MAC: Mines and Communities

India: The Rising Threat From Communalists And Corporations

Published by MAC on 2003-10-15

India: the rising threat from communalists and corporations

What is known as "Hindutva" in India is variously interpreted as right-wing extreme nationalism, pro-Hindu fundamentalism aimed at "cleansing" the country of non-Hindus, and the more generic project of recovering India's founding faith (the sangh parivar). Its aims are mediated through a number of organisations. The most violent of their activities are carried out by adherents of the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh) - some of whose leaders have openly praised Hitler - Bajrang Dal, the RSS military wing, and the VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad.

While nominally non-violent, India's own ruling party the Bharitya Janata Party (BJP) - often acting in coalition with other political parties - has signally failed to rein in its most destructive and communalist supporters. Indeed, when the RSS led horrendous attacks on mainly Muslim communities in Gujerat exactly two years ago, the BJP leadership not only failed to condemn the murder, torture and repression of thousands of unarmed people, but has continued to support Narendra Modi, the key BJP politician and re-elected chief minister of Gujerat, who explicity endorsed the attacks.

In the analysis which follows, Professor Angana Chatterji charts the rise of these virulently sectarian forces in the state of Orissa. She specifically relates this alarming progression to denial of land rights to Orissa's poorest people, both adivasi (tribal) and dalits (lowest caste), deriving from a growing nexus between right wing politicians, religious terrorists and some corporations.

While the World Bank and the British Department for International Development (DFID) may deplore these developments, Chatterji argues that they are nonetheless indirectly fuelling them.

Among the companies is India's largest mining and metals conglomerate Tata (which has praised Narendra Modi) and Sterlite which last year resurrected itself on the London Stock Exchange as Vedanta (see our London Calling). The name literally means "the end of knowledge" and is a barely-disguised cipher for the Hindutva project. Whether or not Vedanta's founder, London-based Anil Agarwal, is directly supportive of the RSS (and many Indian observers believe he has been), the company has certainly positioned itself for the aggressive land grab which Professor Chatterji deplores. Just over the past month, Vedanta/Sterlite has carried out the removal of mainly Khond villagers near Lanjigarh, who were inveigled into signing away their land rights, to clear the way for a new alumina refinery and bauxite mine (see "A Sterlite Concentration Camp" posted on this site).

Meanwhile, a new social organisation, called Ekta Parishad, allied to the Gandhian Sarvodaya (land reform) movement, has been carrying out a highly visible "yatra", or mission, in Orissa, which included Lanjigarh. Though Ekta Parishad has not escaped controversy, nor left wing criticism of its methods, it seems sincere in its advocacy of basic livelihood and land rights for the poor lin the second of the two articles reproduced here, the organisation reports the first stages of its yatra ,and specifically relates its demands to current threats posed by Vedanta/Sterlite.

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