Orissa, killings and terror continue ahead of Christmas
by Nirmala Carvalho
A woman has been cut into pieces and thrown into the forest. Another has disappeared. Both of them had returned to the village to try to harvest rice for their families. The government is incapable of guaranteeing security. So far, no arrests have been made for the violence in recent months.

Bhubaneshwar (AsiaNews) - There is still widespread terror in the district of Kandhamal (Orissa), where for months attacks and killings have continued against the Christians. The government of Orissa is forcing Christians to return to their villages, but is not guaranteeing them any security.

In recent days, two Christian women have been killed in the district. They had returned to the village to try to harvest rice from their fields, hoping to provide food for their family.

One of them, Bimala Nayak, 52, was hacked to death with axes and thrown into the forest. Her body was found in three pieces, outside the village of Gubria. She had left the refugee camp of Nuagaon to harvest the rice from her plot of land.

The other, Lalita Digal, 45, was killed in Dodabali last November 25. She was staying in the refugee camp of K.Nuagam, and on November 21 she had left to return to the village and harvest the rice. She was staying with some Hindu friends in the village. Witnesses say that the woman was taken away from the house where she was staying. Her body has not yet been found.

Other episodes of violence have taken place in the village of Tiangia. On the night of November 25, two homes belonging to Christians were burned, as was one belonging to a Hindu who had dared to welcome Christians. On November 25 in Tiangia - the birthplace of Fr. Bernard Digal, who died months after being beaten and tortured - the authorities of the district had gathered the residents of the village, where six Christians were killed, and celebrated a "peace encounter," at which they guaranteed the return of the Christians who have fled.

The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) is accusing the local government of being unable - and perhaps unwilling - to stop the violence. Speaking to AsiaNews, Sajan George, the president of the GCIC, says that "fear still lurks in the Christian community in Kandhamal, and as Christmas approaches, they are traumatised not only by the memory of the anti-Chrsitian violence last December, but also by the failure of the administration to contain the larger scale violence unleashed upon the Kandhamal Christians after the unforturnate murder of Swami Laxamananada."

The killing of the Hindi leader of the VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad), which took place last August 23 on the part of a Maoist group, was the spark that ignited the pogrom against the Christians of Orissa. Sajan George says that "after three months, no arrest has been made of those responsible for the violence," although the administration is forcing the Christians who have fled - about 54,000 of them - to return to their villages. He recalls that more violence was seen against the Christian communities in recent years and in December of 2007, when three people were killed, and 13 churches and hundreds of homes belonging to Christians were burned.

Naveen Patnaik, the chief minister of Orissa, has presented to the parliament the details of the government's efforts to restore law and order and crack down on the violence against Christians. Two days ago, he said that at least 10,000 people have been interrogated about "the violence in Kandhamal," and 598 have been arrested, after the presentation of 746 accusations. But none of these cases concerns the attacks that have taken place since August of 2008.

Answering a question from some of the members of parliament, he said that he has received a report - still incomplete - on the violence that has taken place since the death of Swami Laxamananda, according to which 4,215 homes and at least 252 churches or places of worship have been burned or damaged.

Although the police have arrested three people connected to the killing of the swami, many radical Hindu groups have planned demonstrations to criticize the slowness of the security forces to bring the guilty to justice. The demonstrations are scheduled to take place on Christmas day, December 25. The Christians are afraid that these demonstrations will unleash a new wave of violence against them.