Orissa government leaks assessment pointing toward Maoists; protests nationwide

NEW DELHI, August 29 (Compass Direct News) – Sources in the government of Orissa said in an India media report today that they believe that Christians were not behind the killing of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council or VHP) leader Laxmanananda Saraswati and four of his disciples on Saturday (August 23).

The death toll in “retributive” attacks against Christians today stood at 36, according to the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC).

A private news channel, NDTV 24X7, reported unnamed government sources as saying that their assessment was that Christians had no role in the killing, and that the probe was leading to Maoist (extreme Marxist) culprits.

Inspector General of Police (Intelligence) Manmohan Praharaj had on Wednesday told The Indian Express newspaper that evidence available to police was “consistent with the Maoist stamp in the kind of operation they undertake.”

“The assailants had left a note written on the letterhead of Vamsadhara Zonal Committee, signed by one Azad, and it is consistent with the Maoist methods,” he added.

After the attack on Saraswati’s ashram (religious center) in Kandhamal district, the VHP and the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), partner of the ruling coalition with the Biju Janata Dal party, claimed that Christians had killed Saraswati because he was fighting “forced” conversions. Saraswati was allegedly behind a spate of anti-Christian attacks in Kandhamal last Christmas season. The violence lasted for more than a week beginning December 24, and killed at least four Christians and burned 730 houses and 95 churches.

With Hindu extremist leaders having urged followers to “Kill Christians and destroy their institutions,” mobs allegedly led by the VHP today carried on attacks on Christians in Orissa’s Kandhamal district for the sixth consecutive day, though there were reportedly fewer incidents than in the previous five days.

To express solidarity with the victims of the violence, Christians from various denominations and across the country registered their protests. Around 45,000 Christian schools and colleges throughout the country remained closed today to demand protection of Christians in Orissa.

“Survival is more important than education,” the Rev. Dr. Babu Joseph, spokesman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), told Indo-Asian News Service (IANS), refering to the CBCI’s call for a nationwide closure of Christian schools.

A Hindu extremist group in Gwalior city in the northern state of Madhya Pradesh, however, pelted stones at some schools and churches.

“While all Christian schools and colleges in Madhya Pradesh remained closed on Friday in protest, a group of people pelted stones at Carmel Convent School, St. Theresa School and Church and St. Paul’s Church in Gwalior,” V.K. Suryavanshi, superintendent of police, told IANS. Madhya Pradesh is ruled by the BJP.


‘Ethnic Cleansing’

Raising cries against “ethnic cleansing” of Christians in Orissa, thousands of Christians today staged a rally in the national capital to protest violence that has claimed at least 30 lives, destroyed hundreds of houses and churches and forced thousands of Christians to flee to jungles.

Among other protests across the country, at the Orissa House in New Delhi Christians from almost 30 churches and numerous organizations gathered to protest the violence. Addressing the throng was Archbishop Raphael Cheenath from Orissa, Archbishop Vincent Concessao of Delhi, Dr. John Dayal of the All India Christian Council (AICC) and the Rev. Dr. Richard Howell of the Evangelical Fellowship of India.

Member of Parliament P.C. Thomas, retired high court judge Kulse Patil, attorneys from the Christian Legal Association, human rights activists Shabnam Hashmi and Teesta Setalvad, and Dalit leader Udit Raj were also part of the protest.

Christians submitted a memorandum to Orissa Gov. Murlidhar Chandrakant Bhandare after the rally.

“In deep anguish and pain, we, the Christian community of the Delhi and National Capital Region, submit this memorandum to you, and not to the Chief Minister of Orissa, because we believe that by not stopping the ethnic cleansing of Christians in Orissa in the last six days, he has abdicated his Constitutional duties to the Sangh Parivar [family of Hindu extremist groups] and thereby has forfeited his right to be in government,” it said.

The memorandum also demanded declaration of President’s Rule in Orissa under Article 356 of the Indian Constitution, saying the constitutional machinery of the state had failed.

“Nuns have been raped, pastors, priests, religious workers injured in their hundreds,” it reads. “Over forty churches have been destroyed, many for the second time, apart from once again hundreds upon hundreds of houses burnt in towns, villages and forest settlements. Christians have been chased and hunted like animals.”

The GCIC will stage a day-long sit-in protest in front of the Orissa state assembly in state capital Bhubaneswar tomorrow.

Organizations in the United States and United Kingdom also have condemned the violence, demanding action against the attackers. Christian Solidarity Worldwide, the Dalit Freedom Network, the Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations in North American, the Indian National Overseas Congress, and the Indian Muslim Council of the USA are among them.


‘National Shame’

A Christian delegation from across various denominations yesterday met with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who called the Orissa violence a “national shame.” Singh assured the church leaders of compensation of 300,000 rupees (US$7,500) to the families of those killed, reported The Hindu newspaper.

