12/22/2010, 00.00
INDIA

Orissa, Hindu radicals threaten a Christmas pogrom against Christians

Nirmala Carvalho
The Kui Samaj, a fundamentalist movement, has convoked a rally on Dec. 25 to "honor the memory” of one of its members who was injured while destroying a church and later died in unclear circumstances. Christians in India urge the authorities to intervene to prevent an announced massacre, similar to that of 2007.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) - A radical Hindu movement, the Kui Samaj, says it will hold a rally in Kandahamal district on Christmas Day, an area that has been the scene of tragic anti-Christian violence in Orissa. The Global Council of Indian Christians reports that the announcement has caused panic among Christians in the region. "We're scared. Please do something”, implored Kartika Nayak, a Christian youth from the village of Barkham, who witnessed the anti-Christian violence of Christmas 2007. Nayak was among those accused of killing Khageswar Mallick, a tribal Hindu, on Christmas Day of that year. Kartika Nayak said that Mallick was injured while trying to destroy a church. Hindu radicals then took him away to get it treated. Mallick died in mysterious circumstances, and since then the Hindus have been trying to blame Christians for his death.

On 19 December, Lambodar Kanhar, leader of Kandhamal Kui Samaj, informed reporters that his group would hold the rallies to honor Mallick. Local Christians say Hindu radicals have held closed meetings and distributed leaflets asking people to observe the “memorial day.” Bipra Charan Nayak - no relation- convener of Kandhamal Survivors Association, recalled that Kanhar had called for a general strike on 2007 Christmas in the district. “It resulted in violence that killed three Christians and torched 750 houses and 115 churches, convents and dispensaries,” he said. Bipra said Christians fear the cycle of violence would recur in this Christmas season if the administration failed to act.

Umesh Nayak, a local Christian leader - no relation to the two mentioned above -, who was part of the district collector’s peace meetings, says government assurances do not assuage Christians’ fear. He recalled that Kandhamal experienced seven-week anti-Christian violence starting August 2008 despite promises of safety from the federal minister, who visited them in relief camps in that January. Itikera Sunamajhi, a tribal leader, said they do not want December 2007 repeated. “Definitely, there is a fear among the Christians. We have told the collector about it and the administration has assured us that it would take necessary measures”.

The problem has the support of the President that the Council of Christians, Sajan George, who has written to Prime Minister of Orissa. “Panic is spreading among Christians in Kandhamal after KSSS announced plans to hold rallies on Christmas day. The rally announced is a stalk reminder of brutality and deceit being carried out in Barakama on the Christmas  day of 2007.Now, the radicals want to observe Christmas day as his ‘memorial’ and thousands of leaflets are send out to whip up passion .Christians fear the cycle of violence would recur in this Christmas season if the administration failed to act with determination to curb the sinister move". Sajan George recalls that in 2007 the anti-Christian violence in Kandhamal district had no precedent in Indian history. A total of 730 houses were destroyed, along with 115 churches. The nine dead were Christians, many women raped and more than 40 businesses and shops damaged. And the letter closes with a plea: "Mr. Minister, we ask you to restore confidence in this tiny Christian minority."

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