Christian delegation seeks President’’s intervention to end tension in Orissa

September 1st, 2008 - 9:25 pm ICT by ANI  

New Delhi , Sep 1 (ANI): A delegation of Christians met President Pratibha Devisingh Patil on Monday to apprise her of the situation in Orissa in the wake of religious violence sparked by the killing of a Vishva Hindu Party (VHP) leader.

The violence was sparked in communally sensitive area when on Saturday about 30 heavily armed men raided a Hindu religious home housing mostly orphans in the rural Kandhamal district and killed five people, including a religious leader Swami Lakshmananda linked to VHP and opposed to conversion of tribals to Christianity.

Police blamed the killings on local Maoist rebels taking sides in a controversy over religious conversions, but Hindus say Christians were to blame for the killings.

Following that on Monday a mob burned down an orphanage at Bargah after driving children away. However, a 22-year-old woman getting trapped in the orphanage was killed in the fire.

Hindu protestors also destroyed several churches, blocked traffic with burning tyres and clashed with police.

The delegation, which was led by, noted Bollywood actor Mahesh Bhatt met the President in New Delhi and asked her to invoke article 355 of the constitution in the State to rein in the ongoing tension between the communities following the violence.

All of us particularly lawyers among us told President that we are from highest legal authority and it is well within the powers of the Union Government to move the Sstate government to action by cautioning it under section article 355 not 356 which is President rule but 355 which tells the government to set its house in order and after that of course further action can follow up. The President I must say and we are very happy about it, was deeply concerned. She heard us with acute patience and in fact said she will have our memorandum examined. She said, she has been briefed by the Home Minister, Prime Minister and her office is in constant touch with the Orissa government, said John Dayal, a Christian leader and member of the National Integration Council.

With the invoking of article 355, it becomes the duty of the Central government to protect the State against external aggression and internal disturbance and should ensure that the governance is carried on in accordance with the provision of the constitution.

After the meeting the delegation also addressed a news conference.

Bhatt said that despite repeated complaints to the concerned authorities, the suffering of the people in the State continues unabated.

Despite so many appeals being made to various people in establishment, the ground reality has not changed. As we speak the suffering of the people continues unabated. We have four thousand houses burned, 300 villages set on fire, 50,000 refugees what will it take the nation to wake up, Bhatt told reporters.

The remote and forested Kandhamal region is rife with religious tension between hardline Hindus who accuse Christian priests of bribing poor tribes and low-caste Hindus to change their faith.

The region is also a stronghold of Maoist rebels and police said that there is evidence to link the rebels to last week’’s murders.

The police sources said that by attacking Hindus, the Maoists were trying to win support among the region’’s poor tribes, many of whom have converted to Christianity. (ANI)

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