Bhubaneswar: A senior BJD leader was recently surprised when he found one of his party youth activists roaming round with a saffron flag bearing Lord Hanuman’s emblem. The leader enquired and was informed that they too celebrate Hanuman Jayanti in their locality. The activists also informed the senior leader that there is no difference between BJD and BJP when it comes to the celebration of Hanuman Jayanti.

But, the regional party leader had objected to the saffron flag on which Lord Hanuman’s face was stickered. There are no worries for BJD on the celebration of Hanuman Jayanti. But, the leader had objected to the saffron colour of the flag on which Lord Hanuman’s face was pressed. He remained silent and realized that apart from party lines, Lord Hanuman had also entered into the BJD. So far youths are concerned; Lord Hanuman is certainly their idol.

However, the senior BJD leader said that he has never seen such a transformation. Lord Hanuman is immortal and he influences youths across the state. Lord Hanuman is also part of Shree Jagannath culture as the idols of the money God are seen at many places in the 12th century shine in Puri. But, what has surprised the BJD leader was that it suddenly came to the limelight after the recent communal violence in Sambalpur town.

“There is something working under the ground for the surge of Hanumanism in Odisha. It may be handwork of the Sangh Parivar,” the BJD leader concluded, indicating at the veteran BJP leader and Odisha In-Charge Sunil Bansal, who has been working towards infusing saffronisation in the state.

It is a fact that communal elements have all along been rejected by the people of Odisha as they believe in Shree Jagannath culture which gives a clear message for brotherhood. Salabega, a Muslim by birth was a great devotee of Lord Jagannth, which gives a clear message that all human beings irrespective of caste, creed, gender and religion are same and unequal. Amid this impression in the state, some parties have many times failed to divide the Odia society on religion. Shree Jagannath culture is the binding force among the people in Odisha.

The Governing BJD may not admit it openly, but that fact remains that the Odia society has to some extent been infected with saffronisation. Take for instance the organizations like Viswa Hindu Parishad, Barjrang Dal, Hindu Mahasabha and even BJP. These organizations under the umbrella of Sangh Parivar have worked in Odisha since a long time. But the recent ‘Shut Down’ call given by VHP following Sambalpur violence, has been a grand success. The VHP Call for shut down was supported by Bajrang Dal and BJP. The shutdown in 14 districts, 10 in western region and four in southern parts of the state, has been a grand success. The success of shutdown has given a clear message that the people do not want communal violence in the state. And a call by VHP is spontaneously drawing positive response from people.

The strike was spontaneous in many districts even as a small number of picketers were seen on the roads in selected places. It was spontaneous, not only in violence hit district of Sambalpur but also in western and southern districts.

This has also given a clear message to the Governing BJD that the Government machineries have not successfully handled the Sambalpur situation. The spontaneous shutdown across these districts has also given a message that the things in Sambalpur could have been properly handled had the people at the helm been matured. The communal violence took place despite the administration being well informed about the vulnerable places in the Sambalpur town. The police have so far arrested 100 people on charges of violence. The state also suspended internet service for 10 days.

One can now safely say that the Odisha government has rightly suspended the internet service at the proper time. Had there been delay in internet service suspension, things would have been further worse. The objective of the internet suspension was to prevent spread of rumor and it has been successful. Thanks to the decision makers for checking the violence to spread to other places in the state.             

The people of Odisha have seen the power of social media in the recent past. The Drivers Mahasangha created a huge movement by using Whatsapp. The drivers who were never organized in the past, however, this time remain united and the state has witnessed how a Whatsapp message can keep the folks together and create a mass movement.

Hindutva was never been a factor in Odisha politics. However, the fear of BJP taking advantage of the Hindu sentiments was also responded to by the BJD government. Apart from Shree Jagannath Temple in Puri, the state’s BJD government has developed infrastructure and amenities of different Hindu shrines in its 5th term between 2019 and 2023. This is not all; even Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik also visited a ‘Go Shala’ (cow shed) in order to give a clear message to the people that BJD was also committed to protection of cows, one of the major issues of BJP. Funds are now pumped in for renovation of several major temples across the state.

Anyway, under the changed circumstances, Odisha to certain extent has positively responded to Hard Core Hindutva. Time will tell whether Odisha’s future politics will be on religion centric or maintain its original Shree Jagannath culture.