police. New York Times should publish this report of Ashok Sahu in its entirely to demonstrate fairplay in journalistic ethic.
It is time that the readers also know the murderous activities of the Church.
Kandhamal: Mischievous report in NY Times by Somini Sengupta
October 13, 2008
Hindu Threat to Christians: Convert or Flee
By SOMINI SENGUPTA (New York Times 14 Oct. 2008)
BOREPANGA, India — The family of Solomon Digal was summoned by neighbors to what serves as a public square in front of the village tea shop.
They were ordered to get on their knees and bow before the portrait of a Hindu preacher. They were told to turn over their Bibles, hymnals and the two brightly colored calendar images of Christ that hung on their wall. Then, Mr. Digal, 45, a Christian since childhood, was forced to watch his Hindu neighbors set the items on fire.
“ ‘Embrace Hinduism, and your house will not be demolished,’ ” Mr. Digal recalled being told on that Wednesday afternoon in September. “ ‘Otherwise, you will be killed, or you will be thrown out of the village.’ ”
India, the world’s most populous democracy and officially a secular nation, is today haunted by a stark assault on one of its fundamental freedoms. Here in eastern Orissa State, riven by six weeks of religious clashes, Christian families like the Digals say they are being forced to abandon their faith in exchange for their safety.
The forced conversions come amid widening attacks on Christians here and in at least five other states across the country, as India prepares for national elections next spring.
The clash of faiths has cut a wide swath of panic and destruction through these once quiet hamlets fed by paddy fields and jackfruit trees. Here in Kandhamal, the district that has seen the greatest violence, more than 30 people have been killed, 3,000 homes burned and over 130 churches destroyed, including the tin-roofed Baptist prayer hall where the Digals worshiped. Today it is a heap of rubble on an empty field, where cows blithely graze.
Across this ghastly terrain lie the singed remains of mud-and-thatch homes. Christian-owned businesses have been systematically attacked. Orange flags (orange is the sacred color of Hinduism) flutter triumphantly above the rooftops of houses and storefronts.
India is no stranger to religious violence between Christians, who make up about 2 percent of the population, and India’s Hindu-majority of 1.1 billion people. But this most recent spasm is the most intense in years.
It was set off, people here say, by the killing on Aug. 23 of a charismatic Hindu preacher known as Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, who for 40 years had rallied the area’s people to choose Hinduism over Christianity.
The police have blamed Maoist guerrillas for the swami’s killing. But Hindu radicals continue to hold Christians responsible.
In recent weeks, they have plastered these villages with gruesome posters of the swami’s hacked corpse. “Who killed him?” the posters ask. “What is the solution?”
Behind the clashes are long-simmering tensions between equally impoverished groups: the Panas and Kandhas. Both original inhabitants of the land, the two groups for ages worshiped the same gods. Over the past several decades, the Panas for the most part became Christian, as Roman Catholic and Baptist missionaries arrived here more than 60 years ago, followed more recently by Pentecostals, who have proselytized more aggressively.
Meanwhile, the Kandhas, in part through the teachings of Swami Laxmanananda, embraced Hinduism. The men tied the sacred Hindu white thread around their torsos; their wives daubed their foreheads with bright red vermilion. Temples sprouted.
Hate has been fed by economic tensions as well, as the government has categorized each group differently and given them different privileges.
The Kandhas accused the Panas of cheating to obtain coveted quotas for government jobs. The Christian Panas, in turn, say their neighbors have become resentful as they have educated themselves and prospered.
Their grievances have erupted in sporadic clashes over the past 15 years, but they have exploded with a fury since the killing of Swami Laxmanananda.
Two nights after his death, a Hindu mob in the village of Nuagaon dragged a Catholic priest and a nun from their residence, tore off much of their clothing and paraded them through the streets.
