Prafulla Das


Months have passed since Hindu fundamentalists launched their attack on poor Christians of Orissa forcing them  to abandon their less than modest homes to seek shelter in camps. Some have returned by many cannot because  to do so they have to avow Hinduism.


Bhubaneswar: More than seven months after Orissa’s tribal-dominated Kandhamal district experienced  widespread anti-Christian violence, 3,100 people belonging to the minority community are still living in  relief camps being run by the administration.    About 25,000 people took shelter in 19 relief camps when communal violence was at its peak in the district in  the aftermath of the killing of Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Lakshmanananda Saraswati and four others on  August 23 last.   


The number of people living in the camps has decreased slowly but the 3,100 people in six camps are not willing  to leave as they are being told by the communal forces that they can return to their homes only as Hindus.    The camps are at Raikia, Tikabali, K. Naugaon, Mandasar, Mandakia and Tiangia, according to Kandhamal  District Collector Krishan Kumar. “We are not forcing anyone to return to their villages. People are returning to  their homes following the process of peace building and reconciliation,” Mr. Kumar told The Hindu over phone  on Saturday.   


Apart from the State police, 19 companies of the Central Reserve Police Force are on duty to maintain law and  order in the district. The district administration has sought additional forces for the smooth conduct of the Lok  Sabha and Assembly elections to be held simultaneously next month.   


“We are hopeful that the district will witness a free and fair poll,” Mr. Kumar said. Meanwhile, an independent  fact-finding team, comprising prominent social activists, has urged the State government to keep the relief  camps open till normality was restored in the affected villages.   


Observing that the victims should be able to return to their homes with dignity, peace and security, the former  Special Rapporteur to the National Human Rights Commission and one of the members of the team, K.R.  Venugopal, has written to the State government that “there can never be any dignity if people practising a  particular religion – here Christianity – are told that they can return to their homes only as Hindus.”   


“Such threats are unconstitutional and the State has a duty to intervene proactively to put a stop to that and  guarantee peaceful residence to the citizens with a right to their religious conviction,” Mr. Venugopal said in a  letter to G.V. Venugopala Sarma, Secretary in the State government’s Revenue and Disaster Management  Department.   



(The Hindu, Delhi  8 March 2009)

Top - Home