Prominent religious heads and activists in the city have demanded that the probe into the 2008 Kandhamal violence should be handed over to the National Investigation Agency (NIA).
Addressing the media on Wednesday at the Marathi Patrakar Sangh, Abraham Mathai, president of the Indian Christian Voice, said they have sought an appointment with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to discuss the issue. “Token convictions are not a way out. So many accused have walked free due to lack of timely response by the government. We hope the prime minister will respond to us favourably,” said Mathai.
The panel comprised cardinal Oswald Gracias, the archbishop of Mumbai, filmmakers Mahesh Bhatt and Pooja Bhatt and Anto Akkara, author of Kandhamal—A Blot on Indian Secularism.
Terming the Orissa government’s probe into the riots as ‘faulty’, the cardinal Gracias said that the Kandhamal violence should be classified as an act of terror, just as the 2007 Samjhauta Express bomb blasts and the Malegaon blasts are classified.
“There is an institutional bias against Christians in Orissa due to which the state police has failed in ensuring that people responsible for the violence be brought to justice,” said cardinal Gracias.
The panelists further said that the pressure from other religious groups had led the government to hand over the probe into the Samjhauta Express blasts and Malegaon blasts to the NIA. “Of the 3,223 complaints filed by the victims, only 831 were registered. Such is the level of incompetence,” said Akkara.
The panelists also said that the recent confession made by sadhvi Pragya Thakur before the NIA must be taken into account.
“She clearly said that Lt Col Prasad Purohit had orchestrated the anti-Christian violence in Orissa, with the intention of terrorising Christians. Why should the NIA hold back in this case when it hasn’t in others?” asked Mahesh Bhatt.