A wave of communal violence and retribution has gripped the poorest districts of Orissa following the dastardly murder of 84-year-old Vishwa Hindu Parishat (VHP) leader Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati, known for his campaign against the conversion of tribals to Christianity, and four others.
The police blamed Maoists for the killings but the VHP sees the hand of local Christians and has gone about extracting revenge. Over a dozen people have been killed; one woman has been burnt. 41 churches have been attacked, some have been pulled down (some even bombed, according to one allegation), and mobs have targetted Christian homes, schools and orphanges run by missionaries.
Meanwhile, in Kanpur, on Sunday, two youths associated with the Bajrang Dal were killed in an explosion at a private hostel for students, allegedly while they were assembling bombs. Following the incident, Union minister of state for home, Sri Prakash Jaiswal, has said “Hindu fundamentalist groups” were under suspicion. Journalist turned social activist Teesta Setalvad has said the Orissa attacks are “nothing short of terrorism” and demanded a ban on VHP and Bajrang Dal, a demand also echoed by railway minister Lalu Prasad Yadav.
Question: Is there a lunatic Hindu fringe just like a lunatic Islamic fringe, bent on fomenting trouble, piggybacking on contentious issues like conversions and cow slaughter? Are the VHP and Bajrang Dal as dangerous in their intents and methods as the Students’ Islamic Movement in India (SIMI)? Should the Centre ban the VHP and Bajrang Dal for their “anti-humanist and racist” attacks just as it did SIMI?
Also read: Pope plea for Orissa peace