Christian group seeks CBI probe into Orissa violence


New Delhi : The Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI), the premier Christian organisation in the country, Monday sought an “unbiased” inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the communal violence in Orissa.

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Archbishop of Cuttack Raphael Cheenath met Home Minister Shivraj Patil here to discuss the matter. He also asked the government to deploy paramilitary forces in violence-hit Kandhamal district and immediate compensation to those injured and to the families of those killed.

Patil, who is to visit the area Wednesday, said the government would take necessary steps to ensure protection for the minority groups. According to sources, Patil also said that the central government would see that proper compensation is paid to those affected.

However, the home minister is believed to have told the delegation that a CBI probe would be time-consuming. “If you insist, the government will consider it,” Patil reportedly said.

CBCI spokesperson Father Babu Joseph and Congress party secretary Tom Vadakkan were part of the delegation.

Three people were killed and several injured in the clashes between Hindus and Christians in Kandhamal district. Christian groups claim that nine people were killed in the attack by Hindu groups in the tribal dominated area.

“Many years of hard work and infrastructure for rendering service to the poor and the marginalised has been totally destroyed in five days of violence. What is left now is fear and anxiety,” said Archbishop Cheenath at a press conference here.

According to the CBCI, in the violence that began Dec 22, five parish churches, 50 village churches and six convents and other Christian institutions were destroyed or damaged.

“A good number of village churches were also destroyed of which there is no definite information. In Barakhama, 400 houses were gutted, five people murdered, property looted, one tractor burnt. The formation house of Capuchin congregation was totally vandalized,” the CBCI said in a statement.

The CBCI also warned that the situation would worsen unless immediate and urgent steps were taken.