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Monday, 25 August 2008

Dr. John Dayal

Member: National Integration Council, Government of India
Secretary General: All India Christian Council (Founded 1999)
President: United Christian Action, Delhi (Founded 1992)
Imm. Past National President:  All India Catholic Union (Founded 1919)


25 August 2008

URGENT FAX

TO PRESIDENT OF INDIA

SEEKING ARMY / CENTRAL FORCES  INTERVENTION TO PROTECT CHRISTIANS IN ORISSA AS NUN IS RAPED, PRIESTS INJURED, CHURCHES AND OFFICES BURNT IN PRESENCE OF POLICE

Hon'ble Mrs., Pratibha Patil
President of India

Dear President

Greetings from a grieving community.

You are aware of the still continuing carnage against the Christian community, mostly Dalits and Tribals, in the Kandhamal district of Orissa and in several other districts including the state capital of Bhubaneswar since 23rd August 2003 following the killing of Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati, reportedly by Maoist groups who have been operating in the state for some time.

The Christian leadership in the country has unequivocally condemned the killing of the VHP leader and his four associates.

The Christians of Kandhamal are still nursing their wounds from the Christmas 2007 violence, with hundreds of them still living in a refugee camp in Barakhama. Most of the more than One hundred churches then destroyed remain in ruins, and the burnt houses are still to be fully rebuilt.

And yet local Sangh leaders have targeted the community in a second wave of macabre violence.

A nun has been raped in Kandhamal, a Catholic father grievously injured, scores of houses in villages destroyed, apart from Churches and institutions. I attach herewith a partial list of the damage in the violence in the past two days. We in Delhi are overwhelmed with panic messages from Priests, pastors, nuns and common people who look to New Delhi for help as the State machinery ahs collapsed once again.

Changing of superintendents of police as a knee jerk reaction does not provide security to Christians. In fact, much of the violence is taking place with the insufficient police force looking on. This had been the case in 2007 December, as has come out in the on going hearings of the Justice Basudeo Panigrahi Commission.  Christian delegations have informed the State Governor, the State Chief Minister and the Home Minister of India of the dire situation of our community in Orissa.

Dear Madame President,

This is to request you to use your powers as President of India, and the tremendous force of your good offices, to impress on the Central Government to rush adequate Union forces, including contingents of the Armed Forces if required, to restore law and order and governance in the Kandhamal region.

The consequences of any further delay, I fear, may be catastrophic for our Christian community in the State  in particular, for peace in Orissa in general, and for the fair name of India as a secular country.

God Bless you

John Dayal

Attachments:
1. Incomplete list of death and damage in violence of 23rd-25th August 2008
2. Christian condemnation of killing of Sw. Lakshmanananda Saraswati

ORISSA ANTI CHRISTIAN VIOLENCE UPDATE 25th August 2008:

