The Real Kandhamal Story …
In 1991, there were 70,000 Christians in Kandhamal. By 2001, the number had exploded 66% to 117,950.
Under the Orissa Freedom of Religion Act, all conversions have to be reported to the district magistrate and collector.
“Once the collector makes sure that the conversion is not being done under any pressure, the person is free to convert,” says Krishnan Kumar, the collector of Kandhamal. But this is almost never actually practised.
When the number of Christians grew by almost 47,950, “only two were done with the mandatory approval of the collector”, Kumar said.
One reason conversions are not reported is because to do so means Panos would lose scheduled caste status—and lose their allotment of reservations in government jobs.
“Panos convert to Christianity without telling the government to get benefits from missionaries. Then they use their SC certificate to get government jobs as well…” says sub-collector Pradipta Kumar.
Some government officials say that the Kandhas, who make up 52% of the population, own less than 10% of the district land. Others contest the figure and say it is as high as 60%, but the exact data was unavailable.
A web dictionary defines proselytization as ” To induce someone to convert to one’s own religious faith.” This above quoted article details two interesting aspects of the Kandhamal uproar.
- There has been a large scale demographic change in this area. Today, Christians in this area exceed 100,000 – and up from 60,000 to more than 100,000 in the last few years.
- The bigger issue – is the misrepresentation of caste and religious denomination for obtaining undue benefits. Benefits for backward Hindus were being claimed by the Christians while declaring themselves as Backward Hindus.
- The 3rd is land. Traditional landowners have been dispossessed of their land – and the new converts have become the new ‘rentier’ land owners.
Thus what is being given a communal and religious colour is more a case of dispensation and cornering of benefits.