11/17/2009, 00.00
INDIA
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Orissa: European delegation meets victims of anti-Christian pogrom

Representatives from Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Iceland and Finland visit the region more than a year after it was shaken by violence. Authorities in New Delhi deny the diplomats permission to visit Kandhamal district. They meet ten survivors at the Bishop’s House in Bhubaneswar-Cuttack diocese. Bishop Cheenath said they expressed “concern” but “did not make any promises”.
Bhubaneshwar (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Representatives from five European countries are visiting Orissa to examine the conditions in which Christian refugees are living and look at the security situation in the area. The visit also includes meeting some of the people who survived the violence unleashed by Hindu fanatics.

The visit by envoys from Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Iceland and Finland did not include Kandhamal district because Indian federal authorities refused to give them permission. Nevertheless, yesterday they did meet Cuttack Director General of Police Manmohan Praharaj and other top police officials (pictured), and were able to speak to ten pogrom survivors brought to the state capital for a meeting at the Bishop’s House of the Bhubaneswar-Cuttack diocese.

The ambassadors representing the five north European countries did not make any public statement about what was said during the private meeting with survivors. All Danish Ambassador Aoulsen Ole Lonsmann would say is, “We had a private discussion with the victims,” but “we cannot share it with the public”.

Today the five envoys travelled to Kalahandi and Koraput, an area currently in turmoil because of Maoist rebels, to see the situation for themselves.

Mgr Raphael Cheenath, archbishop of Bhubaneswar-Cuttack, said the five diplomats expressed “concern” about the situation. They “listened to the victims, but did not promise anything,” the prelate explained.

The archbishop did however tell them about the anguish people endure a year after the pogrom, living far from home under threat.

"We think about 50,000 people fled Kandhamal during the riots. Now 50 per cent of them are back, but they are facing housing problems. The state government should take it up earnestly," Archbishop Cheenath said.

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