Nature Talk V3I5
Of the thirty districts in Orissa, an Indian province, with about 22% of its population being tribals, only in six districts viz., Koraput, Malkanagiri, Mayurbhanja, Nawarangpur, Phulbani/Kandhamal and Rayagada tribals constitute more than half of their population. Of these six districts, the district of Kandhamal has been in the news since 23rd August 2008 (when Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati of Chakapada Ashram was killed by yet to be identified assailants) as a place of ceaseless and unprecedented violence. Once a place of peace and tranquility, in the last two decades, the district has lost this distinction with conflict between tribal Kondhs and scheduled caste Panas steadily changing into the conflict based on religious belief.
Needless to say, in the district, which has large percentage of its population below the poverty line, in such conflicts the worst affected are the poor of both the sides. While the growing conversion to Christianity is held as the reason behind the recent conflicts in Kandhamal, Lambodar
Kanhar, a tribal leader believes that peace will remain a far cry in this district unless the government resolves the issues pertaining to the tribal land rights and the fake caste certificates obtained by the non-tribals. It is a fact that, the spread of Christianity in this district has been quite conspicuous, with current number of churches, as reported in the press, stands at 1014. But it probably requires a deeper analysis by the social anthropologists/ sociologists to explain the growth of the Christian population in the district from 6% in 1971 to 27% in 2001, from 75,597 in 1991 to 11,7950 in 2001 particularly when the slain Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati had been active in this region and opposing conversion since late 1960s; and further when concurrently with the arrival of Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati in this region, a law called Orissa Freedom of Religion Act, 1967 was enacted and since in vogue to act as deterrent against forcible conversion. The allegation of forcible conversion, however, calls for sufficient justification against the bare fact that despite the British rule of almost one and a half century, the Christian population in the state remains at only 2.43% of the state population. As regards the issues pertaining to the land rights of the tribals and their exploitation by the non-tribals, the history of drawing the attention of the government is quite old. Since early fifties of the last century, under the leadership of Malati Chaudhuri, Nabakrushna Chuadhuri and Gopabandhu Chaudhuri, a band of dedicated workers like Biswanath Pattanayak, Dhobendri Mohapatra chose this region as their place of work and has been incessantly drawing the attention of the government to the land rights issues of the tribals. That even today, such issues have remained unresolved, notwithstanding many legislations like Orissa Scheduled Areas Transfer of Immovable Property (by Scheduled Tribes) Regulation 1956 or Scheduled Tribes (Recognition of Forest rights) Act 2006, only suggest our rulers, over the years, lacking in sufficient willingness to implement the legislative intents.
Kandhamal has become complex with the fragmented population and with rising conflicts amongst them. If such conflicts are not resolved, it shall adversely affect the existence of the tribals, which is already threatened in the environment of predatory growth under the aegis of the New Economic Policy that is being pursued since the last two decades.
One wonders if it is a mere coincidence that the loss of peace in Kandhamal district and the era of the New Economic Policy began almost simultaneously. Further recently released (in October 2008) Food Security Atlas of Rural Orissa reveals that Kandhamal is the most insecure district in terms of food availability. If this information is interpreted against the famous observation by Mathematician turned Historian Prof.D.D.Kosambi that FUSION AND TOLERANCE BECOME IMPOSSIBLE WHEN THE CRISIS DEEPENS, WHEN THERE IS NOT ENOUGH OF THE SURPLUS PRODUCT TO GO AROUND, AND THE SYNTHETIC METHOD DOES NOT LEAD TO INCREASED PRODUCTION. (Vide the essay ‘Social and Economic Aspects of the BHAGAVAD-GITA’ in Myth and Reality by D.D.Kosambi, Popular Prakashan Private Limited, reprinted 1998 at p.31), are we finding some answer to the
violence in Kandhamal?
May be the sociologists and the social anthropologists shall look for it with more profundity.
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