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Lethal Lies blaming Christians for murder of VHP Leader are exposed PDF Print E-mail
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Saturday, 30 August 2008

ImageTop officers of the VHP and other Sangh Parivar organisations alleged that Christians killed VHP leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati soon after his Aug. 23, 2008 murder. This was despite immediate evidence from Orissa police and claims by a Maoist leader to Indian media organisations that Naxalites were behind the attack. The result of these lies by fundamentalist Hindu leaders was at least 20 deaths, thousands of destroyed Christian properties, and at least 4,000 displaced Christian families, according to Orissa state government authorities. Now the lies of the VHP have been fully exposed and Indian citizens who respect the rule of the law are wondering what, if anything, will the government do to seek justice.

As Orissa police have repeatedly said, there was evidence of Maoist involvement due to the circumstances and methods surrounding the killing of Saraswati and four others. Additionally, on the day after the attack, someone who identified himself as Azad, a leader of the People’s Liberation Revolutionary Group, called at least one newspaper to claim responsibility for the killing (“Orissa on edge, VHP scoffs at Maoist theory”, by Soumyajit Pattnaik, Hindustan Times, Aug. 24, 2008).  The same name was used on a note left at the crime scene which also claimed responsibility ("Four days after VHP leader’s murder, police still clueless", Indian Express, by Debabrata Mohanty, Aug. 28, 2008).

Then, yesterday, Friday, Aug. 29, 2008, an interview with a Naxalite was published a leading Orissa newspaper called “Sambad” which clearly claimed responsibility and asked why Christians were blamed and attacked ("Maoists claim they killed 'fascist' VHP leader in Orissa", Sandeep Mishra, Times of India, Aug. 30, 2008). The Naxalite's name? Azad.

Unnamed government sources reached the conclusion that Christians were not behind the killings and told a major Indian TV station as well ("Christian groups didn't kill VHP leader: Sources", NDTV, Aug. 29, 2008).

The media largely ignored these facts while reporting the allegations of Sangh Parivar leaders for five days. And Orissa burned.

Praveen Togadia, VHP general secretary, told an international journalist on Wednesday, “It is clear that the church killed the Swami” (“Indian state erupts in violence after Hindu shot”, by Saeed Ahmed, CNN, Aug. 27, 2008). Gouri Prasad Rath, Orissa state VHP secretary, said, “This attack is the handiwork of the Christians” (“Orissa on edge, VHP scoffs at Maoist theory”, by Soumyajit Pattnaik, Hindustan Times, Aug. 24, 2008). Subhash Chavan, national co-convener of the Bajrang Dal, said, “The police are trying to hide the truth by blaming the Maoists” (“Orissa tragedy takes a backseat, hunt starts for scapegoat”, by Soumyajit Pattnaik, Hindustan Times, Aug. 25, 2008).  An unnamed RSS spokesperson said, “This is an attack by the agents of Christian missionaries, whose attempts at forcible conversions the Swamiji countered” (“Orissa: Bandh-related violence claims 9,” by Krishnakumar P., Rediff.com, Aug. 26, 2008).  Lastly, RSS spokesperson Ram Madhav told CNN IBN on Tuesday night that Christians were behind the murders (“Blind Faith? Fragile Peace Blown to Bits”, CNN-IBN debate, Aug. 26, 2008, 10 p.m. broadcast time IST).

Of course, claims of responsibility can always be debated. Perhaps "Azad" is a fictional person or is lying. But the facts and evidence are becoming clearer each day.

But there were more lies to the public that stoked tensions between Hindus and Christians. Madhav also said on the CNN IBN debate that Orissa police arrested workers of World Vision, a Christian organization, for the killing. Perhaps this was based on an inaccurate newspaper story that went even further and said the Christians had admitted their guilt (“Widespread anger in Kandhamal”, The Pioneer, Aug. 25, 2008). 

However, Deputy Inspector General (Southern Range) R.P. Koche in Bhubaneshwar categorically denied this claim, and the executive director of World Vision India said two employees were merely given protective custody by police for one night (“Orissa violence: lies and media reports”, by Vishal Arora, The Hoot, Aug. 28, 2008). 

These types of irresponsible statements by Hindu fundamentalists must be met with the full force of the law. The All India Christian Council believes booking extremist Hindu nationalist leaders under Indian Penal Code 295A for creating enmity between communities and religions, or a more appropriate section, would benefit not only Orissa, but the nation. Aicc President Joseph D'souza has appealed to the Prime Minister of India to take action and fix the root problem of the violence (see letter here).

Many countries have severe penalities for the kind of propaganda and hate speech the Sangh Parivar has used. And when it results in chaos and mob violence, the penalties increase. However, in India, the world's largest democracy, these irresponsible leaders remain free. Their words have literally maimed and killed. Yet justice is, for now, ignored.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 11 November 2009 )
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