Mental shift

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Dalit-tribal rivalry behind Kandhmal riots?

Posted by jytmkh on September 2, 2008

The week-long communal frenzy in Kandhmal has had one focus. Attack and destroy everything that’s Christian: churches, homes and followers.

But significantly, one section of Christians has been left untouched — the tribal Kandhs.

Not one of them has been killed, nor a single tribal home attacked by Hindu rioters. The major targets are Pano Christians, who are Dalits.

And in many villages, Hindu Panos have been attacked, like in the predominantly Christian Pano village where 20 percent of the population is Hindu.

Kuna Digal, resident of Sodonmendi says, “Both Christians and Hindus live together here.” On being asked why was the village targetted, he replies: “This is a war between SC and ST. The tribal attackers do not choose between Hindus and Christians.”

But the administration refuses to accept this.

Suresh Mohapatra, commissioner in charge of Kandhmal relief operations, says, “This time it’s totally a communal fight and already substantial damages have taken place.”

Kui Samaj, the highest body of Kandhs, says tribals are attacking all Panos irrespective of their religion because a threat letter similar to the one issued against Swami Laxmananand before his murder was sent to their president. The kandhs believe the letter was sent by a group of Christian Panos.

Lambodar Kanhar, president, Kui Samaj, Kandhmal says, “It started as a communal war but once the tribals came to know that I have received death threats they got angry and that’s why it has taken a different hue now.”

During the ethnic riots in the area in 1994, Kandh tribals burnt hundreds of Pano homes and killed 22 of them. The riots in December last year and even now bear the stamp of the century-old ethnic conflict between tribal Kandhs and dalit Panos. And what has complicated things is the dominance of Panos among Christians in Kandhmal.(NDTV)

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