ASIA/INDIA - Christians in Orissa only receive “ceremonies” and little aid

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Bhubaneswar (Agenzia Fides) – The visit of H.T. Sangliana, Vice-President of the National Commission for Minorities (NCM), to the Orissa and Kadhamal district was mere “ceremony,” said Archbishop Raphael Cheenath, SVD of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, Orissa, in a note sent to Fides. September 14-16, the Archbishop visited the district of Kandhamal, the site of intense anti-Christian violence carried out by Hindu extremists between December 2007 and August 2008.
A Christian delegation, led by the Archbishop met with Vice-President Sangliana, presenting him with their concerns and the needs of the victims. Sangliana, later received by the civil authorities of Orissa, told the Prime Minister Naveen Pattnaik that “the Orissa government has done lots of work of relief and rehabilitation for the victims of Kandhamal.” Sangliana denied that Christians who fled the Kandhamal district following the violence cannot go back for threats and fear of further violence, saying that it is their free choice.
“We are displeased the way Sangliana gave report to the Orissa government on the situation of Kandhamal saying Kandhamal is ‘normal’ and there is no problem and the State government has lots of things for the victims of Kandhamal,” Cheenath said. Sangliana's visit to Orissa, he said, was not different from any other, as they have all been “mere appearance” and “ceremony,” without offering any substantial aid.
The memorandum presented to the Vice-President by the Christian delegation, which included leaders of the Association of Survivors of the violence in Kandhamal, recalls that among the victims of anti-Christian violence, "36% are young people under age 18, physically and psychologically traumatized." "The children, two years after the violence, remain silent spectators and are totally excluded from any help."
Thus, the delegation calls for specific programs and steps for the rehabilitation of children, beginning with basic needs of food, health, education. The text also states that "two years after the violence, there are still places where the tension and insecurity are very high, while religious and caste-based discrimination by the Hindu fundamentalists also continues."
According to local Church sources, between December 2007 and August 2008 in the Kandhamal district Hindu extremists have killed 93 people, burned and looted more than 6,500 houses, and destroyed over 350 churches and 45 schools. Over 50,000 people have fled into the forests or have fled the state and many are still in refugee camps. (PA) (Agenzia Fides 18/09/2010)