» 11/20/2008, 00.00
Orissa authorities admit more anti-Christian attacks possible
Chief Minister acknowledges that not every block in state has been pacified despite the authorities’ best efforts. Farmers’ flight into the forest has jeopardized this year’s harvest. Christian leaders prepare memorandum, laying out necessary emergency steps, for Union cabinet’s consideration.
Bhubaneshwar (AsiaNews) – Three months after anti-Christian violence broke out in Kandhamal, Orissa’s Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik admitted that at least three of the district’s 12 predominantly Tribal blocks “are not yet calm”. Previously for weeks he had repeated that “everything was under control”. His change of heart coincided with the arrival of three Union ministers in the state.
“Raikia, G Udaygiri and Tikabali blocks are not yet calm as it should be,” the chief minister said a few hours after Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar described the situation in Kandhamal as “tense” though efforts were on to restore normalcy.
Patnaik did never the less say that peace and harmony had to be restored to make it easier for refugees to come home.
Government officials are in fact complaining that economic activities could come to a complete halt in the district as land lay uncultivated following owners’ flight, general insecurity and persistent fear of new attacks.
Farming stopped in late August as farmers took to the forests. Harvest has not yet started and if there is no change to the situation, most of the produce is bound to be lost.
Orissa Christian leaders handed the three visiting Union minister a memorandum, highlighting what they believe are the priorities of the situation.
The delegation from the central government included Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment Meira Kumar and Tribal Affairs Minister Paty Ripple Kyndiah. In the document handed to the ministers, bishops and human rights activists describe some of things they would like to see addressed in the next Union cabinet meeting.
Christians want local elections in some Kandhamal districts to be postponed, an end to physical and verbal violence against the Christian community, and the condemnation of the bandh (general strike) called by Hindu fundamentalists against last year’s Christmas celebrations
Christians demand the right to celebrate Christmas free of any threat of new violence or attacks. They want displaced people to be able to come home and resume their work as usual, ‘Peace Committees’ to be established in every block with adequate representation from all religious groups, temporary offices set up to issue legal papers and an end to forced conversions.
Mgr Raphael Cheenath, archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneshwar, Swarupananda Patra, chairman of the Orissa Minority Forun, and Sajan K. George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians, are among those who signed the petition presented to government representatives.
Orissa bishops call on government to rebuild churches by Christmas
The request is made in a letter addressed to the state’s chief minister, Naveen Patnaik, to help things get back to normal. However, violence and forced re-conversion to Hinduism are still taking place in the state, generating fear and terror. The bishops call on the central government to continue the deployment of special forces in the state until after the upcoming election which is scheduled for 9 April next year.
Orissa government cuts death toll from anti-Christian pogrom
The authorities reject the list of dead submitted by the diocese of Bhubaneshwar. The president of the Global Council of Indian Christians says the government is reducing the number relying “false justifications” in an attempt “to cut compensation to the victims.” In Kandhamal tensions remain high as Hindu extremists try to storm a refugee camp at night.
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.
Orissa bishop slams forced conversion of Catholics to Hinduism
Cases have been reported in more than ten villages in Kandhamal District. In talks with the state’s chief minister, Mgr Raphael Cheenath, archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, calls for a greater effort to fight discrimination. “The state describes itself as secular; hence, it should not condone such violence,” he said.
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A day of remembrance is called for 23 August to commemorate the assassination of Hindu leader and the victims of the anti-Christian pogrom. Mgr Cheenath, archbishop of Cuttack- Bhubaneswar, is among the promoters of the initiative. India and the world should remember the event so that violence against religious minorities is stopped around the world.
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