1. CHRISTIAN ORPHANAGE WORKER BURNT ALIVE: A Woman worker of a
Christian orphanage was burnt alive on 25th August 2008  by a group of Vishwa Hindu Parishad mob which  stormed the orphanage she ran in the district of Bargarh (Orissa). The 45-year-old woman, employed as a cook was burnt to death on Monday when the school was set on fire by the mob. The pastor running the school was also injured. Police Superintendent Ashok Biswall has told news reporters.
2. NUN RAPED: A young Catholic Nun of the Cuttack Bhubaneswar diocese
working  Jan Vikas Kendra, the Social Service Centre at Nuagaon in Kandhamal was reportedly gang raped on 24th August 2008 by groups of Hindutva extremists before the building itself was destroyed.
3. SENIOR PRIEST AND NUN INJURED: Fr Thomas, director of the Diocesan
Pastoral Centre in Kanjimendi, less than a kilometer away from the Social Service Centre, and another Nun were injured when the centre was attacked. They were taken to the police station in a  disheveled state as the armed mob bayed for their blood. The Pastoral centre was then set afire.
4. BALLIGUDA CHURCH BUILDINGS DESTROYED AGAIN: On 24th August 2008
evening lynch mobs at the block headquarters of Balliguda, in the very heart of Kandhamal district, which had seen much violence between 24th and 26th December 2007, attacked and destroyed a Presbytery, convent and hostel damaging the properties.
5. The mobs in Balliguda caught hold of two boys of the Catholic
hostel and tonsured their heads.
6. PHULBANI CHURCH DAMAGED: On 25th august 2008 morning followers of
the late Lakshmanananda Saraswati damaged the Catholic Church in Phulbani, the district headquarter town.
7. MOTHER TERESA BROTHERS ASHRAM ATTACKED: mobs  attacked the Mother
Teresa Brothers' residence and hospital in Srasanada, destroyed once before and rebuilt two months ago, and beat up the patients.
Fundamentalists have targeted Priests, religious and also the Faithful in Pobingia also.
8. BHUBANESWAR BISHOP'S HOUSE ATTACKED: On the morning of 25th August
2008, violent mobs made several attempts to enter the compounds of Catholic Church and Archbishop's house in the heart of the Capital of the State of Orissa. They could not enter because of the police presence. They threw  stones at the guesthouse of Archbishop's House, damaging windows.
9. DUBURI PARISH; Another group of fundamentalists entered presbytery
in Duburi parish, managed by the SVDs and destroyed and damaged property. Two priests of the parish are missing.
10. Mr. Jamaj Pariccha, Director of Gramya Pragati, is attacked and
his property, vehicle etc. damaged, burnt and looted.
11. A Baptist Church in Akamra Jila in Bhubaneswar is also damaged.
12. Christian institutions like St. Arnold's School (Kalinga Bihar),
AND NISWASS report some damage.
13. BOUDH DISTRICT [Adjoining Kandhamal]: Fundamentalists enter the
Catholic parish church and destroy property. People are fleeing to safer places. But nothing seems safe.
14. Muniguda Catholic Fathers and  Nuns' residence have been damaged.
15. Sambalpur HM Sister's residence (Ainthapalli) has suffered damage.
16. Padanpur: One priest is attacked and admitted to a hospital.
Hostel boys and the in charge have moved away from the place.
17. Madhupur Catholic Church currently under attack.
18. SMALL CHURCHES: Attempted violence on small churches in various
districts, including Padampur, Sambalpur near GM College, Talsera, Dangsoroda, Narayanipatara, Muniguda, Tummiibandh, Tangrapada, Phulbani, Balliguda, Kalingia, Chakapad, Srasanranda.
19. VILLAGE CHRISTIAN HOUSES ATTACKED: Houses attacked on forest
hamlets of Balliguda, Kanjamandi Nuaguam (K.Nuaguam), Tiangia (G.Udayagiri), Padangiri, Tikabali.
20. KALAHANDI DISTRICT: houses burnt even though the district is more
than 300 kilometers from the place where Swami Lakshmanananda was killed.
21. Pastor Sikandar Singh of the Pentecostal Mission beaten up and his
house burnt in Bhawanipatna.
22. Kharihar: 3 Christian shops were looted and burnt. Pastor Alok Das
and Pastor I M Senapati beaten up.
23. Aampani: Pastor David Diamond Pahar, Pastor Pravin Ship, Pastor
Pradhan and Pastor Barik beaten up and chased away with their families.
24. Naktikani: Mob surrounds village to attack Christians. The
government has sent forces, it is reported.


[This list is compiled with assistance from Archbishop's House, Bhubaneswar and other sources]

              ---------------------------------
URGENT From John Dayal
25 August 2008

INDIAN CHURCH CONDEMNS KILLING OF ORISSA VHP LEADER

The Church in India has unequivocally condemned the killing of Vishwa Hindu Parishad [VHP] Orissa leader Lakshmanananda Saraswati and his four colleagues in the Tumiliband region of Kandhamal district by Left wing extremists. Still recovering from the worst ever anti Christian violence in Indian history in December 2007, Christian organisations have appealed for peace as the community braces for another round of violence in the state from Hindutva groups who have sworn to avenge Saraswati death by attacking Churches, institutions, clergy and nuns.

The following is the text of major statements issued by Church groups condemning the VHP leaders' death:

ARCHBISHOP RAPHAEL CHEENATH, SVD
Archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar

24 August 2008

I, on behalf of the Christians of Orissa, particularly the catholic Christians, strongly condemn the dastardly attack and violent killing of Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati and five of his associates. We the Christians abhor violence and condemn all acts of violence and terrorism and are against all groups of people taking the law into their own hands. We condole the death of Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati, a religious leader and his associates. At this critical juncture I appeal to all for peace and communal harmony. We want good relationship with all the communities with whom we live.

We are also concerned at the immediate outbreak of communal violence against innocent Christians in nearby districts. Early reports suggest that least one prayer hall in Sundergarh District has been burnt and vehicle belonging to Daughters of the most Precious Blood has been burnt near G. Udayagiri.

We urgently appeal to the Chief Minister and the Governor of Orissa and at the Indian Home Minister Mr. Shivraj Patil to take whatever steps are require to maintain peace and harmony in all areas of states, to prevent further attacks on Christians and to bring to book those responsible for the death of Lakshmanananda Saraswati and his associates.
    ---------

ALL INDIA CHRISTIAN COUNCIL:

Press Statement by Dr John Dayal, Secretary General, and Dr Sampaul, National Secretary for Public Affairs

The All India Christian Council is deeply concerned at the attack on an ashram near Tumiliband in Kandhamal District of Orissa last night in which the Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Lakshmanananda Saraswati and four of his associates were killed. This is the latest of a series of attacks in recent months by political extremists which have left dozens of policemen and others dead in several districts of Orissa.

We are also concerned at the immediate outbreak of communal violence against innocent Christians in nearby districts. Early reports suggest at least one prayer hall in Sundergarh ahs been burnt, the van of some Catholic Nuns destroyed and the sisters themselves injured.

