EU team meets Kandhamal riot victims (Lead)February 4th, 2010 - 9:53 pm ICT by IANS
Bhubaneswar, Feb 4 (IANS) An 11-member European Union (EU) team Thursday interacted with riot victims in Orissa’s Kandhamal district to find about the situation in the region and heard their accounts, police and eyewitnesses said.
Several victims of the riots apprised the visiting team about the steps the state government has taken for their rehabilitation and the difficulties they are currently facing.
The team members, led by EU’s counsellor (head of political affairs) Christophe Manet, visited several affected villages and rehabilitation camps and saw the restoration work carried out by government and private agencies. They also gave the victims a patient hearing.
An eyewitness said that tribals danced to the tune of their traditional music and welcomed the delegation at Nandagiri, a riot-hit village, showering flower petals on the delegates. He said that the team also visited a church nearby.
“The government kept us in relief camps… provided food… provided us land… and helped us to build our houses,” a victim told the delegation.
Some people, including women, were in tears while narrating the hardships they went through and their plight in the aftermath of the violence to the team.
Sushama Digal, a woman standing along with over a dozen women at G. Udayagiri village, said: “We are still facing trouble. People are still threatening us.”
The delegation will also meet local police and district officials and representatives of NGOs working in the region.
The team, which comprises members from Spain, Hungary, Poland, Ireland, Finland, Sweden and Britain, had earlier met top police officials, Christian leaders and social activists in Orissa capital before heading for Kandhamal.
“Events in Kandhamal had their impact in Europe. Our visit is a reflection of the concern,” a member of the team told select mediapersons here.
Kandhamal, about 200 km from here, witnessed widespread violence after the murder of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and four of his aides at his ashram Aug 23, 2008.
More than 25,000 Christians were forced to flee their homes after their houses were attacked by rampaging mobs, which held Christians responsible for Saraswati’s killing, although police blamed the Maoists.
VHP and Bajrang Dal activists staged protests at the Biju Patnaik airport Tuesday night when the EU team arrived here, saying the visit will only flare up the situation in Kandhamal.
There was, however, no such protest in any part of Kandhamal, Superintendent of Police S. Praveen Kumar told IANS.
The delegation is scheduled to return Friday.
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Tags: christian leaders, counsellor, district officials, dozen women, eyewitnesses, flower petals, hardships, manet, orissa, plight, police officials, political affairs, private agencies, relief camps, restoration work, riot, riots, social activists, traditional music, vishwa