The tragic events in Orissa reminded me of something that happened in 1986 on the eve of the Pope’s arrival in Kerala. I was present at a discussion about the impact the visit could have on the different religious groups in the State. There was apprehension that protests might be organized on the contention that the Pontiff’s trip would adversely affect the Hindu interests and feelings.
One middle aged Nair gentleman concluded the dialogue by saying that Hinduism was not a weak entity that could be damaged by the visit of a Pope. He knew the strength of Hinduism. It is a religion or a way of life that is built on solid theological basis. Jesus Christ is believed to have told His chief disciple, ‘Peter, you are the rock on which I shall build my Church’. The wisdom of the Rishis, and the Vedantas form the indestructible foundation of Hinduism.
History stands witness to this.
Some people claim to be apprehensive about the future of Hinduism. Do they really believe that there is a genuine threat to the religion? In Orissa, out of the 36.7 million people, 94.35% are Hindus. This includes 5.1 million Dalits and 7 million plus Adivasis; they are the underprivileged.
Most of the Dalits and Adivasis live in abject poverty and backwardness. Reportedly, there are instances of them being denied entry into temples. It is doubtful whether they are accepted as true Hindus by the savarnas (upper class). It would appear that the Christian missionaries are mostly working among these oppressed people.
Uplifting the downtrodden through education and other means often pose problems to the vested interests. When the Portuguese were converting low castes in Kerala in the 17th century, protests arose from the upper caste Hindus and Christians. There was nothing religious about that. It caused inconvenience, economically and otherwise, to the savarnas because conversion released avarnas (lower class) from their caste obligations. (See History of conversions to Christianity in Kerala – an overview )
Another significant point is that the Christians, not Muslims, are the second largest religious congregation in Orissa, though their strength is only about 620,000. The Muslim population is even less, and rather subdued. It is the Christians who provide education and other amenities to the backward people, thereby empowering them.
Affiliation to any particular religion is not a prerequisite to be a citizen of
Any one who breaks the law should be brought to book. This includes erring missionaries, bogus god men and people who indulge in arson and murder for whatever cause. Those responsible for the killing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader and his four aides last Saturday, whether Naxals or Christians, should be arrested and prosecuted without delay. The same should apply to those who indulged in criminal activities since then. That is the duty of the government.
We have an ancient civilization. Every Indian should be proud of that. But what is happening in Orissa today is making a mockery of our heritage and traditional values.
Very sad indeed!