Singh also reportedly promised funds from the Prime Ministers’ Relief Fund for providing relief and rehabilitation to all those affected by the violence.

The federal government also seeks a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the violence against Christians.

“We would have liked ideally that this matter be handed over to the CBI, because those responsible should get justice immediately as judicial probe takes longer time,” Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal (from the Congress Party) told the Press Trust of India news agency. Sibal, however, clarified that it was for the state government to recommend a probe by the federal investigating agency, as the federal government could not do this on its own.

The opposition Congress Party in the Orissa state assembly House moved a no-confidence motion against the ruling coalition late today. It posed little threat to the government, which had the required majority to defeat it in a voice vote.


Tensions, Mob Attacks Continue as Violence Ebbs

NEW DELHI, August 29 (Compass Direct News) – As a week of violence drew to a close following the killing of senior Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Laxmananada Saraswati, some angry Hindu mobs were still attacking Christians in spite of orders by the Orissa state administration to shoot agitators on sight.

The “shoot-at-sight” orders are in place in eight of the most sensitive areas as the number of deaths climbed to at least 36, according to the Global Council of Indian Christians. By nightfall in Orissa state, authorities had discovered the body of Abhimanyu Naik of Kandhamal district near Raikia village; they said he was the apparent victim of a mob attack.

The government maintains a figure of 19 dead, while Christian and human rights agencies calculate higher tolls. The Asian Centre for Human Rights asserts that more than 50 persons, mainly Christians, have been killed. Dr. John Dayal, secretary general of the All India Christian Council, reported in a letter to United Progressive Alliance Chairperson Sonia Gandhi that 30 persons have been killed.

Orissa police have reportedly put about 165 people behind bars for the violence, but Vijay Simha, senior editor of independent weekly news magazine Tehelka, told Compass from Kandhamal district that there is no evidence against them.

“These arrests are based purely on suspicion,” he said. “There is terror all over. Those who are hiding in the forest and those in the homes – no one feels safe. The areas are totally deserted.”

Orissa officials report that in Kandhamal district alone 20 churches have been burned, 19 people killed, 10 people seriously injured, 28 vehicles burned and more than 500 houses burned down or destroyed. But lawyer Bibhu Dutta Das told Compass that the number of houses burned or destroyed in Kandhamal could be “a lot more than what was quoted in the government report – the number can be over 1,000.”

Sources said churches were attacked today in Tharnamal, Phatara, and Panbarani. Churches were burned throughout the district of Bolangir and the areas of Ganjam and Kalumunda in the past few days. In Bolangir, four churches were burned yesterday in Dhandhamal, Monihira, Phatkorra, and Bilaikani.

The assault on churches continued in Bolangir district. Sources said that in Tharnamal, Bolangir a mob of around 60 people attacked a church building where Christians were present inside. The attackers included at least four minors. The Christians were able to flee as the assailants destroyed the structure.

Additionally, one church was burned in Kalumunda, and one in Ganjam.


Appeals for Help

Deputy Inspector General of Police R.P. Koche told Compass that tensions remain while security is gradually increasing.

“Curfew is relaxed in Phulbani town, and the situation is quite under control,” he said. “Though tension prevails in Kandhamal, the situation is improving gradually in some areas. Security forces have been able to enter inaccessible areas by removing obstacles placed by miscreants.”

Koche said that a number of Special Forces were deployed in Kandhamal district, including the Central Reserve Police Force and the Rapid Action Force, while Orissa state armed police had deployed 24 platoons in the area.

Local sources in Baliguda said the curfew there was relaxed today, and markets were re-opened.

Christian and human rights agencies have appealed for the government to do more to bring the violence under control. After the New Delhi-based Human Rights Law Network filed a petition in Cuttack High Court, the Orissa High Court yesterday directed the state government to immediately deploy more forces to protect the rights and properties of the people.

Another petition was filed by the Utkal Christian Council. The High Court of Orissa heard the case today and issued show-cause notices to the state of Orissa and the Union of India to file replies.

“It has been directed that the state shall requisition required number of security forces, and the central government shall provide the same,” Attorney B.D. Das told Compass. “Further, it was directed that the state shall furnish the details of how much security forces it has applied for with the Central Government and how many has the Central government so far provided for the maintenance of law and order situation in the state.”

In addition, the National Human Rights Commission today asked the Orissa government to file a detailed report on violence in the state within two weeks.


Relief Camps

Suresh Mohapatra, a government administrator, told media that the state government had opened seven relief camps along the affected areas that could accommodate nearly 5,000 people.

“People are still coming to camps,” he said, adding that he expected the flow to end soon as “the riots have stopped.”

Local sources told Compass that more than 1,000 people are at a relief camp at G. Udaygiri, with the government providing makeshift shelter and basic foods.  

