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Regd Ofice 142 Telecom Colony, Secunderabad 500 055 AP


Chandigarh, 4 September 2008

Ban VHP Kalash Yatra, invoke Article 355, CBI enquiry to end violence in Orissa

Calls for Christian 'dialogue' with Sangh Parivar are obscene and insensitive; rapists, arsonists and murderers deserve severest punishment

Persecution unabated: 4,000 houses in 300 villages destroyed, 50,000 Christian adults and children hiding in forests, nun raped, woman burnt alive, two pastors among 24 killed

[The following is the text of the statement issued at a Press conference here today by Dr John Dayal, member, National Integration Council, Government of India, Secretary General, All India Christian Council, and Dr. Sam Paul, National Secretary for Public Affairs on the situation in Orissa]

The All India Christian Council dismisses as 'obscene' and insensitive all demands that the Christian community open channels of dialogue with the Sangh parivar, and specially the Vishwa Hindu parishad, which has so far wreaked havoc onthe Christian community in the violence that is continuing unabated since 24 August 2008.

We understand that some groups are coercing the Christian community to dialogue with the Sangh Parivar to ask 'why they are being persecuted.' It is like asking the Nun in Kandhamala, Orissa, to have a dialogue with those who gang-raped her, or the widows of pastors and others to ask whey thier husbands were murdered for professing their faith. To have such a dialogue will not just betray the Persecuted Church, but also the Muslims and other minorities who are facing the murderous hate of the Sangh Parivar. We know why the Sangh Parivar kills minorities: It wants a fascist India of 'One People, One faith, One culture.'

We demand that the Governments of India and Orissa take the stringest action under the Indian Penal Code against the RSS and its organs, specially the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the Bajrang Dal and the Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram which have been spearheading the violence which began in Kandhamal on 24 December 2007 and burst afresh after VHP vice president Lakshmanananda Saraswati was murdered on 23rd August 2008.

The toll is morbid and should shake the conscience of the Indian government, its people and of the world at large. Over 50,000 Christians, including children in Kandhamal have been hiding in forests for close to a fortnight. Over 4,000 houses have been burnt and 300 villages entirely destroyed. A Nun has been gang- raped, a Hindu burnt alive in a Christian orphanage, over 60 Churches and institutions destroyed, many for the second time [107 churches were brunt in December 2007]. We do not know the exact death toll but we have confirmed two pastors among 25 persons whose bodies have been recovered so far. Violence has spread to many disrtricts of Orissa, and to Madhya Pradesh. Other states neighbouring Orissa are tense.

The Christian community has approached the Supreme Court of India on this issue. We have also met the President, Prime Minsiter, and Home Minisiter of India, the Governor of Orissa and the Chairperson of UPA, Mrs Sonia Gandhi. We have demanded an immediate end to the violence, stopping the VHP in its plan to take the ashes of the late VHP leader in a Kalash yatra or procession through the troubled state, and invoking Article 355 of the Constitution to get the Government of Orissa, which has abdicated its responsibilities in favour of the VHP, to finally wake up and act.

Article 355 of the Constitution reminds the Government of its duty to act when a state faces internal disturbances or external aggression. We think only the infusion of the Army in Kandhamal can restore peace in the state where violence continues even as we speak.

Our ten point demands include:

  1. The President of India use her powers and get the Government of India to invoke Article 355 and if that fails to halt the violence, impose President´s rule under Article 356.
  2. Order the Central Bureau of Investigation to investigate all aspects of the anti Christian violence, both in December 2007 and now in August-September 2008. The CBI should also investigate the murder of VHP leader Lakshmanananda Saraswati.
  3. Immediately suspend the Chief Secretary, the Home Secretary and the Director General of Police for gross dereliction of duty, and for joining the conspiracy to wipe out Christians in Orissa in ethnic cleansing.
  4. Hand over the Kandhamal district in particular to the Indian Army, which alone can restore the confidence of the victims.
  5. Trace the many people reported abducted, some feared dead or injured, in the last six days
  6. Bring back the tens of thousands of Christians Tribals and Dalit villagers hiding for their lives in the forests, most of them without food and adequate drinking water
  7. Expand the terms of reference of the sitting Judicial Commission headed by Mr. Justice Basudeo Panigrahi to fix responsibility and culpability on government servants of all ranks, as also on guilty politicians.
  8. Grant exemplary compensation to the next of kin of the dead, and to the injured. Grant immediate relief and rehabilitation to the victims so that they can rebuild their homes get back their jobs and resume normal human lives.
  9. Compensate the Church to rebuild and restore its religious, educations, and humanitarian institutions.
  10. Set up Fast Track criminal court to try those found guilty at all levels during all phases of the violence.
Thus alone will India restore its reputation as a secular country, which honours Constitutional guarantees of the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, the freedom of faith to its citizens, and for its children, the right to food, education and a childhood without the trauma of terror and the fear of death.

Landelijke India Werkgroep / India Committee of The Netherlands - September 10, 2008