Indian Leaders Determine Root Cause Behind Anti-Christian Violence in Orissa

Various opposition parties in India have unanimously named the former ruling party and a Hindu fundamentalist organization as the root perpetrators of last month's violence against Christians in Orissa state.

Last month, mobs led by Hindu activists attacked Christians in the Kandhamal district on Christmas Eve reportedly over a decorative arch intended for Christmas celebrations. Over the course of several days at least four people died while 95 churches and 730 houses were burnt down or destroyed, according to the All India Christian Council (AICC). Many people are believed to be still hiding in jungles and hills in fear of their lives. Furthermore, minority Christians as a whole have been terrorized by the incident.

According to the conservative English daily Hindu newspaper, leaders of different opposition parties have each determined that the actions of the Bharatiya Janata Party (Indian Popular Party) and the Sangh Parivar led to the large-scale communal violence and attacks on churches throughout the Kandhamal district.

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Though political leaders were barred from visiting the riot-hit areas, the Orissa state government reportedly lifted restrictions, allowing leaders of various parties in the state – including the Communist Party of India, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the Indian National Congress, the Orissa Gana Parishad (Orissa Popular Association), Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (National People's Party) of Orissa – to visit Phulbani, the district headquarters town of Kandhamal district, this past Saturday.

On Sunday, they visited violence-hit areas like Khajuripada, Daringbadi, Baliguda and Barkhama before reaching Brahmanigaon in the afternoon. In Brahmanigaon, the leaders visited the ransacked church and houses of families of both communities that were devastated by communal violence and also inspected the relief operation.

A fact-finding team of the Indian National Congress, India's ruling Congress party, will submit its report to party leader Sonia Gandhi, a Roman Catholic and one of the country's most powerful politicians.

"Planned move"

State CPI(M) General Secretary Janardan Pati said the recent communal violence in Kandhamal district was a planned move by the Sangh Parivar. He urged the leader of the Vishva Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council), Laxmananda Saraswati, who was alleged to be the root cause of communal tension in the district, to try to bring in peace and unity in the district rather than dividing people on communal issues. Meanwhile, the CPI(M) state political bureau member, Ali Kishore Patnaik, said the state government was protecting the Sangh Parivar as BJP was part of the ruling alliance.

State Congress chief Jayadev Jena also accused the Sangh Parivar activists led by Laxmanananda Saraswati of being the instigators of communal violence in the district and alleged that the state government did not take security measures before Christmas celebrations to thwart the plans of the Sangh Parivar. CPI legislative assembly member N. Narayan Reddy further criticized the administration and police for failing to instill a sense of security within the minority community as many places were attacked in the presence of the police.

In addition, former chief minister and Congress leader Hemananda Biswal alleged that the government machinery was busy suppressing facts related to communal violence in Kandhmal district. Deputy leader of the opposition in the State Assembly, Narasingha Mishra, has demanded for the resignation of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on moral grounds for the communal violence in Kandhamal.

Meanwhile, the fact-finding team of the All India Christian Council (AICC) has accused fundamentalist organization VHP and its youth wing, Bajrang Dal, of having contributed much to the violence.

The AICC team claimed that the attacks were well- and pre-planned, and looting and robbery were rampant while local police remained silent spectators. The sheer devastation and the barbaric act were never reported adequately, it claimed.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is an Indian nationalist party who led the previous National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government with like-minded parties. It is often described as a political outfit of the Hindu nationalist organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). BJP has always received support from Hindu organizations like VHP, Bajrang Dal and others.

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