Mental shift

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Posts Tagged ‘conversion’

Stop the politics of division

Posted by jytmkh on October 14, 2008

Last week, in responding to some of the hundreds of reactions i received to my September 28 column on the anti-Christian violence in Orissa and Karnataka, i tackled the vexed question of conversions to Christianity, which many readers argued constituted a provocation for the violence. But the conversion issue is not purely a religious one: behind it lies a profoundly political question, one which goes to the heart of the nature of the Indian state, and indeed to the very idea of India itself.

In my original piece i argued that violence is part of a contemptible political project whose closest equivalent can in fact be found in the ‘Indian Mujahideen’ bomb blasts. Both actions are anti-national; both aim to divide the country by polarising people along their religious identities; and both hope to profit politically from such polarisation. In this context, the issue of conversion becomes a diversion. Because to say that conversions are somehow inherently wrong would accord legitimacy to the rhetoric of the Bajrang Dal and its cohorts – who declare openly that conversions from Hinduism to any other faith are anti-national. Implicit is the idea that to be Hindu is somehow more natural, more authentically Indian, than to be anything else, and that to lapse from Hinduism is to dilute one’s identification with the motherland.

As a Hindu, I reject that notion utterly. I reject the presumption that the purveyors of hatred speak for all or even most Hindus. Hinduism, we are repeatedly told, is a tolerant faith. The central tenet of tolerance is that the tolerant society accepts that which it does not understand and even that which it does not like, so long as it is not sought to be imposed upon the unwilling. One cannot simultaneously extol the tolerance of Hinduism and attack Christian homes and places of worship.

And as an Indian, i would argue that the whole point about India is the rejection of the idea that religion should be a determinant of nationhood. Our nationalist leaders never fell into the insidious trap of agreeing that, since Partition had established a state for Muslims, what remained was a state for Hindus. To accept the idea of India you have to spurn the logic that divided the country in 1947. Your Indianness has nothing to do with which God you choose to worship, or not.

To suggest that an Indian Hindu becoming Christian is an anti-national act not only insults the millions of patriotic Indians who trace their Christi


anity to more distant forebears, including the Kerala Christians whose families converted to the faith of Saint Thomas centuries before the ancestors of many of today’s Hindu chauvinists even learned to think of themselves as Hindu. It is an insult, too, to the national leaders, freedom fighters, educationists, scientists, military men, journalists and sportsmen of the Christian faith who have brought so much glory to the country through their actions and sacrifices. It is, indeed, an insult to the very idea of India. Nothing could be more anti-national than that.

One reader, Raju Rajagopal, writing “as a fellow Hindu”, expressed himself trenchantly in describing ‘terrorism’ and ‘communal riots’ as “two sides of the same coin, which systematically feed on each other.” The only difference, he added, is “that the first kind of terrorism is being unleashed by a fanatical few who swear no allegiance to the idea of India, whereas the second kind of terror is being unleashed by those who claim to love India more dearly than you and i, who are part of the electoral politics of India, and who know the exact consequences of their actions: creating deep fissures between communities, whose horrific consequences the world has witnessed once too often in recent decades.”

That is the real problem here. Nehru had warned that the communalism of the majority was especially dangerous because it could present itself as nationalist. Yet, Hindu nationalism is not Indian nationalism. And it has nothing to do with genuine Hinduism either. A reader bearing a Christian name wrote to tell me that when his brother was getting married to a Hindu girl, the Hindu priest made a point of saying to him before the ceremony words to the effect of: “When i say God, i don’t mean a particular God.” As this reader commented: “It’s at moments like that that i can’t help but feel proud to be Indian and to be moved by its religiosity – even though i’m an atheist.”

As a Hindu, I relish pointing out that i belong to the only major religion in the world that does not claim to be the only true religion. Hinduism asserts that all ways of belief are equally valid, and Hindus readily venerate the saints, and the sacred objects, of other faiths. Hinduism is a civilisation, not a dogma. There is no such thing as a Hindu heresy. If a Hindu decides he wishes to be a Christian, how does it matter that he has found a different way of stretching his hands out towards God? Truth is one, Vivekananda reminded all Hindus, but there are many ways of attaining it.

