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Home > News > Report

Chhattisgarh: Naxal-hit tribals take to Lord Ram

R Krishna Das in Raipur | October 22, 2007 15:24 IST

Tribals in the Bastar region of Chhattisgarh have never been worshippers of Lord Ram. But now, they greet the visitors with Jai Shri Ram, thanks to a well-executed campaign of the saffron brigade in the Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled state.

The Katoli relief camp in Dantewada district, housing tribals deserting their habitats following Naxal terror, stands witness to this rapid transformation among the tribals.

As one enters the camp, which provides shelter to some 1,000 people, one is greeted by Jai Shri Rama and Ram-Ram instead of the usual Johar ('greetings' in local Gondi dialect).

"It is not only the slogan and greeting, the tribals are being moulded into great followers of Lord Ram and Hindutva," claims Himanshu Kumar of Vanvasi Chetana Ashram, a non-government organisation working in the district.

"The Sangh (the RSS) has also managed to start shakhas in the camps and adjoining villages," he adds.

Though the RSS and its affiliates have been working in the area for many years, it was the Salwa Judam, a people's campaign against Naxals, that provided room to sneak into the tribal heartland, says Kumar.

With the tribals gathering at one place in the camps, the Sangh Parivar got the golden opportunity to preach its brand of Hindutva.

"In Bastar, the tribals have never been followers of Lord Ram as they worship Shiva and Parvati," noted folklorist of Bastar Harihar Vaishnav said. "The interaction of tribals with the urban populace has also increased in the last many years. This could be one of the reasons for the change," he added.

The members of the ruling BJP, however, admit that the Sangh Parivar has succeeded in "selling" Ram to the tribals. "The tribals were earlier not acquainted with the rich mythology associated with Lord Ram. Now, they are aware (of Lord Ram) and have started worshipping," BJP state president Vishnudeo Sai said.

He denied that the RSS was running shakhas in the Salwa Judum relief camps in Dantewada district. "I have heard about shakhas going on in the villages. The Sangh is a big social organisation and it is expanding its network in the interior areas also for the social causes," he said.

But the Opposition Congress has cried foul. "The BJP and Sangh Parivar are destroying the rich tribal culture for their political and vested interests," fumed state Congress general secretary Ramesh Varlyani.

"The tribals have their own culture and deity; imposing new tradition is uncalled for," he added.

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