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Orissa communal violence:August 2008 violence

Posted by jytmkh on September 2, 2008

From wikipedia:

On Saturday, August 23, 2008, the VHP leader Lakshmanananda Saraswati was killed at his Jalespata ashram in Kandhamal district in Orissa, along with 4 disciples including a minor and a woman.

According to the Inspector General of Police the method of the attack is consistent “with the Maoist stamp in the kind of operation they undertake”.[24]

On the same day, an interview with a Moaist rebel was published in the leading Orissa newspaper Sambad [25]. In the interview, Azad, a leader of Maoist outfit, People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army, claimed responsibility for the killing of Saraswati, saying:

“We killed Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati to avenge his villainous role in Kandhmal”

However, radical Hindu groups in the state blamed Christians for killing Saraswati because of his opposition to religious conversion. Christian organisations deny this.[citation needed] Madhav also said on the CNN IBN debate that Orissa police arrested workers of World Vision, a Christian organization, for the killing. This may have been based on an inaccurate newspaper story that went even further and said the Christians had admitted their guilt (“Widespread anger in Kandhamal”, The Pioneer, Aug. 25, 2008).

However, Deputy Inspector General (Southern Range) R.P. Koche in Bhubaneshwar categorically denied this claim, and the executive director of World Vision India said two employees were merely given protective custody by police for one night (“Orissa violence: lies and media reports”, by Vishal Arora, The Hoot, Aug. 28, 2008). [26] [27]

The violence

State wide protest by VHP and Bajrang Dal turned violent and led to widespread persecution of Christians in Orissa. Many churches, prayer houses and other Christian institutions were attacked in Kandhamal, Bargarh, Koraput, Rayagada, Gajapati, Boudh, Sundargarh, Kendrapada, Bolangir and Jajpur districts.[citation needed] The events appeared to be instigated by statements made by leaders of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council). Amit Sharma of the VHP said Hindu people in the area had taken the death of the Swami “very seriously, and now they are going to pay them back.” [28]
Even though the People’s Liberation Revolutionary Group claimed responsibility for the attack, the VHP dismissed these reports and continued to state that the killing was an act of christian community. [29]
The VHP had called for a statewide shutdown for Monday, August 25, 2008. On the same day, protesters burnt alive a 20-year-old woman in an orphanage at Khuntpalli village in Bargarh district. [30].[31].

Curfew was clamped in all towns in Kandhamal. Despite this, large-scale violence and arson continued in Phulbani, Tumudibandh, Baliguda, Udaygiri, Nuagaon and Tikabali towns.
The situation was so volatile that Minister of State for Home, Prakash Jaiswal, and other Congress leaders, who had arrived to visit the riot hit areas, were told by the state government that they could not do so and had to return to New Delhi.
By August 29, 2008 at least 20 people were killed and 3000 people were reported to be living in government run relief camps. 1000 homes had been set on fire. Many others had to flee into jungle, living without food or water. All nine towns in the district were under a curfew, and the police have license to shoot. [32][33] On the same day, an interview with a Naxalite was published a leading Orissa newspaper called “Sambad” which clearly claimed responsibility and asked why Christians were blamed and attacked. It was deplorable situation where the VHP engaged in genocide of innocents and the state government looked the otherway. [34]
On August 31, 2008 violence continued in several parts of the state. As a result curfew was imposed in Jeypore town of Orissa’s Koraput district. Five police personnel were injured in mob violence. The state government sought additional para military forces to combat the continung violence. [35]
On September 1, 2008 Government of Orissa claimed the situation was under control. However, 558 houses and 17 places of worship were burnt in communal riots. 543 houses were burnt in the worst hit Kandhamal district. 12,539 people were fed in 10 relief camps, 783 people got the facilities in two relief camps in Rayagada district. In all, 12 companies of para-military forces, 24 platoons of Orissa State Armed Police, two sections of Armed Police Reserve forces and two teams of Special Operation Group (SOG) were deployed to control the riots.[36] BBC reported that more than 10,000 Christians are living in refugee camps setup by government.
Also, a prominent Maoist leader claimed that Hindu leader Swami Laxamananda Saraswati was killed by Maoists.[37]

Political Fallout

The ruling goverment of Orissa, headed by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, was a coalition of the BJP and the Biju Janata Dal (BJD). In the 147-member state assembly, the BJD-BJP combine has 93 members of whom 32 lawmakers are from the BJP.

Some BJP legislators blamed the government for not providing adequate protection to Saraswati, despite other attempts on his life. They called for withdrawing support from the government, which would lead to its collapse.