So, the rejection of other forms of worship, other ways of seeking the Truth, is profoundly un-Hindu, as well as being un-Indian. The really important debate is not about conversions, but between the unifiers and the dividers – between those who think all Indians are “us”, whichever God they choose to worship, and those who think that Indians can be divided into “us” and “them”. The reduction of non-Hindus to second-class status in their own homeland is unthinkable. It would be a second Partition: this time a partition not just in the Indian soil, but in the Indian soul.

It is time for all of us to say: stop the politics of division. We are all Indians.

 Source: SHASHI ON SUNDAY The Times of India


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Radical Hindus step up attacks on Christians (

Posted by jytmkh on September 29, 2008

The Tribune’s Kim Barker writes that India, a nation of many religions, struggles to overcome sectarian strife

MANGALORE, India — On their fifth day of silent prayer, the nuns of the Adoration Monastery heard the pounding in the public chapel next door, the sounds of glass shattering and the statue of Jesus being broken. After the sacrament crashed to the floor, the nuns found their voices. They screamed and called for Jesus.

The attack was one of many by radical Hindus against Christians over the past six weeks in India, a nation striving for religious tolerance but wrestling with bouts of sectarian strife that seem at odds with its drive to become a modern world power.

In the eastern state of Orissa, the country’s worst clashes, sparked by the slaying of a prominent Hindu priest, have paralyzed the state and killed at least 20 people. In the past two weeks, the violence has spread to six other states, including southwestern Karnataka and the coastal town of Mangalore.

The clashes have polarized many Christians and Hindus nationwide. Radical Hindu groups accuse Christians of killing the priest and converting Hindus, especially those from lower castes.

Christians say they have become the victims of anti-minority campaigns designed to win votes for the Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, the pro-Hindu main opposition political party, in national elections next year. The party just won control of Karnataka four months ago.

“It is very inhuman, what is going on,” said Mother Superior Mary Carmel, 57, of the Adoration Monastery, a convent where the 10 nuns leave only to vote or for medical care. “What we find is the government is totally against us. Instead of helping us, the police are victimizing us.”

Many religions converge
In many ways, India is a multireligious marvel, with a Sikh prime minister, a Hindu president and a Roman Catholic ruling-party leader. Indian coins proclaim “national integration,” and TV commercials celebrate harmony between religions. But since India gained independence from the British in 1947, violence has flared every decade or so between the Hindu majority and Muslims, Christians or Sikhs.

Now, as India sets its sights on becoming a world economic power, such violence is a major embarrassment. Many moderates here question whether the country will ever accept a person’s right to religious freedom, guaranteed by the constitution.

The central government has been blamed for allowing the violence to continue. This month, New Delhi officials warned the Orissa and Karnataka governments to stop attacks on Christians or face dismissal. Still, more churches have been ransacked.

Hindu fundamentalists say converts from Hinduism are somehow less Indian than Hindus. Seven states, including Orissa, ban conversion.

“The converted Christians, the converted Muslims, become cruel,” said M.B. Puranik, an official with the radical Vishwa Hindu Parishad, or VHP, and in charge of the party in the Mangalore area. “Their nationhood, their loyalty, is not to the nation. Their loyalty is to the Vatican. Their loyalty is to Allah. Conversion is the enemy of the nation.”

Catholic officials deny actively recruiting. Evangelical groups, especially in the south, have been very active trying to find converts, in one case setting up an illegal Christian orphanage after the tsunami for Hindu orphans. But Alwyn Colaco, a pastor with the Full Gospel Pentecostal Church in Mangalore, denied that anyone is forced into Christianity.

“That is a No. 1 lie, the No. 1 biggest lie,” he said. “Everyone’s free to propagate their religion. People are given enough time to evaluate and choose what they want.”

About 2.3 percent of Indians are Christian, compared with 80.4 percent Hindus, according to the 2001 census. In the 1961 census, 2.4 percent of Indians were Christian.

Violence may worsen

Anti-Christian violence could worsen in the run-up to parliamentary elections next year, analysts say, citing past experience. The BJP grew from a minor party to the major opposition party 16 years ago, largely through pro-Hindu policies that sparked riots. The party has been accused of being complicit in violence against both Muslims and Christians to win votes.

