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Flashpoint In Turf War

The RSS and the Church clash over a flock that both claim

Flashpoint In Turf War
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-0001-11-30T00:00:00+0553

MORE than Hindu-Muslim confla-grations, the RSS has had run-ins with the Christian missionaries,whom it views as a remnant of colonial rule. The tussle is almost like a property dispute. After a century of Christian activity, the Sangh is striking back as if to reclaim the 'Hindu' constituency. Goaded by its suspicion of "elements which did not want to assimilate into the mainstream".

Inevitably, a conflict with the well-entrenched Christian missionaries is a real possibility in the Northeast. Two recent controversies illustrate the point. Nearly 31,000 Reang tribals, Hindu by religion but living in Christian-dominated Mizoram, fled the state to take shelter in makeshift camps in Tripura and Assam. The RSS, in its annual report for 1997-98, takes note of what it calls "terrible spree of looting, burning, killing and rape by a couple of Mizo terrorists organi-sations abetted by Christian missionaries." Christian organisations and even the Mizoram government denied the charges.

The other controversy was over an alleged letter written by P.B. Acharya, BJP's man in-charge of the Northeast, to Vajpayee, crowing about having made inroads into "Christland". Full of inflammatory language—sample this: "It would have been commendable to chalk out similar programmes so that we can wipe out this unholy Christianity..."—the letter,claim BJP leaders, was forged. Although there is a plea for restraint from both sides, there is bound to be confrontation at some point of time in the near future as the RSS tries to expand its base and the Christians attempt to maintain their hegemony.

In Madhya Pradesh, it's quite a different story. The Sangh and the Christians have never been at peace with each other. The bone of contention: conversion. "At least six Christians have been killed in the last few years in attacks by BJP workers," says Indira Iyengar, president, MP Christians Association. The problem worsened after the "Ghar Vaapasi" (homecoming) campaign launched by ex-BJP vice-president Dilip Singh Judeo in Chhattisgarh to bring back tribals into the Hindu fold.

The situation has come to a boil in tribal Bihar with a number of priests in recent months having being made the target of attack and humiliation. In Kerala, the RSS has been charged with unleashing violence on Christian groups. The RSS claims that these attacks are spontaneous reactions to insulting remarks against the Hindu faith at Christian conventions.

The installation of a BJP government in Gujarat has given an incentive to proponents of a 'Hindu rashtra'. Proof, if any was needed, came on April 16 when about 300 residents of Naroda village demolished a Roman Catholic church under police protection. There seems to be no short-term solution to the problems, as an increasingly assertive version of Hinduism takes on all comers.

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