Reaping the Harvest of Hate

By Ram Puniyani

Film Review

Film: From Hindu to Hindutva
Debaranjan Sarangi, Pedestrian Pictures:,
Language: Oriya with English Subtitles
Duration- 44 Minutes

Kandhmal violence has been the most ghastly communal violence in the Adivasi areas in India. Close to two years after the violence the tragedy of the area continues, the victims of violence, the rehabilitation, the justice to victims, most of these are no where close to what they should be.

Debaranjan Sarangi, a social activist and writer has effectively caught the Kandhamal carnage in his short but comprehensive film with great amount of sensitivity and objectivity. He presents the whole event with the help of field interviews, the shots of burning of houses and churches and the pathetic condition of the refugee camps. His subtitling and comments not only make the theme more understandable to non-Oriya audience but also connect up different aspects of the material presented by him. The commentary in the form of text is very coherent making the film a powerful analysis of the events of Orrisa. The director weaves the picture with great precision without intruding into the flow of events as told by the perpetrators of the crime and the victims of the same.

The film begins with the event of murder of Swami Laxmandnand, Maoists state it has been done by them as he was spreading Hate in the area. Praveen Togadia of VHP takes out the procession of his body through sensitive areas of Kandhmal, the rumor is spread that Christians are behind the murder of Swami, as it is at their behest that Maoists have murdered him. One striking parallel which emerges from this account is that even in Gujarat Modi permitted the procession of the victims of Godhra train burning through Ahmedabad, accompanied by rumor that Muslims have burnt the train and this in turn incited the feelings of the people leading to carnage. VHP’s Praveen Togadia does the same. The methods of RSS combine have so much of a parallel.

The victims of ‘RSS combine’ violence come through the film with their pain and anguish. Director has taken care to edit the interviews to the most relevant parts. From amongst victims many say that those who have killed the Swami should be punished, why are we and our children being punished. The attacker’s were shouting the slogans of Jai Bajarang Bali.

The state, since Biju Janata Dal had BJP as an ally, soft peddled towards the criminals indulging in communal riots. This is the same story in most of the carnages, be it the anti Sikh pogrom, Mumbai violence or Gujarat carnage, state devices kid gloves to deal with the perpetrators of the crime. Also on the ‘expected’ pattern state gave no protection to victims. The VHP supporters worsened the situation by asserting that Christianity is a foreign religion, Christians should leave or they will be killed unless they convert into Hinduism. The hysterical pitch of the mob has been caught well in the camera.

Krishna Majhi, leader of Kui samaj, Adivasis, points out that Adivasis are not Hindus and the ‘Home coming’ campaign, conversion of Adivasis into Hinduism, is a forcible one. This home coming was conducted by Laxmandnand, at big scale. The Christians were tonsured and given a Hanuman locket. Hanuman has a central role in Hinduising the Adivasis. Most of the interviewees point out that Christian missionaries were involved mainly in health and education work. The VHP propaganda that dalits have grabbed Adivsai land is false as no such complaints were ever filed, nor do dalits have substantial land holdings. The interesting point is if it was a land issue, why the campaign for and rights was not taken, and why Hate was chosen as weapon. Clearly land issue was made a pretext for dividing the communities.

The violence is done by VHP for its political goals. Laxmananand indulged in lot of unchecked ‘hate speech’ against Christians. As a matter of fact his and RSS combines ‘Hate other’ speech against Christians laid the foundation of the violence.

Kandhmal was no flash in the pan. It was systematically built up from 1970 since the swami began his activities there. He had opened Sanskrit schools and Bhajan Mandali (group singing devotional songs), through which hate campaign was conducted. After the violence the major sectors of state were apathetic to the plight of Christians. Currently even their children are looked down in schools. The anti Christian atmosphere prevails till the day.

Film ends on a sad note, the reality of minorities in Orissa today is well depicted. Probably the efforts to get justice and relief done by civil society groups could have been highlighted by Sarangi. The film is a very good contribution by Pedestrian Pictures to draw our attention to the phenomenon of Kandhamal. It gives enough hints about the method of working of VHP, Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram and RSS combine in the Adivasi areas. Bringing out these linkages with RSS combine’s methods in unleashing violence in other areas would have enriched the quality of the film. The title does not much convey the theme of the film. It is a must watch for all social activists and citizens at large.

(Ram Puniyani could be contacted on


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