By Anto Akkara
Nuagam, India, 6 February (ENI)--Tapan Kumar Nayak was delighted when officials in the Orissa state's troubled Kandhamal district declared that the crowded relief camp at Raikia would close from mid-January and that the inmates would be shifted nearer to their villages.
"We came here with much enthusiasm. But, now our plight is worse," Nayak told Ecumenical News International at a relief camp at Mondakia, just three kilometres from his village of Bakingia. "There is no water supply here and the [Hindu] villagers here are objecting to us taking water from the tube well," he lamented.
Nayak pointed out that 300 Christian refugee families who had moved to Mondakia relief camp are now in "no man's land".
Nearly half of the 100 000 Christians in Kandhamal district were displaced in 2008 after a wave of violence left more than 70 Christians dead, and more than 6000 Christian houses looted and destroyed.
Such is the concern about the situation the refugees now face that the Global Council of Indian Christians said on 5 February, "The GCIC strongly condemns the heinous attempts … to initiate apartheid against Christian Dalits in Orissa." It alleged that the World Hindu Council and groups it said are based in the United States and other Western nations, "are believed to be behind the experimentation of Hinditva ideology of fascism in the western state of Orissa".
Sajan K. George, the president of the council, urged the world community rescue Christians "from humiliation and the worst type of ethnic cleansing in western India".
Kikos Pradhan, a camp refugee, told of his plan to go back to his village of Bakingia as early as possible to be closer to home. His hopes were, however, dashed when he visited the village on 16 January and a Hindu extremist leader poked a sword at his neck and threatened him against returning unless he became a Hindu.
Pradhan said camp residents have bitter memories of their attempts to return to their villages five months after the burning down of Christian houses and churches following the assassination of Hindu leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, who was shot dead on 23 August.
Maoist rebels claimed responsibility for the murder, but Hindu extremist groups insisted the murder of Saraswati was a Christian conspiracy. They targeted Christians for weeks with those on the receiving end saying police did little to curb the violence against them.
"In many villages, they [Hindu extremists] are even asking shopkeepers not to sell anything to Christians and deny us access to common wells," Pradhan added.
The Catholic Church decided on 18 January to take 70 programme staff to the gutted headquarters of Jan Vikas, the development and social action wing of Bhubaneswar archdiocese. The staff spent their first night on the floor of the still-charred office complex in the same place where one of their followers said she had been raped.
The entire office complex had been gutted, and three vans, seven motor bikes and everything from computers to vital documents reduced to ashes when the centre at Nuagam was attacked following the killing of the Swami.
"It's really shocking and sad," Smita Paikray, a Hindu staff member at Jan Vikas told ENI pointing to the burnt room where she used to stay with three other female staff.
Jyothi Prakash Hota, a Hindu and project coordinator of the agency, stated, "This is the work of misguided people." He noted, "Had they been aware of the social work Jan Vikas was doing, they would have never done this."
Like Hota, most of the 140 staff of Jan Vikas are Hindus who implement programmes such as organizing self help groups and water projects to generate employment among impoverished villagers in the Kandhamal jungles. Most of the beneficiaries are Hindus.
"What has happened is history. But, we cannot delay resuming our work any longer," the Rev. Manoj Kumar, one of the coordinators of Jan Vikas, said. "The people want us to restart our work. It will certainly help others realise that they had been misled about us Christians." [686 words]
[COURTESY TO ENI AS SOURCE]