07/29/2010, 00.00
INDIA
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Orissa: Christians and Hindus, Dalits and tribals of Kandhamal march for peace

by Santosh Digal
Over one thousand people march through the streets of Bhubaneswar to ask local authorities to ensure justice and peace after the anti-Christian pogrom of 2008. Dalits and tribal peoples complain of continuing discrimination by the Hindus.

Bhunasewar (AsiaNews) - More than a thousand of Christians, Hindus, Dalits and tribals of Kandhamal (Orissa) have marched through the streets of Bhubaneswar, capital of Orissa, demanding peace and tranquility in the district, the epicenter of anti-Christian pogrom of 2008.

Christian social worker and event organizer Hemant Nayak said the march aims to raise awareness of the local government to use all means at its disposal to bring justice to Kandhamal and prevent renewed violence against Christians in the future.

Between December 2007 and August 2008, Hindu extremists have killed 93 people, burned and looted over 6500 homes, destroyed over 350 churches and 45 schools. Because of the pogroms over 50 thousand people were displaced and many of them are still homeless.

After marching in Bhubaneswar, the protest leaders presented a memorandum to the State authorities requesting the development of economic and social projects for the people of Kandhamal.

"We want to keep open the question of Kandhamal - Nayak says – we do not want people to forget what happened. The local administration has to address our needs and our fears".

In addition to Christians the pogroms targeted Dalits and tribal populations in the district. By exploiting the climate of lawlessness and impunity, many Hindus from other areas of the region, have settled in villages with the help of radicals. To date they exploit and mistreat the untouchables, who decided to march together with Christians.

Fr. Prasanna Kumar Pradhan, a priest of Kandhamal, said: "We are trying to promote peace in the district. Dalits and Tribals also want peace. " "They - he adds - are proud of their traditions and need to feel accepted."  

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