As a metaphor of national unity we often refer to the geographic expanse of India from Kashmir to Kanyakumari and from Kutch to Cuttack. The nationalist fury that erupted in the Hindu agitation in the Amarnath Shrine Board land issue and the spontaneous protest over the gory murder of Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and his ashram inmates in Kandhamal have demonstrated that fissiparous elements out to destroy the foundations of Indian nationhood cannot have a free run over this holy land.
Both the issues have their origin in the now familiar political paradigm of suppressing the Hindu sentiments. They came in the wake of a series of UPA programmes to reduce the status of the majority community to the fate that existed under the Mughals and the British. We have commented about those issues in these columns on many occasions.
The Amarnath pilgrimage, for instance, was first stopped under the Muslim occupation of India. A similar shenanigan was being worked under the UPA with the instigation and open espousal of the Kashmiri separatists and their political arm, PDP of the Muftis. They wanted the duration of the yatra be reduced to 15 days. The number of pilgrims be restricted. And all facilities for the yatra be controlled by the state so that they could manipulate to make it difficult for the pilgrims to undertake the holy yatra. Ultimately, they had succeeded in having a pliable governor of their choice and withdrawing the 100-acre forest land allotted for temporary use of the pilgrims during the season. It was a pre-meditated outrage. More than the withdrawal of the land it was a declaration of the culmination of the calculated genocide of Hindus in Kashmir to erase even the last existing symbol of its Hindu heritage.
The entire country reacted. In Jammu, people braved lathis, bullets, tear gas and arrest for 48 days. They suspended all their normal activities, business, education and all routine chores of life to rise as one man to protect their faith and right to honourable existence. And in the end, the administration was forced to bend. We salute the brave people of Jammu, for they were fighting for the country, for the idea of India.
A similar resoluteness was witnessed in Kandhamal. The gruesome murder of the Swamiji came as a rude shock. For decades, the evangelists were provoking the Vanvasi Hindus. But they have become tremendously emboldened after the UPA came to power. And the UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi has ensured the proselytisers a free hand. Glady Staines was awarded Padmashri, though she left India many years ago. But she still takes keen interest in evangelical activities in Orissa. Flush with funds from foreign sources, the evangelists have stepped up their conversion activities in all Vanvasi areas. They are playing havoc with the cultural and ecological balance in the region. Swami Laxmanananda, hugely popular among the Vanvasis because of his four decades of selfless social work and emancipational drive to resist the forced conversion, became a stumbling block to the designs of missionaries. They targeted him on a number of occasions earlier, and this time they succeeded. The Swamiji proved more powerful in death than he was when alive. The entire Vanvasi belt in Orissa reacted spontaneously and in some places violently. We are not supporting violence under any provocation. But the missionaries will have to pay the price for their unprovoked outrage of Hindu sentiments. Even with the inspiration of a friendly government at the centre they cannot hope to humiliate and intimidate the peace-loving generous Hindu. Peace has to return to Kandhamal. But the missionaries should understand the limit of Hindu indulgence. Kandhamal has shown this aspect of Hindu generosity. If service is not their motto, there is no reason for missionaries to boast about their education and health services. And as some spokesmen of the missionaries have been claiming, they are not doing any charity to India when they are indulging in conversion in the name of running schools and hospitals. It would look only as if they were doing all this only to convert. Not a single missionary is willing to openly declare that he will not proselytise.
The liberal help from the local governments and special minority rights to run educational institutions and hospitals should not be misused for harvest of souls, however much their religion enjoins it on them. That will create friction. In fact, both the Amarnath and Kandhamal should make the anti-Hindu elements in the country sit up and think. Hindus have not become that somnolent that their existential concerns will be trampled upon and they will not react.
Beyond sentiments there are some intrinsic values that bind us all. And that is the strength of our national life. After globalisation there is a systematic campaign to undermine our idea of nation state. The proponents of globalisation claim that the new generation?the emerging global citizen?will deflect our idea of nationalism. The issues that will strike the new generation are not culture centric but economy centric where welfare and money-making aspects of life will dominate over the concerns of religion and national identity. Amarnath and Kandhamal have proved again that it is not so.