10/02/2008, 00.00
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Anti-Christian violence continues in Orissa

Three villages are attacked in Kandhamal district. Central government sends in ten more paramilitary companies. Christians complain about police and government inaction. A Clarist nun dies from malaria contracted in the forest where she had fled; she wanted to go back to her work in Orissa. A Protestant church is attacked in Tamil Nadu.
Bhubaneshwar (AsiaNews) – Three more villages were attacked and tens of Christian-owned homes were set on fire in the state of Orissa despite a curfew imposed by police. India’s central government has decided to send in Special Forces to contain the violence.

Yesterday more destruction was inflicted on Kandhamal district, centre of anti-Christian attacks since 24 August. Hindu nationalist groups burnt down five houses at Paningia village in Chakapad area in the early hours of the day. At least 30 houses were torched in two villages in the Rakia block in the afternoon.

For the first time in more than a month police arrested local leaders belonging to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Kui Samaj, an organisation of Kondh Tribals. This led to demonstrations by Hindu militants around police stations.

The Orissa High Court has called on the central government to send in new troops to maintain law and order.

In Delhi the Union Home Affairs Ministry on Wednesday rushed in ten more companies of paramilitary forces. Six Central Reserve Police Force Companies left immediately, the remaining will arrive in a day or two.

However, the great deployment of forces has not stopped the violence. Christians accuse the police of not acting in time or of standing idly by when violence does break out.

A source told AsiaNews that “sometimes attacks occur after police leave a village. On other occasions thousands of militants come and after they leave a trail of destruction police say that did not know about it, as if these large mobs could get together in a second. There are times when the victims identify their aggressors only to have police say that it is difficult to find out who they are. And then there are times when attackers flee with the police present.”

India’s Catholic Church continues to express its displeasure at the inaction (real or presumed) by the central and local governments in protecting Christians.

In Orissa more than 50,000 people have become homeless, hiding out in forests, scared to go back to their villages, braving hunger, disease and other dangers.

One of them was Sister Mable, a 30-year-old Franciscan Clarist nun, who died last Sunday from malaria which she contracted in her forest hideout. The dispensary where she was working in Ruthunga (Kandhamal) had been attacked by Hindu militants. After she fled into the forest, where she stayed for two weeks, she was taken to Kochi (Kerala), to her congregation’s mother house, where she passed away.

Clarist nuns are actively involved in their communities but also engaged in a life of contemplation.

Sister Celia, the superior general of the congregation, said that in “Orissa we work in schools, not high schools but elementary schools, to provide a basic education to the poor.”

Her fellow sisters want to go back, she said. “Even Sr Mable, before she died, said she wanted to go back to Orissa as soon as she got better,” Sr Celia explained.

In Tamil Nadu a group of militants vandalised a Protestant church in Coimbatore, throwing stones and breaking windows. It is the sixth church attacked in Tamil Nadu.

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