The fascinating case of religious Maoists in Orissa : especially Maoists who find only one religion evil and all others worth protecting

Posted on September 4, 2008. Filed under: Christians, Communist, Hindu, India, Politics, terrorism |

As I had proposed in my earlier post on the Kandhmal incident in Orissa, India,  after long speculation in the media about the stunning silence of the Maoists  about their “role in the assassination of Laxmananda Saraswati”, one week after the assassination suddenly a statement has appeared out of thin air – supposedly coming from the Maoists : The Central Committee of the Communist Party of India-Maoist (?)  declares “The Sangh Parivar leaders like Praveen Togadia have been trying to divert the people by uttering lies that it is not the Maoists but Christian organizations that had carried out the attack on the VHP leader…Saraswati was a rabid anti-Christian ideologue and persecutor of innocent Christians who was responsible for the burning
down of over 400 churches in Kandhamal district alone.” This “Maoist” statement warned the VHP of “more such punishments if it continued violence against religious minorities in the country” and called for a ban on groups linked to the Sangh Parivar, such as the VHP, its youth wing Bajrang Dal, right-wing Hindu political party Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). This is a most unusual Maoist group indeed! A Maoist group that finds only one particular religion as the “persecutor”, finds all “Christians” innocent, deplores “rabid anti-Christianism”, and most significantly is absolutely against “burning down Churches” – and still calls itself “Maoist” – unbelievable!

The statement which uncannily resembles standard Marxist harangue from the Left leaning section of the Thaparite School of Indian History, and those that daily shout about the “danger of Hindu Right Wing” in mainstream Indian politics, became necessary as the involvement of “real” Maoists became suspect, and the Government was probably quite desperate. A section of the “well-wisher”s of the Christian leadership might also have thought that it was important to reinforce the arrow of suspicion towards the Maoists. This only shows that the statement originated from people who have never seriously studied or observed Maoist strategic thinking and their ideological framework. Even if local “Maoists” were involved, it is now more obvious that it was far from actual Maoism. For most authentic Maoist groups in India and abroad, their ideology requires them to treat all religions as “opiates of the people” – the Indian Maoists have traditionally been in fact more “Maoist” than Mao himself. In certain parts of the world, there have been attempts from within the Christian groups to align with radical movements – the radical Liberation Theology in the Latin American nations for example. But Church authorities have moved quickly enough to expel these elements whom they thought were getting too close to Communism.

What could have really happened? There are three possible scenarios :

(1) The major Maoist recruits could have initially come from the minority Panas group from which also a large number of conversions into Christianity took place. But the clan ties were stronger than both Maoism or Christianity and hence when it became crucial for the Panas community to try and regain their Scheduled status to get various State benefits [which they lost under the Indian constitution as in general just like the Majority caste Hindus or Muslims, for Christians too, reservation is not available based on religion, and these religions are not considered to be so “backward” as to need reservation]  the entire community pitched in and the “Maoist” clan brothers helped their non-Maoist brothers out.

(2) The Maoists have had a deal with suppliers of arms and ammunition, either from the Jihadi networks or from other foreign religious movements which have promised or delivered sophisticated arms and ammunition, in return for collaboration in elimination of their common threat – the Hindu organizations in the state. The dense forest cover allows the real identity of these “Maoists” and their alliances to be hidden.

(3) Or what could be most dangerous, that those who are operating in the guise of Maoists are no Maoists at all but simply an extension of various foreign interests. If a section of the Church has played into this, it will be most unfortunate, as I don’t think they realize the real processes of change in the “Hindu” attitude in India.

Suppose now a serious military campaign is unleashed against the Maoists whose main strategy has always been to use “inaccessibility of terrain” to “live like fish among the water of people” and expand fluid “base areas”, and have always failed in the face of determined “encirclement campaigns”, so that the Maoists face extinction in the state. My prediction is that there will be an immediate huge media campaign to denounce the “persecution of Christians in the name of tackling Maoist extremists”. But having started this game now, whoever wished well for the Christians did a great disservice to Christianity – first it has associated Christians with Maoist Communists, and second, they in reality will have no defence in case a strong Indian government at the centre decides to liquidate the Maoist threat forever, thereby also eliminating those the well-wishers are lobbying for.

On August 30 the Delhi based private news channel NDTV 24X7 quoted “unnamed government sources” as saying that their assessment was that Christians had no role in the killing of Saraswati, and that the probe was leading to Maoist culprits. I find it highly amusing that both bloggers as well as Indian media usually reports this statement from NDTV, and the Christian organizations reports of an “estimated 50,000 Christians” living in the jungles abandoning their homes in fear of attacks, while they remain completely silent that this same channel also showed a documentary, where they also showed violent attacks on “Hindu” tribals, destruction of their villages, and their women and children hiding out in open jungle to escape from fear of attacks by “Christians”. The documentary makers tried their best not to appear “pro-Hindu”, which implies that the evidence of attacks on Hindu villagers were too numerous to ignore completely and liable to show up NDTV as completely biased later on if not at least partially represented.

Wherever I have gone in India, I have almost always observed genuine respect and tolerance for Christians by Hindus – but I do not think that Christians in the West would show the same tolerance towards the Hindus if the Hindus practised items of their culture that the Christian West thought obnoxious [the issue of public slaughter of cows for festivals and eating beef nad hence also the related issue of illegal beef trade- which is not favoured by the Hindu tribals] or react most favourably to disparagement of Christian practices and beliefs by the Hindus. The role of Christian missionaries in education and healthcare in India is acknowledged by the Hindus with great warmth and genuine gratitude. But I think the modern Christian missions in India have to think carefully before they get involved in the fractures of Indian society. Many Hindus celebrate Christmas as their own festival, and many of the Bhakti sects of Hinduism in India have no problem in displaying Jesus as a manifestation of their “supreme lord”. The stereotypical portrayal of the Christian Missionary as a “benevolent father”  was and continues to be common in popular movies. I have never seen a similar religious accommodation of the “Hindu” within Christianity – where typically the best representation of the Hindu is that of a “poor ignorant bewildered fallen soul” “mired in darkness” and needing “salvation”.

This is a misunderstanding between Hindus and Christians, and is being exploited by forces that have their own designs on controlling India. A strong government that was determined in liquidating Maoism could actually ultimately prove beneficial for the image of Christianity in India, as otherwise these sort of media campaigns will only ultimately consolidate the so much “feared” “Hindu Right”.

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