05/12/2009, 00.00
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Orissa government cuts death toll from anti-Christian pogrom

by Nirmala Carvalho
The authorities reject the list of dead submitted by the diocese of Bhubaneshwar. The president of the Global Council of Indian Christians says the government is reducing the number relying “false justifications” in an attempt “to cut compensation to the victims.” In Kandhamal tensions remain high as Hindu extremists try to storm a refugee camp at night.
New Delhi (AsiaNews) – The Orissa State government and the diocese of Bhubaneshwar, in the State’s capital, are at loggerheads over the number of people who were killed in last August’s anti-Christian pogroms. State authorities have reported fewer casualties than Mgr Raphael Cheenath, archbishop of Cuttak-Bhubaneshwar.

“The petitioner's list included the names of RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) activists, Dhanurjaya Pradhani, Ajit Kumar Mallick and Prabhat Panigrahi, allegedly killed by naxalites,” said the authorities for whom 42 people, and not 93, died in the Hindu-led anti-Christian violence.

“In ten cases people are still alive, in 25 cases people have died because of chronic and other medical problems, in 12 cases the reference/history of the persons with reported names could not be traced in villages mentioned against their names, and in two cases the villages mentioned could not be located,” the State government said.

Contacted by AsiaNews, Sajan K George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), slammed the government “for its false justifications”, its failure to assume responsibilities for the refugees and its attempt “to cut compensation to the victims.”

“Saying that people are missing, does not mean that they disappeared in thin air,” said the GCIC president.

What is more, the government is trying to exclude people who died from their wounds months after the violence.

The GCIC has a list of 123 people killed during the anti-Christian violence, which includes everyone who became a victim of the violence perpetrated by the Sangh Parivar, the nationalist umbrella group that includes the RSS.

George does not exclude the possibility that his list might include the names of some Hindu extremists, but rejects out of hand the State’s attempt to impose its shorter list over that provided by the diocese of   Bhubaneshwar.

In their latest claim State authorities even contradict what they had reported last year.

In November 2008 during a visit to Kandhamal by a delegation of the Communist Party of India-Marxist Leninist (CPI_ML), a State official had estimated the death toll to be around 500 people, saying that he had personally authorised the cremation of at least 200 people (see AsiaNews report).

Fr Dibya Singh, who represents the Church before state authorities, also rejects speculation by the authorities. As far as he is concerned, the state claim that ten people are still alive “is not true.”

“People died either in the relief camps or elsewhere. Two, who were nearly beaten to death, succumbed to their injuries later,” he explained.

In the meantime the situation in Kandhamal remains tense. Last night some Hindu extremists tried to storm a camp in Mondakia where about 1,500 Christian refugees have found shelter but were stopped by police.

Also yesterday Khands (known as Kondhs as well), an aboriginal tribe that represents more than 50 per cent of the population in Kandhamal district, filed a petition in the Supreme Court, accusing the government of Orissa of favouring Christians and expropriating their land to give to refugees for church building.

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See also
Curfew imposed again in Orissa after Hindu activist is killed
More than 500 cases of anti-Christian violence in 23 months
India's Hindu Radical go on the offensive, calling for a stop to conversions to Christianity and Islam
Hindu extremists slander the Church but send their children to Church-run schools
Pressures on Indian president to stop anti-Christian violence in Orissa


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