Bhubaneshwar (AsiaNews) - The campaign of attacks against Christians in Orissa was planned for months. This is the claim of Lenin Raghuvanshi, director of the People's Vigilance Committee on Human Rights. Mr. Raghuvanshi visited Orisa as part of of a fact-finding team for the European commission for the prevention of torture.
Speaking to AsiaNews, he says that "In the Kandhamal district, it is very clear that a cleansing of marginalized Christian populace is taking place by RSS, BajrangDal and VHP cadres (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Bajrang Dal, Vishwa Hindu Parishad)."
The wave of violence has so far killed 61 people, injured 18,000, destroyed 4,500 homes, and burned and razed 181 churches. It was apparently motivated by the killing of Swami Laxamananda Saraswati, a leader of the VHP, last August 23. He was killed by a group of Maoists, but Hindu fundamentalist groups immediately accused the Christians of the assassination.
"In fact, on August 14," Raghuvanshi explains, "nearly 10 days before the death of Swami Laxamanada, a mob of RSS people came to Sahasipudar village and threatened the people of the perils of following the Christian faith . These extremists also warned the margnisalised Christian community that henceforth the Gita [editor's note: one of the sacred books of Hinduism] was their sacred book."
In Orissa, campaigns to reconvert Christian tribals and pariahs back to Hinduism date back for decades. The swami killed in August was himself a fierce promoter of this. Last December, on Christmas eve, he was the one who had pushed for new attacks against Christians, in which 13 homes were burned and 3 people killed, while thousands of faithful were forced to flee.
"After the December anti-Christian violence," Raghuvanshi says, "three families converted to Hinduism out of fear. It is most unfortunate, in a broken down church the picture of Swami Laxamandanda has been installed."
Mr. Lenin Raghuvanshi recently won the “Acha Peace Star” prize for his efforts for reconciliation among communities in India. Commenting further on the violence in Orissa and on his work with the fact-finding mission, he says: "We were witnesses to most deplorable and inhuman atrocities, most probably, these fundamentalists forces are whipping up communal frenzy with a view to the state elections scheduled next year. Here elections are won at the cost of human lives - how much lower can humanity stoop?"