Monday, March 30, 2009

Christians in Orissa want the vote to be deferred

Taken from: The National. Click on THIS to go there.

Shaikh Azizur Rahman, Foreign Correspondent

Members of the Christian community hold a candlelight vigil in Kolkata last year to protest against the attacks on Christians in Orissa. Sucheta Das / AP

New Delhi // In the eastern state of Orissa, where an uprising against Christians raged for more than two months last year, minority Christians are calling for the postponement of next month’s elections because, they say, many are still displaced and will not be able to cast their ballots.

A delegation of the riot victims led by human rights activists met India’s Election Commission officials in New Delhi last week and requested next month’s general and state elections be deferred in Kandhamal district, the epicentre of last year’s riots.
Despite a police investigation revealing Maoists to be behind the Aug 23 killings of a Kandhamal-based Hindu monk and four of his associates that sparked the riots, Hindu organisations, claiming that Christians had murdered the Hindu leaders, began the anti-Christian campaign, which left 43 Christians dead and 79 missing.

The riots, during which hundreds of homes and a number of churches were destroyed, led to more than 3,000 Christians reportedly being forced to convert to Hinduism at gunpoint. Many others were driven from their villages. Threats from radical Hindus still exist in Kandhamal and “25,000 to 30,000 Christians” are still unable to return to their villages, Christians and human rights groups say.
“A large number of [Christian] people are still forced to live away from their homes on the face of threats. Hindu groups are also making hate speeches against Christians to polarise the votes in the communally sensitive area,” Teesta Setalvad, the secretary of the Mumbai-based Citizens for Justice and Peace who led the Orissa Christian delegation to the EC, told Indian media.

“This would mean thousands of voters would be unable to exercise their franchise.”
The delegation, called the Kuidina Forum for Peace and Justice and supported by Ms Setalvad’s organisation, alleged that Hindu activists were not allowing Christians to return to their villages unless they converted to Hinduism.
Kadamfula Naik, 36, who now lives in Orissa’s Baliguda refugee camp, told the media in Delhi that after they killed her husband in September the Hindu militants drove her away from her village.

“They butchered my husband with a sword before my eyes. Then they said I could not be allowed to live there unless I converted. I ran away with my children,” she said.
“Recently I tried to return to my village. But they said only Hindus would be allowed to return. ‘You can return home only if you convert and pledge to vote for our party [BJP],’ they said. It is clear that they are still in charge and it is impossible for us to return to our villages now.”

Villagers can cast their ballots only at local polling booths in their native villages.
Another delegation member who lost her husband in the rioting, Priyatama Naik, alleged that police and other government agencies were not helping the Christians and elections had no meaning for the community.
“My husband, who was burnt alive, named the Hindu culprits in his dying statement. Yet the police have not been able to arrest them. What is the meaning of taking part in an election if the whole system has failed?” Ms Naik, 35, who is from Kandhamal’s Barapali village, told Indian television networks.

“Christians cannot vote freely. We know, if we vote for rival parties and they [Hindu activists] just guess it, they will turn against us exactly as they did after the killing of the Hindu leaders last year. We are living under fear. Elections are meaningless to us.”
The riots angered Naveen Patnaik, the chief minister of Orissa, so much that he chose to part ways with his political ally, the BJP, which he believed supported the riots.

Since the 11-year-old alliance between Mr Patnaik’s Biju Janata Dal [BJD] and the BJP broke apart this month, Hindu organisations such as the Viswa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal and others have begun campaigning to elect a party or political alliance that will “protect Hinduism” in the state.
Christian leaders fear that would lead to the consolidation of radical Hindu political groups that could be preparing for another phase of “ethnic cleansing” in the region.

Sajan K George, the president of the Global Council of Indian Christians, said extremist Hindu groups and their supporters were determined not to allow the Christians to live in the region and they are desperate to get BJP candidates elected.
“The radical Hindu groups have already swung into action to ensure the victory of the BJP leaders in national and state elections with an aim to keep the whole region under the control of the Hindu groups. In that situation police and other government agencies would become tools in their hands,” Mr George said.

