Comments on Western media Misreporting the systematic hunting and killing of Christians in Orissa, India

Western media coverage of what is happening in the state of Orissa, eastern India, is almost uniformly taking the view that this is merely "religious nutters" (mad or crazy people) attacking each other.

Is this really the case?

What are the real reasons for the sustained and widespread attempt in Orissa to identify and kill Christians by members and agents of the Word Hindu Organisation or Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP)?

Here is my analysis:

1. When people who want to exit the dominant caste-based Hindu system turn to Buddhism, Christianity, Islam OR Maoism (Naxalism), why is it that Christians are most often attacked, rather than the others? After all, only 2.3% are Christians, while 11% of the country's population is Muslim; Nepal has just become a Maoist country, and already 10% of India's Districts are now controlled by Maoists (according to the Government's figures): Maoism is clearly a much bigger challenge. So why do "nationalist Hindus" not go after the "bigger targets"? First, precisely because the "smaller target" has fewer numbers. Second, and more important, because most Indian Christians are committed to avoiding any violent response, in accordance with the teaching of Jesus. By contrast, whenever Muslims, for example, have been attacked by VHP-types, sufficient numbers of them fight back with violence, to give pause to the VHP.

2. The violence has been caused by rich and powerful Hindus, who have benefited for some thousands of years from whatever could be squeezed out of the country by the caste system. Why do not all Hindus use such violence? Because most Hindus (like most human beings) instinctively find violence distasteful (that is why armies have to resort to mood-inducing music or drugs such as alcohol in order to get even trained soldiers to do any actual killing - I am speaking of aggressors, not defenders). Why, then, have more and more upper-caste Hindus turned to violence? Because they have found, in the last few decades, that their position and benefits are being eroded by democracy and freedom - without any parallel rise in their opportunities for upward social and economic mobility in a globalising world. Of course there has to be a body of thought propounded by such people which ensnares others. Such a body of thought started with Savarkar, and started being inspired later by Mussolini and Hitler (that is the main reason, why members of VHP-type branches wear most un-Indian boxer-type short trousers for their morning "exercises"). The fact is that "extremist Hindus" are not primarily anti-Christian (if they were, their leaders would not send their children to Christian schools in the cities). Rather the philosophy and actions of "Hindu extremists" are against democracy, freedom, egalitarianism, meritocracy, the rule of law, and other such modern ideals.

3. What we are seeing in Orissa is not an *equal fight" between Hindus and non-Hindus. What we are seeing is the use of violence by traditional, rich and powerful Hindus who wish to prevent the most oppressed from leaving their oppression.. Non-Hindus are from among the historically poorest and most downtrodden.

4. Fundamentalist Hindus like to accuse Christians of "alluring" the poorest to become Christians. But the government limits the amount of money that can be brought in - and then monitors thoroughly and systematically whatever is brought in. Despite the Government's thorough control and scrutiny over the last half century, not one case has come to light where such "allure" could be shown to have been the case. In fact, people continue to become Christians (or Buddhists or Marxists or whatever) in spite of all the traditional and modern violence that Hindu Fascists direct against them.

5. But there is a more fundamental point. Inside India, there is far more money in Hindu hands than there is in Muslim, Christian, Buddhist or Marxist hands.. Why don't these Hindus improve the lot of the poorest, so that alleged "allure" by Christians loses its allure?

6. The fact that the Government has not been able to stop all these attacks against Christians (steadily increasing since 1964 and accelerating since 2000) is a symptom of a wider weakening and indeed threatened breakdown of civil and government institutions in the country. The only sector that is booming in the country is business. Every other sector is degenerating slowly - from the police to the defence forces, from the bureaucracy to politics, from the electricity supply to the judiciary. We like to look disdainfully down at Pakistan. Perhaps Pakistan disintegrated earlier only because it is a smaller country, and it won't be long now before India disintegrates too? I shiver as I write this. God forbid.

7. However, because of this danger, I have called for a Government of National Unity (unconditionally including the Maoists) in order to stop the rot in the country, which is entirely caused by politicians (of all parties) ignoring the real needs of the country and focusing their time and energy mainly on lining their own pockets. If a Government of National Unity changes the focus to building up the country on a basis that genuinely focuses on helping the poorest, then India has a chance.. Otherwise, in my view, the country only has 2 more years before the rot becomes irreversible.

Prabhu Guptara

08.09.2008: | | | | |