Ajay Kumar Singh, Bhubaneswar
Hindu fundamentalists yesterday hoisted a saffron flag on the construction site of a Catholic Church in one of the largest Christian settlements in Kandhamal district of Orissa.
“More than 400 fanatics moved towards the Catholic Church at noon yesterday. The Catholic community in the area had accumulated building materials to construct the church, which angered them,” said Montfort Brother Advocate Markose.
The construction site is in the village of Bakingia under the jurisdiction of the Raikia police station in the district and comprises mostly tribal Christian residents.
The church formerly built on the site was razed to the ground by Hindu fundamentalists during the 2008 communal violence in the eastern Indian state. The community started rebuilding after receiving compensation from the government.
However, the reconstruction of the church was stopped by Hindu fundamentalists, whose leader Bhaskar Pradhan claimed that the land belonged to their forefathers.
The local administration called the two parties together for negotiations but has failed to resolve the issue.
Fr Santosh Digal, head of media and communications in Cuttack-Bhubaneswar archdiocese said “there were lots of rumors of violence if we built the church, and the district authorities were informed about that.”
“The authorities concerned had given verbal assurances that they would ensure an incident-free construction of the church and peaceful prayer meetings in the villages.”
Fr Digal added that there was no law and order in place to assure the Christian communities that their life and livelihoods were secure.
Amit Kumar Mallick, a Catholic tribal youth leader, said the fundamentalists chose the Dussehra festival as a day to hoist their flag as a warning.
“Police came to the spot after being informed, but they have yet to take any action.”
Fr Dibakar Parichha, who has advocated justice on behalf of victims of violence in Kandhamal, said “injustice is done towards Christians and the government should take immediate action to settle the matter.”