Ravi Shankar Prasad, the national BJP spokesman, said riots were unfortunate but blamed clashes on the conversion efforts and the death of the Hindu priest. He accused Christians in Karnataka of handing out pamphlets insulting Hindu gods. He denied that the BJP used communal divisions to manipulate voters.

“That is wholly wrong, a motivated campaign, patently false,” Prasad said.

V.S. Acharya, home minister of Karnataka, told journalists last week that the central government crackdown on the violence was an “overreaction.” As home minister, he is in charge of police in the state. Acharya also met with Hindu priests demanding the state ban conversion.

Ashit Mohan Prasad, the police official who oversees Mangalore and three districts of Karnataka hit by the anti-Christian violence, said police were independent and doing everything possible to prevent future clashes.

But nationwide, police and government officials have hardly been proactive. In Orissa, mobs rioted for weeks and sectarian violence raged on in spots late last week.

In Mangalore, Hindu activists first started beating anyone suspected of killing cows, considered holy, and any non-Hindu man caught talking to a Hindu woman. Then they planted yellow flags, a pro-Hindu symbol, on Cross Hill, amid 14 Christian crosses.

On Sept. 14, 20 churches and prayer halls were attacked at the same time in three districts. The leader of the Bajrang Dal, the youth wing of the VHP, called a news conference to claim responsibility. He was not arrested for more than five days—and only after the national government issued its warning.

Though the vandals hit one Catholic church—the Holy Adoration—and focused mainly on evangelical prayer halls, Catholics across Mangalore clashed with police for two days.

Three nuns ended up in the hospital. One had stitches over her left eye after being hit with a rock or a tear gas canister while standing on the steps of a church. Two, more than 60 years old, said they were beaten by police while inside Catholic schools. Police are investigating claims of brutality.

Many Christians urged forgiveness and calm, but others said they had suffered enough. Church member Celine Lawrance, 76, said she had received many miracles praying at Holy Adoration. She wanted one more.

“God has to punish them,” she said. “This is my prayer.”

Posted in Karnataka, Orissa | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Opposition challenges government on conversions

Posted by jytmkh on September 18, 2008

MANGALORE (ICNS): An opposition party in Karnataka has challenged the state government to disclose the details of alleged conversions to Christianity in the state.
The demand follows State Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa’s statements that the Hindu radicals’ violence against Christians in the state on last Sunday was caused by Christians’ conversion activities.

Opposition Janata Dal (Secular) president H.D. Deve Gowda on Wednesday asked the government to place before the people the details religious conversions that took place during the 100-days Yeddyurappa’s rule.

The chief minister’s BJP government, backed by Hindu groups, completed 100 days of being in power on Sunday.

Gowda told journalists that the Chief Minister, instead of taking action against those who attacked Christian prayer halls, said conversions were the main reason for Sunday’s attacks. He should tell people how many people were converted and where conversions took place.

Gowda alleged that the government was turning the state into a “Hindutva laboratory.” He said if the government failed order a judicial probe by a High Court judge, his party would hold demonstrations. “We will take the issue to its logical end.”

The judicial probe might also probe Yeddyurappa’s complaint that some forces were attempting to destabilize the government, he said.

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Bharat Mata is stifled by saffron

