The trauma of the Christians in the riot-torn Kandhamal district of Orissa refuses to end, as they fear a fresh round of violence.
At the Sradhanjali Sabha on Saturday in memory of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) activist Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, who was allegedly killed by the Maoists, speakers threatened to observe a statewide bandh on December 25 if the state failed to arrest the real killers of the swami within a month.
This has unnerved the Christians as last year’s riots began after the VHP, Bajrang Dal and other Sangh affiliates observed a four-hour bandh on December 25, following an alleged attack on Swami Laxmanananda the previous day.
On December 25, 2007, two churches were burnt. Later, the August-September riots left 39 people dead and more than 150 churches damaged. Speakers addressing the Sradhanjali Sabha said, “Let there be a state-wide bandh this time on December 25 to ensure a completely peaceful Christmas.”
A Christian leader told Hindustan Times on the condition of anonymity: “We have seen what happened on December 25 last year. It seems last year’s events may be repeated again. It’s for the government to take note of this call.”
Nearly 60,000 people attended the rally, where speakers lashed out at the state for “following the diktats of the church and the UPA government”.
Though no untoward incident was reported, there was a photo exhibition, which showed some disturbing snaps of the swami’s body taken immediately after he was killed. The police refused to comment on the exhibition.
Besides the call to arrest the killers of the swami, the meeting demanded that religious conversions and cow slaughter be stopped immediately.