Christians Forced to Leave Relief Camps, Group Says

Victims of anti-Christian violence in Orissa's Kandhamal district are being forced to return to their villages by the state administration, a local Christian body claimed.

Kandhamal Christian Jankalyan Samaj (KCJS) alleged at a media conference that the administration has been forcing people to leave the relief camps even when little has been done to assist the reconstruction or repairing of their homes.

They lamented that people still feel "insecure" in their villages, even three months after violence erupted on August 23.

Moreover, continual threats from Hindu fundamentalists demanding "re-conversions to Hinduism" have frightened Christians, who are unwilling to return, they say.

KCJS Spokesman N. Dinabandhu claimed that police has yet to arrest the culprits involved in the murder of people at Tiangia village which recorded at least nine killings.

"Under such situation, how can people return to their villages?" he said.

Last week, the Evangelical Fellowship of India reported that suspected Hindu extremists attacked a Christian office and set ablaze their vehicle in Orissa, India.

"The assailants stormed the India Gospel Outreach and Social Action (IGOSA) office and assaulted the director Rev. Niranjan Bardha before completely burning down the organization vehicle," its statement said.

Also, Christian Today learned that a woman identified as Lalita Digal, 45, was murdered on November 25 in Dobali village, Kandhamal district.

"The Christian woman who was staying in the relief camp went to the village to harvest the paddy on November 21. She was staying at her friend's place, while she was allegedly dragged out from the house and murdered," a source told Christian Today.

Another victim, Leunsio Digal, died due to lack of proper medication in the Daringbadi camp on November 24. He had an unattended fever for a week. Digal was a catechist for 25 years under Simonbadi parish, Archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar.

Relief camps in the district lack all basic amenities, including pure drinking water. While no medical doctors are available round-the-clock, pharmacists are treating patients.

Christian leaders say violence in Orissa continues unabated as more pastors and churches fall victim to the "false allegations of forced conversions."

Church leaders have demanded a stop to the upcoming bandh, a form of protest or strike, by Hindu groups on Christmas Day. They say the bandh is aimed at Christians and raised concerns that it will trigger fresh violence on its community. They met with Union Ministers in Orissa and requested in a memorandum that the bandh be declared illegal.

Demanding adequate security for Christian worship places and institutions, the Christian leaders also asked for the halt of forced re-conversions occurring in Kandhamal region. They urged the state to punish those people or organizations involved in such actions.

Violence erupted on Christians in Orissa on Aug. 23 with the assassination of a Hindu leader. Ignoring claims of responsibility by the Maoists, Hindu fundamentalists accused Christians for the slaying of the Swami and four of his aides.