“The government says that normality has returned, which is not true at all – 25,000 to 30,000 Christians are still unable to return to nearly 315 of their villages in Kandhamal. [Hindu] saffron flags have been hoisted on top of the looted and destroyed Christian houses, and on many walls of those houses they have posted a stern warning like: ‘Don’t ever dare to think to return to your home’. I don’t think that the Christians of Kandhamal can return home or vote on their own free will any time that soon.”

Others are also not so pessimistic.
“Since, the Hindu groups have to a large extent succeeded in polarising the district along communal lines, the BJP candidates are likely to win in both elections in Kandhamal where for every Christian voter there are five Hindu voters,” said Anjan Basu, the executive editor of Kolkata newspaper Pratidin.
“But for his clean image Naveen Patnaik is extremely popular among educated and secular Hindus who form a big part of the electorate in Orissa. It means [Mr Patnaik’s] BJD has a possibility to form the state government. And if BJD rules Orissa, Christians can hope for justice.”

BJD manifesto seeks to erase Kandhamal stain

Bhubaneswar : With the Kandhamal communal violence in the backdrop, Biju Janata Dal (BJD) chief and Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Friday went all out to wash away the “stains” by promising complete security to all communities 1to perform religious programmes in his party’s manifesto.

In the 40-page manifesto marked by the absence of any spectacular poll promise for the electorate, the only thing evident was Naveen’s eagerness to prove his secular credentials. “Each bone of my body is secular,” read the caption with Naveen’s picture on the back cover of the manifesto booklet. In the manifesto released at the BJD headquarters on Friday afternoon, Naveen said special attention would be given to the development of education, health, economy and culture of the minority community.

In the manifesto, Naveen claimed that in the past five years, he had provided grant-in-aid to all schools, colleges and health centres run by Christian institutions and gave grant-in-aid to teachers of 87 madrasas. Grants for repairs and reconstruction of all religious institutions like temples, churches and mosques damaged during communal riots have been given, he claimed.

But prominent Christian leader and member of National Integration Council John Dayal said, “The ghost of Kandhamal will always haunt him. Secularism is not in the bones, it is in the action,” Dayal told The Indian Express.

The BJD has promised that no one will remain hungry and promised free electricity to farmers. The party has also promised a specially constituted authority for development of the physically handicapped.

Other promises in the manifesto are generation of 15 lakh employment in the industrial sector, establishment of 5,000 girl hostels to accommodate five lakh girls in the next five years, expansion of Mission Shakti programme to make five lakh more woman self-reliant and drainage and sewerage, water-supply and road development in all urban areas.

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Mayawati wooing Christians: Promises reservations to Dalit Christians

Thiruvananthapuram: Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) president and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati promised reservation to Dalit Christians and upper caste poor on 22 March 2009, as she launched her poll campaign from Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of Kerala.
Mayawati flew to the Kerala capital to kick off her nationwide 52-day poll campaign, vowing to clamp down on terrorism and Maoist violence in the country. “Labourers, religious minorities and the Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe communities continue to be aggrieved even 61 years after independence. Many from these communities have taken to Naxalism (Maoism) and other wrong ways because of this neglect,” said Mayawati. She spoke in Hindi for nearly 40 minutes and her speech was translated into Malayalam.
“The BSP has clear cut policies on foreign affairs, agriculture and economics. All post-independence governments have sacrificed governance to the interests of the rich land-owning class,” she said.
The BSP decided to contest all the 20 Lok Sabha seats in the State. Its star candidate in the State would be former Congress MP and three time former state minister Neelalohithadasan Nadar, who has been in a number of parties during his political career.
Nadar is contesting from Thiruvananthapuram Lok Sabha seat, which he won in 1980 trouncing then veteran Communist Party of India leader MN Govindan Nair. One of his rivals this time would be Congress candidate Shashi Tharoor, former UN under secretary-general.
(Source: 22 March 2009)

Pastor gets threats in Andhra Pradesh

On Saturday, March 28, 2009, Pastor G.Timothy was told he will be killed if he does not leave the village within 48 hours. He has been pastor of Brethren Fellowship in Dhanasari Village, K-Samudram Mandal, Warrangal District for about seven months.
A man named Mr. Ravi came to the pastor’s house during lunch and tried to get him to go to a nearby school. When the pastor refused, the man began verbally abusing him and then issued the threat. The pastor approached the village leadership who said the man is from the village but currently lives in Orissa and works for the Bajrang Dal or VHP. The village leaders said they couldn’t help and urged the pastor to approach local police for protection.
He was afraid and didn’t go to the police station until Sunday, March 29th, long with other pastors. However, after arriving at K-Samudram, Warangal Dist Police Station and giving a written complaint, but the officer said the Sub-Inspector was not there and asked the pastor to come again.
This isn’t the first problems from communal forces in the area. There were two young people who started attending the church from that village. A group threatened these young people and told them that they would beat up the pastor and the young people if they continued going to the church. A few days later some people forced their way into the church and stole the PA system.

