02/10/2009, 00.00
INDIA
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With political discrimination in the wake of pogroms, Orissa Christians cannot vote

In Kandhamal refugees are left off voters’ list. More than 70,000 have no papers, segregated in refugee camps, far from their villages. They might find it impossible to vote in the upcoming federal and local elections, scheduled for April and May.
Bhubaneshwar (AsiaNews) – Orissa’s anti-Christian pogroms are having more political fallout. After being on the receiving end of violence last August Christians now could experience outright political discrimination in the upcoming April-May elections.

The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) is warning that more than 70,000 Christian voters might not be able to exercise their right to vote in federal and local elections. Some 50,000 Christians who fled their villages at the height of the anti-Christian violence and tens of thousands who followed them afterwards into neighbouring states are now without identity papers or voters’ cards, which were burnt during the pogrom, unable to go back home.

GCIC National President Sajan K. George wrote to the chief election commissioner and the Election Commission of India, urging them to rapidly find a way to have the names of Christian voters on the voters’ lists.

“For us the fact that the names of voters forced into refugee camps are not on voters’ lists is a sign of bad faith’. Mr George said. Depriving someone of their voting right “is a way to disenfranchise and stifle the Christian minority.”

The authorities in Kandhamal district in association with the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) are planning to hand out new identity cards and duplicates of electoral photo identity cards (EPIC) to the population. However, unless refugees go back home they cannot get them.

Local sources told AsiaNews that refugees cannot go back to their home villages because majority Hindus still claim that they were forcibly converted and continue to discriminate against them.

“A man left a refugee camp to go back to Nuaschia village to fix his home which had been destroyed during the attacks. After a whole day of work removing the rubbles he went back to the camp for the night. The next day he was back in the village to continue working on his house, but found it full of human excrements,” a source said.

“The government has allocated so little money, 10,000 rupees (US$ 200), to compensate people who had their homes destroyed or damaged,” a Christian from Kandhamal said.

The government “also said that it was safe to go back to our villages. But the fact is that it is not; there still is fear and insecurity. Many Christians have accepted the money but bought shacks in other villages. None of them have yet to go home.”  (NC)

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