India High Court Declines to Issue Order over Forced Closure of Relief Camps

The Supreme Court declined on Monday to give any direction to the Orissa, India, government regarding the alleged forceful closure of relief camps in violence-stricken Kandhamal district.

The court made the decision saying they cannot pass any order without hearing the "other side" – in this case, the state government.

A petition had demanded orders to halt the forcible closing of relief camps where Christians have been taking shelter. Keshmati Pradhan filed the petition, after she failed to get a response from the Orissa High Court on a similar complaint.

Counsel for the petitioner, Parshant Bhusan, contended that victims were forced to leave without the government providing adequate security to their lives and properties. The displaced Christians were told last month to leave government camps and return to their homes, many of which have been destroyed, with little compensation.

Some 50,000 Christians have been displaced since August when anti-Christian violence erupted in Orissa. About 30,000 of the people were said to be living in refugee camps at that time.

Archbishop Raphael Cheenath of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar recently reported that Catholic priests returning to their parishes were still being persecuted and not able to move about freely.

The Supreme Court, comprising of Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justice P. Sathasivam, has scheduled a hearing for the petition on April 6, challenging the Orissa High Court for refusing to entertain the petition, sources said.

After all the "pushing" by state authorities, still over 3,000 people remain in relief camps.

Unlike the thousands of Christians who fled to other states and sought shelter with friends and families, the remaining 3,000 are reluctant to leave due to the threats they have received from Hindu fundamentalists.

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