Source: AICC

Monday, March 23, 2009

One more arrested in Kandhamal nun rape case

One more person has been arrested for being allegedly involved in the Kandhamal nun rape case, taking the number of those nabbed in the sensational case to 15, police said on Monday.
Mangulu Behera was picked up by crime branch sleuths with the help of local police from Baliguda police station area in Kandhamal district on Sunday, a day after another person Gobinda Pujari was arrested from the same area on Saturday.
Both have been sent to judicial custody for 14 days.
With this, the number of those arrested so far in the sensational case has risen to 15, the police said, adding cases have been registered against 30 people in connection with the nun rape case.
Efforts were on to nab the rest 15, while two others arrested earlier in the case have been released on bail, the police said.
The 29-year-old catholic nun was allegedly raped at K Nuagaon on August 25 last year when violence broke out during the Orissa bandh to protest the killing of VHP leader Laxamananda Saraswati.
The violent mob had also allegedly assaulted the nun and Father Thomas Chelan.
As many as 630 people have been arrested in connection with the communal violence that rocked the district after Saraswati's killing, the police said.

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Radical Hindu leader killed. Tension in Orissa
by Nirmala Carvalho
Prabhat Panigrahi had been arrested for involvement in the attacks against Christians. In the district of Kandhamal, there are fears of a new wave of violence. Meanwhile, Christians are being marginalized: they may return to their villages only if they convert to Hinduism.

Bhubaneshwar (AsiaNews) - Prabhat Panigrahi, a radical Hindu leader previously arrested for the violence against Christians in Orissa, was killed this morning by an armed group in the district of Kandhamal.

The police say that about 15 ultras - who were probably Maoists - entered the village of Rudiguma, 145 kilometers from Phulbani, and opened fire on the 30-year-old Panigrahi, a guest at the home of an activist of the nationalist Hindu organization RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh).

Panigrahi had been arrested for involvement in the violence against Christians in the district of Kandhamal, which erupted at the end of last August after the violent death of Laxamananda Saraswati, the leader of a fanatical Hindu group, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). He was released last March 14 from the prison of Baliguda.

Sajan K. George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians, tells AsiaNews that "Panigrahi was very involved in the riots and a known baiter of the vulnerable Christian people, and now the situation in Kandhamal, which was already tense with sporadic killings of Christians, will bring renewed fear. Moreover, there are serious anxieties in the runup to the general elections." Many analysts say that one of the motives in the pogrom was to disrupt the Christian electorate by driving them out of the region, in an effort to guarantee victory for the BJP, supported by radical Hindu groups.

Sajan K. George explains that there is still no peace for the Christians: "Our people are not even being allowed to collect the seasonal 'Mahua' flowers this season, these flowers which have traditionally been collected and sold to make local brew, found in abundance in the forests of Kandhamal. For years, they have been a source of livelhood for the villagers. However, this time even this is being denied to them, besides, they are not allowed to collect firewood. How will they survive?"

Sr. Sujith of the Missionaries of Charity recounts the other difficulties and forms of marginalization suffered by the faithful: "In many places, people are being given the first phase of compensation and told to leave the relief camps. Once the people leave, their names are struck from the rolls of the relief camps, and they cannot return. But our people are not allowed to enter the village as Christian, they have to become Hindu, so they have no alternative but to live under tarpaulin tents in groups in the outskirts of the villages, or live in shanties in the marketplaces, or become a displaced people, leaving the district or even state."

