Pawar meets Kandhamal victims, reviews situation (Lead)

November 18th, 2008 - 9:57 pm ICT by IANS  

Bhubaneswar, Nov 18 (IANS) A three-member central delegation led by Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar Tuesday visited a relief camp, met victims and reviewed the situation in Orissa’s Kandhamal district that was hit by communal clashes.The delegation, which also included Tribal Affairs Minister P.R. Kyndiah and Social Justice Minister Meira Kumar, visited a relief camp at Raikia, a district police official told IANS by telephone.

The victims said they wished to return to their villages but were afraid of fresh attacks, the police official said.

The ministerial team also travelled to the Jalesh Pata ashram where Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Swami Laxmanananda and four of his aides were killed Aug 23, sparking violence for weeks.

A group of Hindu leaders affiliated to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) organisations met the ministers and submitted a memorandum, demanding immediate arrest of the killers, the police officer said.

Interacting with some victims, Pawar said the central government wanted peace to be restored and assured them that the central government will extend all help to the state to bring peace in the region.

The team also held a meeting with top district officials in the region where some tribal leaders brought to its notice cases of police atrocity on innocent people, the official said.

The team returned to the state capital in the evening. It will meet the top government officials here Wednesday.

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

The state government drew the central ministers’ attention to various problems the affected regions has been facing and sought central intervention. The backwardness in education, lack of connectivity and poor livelihood means are the cause of the ethno-communal violence in region, the state government told the team.

The state government urged the central government to set up a campus of the National Tribal University in the district and to take other measures for the socio-economic development of the region.

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

Though Maoist rebels have claimed responsibility for the killings of Laxmanananda and his aides, 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.

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