Is Orissa heading towards a civil war? Hindus, Christians flee to camps in Orissa

source: The Asian Age, December 29, 2007

By Akshaya Kumar Sahoo

Bhubaneswar, Dec. 29: Hundreds of Christians and Hindus, fearing
post-riot backlashes, fled their homes on Saturday and took shelter in
relief camps in Orissa’s trouble-torn Kandhamal district.


Speaking to this newspaper, southern range revenue divisional
commissioner (RDC) Satyabrata Sahoo, who is leading the government
machinery to restore peace in the area, said, "Not only the Christians,
the Hindus were also seen rushing to relief camps at Brahmanigaon,
Baliguda, Phirignia and Barkhama for security."

The RDC said while relief camps in Christian-dominated pockets saw a
surge of Hindu refugees, the Christians flooded camps set up in Hindu
majority areas. He said some camps had people from both communities.

Mr Sahoo expressed his displeasure at what he said was the "wrong
portrayal" of the Kandhamal situation in a section of the media. "Some
people are wrongly portraying what has happened in Kandhamal district.
They should come here and see how people of both communities are living
and dining together in relief camps and how they are condemning the
vested interests who have been trying to sabotage peace," Mr Sahoo
said. The RDC said more relief camps would be set up at the panchayat
level to provide security to people.

Meanwhile, top Opposition leaders, including Orissa Pradesh Congress
Committee president Jayadev Jena, Nationalist Congress Party state
convenor Bijoy Mohapatra and CPI(M) state general secretary Janardan
Pati, were denied entry into Kandhamal. The district administration did
not allow them to visit the affected areas as it feared that their
visit would further complicate the situation.

The leaders, however, alleged that they were not allowed to visit
the riot-hit villages as they administration wanted to cover up its
failure to maintain law and order.

Security personnel deployed in Kandhamal district on Saturday
recovered the body of a 65-year-old man from Barakhama village, raising
the official death toll to three. The police suspects the man was
killed days ago in stone-pelting by a rioting mob.

Earlier on Tuesday, one person was killed in stone-pelting at
Brahmanigaon village while another died in police firing at Barkhama
village on Wednesday.

Mr Sahoo told this paper from Phulbani that the situation improved
further on Saturday, although palpable tension prevailed in some
villages under Baliguda police station. A few cases of arson were
reported from the area, he said. "Though we have received reports of
house-burning at villages like Kutikia, Saudikia, Linepalli, Temanga
and Sandrigaon, they are yet to be confirmed," Mr Sahoo said, adding
that additional forces were rushed to troubled and sensitive areas.

The circle inspectors of police (CIs) of Tikabali and Phiringia were
suspended on charges of dereliction of duty. The Tikalbali and
Phiringia police stations were torched by rioters and two official
vehicles were burnt. The Khajuriapada revenue inspector was also
suspended. The rioters had set the Khajuriapada revenue office on fire,
destroying valuable land documents.

Meanwhile, VHP state president Bipin Bihari Rath on Saturday alleged
that "a few NGOs, which have been carrying on proselytisation in
Kandhamal district, have incited the riots there. Actually, those
organisations were responsible for the attack on Swami Laxmananda
Saraswati that led to the communal tension in the area."

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