10/06/2008, 00.00
INDIA
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Maoists killed the Hindu swami; government of Orissa concealed the evidence

The killing of the swami was the spark for the pogrom against the Christians. Government of Orissa asked to resign. The reconversion of Christian tribals and pariahs to Hinduism is a project underway for decades. Christian organizations call for the banning of radical Hindu groups.

Bhubaneshwar (AsiaNews) - A Maoist leader has again claimed responsibility for the death of Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, whose assassination unleashed the pogrom against Christians in Orissa.

He affirms that the authors of the killing left two letters at the scene of the crime, but the government kept them quiet in order to blame the Christians and allow them to be killed "for electoral purposes."

The swami, one of the leaders of the radical group VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad), was killed last August 23 in his ashram by a group of armed men. The VHP and the other fundamentalist organizations blamed the Christians immediately, although there were suspicions that the killing had been committed by Maoists.

Now the Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda is claiming responsibility for the death of the swami, because he forced tribals to become Hindu. "We ordered the death penalty for him," Panda said from a secret hiding place. He added that the killers left two letters behind, but the authorities concealed the evidence "so that they could get an excuse to attack Christians." Panda also affirms that he sought to release the news that his group was claiming responsibility through the local newspapers, but they refused to publish it.

"After the December 2007 communal violence in Kandhamal, we threatened to kill him if he and his supporters did not refrain from harassing tribals and Dalit Christians to change their religion."

Swami Laxamananda Saraswati and the VHP have for decades accused the Christian Churches of converting tribals and Dalits by force, deception, and the promise of economic benefits. Their anti-Christian campaign has been supported by landowners and merchants, fearful of the emancipation of Dalits and tribals.

The (false) accusations against the Christians unleashed a chain of violence that has so far caused the death of 61 people, the burning of more than 4,000 homes belonging to Christians, the destruction of 181 churches and chapels, and of 13 schools and social centers. Many villages, especially in the district of Kandhamal, are still being targeted. The Hindu radicals are threatening to kill anyone who does not convert back to Hinduism.

According to the Maoist leader, the chief minister of Orissa, Naveen Patnaik, should immediately resign, because he did not defend Christians and their property.

Christian organizations in India are also denouncing the inaction of the government of Orissa, and of the central government. But they are especially asking for the prohibition of radical Hindu groups, accused of being genuine "terrorist organizations." The VHP, the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh), the BD (Bajrang Dal) have the objective of eliminating minorities and all religions other than Hinduism. They find their political expression and protection in the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party), currently in the opposition in the confederation, but in power in Orissa.

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