Hindu rally passes off peacefully in Orissa (Lead)November 15th, 2008 - 7:02 pm ICT by IANS
Bhubaneswar, Nov 15 (IANS) A massive rally organised to pay homage to a Hindu leader killed in Orissa earlier this year passed off peacefully Saturday in this state capital, an official said.About 100,000 people, including thousands of mendicants, women and youths, walked in processions to the P.M.G. Square - a central place in the city where some Hindu groups had organised the meeting.
Speakers paid homage to Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Swami Laxmananda Saraswati and his four followers who were killed by unidentified attackers Aug 23 in an ashram in Orissa’s Kandhamal district.
Fire rituals were organised at the venue before the public meeting.
Saffron flags were seen fluttering in many parts of the city as Hindu activists raised slogans against the government for failing to arrest the people involved in the Kandhamal killing of the VHP leader.
“We are giving an ultimatum to the state government. If it does not nab the culprits by Dec 15, we will intensify our protest and organise a state wide shutdown Dec 25,” Ratnakara Chaini, one of the speakers, said.
The central government had objected to the rally for fear that it may raise communal tension. But the state government allowed the Swami Laxmananda Saraswati Sradhanjali Samiti to hold the rally after assurance that the samiti would conduct it peacefully.
The state government had deployed at least 1,500 policemen in the capital and positioned security forces around city churches and Christian establishments.
Kandhamal district, about 200 km from here, witnessed communal violence after the killing of Saraswati and his aides at the Jalespata Ashram.
While the police blamed Maoists for the crime, Hindu leaders alleged Christians were responsible and launched attacks on the community. Christian groups have repeatedly said they had nothing to do with the Hindu leader’s murder.
The violence left at least 38 people dead and thousands of Christian had to flee to the jungles to escape rampaging mobs.
Some have returned to their homes, but more than 10,000 are still living in government-run relief camps in the district for fear of more attacks by Hindu radical groups.