Apex court asks Orissa to respond to plea for Christians’ safety

September 3rd, 2008 - 4:31 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Sep 3 (IANS) The Supreme Court Wednesday sought a reply from the Orissa government on the Cuttack archbishop’s plea for the safety of Christians in the state, where churches and homes have been burnt and at least 16 people killed following the murder of VHP leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati last month.Seeking an urgent reply from the state government, a bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justices P. Sathasivam and J.M. Panchal will Thursday hold a detailed hearing on Archbishop Raphael Cheenath’s plea.

Fearing renewed violence during a proposed procession led by Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Praveen Togadia to carry Saraswati’s ashes, the bench also asked the state government to detail steps taken to ensure that no violence takes place.

The fear was expressed by archbishop’s counsel Colin Gonsalves, who told the court that there had been a spurt of violence, in which several people were killed, during the funeral procession.

Appearing for the union government, Additional Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam told the court that union Home Minister Shivraj Patil was touring the state with senior officials of his ministry to assess the situation.

He said the union government would apprise the court of the situation in consultation with the state government.

Responding to the archbishop’s lawsuit Tuesday, Subramaniam had told the court that he had already received a copy of the petition and had sent it to the office of union Home Secretary Madhukar Gupta.

The archbishop has said in his petition that the Orissa government was deliberately not deploying enough security in villages in Kandhamal district, the nerve centre of the communal clashes.

He said the local police instead was permitting perpetrators of the violence to continue their assault against Christians with impunity and were taking no steps to protect them.

Describing the spiralling anti-Christian violence in various villages of Kandhamal as being of “genocidal proportions”, the archbishop said “the primary reason for this communal violence is intolerance by certain groups of a particular political persuasion”.

Giving a long list of major and minor churches destroyed in various towns and villages, besides the name of those killed and injured, the archbishop said paramilitary forces had deliberately been deployed in towns despite villages being the target.

With security personnel guarding public offices in towns and perpetrators of violence attacking the villages often at night, the villagers have been left spending their nights in neighbouring jungles to evade the attack, said the archbishop in his petition.

He also accused the state government of “providing inadequate compensation as per an arbitrary and irrational methodology adopted for choosing the beneficiaries of the compensation”.

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