With two Judicial Commissions submitting their reports, Kandhamal and Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, the slained octogenarian who fought for cause of poor Vanvasis as vanguard of their genuine interests against illegal conversion of Church, have again come to centre stage of public debate.
Two Judicial Commissions constituted in 2007 and 2008 successively in the aftermath of separate severe violence incidents in Kandhamal district of Odisha have submitted their reports recently. Kandhamal one of the poverty stricken districts of Odisha lags behind in all development parameters. Since long the improvised district has been in the hot target of missionaries as fertile ground for conversion activities.
With two Judicial Commissions submitting their reports, Kandhamal again has come to centre stage of public debate and the very issues for which Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, the slained octogenarian who fought for cause of poor Vanvasis as vanguard of their genuine interests against illegal conversion of Church, has also come in limelight in the backdrop of two reports. It took years to prepare the reports by learned retired Judges of Orissa High Court.
The Ist Commission of inquiry was set up in 2007 as violence in Kandhamal had claimed three lives apart from loss of property, large scale violence and vandalisation of places of religious worship in the district. The violence had erupted in the aftermath of murderous attack on Swami Laxshmananda Saraswati in the Christian dominated Dasingibadi area of the district while the octogenarian Hindu religious leader was travelling with his aids.
The 2nd commission was constituted in 2008 after Swami Lakshmananda Saraswati was brutally killed and that followed large scale violence killing at least 38 people in month long violence as per Government records. “Conversion was the reason behind the communal riot in Kandhamal in 2007,” Justice Basudev Panigrahi said after submitting his reports to State Government. Over 100 churches and church institutions, including convents and hostels, about 700 houses and other structures were burnt in the incident.
“The local tribals had been tolerating the conversion activities for a long time. But they were strongly opposed to it. There should be proper coordination between communities in order to avoid such tensions and riots in Kandhamal,” Justice Panigrahi said quoting his 560-page report. Justice AS Naidu Commission which probed 2008 riots in Kandhamal district in the aftermath of killing of Swami Lakshmananda Saraswati after submitting the report said, Maoists, as Odisha Government has said, seem to be behind the killing of the religious leader. However, Justice A S Naidu kept it secret what he had observed in his report on the circumstances and persons behind the plan to kill the Hindu leader. Justice Naidu has said that in his recommendations he has dealt with these issues. However the full content of the report could be known only after the State Government tables the report in the State Assembly and brings to public domain.
Notwithstanding the fact what the two commissions have said the issues and concerns in the streets of Kandhamal were very clear. Swami Lakshmananda Saraswati in his five decade long struggle in Kandhamal represented the cause of Vanvasi Community. The missionaries invested heavily in the name of the service activities to take advantage of vulnerable character of the district. The Church succeeded in mass scale conversion of Scheduled Caste people to Christianity. And the converted persons, though not eligible to get reservation facilities being converted from Scheduled Caste background, cleverly manipulated Scheduled Tribe certificates and grabbed government jobs which they were not entitled to. Though Vanvasi land cannot be acquired and owned by non Vanvasis, in the guise of false caste certificates the converted Christians acquired huge land and wished to make ownership legalised.
The Vanvasis who loved and respected Swami Lakshmananda for supporting and leading their cause were hurt and upset and reacted against the Chuch which they believed as the prime conspirators behind killing of Swamiji though Maoists and media propaganda. Samanwaya Nanda