Violence and ‘Clean Chits’: Sangma Backs BJP on Kandhamal

Ram Puniyani

Electoral politics is a strange game. We can observe that with the present weaknesses of electoral system many alliances are made up, which do not have much ideological basis. Amongst many flaws of the present system is the system of first past the poll. This prevents the true representation of people in the elected bodies. Many a times, the players on the political chess board, highlight and undermine facts depending on their political contingencies keeping in mind the need to keep their allies in good humor. One does not know whether these players of politics are ignorant about facts or choose to say things which are needed for their political victory or survival. Examples galore!

Recently the candidate of President’s post, P.A. Sangma (June 25, 2012) when asked about Sangh’s alleged role in Kandhamal killings and Pastor Graham Stains murder said that there is no proof to suggest of their (Sangh-BJP) involvement in these killings. He was also asked about anti-Christian stance of Sangh Parivar and Jayalalita. One does not know how much track Sangama is keeping of the happenings in the Adivasi areas; where anti Christian violence has come up as a major phenomenon. Be it the Adivasi areas of Gujarat, MP, Maharashtra or Orissa, the Christians in the Adivasi areas and the priests and nuns working in these areas have been the victim of violence unleashed in these areas. Also one cannot forget Jayalalitha’s anti conversion bill and its withdrawal in due course.

The most heinous of these crimes was the burning alive of Pastor Graham Stewards Stains on the night of 23rd January 1999, in Keonjhar in Manoharpur district of Orissa. Pastor Stains and his two innocent sons Timothy and Philip (Age 10 and 6 respectively) were sleeping in a jeep, after the function in a village. They were burnt alive by Dara Singh of Bajrang Dal. Right next day the then Home minister Lal Krishna Advani said that Bajrnag Dal cannot do so, he knows them very well. Meanwhile a team of three central ministers, Murli Manohar Joshi, George Fernandez and Navin Pattnaik visited Keonjhar and proclaimed that international forces have done the act of burning as they want to destabilize the NDA Government.

Advani appointed Wadhva Commission. The commission in its report confirmed that the murder was done by Dara Singh alias Ravinder Kumar Pal who had instigated the local people. Dara Singh propagated that Pastor is anti Hindu, he is converting the people to Christianity and his work for leprosy patients is just a cover. Dara Singh was active in the local programs organized by Bajrang Dal and Sangh Privar associates.  Wadhva Commission did point out that there was no statistical significant increase in Christian population in the area where Pastor Stains was working. In 1991 it was 0.299% and in 1999 it became 0.307% The murder of Pastor Stains was part of the phenomenon of anti Christian violence which has been unleashed from last nearly two decades. The major role in this is the anti Christian propaganda done by Sangh Parivar, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram and Bajrang Dal. BJP’s local leaders are also fairly active in these anti Christian activities. There is a great amount of overlap in the functions of these, progeny of RSS. In Orissa many a BJP MLA-leaders were very active in the process.

The anti Christian violence has been investigated by various citizens’ tribunals and committees. In Gujarat  “Untold Story of Hindukaran in Gujarat’ by a citizens committee in 2006, in Orissa by the Indian People’s tribunal headed by Justice (Retd) K.K.Usha in 2006 and last one the National People’s tribunal (2010) headed by Justice A.P. Shah went into the Kandhamal violence. All reports showed that it is the hate propaganda unleashed by these communal organizations which is the base of violence in Adivasi areas. Interesting observation is that for the same type of activities the Christian missionaries in cities are not attacked by these groups. Moreover many a times the children of the practitioners of this politics do study in the schools run by Christian missionaries in the cities.

In case of Kandhmal, the story was the worst off and the tribunal named many a BJP leaders was playing a major role in the anti Christian violence in Kandhamal. The national people’ tribunal in its report pointed out ““The role of Hindutva organisations in fuelling and orchestrating the carnage has been officially acknowledged. In response to a question posed in the Legislative Assembly, the chief minister of Orissa – Naveen Patnaik – candidly admitted, through a written response, that it has been found from the investigation that “members of the RSS, VHP and Bajrang Dal” were involved in the violence. The Chief Minister also disclosed that police had arrested 85 people from the RSS, 321 members of the VHP and 118 Bajrang Dal members in the attacks. He said that only 27 members from these groups were still in jail. This is just one of the observations. As such most of the committees which investigated these acts of violence opined in a similar fashion.

Sangma is not the first one to mislead the people on such issues. When Mayawati was in alliance with BJP, she came in to campaign for Modi in Gujarat elections and squarely blamed the Muslims for the carnage. Sangma adorns the cross of his religion and invoked that the principle of forgiveness is the essence of Christianity. Very true, that’s what Galdys Stains, the widow of the slain Pastor did. But in the overall case of violence forgiveness comes when the culprits express remorse for their acts and seek the pardon. In the cases of communal violence, the perpetrators are emboldened and become politically stronger after the act of violence, and generally blame the victims for the violence. How to apply the principle of forgiveness to those who uphold their crime? And in this case the people who can forgive these cruel acts are the victims or the survivors of the victims and no one else.

It’s not a coincidence that Sangama has formulated this ‘Sangh Parivar has no role in Kandhmal carnage after his being backed by BJP in the Presidential election!

(Ram Puniyani was a Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology, Powai and works keenly on social issues. He is the author of three books including Communal Politics: An illustrated primer.)

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