Thursday, December 25, 2008

Orissa Christmas update

Christians in Orissa had a "peaceful" midnight mass and  also morning Christmas service amidst tight security across the state. There was absolutely no problem reported any where in Orissa. The arrangement made by the state government was satisfactory. The people in eight relief camps in Kandhamal performed their ritual church practice without any trouble. There were prayers, singing and dancing in Kandhamal and elsewhere in Orissa. 30 churches in Kandhamal were provided with security cover even as villagers held mass prayers last night in their respective places of worship.

There were reports of road blockades from three places in the Kandhamal district and one person was arrested in this connection near Raikia area and the tree logs have been cleared by Orissa Disaster Rapid Action Force immediately .The blockades were set up by felling trees at Linepada and Shankarakhole under Tikabali police station and at Katingia under Raikia police station.

The Christmas Service at Barakhama Church is just finished without any problem. I talked to the church leaders . People are happy this year as last year they could not celebrate the Christmas because of Communal riot. The district administration is negotiating with the tribal leaders to conduct a peaceful tribal congregation near Barakhama in Kandhamal this afternoon . However the Tribal Leaders are insisting to hold the death anniversary near the Barakhama Church and have threatened to call another Bandh if they will not be allowed to hold the first death anniversary near the Church. The situation is tensed at Barakhama but under control. The administration had already imposed prohibitory order for the purpose in the disputed.

Thank you very much for your prayer support. Please continue to pray for rest of the evening Christmas service to be held after a short while.

Update from Advocate B D Das

Kandhamal remains tense despite tight security

Kalinga Times Correspondent

Kandhamal, Dec 25: The situation continues to remain tense in this riot-hit district of Odisha in view of a call given by a Sangh Parivar outfit to observe bandh during the day.

Although the hundreds of Christian families attended the midnight mass at the relief camps dotting the district's landscape on Wednesday, those living outside the camps were apprehending trouble.

Despite the fact that the administration had strengthened security arrangements to instill confidence among the members of the Christian community, the district was likely to witness a complete shut down during the day as Hindu Suraksha Manch, a Sangh Parivar outfit, has distributed leaflets across the district calling for a bandh in the district.

Although Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati Shradhanjali Samiti had called off its proposed statewide bandh on Christmas Day, the Manch has appealed to the people to observe a peaceful bandh on the day to register protest against the state government's failure to arrest the killers of Swami Lakshmanananda.

Another factor that had posed problem for the administration was the decision of the Kui Samaj Samanwaya Samiti to go ahead with it plans to organise a meeting in communally-sensitive Barakhama area of the district in memory of Khageswar Mallick, a tribal leader who was killed during the communal violence in the area on the Christmas Day last year.
The head of the Samiti, Lambodar Kanhar, who claims to be the leader of the Kui speaking tribals is a sympathiser of the Sangh Parivar. He is now vying for a Biju Janata Dal ticket to contest the Assembly polls next year.

Patrolling has been intensified and the administration is keeping a close watch on the situation in the district, but outbreak of violence and clashes between the people and security persosnnel are not being ruled out during the day.

Click here for source

Christmas celebrated in Kandhamal relief camps

Kalinga Times Correspondent
Kandhamal, Dec 25: Even as fear continued to dominate the locale in this riot-hit district of Odisha, more than 8000 riot-hit Christian men and women living in the government-run relief camps celebrated Christmas on Wednesday night.

Although the administration had announced that it would provide security to the people wanting go to the churches to attend the midnight mass, no one living in the relief camps ventured out as none of the churches and prayer houses in the riot-hit areas had been repaired till date.

The residents of the relief camps organised attended the midnight mass that they organised at their respective relief camps where they have been living since communal violence broke out following the killing of Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati on August 23.

The members of the Christian community, however, celebrated Christmas in some villages under Brahmanigaon and Tumudibandh areas where they were in majority. Interestingly, these areas have strong Maoist presence.

There was no Christmas celebration outside the relief camps in the areas that had witnessed large scale attacks on Christian families, their houses and churches.

There was virtually no Christmas celebration outside the relief camps in the hundreds of villages that had been hit by the communal violence that continued for several weeks starting from August 24.

