(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
September 21 , 2008
KANDHAMAL IS STILL BURNING
CPI(M) Team Visits Violence-Hit Areas
After the death of VHP leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati on the night of August 23, 2008, a mob led by the VHP and sangh parivar leaders unleashed a wave of terror across the state. While a 20-year old, disabled girl called 'Rajani' was burnt to death in a Catholic orphanage, this was no solitary incident. Hundred of such incidents have taken place since August 23, 2008 to till date in the state of Orissa.
A three-member CPI(M) team led by Jagannath Mishra, state secretariat member, visited Kandhamal district, which has been the worst-affected in this wave of saffron terror. The other two members of the team were Kailash Sarangi, CPI(M) state committee member, and Judhistir Sahoo. The team also went to the Jalelspata Ashram where the VHP leader was killed, but the Ashram officials declined to meet the delegation. People in the vicinity of the Ashram told that it was the failure of the police and the government who did not protect the life of the VHP leader.
On August 24, when VHP leader Praveen Togadia visited the Ashram, he spit fire against the state government and demanded its resignation. A mob affiliated to the sangh parivar later vented their ire against the Tumudibandha police station, the IIC and the SP of Kandhamal. When the funeral rally of the VHP leader started on the afternoon of August 24, the mob anger was directed against the police and the government. All of a sudden, however, the police declared that two suspected killers had been arrested and they were from the Christian community. The news spread like fire and angry mobs started attacking the Christian minority everywhere in Kandhamal district. Though the director general of police and district collector stated that they suspected the involvement of PLRG naxalites in the Swami murder case and had some proof of it, the chief minister of Orissa did not support a statement to this effect emanating from his own home department. By holding the Christian minority guilty for the murder, BJP ministers and others flared up the situation.
These communal attacks on Christian minority was sought to be justified as retribution of the horrific killing of VHP leader. The VHP has unleashed a wave of terror across the state, and also called a bandh defying the Supreme Court order banning the bandhs. The state government's orders about imposing curfew and issuing shoot-at-sight orders remained only on paper. The funeral procession of Swami Laxmanananda gave the sangh parivar an excuse to unleash communal violence against the Christians. Coming under attack from the saffron brigade, chief minister Navin Patnaik ordered a judicial probe into the Swami's murder, but there has been no probe into the mass killing of Christians after August 23, 2008 up till now, which shows the chief minister's mindset. Not only that, even after the union home minister visited Kandhamal and expressed concern, the chief minister neither called for a CBI enquiry nor condemned the fascistic attack against the Christians.
Till September 10, curfew was in force at Raikoa, G Udayagiri, Tikabali, Baliguda, Firingia Phulbani etc. About 23,508 displaced people belonging to the minorities --- those who have lost their houses and property --- are passing their grim days in 14 relief camps. Thousands of children and babies aged 13 days to one year are the worst sufferers. Though the government had declared 17 deaths, three more dead bodies were recovered from a jungle as late as on September 10. Hundreds are missing. Though the hospital records show 47 causalities, more than a thousand could not go to a hospital due to fear. Animals were stolen and standing crops were looted. Even on September 8, minority houses were put to fire only 100 metres from the Raika police station. Though the people reported about it to the police, there was no officer to call the CRPF in. Thus, the houses kept burning and miscreants were able to escape in the presence of the CRPF men. The victims reported the same with deep anguish to our delegation.
The state government filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court on September 9, in which it gave a rosy picture of Kandhamal stating that peace had been restored. But it is only a half truth. The withdrawal of four CRPF companies has further strengthened the communal, anti-social forces. On September 11 again, houses and churches of the minority community were put to fire in the Tumudibandha police station area.
Clashes between two communities have taken place at only two places -- at Kotogada and at Barakhamba. In all other places, the attack was by one side only.