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EU team to visit Kandhamal

After some months of persuasion, the government has allowed a 10-member European Union group to visit Orissa’s Kandhamal, which has seen violence against Christians, reports Jayanth Jacob.

delhi Updated: Jan 05, 2010 00:11 IST
Jayanth Jacob

After some months of persuasion, the government has allowed a 10-member European Union group to visit Orissa’s Kandhamal, which has seen violence against Christians.

The EU was vehement in its criticism of the communal violence, with its executive arm, the European Commission, terming it a “massacre of minorities”.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, visiting France for the ninth India-EU summit in September 2008, had at a press conference in Paris condemned the event as a national shame.

A month earlier, murder of a Hindu leader had triggered a cycle of violence in the backward Orissa district, which had been rocked by communal trouble during 2007 Christmas as well.

The government has made it clear the visit would be interactive and not fact-finding, as was sought by the EU.

A 10-member team of diplomats, led by deputy chief of mission in the Spanish embassy Ramon Moreno, will begin its four-day visit from January 27.

The EU diplomatic sources said the visit would be in the “nature of an interaction”.

The EU wanted to send its envoys on a fact-finding mission and had sought the permission of the ministry of external affairs early last year.

With the government seemingly not keen on sending a team to area at the time of elections that were due in May, as it could have been a politically-sensitive issue, the matter was kept “under consideration”.

“The visit… was being planned for December, but then the Orissa government suggested January,” a government official, who didn’t wish to be identified, said.

“Foreign diplomats do travel and interact with Indian people at times. This is one such event,” the official said.

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