Please go through the quite large literature on land alienation in Orissa, and that will confirm what I say. You can also go thru my work on the issue of tribal land alienation in Orissa - I am not making an ideological point here. This fact was recognised by the British as long as in 1925-26 when they carried out a land survey for only for non-tribals (excluding panas) who had been taking over Kandh lands. Kandhmal tribals were exempt from paying land revenue under the British - and the non-tribals immigrated from the plains to take advantage of this loophole.
During the Kandhmal settlements in the 1970s (which first time tried to settle land with tribals), both non-tribal immigrants and panas, who were more conversant with the state apparatus - managed to get land of the Kandhas settled in their names - and that has been the root of land problem.
The land issue was never about religion - it is in the last couple of decades that this has been twisted into a religious issue by virulent campaigning by VHP and Bajrang dal - a very clearly crafted strategy of divide and rule. Unfortunately throughout history, people who have been exploited have been coopted by ruling classes (which is effectively what the trading/immigrant/administrative community is in Kandhmal) to go against their interests. With increasing education and awareness, the Kandhs are becoming much more assertive, and that needs to be channelised into fighting with Christian Panas, so that the Kandhs don't turn on those who truly exploit them. Hindu missionarism fits right into this strategy.
The situation has been aggravated by the Christian missionaries, who instead of appreciating the tribal (and pana) culture and beliefs, have tried to impose alien values, creating clear and visible fissures. Hindu missionaries have been much more careful, appropriating tribal traditions into the larger hindu tradition (they have had a lot of practice - Jaganath himself owes his origins to tribal traditions). These competing misisonary projects have meant that tribal communities like Kandhs and co-communities like Pana have been losing pride and faith in their own traditions and have been easily made to fight each other.
Tribal communities and Hindu traditions have interacted for centuries- and appropriated each others religious symbols. However, the latest incursion of non-tribal hindus in the area is happening with two major differences- one, unlike earlier periods when the relationship between the Kandhas and Hindu caste society was more symmetrical, now the Hindu caste society holds all the powers, including the control of administration; if you study the fate of tribal in the plain areas in the last hundred years, that reflects the current process in Kandhmal, where the tribal mass is absorbed into the lowest strata of hinduised caste society. Second, hinduism now has been conflated with Hindutva, a political ideology with very clear strategies about incorporating tribals into its fold through missionary activities.In that sense, the current hinduisation of tribals resembles much more the missionary activities of christians- and therefore the competition.
I hold no brief for christian missionaries - they are often as closed and bigotted as hindutva missionaries. However in India at least, they don't promote fascist polity, which the Hindutva people do. In USA for example, the extreme evangelist movement is pushing for fascism. Maybe this reflects more on modern institutionalised religion and religious movements than on the religions themselves. Modern "megachurches", virulent Islamic fundamentalism and "hindutva" are hybrid products of modernity- even though they seek to tie themselves with ancient traditions.
I completely agree that all religious conversion activities in tribal areas should be banned, both by christians and hindu missionaries (ghar vapsi), and I would be the happiest if all such centers including ashrams and missions are closed in Kandhmal. Both have been corrosive to the tribal culture, which is rather unique. It is a shame to see the crosses and bajrang balis sprouting all over the place like mushrooms- the Kandhs have been pretty happy with Dharni Penu and don't need these new gods.
Anyway, one expects a Kandha backlash against the hindutva fellows, as they realise that their people who have been arrested for rioting and killing would languish in jail - which is effectively a death sentence for a Kandh. Already they have turned against the administration for arresting and killing tribals who participated in the riots - one waits to see how long before it is the turn of the Hindutva's agents who have tried to ride this tiger. Kandhas are like flowing rivers- once aroused they will take everything in their paths. This is what made the British promise them that they would never pay land revenue in perpetuity. They have a proud history and Panas form a part of their history- not the missionaries or the agents of Hindutva.
Anyway, I don't think people like V can appreciate a more analytical and fact based perspective. I can discuss these issues with "reality based persons" rather than "faith based persons". We (i.e. V and me) can close the discussion right here. However comments from others are welcome.
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