People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 1

January 06, 2008


Orissa: Combat Communal Offensive


ON the heels of the Narendra Modi-led BJP’s electoral victory in Gujarat came the vicious anti-Christian attacks in Orissa.  The details of these attacks led by various tentacles of the RSS  are reported elsewhere in this issue. 


Last week, in these columns, we had analysed that  following the Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh victories, the BJP has embarked on an aggressive  communal offensive as its political backbone  for the forthcoming general elections.  This, however, is only one part of the whole truth.  Such electoral tactics are not transitory but dovetail the larger strategy objective of the RSS – the objective of transforming the secular democratic character of the modern Indian Republic into its conception of a rabidly intolerant fascistic `Hindu Rashtra’.


This becomes clear once the details of the pattern of these attacks are analysed. What is happening in Orissa is chillingly reminiscent of how the RSS/BJP consolidated its hold in Gujarat.  Now that L K Advani repeatedly threatens to convert all Indian states into Gujarats, it is necessary for us to  recollect  what happened there a decade ago.


Amidst reports of attacks on Christian pilgrims in Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Gujarat became a laboratory of the fascist attacks on the Christian minority. A fact finding team that went to Gujarat between January 1 to January 6, 1999 noted: “the year 1998 has been a traumatic year for the Christian community in Gujarat.  The state saw an unprecedented anti-Christian campaign of calumny and hate right from the beginning of 1998, and by the middle of June 1998, there had been at least three major incidents: the exhumation of a body at Kapadwan, the burning of 400 Holy Bibles at Rajkot and a spurt of violence in South Gujarat, including Surat and in particular the Dangs. In the Dangs, in sharp violence in June, July and November 1998, as many as 10 churches of various sizes were burnt, demolished or damaged.”


A paper as friendly to the BJP as Pioneer was constrained to observe on January 4, 1999: “From December 25 to 31, 1998 `forces of Hindutva’ set fire to nine and vandalised eleven churches across the Dangs, the smallest district in Gujarat.  In pre-planned guerrilla style manoeuvre, night after night through the week, hundreds of these men descended on to the villages to break, vandalise and set fire at their fancy, churches, prayer houses and beat up men and women of the Christian faith. It is an attack on the fundamental rights and personal freedom that the Indian Constitution assures to all citizens of the country. It threatens to reduce democracy to majoritarianism.”


The eminent lawyer Fali Nariman who was holding the brief of the Gujarat government in Narmada case indicted the BJP government in severest terms while resigning as the senior counsel. Nariman said in a bold interview “Protection of minorities is the hallmark of a civilised state, only totalitarian regimes are vindictive to  minorities”.  In his resignation letter he said, “I remember a Bible being burnt somewhere in the  state and the chief minister promised to look into the incident. But then these sporadic incidents increased. Churches were being torched and they don’t burn down on their own.  Ultimately what happened in that Christmas week convinced me that things had gone out of hand”.


Similar is the plan on the basis of which these attacks against the Christians now appear to take place in Orissa.  Even these have a background that goes back to at least a decade.  At around Christmas time in 1998, similar attacks were unleashed in the state.  The hate campaign of the Hindutva forces against Christians culminated in the monstrous act of burning alive of an Australian Evangelist missionary and two of his children in Keonjhar district of Orissa on the night of January 22-23, 1998.  Graham Stewart Staines, 58 and his sons Philip 9, and Timothy 6, died when the jeep in which they were sleeping at Manoharpur village was set on fire by Bajrang Dal activists. An eye witness account of the heart rending incident was given by a friend of the victim, Shubhankar Ghosh: “Barely 300 yards from the chapel door where Staines and his children slept in the station wagon, I saw a mob surrounding the vehicle. I heard shouts, beating, screams, brick batting, banging of doors.  They were shouting maro, maro and zindabad.  Then suddenly the station wagon was in flames.  The mob prevented all rescue efforts.  When they left an hour later, Staines and his children lay charred. It was gruesome. I will never forget”.


The gruesome murders led to a sense of shock and revulsion against the Sangh Parivar’s hate-campaign. The then president K R Narayanan led the nation in condemning the barbarous killings.  The president described this as belonging to “World’s inventory of black deeds”.  It was “a monumental aberration from traditions of tolerance and humanity for which India is known”. 


This anti-Christian campaign in Orissa is, thus, not an isolated break down of law and order. It is  part of an overall strategy of the effort to transform modern India through the subversion  of its republican principles. 


Any attempt to subvert the fundamental pillars of our Constitution can only create havoc for the unity and integrity of India. India is a country of unparalleled diversities -- religious, linguistic, cultural, ethnic etc. The only way a country of this size and diversity  can be kept united is by strengthening the bonds of commonality that exist amongst this diversity. Any attempt to impose a uniformity on this diversity can only lead to the disintegration of this country.  And, it is precisely this that the communal forces under the slogan of  "one country, one culture" are seeking to do.


The significance of this was tellingly brought out by the then president K R Narayanan in his address to the nation on the eve of the golden jubilee of the  adoption of our Constitution.  Hailing  the founding fathers of our Constitution, the president said: "….whose far-sighted vision and arduous labours gave us a Constitution which enshrined the traditional concepts of liberty, equality and fraternity adding to them the concept of justice -- social, economic and political -- and declaring our nation a Sovereign Democratic Republic.


"The word `Republic' is no ordinary word.  It is a commitment to the effect that, in our State, supreme power is exercised not by some remote monarch but by the people. It is an  affirmation  that the wielder of power in India -- the adhinayaka -- is the great aggregation of our people as a whole, whom Rabindranath Tagore  has immortalised as the jana-gana. Let us, on this anniversary, hail that proclamation and commitment. Let us celebrate the exceptional status we enjoy, the status of being  the world's largest democracy.  Given the chequered career of  democracies elsewhere, we can be  grateful to be the citizens of this Republic; where an individual, be he  ever so high, the Constitution and the laws made by the people remain higher than him; and where the Executive remains accountable to the Parliament."


It is this larger battle that we, the Indian people, need to prepare ourselves to face.  The most influential of the RSS chief’s, Golwalkar,  once commented that the three internal enemies of its pursuit of negating  the secular democratic foundations of modern India in order to establish its conception of a `Hindu Rashtra’ are the Muslims, Christians and the Communists.  They have continuously targeted these sections.  The majority of Indian people who cherish the republican foundations of modern India need to halt this communal juggernaut in its tracks.  This is absolutely essential to first safeguard our republic and to put it on the road of overall prosperity and progress.