For centuries, the Adivasi Community of Jharkhand have tried to very-very hard to keep intact their distinctive art, culture, rites, rituals, and Sarna religion. Their proud ancestors have successfully managed to keep out hordes of non-Adivasi religious influence at bay. They refused to bow before the might of even the most powerful religious forces. They were willing to sacrifice their present as well as their future to keep alive their unique traditions. But, it seems that their efforts are in vain.
Off-late, Sarna Adivasi community have come under intense pressure to convert, more so from the powerful people who crossed over to other religious group(s). The blind pursuit of their personal and professional ambition of powerful people often result in the incidents like the recent installation of holy Mother Mary statue in Ranchi (Jharkhand), done right in the heart-land of Adivasi community.
As far as our religious knowledge about Christianity goes, the statue of esteemed Mother Mary should look like this:
Instead in Ranchi, the recently installed the Mother Mary Statue dressed in sacred Sarna Adivasi attire looks like this:
Now anyone, who holds a just, balanced and non-partisans views on the Sarna Adivasi religion and Christianity (mind you here we are talking about only one branch of Christian community and not the whole Christian community of Jharkhand state) could smell the sense of betrayal and see the act of proselytization here, in this incident.
Let us give you an example to clarify, if one wants to worship Christian gods, one goes to Church, similarly to pay respect to Hindu gods, one visits Temple, and it is true for almost all the other religions. Now, one does not try to mix-and-match the religious identities and symbols between any two religions, more so when they are considered sacred by their followers, as it is likely to create unnecessary tension among its followers and pit one religious-group against another religious group. It may further be noted that the said Mother Mary statue resembles the sacred Goddess Chala-pacho Devi (Sarna Devi in young Avatar) of the Sarna Adivasi community (of Oraon tribe).
In this case, it is evident that Sarna followers have vociferously and in non-violent manners, registered their protest against such a deliberate move and requested the responsible people in concerned Christian group to remove the objectionable statue.
Yet, we see no positive response from them.
# Who Installed the Mother Mary Statue in Sarna Adivasi Attire?
Few months ago, the said statue was installed at the instance of Cardinal Telesphore Toppo at the Catholic Church parish in Singpur in Ranchi District. Since then, the elders from Sarna Adivasi community have been urging and requesting the Cardinal and the Catholic Church authorities to remove the controversial statue, but so far they have not done anything positive about the said controversy.
Mind you, the Christianity community of Jharkhand, like in other parts of world is also divided into quite a few branches, viz., Catholic, Protestants, Orthodox, Anglican, et al. So, it would be wrong to blame the entire Christian community for the installation of the said statue.
# Why blatant disregard for the religious beliefs of Sarna religion follower?
It is a less acknowledged fact that in the last couple of centuries, since the arrival of colonial rulers in Jharkhand, India, the Adivasi community and the Adivasi families of Jharkhand have been divided along religious lines. And among the Adivasi communities this process of religious-conversion by the powerful religious groups still continues in Jharkhand.
So, in many cases, we have one Adivasi brother following Sarna religion while another Adivasi brother following Christianity religion and so on and so forth. It is one of the reasons, why we see diverse religious groups in the state, peacefully co-existing among the Adivasi communities.
The religious leaders believe that the one brother / sister would not really take up arm against another brother / sister, more so in the name of religion.
And these religious leaders are counting on the same fact.
# Why such an act of great provocation?
The installation of Mother Mary statue is not really a move backed by religious beliefs as these religious leaders would like us to believe.
It is a well thought out political strategy, a religious move that accords greater and decisive political power to its religious leaders.
Many of us have heard the story of the shepherds. The shepherds would always like to keep their flocks of sheep together and united at one place.
But how can shepherds do that?
• One of the ways is to keep a very close eye on his flocks of sheep besides using the carrot and stick policies.
• Other way is to tell their flocks of sheep that a lion would come, attack them and eat them; for when they try to move away from the flock. It is in the interest of entire flocks of sheep to stay together, keep their unity and simply follow the orders of wise shepherds.
So the Shepherds use rewards, punishment and even fear to keep their flocks together.
In case the aggrieved party resort to retaliation then the Shepherds would claim that they are true and only saviour of their flock of sheep. This would further strengthen their hold on their flock of sheep. And then they would be to direct their flock of sheep to move in particular direction for their own safety or else the blood-thirsty animals would again attack them. As the fear-psychosis takes over the flocks of sheep, they can be herded and lorded over by the shepherds in any manner that they want, more so, when the 2014 General elections is just round the corner.
# Why don’t they remove the Mother Mary Statue in Sarna Adivasi Attire?
In a game of political chess, the first player has played its move and the second player has also responded by showing its strength.
With political parties closely watching their moves and in the game of political one-upmanship, it’s is highly unlikely that Shepherds would back down. The stakes are very high and another election shall come only when the terms of newly elected government (after 2014 election) ends.
# Will the Catholic Church parish remove the controversial statue?
With the General elections round the corner, we would see further hardening of the religious views in Jharkhand; as it seems that the peace does not really suit the politically power-hungry people. Being a sensible Jharkhandi, one can only hope and pray that the better sense prevail and the Catholic Church parish removes the controversial statue.
As the installation of the said statue is more of a political decision and less of a religious decision; besides it threatens the unity of Adivasi community of Jharkhand.
One should always remember that it is easier to destroy than to create.
Let’s give real Adivasi issues centre stage and do not let such a religiously sensitive issue dominate the headlines for wrong reasons.
Let’s give peace a chance.
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