Looking back at Kandhamal

published on November 8, 2009
Saswat Panigrahi-Daily Pioneer

[A year after Kandha tribals erupted in fury, the real issues behind the conflict remain unaddressed. An indifferent Orissa Government refuses to recognise the reality]
One year on, the agony of Kandhamal is refusing to simmer down. At a time when Kandhamal’s real problems are being disregarded and there is a deliberate miscalculation in handling the crisis by secular fundamentalist media and political parties which pin blame on ‘Hindu groups’, comes a report which not only exposes the allegations against the much-touted ‘Hindu hand’ but also depicts the authentic source of tribal anger.

The report, titled Kandhamal: A Fact File by Michael Parker, published by India Foundation, reveals that the violent upheaval in Kandhamal is rooted in its socio-demographic history. “A social chaos, similar to that experienced by American tribes threatened the cultural stability of the entire region,” the report says.

Kandhamal has two distinct inhabitants — the tribal Kandhas and the Schedule Caste Panas – their relations have a history of turbulence and the report has brought its genesis. It was during the British period the Panas made a ‘momentous choice’ of coming closer to the Christian missionary and eventually converted to the Christianity. However, for Kandhas, Christianity was closely identified with the British colonial powers that they have battled in at least eight different wars.

The problem arises, says the report, when Christian Panas are unwilling to forgo the benefits of being a member of Scheduled Caste. “Not only have the Christian Panas obscured their religious identities as Christians, they have submitted fake certificates identifying themselves as members of the Kandha tribal community,” the report says. Alienation of tribal land is the foundation of the Kandha-Pana turmoil.

“Adding yet another layer of turmoil to the situation, the Christian Panas began a movement demanding official recognition as a Schedule Tribe,” the report says on Kui controversy. Kui is the native language of Kandhas. The amended central Scheduled Tribe list included the ‘Kui community’ in the ST category. Parker report quotes two schools of thoughts in dealing with the controversy. A section of experts on tribal affairs says Kui means Kandha and there is no need to add Kui in the Central Scheduled Tribe list, where as another section says the word Kui is used not in terms of language but in reference to a tribe.

“The records and the facts prove that Panas are not and have never been a tribe in accordance to the guidelines set by the Indian Constitution,” Parker says.

“Thus the Kandhas are understandably in an uproar over the loss of opportunity. A system that was designed to alleviate their poverty and social stagnation has been hijacked and their woes compounded,” the report states.

Another ominous side of Kandha-Pana divide, as brought out by the report is the shadow of the Maoists in the region, who take advantage of the situation. “The tension between the Christian Panas and Kandhas is so tangible that it has been identified as a strategic opportunity for the Maoists,” the report says.

The report has taken note of foreign sources of funding which continue to pour into Christian coffers. The Odisha Government record says an amount of Rs 4,215, 585,000 (approximately $100 million) of foreign funds went to such groups from 1999 to 2003 which are allegedly being used to convert people away from their native faiths.

The report quoted the documental evidence of the murder conspiracy of Swami Laxmananda Saraswati, who fought against fraudulent conversion and cow-slaughter, by the evangelists, uncovered by Ashok Sahu, senior Odisha BJP leader and former Assam ADGP.

The report has also brought out the State of Odisha’s miscalculation in handling of the violence that followed the Swami’s killing in which both Kandhas and Panas were affected.

Further, the report has brought out the Kandhamal nun rape accusation and media’s ‘carte blanche’ acceptance while promoting the allegations as proven facts. Parker has raised some moot questions in his report that suggest that the claims of the nun were in a constant state of flux. In her initial complaint the nun did not mention the rape, but it was added to her testimony a full 24 hours later. Forensic evidence revealed that the nun was sexually active, no vaginal injuries signifying rape was found yet semen was recovered and no evidence of rape was found upon the clothes of the nun in the tests conducted by Odisha State Forensic Science Lab.

India has survived repeated onslaughts of foreign forces. Kandhamal is an example. In Parker’s word, “Various Leftists commentators, empowered by the Globalist-controlled media outlets added their illogical rationales to India’s anti-indigenous combine. It has been suggested that some among these powers have a definite role to play in the Kandhamal violence.”Time will reveal the conspiratorial roles in Kandhamal mayhem.

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