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New Delhi: After calls for genocide were raised at the Haridwar Dharma Sansad held between December 17-19, around 20 Hindutva religious leaders met for a similar two-day event in Chhattisgarh’s Raipur on December 25-26 to urge “Sanatani Hindus” to begin preparation for the realisation of the Hindu rashtra.
As some leaders asked those who were present at the Sansad to ‘arm’ themselves if they wanted India to become a Hindu rashtra, one leader, Kalicharan from Maharashtra, called Mahatma Gandhi a ‘traitor’ and praised his assassin, Nathuram Godse. In videos that have gone viral over social media, Kalicharan accuses Gandhi of destroying the nation.
Later, on the evening of December 26, an FIR was lodged against Kalicharan for promoting enmity between communities and obscene act in any public place on a complaint filed by the Congress leader Pramod Dubey, who was present at the event. He was arrested on Thursday.
The Raipur Dharma Sansad was organised by the NGO Neelkanth Seva Samiti and the Doodhadhari Math. It was also attended by Congress leader Pramod Dubey and BJP leaders Brijmohan Agrawal and Vishnu Deo Sai. Neelkanth Tripathi of the NGO Neelkanth Seva Samiti maintained that the event’s organising committee included top Congress and BJP leaders.
The focal point of the event was the establishment of a Hindu rashtra. Tripathi said, “The way everyone has the freedom to express their views in parliament, in the same way everyone expressed their views in this event. But I do not agree with what was said about Mahatma Gandhi.”
Christian community targeted
Talking to The Wire about the event, Brijmohan Agrawal, a former minister in the state, repeated tired tropes about “Hinduism under attack” and unfounded claims about forced conversion of tribal communities by Christians.
Agarwal, who attended the sansad, claimed that members of tribal communities in Chhattisgarh were being “lured” in the name of healthcare and education and converted to Christianity. He claimed that in Odisha and Jharkhand, Christian missionaries were “taking advantage of the poor living conditions” of these tribes.
While Agrawal says he does not support violence and has ‘no problem’ with Christmas, he still feels that Christians should celebrate it in a way that “doesn’t cause disturbance’ to others”, suggesting celebrations should be contained within religious spaces.
Agrawal justified the Sansad by saying, “An attack is being waged on Sanatan Dharm, anybody abuses Hindu gods and gets away with it, this is a reaction to that attack.” Going further to defend calls for crackdown on Christians, he said, “Hinduism is under attack, conversions are happening, this is the reason that voices came forward.”
Commenting on the recent surge in violence against Christians in the backdrop of the event, Arun Pannalal, president of the Chhattisgarh Christian Forum, told The Wire that an escalation in violence has been observed since 2018. Pannalal said, “This is not surprising. Last year, 40 Christians were removed from their homes in South Bastar’s Sukma and were kept in the field, guarded by spears and swords. So the attacks are only getting extreme, even our burial rights are now compromised.”
“They want to spread hatred against Christians, as they have done against Muslims. Even at the Raipur event, they rallied for the Christians to be done away with,” added Pannalal.
Hate crimes against Christians in Chhattisgarh have been on the rise. Locals feel that both the Congress and the BJP are trying to exploit the anti-minority sentiments in the state for political dividends. That Congress leaders attended the event has added to these worries.
Another speaker at the event, Sadhvi Vibhanand Giri, said the sansad should work towards ending “love jihad”, a conspiracy theory concocted by the right-wing. Furthering these unfounded claims, Vibhanand Giri said that “Muslims kidnap Hindu women and molest them”. If a Hindu girl meets a Muslim, every young Hindu must “save” her, the Sadhvi added.
The former chairman of the Chhattisgarh State Waqf Board Salam Rizvi objected to the statement. He said issues like sexual assault or molestation should not be communalised.
Even as several Hindu priests applauded the anti-Christian propaganda at the Raipur sansad, one prominent mahant walked off stage when Gandhi was insulted. Mahant Ram Sundar Das, a former Congress MLA and the chairman of Chhattisgarh Gau Seva Ayog, walked off the stage in protest against Kalicharan’s use of language to describe Gandhi. Das, one of the main patrons of the sansad, later stated that he was disassociating himself from the event.
Organiser of the Dharm Sansad, Mahant Ram Sundar Das Ji took a strong stand against Kalicharan’s speech and even scolded the audience for clapping when Kalicharan called Mahatma Gandhi “harami”. He distanced himself from the Dharm Sansad. pic.twitter.com/912wP2cN96
— Kaushik Raj (@kaushikrj6) December 26, 2021
Pannalal, who met Das after the event, says, “Mahant Ram Sundar Das has assured support to the Christian community in Chhattisgarh. We need more people to protest when Christians are targeted.”
Pannalal also claims that there is constant narrative-building in Chhattisgarh by the BJP that all tribals are Hindus. He adds, “They constantly use rhetoric to falsely claim that all tribals are Hindus, that all Bhils and Gonds are Hindus. This is plain propaganda.”
John Dayal, former president of the All India Catholic Union, is deeply distressed by such calls for genocide. Dayal says that the most worrisome part is that propagandists are able to blatantly organise such events without worrying about consequences. The state machinery, the police as well as the criminal justice system, he says, are all complicit in granting impunity to such persons.
After the Haridwar event, several prominent persons have called for the arrest of the militant Hindutva leaders who advocated genocide. While a few leaders have been booked, many key speakers have not.
Dayal said, “The small Christian community is reeling under a fusillade of Sangh extremist violence against churches, statues of Christ, and as always, against children, women and men deep in worship.”
Dayal says, “Even if these lunatics calling for the genocide of Christians make up 1% of 100 crore members of the Hindu community, you have 1 crore people thirsty for the blood of my community.”
When The Wire spoke to Ajay Kumar Yadav, the senior superintendent of police in Raipur, about the event, he said the case against Kalicharan was registered the day the police received the complaint. “The FIR also holds him accountable for derogatory statements against minorities,” he said. Yadav said that the police had not received any other complaint regarding the statements made by any other leader and hence only Kalicharan faces the FIR as of now.