46 per cent Indians believe ghosts exists, 24 percent consult a palmist

93 per cent Indians believe in God

New Delhi, January 24, 2007

Here are some common beliefs about religion — Indians used to be very religious but no longer are, religion is the domain of women and the elderly, and educated and urbane India has no time for religion.

If you also thought so, it is time you took a look at the findings of the HT-CNN IBN State of the Nation Survey conducted by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS). Every alternate respondent in this survey — 7,670 to be precise — was asked a series of questions about their religious beliefs, attitudes and practices. The findings are bound to surprise you.

The survey found that urban, educated Indians are more religious than their rural and illiterate counterparts. Yes, women are more religious, but metropolitan women are far more religious than rural women. Predictably, the youth are a little less enthusiastic about religion. But the point is: religion in the country is on the rise.

If there is one social group that is least enthusiastic about religious practices, it is the adivasis. And if there is one group that is more religious than any other, it is upper caste Hindus who have been exposed to modern life more than others.

Consider these facts:

1) 93 per cent believe in god; education makes no difference
2) 64 per cent visit a temple, mosque or gurudwara regularly
3) 53 per cent pray daily; the educated pray more regularly
4) 46 per cent believe ghosts exist
5)  24 per cent consult a palmist
6)  68 per cent participate or take interest in religious functions of other religions

Do you think these figures reflect the rise of the BJP? Not quite. The party gets a little more than average support from among the very religious, but so does the Congress.

So what drives people to religion? Sociologists tell us that the stress of urban living pushes people to search for anchors in their lives. Since they cannot go back to their villages, they recreate a community through religion. That explains the religiosity among those who live in big cities.

In the process, religion changes from a personal experience to something that is more public and congregational. Hence, the proliferation of jalsas, satsangs and ratjagas. Market and the media play a greater role in defining religion.

Religious programmes on television are the latest vehicle for religious communication.

(Kumar and Yadav are social scientists working with the CSDS, Delhi)

Sanjay Kumar and Yogendra Yadav, Hindustan Times

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Praveen Swami

Praveen SwamiPraveen Swami is the Associate Editor Frontline magazine, and also writes for its sister publication, The Hindu. Swami, was formerly on the hit list of  Hindu  militants  and their  most extremist saffron brigade, http://www.hinduunity.org .  However, he later proved his allegiance to his parental caste, brahminism and its philosophical protectors, Hindutva.  Praveen Swami currently believed to be closely working with hindutva zealots in  Intelligence Bureau and engaged in creating fake stories against  Maoists and Moslem youths.  Within a short period of time, Praveen Swami successfully developed close relation with lobbying groups for weapon trade in various security apparatus of the country.  Even though, his personal wealth is unknown to public, he should be one of the major beneficiary of procurement of security equipments to police and defence departments.

ZOOMINFO Profile

749 killed in 2006 in the Maoists’ conflict in India

Salwa Judum campaign prolongs the conflict

South Asia Foreign Correspondent Club, New Delhi:

According to the Naxal Conflict in 2006 released to the media today by Asian Centre for Human Rights (ACHR), 749 persons were killed in the Naxalite conflict in India in 2006. These include 285 civilians, 135 security personnel and 329 alleged Naxalites. The highest number of killing was reported from Chhattisgarh (363), followed by Andhra Pradesh (135), Jharkhand (95), Maharashtra (60), Bihar (45), Orissa (25), West Bengal (22), Uttar Pradesh (2), Karnataka (1) and Madhya Pradesh (1).

The killing of 749 persons in 2006 represents a decrease in the number of killings than in 2005 during which 892 persons were killed. But, the Naxal conflict captured the centre-stage of the armed conflicts in 2006 because of the Salwa Judum campaign and its disastrous consequences such as the violations of the right to life by the Naxalites, security forces and the Salwa Judum activists, forcible displacement of 43,740 persons as of 31st December 2006 in Dantewada district and abdication of the responsibility to maintain law and order to the Salwa Judum cadres; spread of the Naxalite conflict in 1,427 police stations, and increased striking capability of the Naxalites akin to the Maoists of Nepal.

The Naxalites have killed 412 persons including 277 civilians and 135 security personnel.

The Maoists have killed more civilians than the security forces, and the massacres of the innocent civilians by the Naxalites were unprecedented. The major massacres were Darbhaguda massacre of 28 February 2006 in which 27 persons were killed, Monikonta massacre of April 2006 in which 15 unarmed villagers were killed after abduction, Errabore massacre of 17 July 2006 in which 31 persons were massacred; and Halewada massacre in which 12 persons of a marriage party were killed in a powerful bomb blast near Halewada village in Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra on 16 May 2006. In some of the massacres, many innocent victims were killed in the most despicable manner through repeated stabbing and slitting of the victims’ throats in front of other hostages or villagers.

The Maoists’ victims also included Salwa Judum cadres, alleged police informers, political party activists, some of whom were killed after trial in Kangaroo courts, Jana Adalats of the Maoists.

“These acts of the Maoists constitute serious violations of the Geneva Conventions and the Rome Statute of International Criminal Court” – stated Mr Suhas Chakma, Director of Asian Centre for Human Rights.

The Naxalites, who frown at the lack of development, have been responsible for blocking many development initiatives in the areas where they exercise control by targeting labourers, officials and companies. They have been systematically targeting all such governmental buildings that could provide shelter to security personnel.

The security forces claimed to have killed 322 alleged Naxalites.

“The claims of the security forces that all persons killed were “Naxalites” are far from the truth. There have been credible reports of torture, rape and extrajudicial executions by the Salwa Judum activists and the security forces especially in the process of forcibly bringing the villagers under the Salwa Judum fold.” – stated Mr Chakma.

The Central government has been supporting wrong policies on the Naxalites. The Salwa Judum campaign which resulted into 48.5% of the total killings in Chhattisgarh has more to do with local political considerations than resolving the Naxalite conflict.

“The Salwa Judum campaign which has been extended to “six blocks” in one district i.e. Dantewada cannot resolve the Naxalite conflict which is spread over 170 districts in 13 States across the country” – warned Mr Chakma.

“The Salwa Judum campaign has only accentuated the Naxalite conflict but made resolution of the Naxalite conflict in Chhattisgarh extremely difficult if not impossible by exposing all those living in the camps to the violence of the Naxalites”. – further added Mr Chakma.

ACHR stated that during its latest visit to the Salwa Judum camps in Dantewada district from 1-5 January 2007, it found the conditions of the camps housing 43,740 displaced persons to be deplorable and sub-human. The displaced persons continued to be provided just a square meal of rice and dal. Medical and educational facilities remained non-existent.  About 250 schools and Ashram schools are being used by the security forces and for the Salwa Judum campaign.

ACHR expressed concerns with the continued “law and order” approach of the government to deal with the Naxalite crisis as reflected from the creation of a division within the Ministry of Home Affairs to address the Naxalite conflict.

ACHR recommended creation of a separate Ministry for speedy development of the Naxalite affected areas in line with Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region and intervene with the State government of Chhattisgarh to stop the “Salwa Judum” campaign and not to involve the civilians in conflict with the Naxals and investigate all allegations of human rights violations. ACHR also recommended to the Naxalite affected States to declare cease-fire with the Naxalites and hold peace talks.

ACHR also urged the Communist Party of India (Maoists) to declare cease-fire with the State Governments for resolving the problems through dialogue, facilitate dismantling of all the Salwa Judum relief camps and return of the camp inmates to their respective villages with full safety and security; stop forcible recruitment including of the children and indiscriminate use of explosives against the civilians, and to ensure respect of the international humanitarian laws.

Friday, 12 January 2007