Monday, June 15, 2009

Prayers for the Orissa Christians

Although violence in India's Orissa state has ebbed, normality cannot fully return until the victims of last year's attacks by Hindu extremists have returned to their villages, says an official of the National Commission for Minorities (NCM).

The vice-chairman of NCM, M P Pinto, was speaking after his two-day visit to the communally sensitive Kandhamal district. He warned that "complete normalcy is yet to be restored in the violence-hit district, despite considerable improvement in the situation".

Pinto said that it was still not possible to claim peace in the volatile district while 2,000 Christians continued to live in relief camps.

"It would be normal only after the last person leaves the camp," Pinto said.

He added, “Our top priority would be to ensure that all the people return home and peace is restored.”

The displaced Christians have been living in the makeshift camps since Hindu extremists went on the rampage throughout Kandhamal district in the wake of a Hindu religious leader's murder last August. Although Maoists claimed responsibility for the murder, Hindu extremists blamed Christians.

The NCM team visited Mandakia and Tiangia relief camps where they met victims of the violence and took note of the issues that are yet to be addressed by the state authorities.

The team noted that those who were listed for compensation have yet to receive any help from the government. The victims are demanding a fresh assessment of the damage.

Apart from reviewing the health and water facilities at the relief camps, the NCM officials discussed measures to be taken to ensure security after the last batch of central paramilitary forces pull out from Kandhamal.

Later this month, state police including Orissa's Special Armed Police will be positioned in sensitive areas where the paramilitary forces were previously stationed.

Christian villagers displaced due to religious violence eat food at
a relief camp in Bhubaneswar, India. Violence has rocked Orissa
state since the killing of a Hindu leader, which police blamed on
Maoist rebels but Hindu activists pinned on Christian militants.

Some church leaders have expressed alarm over the Indian federal government’s plan to withdraw its forces from Orissa State. “The situation is still very tense and the withdrawal of federal forces will cause panic among people,” said the Rev. Ajay Singh, who tracks casualties from Hindu-led violence for the Archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneshwar. But some observers maintain that the local police can handle the situation now that Orissa has a secular government. The Indian government announced on June 1 that it would withdraw its paramilitary forces from the Kandhamal district of Orissa within a month. Government forces were sent to the district two weeks after Hindu extremists launched a sustained wave of violence against Christians in the eastern state in August 2008. The attacks claimed approximately 90 lives and left more than 50,000 people, mostly Christians, homeless.

1 comment:

  1. now this is an issue worth reading about and getting worked up over. Their desire to practice the faith under these difficult circumstances is inspiring.