12/22/2008, 00.00
INDIA
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Greater security in Orissa as Hindu extremists agree to no Christmas demonstrations

Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik reaches deal with a delegation of Hindu nationalist groups. In Mumbai hotels targeted in 26 November attacks re-open in ceremony attended by all major religious groups.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) – The authorities in Orissa's communally sensitive Kandhamal district have sought more security forces from the state government, following threats of strikes and demonstrations by radical Hindu groups. “We may have violence.” For this reason we “have sought three companies of the Rapid Action Forces (RAF) and two units of the ODRAF (Orissa Disaster Rapid Action Force),” district collector Krishan Kumar said.

Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik met representatives of Hindu groups in order to get them to call off demonstrations planned for Christmas. The groups’ leaders accepted telling the authorities that no demonstrations or official marches will take place during Christian holidays and for the following two months.

The Orissa government had already banned all marches or demonstrations for 25 December.

Initially the nationalists had agreed to the ban so long as the authorities could close the case on the murder of Laxmanananda Saraswati, Viśhwa Hindū Parishad (VHP) leader assassinated on 23 August.

Fear of Christmas demonstrations had led a Christian delegation to meet Orissa’s chief minister.

Led My Mgr Raphael Cheenath, archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, the group met Mr Naveen Patnaik to express their communities’ concerns and to ask for greater security during the Christmas holidays.

Following anti-Christian violence that began in September some 4,000 police agents were deployed in the district. The arrival of more police forces might further reduce tensions in the district.

“We have organised more than 150 peace rallies across the district and have intensified patrolling on the roads. Every vehicle coming to the district is being checked,” Kumar said.

"We are also identifying possible trouble-makers on the basis of intelligence inputs and asking them to give in writing that they will not create any disturbance," he added.

Hindu radicals “had no other option but to call off the bandh (general strike) as the entire country opposed their move to create more trouble in riot-hit Kandhamal,” said Bhala Chandra Sarangi, a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist).

In Mumbai in the meantime, the Trident-Oberoi and the Taj Mahal Hotels re-opened their doors after the 26 November terrorist attacks.

Before welcoming guests the hotels organised public receptions for civil and religious authorities as well as staff.

The Trident-Oberoi hosted Sikh, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Jain, Zoroastrian and Christian leaders who took part in a commemorative prayer for the victims of the attacks.

Raymond Bickson, managing director of the Indian Hotel Company which owns the Taj, said that the quick re-opening “is a reassertion of values like courage, resistance and dignity” and the “right tribute to the victims.”

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