Mental shift

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Attacks on Christians tarnished Orissa, says CM Patnaik

Posted by jytmkh on September 2, 2008

Ravik Bhattacharya

Bhubaneswar, September 2:: Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik says recurring communal violence has tarnished the image of his state, and bred insecurity in its Christian population.

In an interview to The Indian Express, Patnaik deplored the ‘savage acts’ carried out in the name of religion.

A total of 558 homes and 17 churches have been set on fire since the murder of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati on August 23, state Chief Secretary Ajit Kumar Tripathy said on Monday. At least 16 people are believed to have been killed in rioting.

“The attack on the ashram, as well as what happed thereafter, I repeat what happened after that, both are deplorable. Those who indulged in these savage acts, and I mean both in the ashram and after that in the district, stern action will be certainly taken against them,” Patnaik said.

Asked if communal violence was tarnishing Orissa’s reputation and encouraging afeeling that the state was intolerant towards Christians, he said, “Yes, it is. There has been a sense of insecurity among the Christians after the recent incidents. There has been recurrence of violence and tragedies. We will try our best to remove all such violence and tragedies or any disharmony among sections of people.”

“Last December there was violence in Kandhamal district; the administration brought in under control. Now again there has been violence after the killings of the Swami and his followers. The killing at the ashram was tragic as was the violence that followed. I saw the damaged houses, schools and I also visited the ashram.”

The Chief Minister, however, ruled out a CBI probe into Laxmanananda’s murder as proposed recently by

Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil. No one knows for sure who killed the swami, though the Maoists have claimed responsibility.

“I do not think that a CBI probe in necessary. After the incidents, a judicial enquiry has been initiated, our crime branch and police are also investigating into it. Some persons have been detained and soon the truth will come out. I am sure they are working hard to nab the culprits,” Patnaik said.

The state could, however, ‘certainly do with more Central forces’, Patnaik said. “I have been speaking regularly with Home Minister Patil. I expect 10 companies to reach here today.”

He denied the Biju Janata Dal’s alliance with the BJP was hampering his peace initiatives in Kandhamal. “There is no interference of any kind. I don’t think the secular credentials of this government can be doubted. They (the BJP) are not pressurising us in any way.”

Is it true that Christian missionaries have been on an aggressive evangelical mission in Kandhamal, as the VHP claims?

“They (the missionaries) have been there for decades. NGOs and missionaries are there in certain belts of Orissa. We will leave it at that. There are laws regarding conversions and every person in any country should follow the law of the land.”

Patnaik highlighted efforts made by the state government to return normalcy to affected areas. “I was in the district. Relief has reached there in the way of food and other items. Senior secretaries of the departments which are providing relief will soon visit the district. Very shortly assessment of the losses will be made. Funds are being made available. Security forces are there in Kandhamal and Koraput districts. Touch wood, now the situation is under control.” (Indian Express)

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