Posted by jytmkh on September 15, 2008

Ponni Arasu

I write this piece sitting in the capital of the only south Indian state which is ruled by the BJP. Within a few months of the BJP coming to power, the repercussions are crystal clear. Saffron shines through every nook and corner of this IT hub, which is already struggling to deal with  a range of inequalities. Churches, Christian schools and Muslim and Christian individuals  and communities are being attacked regularly in the state. The pattern is familiar. The Nazi model is sound and can be replicated anywhere and thus Karnataka is now replicating the realities of Gujarat and Maharashtra. Human rights activists, researchers and lawyers working on arrange of issue are beginning to come together to prepare for a long tussle with Hindu fundamentalist forces.   I wish this dramatic narration was an exaggeration. What is it that brings rights activists across the board together when it comes to Hindu fundamentalism in India? Is it just the magnitude of the issue that has hit us violently in the past? That seems to be too inadequate a reason. The essential reason is that the Hindutva ideology believes in building ONE kind of nation. In this nation there will be Hindus and those who agree to live subservient to the Hindus. These Hindus are also not a generic category. To be Indian is to be Hindu. The ideal Hindu is a ‘healthy’, upper caste, rich, heterosexual man. All other Hindus exist to assist in the life of this “complete man”. This man is to then ‘guard’ ‘mother India’.  It is these self-appointed ‘guardians’ of the nation who attacked cinema halls across the country which screened Deepa Mehta’s lesbian-themed film Fire. One such ‘guardian’ is vehemently contesting the challenge to Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalises the existence and the lives of LGBT persons, in the Delhi high Court. This is part of the long strenuous relationship between Hindu fundamentalists and sexuality rights activists in India. This relationship is not just a contestation over simpler questions of sexuality identities or practices. It is a question of culture and nation. Fire, they screamed, showcased things that are against Indian culture, as is Valentine’s day celebrations or even Eid and Christmas as they might soon declare. Poorer Hindu and Muslim men and women, those not part of the  Archies cards version of ‘love’, but who sneak away to local parks to whisper sweet nothings or just converse casually are assaulted by the ‘guardians’. Art exhibitions are ransacked and all those involved physically hurt for allegedly ‘disrespecting’ the ‘gods’ , who apparently cannot be, at any cost, imagined or portrayed by anyone else but the ‘guardians’, in a manner that they decide.  These ‘guardians’ are not just here to guard what they believe is theirs. They are here to decide how we ALL live; who we love, which gods we pray to and how. If you dare to exist any other way, you are to die. And die not as an individual but as a community. The list of people the VHP, Bajrang Dal or RSS attack in India today is eerily similar to those sent to concentration camps in Nazi Germany. Communists there — human rights activists here. Binayak Sen is a case in point. Jews there — Muslims, Christians, dalits, tribals and god knows how many other communities here. Both lists have one thing, literally, in common — homosexuals. The similarity between these lists is not a coincidence and does not end there. They have in common the focus on propaganda, the belief in violence and acts of social good (education and other welfare) as a tool to breed hatred of the imagined ‘other’.  This imagined ‘other’ in effect is each and every person who believes in the right to make one’s own choices in terms of god, work, love and life. This ‘other’ is one who believes that all human beings deserve equal opportunities and equal rights to live their lives with respect and dignity. This ‘other’ captures the spirit of the Indian constitution and our long history of social struggles for justice and equality.  It is the ‘guardians of this nation’ who seem to be out of place. What gave them the right to fix our ‘culture’? A culture is one that has space for everyone, equally irrespective of their caste, class, region, religion, gender or sexuality. It is this culture that gave us the sensuous sculptures of Khajuraho, the Kama Sutra, the love story of the Sufi saint Nizamuddin and Amir Khusro. It gave us the paintings of M F Hussain and movies like My brother Nikhil. This culture made space for queer columns in popular newspapers! Culture is an entity that is to give space for all those who choose to be part of it to change, transform and build so as to ensure warmth, love and camaraderie.


Whatever may be the violent dreams and  aspirations of these  alleged ‘guardians’, lives and struggles will go on with heads held high and hearts that have the courage to love. “Hate is more lasting than dislike”, said Adolf Hitler but then again “love will keep us alive and kicking!” (Expressbuzz)


Ponni Arasu  is a queer, feminist  activist and researcher  and currently works with  the Alternative Law Forum,  Bangalore. She can  be contacted at

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Conversion fire engulfs Karnataka, seven churches vandalized

Posted by jytmkh on September 15, 2008

MANGALORE/UDUPI/CHIKMAGALUR: After Kandhmal, it is the turn of Christians in Karnataka to face the ire of right-wing Hindu mobs.

Suspected Bajrang Dal activists vandalized seven churches and a house in Mangalore, Udupi and Chikmagalur districts on Sunday, protesting alleged conversions of Hindus to Christianity.

Some preachers and parishioners were assaulted and church property damaged in the attacks. The police in the three districts are yet to arrest anyone.

In Dakshina Kannada district, the activists targeted the Adoration Monastery just off the Milagres Church on Falnir Road. The 10-member group barged into the prayer hall and damaged the tabernacle, where the holy Eucharist is kept. They damaged windowpanes, furniture as well the crucifix. Police said the same group attempted to vandalise another prayer hall in Kankanady, but were driven back.

