Recent reports of the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh’s (RSS) informal advisory to cadres to ensure that the country’s 8.5 per cent tribals be counted as Hindus in the 2021 population census seems to have nettled Kamal Nath, the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh. He has evidently told officials to closely monitor the state’s 89 tribal dominant blocks. MP has a 21 per cent adivasi population, exceeded only by Chhattisgarh with 32 per cent.
The Sangh’s oral advisory was delivered by no less a person than its sarsangchalak, Mohan Bhagwat, during a week-long stay in Bhopal in which he addressed a number of workshops attended by RSS workers on various issues of national interest. The task handed out by Bhagwat to them holds the key to protecting their identities of adivasis. It is in keeping with the Sangh’s well formulated worldview that they constitute the first line of Hindus who have lived in Bharat since time immemorial. Excluding them from the Hindu community has made them sitting ducks for conversion by Christian missionaries if not Islamists too. Which is precisely what has been happening in states like Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh where conversions are rife. Trends in AP are particularly dangerous since it is happening with the direct collusion and blessings of the state government ever since Jagan Mohan Reddy, a practicing Christian, became chief minister.
Nath’s anti-RSS remarks brought the problem to the forefront. Elimination of tribals from the Hindu eco-system fits in perfectly with the agenda of minority appeasing parties whose apron strings are tied to church and mosque interests. However, since this cannot be openly stated, specious reasons anchored in monumental ignorance have been advanced to justify the need. The most simplistic logic offered is that tribals have their own culture, and their identity should not be tampered with. Underlined is the intrinsic disparateness of their traditions. Any attempt to lump them under the Hindu umbrella, it is argued, would be tantamount to doing violence with the inherent purity of their body of belief. Which, of course, is plain poppycock.
A politician like Kamal Nath should have known better. He probably does. Only the narrow political interests of his party prevent him from admitting the reality. His Lok Sabha constituency, Chhindwara, is situated in a belt comprising a sizeable population of Gonds who have helped him get repeatedly elected since 1980. Anyone familiar with their history would know that Gond customs and beliefs are well entrenched in Sanatan Dharma and go back thousands of years. The characters of the Ramayana or Mahabharata are as familiar to them as any other Hindu living in the rural interiors. Their glories are sung in musical renditions like the Ramayani or Pandavini. The only difference is that their heroes are Lakshman instead of Ram, and Bhim instead of Arjun.
Another reason cited by Christian evangelists since the late 18th century to establish the non-Hindu ancestry of tribals is their animist instinct which supposedly flies in the face of moorthi worshipping Hindus. Adherents of this theory also betray much ignorance. The belief that every natural object, the universe included, has a soul is akin to prakriti puja (nature worship) which also finds expression in sanatana traditions. Rivers, mountains, plants, trees, the sun, moon, sky, stars are all aspects of the Creator. It is the blessing of the Elements we invoke when wishing someone, “May the Force be with you!” Abrahamic religions shun these practices as pagan.
Shiva or Mahadev is worshipped by most adivasis, only the cognomen differs: Badadeva. The salutation of “Ram-Ram” is also common though greeting each other with a johaar (mutual holding of both hands) is more prevalent. This is believed to be the gesture primitive societies employed on social occasions in the pre-Ram era. British administrators were aware of the social realities. Census commissioners of the 19th century had warned their proselytizing brethren on the irregularity of branding adivasis as non-Hindus to justify their conversion efforts. But it was disregarded.
Sources in the Vanvasi Kalyan Parishad (VKP) say conscious efforts to alienate adivasis from Hindus date back to a conference convened by the Church in Pune sometime in 1991. Proffered was a “liberation theology” to buck up conversions among Dalits and STs which were seen as painfully slow. The anti-Hindu conspiracy took a more sinister turn after the 2011 census with the emergence of the “Jharkhand pattern” in which scores of adivasis identified themselves as Jains and Buddhists at the behest of Left leaning NGOs.
The Jharkhand pattern was pushed with greater impunity post 2014. Anti-conversion laws in BJP ruled states coupled with the tightening of rules under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) turned the screws on the funding of nearly 1100 NGOs working to sabotage the national interest. Foreign preachers were banned from entering the country. With no sops at their disposal, the number of conversions ought to have nosedived. Surprisingly they did not.
Data emanating from Australia indicated a decadal change. Inquiries revealed that the Church was being able to sustain net annual growth despite a fall in the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) of the community to one per cent. The reason for this anomaly was traced to the dirty games of foreign funded NGOs owing allegiance to the Church. Innocent tribals were tutored into telling census enumerators that they were Christians. Even non-disclosure of faith sufficed as long as they avoided calling themselves Hindu in the census form. The stratagem helped them sidestep activating the provisions of the anti-conversion law. Significantly enough, how to convert the adivasis of Bharat has been a popular subject of PhD in many foreign varsities.
Global companies working in the mining areas of Odisha, MP, and Chhattisgarh, be it Vedanta or Adani, have also been indirectly aiding and abetting conversions. Turning a blind eye to the conversion of nature worshipping tribals helps them extend their mining empire. There is no other way to get indigenous inhabitants to surrender the mountain they revere or the land their ancestors have tilled for thousands of years. Conversions are a ploy to dispossess them of their ancestral rights and disfigure the surroundings to extract coal, iron ore, magnesium, or any other precious stuff buried in the bowels of mother earth.
Venal tribal leaders are also a part of the nexus regardless of which political party they belong. Having obtained their nomination as Hindus, the lure of filthy lucre makes them deny their religious identity in private.
Countering the conspiracy is not easy. VKP sources contend they cannot equal the resources of corporates or Church. Installing a moorthi of Hanuman or teaching tribals to say “Jai Shri Ram” does not work sans a change of heart. This takes considerable time, energy, and willpower of which there is a paucity. Dangling a thousand rupee note or meeting personal needs has an immediate impact. The Church knows it only too well.
Did you find this article useful? We’re a non-profit. Make a donation and help pay for our journalism.