It pays to catch them young to keep the faith?


The latest issue of Tehelka has a superb story on the translocation of tribal children from Meghalaya to Karnataka by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) to indoctrinate them in the Hindu way of life and to “defeat the Christian missionary forces” active in the 70 per cent Christian State.

Hindus comprise 13.27 per cent of Meghalaya’s population, and “others” are pegged at 11.52. It is to prevent the “others”—possibly indigenous tribal religions—that the RSS has embarked on this social engineering campaign.

sanjanaThe magazine’s Bangalore correspondent Sanjana (in picture, left), and photographer S. Radhakrishna, investigated 35 schools in the State and found 1,600 children who had travelled 3,370 km from four districts of the northeastern State.

The children are largely located in schools on the west coast, which has emerged as the karmabhoomi of communal politics in Karnataka, but a fair few of them are to be found in schools run by influential ashrams such as the JSS Mutt in Suttur (Mysore district), Adichunchunagiri Mutt in Belur (Mandya district), and the Murugarajendra Mutt in Chitradurga district too.

Tukaram Shetty, the RSS organiser responsible for the programme, tells Tehelka that indoctrination of cultural values and discipline is the first step:

“It is important that children imbibe these values early on. It will bring them closer to us and away from the Christian way of life. We teach them shlokas so they will not recite hymns. We take them away from meat so they will abhor the animal sacrifice that is inherent in their own religion. Ultimately when the RSS tells them that the cow is a sacred animal and that all those who kill and eat it have no place in our society, these children will listen.”

Obviously, such well thought-out plans to protect Hindu civilisation comes at a price.

The children—most of them from poor families—travel 50 hours to come to Karnataka. Many come only with the oral OK of their parents, a violation of the juvenile justice Act, and siblings are separated and sent off to separate schools because “it is easier to discipline them”.

Plus,  there is the physical and psychological impact of studying in school environments diametrically opposed to their culture, language, religion and food habits. The children have trouble acclimatising themselves to the local weather. And then there are cases of children being laughed at because of their strange names and faces.

Read the full story: A strange and bitter crop

Photographs: Six-year-old children from Meghalaya chanting shlokas at the Thinkabettu higher primary and secondary school in Uppur, 500 km from Bangalore (courtesy Tehelka, top); and Karnataka Photo News

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