Later, Christians gathered in large numbers in front of the Milagres Hall to protest against the series of attacks. The day-long stand off between the protesters and the police resulted in violence. Protesters hurled stones at the police who lathicharged them in return. Several vehicles were damaged, including the jeep of the city DSP D Dharmaiah.

Police burst teargas shells to disperse the angry youth. Some of the protesters took shelter in the Milagres Church Hall premises to escape the mob fury. Prohibitory orders have been imposed in the area up to 8 am on Wednesday.

SP N Sathish Kumar said the police stood guard at some churches that they suspected would be targets of attacks. However, the miscreants had changed their plans in the last moment and attacked churches that did not have police security.

In Udupi district, three places of worship belonging to the New Life group in the district were attacked while the Sunday prayers were in progress. No arrests have been made so far.

A prayer hall near the KSRTC bus station was attacked around 10.20 am during a prayer. Over 15 activists entered the hall and attacked the people and ransacked the entire place. A music system and projector were damaged. According to sources, the miscreants came in vehicles.

In Shiroor, near Baindur, the prayer hall of the same group was attacked. A vehicle was burnt and some members of the congregation, including the pastor, were attacked. A similar incident was reported from Mudur near Kollur where some materials were damaged. However, the police prevented another such attack in prayer halls of the New Life group in Kaup and Karkala. Udupi SP Pravin Pawar said he suspected Bajrang Dal activists were behind the attack.

He told TOI that the police registered cases and investigations had started. In Chikmagalur district, the activists attacked three churches and the house of a neo convert. In one incident, 15 activists came in a vehicle and barged into Harvest India church at Makkikoppa near Jayapura in Koppa taluk in the morning and assaulted a parishioner and the protestant pastor. They broke the window panes and the plastic chairs.

Concerned over the prospects of an anti-Christian campaign spreading to Karnataka soon after attacks on minorities in Orissa, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh drew the attention of chief minister B S Yedyurappa to reports of such incidents earlier in the day.

He also talked to governor Rameshwar Thakur. The stage for the PM’s telephonic talks had been set by a Congress demand for central interventions to end attacks on churches and Christian institutions allegedly by Sangh Parivar activists. In a statement, party leader Veerappa Moily said that several outfits of the Sangh Parivar had attacked churches and Christian buildings in a number of districts in southern Karnataka.

He said that such incidents had been going on for the past few weeks. Claiming that the culprits were allowed to go free, Moily claimed that the BJP government in the state had looked the other way instead of arresting the hoodlums. “Congress demands that the state government initiate immediate action; otherwise we may have no option but to approach the government of India for appropriate intervention,” he said in a statement. (TOI)

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In a crucified state

Posted by jytmkh on September 3, 2008

Biswamoy Pati

Orissa is in the news yet again. Except that unlike in December 2007, the news of Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati’s death is real. Nevertheless, very much like the last time, the VHP has gone berserk again. Political murders and killing of Christians (as ‘imagined murderers’) or vandalising churches is unacceptable to any democratic society. The violence inflicted has been meticulously planned and executed over two-three days when the Orissa government and its affiliated agencies seemed overwhelmed by what was going on.

When Mahatma Gandhi had visited coastal Orissa in 1921 he had said: “I was prepared to see skeletons in Orissa but not to the extent I did. I had seen terrible pictures but the reality was too terrible.’ (Young India, April 1921). In fact, if he had visited western Orissa or the Kandhamal region today, he would have echoed this sentiment.

We are talking about a region that has a predominantly tribal and Dalit population, with 70-75 per cent of the people living below the poverty line. In fact, western Orissa is an amazing ‘hinterland’ of contradictions. Along with acute poverty, the region also harbours mega-projects associated with the mining of bauxite needed to produce aluminium. Unfortunately, successive governments in Orissa have been extremely careful about saving their ‘marriage’ with international capital, but have ignored the serious impact of these mega-projects on people’s lives and the region’s environment.

The current BJD-BJP government has suppressed popular initiatives that have questioned the displacement of people and highlighted hazards to the environment. At the same time, it is puzzling that the government is neither interested in nor is serious about maintaining law and order in this western hinterland. And going by Saraswati’s murder and the subsequent killings, political scientists may well argue that what is being witnessed today indicates the breakdown of civil society. However, the deeper question is: has this tract ever seen civil society?

