Top Indian Official Calls Violence Against Christians a Disgrace

Among the host of politicians and government fact-finding teams who inspected the riot-hit Orissa, India, none have been as vocal as Home Minister P. Chidambaram.

During a Rajya Sabha (Upper House) session this week, the Home Minister termed last year's anti-Christian violence as a "blot" on the state.

The cabinet minister of the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government was very vocal on the atrocities done to Christians in the tribal district and also said he was gravely concerned over the remaining thousands currently in relief camps.

"The violence on Christians in Kandhamal is a blot on the face of Orissa. It is a disgrace that minorities were targeted," Chidambaram said, evoking stark criticisms from the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Chidambaram's cognizance was a response to BJP M.P. Rudra Narayan Pany, who indicted Christian missionaries of conversions and even allegedly blamed them for involving in the murder of Hindu leader Swami Laxmananda Saraswati.

Saraswati was shot dead by unknown assailants at his ashram at Jaleshpata August 23. Following the slaying, Christians were falsely accused. Dozens were murdered and thousands forced to hide in forests.

Chidambaram told the Rajya Sabha session that few arrests have been already made and defying his opponents, he sarcastically pointed, "One of the accused has already taken oath as an MLA."

He was referring to BJP representative Manoj Kumar Pradhan - accused in 14 cases, including seven charges of murder - who was released July 5 to take oath as the MLA of G Udaygiri constituency in Kandhamal district.

Chidambaram visited riot-stricken Orissa last month and apologized while offering adequate security and rehabilitation measures to help the affected start life afresh.

Chidambaram visited relief camps at Mandaika, Rahikola, Tiangia and Tikabali and interacted with victims whom he encouraged to "go back to your villages, build your homes and churches and practice your religion without any fear."

The Orissa government confirmed last week that it had disbursed assistance for repair of churches and prayer houses damaged during the mayhem.