Pawar leads team to Orissa’s riot-hit Kandhamal

November 18th, 2008 - 1:38 pm ICT by IANS  

Bhubaneswar, Nov 18 (IANS) A three-member central government team led by Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar Tuesday reached Orissa’s Kandhamal district to take stock of the situation in the region where at least 38 people were killed and thousands rendered homeless in communal violence in recent months.The delegation, which also includes Tribal Affairs Minister P.R. Kyndiah and Social Justice Minister Meira Kumar, visited a relief camp at Raikia, a district police official told IANS on phone. They are to visit relief camps in Tikabali and Nuagaon, he said.

The official added that they would also travel to the ashram where Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Swami Laxmanananda and four of his aides were killed, allegedly by Maoists.

The team is to talk to victims, religious leaders, district officials and police officials.

Pawar, Kyndiah and Kumar arrived in Bhubaneswar Monday, met Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik in the state secretariat and discussed measures taken by the state government in the area.

Kandhamal district, some 200 km from here, witnessed large-scale communal violence, mostly attacks on Christians and their places of worship, after the Aug 23 killing of Laxmanananda and his aides.

Though Maoist rebels have claimed responsibility for the killings, radical Hindus hold Christians responsible, despite repeated denials by Christian organisations.

At least 38 people lost their lives in the communal violence that ensued and more than 20,000 people were rendered homeless. Around 10,000 people are still living in government-run relief camps.

The three ministers, accompanied by central government officials, are here to review the relief and rehabilitation measures of the state government in the riot-hit areas.

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