Click here for source

Christmas in Kandhmal amid tight security

It's Christmas on Thursday and for the Christians of Orissa what should have been a celebration is a tense and uneasy day instead. Even though the Sangh Parivar has called off a proposed bandh, there is still concern.
Home Minister P Chidambaram has appealed to the people of Orissa to maintain peace and harmony on the occasion of Christmas.
In a statement, the Home Minister said Christians were worried about their safety after a bandh call by Hindutva outfits demanding the arrest of a VHP leader's killers. However, he said that the Orissa chief minister has assured that there will be no bandh.
Chidambaram also said: "My appeal to the people of Orissa is to maintain the peace and harmony among different communities. I am confident that the Government of Orissa will ensure that Christmas and the days following will be marked by peace and harmony."
The Centre has sent extra forces for security and has also provided a helicopter to patrol over the Kandhamal and Sambhalpur districts.
However, Raphael Cheenath, the archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar diocese has expressed apprehensions about peaceful a Christmas in Kandhmal and the rest of the state.

Click here for source

Orissa Update 00:30 hours, 25 December 2008

Bibhu Dutta Das
Advocate , Orissa High Court
Stewart Patna, Cuttack-8

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Orissa tops in communal violence -

Tuesday, 21 October , 2008, 18:11

New Delhi: Orissa has recorded the highest number of communal violence incidents this year, resulting in the death 41 people, the Lok Sabha was informed today.

"A total of 695 cases of communal violence were reported from different states during the period in which 116 people were killed and left 1680 injured," Minister of State for Home Affairs Shakeel Ahmad said in reply to a question.

"Orissa recorded maximum of 159 cases till September 2008 which left 41 people dead and 76 injured. The ministry does not maintains record of the property destroyed during the violence," he said.

In terms of toll, Orissa was followed by Madhya Pradesh where 19 people were killed, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh where 11 people lost their lives and Karnataka where three persons were killed.

Ahmed was replying to a question by Parliament Members Naveen Jindal and P Karunakaran. He said the data included recent incidents of violence targeted against the members of Christian community in Orissa in the wake of murder of Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and four others on August 23 this year.

The Minister said seven advisories and communications were sent to Orissa Government between September 25 to October 18, 2008 at various levels. "Four advisories were sent to Karnataka between September 15 to October 15, 2008," he said.

"Orissa was asked to take stringent action against persons indulging in communal violence, including identification and apprehension of elements inciting communal violence and hatred," the Minister said.

Similarly, Karnataka was also asked to take immediate steps to stop violence targeted at minority communities and their places of worship, Ahmad said.

The deadly spark of anti-Christianism

Wednesday, 29 October , 2008, 23:54
Last Updated: Monday, 03 November , 2008, 17:55

Bhaskar Roy, who retired recently as a senior government official with decades of national and international experience, is an expert on international relations and Indian strategic interests.

"One spark can set a thousand prairies on fire,” wrote the legendary Mao Zedong. He proved it by launching the Great Proletariat Cultural Revolution (GPCR) in 1966 with the slogan “bombard the headquarters”. The Revolution, which had anything, but “culture” in it, ravaged China for ten years till Mao died in 1976.

The not so small spark lit by the Bajrang Dal in Orissa’s Khandamal district, raping, killing, burning and driving out Christians in retaliation to the killing of Swami Lakshmanand Saraswati and some others of his Ashram, quickly spread to Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and even touched Delhi.

Some groups like the Bajrang Dal and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) have become self-proclaimed guardians of Hindu culture. Their actions, however, suggest they hardly understand the meaning of the word culture or “Sanskriti” . Goondaism is anathema to Hindu culture and tradition.

Political leaders of almost all hues have also played their roles by both omission or commission, as the case may be. Although the two organizations are linked to the BJP, a close look at the opinion in the highest level in the BJP would suggest many of them do not subscribe to such acts from their affiliated organizations. Some of the BJP leaders who came and spoke on television talk shows and debates always tried to obfuscate the real issue. In politics, this is understandable, but the issue must be addressed on a much larger context.

The UPA Government at the Centre was, as always, on half measures. Why was the dispatch of paramilitary forces to Khandamal delayed by four days despite a request for the same from the Orissa Government? The explanation from the Central Government that it took time to pull out the forces from other duties, does not appear convincing. The protestations from the Union Home Minister were feeble.

Karnataka, the next most affected state, is an example to be noted. The BJP Chief Minister of the State pretended to be blissfully unaware of the real intensity of the attacks. It was appalling to hear him describe the ransacking and burning of a church by Bajrang Dal mobs as having been caused by an electrical short circuit!

Till recently, vote bank politics was played on Muslims and castes. It would be unfortunate if even the Christians were drawn into it. The Christian community in India has by and large stayed out of the politics of religious divide. Why force them into it now?

