Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Religion and bondage in India

A report from the BBC

Hundreds of families in a remote region of the eastern Indian state of Orissa remain homeless and without support after a wave of violence swept the region last month. After the initial attacks on church institutions and the shops and homes of Christian families, Christian mobs responded in kind.
The minority Christian community in Kandhamal district, many of whom are forest tribal people and low-caste Dalit converts from Hinduism to to Christianity, say they've been targeted by radical Hindu nationalist organisations seeking to put an end to the church and its activities in the region.
Hindu activists accuse the local Christian community of stirring up trouble by making "unreasonable" demands - a reference to their attempts to be granted the same preferential access to jobs and education given to low-caste Hindus and tribal communities.
Churches were ransacked, entire villages razed and their inhabitants forced to flee into the forests. The violence, which began on Christmas Eve, has now largely abated, but the plight of the people has not. Many are now living in the shells of their burned out homes, all their possessions lost. The conflict has pitted Hindu against Christian, tribal against non-tribal. Years of relatively peaceful co-existence of these communities, living a fragile rural existence, has been shattered.

"This conflict is fought in the name of religion," says NGO worker Kailash Chandra Dandpath, "but the real motives are economic and political. The business community here, with its links to the Hindu nationalist organisations, were once in complete control here. They'd lend money to the tribals and the Dalits at incredibly high rates of interest, up to 120% per year, and then the debtor would have to sell his farm produce to the lender at a price controlled by the businessmen."

Mr Dandpath is describing the system still widely practiced in India, of bonded exploitation, where a family might well be indebted to the lender for generations.

"What's happening now", says Mr Dandpath, "is that the farmers, the most marginalised of whom are from tribal and Christian communities, are being linked by the NGOs to local banks, lending at perhaps 10% interest a year - ten times less. This is clearly a threat to the businessmen. And they are trying to break this link, using religion as an excuse... in India, the easiest method of politics is to take religion to divide and rule."

There are always economic and social divisions within society to be exploited by those more rich and powerful, particularly when the existing order is threatened.

This report more or less confirms the Socialist Party of Great Britain's argument that :-

"Religious perceptions in any class-divided society are not neutral, but a tool in the hands of the dominant class in its struggle to maintain its control over economic surplus. Religious and all manner of spurious ideological theories are contrived by the ruling class or its representatives in the intellectual community and church organisations to keep the downtrodden perpetually entrapped in the vicious circle of exploitation."

1 comment:

kokus said...

All people are brothers.