Report from Compass Direct News


  1. I’m not too sure just what to make of this ‘Poor Christian Liberation Movement.’ To me, it appears to be a front for those doing the persecuting – they certainly have no idea about what true Christianity is about. Make up your own minds of course, but reading the press releases that they post here in my comments certainly leads one to believe that they have no real idea at all.

    74, 1B, Sector–2, Kali Bari Marg, New Delhi – 110 001 Telefax: 0120-4569139 Email:

    Conversion and peace can not go together

    New Delhi, Saturday August. 22. 2009:
    Poor Christian Liberation movement (PCLM) says that Church leader’s asking for August 23, to be declared Global Day for Peace and harmony is contradicting because it was the day of killing of Swami Laxmananade. The International Day of Peace is celebrated September 21, then why should we have on August 23? It is a Church Leader’s totally show off.

    Poor Christian Liberation movement (PCLM) says that mostly Dalit Christians were killed in kandhamal, Orissa last year. Of course we must pray for their souls and for the victims also. We must also remember that Dalit Christians are being killed every day. Why you are not paying attention for Dalit Christians who are discriminated socially, economically and politically every day since ever Christianity came to India, especially in South India? We can say that killing is taking place every day in the churches. Why are you closing your eyes and not listing the hue and cry of Dalit Christians who are mentally torture? You yourself are killing your own people, Dalit Christians, internally.

    Poor Christian Liberation Movement (PCLM) President Mr. R. L. Francis says that some of the denominations are very busy in converting the Dalit Hindu into Christianity and collecting huge money from abroad. They have made conversion like a business. If they convert Dalit Hindu by hook and crook, then there will not be a peace in the society. Thus conversion and peace can not go together.

    Poor Christian Liberation Movement (PCLM) says that instead of organizing meetings we should work for rehabilitation and assistance needed for the victims of violence. The work of assistance to the refugees are still incomplete, compensation is inadequate and in many cases not even distributed even after a year. Our goal must be the rehabilitation of the victims.

  3. Poor Christian Liberation Movement (PCLM)
    Office:- IIIA/145, Rachana, Vashali – 201010 (NCR) India
    Telefax 0120, 4569131 Cell. 9810108046


    Christian Leaders Urged to study Mahapatra report on Kandhmal

    New Delhi, 14 July 2009: – The Church leaders in India have out rightly rejected Justic S.C. Mahapatra’s interium report on violence in Kandhmal that took palce in 2007 and 2008. The report has sited “conversion and anti conversion ‘and obtaining “fake “caste certififcates by the ‘Pana Chriwtians’ as the main source of tension.

    The Poor Christian Liberation Movement (PCLM) in a statement issued here in the capital stated that it considers these charges as a serious points of relfection and urges the church leaders in India to study the report carefully rather than rejecting it by terming it as” one sided’ and “fictitious’. Mr. R L Francis, president, PCLM, has expressed surprise that why Mahapatra report has been painted in wrong colours by the Christians in India. This would send wrong message to the western Christain world.

    The PCLM has drawn attention of the Church in India towards many other judgements and reports which were in favour of the Church. Does it mean that if an unfavourable report should be condemned “wrongl.” Such attitude would antogonise the imnpartial Indian judiciary, No doubt any government machinery would try to play down the seriousness of the incident but the PCLM has full faith in Indian judiciary.

    The land issue which seems to be the bone of contention must be settled down to bring peace in the area. Obtaiining ‘fake’ certificates is a serious crime and the Church instead of suppressing the facts must voluntarily come forward for survey by an impartial agency.

    The Poor Christian Liberation Movement (PCLM) has received some information that in the name of rehabilitation several Church groups have collected huge amount of money from foreign agencies. The PCLM demands that the Church should come out with a White Paper on their rehabilitation project in Kandhmal. To bring long lasting peace in Kandhmal Church must enter into dialogue with every section of the society as the Indians are not oppose to any particular religion but feel cheated by any dubious activities.

  4. Hi Nitin,

    Thanks so much for your comments – it is great to hear from a believer in the midst of the crisis currently occuring in India. It gives those of us outside India a better understanding of the situation.

  5. I am Indian Christian. And i know that hinduism treats the low caste as no better than animals. Its the truth. These unjust social structures have existed for millenia. This means the poor dalits and the tribals till today have no access to education and medical facilities. Live hand to mouth and accept thier fate because karma is burned into the indian conciousnes.
    In rapidly developing india the caste systems are being shaken and christain missionaries working in far flung corners of the country are unawares themselves of the changes that they are bringing in the country.
    Most often all they do is run a small clinic or a school. School! Literacy! These are powerful agents of change. Ushering in dreaded thoughts in most radical hindus minds of dalits rising up in millions and questioning the caste system.
    Its much more then religion the fight is about. Its a virluent strain of nationalism. That fears other religions as usurper of Indian ‘way of life’. Its religious nationalism. Its called Hindutva. A marriage of religion and nationalism that takes violent approach for the hearts and minds of the majority in India.

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