The nun told the police that she had been raped by four men, a charge the police say was borne out by a medical examination. Yet no one was arrested in the case until five weeks later, after a storm of media coverage. Today, five men are under arrest in connection with inciting the riots. The police say they are trying to find the nun and bring her back here to identify her attackers.
Given a chance to explain the recent violence, Subash Chauhan, the state’s highest-ranking leader of Bajrang Dal, a Hindu radical group, described much of it as “a spontaneous reaction.”
He said in an interview that the nun had not been raped but had had regular consensual sex.
On Sunday evening, as much of Kandhamal remained under curfew, Mr. Chauhan sat in the hall of a Hindu school in the state capital, Bhubaneshwar, beneath a huge portrait of the swami. A state police officer was assigned to protect him round the clock. He cupped a trilling Blackberry in his hand.
Mr. Chauhan denied that his group was responsible for forced conversions and in turn accused Christian missionaries of luring villagers with incentives of schools and social services.
He was asked repeatedly whether Christians in Orissa should be left free to worship the god of their choice. “Why not?” he finally said, but he warned that it was unrealistic to expect the Kandhas to politely let their Pana enemies live among them as followers of Jesus.
“Who am I to give assurance?” he snapped. “Those who have exploited the Kandhas say they want to live together?”
Besides, he said, “they are Hindus by birth.”
Hindu extremists have held ceremonies in the country’s indigenous belt for the past several years intended to purge tribal communities of Christian influence.
It is impossible to know how many have been reconverted here, in the wake of the latest violence, though a three-day journey through the villages of Kandhamal turned up plenty of anecdotal evidence.
A few steps from where the nun had been attacked in Nuagaon, five men, their heads freshly shorn, emerged from a soggy tent in a relief camp for Christians fleeing their homes.
The men had also been summoned to a village meeting in late August, where hundreds of their neighbors stood with machetes in hand and issued a firm order: Get your heads shaved and bow down before our gods, or leave this place.
Trembling with fear, Daud Nayak, 56, submitted to a shaving, a Hindu sign of sacrifice. He drank, as instructed, a tumbler of diluted cow dung, considered to be purifying.
In the eyes of his neighbors, he reckoned, he became a Hindu.
In his heart, he said, he could not bear it.
All five men said they fled the next day with their families. They refuse to return.
In another village, Birachakka, a man named Balkrishna Digal and his son, Saroj, said they had been summoned to a similar meeting and told by Hindu leaders who came from nearby villages that they, too, would have to convert. In their case, the ceremony was deferred because of rumors of Christian-Hindu clashes nearby.
For the time being, the family had placed an orange flag on their mud home. Their Hindu neighbors promised to protect them.
Here in Borepanga, the family of Solomon Digal was not so lucky. Shortly after they recounted their Sept. 10 Hindu conversion story to a reporter in the dark of night, the Digals were again summoned by their neighbors. They were scolded and fined 501 rupees, or about $12, a pinching sum here.
The next morning, calmly clearing his cauliflower field, Lisura Paricha, one of the Hindu men who had summoned the Digals, confirmed that they had been penalized. Their crime, he said, was to talk to outsiders.
Murder of Mahatma by the Church
By Ashok Sahu, IPS (Retd.),
Former Addl. Director General of Police
On the 23rd August, while doing pooja on Janmasthami, the most sacred day for Hindus, militant Christians entered into the Ashram premises at about 8.00 p.m. and pumped bullets from an AK-47 assault rifle on the frail body of an 84 years old Swamijee (Vedanta Keshari Swami Laxanananda Saraswati) at Jalespata Vanabashi Kanyashram in Kondhmal District of Orissa. After killing him brutally the Christian assailants have cut various parts of Swamijee's body by chisel and axe, it appears. Along with him others who tried to rescue Swamijee got killed are Sadhwi Bhakti Mata who was in over all charge of the Kalyan Ashram, Kishore Baba, Amritanand Baba and a visitor guardian of an inmate of the school. The dead body of Matajee was also defiled by cut injuries which was most brutish and nasty.