We urgently appeal to the Chief Minister and the Governor of Orissa and at the Indian Home Minister Mr. Shivraj Patil to take whatever steps are require to maintain peace and harmony in all areas of states, to prevent further attacks on Christians and to bring to book those responsible for the death of Lakshmanananda Saraswati and his associates.

The Christian community abhors violence, condemns all acts of terrorism and is against groups of people taking the law into their own hands. We have had major differences with the dead VHP leader. It has been the hate campaigns of the VHP and Sangh Parivar which led to untold misery to Christians in the violence last Christmas. Refugees from that violence are still living in government camps in Barakhama under miserable conditions.  But we wish peace to everyone.
We pray for peace in Orissa, one of the most undeveloped states in the country,
                ------------------

CATHOLIC BISHOPS CONFERENCE OF INDIA:

The Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI) is sad to note that Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Lakshmanananda Saraswati and five others were murdered on Saturday August 23 allegedly by Maoist group in Kandhamal Dist of Orissa. The Church leaders in Orissa and other parts of the country have condemned the killing of Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati and his associates in the Ashram. We have also appealed for peace and harmony in the state.

However, we are extremely sorry to find that some organizations have pointed finger at the Christian community in Orissa for the alleged murder of the Swami and his associates. Consequently there have been unprovoked attacks on Christians and their institutions in Kandhamal and surrounding areas. School at Bhadrak Town, Convent and the computer centre at Baliguda in Kandhamal Dist, Pastoral Centre at Baliguda in Kandhamal Dist., Social Development Centre (Jan Vikas
Kendra) at Baliguda in Kandhamal Dist., Catholic Church in Phulbani and a Convent of the religious women at Phulbani have suffered in the attacks which took place after the murder of Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati.

We are sad to note that the extremists are attacking and vandalizing our institutions without any reason. Incidents of arson and burning of vehicles belonging to the Church have also been reported at Udaygiri.
Some of our religious nuns, girls and boys in the hostels have fled from their places and taken shelter in the forest, particularly in Kandhamal Dist. We are seriously concerned about the safety and security of our frightened people who are innocent and yet find themselves in a very precarious situation. The State Government has deployed police forces in some of the areas and yet the violence has not been contained. We request the Central Government to urgently intervene in the matter and send additional forces to bring situation to normalcy.
-- Rev. Dr. Babu Joseph, SVD, Spokesperson, CBCI
          ------------

EVANGELICAL FELLOWSHIP OF INDIA:

Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) denounces the killing of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati and his four associates by suspected Maoists in Orissa state's Kandhamal district on August 23. While deeply saddened by the weeklong spate of attacks that hit Kandhamal district during last Christmas, EFI, as a representative of the evangelical church in India, stands against every act of violence and terrorism.

EFI also regrets that vested interests among the various Hindu nationalist groups are trying to blame local Christians for the act, as reflected in the acts of vandalism and arson reported from Kandhamal after the attack on Saraswati ashram.

EFI appeals to the central, state and district authorities to take all possible measures to maintain peace and calm in Kandhamal. EFI also calls for the Christian community in India and abroad to pray for protection of the Christians in Kandhamal and other parts of Orissa.
-- Rev. Dr. Richard Howell, General Secretary Evangelical Fellowship of India
               --------------------

Prashant. A Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace, Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India

We condemn the killing of Swami Saraswati and four of his associates during the attack on the VHP Ashram in the Kandhamal District of Orissa on Saturday 23rd August 2008. We sympathize with the bereaved members of the families who have lost their loved ones.

We call upon the Orissa and the Central Governments to do all in their power to bring to book immediately, those responsible for this dastardly act; that anti-social elements do not take law and order into their own hands and above all, to ensure that peace and calm prevail in the area, and in other parts of Orissa.

Violence, for whatever the provocation, is non-acceptable, and will definitely not help achieve the goals for which these acts are committed. We therefore call upon all those responsible for these acts and to eschew violence immediately. No violence can be justified, for whatever the reason. However, for the last several months, the Government of Orissa has allowed some fascist and fundamentalist forces to terrorize the poor, the marginalized and the minorities of the State. These forces have carried on their virulent propaganda and their violent acts with apparent immunity.

There has been a total abdication of responsibility by the Government of Orissa and the concerned authorities, like the police. They should now also be held totally responsible for these deaths and for allowing the situation to go out of control. Sufficient warning has been given to the Orissa Government, of the deteriorating situation, as early as in September 2006, with the publication of "Communalism in Orissa" - the Report of the Indian People's Tribunal on Environment and Human Rights - headed by Justice K. K. Usha (Retd.) former Chief Justice of the Kerala High Court.  It may still not be too late to ensure that the Constitutional Rights and Freedoms of the people of Orissa are not merely guaranteed by also protected by the State.

Fr. Cedric Prakash sj, Director

Last Updated ( Saturday, 30 August 2008 )
 
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