Cabinet discusses Orissa violence, Ministers demand President’’s rule

October 8th, 2008 - 9:56 pm ICT by ANI  

Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, Oct.8 (ANI): The Union Cabinet on Wednesday had an indepth discussion on the impact of the anti-Christian violence in Orissa and in other parts of the country.
The murder of a Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Laxmanananda Saraswati in August sparked weeks of violence against Christians in Orissa”’’s Kandhamal district.State police however, blamed Maoist rebels for the killing of Saraswati.
Police have arrested about 1,000 people, mostly Hindus, in connection with the attacks on Christians in Orissa. Hindu groups deny their involvement in the violence, which has been condemned by Pope Benedict. Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh called it a national shame.
During Wednesday’’s meeting, Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil presented the Orissa Government’’s report on the violence and the latest situation prevailing in the state, especially in Kandhamal District, which bore the brunt of the attacks. In the report, the Naveen Patnaik-led BJD-BJP coalition government is understood to have said that it had done everything possible to check the violence.
Apparently disatisfied with the report, participants in the Cabinet interaction reportedly demanded the banning of the Bajrang Dal, the right-wing group said to be responsible for spearheading the attacks and called for the imposition of President’’s rule in Orissa.
Some ministers, including Ram Vilas Paswan and Lalu Prasad, demanded imposition of President’’s rule in the state by invoking of Article 356, sources said.
“The Central government should use Article 356 of the Constitution (dissolving the state government) in Orissa because the state has failed to check the unabated violence against the Christians there,” Paswan told mediapersons here.
To a query whether the UPA government has the required number in Parliament to go ahead with the step, he said, “Come what may, the procedure to use Article 356 should be initiated.”
“Violence is continuing even after the Centre has sent advisories to Orissa government to check atrocities against the minorities. The Central government would have to take a tough stand on the matter,” he said.
A strong “political will” is needed to put an end to the violence in Orissa, Paswan added
Top ranking BJP leaders, however,warned the Central Government against imposing presidential rule in Orissa, saying it would politically damage the Congress and its allies.
Party leader M. Venkaiah Naidu said the imposition of President’’s Rule would amount to a “constitutional misadventure.
“Use Article 356 at your own peril Such a step would once again ensure a thumping victory for the Biju Janata Dal-BJP coalition in Orissa,” said Naidu.
Naidu also denied the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal having any role in the violence against Christians in Kandhamal district.
He said, “The root cause is the social conflict between tribals and converted Christians belonging to Scheduled Castes”.
According to Naidu, the Central Government had no “understanding” of what is going on in Kandhamal.
“In my view, there is need for a common anti-conversion law for the whole country.”
L. K. Advani, the party’’s prime ministerial candidate and party leader Vijay Kumar Malhotra echoed similar views at the BJP’’s Vijay Sankalp Rally in New Delhi.
“You have misused all the institutions, but misusing the Constitution there will prove very costly,” Advani told the UPA Government.
He expressed surprise over the inaction of the Central Government. At the last Cabinet meeting on October 3, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had sought a report from the Home Minister about the situation in Orissa as also Karnataka, where similar incidents were witnessed.
Afterwards, Patil wrote a strongly-worded letter to Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and spoke to Governor M C Bhandare.
Patil’’s actions fuelled speculation that the Centre may take the extreme step of imposing President’’s rule in the state. (ANI)

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