Swamijee had received a threatening letter which he could read only the previous evening on his return from routine tour for religious preaching. He had sought security from the local police against imminent danger to his life by a written prayer to the authorities including the District Magistrate on 23rd August. The media had broadcast on apprehensions to his life during morning news bulletins on the very fateful 23rd August.
Hardly one month back, at Tumudibandh, two kilometers from his Jalespata Ashram, there was armed attack by a group of Christians when he was protesting against Cow-slaughter in the area. In the violence one of his disciples Madhu Baba had sustained fatal cut injuries. Following the incident the State Government had deployed one platoon of armed CRPF personnel to guard his Ashram round the clock. Swamijee, in addition to these arrangements, had an armed security person to protect him during his tours who was mysteriously absent at the time of attack.
It may be mentioned that the personal security man Bhubaneswar Jani who was replaced by an emaciated, cowardice constable by the local S.P. only five days prior to the attack, was serving Swamijee for more than 10 months most sincerely jeopadising his own life. During armed attack by militant Christians on the 24th December 2007 at Daringbadi for which he was hospitalized along with Swamijee with fatal injuries. In that connection, though the Police has registered a case vide 83/07 u/s 147/148/353/323/324/307/426/149 IPC the culprits are still at large with impunity. Prior to this there were nine more attacks on Swamijee's life and consistently the assailants were all recently converted Christians in the area. It is evident that the Catholic Church and the Baptist Church by conversion was gradually criminalizing the local youth. Few of them were also encouraged to join the Maoist group of terrorists which was proved by the way Bamunigaon Police Station was attacked and the subsequent raids in non-descript Sikarama village during December violence there, that led to recovery of more than 20 guns in a single tiny village.
What is surprising is that similar raids were not conducted in other villages where there is pillage of fire-arms. More suspicious is the withdrawal of the CRPF from the Ashram and replacing the PSO to the Swamijee only five days prior to the murderous attack on 23rd August. Danger to the life of Swamijee was mounting every day since the abortive attempt on his life in last December.According to reliable sources, there was a secret meeting on 9th August 2008 in the Community Centre at Raikia attended by activists representing Church based NGOs like the World Vision, Jana Kalyan Samiti, NISWAS, ASHA, Sahara, Palli Shree, Jana Vikash etc. who regularly receive huge funds from abroad. It was also attended by Nakul Nayak, former M.P. from the ruling BJD, Krushna Para Seth the former Block Chairman from Tumdibandh, Alfansoe Baliyar Singh a notorious militant Christian from Raikia, advocate Manas Singh who was to bring activists from Bamunigaon and Daringbadi in a vehicle specifically provided by Archbishop C.Raphel. It was resolved in the meeting to eliminate Swamijee who was 'an insurmountable obstacle against conversion and cow-slaughter in the area'.Simultaneously, they felt that by philanthropic activities among the Kondh tribes in the District he was dissuading the vulnerable poor and illiterate tribe and Panas in the area from falling prey to the allurements and fraud by the Church authorities.
Sources reveal that on the 13th August a letter purportedly written by 'Pahadia' group of people was circulated addressed to the Swamijee that his life would not be spared, that too, within a week. Copies were supposed to be sent to the State Chief Minister, DGP, District Magistrate, District S.P. etc. besides the Swamijee and some other targets. A similar closed door meeting was reportedly held on 20th August in the Jana Kalyan Samiti at Jatani (Khurda) attended among others by Father Bijoy Nayak from Baliguda Church and Ajay Singh of Khurda, where it was decided to eliminate Swamijee, come what may. On the 23rd August night they succeeded in killing him as per their planned conspiracy.
