By Ajay Kumar Singh
Christians in Orissa state say they are prepared to challenge a notice delivered earlier this month by authorities demanding the demolition of two churches built by residents displaced by religious violence that shattered the region in 2008.
Human rights activist Dhirendra Panda said today the latest developments show the administration is the “real culprit” behind the Kandhamal violence.
“It is not surprising that the indifferent administration is indulging in such tactics,” he said.
Kandhamal district officials first issued the notice on August 12, in which they said the churches had been illegally built on government land in Nandagiri and Mondasora villages.
Displaced residents who had settled in the villages were given 30 days to vacate the land or face eviction, the notice stated.
Montfort Brother K. G. Markose, who has worked with survivors of the 2008 violence, said the eviction notice was “quite threatening.”
“Christians settled there because they wanted a place to practise their faith. But the administration is not allowing them to do so.”
Br. Markose added that Hindu nationalists have refused to allow Christians to return to their villages in Orissa unless they convert to Hinduism.
The eviction notice comes ahead of third anniversary of religious strife that tore through the state in 2008, killing more than 100 and displacing an estimated 50,000 residents.
Fr. Mrutyunjaya Nayak, financial administrator of the Archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, further noted that the two churches targeted for demolition next month were built on government land designated for religious purposes.
He said that in light of that fact, the pending eviction shows that persecution of Christians in Orissa state continues.
Fr. Santosh Digal, head of the archidocese’ media department, said that Church authorities are studying the situation and would respond after consulting legal experts.