10/27/2008, 00.00
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Orissa: schools transformed into refugee camps, students risk losing year

Four moths before year-end exams, students and parents are not concealing their concern that a year's school work could be lost. Classes have been suspended for two months, and schools are being used as temporary housing for refugees and police. For the government, the situation "is returning to normal," but fear remains among Christians.

Bhubaneshwar (AsiaNews) - To the drama of the persecuted Christians, the devastated churches, and the burned villages, is added the "preoccupation" of students who risk losing the work of this academic year. In the district of Kandhamal, in the state of Orissa, four months before the exam scheduled for March of 2009, 40 schools are still closed or are being used by refugees and police officers as temporary housing.

"There are around 300 students in our school. It is occupied by CRPF personnel and we have not been holding any classes for the last two months," says Bhagaban Das, headmaster of the Sarangada High School in Kandhamal.

According to estimates provided by the education office in the area, more than two thousand students risk losing a year's work because of the interruption of their classes, and there is a clear atmosphere of "resignation" among students and parents who "do not know what to do." The news from the district administration is not good: until the end of December, schools and institutes will be used as temporary welcome centers for refugees and security forces, but the disruption could continue into the new year.

Meanwhile, after the blunt denunciation of Sr. Meena two days ago, the chief minister of Orissa, Naveen Patnaik, tells the media that he has told police to speed up the investigation into her rape. Manmohan Praharaj, head of the local police, has appeared on television to announce that "we have offered to provide her all security and requested her to cooperate." This is in spite of the fact that Church officials in Orissa have confirmed to AsiaNews that at the moment, they have little faith in the local government, after the inadequate and late efforts to stop the violence that over two months has led to 37 deaths in the district of Kandhamal (Orissa) alone, with hundreds of churches and homes burned and thousands of Christians hiding in the jungle, many of whom cannot return home because their safety is not guaranteed, although on October 26 the district administration said that the situation is returning to normal.

Finally, parliament is disgusting the massacre of the Christians. On October 25, member of parliament Basudeb Acharia, of the Marxist communist party, denounced that "Christians have been butchered in Orissa and Karnataka," and has accused the government of Orissa, headed by the Hindu fundamentalist Bharatiya Janata Party, of wanting to subvert the constitution. He recalled how, just an hour after the killing of Hindu leader Swami Lakshmananda Saraswati, Hindu extremist groups launched an anti-Christian pogram,with thousands of well-organized and armed bands, in spite of the fact that everyone knows that the Marxists were responsible for the killing.

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