The government had clear knowledge and the authorities had detailed information, but instead of reinforcing the security arrangements, it appears that they colluded with the killers. What has failed to convince is the glaring gap in alacrity with which the Orissa Police had rounded up 63 suspects in Graham Staines murder case within 24 hours of the alleged murder and their utter failure to arrest even a single culprit even after four days of the murder of Swamijee.People of Orissa expressed their ire against the government during the dawn to dusk bundh in the most unprecedented manner for the government attributed this murder to the Naxal Maoists within minutes of the incidents. They were reminded of the callousness of the Chief MinisterNaveen Patnaik who had made a similar statement accusing the Maoists when DIG Jasvir Singh was killed but later it was revealed by subsequent investigation that the DIG was killed by his own PSO from Orissa Police.
When there was prior information on danger to life of Swamijee, so much so that, the local TV channels trumpeted the whole day urging the government to save the Swamijee from imminent attack, the government apparently colluded with the killers and in order to prove his self-claimed 'secular credentials' the Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik is over active to safeguard the Christian minorities from the onslaught by the enraged Hindus whole over the State. Now the question is, why should the government first create a situation by a series of 'omissions and commissions' later in order to prove his 'secular credentials' try to protect the endangered minorities. There can not be a greater embarrassment for the ruling alliance BJP who can not escape the moral responsibility of being a party to these omissions and commissions on the part of the coalition government.
It is a ghastly incident and a challenge to the advocates of pseudo-secularism that the majorities are discriminated against, to keep the minorities appeased. The pseudo secularists have proved more Christian than Pope in upholding Christianity in India. The unprecedented response to the bundh called by Hindu organizations in Orissa indicated the shape of things to come. No government how powerful it may be can function with out the co-operation from the people. Peoples elected representatives in Orissa have legislated for the first time in independent India, the Orissa Freedom of Religion Act, 1967 to prevent conversion by fraud, allurements, cheating, bribery and misrepresentation. It was challenged by all the Churches in the country in the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Bench of the apex court upheld its validity and said that right to propagate does not include right to convert.
Swamijee was only insisting that the Act should be strictly followed in the State. He came to Kondhmal District because there was utter poverty and illiteracy in the district with more than 70% of its population as tribals who are below the poverty line. He came there in 1967 and continued till his murder by Christians on 24th in August 2008.
Similarly, Orissa was the first to enact against cow-slaughter in 1964 as per Directive Principles in the Part-IV of the Constitution. Swamijee had made the motto of his life mission to make Orissa free of conversion as well as cow-slaughter. These two Acts legislated by Orissa Assembly reflect the sentiments of Orissa people for implementation by subsequent governments.
So long as these Acts are in the statute book, it is the constitutional responsibility of the government of the day to execute strictly. But the government has miserably failed. The government did not co-operate, rather criminally neglected in saving the life one man who preferred to lay down his life for the common cause.
The Church is supposed to preach The Gospels, ironically criminalizes the youth and with foreign funding indulges in conversion by-passing the law. Hindus in Orissa are not against any particular community or religion. They do not want any other religion to disturb their faith and social harmony by taking advantage of poverty and illiteracy in their society. Irate Hindus when, as a last resort react, at times, with violence; the advocates of 'secularism' cry for protection. Is it not time enough to stop conversion and cow-slaughter as a respect for the majority living in the country as a lasting measure to ensure peace and harmony in the society?
As this brutal murder is directly linked with the series of incidents right from December 2007, until and unless the State Police detects the right culprits and bring them to book with out further loss of time, peoples already shaken trust on the government can not be restored and peace in the civil society can not come back.
Should the government at the centre and the state want a permanent solution to these types of communal repercussions in future, they must concentrate in stopping illegal conversion, put a check on the church based NGOs, stop cow-slaughter strictly in Orissa and manage the forest land and tribal land problems with tribal welfare as the sole yardstick.This would also serve as a fitting tribute to the departed soul of Swamijee who has immortalized himself by laying down his life on the altar of the motherland.
Ashok Sahu, IPS (Retd.)
Former Addl. Director General of Police.