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Orissa Update

John on December 18, 2008 at 10:39 am

It has been a few weeks since I wrote about the situation in Orissa, India. In part that’s because the situation has calmed, though new victims of Hindu mob violence continue to come forward. The latest is a ten year old girl:

Her parents escaped to forest after entrusting Namrata and her 18-year old sister to another family. But that home was also attacked and a bomb exploded near the children, which burned Namrata’s face badly. Although she suffered 40 percent burns, she could reach hospital only on the next day.

No one needs to explain to her the meaning of pain, fear and helplessness and violence. She has seen and experienced them, close to death.

Despite her injuries, she is giving thanks:

She knows that she was among “the few fortunate ones who escaped death, although I had to spend a long time in the hospital. I feel loved by the people” across the world who prayer for her after media published her photo.

Meanwhile, there have been more arrests in the murder of the Hindu leader that started this pogrom:

The head of the police in Orissa, Arun Kumar Ray, said four people were arrested on Sunday, taking the total number of people arrested over the killing to seven.

[...]

Although Moaists took responsibility for the leader’s death, the perpetrators of the attacks continue to blame Christians.

The fear now is that violence will surge again this Christmas. Despite the arrests, Hindu hardliners have called for a “bandh” or day of protest on Dec. 25th. Ostensibly this is to protest the lack of justice in the murder case, but many fear it is going to mean open season on Christians once again:

Hindu Jagaran Samukhya president Ashok Sahu said his organisation was not happy that only seven of the 18 people who had conspired and perpetrated the killings were arrested.

“I will not say the arrests were just eyewash. But there are some big fish involved in the murder and are yet to be caught,” Sahu told IANS, adding that the administration was not making attempts to nab them.

He, however, stressed that the shutdown would be peaceful and all steps were being taken to ensure that there would be no violence.

“We have told all our people not to resort to any kind of violence. But we are apprehensive that ‘Christian militants’ may create trouble during the shutdown,” he said in a veiled reference to Maoists who have threatened to kill more Hindu leaders.

Asked if he was referring to Maoists, Sahu said: “Naxals have no religion. I am referring to those militants who killed swamiji. They are Christians and have taken up arms against Hindus.”

Again, evidence that “Christian militants” had anything to do with this murder is less than zero at this point. Maoists have publicly claimed responsibility. Nevertheless, the myth that Christians were responsible is actively being reinforced by Hindu leaders like this one. So it’s very possible the day of protest will become a day of bloodshed:

Rajib Prasad Naik, who stays in a relief camp in Rudangia – a riot-hit village some 40 km away from district headquarters Phulbani, said they had information about some local Hindus planning fresh attacks on their camp.

“We have information that some Hindu activists are collecting money to buy weapons to be used against us during Christmas bandh (shutdown),” Naik, who lost two of his relatives during the riots, told IANS.

Pray for the Christians of Orissa this Christmas. They are facing death at the hands of violent mobs for their faith.

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Category: Foreign Affairs |

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