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Probe demand over Orissa charges

Christians say false accusations of murder amount to a vendetta against them

Ajay Kumar Singh, Bhubaneswar

May 12, 2011

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Christians are demanding an inquiry into how seven dalit and tribal people were falsely charged with the murder of of Hindu leader Laxmananada Saraswati, which led to months of violence in which more than 100 people died and hundreds of homes destroyed. Police now say Maoists have confessed to murdering the man. ”Innocent Christians were branded and paraded as killers by the police. It smacks of vendetta," said Sister Justine Senapati of Sisters of St. Joseph’s Annecy, in Bhubaneswar. “Now the state should extend apology to those falsely accused and release them immediately. The government should come up with a comprehensive plan for the compensation and restoration of justice," she said. Others called for a White paper probe, suggesting the authorities acted in cahoots with Hindu extremists. “We demand a white paper on the nexus between the administration and Sangh Parivar (Hindu fundamentalist organisations),”  Paul Pradhan, a Christian leader, said. Pradhan, whose family was forced to become Hindus for a month, said the hate campaign against Christians still continues. The administration and Hindu fundamentalist should own up and be booked accordingly,he said. In January, 2009 seven Dalit and tribal Christians were charged with the murder the Hindu leader. They are Budhadev Naik, Duryodhan Sanamajhi, Munda Badamajhi, Sanatan Badamajhi, Gananath Seth, Bijay Kumar Sana Seth and Bhaskar Sanamajhi. But this week, police charged seven Orissa-based Maoist leaders with killing Saraswati and four others at Jaleshpata Ashram in the Kandhamal district on the night of August 23, 2008. "The seven top hardcore Maoists who operated in Orissa, Udaya and Jadu, are in our custody and have confirmed their involvement," said Crime Branch Inspector General Abhaya. “Despite Maoists claiming responsibility, the Christians were charged. It is a case of the state abdicating its responsibility and allowing fundamentalists to unleash terror.” said Dhirendra Panda, a human right activist.
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