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Religious Assertion and Conflict

Jagannath Ambagudia

By Peggy Froerer
Social Science Press, New Delhi, 2010, pp.295, Rs. 295.00


Religious Division and Social Conflict represents essays on the ethnographic study of the trajectory of Hindu nationalism in rural India in the context of the Mohanpur village of Chhatisgarh state. The book is primarily concerned with the intergroup (defined in terms of religious identity) as well as intragroup (as both the Ratiya Kanwars and the Oraons are categorized as the scheduled tribes/adivasis by the Indian state) relationship between the Ratiya Kanwars and the Oraons. The main focus of the book is an exploration of different strategies employed by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) to garner the support of the local adivasi community. Their activities started with regular visits to Mohanpur village every few months. Documenting the events that occurred during 19971999, the book revolves around two specific objectives: identification of local conditions and cleavages contributed to the spread of Hindu nationalism in the tribal community, and to explore how the nationalist ideology is tailored by individual activists to correspond with local concerns (p. 3).   Narrating the social stratification of the Mohanpur village defined as higher (the Ratiya Kanwar Hindus) and lower (the Oraon Christians) in the caste hierarchy, Froerer begins with a discussion on the relationship between the Adivasi Hindus and RSS, the right wing group of the BJP. She then sets out to analyse the relationship between adivasi Christians and the Church. She focuses on how the RSS and the Church are involved in propagating their own agendas among the adivasis of the Mohanpur village. Froerer argues that the RSS and the Church tried to transform the tribal communities by discouraging their traditional patterns of beliefs and practices in the name of civilizing the adivasis. The Ratiya Kanwars adopt the deities and rituals of mainstream Hinduism. The Church was involved in transforming the backward Oraons into proper Christians through materially and spiritually diabolizing their traditional beliefs and practices. She illustrates that the Church has transformed the Oraons to the local threatening others. This projection has contributed to the emergence of distrust towards the Oraon Christians.   The author argues that the failure of the state to protect tribal rights, backwardness and the lack of developmental works among adivasis offered the space to the Church and the RSS in the rural areas. The presence of the RSS and the Church led to the emergence of tensions between the Ratiya Kanwars and the Oraons by disturbing the existing social relations in the village. ...

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