Orissa government appeals for peace in KandhamalOctober 11th, 2008 - 3:52 pm ICT by IANS
Bhubaneswar, Oct 11 (IANS) After six weeks of violence in which 35 people were killed and thousands rendered homeless, the Orissa government Saturday formally appealed for peace in the troubled Kandhamal district. While listing out steps taken to quell the violence and protect riot victims, it said that there had been no clashes in the past 10 days.The government, in a press release, urged all communities in the district to forget their past differences and return to their normal lives in a spirit of understanding and peace.
The violence erupted after the Aug 23 killing of Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and four others at his ashram in Kandhamal. Blaming Christians for the murders, thousands of rampaging Hindus burnt Christian homes and churches in the past month. Christian groups have repeatedly denied the charge.
The police later arrested three people linked to Maoists who are reportedly behind Saraswati’s killing.
The government said that while it had rushed security forces to the district, there was a delay in the arrival of additional troops of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF).
“As soon as the incident took place, the state requested the central government to send additional CRPF personnel and a helicopter for movement of forces. Available forces were deployed at sensitive places, but their movement was restricted due to felling of trees across the roads at about 100 places,” the release said.
The central forces arrived after Aug 27, while the riots had already spread.
“After Aug 27, there has been a significant decline in the number of violent incidents. All the major towns have been free of violence ever since,” the statement said.
It said the crime branch was investigating the matter and added that over 1,000 people have so far been arrested from across Orissa, of which 500 were from Kandhamal district alone.
A retired high court judge has been appointed for a judicial enquiry into the incidents, the release said.
The government pointed out that it had provided shelter to the riot victims in relief camps in Kandhamal.
“At the peak of the riots, the state had provided shelter to 23,000 people in different relief camps in the district. They constitute about 20 percent of district’s Christian population. Now the number of people in camps have come down to about 13,000.”
According to the government, the victims in relief camps have been provided with free food, clothing and medical help. Adequate security cover has been provided to these camps with the help of paramilitary forces.
“The incidents which took place in Kandhamal district have a long history of suspicion and anger between different sections of people,” the release said.
“This government has a long track record of communal harmony for more than eight years during which there was no communal violence anywhere in the state except two unfortunate sets of incidents in Kandhamal,” it added.