With all eyes on his state, Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Monday said the central government has to decide whether or not to ban the radical Hindu Bajrang Dal that has been accused of masterminding anti-Christian violence in the volatile Kandhamal district.
"I understand the issue to ban Bajrang Dal has been discussed at different levels in the union government. It is the central government which has to take a decision in this regard," Patnaik told reporters in New Delhi after attending the National Integration Council (NIC) meet that has been convened after three years.
He said peace had returned to Kandhamal following the spate of violent incidents against Christians -- with 36 people dead, many churches burnt and thousands, mostly Christians, rendered homeless -- in the past six weeks.
"The government's efforts are now effectively working and we are providing the healing touch. Peace is returning. We have arrested over a thousand people, including members of the Bajrang Dal for fomenting violence in Kandhamal," the chief minister said.
According to Patnaik, the violence in Kandhamal was not just a communal problem; there were many other factors responsible for what was happening in the district.
"On account of conflict of interest in the matter of land rights, employment opportunities and religion, there were clashes between these two communities in the past. The recent incidents of violence in Kandhamal district are a manifestation of such discord," he said in his speech in the meet attended by various chief ministers.
"Communal tensions between various communities (in Orissa) which occasionally give rise to violence have been brought down significantly by introducing pro-active measures by the government," he said.
Referring to communal attacks in the country, including in his own state, as also Karnataka, Assam and Maharashtra, Patnaik said: "The NIC meeting has been convened at a time when several parts of the country have been engulfed in communal incidents of varying degrees."
The Bajrang Dal has been linked to a bomb blast in August 2006 at Nanded in Maharashtra where two people were killed. Apparently, its members were making bombs when one or more exploded. A similar incident occurred in August this year in Kanpur and it is also suspected by many to be behind terror attacks in Muslim areas in Delhi or Gujarat. The group has denied the accusations.