10/16/2008, 00.00
INDIA
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Sangh Parivar wants to remove every Christian trace in Orissa

by Nirmala Carvalho
Christians are not allowed to pray even in government-run refugee camps. The ground on which homes and churches once stood are taken over and “cleansed” of every trace of violence. Hindus tell raped nun to marry her rapist. The hue and cry is still on for Christians.
Bhubaneshwar (AsiaNews) – The Hindu fundamentalist groups that have been involved for more than a month in Orissa’s anti-Christian pogrom are becoming more methodical. Sometimes with police assistance they prevent Christians from meeting to pray, try to murder new converts, and are trying to take over the land where churches and Christian homes once stood in order to wipe off the face of the earth any trace of Christian presence. Whilst Indian public opinion is shocked by the violence, especially by the rape of a nun, Hindu radicals want to reintroduce a tribal law that would have the rape victim marry her rapist.

The destruction of 180 churches and 4,500 homes, burnt and razed to the ground, and the 50,000 refugees this has generated are but the first chapter in a programme whose ultimate goal is to do away with Christianity in this state from the roots up. Christians are treated like criminals even in refugee camps set up by the government for those who fled their homes.

After visiting three such camps, Fr Ajay Singh, director of Jan Vikas, a centre for social action run by the diocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneshwar, told AsiaNews that “our people are being treated like animals. They have been given just one blanket per family and sanitation and hygiene are simply non-existent. But what is even more tragic is the fact that they are not even allowed to pray, and are instead closely monitored by security forces. Women are particularly vulnerable—they are not allowed to get any counselling so that their emotional health is deteriorating rapidly.”

Outside, in the villages already destroyed by the Hindu fundamentalist fury, things are not getting any better. According to eyewitness accounts collected by the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), the Sangh Parivar (an umbrella organisation of Hindu extremist groups) has began “cleansing” the land where Christians had their homes and churches, torched to the ground in the past weeks.

They are even pulling out the bricks from foundations, filling up holes in the ground, removing marks indicating demarcation  lines of fields owned by Christians so as to divide them up among themselves.

“Their goal is to use fraudulent means to take over Christian property,” said GCIC Chairman Sajan K George, “showing that there was no Christian presence, no Christian house, no Christian church. I am concerned that they might start building Hindu temples on land where Christian homes and churches once stood.”

For him behind this purge there might be another motive. “Hindu radicals want to hide from public opinion the evidence of their brutality against innocent people now that Indians have seen what their attacks have done.”

Indian newspapers are in fact full of stories describing the tragic events, especially Hindu violence against women, with the rape of a nun as the lowest point.

In response to public criticism for its inaction in this case, Orissa state authorities have held three Hindu activists, Mitu Patnaik, Saroj Ghadai and Munna Ghadai, who were arrested in Kerala a month after the fact. All three are from Baliguda (Orissa).

In view of the gravity of the situation Hindu fundamentalist publications and organisations have launched a campaign to play down the facts.

Lal Krishna Advani, leader of the fundamentalist-friendly Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), condemned the rape as a “shameful crime” but other related groups like the Bajrang Dal are raising doubts, saying that the he nun might have been “consenting”.

Last Monday also saw five thousand radical Hindu women demonstrate in K Nuagaon demanding that “the victim marry her rapist in accordance with local tradition.”

As if this was not enough the anti-Christian campaign has opened a new chapter in its attempt to stop conversions to Christianity, forcing instead new converts to re-convert to Hinduism by threats of violence

Last Sunday a student association, the Kandhamal Chatra Sangharsa Samiti, called for a moratorium on conversions by Christian NGOs to honour the late Swami Laxamananda Saraswati whose lifetime work (for 45 years) was to stop Christian conversions.

It was his murder by a Maoist group that unleashed the anti-Christian rage because Hindu fundamentalists blamed Christians for his death.

As part of this campaign Hindu fanatics in Kandhamal district have prepared a reconvert-or-die list that includes people like Pabitra Mohan Katta, a man from Adigar village. Ten years ago Pabitra was a follower of Swami Laxamananda and a member of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) before he became a Christian. On 26 August his home was set on fire but he managed to get out unscathed thanks to his Hindu brother’s intervention. A few days later his brother’s home was however torched as well.

Meanwhile some Christians are “reconverting” (see photo) to Hinduism, forced to burn Bibles and prayer books, have their heads shaved, coerced into drinking cow urine (to purify them), placed for days under the watchful eye of Hindu groups so that they do not have any contacts with their former co-religionists.

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