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Orissa Violence
Christians take to streets
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 29
Christians across India today took to streets to protest violent persecution of the community by communal forces in Orissa. Unofficial estimates suggest that over 30 Christians lost their lives in the well-organised attacks led by the Sangh Parivar and its outfits, following Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s (VHP) vice-president Swami Lakshmananda Saraswati's killing.

Angered over the "ethnic cleansing" of Christians, the community today mounted a powerful yet peaceful protest across India; close to 4,500 Christian schools and educational establishments remained closed on the call of Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI). In the capital, St Stephens and Jesus and Mary colleges, Columbus, Mount Carmel and Don Bosco schools were among those shut

Protest rallies were organised in all states, the biggest witnessed in the capital, where more than 2,000 Christians from 30 churches marched to Orissa Bhavan to condemn the state government for its inability to protect minorities.

Led by Church dignitaries Archbishop Raphael Cheenath of Cuttack-Bhubanshwar and Archbishop Vincent Concessao of Delhi and Kerala MP P.C. Thomas, the Christians intellectuals, students and teachers sought imposition of President’s Rule in Orissa, immediate suspension of home secretary, and the DGP, and Army deployment.

In the memorandum submitted to Orissa Governor Murlidhar Chandrakant Bhandare, at the end of two-hour dharna, Christians leaders said: “We submit this request to you and not to Orissa Chief Minister because we believe that by not stopping the ethnic cleansing of Christians in Orissa in the last six days, he had abdicated his constitutional duties to the Sangh Parivar, and forfeited his right to be in the government. We ask for President’s Rule in the state.” A strong reference was made to international general secretary of the VHP Praveen Togaadia’s open call of ridding Orissa of Christians.

As for the protest, it was more like a prayer meeting, seeking protection for “the Christians who were being chased and hunted like animals”. Referring to the Prime Minister who yesterday called the Orissa violence a national shame, protest leaders said the state government had failed on three occasions - first, in not protecting the Christians in December last when a similar communal conflagration had 
been witnessed in Kandhmal; in not protecting the slain VHP leader despite reports of risk to his life; and now in again failing to secure Christians who were fleeing by the thousands.

“There is no doubt as to who is the perpetrator of violence in Orissa. It is the Sangh Parivar and its outfits, the RSS, the VHP, the Bajrang Dal and the Vanvasi Kalyan Sangh,” the leaders said, finding support of eminent citizens who joined the protest including Justice Kulse Patil (retd), Shabnam Azami, director, ANHAD, Udit Raj, a Dalit leader and Teesta Seetalvad. In Mumbai, filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt and activist Tushar Gandhi were among the participants in the Azad Maidan rally.

Christians in all states also submitted memorandums to their respective Governors, appealing for peace and justice. In the capital, the march was led by Archbishop Raphael of Cuttack, the man who has witnessed the gory persecution of Christians in Orissa for the past many decades.

Dehra Dun: Christian institutions in and around Dehra Dun and Mussoorie observed a complete closure.

Prominent missionary education institutions like the Convent of Jesus and Mary, St. Joseph Academy and St. Thomas observed a complete closure expressing solidarity with the Kandhamal riot victims.

Condemning violence against the Christian community members, Bishop J.P. Singh, an office bearer of Uttaranchal Council of Churches, sought intervention of Centre in Orissa to save Christian community members from attack of fundamentalists.

Meanwhile, as further course of action, members of the Christian community have decided to hold a peace march in Dehra Dun on September 2 followed by peace prayers at St. Francis Church.




Centre wants CBI probe
Tribune News service

New Delhi, August 29
The Congress today “condemned Orissa Chief Minister Navin Patnaik for his inability in containing communal violence in Orissa” and endorsed the demand for a CBI probe into the role of the Bajrang Dal and the VHP in the incidents. During a Cabinet briefing earlier in the day, Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal had said the Centre favoured a CBI probe into the Orissa violence.

AICC spokesman Shakeel Ahmed said there were reports about involvement of the VHP and the Bajrang Dal in arson, loot and murder in Orissa, adding that demands for the CBI probe were coming in from several sections of the society as people had faith in the investigating agency.

He also came down heavily on the Patnaik government for its “inability to take firm action due to pressure from the BJP.” During the Cabinet briefing, Sibal said the government would like the matter to be handed over to the CBI because those responsible should get justice immediately as judicial probe takes longer time.



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