Bhubaneswar (AsiaNews) - The chief minister of Orissa, Naveen Patnaik (pictured), did not utter a word in favour of the Christians of Kandhamal during his visit to the district most affected by the Hindu pogrom.
In his one day tour, Patnaik launched a health program for 60 thousand students in the district, the Vidyalaya Swasthya Yojana, inaugurated a hostel of a school for girls, opened a centre for neonatal care in the district hospital, donating 7 ambulances and bicycles for all employees and announced the allocation of over 300 thousand dollars for a program named after his father, former chief minister Biju Patnaik of the State, aimed at developing the roads, water and electricity supply in the district.
The program of the visit by Patnaik touched places linked to the main problems of Kandhamal. But the chief minister, who visited the district for the second time, never mentioned the situation of Christians who can not return to their villages of origin and are subjected to constant threats by extremist Hindus.
Fr. Dibakar Parichha, a priest of the diocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar following the legal proceedings of the victims of the pogroms, points out that Patnaik’s behaviour is even more striking when one considers that his visit to Kandhamal occurred on 1 October, the eve of the International Day for Non-violence. "The Chief Minister - says a disappointed Fr. Parichha - could at least have said something about peace and reconciliation of which our district is in great need. He could also have encouraged Christians by telling them that the state has them in mind".
Prasan Biso, a Catholic of 45 years and local human rights activist, drew bitter conclusions from Patnaik’s visit: "He didn’t even say a word. This means that the state has forgotten about us". Harsher still the judgement of Deobhanja Pradhan, a Christian witness to the violence of tribal Hindus, who is still forced to live in seclusion. Speaking to AsiaNews he says that the lack of a minimum reference to the persecution "reflects the typical attitude of the administration in Orissa against Christians."