Kandhamal, a remote and tranquil district, tucked away in the western hills of Orissa, has been in the news recently. In the past few months, a predominantly non-descript Vanvasi district has become the site for violence following the gruesome killing of a highly revered saint, Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati and his four disciples at the end of August 2008.
External forces have taken advantage of such a situation and begun propagating the native Hindus as an example of what is wrong with India. Is it not strange that when the Hindus resolve injustice and inequality within the framework of Hinduism, it is considered communal. Hindu ways are not considered a viable alternative to solving the problems confronting the nation as a whole. Even worse, the political climate is such that it is considered right to hate and defame anything identified as Hindu. In the name of secularism and minority rights, a campaign of hatred is whipped up.
In other words, this report highlights the efforts of Swami Lakshmanananda, who dedicated his life to this cause but lost it in service of the Vanvasi people of India. He single-handedly developed an all-round formula for the betterment of the Vanvasi people. Not only did he feed and clothe them, he taught them how to farm and market their produce. He provided them with educational facilities and hospitals; he did more than just provide for their basic needs—he enhanced their spiritual tradition, giving them a sense of self-worth and appreciation for their native ways. This, combined with modern education and medical facilities has imparted them the confidence to better their own lives and of their countrymen.
This has posed a threat to forces committed to bringing about a change in the lives of the Vanvasi communities and making them disenchanted with their own rich culture and tradition. In order to bring this about, they resorted to violence. The author, an American interested for long in the world’s natural life and who visited India a number of times to study its Vanvasi culture, says it was the Christians, who treated Swamiji as an obstacle as he stopped empowerment of Kandhamal’s enemy. The Swamiji threatened their lucrative trade in liquor, sacrificial buffaloes and conversion tactics. For Maoists, the Swamiji was a major impediment to their “planned liberation of Orissa”. Here the author indirectly holds the Maoists responsible for Swamiji’s death as they regard “the establishment of Kandhamal as a base of local operations and as a key and vital link within its declared ‘liberated zone’, stretching from the borders of Nepal down to South India.” He adds that while the non-religious Maoists are an anti-establishment group waging a violent war against the Indian state, “the RSS is a solid establishment oganisation rooted in Hinduism. It is the ideological opposite of the Maoists and this is the organisation that the Vanvasis here are close to.” The Maoists are not able to bond with the Vanvasis because of this affiliation.
(India Foundation, Flat No. 343, Chandanwadi Society, Dwarka, New Delhi-110 045.)