Whoever is responsible for the murder of Saraswati is definitely not interested either in tribals or Dalits. This heinous act would most certainly boost the VHP in a manner comparable to LK Advani’s rath yatra. After all, Saraswati was a major Sangh parivar functionary who had been working among poor tribals since the late 1960s. He had been associated with the schools and ashrams, working with the idea of improving the lot of the poor tribals.

This needs to be located in a context where the government has virtually abdicated its responsibility of providing basic features of civil society like education and health. In the absence of any land reforms or serious governmental interventions to improve the condition of the poor, the schools and ashrams provide meagre alternatives, along with institutions run by Christian missionaries and NGOs.

Ironically, the activities of the VHP correspond to what they accuse the Christian missionaries of doing in western Orissa. Both work to attract and convert people to their respective faiths – something that is allowed under the Indian Constitution. Moreover, both have access to resources — internal and external — to be used towards the uplift of the poor. But then how does one explain the way in which the term ‘conversion’ appears to be synonymous with Christian missionaries? This might appear to be a profound question. But this is precisely where the Sangh parivar’s hegemonic hold needs to be loosened.

This is sustained by poverty, lack of land struggles and reforms and the virtual non-existence of either civil society or the state in this area; further clothed by a finely-crafted ‘reality’ created by the VHP. One could cite two clear examples to illustrate this point: (a) that tribals are Hindus and Christian missionaries are the villains, who are spreading Christianity through inducements and converting the poor and ignorant tribals; and (b) that the VHP has the right to re-convert them to their original faith. It is indeed amazing that most of the reports on Kandhamal wrongly assume that tribals are Hindus. In fact, what the Sangh parivar has been attempting in Orissa — their post-Gujarat laboratory — is large-scale conversion of tribals to Hinduism.

This is skilfully combined with terrorising sections of Dalits – who had opted to convert to Christianity after suffering social discrimination – to reconvert to Hinduism. This ‘common sense’ makes the conversion of tribals appear as ‘re-conversion’. And this has been skilfully woven with terror directed against Dalit Christians over quite some time. More significantly, the majoritarian orientation of such conversion drives and their ancillaries – viz the ghee-burning shuddhi karan (re-conversion) rituals as seen through the electronic media — hides the real agenda.

This ‘common sense’ has enabled the VHP to make serious inroads in Orissa, even as the world debates the conflicts among Dalit (Panas) Christians and the adivasis (Kandhas) over diverse issues. The real problem in Kandhamal is related to the aggressive drives to convert tribals to Hinduism, including terror directed at Dalit Christians, who are the stumbling blocks in the path of the Sangh parivar and the VHP.

(Biswamoy Pati is the author of Identity, Hegemony, Resistance : Towards a Social History of Conversions in Orissa, 1800-2000)

(Hindustan Times)

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Church shocked as Christians forced to become Hindus

Posted by jytmkh on September 2, 2008

NEW DLEHI (ICNS): The continuing anti-Christian violence in Orissa took a vicious form with fanatic Hindus forcing Christians to denounce their religion, become Hindus and destroy their own churches.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) said the Church “is shocked” to learn that the Christians are “forced to become Hindus and attack their own Churches in which they have been worshiping so long.”

The bishops in a statement said latest reports from Bhubaneshwar say mobs continue to attack Churches and ransack the Christian institutions at will.

Such violence happened despite the deployment of riot police at several places in Kandhamal with specific instructions “to shoot at sight,” the statement said.

On Monday, September 1, it is reported that 10 prayer halls were destroyed in Kundra village of Jayapur District. In Tikabali Block, 5 villages were attacked and property looted. Similarly, a Church, a convent and two hostels were destroyed in Mondasore under Raikia Block, the statement said.

The Church is “extremely distressed to note that despite the assurances” form chief minister Naveen Patnaik and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to end violence the atrocities continue.

“We find that there has not been much improvement in the riot hit areas of Kandhamal. Even though security forces have been deployed in Kandhamal, the fundamentalists continue to attack Christians and their institutions freely,” their statement said.

The bishops appealed to “act firmly against those who are taking law into their hands and safeguard Christians, their houses and institutions.”

“We also request the State Administration to be vigilant at the forced re-conversion issue since it is a gross violation of their Constitutional right to live in the country without fear,” said the bishops’ statement.

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