When the 80-year old Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati was brutally gunned down by a heavily armed mob of fanatical Christians on the fateful night of 23 August 2008, I wrote the next day that he is not Graham Staines. His death remained unmourned by our secular establishment of which the media is a massive organ.
Indeed, his death didn’t merely remain unmourned but was quickly made to fade away into obscurity. However, when communal riots erupted following his gruesome murder, the secular establishment swung into action and blamed the retaliating Hindus and Hindu groups for attacking Christians! Barely two days after his murder, Somini Sengupta wrote in the New York Times blaming, in not so many words, the Hindus for inviting this cruel plight upon themselves. The now-defunct Newsweek too carried a story titled ” “Christians fear attacks by Indian Hindus,” which basically painted a picture of Christians being terrorized by Hindus in India. This is not too different from the kind of reportage and oped writing that occurs whenever communal riots occur in India–the so-called minorities almost always instigate the violence and when the victims retaliate, they are blamed and branded. Indeed, this branding of late has found widespread reach in the international media.
Swami Laxmanananda, a Hindu monk came to Kandhamal in Orissa in 1968 and established an ashram in Chakapada there to work for the welfare and upliftment of the Dalits, tribals and the downtrodden. This selfless service also extended to combating the conversion activities of Christian missionaries who typically prey on these unfortunate souls in such areas. Rampant conversion activities result in violent damage of the social fabric leading in many instances to separatism: the most visible evidence of this is the North East, which remains part of India only in name. Indeed, in a cruel twist of fate, Swami Laxmanananda was himself the gory victim of this phenomenon–his murderers were erstwhile Hindus who had converted to Christianity and gunned him down precisely because of his efforts to prevent more Hindus from becoming like them.
Swami Laxmanananda stands vindicated posthumously too, because the Judge at the Phulbani court convicted seven people–all of them Hindus, converted to Christianity–who were part of the mob that bombed his ashram and opened gunfire indiscriminately, killing several people including the Swami. The judgment also reveals, yet again, the Missionary-Maoist nexus in Orissa.
A measure of how dangerously entrenched the conversion industry is in Orissa can also be traced back to the Justice Wadhwa report on the investigation into the murder of the Australian missionary Graham Staines in 1999 by Dara Singh. The high-decibel cry that was raised by the secular establishment including the media made him out to be a martyr whereas he was in fact a harvester of heathen souls, which in the Hindu context means the violent breakup of Hindu societal harmony. In less than years, the conversion tentacles had taken deeper roots and had spread farther. If a Hindu activist, fed up with Graham Staines’ brazen missionary activity had killed him, the tables were turned by the selfsame missionaries in less than 10 years by a commando-unit style operation on a Hindu saint and his followers.
And this time it was not just the missionaries. But first, the missionaries. The Odisha-government’s special investigation team found that all the major highways in the case led to an outfit called World Vision. Not coincidentally, World Vision happens to be the “world’s largest Christian church mission agency,” whose programmes, in third world countries, among others, include, something called an Area Development Programme (ADP), which “provide[s] access to clean drinking water, healthcare, education and setting up of income generating projects. But infused with such development works is the spiritual component – Bible classes.” [Emphasis added] In fact, World Vision in India projects itself as a “Christian relief and development agency,” and the United States’ Internal Revenue Service classifies it as a “Christian church ministry.” Additionally, its mission statement is itself the loudest advertisement of its intent and activities: “World Vision is an international partnership of Christians whose mission is to follow our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, in working with the poor and oppressed, to promote human transformation, seek justice and bear witness to the Good News of the Kingdom of God.” In plain words: World Vision is a missionary organization one of whose aims is to convert non-Christians to Christianity.
The special investigation team also discovered that the Congress Rajya Sabha MP from Odisha, Radhakanta Nayak was instrumental in encouraging if not instigating attacks against Swami Laxmanananda on several occasions. Again, not coincidentally, Radhakanta Nayak–a converted Christian–happened to be the chief of World Vision’s Odisha unit at the time. The police promptly put him under investigation, and as later investigations showed, the “net was closing in on him.” Indeed, when Laxmanananda Saraswati’s vehicle was attacked in December 2007–about eight months before the fatal shootout–Radhakanata Nayak’s name figured in the complaint made by the Swami. If that was not enough, the police had also arrested Pradesh Kumar Das, an employee of World Vision while he was trying to escape, a fact that bolsters the suspicion of the involvement of this missionary organization’s role in the Swami’s murder.
Subsequent investigations revealed that the Maoists had colluded with the missionaries in the murder. Soon after the news of the Swami’s murder broke, the Maoists denied that they had any hand in it, but later some of their cadre surrendered to the police claiming responsibility. Chargesheet has also been issued against Sabyasachi Panda, a dreaded CPI(Maoist) leader who is said to be the brain behind the Swami’s murder. Be that however it maybe, the Missionary-Maoist nexus operating behind the murder is pretty clear.
And like in 2008, the secularists and the media have almost buried the news of the sentencing of Swami Laxmanananda’s murderers as if it were an incident of no consequence. Of course, if a figure like Graham Staines had died instead of this unfortunate Swami, the narrative would’ve been kept alive till date. Indeed, the 82-year old Swami lived and died a hero, fighting against unbridled fanaticism in order to protect the cultural and civilization threads that bind this land, and still keep it united instead of giving way to a hellhole like Pakistan or a Christian fundamentalist medieval Europe.
Of course nobody can bring him back to life. Yet, we can preserve his legacy by following his example. If even that is asking for too much, we can at least shed a drop of tear.
Sandeep Balakrishna is a columnist and author of Tipu Sultan: the Tyrant of Mysore. He has translated S.L. Bhyrappa’s “Aavarana: the Veil” from Kannada to English.