VHP opposes government move to rebuild Orissa churches

November 18th, 2008 - 12:45 pm ICT by IANS  

Bhubaneswar, Nov 18 (IANS) The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) Tuesday said it was opposed to the move by the Orissa government to rebuild churches that were damaged during the communal violence in the state’s Kandhamal district in August.“The government has no right to spend taxpayers’ money to appease the Christian community. Churches and Christian training centres are patronising conversion activities,” general secretary VHP’s Orissa unit Gouri Prasad Rath told IANS.

“If the government wants to restore communal harmony in Kandhamal it must stop any kind of financial help for their reconstruction,” he said.

“There is no provision for financial assistance to places of worship in the state relief code. The Supreme Court had never directed the state government to provide financial assistance to such institutions.

“It had only asked the government to look into the issue in a humanitarian manner but the government seems to be mistaking the court order,” Rath added.

“Orissa is the first state in the country that is offering financial help for reconstruction of religious institutions damaged during communal violence. It may lead to further tension in the region,” he said.

The state government had recently notified that it would provide Rs.200,000 each for churches and temples destroyed during the riots. It is also to give Rs.100,000 each to partially damaged places of worship and Rs.50,000 each to prayer halls that were destroyed.

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 VHP leader Swami Laxmanananda and four of his aides.

Though Maoist rebels claimed responsibility for the killings, some Hindus held Christians responsible for the crime, despite repeated denials by Christian organisations.

The communal violence that ensued claimed at least 38 lives and thousands of Christians had to flee to the jungles to escape rampaging mobs. While some have returned to their homes, more than 10,000 are still living in government-run relief camps in Kandhamal.

The state government had earlier rejected a demand by Christian leaders for a Rs.30 million assistance for the reconstruction of damaged and demolished churches, saying that giving grants to religious places was against its secular ethos.

The change of stance came after the Supreme Court last month asked the state to “take a generous view” of the matter. The court had asked the government to identify the damaged churches, assess the extent of damage and take steps to rebuild them.

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