India: Christians torturing in Orissa; State Minister resigns


Bhubaneswar; (SVM News) December 28, 2007: At least 55 Churches at G Udaygiri, Nuagaon, Brahmanigaon and Phulbani Sadar were attacked and a Congress MP Radha Kant Nayak`s house was ransacked in Dasingbadi in violence on the fifth day in the rural tribal dominated areas of Orissa. Eight people killed in the communal violence was sparked off on Monday, the 24th of December when mobs led by Vishwa Hindu Parishad activists set ablaze Churches, Convents and some houses belonging to Christians. Hundreds of members of the community were hiding in forest to save their life from the attackers. Orissa Government has ordered a judicial inquiry into the violence in Kandhamal. Retired High Court judge Basudev Panigrahi will conduct the inquiry. The All-India Christian Council criticized the government decision for a judicial inquiry into the violence in Kandhamal. John Dayal, the general secretary of the Christian Council demanded that a Central Bureau of Investigation probe be ordered into the attacks on the Christians. Raphael Cheenath, the Archbishop of Bhubaneswar-Cuttack said that the judicial inquiry will not lead to giving justice to the victims. Paul Ciniraj, president of the Christian Ministers of the Churches in India said, "All and real attackers can be held through the CBI inquiry". Meanwhile, the State Steel and Mines Minister Padmanabha Behera, a Dalit hailing from the violence-hit Kandhamal district, resigned from his post on moral grounds in the wake of the communal violence for the fifth day on Friday. Behera, a former member of the Lok Sabha told that he submitted his resignation to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, as he was pained over the continuing violence in the area. The Kui speaking tribal people who had been agitating in Kandhamal had demanded Behera`s resignation. The tribals were opposing the demand of the Dalit Christians of the district for grant of Schedule Tribe status. The State government also transferred District Collector of Kandhamal Bhagirathi Mohapatra and appointed District Collector of Malkangiri Manish Kumar Verma in his place with immediate effect. Mohapatra was directed to join the General Administration Department in Bhubaneswar for further posting. The government appointed Nitin Bhanudas Jawle, Additional District Magistrate of Rourkela, as District Magistrate of Malkangiri on place of Verma. The State government had come under severe criticism from various quarters for its failure to contain violence in Kandhamal where the agitation of the Kui tribals had been virtually hijacked by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad following an alleged attack on their leader Swami Lakshmanananda on December 24. As the tribes observed a 36-hour bandh starting from Christmas morning, taking benefit of the situation the VHP supporters burnt down a number of churches and lit up homes of the members of the Christian community in many areas. The administration had imposed curfew in four towns of the district on the evening of December 25. The curfew continues to remain in force.

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