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PM promises peace to Staines’ widow

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh finally responds to appeals to help restore normality in Orissa. Aloke Tikku reports.

india Updated: Jan 01, 2008 04:03 IST
Aloke Tikku

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has finally responded to appeals to help restore normality in Orissa and promised that the Centre would not tolerate any attempt to disturb communal harmony in the state.

His assurance came in a letter to Gladys Staines, widow of missionary Graham Staines who was burnt alive in Orissa along with his two sons in 1999.

Gladys had written to Singh expressing her anguish at the recent violence in Orissa and sought his intervention.

Singh wrote to Gladys that the government was taking all steps to ensure normality. “I assure you that the Government of India will take necessary steps to safeguard the fundamental rights and liberties of all sections of our society and protect their religious freedoms as enshrined in the Constitution,” his letter said. “Please be assured that we will not tolerate any effort aimed at disturbing the communal harmony or secular fabric of our country.”

Singh said the government would take all steps to protect citizens irrespective of community or caste in accordance with the law of the land, the Prime Minister’s media adviser, Sanjaya Baru, said on Monday.

The statement followed a series of appeals by leaders of the Christian community calling for an immediate end to the violence. The Catholic Bishops' Conference of India called for adequate deployment of central police forces and an inquiry by the CBI into the attack on churches in the state earlier this month.

“There have been continuous onslaughts on Christians by the fundamentalists in the state since Christmas and yet adequate protection has not been provided to the minority community which continues to live in fear and anxiety,” the bishops’ conference said.

It counted more than 70 buildings run or linked with the church that had been attacked and destroyed. Besides, hundreds of houses were burnt, looted and five people murdered in Barakhama, the statement said.

Singh, who has asked Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil to visit Orissa for an on-the-spot assessment, also spoke to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.

Ex-gratia announced

Patnaik has announced an ex-gratia of Rs 1 lakh to the kin of those who died in the church attacks. Officially, three people have been killed. People whose houses were completely damaged will get houses. Those whose homes were partially damaged will get Rs 10,000.

Inputs from Soumyajit Pattnaik