10/08/2011, 00.00
INDIA

Orissa: Hindu extremists plant a flag on the rubble of a church under reconstruction

Nirmala Carvalho
The place of worship was destroyed in 2008, during the pogrom against Christians that caused hundreds of dead. The local community had recovered materials to rebuild the building. The fundamentalists, with the connivance of police and government want to seize the land. Indian activist: government "sympathizes" with the extremist wing.
Bhubaneswar (AsiaNews) - The government is"sympathetic to the Hindu extremist wing " and does not intervene to quell "provocations" against Christians in Orissa, denounces Indian activist Sajan K. George to AsiaNews, commenting on the last episode against the religious minority: October 6 last more than 400 Hindu fanatics planted a saffron flag - the official symbol of Hinduism – on the rubble of a Catholic church, destroyed during the anti-Christian pogroms of 2008. According to police, the flag was removed by unknown persons last night. However, tension remains high in the area and there is an creeping sense of increasing hopelessness and abandonment among Christians, ignored by government and law enforcement.

In recent weeks the Christian community had accumulated building materials to rebuild the parish church of Raikia in the village of Bakingia, Kandhamal district, belonging to the Archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, Orissa (eastern India). The building was destroyed by Hindu fundamentalists in 2008, during the anti-Christian violence that caused hundreds of casualties. On October 6, Vijaya Dashami festival for the Hindu community, which is celebrating these days the festival of the goddess Durga, hundreds of extremists planted the saffron flag. The area, according to their leader Bhaskar Pradha, belonged to their ancestors.

Despite the protests of the Christian minority, which turned to local government authorities and the police, no one intervened to remove the banner from the site where the local parish church once stood. Local sources report that last night, someone removed the Hindu symbol, but the tension between the two communities remains high so much so that the area is guarded by dozens of police. Archbishop John Barwa, of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, immediately informed the head of the district Rajesh Patil. In response, he advised the Catholic leaders to send a letter of protest to the police. Yesterday a group of 15 people, led by parish priest Fr Probodh Kumar Pradhan, filed an appropriate complaint, but so far the police have not taken any measures. Administrators and police have also called for a meeting between Christian and Hindu leaders to settle the matter, but so far they have not confirmed an official summit.

Speaking to AsiaNews Fr Pradhan describes the "failure of government authorities" who are not able to control the situation. The reaction of Indian activist Sajan K George, president of Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) is even harsher who states that "the government's deafening silence is a source of fear and anxiety among Christians." He confirms that "the police who intervened in the affair did not take any measures", while in recent days "the local government had ordered a halt to the reconstruction of the Catholic Church." Local authorities, adds Sajan George, are conniving with the Hindu extremists because they "do not take action" against those who are "deliberately causing problems".

(Santosh Digal collaborated)

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