Chidambaram asks Orissa to ensure peace on Christmas

December 24th, 2008 - 6:38 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Dec 24 (IANS) Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram Wednesday telephoned Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on the Christmas eve and urged him to ensure peace in the state in the wake of the festive celebrations Thursday.”I have spoken to the chief minister of Orissa twice, including once today (Wednesday),” the home minister said in a statement.

He said that the state government has been asked to ensure maintenance of “law and order and protect the lives and property of all sections of the people”.

Orissa’s Kandhamal district, about 200 km from the state capital Bhubaneswar, witnessed widespread communal violence after the killing of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and four of his aides at an ashram Aug 23.

At least 38 people were killed in the state and thousands were forced to flee their homes after their houses were attacked by mobs. About 8,000 people are still living in government-run relief camps in the district. Hindu extremist groups blamed Christians for Saraswati’s murder, though Christian groups have denied this repeatedly and Maoist rebels claimed the responsibility for the murder.

Hindu groups had called for a shutdown on Christams day Thursday, demanding immediate arrest of all those involved in the murders of Saraswati and his aides. But they later called off the proposed shutdown after assurances from the government. Seven people have already been arrested for the killings.

“The central government is in constant touch with the state. I have requested the chief minister to keep me informed about the developments and have offered him further assistance, if necessary,” Chidambaram said.

He said the central government provided a helicopter to the state for aerial patrolling of Kandhamal and Sambhalpur districts in the state.

He asked the people of Orissa to maintain peace and harmony, saying “Christmas is a day of happiness and peace”.

“I am confident that the government of Orissa will ensure that Dec 25 and the days following will be marked by peace and harmony.”

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