Flag of the Vatican City Vatican City On Wednesday August 27, 2008, Pope Benedict XVI condemned the violence and expressed solidarity with the priests and nuns being victimized. [38] He “firmly condemned” the violence and called upon Indian religious and civil authorities “to work together to restore peaceful co-existence and harmony between the different religious communities.” In doing so he said: “I learnt with great sorrow the information concerning the violence against the Christian community in Orissa which broke out after the reprehensible assassination of the Hindu leader, Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati.”[39]

Flag of India India Prime Minister of India Manmohan Singh called the Orissa violence a “shame” and offered all help from the Centre to end the communal clashes and restore normalcy. He said he would speak to Orissa chief minister Naveen Patnaik to urge him to take all necessary steps to end the violence. [40] The church network – including the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, the Evangelical Fellowship of India and the National Council of Churches in India – organized for all Christian institutions to remain closed on August 29, 2008 in protest. The All India Christian Council (AICC) has also planned a sit-in outside the Orissa House in New Delhi on the same day.

Human Rights Watch expressed extreme dismay on the mob violence against Christians instigated by the VHP. The organization also expressed concern on the state government’s lack of intervention in the situation since the christmas violence. [41]

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) sought a report from the Orissa government on the ongoing communal violence in the state. [42]


  1. ^Four days after VHP leader’s murder, police still clueless“. The Indian Express (200808-28). Retrieved on 200808-29.
  2. ^ Times of India (30 Aug 2008). “Maoists claim they killed ‘fascist’ VHP leader in Orissa” (in English). Press release. Retrieved on 200808-31.
  3. ^ NDTV (Friday, August 29, 2008). “Christian groups didn’t kill VHP leader: Sources” (in English). Press release. Retrieved on 200808-31.
  4. ^ The Hoot (Friday, August 27, 2008). “Orissa violence: lies and media reports” (in English). Press release. Retrieved on 200808-31.
  5. ^ Indian state erupts in violence after Hindu shot” (in English) (html) (27 August 2008). CNN Asia. Retrieved on 200808-29. 
  6. ^ Orissa on edge, VHP scoffs at Maoist theory” (in English) (html) (24 August 2008). Hindustan Times. Retrieved on 200808-31. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ All India Christian Council AICC (26 August 2008). “VHP bandh turns violent in Orissa, churches attacked” (html) (in English). Press release. Retrieved on 200808-27.
  9. ^ NDTV (28 Aug 2008). “Is violence affecting India’s image” (in English). Press release. Retrieved on 200808-29.
  10. ^ International Herald Tribune (29 Aug 2008). “Thousands homeless after Hindu-Christian violence in India” (in English). Press release. Retrieved on 200808-29.
  11. ^ Times of India (30 Aug 2008). “Maoists claim they killed ‘fascist’ VHP leader in Orissa” (in English). Press release. Retrieved on 200808-31.
  12. ^ Press Trust of India (Friday, August 31, 2008). “Orissa seeks more forces” (in English). Press release. Retrieved on 200808-31.
  13. ^558 houses, 17 places of worship torched during riot: Orissa govt“, Times of India (1 Sep 2008). Retrieved on 200809-01. 
  14. ^India Christians shelter in camps“, BBC (1 September 2008). Retrieved on 200809-01. 
  15. ^ India (Wed Aug 27, 2008 3:22pm IST). “Pope deplores anti-Christian violence in Orissa” (in English). Press release. Retrieved on 200808-28.
  16. ^ Pope ‘firmly condemns’ violence in Orissa
  17. ^ of India (29 Aug 2008). “PM calls Orissa violence a ‘shame’” (in English). Press release. Retrieved on 200808-29.
  18. ^ Human Rights Watch (28 Aug 2008). “World Leaders Urged to Condemn Violence in Orissa” (in English). Press release. Retrieved on 200808-29.
  19. ^ Times of India (29 Aug 2008). “NHRC issues notice to Orissa over violence” (in English). Press release. Retrieved on 200808-30.


3 Responses to “Orissa communal violence:August 2008 violence”

  1. R.Sajan said

    That Lakshmanananda Saraswati had been attacked nine times earlier by Christian militants is not seen mentioned. He had been receiving threats and that the last one had been submitted to the Police only the day before his murder is significant.
    It is admitted by all that the converted had joined the Maoists in large numbers.
    The so called missionaries are mostly unemployed youth from Kerala, a totally literate South Indian state, who have taken it up not due to any calling; but merely as a job. Their families at home survive on the money they send home every month. Missionary work in Orissa and Bihar are plum jobs for Christians in Kerala because of the huge foreign funds involved and on which many Kerala Christian families survive as mentioned before. The missions are known for their ‘modern’ morality.

  2. R.Sajan said

    The Wikepedia page has been largely edited now.The pro-proselytisation slant of the write-up has been diluted.

  3. THAYRIAM said



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