Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Hindu violence and land grabbing

A Hindu friend writes today: " Ever tell you about ... in 1997? XXX and I surrounded by the Head Priest and 300 thugs. Our government car - from the Home Secretary - no use at all. Driver fled. So did two local cops (later tracked of course). Touch and go. I had thumb and index on Mr. Head P's vagus nerve (old training), the rest of his head in a headlock. Had I showed any fear, or yielded - it would have been over. The usual gag - one pushes the other - someone with a knife... Mr. Head P of course alluded to all this latent horsepower, but I told him I would convert him to mincemeat before that. All I asked for - and insisted softly - was a "Sorry". Got it, and the rest of them melted away like cats. XXX's first and last encounter with a mob. Took her a week to get over it."

My closest such experience was a couple of years ago when driving along a forest road in Madhya Pradesh. However, dear Reader, in order to understand the following account, if you don't know what "prasad" is, I need to enlighten you: it is food symbolically offered to an idol and then offered to devotees.

I noticed a mass of people doing something about 400 metres from the road. We had already had a LOOONG drive, so asked the driver to stop in order to have a look at this tamasha and stretch our legs. Somehow, someone in the mass of people at the event must have noticed us stopping. Anyway, the chief honcho interrupted the proceedings and ran all the way up to our location on the road - the rest of his mob following. He asks us to accept prasad. We ask what is going on. He tells me that the worship of certain idols is in progress with a view to a temple being built on that land. *I* decline on the grounds that I don't worship idols. He is furious - as are his colleagues. There is a back-and-forth in which he claims to be insulted and I gently but firmly insist on my right to remain unblessed by the idol. "His" crowd gets increasingly restive. The situation is finally saved by my host (who looks like some kind of guru, in dhoti/kurta) who strokes his long beard and says in an ever so soft voice to the honcho that, according to our scriptures, prasad is not prasad if accepted unwillingly. The honcho is taken aback - retreats with his mob - though I have not yet been able to discover whether our scriptures really do make such a statement

The question in my mind was: why did the Chief Honcho interrupt his obviously important worship of his idol and hot foot it such a long distance to offer us prasad?

The reason: many, if not most of the temples that have been built over the last 20 years in India have been built on grabbed land.

As we were passing by in cars, it was clear to the Honcho and mob that we "must be important". They interrupted their worship and offered us prasad in order to neutralise our possible opposition to their land grab: if we accepted the prasad, we were unlikely to act against the land grab.

That also explains why they were so upset at my refusing to partake of the prasad. In refusing to accept the prasad, I was (unwittingly, but clearly from their point of view) putting myself in a position where I could potentially oppose the land grab.

All this was not clear to me then. It had to be explained to me by a colleague. Regretfully, I was only passing that way, or I might have opposed the grab - particularly of forest land.

Perhaps someone ought to raise a question in Parliament about whether any record exists of how many temples have been built on grabbed land. If not, why not; and if so, what the figures actually are. Sphere: Related Content

1 comment:

Raviji said...

In fact most of the temples, churches and mosques and other religious structures are built on such lands. Normally a flag or some grave or in some cases a tree is held as a religious power and then start extending the area by building a compound and a light roof and then stretch it further with a stone building...This is common in Indian scenario. there are many important roads with religious buildings standing as obstruction to the traffic.
there are over night constructions made on grabbed lands and it becomes a political issue either locally or on a national level.
May be it is because all religious people think holier than the rest of the world because the world belongs to their God and we humans have unauthorized occupations.