Historic rally in Orissa demands gov't to tell the truth
- All India Christian Council
P. O. Box 2174, Secunderabad � 500003,
Andhra Pradesh, India
For more information, contact:
Dr. Joseph D'souza, aicc President
Sam Paul, aicc Secretary Public Affairs
For immediate release
Speakers at Historic Rally Demand Orissa Government Tell Truth about
Christmas Attacks on Christians
About 10,000 protestors from all religious backgrounds; speakers
slam Orissa government for blaming Naxalites involvement and
limiting Christian NGOs relief efforts
BHUBANESWAR � Jan. 10, 2008 �
Today about 9,000-10,000 people marched to the Orissa State Assembly building in Bhubaneswar to protest Christmas attacks on Christians and demand justice for victims. Rally speakers demanded the Orissa state government stop making allegations about Christian association with an outlawed Maoist rebel movement and allow Christian churches and groups to provide direct relief to victims.
"Some people have characterized the violence as a Hindu-Christian
clash. This is wrong. Dalit Christians were clearly the targets and
innocent victims. The state government has also made baseless
accusations that some Christian NGOs are aligned with Naxalites. The
authorities must write a white paper or give proof about these
sensitive issues instead of spreading rumors," said Dr. Udit Raj,
National Chairman, All India Confederation of SC/ST Organisations.
Naxalites are Maoist rebels who often attack government installations throughout central India. Most are disenfranchised
Dalits or Tribals.
Christian leaders expressed concern about relief efforts for the
devastated Christians in Kandhamal District. "Orissa's government
should allow direct relief projects by churches and Christian NGOs.
Currently, we are being told we can only distribute blankets, food
and other supplies through the District Collectors. We are deeply
concerned this will delay needed assistance and could create
opportunities for discrimination or corruption," said Dr. Joseph
D'souza, President, All India Christian Council (aicc). "There is no
logical reason to ban the direct involvement of established,
peaceful Christian organisations that are already registered with
Bishop Joab Lohara of the Free Methodist Church said, "We are
worried about reports that aid to the homeless Christians still in
relief camps is not being fairly distributed. We appeal to
authorities to be even-handed in their compensation to victims of
this horrific violence. They have suffered enough already."
The "Stop Violence Against Christians Rally" was sponsored by the
All India Confederation of SC/ST Organisations and the aicc.
Protestors met at Master Canteen Chowk and marched to the Orissa
State Assembly. Speakers included Raj, D'souza, Lohara, as well as
Muslims, progressive Hindus, and Buddhists.
Rally organisers also announced they would set up a "Communal
Harmony Monitoring Group" which will closely watch relief and
compensation for victims and report progress to the national offices
of the aicc and SC/ST Confederation. Dr. Udit Raj also demanded that
any enquiry commissions set up by the Orissa government include
representatives from both the aicc and SC/ST Confederation since
they represent Christians and Dalits, respectively.
In the last few days, aicc leaders released two fact finding reports
on the anti-Christian violence after visits to rural Orissa. Newly
confirmed cases of arson, murder, and assault make this violence
qualify as the largest attack on the Christian community in the
history of democratic India. Both reports show that the Dalits �
formerly known as untouchables � were the main group affected by the
violence. Reports are at:
According to media reports, three investigators appointed by India's
National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) are currently in Orissa. A
Christian delegation, including an aicc leader, met with the NHRC
chairman on Dec. 31, 2007 in New Delhi to request the visit.
The violence allegedly began when Christians in Bamunigaon village
in Kandhamal district of Orissa began to celebrate Christmas Eve on
Dec. 24, 2007. Local Hindu fundamentalists opposed the event and a
quarrel ensued. Also, a Hindutva leader, Swami Saraswati, was
attacked by unknown assailants -- he alleged they were Christians.
The next day a Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP)-affiliated group called
for a strike and VHP members began attacking Christians across the