Thursday, May 28, 2009

Blow to Kandhamal caste certificate probe

Bhubaneswar : The drive in Kandhamal against use of fake caste certificates for government jobs, which was started in November last year soon after the anti-Christian riots, has come to a grinding halt with the vigilance department withdrawing the 10 specially deputed investigating officers (IOs).

The alleged use of fake caste certificates was one of the major reasons for building anger in the tribal-dominated district against Christians, which ultimately led to the riots in which 38 people were killed.

Officials said Kandhamal, which has 25 per cent Christian population, had seen many Dalit Christians submitting fake tribal certificates for government jobs and buying lands. The law enables job reservation for people belonging to Scheduled Tribes even after converting to another religion, whereas Dalits are not eligible for quota if they convert.

Apparently, many Dalits, mostly Christians in Kandhamal, reportedly used fake certificates that showed them as members of Kandha tribe. Several officials and politicians face the allegations.

Though the state Government had deputed 10 vigilance department inspectors to investigate 876 allegations on the issue of forged caste certificates, they were quietly withdrawn in February this year. “Of the 800-odd cases, the inspectors had investigated less than half the cases when they were called back by their parent department. This has hit the investigation process,” said Kandhamal Collector Krishan Kumar.

Chief Secretary Ajit Tripathy, who reviewed the progress of the special package announced by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik for Kandhamal district on Monday, was apparently dismayed by the return of the inspectors. While directing the home department to depute the required number of inspectors for probing the remaining cases, Tripathy asked the Collector to cancel the false caste certificates immediately.

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CRPF to leave Kandhamal, Naveen wants them to stay

BHUBANESWAR, 27 MAY: With the deadline for withdrawal of central paramilitary forces from Kandhamal district barely two days away, chief minister Mr Naveen Patnaik rang up home minister Mr P Chidambaram today seeking a three month extension of the CRPF deployment.
Official sources said Mr Patnaik had earlier written to the home minister on 21 May making a similar request and today he spoke to Mr Chidambaram as a follow up measure. The home minister has reportedly said he would look into the matter.
It may be noted here that the CRPF which has been deployed since 10 months now is scheduled to return on 31 May.
Central paramilitary forces were pressed into service following the communal violence in Kandhamal district since August, 2008.
The state DGP Mr Manmohan Praharaj said he was hopeful of a positive response from the Centre. "Simultaneously, the state is preparing itself to deploy 16 companies of armed police and special police officers in the troubled region," he informed.
Reliable sources said the Centre had in an earlier communication to the state rejected the demand for further extension of central paramilitary forces. It had also sought a payment of Rs 181 crore from the state towards the prolonged deployment of central forces.

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Monday, May 18, 2009

Kandhamal painted in Saffron

BHUBANESWAR: The BJP might have lost ground in most parts of Orissa but in the hub of the communal cauldron of Kandhamal, its has been saffron all the way.

The strife-torn district has returned BJP candidates in two of its three Assembly segments, reflecting a deep polarisation of votes and angst among the local populace over the killing of Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati.

In G. Udaygiri, the BJP’s Hindutva mascot Manoj Pradhan pulled off an upset defeating sitting MLA and Congress candidate Ajayanti Pradhan by a margin of over 23,500 votes.

The BJD’s Luksuna Majhi has been relegated to the third position even as his party swept the polls across the State. An RSS pracharak and a protege of Swami Lakshmanananda, Pradhan fought the elections from jail. He was arrested in connection with 14 cases of rioting and murder which followed the murder of Swami Lakshmananda Saraswati.

Combined with the religious polarisation, Pradhan has been able to evoke a sympathy wave in his favour with the Hindu and tribal votes going en bloc for him.

The votes of the dominant Christian community in the segment have been divided between the Congress and BJD paving way for Pradhan’s victory, observers said.

At Baliguda segment too, the ground zero of the communal violence and home to Swami’s Ashram, the BJP emerged victorious with sitting MLA Karendra Majhi retaining the seat.

The slain seer had in fact pressed for his candidature in the last elections and this time too Majhi had to use all his resources to gain the party ticket. He defeated his nearest rival Congress candidate Sadananda Mallick by around 3,246 votes. BJD’s Dinesh Singh Pradhan came third in the segment.

However, the Phulbani Assembly segment has been retained by the BJD with Debendra Kahanr winning the seat by a margin of 8,701 votes over rival Deba Narayan Pradhan of BJP.

The Kandhamal district had witnessed large-scale violence in the aftermath of the killing of the Swami and his four disciples at Jalespeta Ashram on August 23 last year. More than 47 lives were lost with over 25,000 rendered homeless and shifted to relief camps. Most of them have returned to their houses though.

The elections to the constituencies in the district were also embroiled in controversy with Christian organisations demanding postponement of the polls on the plea that the situation was not conducive.

But the polls passed off peacefully with turnout of over 60 per cent. There was 80 per cent polling in the relief camps too.

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Thursday, May 07, 2009

Persecution reported in three states of India

Two incidents of assault and one incident of vandalism were reported from three states on Wednesday.
According to the Evangelical Fellowship of India, about 30 extremists from a Hindu group attacked a Christian meeting, injuring 10 believers and a five-year-old girl in Mumbai.
The attackers reportedly from the Swami Narendra Maharaj Sansthan, forcefully entered the prayer meeting at Damodar Hall in Nallasopara (East), and beat up the pastor, children and women. There were over 200 Christians attending the meeting organised by ‘Vasai Taluka Christian Pastors Association’.
"After closing the doors and windows of the hall on all sides, the hardline Hindus forced Christians to chant “Jai Shri Ram” and started beating the believers when they refused to recite the Hindu devotional," reported an EFI correspondent.
"Pastor James Samuel received hospital treatment and had five stitches to his head while about 10 others including a five-year-old child were left with bruises."
The incident led to the arrest of five Hindu extremists who have been charged for rioting.
The evangelical body reported a similar case as 15 Hindu radicals on May 3 "attacked an afternoon prayer meeting, burned Bibles and Christian literatures in Bara Koni Area, Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh. "
The extremists burned Bibles, gospel tracts, broke up crockery and other household goods after which they proceeded to verbally abusing the Christians and threatening them with dire consequences if continued to gather for Christian meetings.
In another incident of vandalism, suspected religious fanatics, in Sidapuram Village in Warangal District of Andhra Pradesh, burned a church roof and furniture.
According to the All India Christian Council (aicc), unknown persons broke the church gate and attempted to burn the whole church building.
"After an hour, the fire was noticed and the alarm was raised," aicc said, adding the fire had destroyed the furniture, carpet and roof of the church. Property worth almost Rs 50,000 was lost in the fire.
An FIR is being registered in the local police station.

Monday, May 04, 2009

US Panel to visit India

Washington : For the first time, a US Congress-backed panel on religious freedom would visit India next month to gain perspective on Indian government's response to allegations of communal violence in Gujarat, Orissa and other parts of the country.

As a result, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) refrained from publishing the status of religious freedom in India in its annual report released on Friday.

However, the report does mention Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as the only individual who has been denied an American visa under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA), which bars entry into the US of those foreigners who are "responsible for or directly carried out, particularly severe violations of religious freedom".

It said the provision has been invoked only once in 2005, when Modi was denied entry to the US to attend the World Gujarati meet over his alleged involvement in the 2002 Gujarat riots.

The '2008 Status of Religious Freedom' report has placed 12 States including China, Pakistan, Myanmar and Saudi Arabia as countries of particular concern.