Mahesh Bhatt leads delegation to President on Orissa violence

September 1st, 2008 - 6:32 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Sep 1 (IANS) A civil society delegation led by noted filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt met President Pratibha Patil Monday to demand that the central government invoke Article 355 of the Constitution to rein in violence in Orissa.Under Article 355, the central government has a duty to protect states against external aggression and internal disturbance and ensure that governance is carried on in accordance with the provisions of the constitution.

“The president has assured us of strict measures to check the violence in Orissa,” Bhatt told reporters after his meeting with President Patil at Rashtrapati Bhavan here.

The delegation submitted a memorandum to the president demanding restoration of law and order in the state.

“The central government is reluctant to send security forces to Orissa saying the state government should ask for it even as the situation there is getting worse. We have requested the president to immediately send the armed forces to restore law and order and governance in the state,” Bhatt said.

The delegation has demanded a ban on Hindu outfits, Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad, for carrying out violent attacks on Christians in Orissa.

“More than 50,000 Christians are living as refugees following the violence in Orissa. All the political parties are sitting as mute spectators,” Abraham Mathai, vice-chairman of Maharashtra Minority Commission, said.

The other members of delegation included Rajya Sabha member Mehmood Madani, Joseph Dias, general secretary, Catholic Secular Front, and Archbishop Vincent Cancesso of Delhi.

Orissa has been on the boil since Aug 23, when VHP leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and four others were killed by armed assailants, suspected to be Maoist guerrillas, at his Jalespata ashram in Kandhamal.

Saraswati was leading a campaign against cow slaughter and religious conversion in the communally sensitive Kandhamal district which has witnessed numerous clashes between Hindus and Christians in the past.

Radical Hindu groups in the state allege Christians killed Saraswati because he was opposing religious conversion. Christian organisations have denied the allegations.

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