The Conversion Agenda

"Freedom to convert" is counterproductive as a generalized doctrine. It fails to come to terms with the complex interrelationships between self and society that make the concept of individual choice meaningful. Hence, religious conversion undermines, and in extremes would dissolve, that individual autonomy and human freedom.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Hindus, Christians flee to camps in Orissa

By Akshaya Kumar Sahoo
Sunday December 30, 01:15 AM

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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