Returning to Khandamal, the Maoists have claimed more than once that they killed Saraswati because he was engaged in coercing Christians to return to Hinduism. It has also been reported that there were about forty people armed with guns and other weapons who attacked the ashram. The Christians of Khandamal obviously did not have such weapons, nor did the organization.

Therefore, why did the Bajrangis not take on the Maoists, but, as it appears, used the incident to turn on the weak community?. Orissa Chief Minister Navin Patnaik Naveen Pattanaik is, by no imagination, a communalist. It appears he was not kept adequately informed by his coalition partners in his Ministry and the local administration in Khandamal.

The Khandamal case has another face. It is a struggle between two groups of have-nots. It is a very poor place. There is a question about access to reserved jobs for the lower castes and land. Those who change their religion are no longer eligible for these reserved jobs.

This is an anomaly that the Central Government must address. Reservations are based on historical neglect of certain sections of society. Changing one’s religion on a person’s freewill does not change his historical predicament. In Khandamal, one of the points of contention was the alleged attempt by Christians to hide their religion and lay claims to reserved employment. Unfortunately, these problems were turned to political opportunism, and spread across the country.

The issue of conversion has become a central debate. The Christian missionaries brought education and healthcare to India. They are still involved in these areas. The question is whether they are using these and relief efforts and jobs to entice the have-nots to change their religion. There is a counter question, also. Can groups like the Bajrang Dal and the VHP provide these people with their basic human rights? These are questions that merit a much larger debate at the national level.

The leaders of the church have their responsibility, too. It is a fact that missionaries take advantage of situations at times to entice conversion. The New Light Church of Bangalore owes an explanation to the people about a book circulated that insults Hindu gods and goddesses. The writings of this book reflect the writings in another book published by the Southern Baptists in the USA a few years ago.

The involvement of external interests in religion in India and in other non-Christian countries is not new. But this is no excuse for persecution of Christians for political and economic reasons. If there is a problem, it is for the authorities to investigate and bring out the truth. Vigilante justice on any ground proven, imagined or deliberately construed is unacceptable.

Political leaders of the country must understand that the anti-Christian riots have been taken serious note of abroad. Even Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh’s attention was drawn to this issue by French President Nicholas Sarkozy.

India is on the verge of entering the highest levels of the global community. Along with China, it is about to enter the Group of Eight (G8) countries. It has broken through the nuclear cage. The successful launch of the Chandrayaan-I moon mission on October 22 took India to the top four countries in the world in this area. India’s membership to an expanded UN’s Permanent Security Council, mainly with western support – the US, the UK, Germany, France, Russia and, of course, Japan -- is on the anvil. The US and the West European countries have strong Christian lobbies, which they cannot ignore. The attacks on Christians in India have been taken note of by the churches, the governments and the media in these countries with consternation.

The political leaders in India must contemplate deeply how far they are willing to risk the country’s destiny for narrow and eventually fragmenting vote bank interests.

The nation’s interests are supreme. But one wrong spark can burn it down.

The views expressed in the article are of the author’s and not of

Heavy security at Orissa churches, temples

Tuesday, 23 December , 2008, 12:32
Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 December , 2008, 12:38

Heavy security at Orissa churches, temples

Bhubaneswar: Armed policemen have been deployed at several churches, major temples and other religious establishments in Orissa as authorities and many Christians apprehend trouble during Christmas in the state that witnessed widespread communal violence in recent months.

"We have posted armed policemen at all major churches across the state. Policemen have also been deployed at Hindu religious places like the Jagannath Temple and the Sankaracharya Math in Puri," a state home department official said on Tuesday.

Around 4,000 policemen and security personnel have been deployed in Kandhamal district, around 200 km from here, which saw widespread communal violence in August and September following the killing of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and four of his aides at his ashram on August 23. But district authorities have asked for more security forces on Christmas day.

Kandhamal seeks more forces ahead of Christmas

Hindu groups had given a shutdown call on December 25, demanding immediate arrest of all the people involved in the murders that triggered communal violence in the state. On Friday, they called off their proposed shutdown after assurances from the government. Seven people have already been arrested for the killings.

At least 38 people were killed in the state and thousands were forced to flee their homes after their houses were attacked by mobs in retaliation for the murders of Saraswati and his aides. About 8,000 people are still living in government-run relief camps in Kandhamal. Hindu extremist groups blamed Christians for Saraswati's murder, though Christian groups have denied this repeatedly.

The Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati Shradhanjali Samiti, an organisation linked to VHP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), said instead of the rally, it would organise prayer meeting across the state on Christmas day.

Orissa tops in communal violence

Christians fear the prayer meetings may stir further trouble. "This is not in the spirit of peace and harmony. It could lead to miscreants indulging in further arson and attack against Christians," Sajan George, president of the Global council of Indian Christians (GCIC), said.

But Hindu leaders maintain there won't be any violence. "The prayer meetings will be peaceful," said Ashok Sahu, a Hindu leader and a former police official.

State Home Secretary A P Padhi said necessary security arrangements are in place to ensure a peaceful Christmas. "Security measures have been taken for churches across the state," he said.

Kandhamal District Collector Krishan Kumar on Monday said the authorities there have asked for the deployment of more forces. District authorities added that they have organised over 150 peace rallies across the region in the past week and intensified patrolling on roads.

Christian leaders have, meanwhile, asked people in Kandhamal to perform midnight mass as per their convenience.

"Some churches are located in remote forested areas. It may not be safe for some people to return home after performing midnight mass at those churches. We have advised people to perform mass at relief camps itself," Swarupananda Patra, general secretary of the All Orissa Baptist Churches Federation, said.

According to Patra, the Baptist Churches Federation runs around 3,440 churches in Orissa and of them, 1,000 in Kandhamal alone.


Monday, December 01, 2008

Church serial blasts: 11 criminals get death

30 Nov 2008, 0000 hrs IST, TNN

BANGALORE: A local court on Saturday awarded Death sentence to 11 muslim Jihadi criminals and life sentence to 12 muslim Jihadi criminals in connection with the 2000 serial blasts in churches across Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Goa.

Special sessions court judge S M Shivanagoudar, who had convicted 23 people last Friday, pronounced the judgment. All the muslim convicts belonged to the Deendar Channbasaveshwara Anjuman sect. While kingpin muslim Zia-ul-Hassan and his four children are in Pakistan, four others acquitted. Three of the accused died while trying to escape after planting a bomb at a Bangalore church.

Special public prosecutor H N Nilogal had pleaded for capital punishment for all the 23 convicted. The group had triggered six blasts in Andhra Pradesh, one each in Maharashtra and Goa and four in Karnataka.

The CoD (Corps of Detectives) team, comprising DSPs - V S D'Souza, M B Appanna, G R Hiremath and Manthesh - investigated the three blasts in Karnataka churches at Wadi, Hubli, Bangalore and the fourth blast in which the culprits were killed in a van and filed a chargesheet before the special court.

The accused were made to believe that blasts at churches in India would trigger a civil war between Hindus and Christians. A religious leader from Afghanistan would invade and conquer India, which would be converted into an Islamic country.

The serial blasts were carried out by activists of Deendar Channabasaveshwara Anjuman, founded in the 1920s. The conspiracy was hatched in October 1999 in Hyderabad, during the death anniversary of its founder Hajrath Moulana Siddiqui. Siddiqui's son, Zia-ul-Hasan and his four sons, who migrated to Pakistan, had visited Hyderabad during Siddiqi's death anniversary.

On June 8, 2000 two bombs had exploded at St Anne's Church, Wadi in Gulbarga district of Karnataka. The CoD filed chargesheet against 19 accused. Since four of them were absconding, 15 accused faced trial. On July 8, 2000, bombs exploded at St John's Luthern Church, Hubli. The CoD filed a chargesheet against 19 accused, of which 16 faced trial.

Next day, bombs exploded at St Peter Paul Church, JJ Nagar, Bangalore, where the cops filed a chargesheet against 29 accused, of which 17 faced trial. Within minutes, a van carrying people who planted the bombs also went off accidentally on Magadi Road, where two of the accused -- Zakir and Siddiqi -- were killed and another accused S M Ibrahim was injured.

Those Muslims who were awarded capital punishment are: Mohmad Ibrahim (40), Bangalore; Shaikh Hasham Ali (30), Hyderabad; Hasnuzama (55), Nuzvid, AP; Abdul Rehman Saith (50), Chikkaballapur; Amanath Hussain Mulla (58), Bangalore; Mohammed Sharfuddin (37), Hyderabad; Sayed Muneeruddin Mulla (40) -- Hubli; Mohd Akhil Ahmed (29), Hyderabad; Ijahar Baigh (32), Hyderabad; Sayed Abbas Ali (28), Hyderabad; Mohmad Khalid Choudhary (32), Hyderabad.