08/13/2009, 00.00
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Orissa: maximum alert for the first anniversary of anti-Christian pogrom

by Nirmala Carvalho
Deployment of special forces in Kandhamal during the festival of Janmastami. It is the first anniversary of the murder of Swami Saraswati Laxmanananda that sparked the anti-Christian violence last August.

Bhubaneshwar (AsiaNews) - Twelve platoons of the Orissa State Armed Police Force and officials of 500 special police forces have been deployed in Kandhamal for the Hindu festival of Janmastami. In the summer of 2008, the anniversary was marked by the murder of Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, on August 23, that sparked Hindu violence against Christian communities in Orissa. This year's Janmastami falls on the 13th and is regarded by Hindu faithful as the first anniversary of Swami’s murder.  

All the police stations of Kandhamal are in a state of maximum alert, and a company of Central Reserve Police Force (Crpf) have been stationed in the district. Among the Christians of the region there is the fear that the event could lead to further and more cruel violence in villages that were the scene of bloody clashes over a year ago. The memory of the assault last August is still alive and is a source of fear for religious and lay people who have suffered at the hands of Hindu fanaticism.  

Sister Suma, Missionary of Charity in the parish of Shankarakole, explains to AsiaNews that the village "is a very sensitive area, very close to the Samadhi of Guruji, the burial place of the Swami”. On August 25 the parish was one of the first to suffer Hindu attacks. The clashes caused the death of Fr Bernard Digal, beaten for hours by the fundamentalists, who died after two months of agony from injuries sustained in the attack. The priest went to Shankarakole to meet the parish priest, Fr Chanda Alexander, who now remembers him saying: "Fr. Bernard is now in heaven interceding for all Kandhamal and especially for all priests”. Fr. Chanda survived the violence, and today continues to live among the people of the village "after one year not without tribulations and sufferings, but in which the community and the priests were able to experience the grace and love of God in their lives."

The pastor of Shankarakole returned to his mission in the village "to bring the love of God to people, helping them to rebuild their lives and communities, and prepare for new trials if they are faced with them".  

From August 2008 to the present there has been no end to attacks on Christians in Kandhamal. After the first fierce assaults, which have caused hundreds of deaths and thousands of refugees, the attacks did diminish, but small and lager episodes of violence have occurred throughout 2009.  

The climate of threat and insecurity continues to be palpable in many villages of the district and the situation is no different in other Indian states. On August 11, the All India Christian Council reported of an assault on the charitable works of the Protestant community in Annigere Gadag district in Karnataka. Activists from the Hindu movement Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh attacked the premises where the Evangelical Church has a assistance program for children, accusing those present of carrying out forced conversions.

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See also
Orissa: killing Christians to stop Tribals and Dalits from developing and achieving dignity
A year after the swami’s murder, a “day of peace and harmony” in Orissa
In Orissa Christians treated worse than animals, says Father Bernard
Orissa: more fears about radical Hindu violence on 23 August
Sangh Parivar wants to remove every Christian trace in Orissa


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