02/04/2010, 00.00
INDIA

Orissa: state government removes Christians as EU delegations arrives

Extremists had forced a group of 91 Christians, victims of religious violence in August 2008, to leave their native village to seek shelter in a refugee camp. Now they are being “cleansed” ahead of a visit by a European delegation.
G Udaigiri (AsiaNews) – The Government of Orissa has forced a group of 91 Christians, victims of the religious violence of 2008, to set up a shantytown on the outskirts of G Udaigiri. Now they are being threatened of forced removal from there as well, as part of a forced “cleansing” operation before the visit by a European delegation to the State today and tomorrow. The All India Christian Council has sent a letter a letter to the delegation from the European Union and the State government expressing its deep concern over the decision.

In the letter, John Dayal, who is the council’s secretary general and a member of the National Integration Council, explains who the refugees are and why they are being persecuted.

The families are originally from the villages of Killaka, Kutuluma, Rotingia-Porakia, Kiramaha, Dokadia, G-Mangia, Ratingia, Dhangarama, Lorangia, Dakapala, Rudiangia, in Raikia and other blocks.  [. . .] they had to flee their villages in the first wave of violence on 25-26 August 2008,” the letter said.

Right after the attack, these “families were resettled in a government refugee camp. In the past few months, the government of Orissa has shut down the camp and dispersed its residents. Some of the men have found work in shops in G Udaigiri or farms around the town, but none of them has received any support or assistance from the government.” Instead, “they have always been subjected to harassment by local residents,” Dayal said.

The reason is simple. “Only by converting to Hinduism can these families get any help. Now however with the arrival of the European delegation, the local government has changed its tune.  The local market committee secretary, Jeevan Pattnaik, came with uniformed men to clear the camp. Once again, Christians were forced to leave and so set up their shanties along the road.”

The misadventures of the 91 Christians were not over though. “When I left, at 10 am, a government representative came saying that he would be back to clear the shanties from the road. Some protested, to no avail. Now we want their situation to be solved. These Christians should not be forced to convert to Hinduism in order to live in a dignified manner.”

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