Dialogue: With whom? Will the Real Leaders please stand up?
The situation in our country is poised over the brink: even as a section celebrates the "successful" signing of the N-deal, many others are exercised over the violence of the Sangh Parivar stormtroopers, spreading from Orissa to Karnataka, Kerala, MP, Jharkhand, and other states ruled by the Parivar or in coalition. Many people's groups and mass organizations including left-leaning, secular and human rights groups are organizing fasts, rallies, and protests against the assaults on fundamental freedoms in the country. Though belated, Christian groups, both lay and clergy-led are finally taking positions against the unprecedented violence against Christians in India, a departure from the usual silence or "turn the other cheek" response by Christian leadership. A third section among the Christians calls for a halt to all the protests by the Christians and for forgiveness to the perpetrators, as if protest means one is being unforgiving.
But there are two sections of Christian society who have been relatively silent in all this: one, members of the Christian community who are in political office and the actual victims of the violence.Of these, one person has been vocal – Dr. H T Sangliana, BJP MP the Bangalore North constituency, now suspended by the party, and one sympathises with his dilemmas – known for his clean record and notable success during his distinguished tenure in the Indian Police Service, clearly he is out of his depth in the morass of Indian National Politics.
The second silent group is that of the victims of the violence, (barring the voice of the nun who was raped and around whom her community and church have rallied, and the priest who was also tortured). The Digals, Sunas, Bariks, Nayaks – men, women and children who are in hiding in the forests in Orissa – have not been asked what they are going through. And nobody wants to know. Has anyone asked the tribals and Dalits in the poorest districts of Orissa - itself one of the poorest states in India, a country again so low on the global Human Development Index why they saw the need to change their faith? Will anyone respect their reasons? Is anyone willing to have a dialogue with them?
The Central government sent five warnings to the State government but claims to still lack conclusive evidence to ban the Bajrang Dal for indulging in violence which has gone on for weeks.A section of those speaking and writing on the subjectare engaged in trying to establish their "secular" credentials by proposing "dialogue" with the perpetrators of the violence. We all know the communist dictum that Power flows from the barrel of a gun.So now we are asked to engage in a "dialogue" with those who have the cynicism to talk of the Constitution in the same breath as the (non) issue of "forcible conversion" and who indulge in trishul dikshas. The whole world knows who is engaging in forcible conversion. In over three decades of the mis-named Orissa Freedom of Religion Bill's existence, there is not a single successful prosecution on the charge of Forcible conversion against Christians.
Sr. Nirmala went to meet Naveen Patnaik and ended up giving his government a certificate. The venerable archbishops of the Catholic Church have already had a "dialogue", at the initiative of the with the leadership of the BJP and issued a joint statement that "all efforts should be made to restore peace and a sense of security with the cooperation of the governments concerned and the leadership of the Hindu and Christian communities.Justice must be done to the victims of violence expeditiously." But even as these statements are made, we see reports that violence in Kandhamal continue and has spread to other districts. So what is the value of the assurances give by the "Hindu" leaders to the Christians? Can we trust these "leaders" to deliver on their assurances?
10th October 2008
Cynthia Stephen Independent Researcher and writer Bangalore, India
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