Swamijee had received a threatening letter which he could read only the previous evening on his return from routine tour for religious preaching. He had sought security from the local police against imminent danger to his life by a written prayer to the authorities including the District Magistrate on 23rd August. The media had broadcast on apprehensions to his life during morning news bulletins on the very fateful 23rd August.
Hardly one month back, at Tumudibandh, two kilometers from his Jalespata Ashram, there was armed attack by a group of Christians when he was protesting against Cow-slaughter in the area. In the violence one of his disciples Madhu Baba had sustained fatal cut injuries. Following the incident the State Government had deployed one platoon of armed CRPF personnel to guard his Ashram round the clock. Swamijee, in addition to these arrangements, had an armed security person to protect him during his tours who was mysteriously absent at the time of attack.
It may be mentioned that the personal security man Bhubaneswar Jani who was replaced by an emaciated, cowardice constable by the local S.P. only five days prior to the attack, was serving Swamijee for more than 10 months most sincerely jeopadising his own life. During armed attack by militant Christians on the 24th December 2007 at Daringbadi for which he was hospitalized along with Swamijee with fatal injuries. In that connection, though the Police has registered a case vide 83/07 u/s 147/148/353/323/324/307/426/149 IPC the culprits are still at large with impunity. Prior to this there were nine more attacks on Swamijee’s life and consistently the assailants were all recently converted Christians in the area. It is evident that the Catholic Church and the Baptist Church by conversion was gradually criminalizing the local youth. Few of them were also encouraged to join the Maoist group of terrorists which was proved by the way Bamunigaon Police Station was attacked and the subsequent raids in non-descript Sikarama village during December violence there, that led to recovery of more than 20 guns in a single tiny village.
What is surprising is that similar raids were not conducted in other villages where there is pillage of fire-arms. More suspicious is the withdrawal of the CRPF from the Ashram and replacing the PSO to the Swamijee only five days prior to the murderous attack on 23rd August. Danger to the life of Swamijee was mounting every day since the abortive attempt on his life in last December.According to reliable sources, there was a secret meeting on 9th August 2008 in the Community Centre at Raikia attended by activists representing Church based NGOs like the World Vision, Jana Kalyan Samiti, NISWAS, ASHA, Sahara, Palli Shree, Jana Vikash etc. who regularly receive huge funds from abroad. It was also attended by Nakul Nayak, former M.P. from the ruling BJD, Krushna Para Seth the former Block Chairman from Tumdibandh, Alfansoe Baliyar Singh a notorious militant Christian from Raikia, advocate Manas Singh who was to bring activists from Bamunigaon and Daringbadi in a vehicle specifically provided by Archbishop C.Raphel. It was resolved in the meeting to eliminate Swamijee who was ‘an insurmountable obstacle against conversion and cow-slaughter in the area’.Simultaneously, they felt that by philanthropic activities among the Kondh tribes in the District he was dissuading the vulnerable poor and illiterate tribe and Panas in the area from falling prey to the allurements and fraud by the Church authorities.
Sources reveal that on the 13th August a letter purportedly written by ‘Pahadia’ group of people was circulated addressed to the Swamijee that his life would not be spared, that too, within a week. Copies were supposed to be sent to the State Chief Minister, DGP, District Magistrate, District S.P. etc. besides the Swamijee and some other targets. A similar closed door meeting was reportedly held on 20th August in the Jana Kalyan Samiti at Jatani (Khurda) attended among others by Father Bijoy Nayak from Baliguda Church and Ajay Singh of Khurda, where it was decided to eliminate Swamijee, come what may. On the 23rd August night they succeeded in killing him as per their planned conspiracy.
The government had clear knowledge and the authorities had detailed information, but instead of reinforcing the security arrangements, it appears that they colluded with the killers. What has failed to convince is the glaring gap in alacrity with which the Orissa Police had rounded up 63 suspects in Graham Staines murder case within 24 hours of the alleged murder and their utter failure to arrest even a single culprit even after four days of the murder of Swamijee.People of Orissa expressed their ire against the government during the dawn to dusk bundh in the most unprecedented manner for the government attributed this murder to the Naxal Maoists within minutes of the incidents. They were reminded of the callousness of the Chief MinisterNaveen Patnaik who had made a similar statement accusing the Maoists when DIG Jasvir Singh was killed but later it was revealed by subsequent investigation that the DIG was killed by his own PSO from Orissa Police. When there was prior information on danger to life of Swamijee, so much so that, the local TV channels trumpeted the whole day urging the government to save the Swamijee from imminent attack, the government apparently colluded with the killers and in order to prove his self-claimed ‘secular credentials’ the Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik is over active to safeguard the Christian minorities from the onslaught by the enraged Hindus whole over the State. Now the question is, why should the government first create a situation by a series of ‘omissions and commissions’ later in order to prove his ‘secular credentials’ try to protect the endangered minorities. There can not be a greater embarrassment for the ruling alliance BJP who can not escape the moral responsibility of being a party to these omissions and commissions on the part of the coalition government.
It is a ghastly incident and a challenge to the advocates of pseudo-secularism that the majorities are discriminated against, to keep the minorities appeased. The pseudo secularists have proved more Christian than Pope in upholding Christianity in India. The unprecedented response to the bundh called by Hindu organizations in Orissa indicated the shape of things to come. No government how powerful it may be can function with out the co-operation from the people. Peoples elected representatives in Orissa have legislated for the first time in independent India, the Orissa Freedom of Religion Act, 1967 to prevent conversion by fraud, allurements, cheating, bribery and misrepresentation. It was challenged by all the Churches in the country in the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Bench of the apex court upheld its validity and said that right to propagate does not include right to convert.
Swamijee was only insisting that the Act should be strictly followed in the State. He came to Kondhmal District because there was utter poverty and illiteracy in the district with more than 70% of its population as tribals who are below the poverty line. He came there in 1967 and continued till his murder by Christians on 24th in August 2008.
Similarly, Orissa was the first to enact against cow-slaughter in 1964 as per Directive Principles in the Part-IV of the Constitution. Swamijee had made the motto of his life mission to make Orissa free of conversion as well as cow-slaughter. These two Acts legislated by Orissa Assembly reflect the sentiments of Orissa people for implementation by subsequent governments.
So long as these Acts are in the statute book, it is the constitutional responsibility of the government of the day to execute strictly. But the government has miserably failed. The government did not co-operate, rather criminally neglected in saving the life one man who preferred to lay down his life for the common cause.
The Church supposed to preach The Gospels, ironically criminalizes the youth and with foreign funding indulges in conversion by-passing the law. Hindus in Orissa are not against any particular community or religion. They do not want any other religion to disturb their faith and social harmony by taking advantage of poverty and illiteracy in their society. Irate Hindus when, as a last resort react, at times, with violence; the advocates of ‘secularism’ cry for protection. Is it not time enough to stop conversion and cow-slaughter as a respect for the majority living in the country as a lasting measure to ensure peace and harmony in the society?
As this brutal murder is directly linked with the series of incidents right from December 2007, until and unless the State Police detects the right culprits and bring them to book with out further loss of time, peoples already shaken trust on the government can not be restored and peace in the civil society can not come back. Should the government at the centre and the state want a permanent solution to these types of communal repercussions in future, they must concentrate in stopping illegal conversion, put a check on the church based NGOs, stop cow-slaughter strictly in Orissa and manage the forest land and tribal land problems with tribal welfare as the sole yardstick.This would also serve as a fitting tribute to the departed soul of Swamijee who has immortalized himself by laying down his life on the altar of the motherland.
By Ashok Sahu, IPS (Retd.)
Former Addl. Director General of Police.