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Nun tells UN of fear that dogs Orissa Christians

How long can gun-totting soldiers protect freedom? sister asks

Local tribal people displaced by the anti-Christian violence living in makeshift camps (Photo by Michael Coyne) Local tribal people displaced by the anti-Christian violence living in makeshift camps (Photo by Michael Coyne)
  • Ajay Kumar Singh, Bhubaneswar
  • India
  • January 13, 2011
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Christians and rights workers in the Kandhamal district of Orissa live in fear with only armed security personnel standing between them and further violence, a Catholic nun told a visiting UN Special Rapporteur on human rights yesterday.

“We celebrated Christmas under the shadow of guns. How long can the gun-toting security forces protect the community’s religious freedom?” Sister Justine Senapati asked.

Margaret Sekaggya, who is responsible for compiling reports on human rights situation in various countries, visited Orissa yesterday.

She came to New Delhi on Jan. 10 on a 12-day visit and is scheduled to also tour Gujarat, Jammu and Kashmir and West Bengal.

Sister Senapati, who works among victims of the 2008 anti-Christian violence in Orissa, said local activists explained the human rights situation in Kandhamal when the official visited the Orissa capital of Bhubaneswar.

The nun a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Annecy congregation, who has been trained in the UN Human Rights Mechanism in Switzerland, told the visitor that Christians in Kandhamal still face problems to practice their religion.

She also told the UN official that even human rights activists of Kandhamal work in a “frightening situation” amid armed security forces and Hindu militant groups.

She said activists were shocked by government claims that it has rehabilitated those displaced by the violence.

Adikand Singh, another activist, said they explained to Sekaggya how upper caste Hindus attack dalit and tribal people and their supporters in the name of religion.

Dhirendra Panda, who coordinated the Bhubaneswar consultation, said the UN official’s visit has encouraged local activists.

Sekaggya told a consultation in New Delhi on Jan. 11 that she came at the invitation of the Indian government.

"We are quite happy that the Indian government has positively responded to our interest to visit the country. Usually, the Asian countries are reluctant to invite us,” she added.

Related reports
Hindu radical charged with rape of Orissa nun
Six-year-old Orissa girl identifies dad’s killer
Five sentenced to life for murder during Orissa violence

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