ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Shift from Syncretism to Communalism

Attempting to analyse how and why Odisha has gradually become hostage to the politics of Hindutva, this paper traces the evolution of the state's syncretic tradition, which, despite occasional outbursts of communal antagonism, ensured peaceful coexistence. It points out that Hindutva's systematic expansion, which also made use of Christianity's contentious legacy in the state, has communalised the everyday syncretic space. In recent years, the state's social and caste hierarchy, conservative elites, middle class, civil society, media, and neo-liberal political class have overtly and covertly reinforced Hindu majoritarian politics.

Hindutva's Fury against Christians in Orissa

The anti-Christian violence in Orissa, orchestrated by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and its allies, has unleashed the fury of Hindu kandhas against dalit pana Christians. The former is resentful of the latter's attempts to get scheduled tribe status. The new-found assertiveness of the previously untouchable panas has added to the tension. The Hindutva organisations, engaged in converting tribals to Hinduism, accuse Christian missionaries of "forcing" the dalits to convert. They conveniently ignore the continuing oppressive casteist order that forces the dalits to do so.

Uttar Pradesh in the 1990s

Not only because of its size but also for historical reasons, Uttar Pradesh has always been a key state in the Indian union. Major political movements in independent India, including backward caste and dalit politics and the rise of Hindutva have largely developed here or have significantly impinged on it. Economic backwardness and political populism are among the factors intertwined with the recent history of Uttar Pradesh. Perspectives on many of these issues were explored in a recent seminar in Jawaharlal Nehru University.

Hindutva's Entry into a 'Hindu Province'

Orissa retains some unique features of Hinduism manifested in particular in the Jagannath cult. Structures of pre-colonial legitimacy were reinvented by colonialism, acquiesced to by the nationalist and the post-colonial leadership/discourses and appropriated by an identity-seeking Hindu upper caste-middle class. Together these offered a congenial climate for the development of Hindutva. This paper broadly outlines the cultural, social and political climate of Orissa at the time of the entry of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and examines how this organisation, intelligently and strategically, interacted with and adapted itself to the peculiar conditions in this 'Hindu province' during the early years of its existence in the state.
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