08/29/2008, 00.00
INDIA

Solidarity of Indian Hindus and Muslims with Christians in Orissa

The Christian community is receiving support from part of the Hindu world, which "condemns in no uncertain terms" the violence and massacres, and calls for "religious freedom" for all. Indian Muslims are also sympathizing with their affliction, and emphasizing the similarities with the 2002 massacre in Gujarat.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) - Marked by the massacres and violence in recent days that have rocked Orissa, the Christian community - still the target of the fundamentalists - is receiving solidarity from Muslims in the country and some of the Hindu world, who "disassociate themselves" from the attacks and "strongly condemn" the pogrom against the Christians.

"We condemn in no uncertain terms", affirms Srinivas Rao, principal of the Siddharta School in the district of Bargarh, "this violence against the Christian community. These extremists are doing grave harm wrong to our Christian brothers and sisters". Rao was one of the first to denounce the massacres and forcefully reject the logic of "violence". "I have Christian friends in Orissa", Srinivas Rao tells AsiaNews, "and never the issue of religion comes up, we are friends, that’s it, the Christians are normal ordinary people. All human beings have a right to their own religion and beliefs”, without restrictions or limitations.

Asked about the denunciation of possible "forced conversions" on the part of Christians, he affirms that he has "heard rumors about this", but emphasizes that these are "stories" that have been dreamed up, because "nothing that can be verified" has emerged. The fact remains, in any case, that "nothing can justify massacres or revenge".

Solidarity is also being expressed by the Indian Muslim Council, an association that works for human rights and religious freedom in the country, based in the United States. In a statement released yesterday, the activists denounce "in no uncertain terms the massacre against the Christians" perpetrated by Hindu extremists, who are called genuine "mercenaries". "This is nothing but  a repeat", the Indian Muslims affirm, "of the 2002 Gujarat carnage", when more than 3,000 Muslims, also a minority at risk in India, fell victim to the violence of Hindu extremists.

"If the state government, which is in alliance with the BJP, cannot maintain law and order and save the lives and property of its citizens, the central government should impose president’s rule and send the armed forces to stop the pogroms". Rasheed Ahmed, president of the Indian Muslim Council, calls the assassination of the Hindu leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati "deplorable", because "killing is a heinous crime irrespective of who the victim or perpetrator is". He also denounces the "complicity" of the police, who too often do not intervene to stop the massacres carried out by the fundamentalists. He concludes by asking for "immediate measures" to put an end to the violence.

(Nirmala Carvalho contributed to this report)

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