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34. The tribals are said to be animists and not Hindus. Is the reconversion programme not an attempt to create a homogenised (in the wrong sense of the word) Hindu society?

      Animists are those who believe that natural phenomena occur due to spirits and that all animate and inanimate objects have such spirits. They attribute conscious life to nature, and that organic objects have a soul. Of course, in each area, different tribal groups have additional beliefs which are not defined as being animistic. Although these practices may appear to be primitive, for the animists they are true and valid.
     The controversy of whether the tribals are not Hindus has been going on for ages. The attributes stated above are also part of beliefs of many who are recognised as being Hindus. For example, Tulsi puja and Nagpanchami are important Hindu festivals. Tribals participate in the Hindu festivals, wherever they are celebrated nearby. The genesis of the controversy is that the missionaries wanted to divide the Hindu society, and claim that certain sections do not fall within the fold of Hinduism. During the time of the British, efforts were made to identify who are animists for the purposes of census. And each time, the census officers said in strong terms that it is not possible to differentiate between an animist and a Hindu. The fact that the controversy continues is an indication that the old policy of dividing the Hindus still continues.
     The Hindu tradition is so vast, that all the indigenous faiths fall within the scope. Each tradition, either regional or started by persons, borrows from other traditions. At the same time, they are all rooted in the essential ethos of the Hindu tradition of tolerance. For example, the Bhils and the Rajputs interact at the social and cultural levels.
However, what is clear is that animism has no convergence with Christianity. So, if a tribal is made a Christian, then a conversion definitely takes place. What the Hindu organisations are doing is to ask the tribals to come back to their traditional faith - whether one calls it a Hindu faith or an animist. There is no attempt to either impose upon them something different from what their ancestors practised or to homogenise the Hindus into one unique way of belief.


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