An 11-member European Union (EU) delegation is in Orissa on a two-day visit to Kandhamal district apparently to assess relief and rehabilitation works carried out by the state government for people hit by communal riots in 2008 and the steps taken for the security of the minorities.
Ethnic and religious violence in the state claimed at least 38 lives in 2008, with thousands of houses razed to the ground. Hundreds of Christians in tribal areas fled their villages and took shelter in refugee camps.
The state home ministry has permitted the EU team to visit Kandhamal from Thursday. But the delegation’s itinerary is being kept under wraps.
“We are not aware of the tour programme of the delegation,” a home ministry official said. “The government has only ensured their protection during their tour.” Even the district collector of Kandhamal, Krishna Kumar, claimed he did not know which places the team would visit. “All I know is they would remain in Kandhamal for two days,” he told HT.
On Wednesday, the delegation met Orissa Director General of Police Manmohan Praharaj and civil society groups in Bhubaneswar.
They also met Archbishop Raphael Cheenath of the Cuttack-Bhubaneswar Diocese. “They (delegations members) asked me what was the reaction of the state government soon after the violence, and the main reason behind the violence,” the archbishop said. “Peace and normalcy have returned to the district but there is fear in some pockets,” he said.
Some right-wing groups criticised the government for permitting the visit. “When peace has returned, the visit will vitiate the atmosphere,” said Subash Chouhan, national coordinator of the Bajrang Dal.