Christian leaders resent withdrawal of forces from Kandhamal

January 15th, 2009 - 11:38 pm ICT by IANS  

Bhubaneswar, Jan 15 (IANS) Christian leaders in Orissa Thursday voiced resentment over the withdrawal of security forces from Kandhamal district that had witnessed a wave of anti-Christian violence, saying that normalcy has not yet returned to the region.”Christians are not feeling safe. People in the relief camps are still afraid of returning home,” Cuttack-Bhubaneswar Archbishop Raphael Cheenath, who recently visited the riot hit region, told IANS.

“The forces should have been kept till the general elections are over,” Cheenath added.

“The forces should stay till all the people living in relief camps return home without any fear,” Swarupananda Patra, general secretary of the All Orissa Baptist Churches Federation, said.

At least seven companies of the paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), comprising of 700 personnel, were withdrawn Thursday from Orissa’s Kandhamal district that had witnessed communal violence last year, an official said.

“The CRPF companies were deployed in areas such as Belghar, Baliguda, Pabingia, Mandashore and Katingia. They have started moving out from Thursday,” a district police official told IANS on phone.

At least 4,000 central security personnel were deployed in the district, about 200 km from here, in the aftermath of the anti-Christian violence that erupted following the murder of Hindu leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and four of his aides Aug 23.

“The remaining forces will be redeployed in sensitive places. Some will be withdrawn in February and others at the end of March,” the police official said.

The central government had directed the state to initiate the withdrawal of forces from Thursday since no violence has been reported from the region since October.

“Only 6,000 people are now in relief camps. They will also return home soon,” District Collector Krishan Kumar told IANS.

About 40 people were killed and thousands of Christians forced to flee their homes in the district after being attacked by rampaging mobs after Saraswati’s murder.

While police blamed Maoists for the killings, some Hindu organisations held Christians responsible for the crime and launched attacks on the community. However, Christian organisations have repeatedly denied their involvement in the murder.

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