Assuring help to the victims of violence in Orissa, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Monday said firm action would be taken against culprits of the communal stir in the state.
To a delegation led by Leader of the Opposition of Kerala Oomen Chandy, Singh said the central government has taken serious note of the violence there and that he has personally spoken to Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to ensure the return of communal harmony.
Orissa has been on the boil since the killing of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Laxmananda Saraswati and four others Aug 23 by suspected Maoist guerrillas sparked off a wave of anti-Christian violence that has left over 13 dead. Thousands of people have fled their homes.
Radical Hindu groups in the state alleged that Christians killed Saraswati because he opposed religious conversion. Christian groups deny this.
Chandy, while condemning the VHP for its alleged role in leading atrocities against Christian minorities in the state, praised the majority of Hindus in the riot hit districts for giving shelter to the affected people.
"A small minority section is trying to spoil the great tradition and culture of the country," Chandy told media persons after the meeting with the prime minister.
The delegation, which also met Home Minister Shivraj Patil and Congress President Sonia Gandhi, was assured by Patil that he would take steps to ensure safety to the minorities of the state.
Taking note of the large scale destruction, both of life and property, Singh further said that the central government will provide assistance to family members of those who have lost their lives in the violence and those completely devastated, under a recently finalised Central scheme for assistance to victims of communal violence.
Those rendered homeless will also get assistance to repair their houses from the Prime Minister's National Relief Fund.
"Secularism is the strength of India and the government must take strong steps to protect it," Chandy said, who led the delegation of senior Congress leaders like Thennala Balakrishna Pillai, G. Karthikeyan, K.V. Thomas, P.J. Kurien and Pandalam Sudhakaran said.
"The Orissa incidents not only hurt the sentiments of the Christians, but all the peace loving people of the country," he added.