Deploy armed forces in Orissa, demand Christian leaders

August 26th, 2008 - 7:01 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Aug 26 (IANS) Upset with the Orissa government’s failure to protect Christians against violence by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), community leaders Tuesday said New Delhi should deploy armed forces to bring normalcy in the state.“The state government has failed to a great extent to control the violence by the VHP. The police was not taking any steps to control the mob,” said Babu Joseph, spokesperson of Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI), a day after a VHP sponsored shutdown against the killing of a VHP leader last week saw churches being attacked and at least two people being burnt to death.

“If the state cannot ensure the safety of its citizens, the central government should deploy the armed force there. We cannot allow the anarchy to continue,” he said.

Leaders of the CBCI along with other Christian organisations in the National United Christian Forum are meeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Wednesday to seek the central government’s intervention. Community leaders have already met Home Minister Shivraj Patil and spoken to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L.K. Advani.

“The Christian community in India abhors violence, condemns all acts of terrorism, and opposes groups of people taking the law into their own hands,” Sam Paul, National Secretary of All India Christian Council (AICC), said.

AICC Secretary General John Dayal asked Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, Governor M.C. Bhandare and the union home minister to take “whatever steps are required to maintain peace and harmony in all areas of Orissa, to prevent further attacks on Christians, and to arrest those responsible for the deaths of Saraswati and his associates”.

Condemning the “inhuman attack” on a church-run orphanage in a village in Bargarh district that saw a woman being torched alive, the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) politburo said: “It is a reflection of the fascistic mindset of these organisations that they could attack a place housing innocent unprotected children.”

“The communalists have been emboldened because of the support being extended by the BJP, a coalition partner in the Orissa government,” the party alleged.

Former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda said the current violence was part of the sangh parivar’s “larger conspiracy” to turn Orissa into a Hindutva laboratory.

“The current spate of violence against Christian clergy, religious institutions including churches and service organisations such as orphanages is part and parcel of the Sangh Parivar’s larger conspiracy to turn state after state into a Hindutva laboratory,” Gowda said in a statement.

“All right thinking people, irrespective of political and religious affiliation, should join hands to stop this communal Frankenstein who is out to tear apart the nation’s fragile secular fabric,” he said.

Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, a member of VHP’s central advisory committee, and four other people were killed at his Jalespata ashram in the volatile Kandhamal district, 340 km from here, Saturday evening after more than 30 suspected Maoist rebels opened fire on them, according to police officials.

Saraswati was leading a campaign against cow slaughter and religious conversion in the communally sensitive district - which with a population of around 600,000, including 150,000 Christians, has witnessed numerous clashes between Hindus and Christians in the past.

Hindu groups in the state blamed the church for the crime and alleged that Christians had killed Saraswati because he was opposing religious conversion in the region.

Christian groups denied the charges.

“It is a blatant lie and calibrated disinformation propagated by the organisations whose contribution to the nation was just chaos and destruction,” Joseph said.

“Christians have been living in Orissa for the last 200 years. Still they constitute less than two percent of the population. Where is the evidence for these allegations. We want to know what is the contribution of these organisations to India’s social sector?” he asked.

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