शनिवार, 26 मार्च 2011

Church supported terrorism in North-east India: At odds with the cross

Two indigenous groups with a lived history of centuries of civilisational amity are supposedly engaged in fratricidal conflict in Assam's Karbi Anglong district. To the bewilderment of the majority of Karbis and Dimasas, gangs of armed and hooded goons have been killing members of both tribes since late September, while sparking rumours that the other group is behind the killings.

The gangs carry modern weapons but hack their victims with the traditional dao, and their modus operandi does not conform to the usual forms of killing in the Northeast.

The general calm among the civilian population of both tribes, despite media hype over ethnic strife, led their leaders to believe that hidden forces are operating behind the scenes. A joint delegation of Karbi and Dimasa leaders visited the capital last month to apprise Home Minister Shivraj Patil of their suspicions that hostile elements are making mischief to seize sensitive territory.

Their concerns are central to any discussion on the nation's territorial integrity as there is an intimate relationship between land and faith. In the Indian experience, change of faith has resulted in change of national loyalty. The violent Tamil secessionist movement collapsed because the cultural unity of the Indic civilisation overcame colonialism's divisive Aryan-Dravidian legacy.

In contrast, regions where Islam became predominant seceded from the motherland. The eminent religious studies scholar Arvind Sharma feels Hindus should reject the British-imposed term "Partition," as the division was not a mutual decision of the concerned parties; rather some parts were instigated to walk away.

Secession did nothing for common citizens in Pakistan or Bangladesh, but it gave post-colonial Western imperialists a foothold in our part of the world. Worse, the footprint is getting larger, whether or not we admit it. The Twin Towers tragedy gave America the opportunity to secure bases in Afghanistan and Peshawar (Uncle Sam does not easily relinquish bases offered by docile democrats and dictators), and the Kashmir earthquake has brought it literally on our head. We can ignore this altered geo-strategic environment at our own peril.

Even today, the regions where the country faces secessionist threats are those where internationally-funded religious conversions and religion-based infiltrations are altering the demographic profile, a fact substantiated statistically by Census 2001. In the circumstances, the Union Home Minister would do well to heed the Karbi-Dimasa cry for help.

Both claim a proud and ancient Hindu lineage - Dimasas claim descent from the Mahabharata hero Bhima, while Karbis claim to be the offspring of Hanuman's brother Sugriva. In fact, Karbis believe they came to the Northeast in search of purthemi kungripi (Sita Mata) during the Treta yuga, and failed to return to Ayodhya; Dimasas hold that they migrated from Hastinapur (Delhi) via Himachal Pradesh and Cooch Bihar, and established a kingdom at Dimapur, which they ruled for four hundred years.

Both tribes worship Mahadeo Shiva and other Hindu deities. Both communities are staunch nationalists and vigorously resist missionary activity in their areas, with the result that conversion is virtually nil among Dimasas and only five percent among Karbis.

Both tribes believe that the genesis of the present crisis lies in the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah) demand for Greater Nagaland (or Nagalim). They say an internationally-sponsored attempt is currently underway to create a Christian belt in the region, which is to include Chamling and Tirap districts of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, Karbi Anglong and North Cachar Hills of Assam, Mizoram and Meghalaya.

The fact that the Karbis (who are predominant in Karbi Anglong) and Dimasas (the majority in NC Hills) are staunch Hindus is a major stumbling block in the goal of Nagalim. Hence the church has adopted a two-pronged strategy. On the one hand, Karbis and Dimasas, already squeezed between Christian Nagaland, Meghalaya and Mizoram, are being subjected to violence to compel them to convert to Christianity, as are tribals in neighbouring Tripura. A Hindu sadhu was shot dead some time ago.

On the other hand, the Church may be using Karbi and Dimasa militant outfits to achieve its objectives. The United Peoples Democratic Solidarity (UPDS) of the Karbis and Dima Halam Daogah (DHD) of the Dimasas were set up by certain sections to pursue a political and economic agenda.

The Dimasa DHD was armed and trained by NSCN (IM), but when it refused to pay taxes and work for Nagalim, their relations soured. NSCN (IM) then prompted Hmar People's Convention (HPC) to object to the Dimasa militant camp near Haflong, provoking armed clashes between them in 2003.

Intra-Dimasa conflicts between DHD president Jewel Gorlosa and vice president Dilip Nunisa led the former to form a new outfit called Black Widow, which worked with NSCN (IM) to set scores with DHD.

NSCN resents DHD's desire to include Dimapur and adjoining Dimasa areas in a Dima homeland. NSCN is powerful enough to get some MLAs, MPs and student bodies of four hill districts of Manipur and some MLAs, Village Council Chiefs and student bodies of Changlang and Tirap districts of Arunachal Pradesh to visit the Hebron Camp in Nagaland and issue a statement supporting inclusion of their districts in Nagalim. Obviously the conspiracy to carve out a huge Christian territory in the region is being carefully planned and executed.

The Karbi militant outfit, UPDS, was also armed and trained by NSCN (IM). It too seeks an autonomous state/separate homeland, but lacks a popular mandate and advances its demands at gun point. The UPDS signed a ceasefire agreement with the Centre in May 2002, while the DHD did so in January 2003, but it seems likely that these militant groups (or their splinter groups) were nonetheless used by NSCN (IM) to create trouble in the area.

The Karbi Lingri National Liberation Forum (KLNLF) was set up by a group of extremists who disagreed with the UPDS ceasefire agreement with the Government.

There are thus enough armed gangs moving about the region with impunity. From September 26, 2005, over one hundred Dimasas and Karbis have died in violence, and over one thousand houses across 40 villages torched; nearly 52,000 persons have been forced to take shelter in relief camps. The enquiry ordered by the Assam Chief Minister does not inspire confidence, largely because of his minority-appeasing credentials.

The critical question that remains to be answered is why international forces are allegedly determined to convert these tribes and sponsor separatism in the region. Delegation members who say they risked their lives coming to Delhi, point out that the reasons can be discerned in the undue interest taken in the Northeast by former US President Jimmy Carter, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the Baptist World Alliance and the World Council of Churches.

What is going on is a post-colonial quest to re-colonise India through strategic balkanization, and this area is rich in oil, uranium, mineral and forest wealth.

Given the fact that the NSCN (IM) ceasefire with the Government ends on January 31, 2006, the outfit is under pressure to create unrest and force an out-migration of the local population. Hence it has built bridges with Bangladeshi infiltrators also, and more violence may ensue in coming days.

The State Government is notable for its absence in the area, while militants are operating freely, threatening villagers trying to return home from relief camps in order to harvest their crops. An ill-wind blows in the Northeast.

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