Soumyajit Pattnaik, Hindustan Times
Bhubaneswar, August 27, 2008
The growing chasm between the Church and the Sangh Parivar is one of
the factors instrumental in igniting communal flare-ups in Orissa.
Religious conversions apart, job reservations for Scheduled Castes who
embrace Christianity (which is forbidden under the law) and domination
over rural businesses has fuelled the tension.
People in several areas of the state have been embracing Christianity
since the days of the British rule. But conversion was not considered
a problem till counter-movements began either to stop them or to
re-convert Christians to Hinduism.
In 1966, Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati moved to Chakapada in Kandhamal
district and started his anti-conversion campaign and a year later,
the government enacted the Orissa Freedom of Religion Act (OFRA) to
attach several conditions to provide legal sanctions to certain
conversions and declare others illegal.
The Sangh Parivar’s main grouse is that the Church and missionaries
are doing “illegal conversions” by violating the OFRA. Church leaders
have, however, denied this saying people have voluntarily embraced
Christianity without inducements. SCs who convert to Christianity
cannot enjoy job reservations, but in the recent past Pana (SC)
Christians, especially in Kandhamal district, were trying to get ST
status so they can continue to get quota benefits.
Reason: Unlike SC Christians, converted tribals enjoy quota benefits.
Subas Chavan, national co-convenor of the Bajrang Dal told HT:
“Several SC Christians are falsely identifying themselves as Hindu SCs
and getting job reservation benefits. They are preventing Hindu SCs
from getting jobs.”