The district of Kandhamal in the diocese of Cuttack-Bubaneshwar (Orissa) is at the centre of this violence, the same one that in the recent past witnessed anti-Christian violence that left three people dead and saw 13 churches torched.
The new wave of destruction began yesterday morning and is still going on after Hindu leaders harangued crowds against the Christian community, urging them to destroy, accusing Christians of being behind the assassination of Hindu fundamentalist leader Swami Laxanananda Saraspati and five of his followers.
Laxanananda, who was behind last December’s anti-Christian violence, was killed between 9 and 10 pm last Saturday (23 August) in his ashram, in the district of Kandhamal. About 20 armed gunmen entered the place during yoga session and shot indiscriminately at those present, throwing grenades.
A few days before the Swami had been threatened by a Maoist group that wanted him out of the area, accusing him of fomenting ethno-religious conflict. His response was to call for a protest against Muslims in Jammu-Kashmir. However, radical Hindus took advantage of the situation in order to blame Christians.
Laxanananda’s organisation is well known for its opposition to Christian social activism in favour of Tribals and outcasts and for its accusations against bishops, priests and nuns for allegedly proselytising.
Tensions are running high throughout the diocese. Police forces have been deployed in several sensitive areas, albeit with little success. This morning in fact the bishop’s residence was attacked by stone throwers and news has just come in that another, recently built church was destroyed.
In the meantime the VHP has called for a day of strike, blocking roads and transportation throughout the state of Orissa. (NC)