10/07/2008, 00.00
INDIA
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Hindu radicals continue to accuse Christians. The police begin arrests in Orissa

by Nirmala Carvalho
Even after the Maoists claimed responsibility for the killing of Swami Laxmanananda, groups of fundamentalists affirm that his killing was decided "during a pastoral council," to offer "a sacrifice to God." Diocese of Bhubaneshwar: the lies are increasing the persecution.

Bhubaneshwar (AsiaNews) - This morning, dozens of homes belonging to Christians were attacked and burned in the village of Sukuli, in the district of Kalahandi in Orissa. Kalahandi is on the border with Kandhamal, where since August 23 there has been a pogrom against the Christians and their institutions, which is gradually expanding into other areas of the country. Meanwhile, the police have arrested Hindus - responsible for the violence against Christians - and Maoists, accused of killing a radical Hindu swami, who the fundamentalists say was killed by the Christians. Militant organizations continue to accuse the Christians, fabricating false evidence.

Security forces, the government of Orissa, and the central government have been highly criticized in recent weeks for their inability to prevent the attacks or defend Christians from looting, burning, and distraction.

Almost as if to respond to this accusation, yesterday the police of Orissa arrested 40 people connected to the violence against Christians. A representative of the interior ministry of Orissa has stated that so far, the police have arrested at least 1,000 people connected directly or indirectly to the violence. Of these, at least 500 are from Kandhamal.

Yesterday, the police arrested three people for their involvement in the assassination of radical Hindu leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, killed last August 23. They are Duryodhan Sunamajhi, Munda Badamajhi, and Sanatan Badamajhi, all active members of the communist party (Maoist) of India.

A few days ago, Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda claimed responsibility for the killing of the swami, as his party had already done on August 23. But the police preferred to follow the line of investigation suggested by Hindu fundamentalists, according to whom it was the Christians who killed the swami. These accusations generated the pogroms of recent weeks.

This rumor, which has now spread all over India, is taking time to die out.

Yesterday, after the claim of responsibility by the Maoist leader, a radical Hindu group, the Jagaran Samukhya (JS) again declared that the assassination of the swami was "a pre-planned conspiracy executed by the Church." Ashok Kumar Sahu, national president of the JS,says that the decision to eliminate the swami was made at the pastoral council of the parish of Betikola in Kandhamal, last May 25. Sahu has also circulated the alleged minutes of the meeting, which stated: "As according to the command of our bishop, it was decided to offer those (who indulged in Satanic activities opposing our expansion) as sacrifice at the altar of the Lord." According to the published "minutes," a date - August 23 - was set for the execution, intended to be followed by a great victory celebration.

The pastoral council that, according to Sahu, authored the minutes, has denounced them as false, saying that their signatures were forged.

The archbishop of Bhubaneshwar, Raphael Cheenath, reached by telephone in Delhi, says: "That parish belongs to the Christians and there is absolutely no question of making a sacrifice, besides such far fetched activities must be condemned and district authorities must take firm and immediate necessary steps to stop this false michievous disinformation from spreading. From the very beginning, it was clear that the Maoists were responsible for the tragic and condemnable murder of Swami Laxamananda.  I am very sorry to say that the state government did not come out clearly that the Moaists were responsible, in fact this morning the government said that they had incriminating evidence with regards to Guruji's death - this only causes suspicison and confusion in the minds of people."

According to the Maoist leader who claimed responsibility for the assassination, the government covered up the evidence that proved who committed the murder.

Fr. Mrutyunjay Digal, the secretary of the diocese, confirms that these "minutes" published and diffused by the JS are "malicious." "Betticola is my parish, I was baptized, confirmed, and received other sacraments in that parish - the entire area is strong in Catholic faith. In December 2007, our church was destroyed by the rampaging extremists venting their fury and violence on our peaceful Christian community of Kandhamal and specifically my parish. Extremists forged an entry into the parish council minutes stating that 'a sacrifice to be offered to the Lord of the one who is making obstacles for the spread of His work'."

Last August 27, the parish was again attacked by groups of Hindu fundamentalists. "My older brother," the priest continues, "along with my other childhood friends were tonsured, forced to drink cow dung water and chant Hindu shlokas. Now these baseless and completely fabricated parish council minutes are another persecution for our community. Thousands of Christians in the region have been subjected to conversion ceremonies under threat of violence and death."

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