02/13/2009, 00.00
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No school for Christian children in Orissa

by Nirmala Carvalho
Driven far from home, school-age children have practically lost an entire school year as the current one comes to end shortly. Orissa authorities are moving refugees to temporary camps near their home villages, but moving back home is still not yet in the cards. Discrimination and other intimidatory acts continue. As the April elections come closer, tensions is rising.
Bhubaneshwar (AsiaNews) – Christian children in Kandhamal district are going to lose an entire year of school because of last August’s pogrom. Sajan K George, national chairman of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), said that hundreds of children are in this situation. After fleeing their homes with their families, forced to languish in refugee camps, Christian children from Orissa have not been able to attend school this year and soon the current school year will be over.

For the Church in Orissa education is priority as a tool for development and emancipation of the population.

“Many victims of the [last August’s] violence have said that when they were being attacked their assailants deliberately targeted their certificates and diplomas, ripped them up and burnt the pieces,” Mr George.

“The missionaries’ work with Dalits was one of the reasons for fundamentalists’ loathing and jealousy. Stifling our children’s education in Kandhamal is one of their goals,” he added.

Anti-Christian discrimination takes many forms, and not always does it come with violence. In any event tensions in Kandhamal remain high and the potential for attacks remains the same.

“With elections just around the corner, the situation is getting even tenser,” Mr George told AsiaNews. “Christians in Kandhamal are still discriminated against and could become second-class citizens because they have no identity papers and so cannot exercise their fundamental right to vote.”

On Thursday, Krishan Kumar, who is in charge of government refugee camps in Kandhamal, said that “out of the initial 25,000 refugees, 4,000 are still left. Of these, 2,500 have been moved to temporary camps close to their villages of origin. Right now only 1,500 people are left in the Tikabali, K Nuagaon and Raikia relief camps.”

But for John Dayal, director of the All Indian Christian Council (AICC), this statement by the government official “in addition to being disingenuous, clearly point out to the fact that no housing ha yet been planned for these unfortunate people. What is more the government is not taking into account refugees in non-governmental relief camps, others refugees who are in Srikakulam in the neighbouring state of Andhra Pradesh as well as thousands more who have been taken in by relatives in other towns and cities or who have ended in New Delhi and other places eking out a living doing odd jobs.”

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