| Judeo addresses a news conference in Raipur on Sunday. (AFP)
Jashpurnagar (Chhattisgarh), Nov. 17: Tall, strapping and luxuriantly moustached, Kumar saheb has always boasted of being an “exorcist”, purging the souls of tribals of the “demon” of Christianity. Now, the exorcist looks in dire need of some exorcism himself.
“I am washing the sins of my forefathers. The tribals had gone astray because of my forefathers’ indifference to them. I will continue to do so till I am alive,” he would chant as he washed the feet of the tribals at his many re-conversion camps.
Dressed in army fatigue, he would use panchgap — a mix of cowdung, urine, milk, ghee and curd — for the “ablutions”, the washing of feet a symbolic “wiping away of the sin of Christianity from the soul”. In the background, Sanskrit scholars would chant shlokas as small fires raged in several pits dug in the ground.
Cleansing over, Kumar saheb would hand the Sitapur tribals — shivering in the early-morning winter chill — a nylon sari each to mark their return to Hinduism. Now, the saheb looks in need of a similar ritual to purge him of his many “sins”.
Caught on view CD last week allegedly accepting a bribe to grant a mining lease, the wheel has come full circle for the BJP’s Dilip Singh Judeo, former minister of state for forests and environment. “He would need more such materials to wash his image before the people,” said Satyanarayan Sinha, a Congress leader.
A seasoned hand at organising reconversion camps in Chhattisgarh, Judeo is believed to have organised and presided over hundreds of them between 1997 and 2001. At the Sitapur reconversion camp alone — the drive was nicknamed Operation Gharwapasi — over 2,000 tribals are reported to have returned to the Hindu fold.
The camps triggered much tension between Hindus and Christians in the state, but Judeo stuck with them because of backing from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. At the end of it, he found himself on the centre stage of Hindutva politics and with a central ministry berth in his pocket.
The mirror crack’d for Judeo a few days after he launched an anti-Christian campaign ahead of next month’s Assembly election in the state. “Tera jadoo dhal gaya (Your magic has waned),” Congress workers screamed at a rally against the tainted leader. But there was also much disbelief on the streets.
“Kumar saheb, a simple man of high vision, has been trapped in a vicious conspiracy,” said A.K. Vaidya, a worker of the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, a Sangh outfit for the benefit of tribals.
A scion of the Jashpurnagar royal family, Judeo is the uncle of the king, Raja Ranvijay Pratap Sinha. He was educated in a Christian school and college in Ranchi and first took on the Congress in Jashpurnagar after the privy purse of the royal families was stopped.
Articulate and anglicised, Judeo is a lover of good scotch and good food and is believed to be proud of his masculinity. “Log mere mardangi ka tareef karte hain,” he once said.
When he began to organise the Oraon tribals against Christianity, he would often dress like a tribal. “He would wear a dhoti and keep his body bare, hold a bow and arrow and move around the forest with the tribals to hold them in awe,” said Ramesh Vidarthi, a Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram cadre. That was how he got together a small group of tribals who owed allegiance exclusively to him.
When the Jashpurnagar royal family first began its Hindutva drive in the forties and the fifties, they set up schools and organisations like the Gayatri Sangh to “Sanskritise” the tribals. They built temples and schooled tribals about Hindu rituals. They also extended health care facilities to win over the tribals but could not match the might of the Christian missionaries.
In 1952, the RSS decided to set up the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram to lure tribals. The then king, Vijay Bhushan Sinha Judeo, first offered two rooms to start the ashram and later donated 150 acres to set up its head office. Slowly, the ashram grew from strength to strength and became a potent RSS platform against Christianity.
Deeply involved in conversion politics, Judeo always called himself a “small sepoy of Hindutva”. His anti-Christian rhetoric — he would coin slogans like “chop the hands of that convert” — often brought him into open confrontation with the missionaries.
BJP sources here said Judeo’s exit was not likely to hamper the party campaign. Nor is he likely to be missed much in the environment ministry. “All the decision-making authority rested with his senior, T.R. Baalu,” officials said.