Dangs: There is an uneasy calm in Dangs ahead of the Gujarat assembly elections.

As saffron motifs have begun dotting the landscape, tension in the communally sensitive region is palpable. But the issue remains of religion, politics and extreme poverty.

Religious Divisiveness

Two years ago, the town was the epicenter of violent clashes between Hindu activists and the local Christian community.

The Christian Missionary School was burnt down by right wing Hindu activists in 1998. And the attacks on the Church and the schools had forced the Prime Minister to call for a national debate on conversions.

Now the school may be bustling again but the morning prayers mask an uneasy calm.

Just behind the wall, saffron motifs flutter proudly from virtually every house in the village of Subir. They have come up almost overnight in an attempt to stir Hindu sentiments ahead of the elections.

“The tension is building up again in Dangs. The immediate reason is political, but Hindutva forces are making inroads here,” says Father Anthony of the Christian Missionary School.

Sidelining development issues

But the overt display of saffron masks a grim reality. The villages here are dotted with empty houses, as extreme poverty forced their inhabitants to migrate into urban areas