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Christian identity, Hindu nationalism and religious communal violence in India with special reference to Kandhamal, Odisha (1985–2010).

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This thesis seeks to understand why Indian Christian identity became a problem in the secular Republic of India. Western Christianity arrived in India in the very beginning of the sixteenth century. The Hindu fundamentalists began to oppose Christianity vehemently from the beginning of the twentieth century, by establishing various Hindu organisations based on an ideology of Hindutva. After India’s independence in 1947, religious communal violence was on rising, and it divided the people in the name of religion which had a great impact on Indian politics. The communal riots in Kandhamal had a long history. The riots during the years 2007 and 2008 claimed more than 100 lives and displaced 56,000 Christians. It was one of the results of the communal divide on religious grounds in the country. In order to ascertain the factors that caused violence and the depth of the issue, the study engages four theories. There are two dominant ethnic groups living in Kandhamal. The tribal Konds are the aboriginals, and the Dalit Panas are those who migrated to the hills centuries ago and settled among the Konds. The Panas adopted the Konds’ culture, language and customs. The problem began soon after the Europeans entered the Kandhamal hills. In the name of civilisation, the Europeans imposed their values on the inhabitants which forced them to shun their traditional and customary practices. The Konds had opposed the Europeans, while the Panas accepted them and embraced Christianity. Meanwhile, the emergence of Hindu national political party with the ideology of Hindutva changed the political scenario of Indian politics from the 1990s. The Sangh Parivar’s political strategy of using religious sentiments to polarise the majority Hindus led to violence in many parts of the country. Swami Lakshmanananda, a Hindu missionary, became influential with the help of the Sangh Parivar’s political power. He worked for 40 years to convert the tribal Konds into Hindus and turned them against the Christian Panas by projecting all petty local issues as communal concerns. The Kandhamal violence was one of the well-planned attacks against Christians to gain a political mileage by the Sangh Parivar.


Doctoral Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.