It is “[n]eedless to reiterate,” the bishop said, “that the first and foremost requirement for holding a free and fair poll is a secure and peaceful environment where the candidates and their supporters [. . .] enjoy freedom of movement and speech to go round to every nook and corner of a constituency to meet the voters and canvas votes from them. [. . .] at the same time, the socio-cultural environment of the constituencies should [. . .] enable citizens [. . .] to speak out, propagate [their views] and join in any rally or meeting in favour of a party or candidate of his/her choice.”
In the bishop’s view these “foremost requirements” are absent in Kandhamal, the district in Orissa most affected by sectarian violence, where more than 50,000 Christians and Dalits are targeted by violence: the former from Hindu fundamentalists; the latter from “Maoists and M-2”.
According to the bishop of Bhubaneshwar, in the district some 3,200 people are still stranded in government-run refugee camps set up after last August anti-Christian pogroms.
What is more “as the entire nation knows, the situation in Kandhamal, greatly disturbed by the continuing communal holocaust since the last week of August 2008, is still very tense and abnormal, completely unsuitable to [. . .] a peaceful electoral process, let alone free and fair polls on the scheduled dates.” Hence “we consider the Kandhamal situation as exceptionally abnormal and therefore unsuitable to the scheduled holding of Lok Sabha and Assembly polls.”