10/04/2008, 00.00
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Christian father and son hacked to death in Orissa

by Nirmala Carvalho
The man was a very influential Christian leader. Radical Hindus seek to eliminate community leaders. Widespread mistrust of police action. Four extremists have been arrested after a long delay, accused of raping a sister.

Bhubaneshwar (AsiaNews) - Two tribal Christians, a father and his son, were killed by a group of Hindu extremists on the night of October 2 in the village of Sindhupanka, in the district of Kandhamal.

They were Dushashan Majhi and his 15-year-old son, Shyam Sunder Majhi. The two were sleeping amid the remains of their home, destroyed the day before by Hindu radicals. Dushashan was the leader of a Christian community, highly respected and influential. The elimination of community leaders has become the prime objective of fundamentalist groups, to stop the action of Christians and what they call "forced conversions".

A local source tells AsiaNews: "Dushashan was an important community leader and had stood for elections for the local village council last year. Recently, Dushashan had filed charges against some extremists who burnt down a church in the village in the violence in the wake of the murder of the Swami Laxamananada".

The swami's death, which police believe to have been the work of the Maoists, unleashed a pogrom against Christians and their institutions on August 24, which has spread from the district of Kandhamal (Orissa) to other states of the confederation.

"These fundamentalists", the source continues, "are targeting influential Christian leaders and systematically eliminating them. Dushashan and his son were sleeping in their demolished house, were dragged outside by radicals in the dead of the night and hacked  to death with an axe".

The police confirmed this account last night. But many witnesses accuse the police of  inaction, and of failing to guarantee the safety of the Christian population. Others speak openly of complicity.

One example comes from an incident in recent days, in which four Hindu radicals were arrested under the accusation of raping a sister in Baliguda. The violence took place last August 24. Female doctors visited the sister on the night of the incident, and presented a report confirming sexual violence within 72 hours. But the police held onto the report and made the arrests only on October 1. And only on October 3, 38 days after the fact, did Naveen Patnaik, chief minister of Orissa, speak out against the incident, calling it "savage" and "shameful".

The police chief of Baliguda has been put on probation. But many Christians are convinced that all of these decisions have taken place only because of the bad publicity for the government of Orissa, after news of the rape hit the national newspapers.

But local Church sources tell AsiaNews that even the four arrestees are simply scapegoats intended to stop the criticism of inaction against the police and the government, and that they are not responsible for raping the sister.

Photo: a Christian girl who escaped the burning of her home in Kandhamal

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