India Gov't to Pull Out Security Forces Protecting Christians

Starting next month, there will be no paramilitary forces guarding Christians who are living in relief camps in India's communally sensitive Kandhamal district.

The Government of India has decided to withdraw all para-military forces by the end of this month.

The pullout comes as the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom is scheduled to visit India in June to assess the government's response to communal violence in states like Orissa.

Last August, Hindu extremists attacked Christians in Kandhamal in Orissa state, killing dozens, destroying homes and churches, and forcing tens of thousands to find refuge in relief camps and elsewhere.

Currently, seven of the 42 companies that were deployed in the district in January remain. Many of the central forces were withdrawn after violence was curbed in several districts

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had earlier pleaded for security forces to stay to protect Christians until they returned to their homes. However, the proposal was rejected.

DGP Manmohan Praharaj had also expressed apprehensions over the withdrawal of the forces, as attacks have continued against the Christian minority.

Praharaj said the state government will deploy its own forces, including the Orissa State Armed Police, to protect those still in relief camps.