Tension in Kandhamal after fresh violence
24 Sep 2008, 1410 hrs IST,IANS
Kandhamal district has been witnessing communal violence since Aug 23 when Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Swami Laxmananda Saraswati and four others were shot dead by unidentified gunmen at his Jalespata Ashram.
Thousands of people have been rendered homeless since, many churches attacked and at least 25 people, mostly Christians, killed. On Saturday 23 August the Hindu leader Laxmanananda Saraswati and four of his associates were assassinated. Saraswati, who was a senior figure in the nationalist VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad), had called for India to become a Hindu nation, and strongly opposed the conversion of Hindus to Christianity. The police and state officials have blamed the attack on suspected Maoist rebels, and Christian leaders in India have clearly condemned it. But the VHP and its allies alleged in inflammatory speeches that Christians were responsible, and they called a protest that rapidly escalated into violence.
The media have very limited access to Orissa at present, and reports from the region are still somewhat confused. But it is already clear that damage to property is extensive. Scores of church buildings have been demolished, and hundreds of homes destroyed. Other Christian institutions, including schools, offices and prayer houses, have been vandalised, looted or burned. Buses and other vehicles have been torched.
Many Christians have been attacked, especially in rural areas where mobs are attacking whole villages. Church leaders have been beaten up and women raped, and as many as 10,000 believers may have fled into the jungle for safety, without food or protection from the monsoon rains. Current reports of the death toll range from 12 to 36.
Prohibitory orders are still in force in the district and night curfew is imposed in most towns.
NCM blames Bajrang Dal for Karnataka, Orissa violence
21 Sep 2008, 1234 hrs IST,PTI
NEW DELHI: The National Commission for Minorities (NCM) has blamed Sangh Parivar outfit Bajrang Dal for the communal violence in the NDA-ruled states of Karnataka and Orissa.
"Our teams have returned from both the states. Activists of Bajrang Dal are involved in these attacks in both places. NCM will send reports on the whole gamut of communal clashes in the twin states to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh soon," NCM Chairman Md Shafi Qureshi said.
Condemning the attack on churches in Kandhamal and other areas of Orissa and in Dakshina Kannada, Udupi, Chikmagalur and Mangalore in Karnataka, the Commission stressed the need for immediate confidence building measures to allay the fear from the minds of the minorities in both states.
Qureshi accused the Karnataka government of serious lapses in handling the situation. "The churches in different parts of the state were attacked one by one in succession and not all of a sudden. Something should have been done immediately when the attacks started," Qureshi said.
The Commission also demanded immediate arrest of the culprits so that "no one dares to repeat such incidents in future." Qureshi said tension still continues in Udupi and Mangalore in Karnataka.
Terming the situation as "very grave" in Karnataka, NCM Vice Chairman Michael P Pinto said that excessive use of force was made on the minority community members, who were agitating after the churches were burnt.
Criticising the role of Karnataka government in the whole episode, NCM member Harcharan Singh Josh said, "The attacks were planned and well-organised. Fundamentalist parties carried out the attacks in total connivance of the state government there." Condemning the beating up of women members of the minority community by police there, Josh said "even small children were not spared and women protesters were beaten up by male cops."
NCM said the police action against the minorities worsened the situation in Karnataka and has sought to know what was the need to use such force against the protesting minorities.
NCM also took serious note of the fact that the state convener of Bajrang Dal Mahendra Kumar was moving around freely claiming responsibility for the attacks, while the state officials were pretending not to know the culprits.
Karnataka government, however, on Friday arrested the Bajrang Dal activist after the Union Home Ministry issued two advisories to the state government noting with concern that those behind the violence are roaming around freely.
On Orissa, the NCM stressed the need for constituting a minority commission there, a demand it had made earlier also after December 2007 violence there. The Commission also made a few other recommendations on the lines of its report on the violence in Orissa in 2007.
Centre warns Orissa, K'taka over attack on Christians
19 Sep 2008, 0220 hrs IST,TNN
NEW DELHI: Centre on Thursday issued a warning to NDA-controlled governments of Orissa and Karnataka under Article 355 to rein in violence against Christians, in an action which will be praised as appropriate in many quarters but will sharpen the UPA vs NDA faultlines. While BJP condemned the action as ''partisan'', Congress welcomed it with glee. Article 355 vests emergency powers in the Centre to ensure adherence to the Constitution and it can even be seen as a precursor to the application of Article 356 (President's rule). But in the current context, it also serves the political purpose.
Importantly, with the government acting against the Opposition governments over violence against minorities by RSS affiliates, it could clear the way for a tougher response against terrorism.
There has been a strong voice in Congress and UPA that fight against terror should go hand in hand with tough action against communal violence. The anti-Christian riots have spread fast from Orissa to Karnataka and even in Kerala, in what is seen as part of a campaign. The argument was also articulated by minority affairs minister A R Antulay at Wednesday's Cabinet meeting where he said the Centre should bring in a tough law on communal riots.
For the Centre, buffeted between demands for tough laws against terror and the sensitivities that there should be safeguards to ensure that they are not misused against minorities, it could be part of the Manmohan Singh government unveiling an all-round action plan against violence. Congress welcomed the action, with party spokesman Veerappa Moily saying that it was ''a shame on BJP''. He said, ''Those who are talking of fighting terrorism are not in a position to contain communal terrorism.''
But the BJP reacted strongly. Party general secretary Arun Jaitley said, ''The action is unwarranted. Orissa has taken steps and succeeded in restoring peace. Karnataka government is trying its best by appealing to one section not to bring out inflammatory pamphlets on conversions and taking steps to convince the other sections not to attack prayer halls. The Centre's action makes it obvious that it is not interested in resolving the issue but in politicising it. Why does not the Centre consider similar action in case of Maharashtra government with regard to its inability to deal with Raj Thackeray's repeated provocations.''