The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sangh carries Gujarat model to southern tribal belt

Kozhikode, Jan. 15: The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has launched a “Gujarat model” initiative in Kerala to drum up support among the tribal community.

The initiative was unveiled over the last two days through a state-level convention of tribals at Mananthavady in Wayanad district.

The convention saw the formulation of many social and organisational plans “aimed at improving the lot of Kerala adivasis and sheltering them with Hindu dharma.”

The deliberations at the two-day convention, called Vanavasi Sangamam, were led by a host of senior RSS-VHP leaders, including RSS sarsanghachalak K.S. Sudarshan.

The convention formulated three key slogans for the state’s tribals, including a demand to restore the 1975 Tribal Land (Protection) Act that had visualised returning almost all the land sold by the tribals to settlers.

All mainstream political parties in Kerala, including the BJP, are against this Act and are supporting a legislation drawn up in 1987 that does not provide a “carte blanche” to tribals for reclaiming their land.

Another key slogan coined by the convention urged the state and the Centre to devise laws to prevent religious conversions, particularly among the tribal community.

Sudarshan, who sat through all the sessions at the convention, gave the guideline for this slogan in his inaugural speech when he referred to the recent anti-conversion law formulated in Tamil Nadu and lauded it as a step in the right direction.

The third key slogan urged the state to develop a comprehensive tribal welfare plan.

The convention was not organised by the RSS but by the Kerala Vanavasi Vikasa Kendram, an organisation similar to the Vanvasi Kalyan Kendra of Gujarat, which had worked systematically among Gujarat’s tribals and brought them closer to the RSS and the VHP.

The similarity with the “Gujarat initiative” can be found in the composition of the slogans which are relevant to tribals in socio-economic terms.

However, Sudarshan’s statements indicated that the programme was also intended at fortifying the Sangh’s brand of Hindutva. In his inaugural speech, he urged tribals to thwart attempts from various quarters to separate the tribals from Hinduism.

Insisting that tribals should stick to the “Hindu dharma”, he said “Mahatma Gandhi had cautioned against weaning away Hindus from the Hindu religion”.

The British had invented many theories such as the Aryan invasion of India to divide the Hindus.

‘‘Though the theory has no logical validity, it was used to create a schism within the community. The Arya-Dravida, Brahmin-non-Brahmin, north India-south India divisions are the by-products of the theory,’’ Sudarshan said.

He took the opportunity to hit out at Christian missionaries. Sudarshan said that Christianity took centuries to agree that divinity is present in women.

“Before that, thousands of women were burnt alive in the name of witch-hunting. But atrocities against women were unheard of in India because Hindus worshipped female gods along with male gods,’’ he said.

India’s sprint queen P.T. Usha was brought in for the inaugural function to distribute prizes to the winners of sports and arts competitions held as part of the convention.

Usha later told The Telegraph on phone that she had not realised the meeting had a socio-political agenda.

“When I was invited, I was told that it was a cultural meet. I am not aware of the big issues which were discussed there nor have I any interest in them,” she said.

Among other leaders present at the convention were Bharathiya Vichara Kendram director P. Parameswaran and Akhil Bharatiya Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram president Jagadev Ram Orone and its secretary Gunvanth Singh Kothari.

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