//Ministry fears eco-hazard from Sangh

Ministry fears eco-hazard from Sangh

Rajesh Sinha,Thursday, January 12, 2006

NEW DELHI: The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests has taken a serious view of Sangh Parivar’s plans for the newly invented festival of Shabarikumbh, which they intend to hold at a place called Subir in Dangs, Gujarat.

A mammoth gathering is planned for the celebration of the kumbh mela in this forest area to be held between February 11 and 13. But with the forest being cut down in the name of religion, the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests has sent a team of officials to assess the damage from the preparations and report back.

There has been some protest against the festival, too. Tribal activists say it is an attack on their distinct cultural identity, which the RSS fraternity is trying to transform and subsume into Hinduism.

The Sangh outfit believes that the kumbh will provide a boost to the Hindu movement in Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. "In particular, the vanavasi Hindu will get tremendous confidence.
The momentum generated by the kumbh is expected to trigger the return of thousands of Christian vanavasi converts back to the Hindu fold," says the website set up for the kumbh. The outfit also claims that not a single tree has been cut and adds that the effort will boost tourism in the area.

For the Sangh parivar, it is a part of their crusade to counter the influence of Christianity. Their explanation for the kumbh goes thus: "Conversion to Christianity is invariably associated with separatism and terrorism as is evident in North-East Bharat. There are several areas in our country which have become hotbeds of christian missionary activity. The Dang district in Gujarat is one such area."

The arrangements, being handled by Kishore Gavit, general secretary of Akhil Bharatiya Shabarikumbh Samaroh Aayojan Samiti (ABSSAS), who also works with the Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram are huge.

Gavit said around 50 local farmers have given a total of 250 hectare of land for the kumbh. There will be hospital facilities at three places including intensive care facility.

Tribals in the village are happy at all the attention and activity in this part, as well as the promise of development that it holds for them. Some tribal activists, however, say this is corrupting their culture: the tribals had a local deity named Subir, represented by a rock on the river bank, which the Hindu organisation has changed to "Shabari" and claimed as their own.

The Sangh outfit is, however, going ahead undeterred.