Sangh Pariwar postpones Kandhamal Bandh

Bhubaneswar ( Orissa) : The proposed Kandhamal Bandh call given on Friday by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and all its affiliated bodies has been postponed in view of the HSC examinations.
“We have postponed the bandh taking the future of students into account as the HSC examination is on,” a senior VHP leader said.
Earlier, the VHP and other pro-Hindu outfit were called for Kandhamal Bandh protesting the killing of RSS worker Pravat Panigrahi. Some unidentified gun men shot dead Panigrahi suspecting as a rioters.
“Instead of bandh, we would stage a dharana in front of the office of the district Collector seeking immediate action against the killers,” they added.
Meanwhile, the Sangh Pariwar blamed Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and twin cities Archbishop Raphael Chinnath for the brutal murder of Panigrahi. “We blamed Naveen and Church for the killing as few BJD leaders have an understanding with the Christian Militants to spread mayhem in Kandhamal,” Bajarang Dal national co-convener Subash Chauhan lambasted.
VHP State general secretary GP Rath, Vanavasi Kalyam Ashram State general secretary Dr Laxmikant Dash, Hindu Jagaran Samukhya State coordinator Basudev Barik, Swami Pranarupananda Saraswati and Swami Jeevan Chaitnya Maharaj jointly came down heavily on Naveen for his excessive minority appeasement step.
They served an ultimatum to the Chief Minister asking him to ensure the arrest of the killers or face the music.

Click here for source

Orissa Hindu activist shot dead

Suspected Maoist rebels have killed a leader of hardline Hindu organisation Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in the eastern Indian state of Orissa.

Prabhat Panigrahi was attacked by about 15 people and shot dead in Rudhiguma village in Kandhamal district.

Hindu activists said the killing was the result of a "nexus" between state officials, Christians and Maoists.

Last year, Kandhamal district witnessed weeks of anti-Christian violence after a Hindu leader was shot dead.

The clashes erupted in August after Hindu groups blamed Christians for the killing.

Roads blocked

Mr Panigrahi was detained in connection with the anti-Christian riots and was released from jail only last Saturday.

He was one of 14 local leaders who were named on a hit-list released by Maoists for alleged anti-Christian activities during the riots.

Kandhamal police chief S Praveen Kumar told the BBC: "We are keeping all possibilities open and can comment on the possible killers only after a thorough investigation."


Police struggled to reach the remote village where the killing took place as the attackers had blocked roads with logs.

Angry villagers refused to allow the police to take possession of the body of the Hindu leader.

They are demanding compensation for the family of the victim, the immediate arrest of the killers and protection for Hindus.

Leaders of Hindu organisations reacted sharply to the killing.

"This is the result of the nexus between the state government on the one hand and the Christians and Maoists on the other," said Subas Chouhan, leader of another Hindu hardline group, Bajrang Dal.

"The Maoists have been given a free run in the area to bump off those working for the interests of Hindus," he said.

Nearly two dozen people, mostly Christians, died in last year's clashes in Kandhamal.

The trouble began after Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati was shot along with four others.

Although a senior Maoist rebel leader claimed responsibility, Hindu groups blamed Christians.

Hindu mobs went on a rampage, attacking and vandalising churches and Christian institutions.

Thousands of Christians fled their homes for refugee camps.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh described the violence as a "national disgrace".

Hardline Hindu groups in Orissa say Christian priests bribe poor tribespeople and low-caste Hindus to convert to Christianity.

Christians say lower-caste Hindus convert willingly to escape the Hindu caste system.

Click here for source

Monday, March 02, 2009

Christians beaten by the police in Uttarakhand

Dehradun, Mar 1, 2009: The House of Fellowship church is situated in Dehradun (Uttarakhand) on the Shimla Road and is 8 kms from the Dehradun railway station. For the past few months an unidentified group had been deliberately disturbing the church’s Sunday worship by playing music at a high volume at the time of the service. The Pastor of the church Kuldeep Singh Chadhdha went to the Patel Nagar police station which is 3 kms from the Dehradun railway station and filed an FIR against the culprits.

Today at 10:00 a.m. the police came and instead of taking the culprits to task, they beat up church believers Sanjay Verma (37) and his wife Maya Verma (26) and put them in the lock up. After Pastor Kuldeep went to the police station and took up the issue, they released them in the afternoon around 2:30 p.m.

Now the police is asking Pastor Kuldeep and his church to compromise with the culprit group. If they do not agree to compromise, the police have threatened to beat up the believers again.

Please pray for the safety of the believers and their pastor and for the resolution of this issue

Source: GCIC