Conversion, reconversion led to Kandhamal riots: Commission

via http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/msid-4732900,prtpage-1.cms published on July 5, 2009

BHUBANESWAR: Conversion and re-conversion were among the major factors which led to the riots in Orissa’s Kandhamal district last year, a judicial commission probing the violence has said.

“Sources of the violence were deeply rooted in land disputes, conversion and re-conversion and fake certificate issues,” Justice S C Mohapatra, heading the one-man panel, said in his interim report on the violence in Kandhamal which claimed 43 lives besides damaging many houses and churches.

He, however, did not elaborate on the conversions and reconversions issue.

Kandhamal had witnessed the killing of 38 Christians during the communal violence. A number of churches were burnt and thousands of Christians, mainly tribals, had to flee their villages after being targeted by Hindus in the wake of the killing of VHP leader Swami Lakshmanand Saraswati by Maoists last year.

“Suspicion among the scheduled tribe and scheduled caste inhabitants of Kandhamal is the main cause of riots with the tribals suspecting that ‘Pano’ dalits were capturing their land through fraudulent means,” Justice Mohapatra said.

Besides the issues of land and conversion and re-conversion, Justice Mohapatra said fake certificates were another major factor that created discontent among Kandha tribals who constitute 52 per cent of Kandhamal’s population.

Justice Mohapatra, who submitted the interim report on July 1, said the government should take steps immediately to remove differences between the communities.

“I know it will take at least two years to complete inquiry, but interim report will help the government to make immediate intervention,” he said.

Justice Mohapatra said in his 28-page report that most Kandha tribals were uneducated and were under the impression that quotas meant for them were being availed of by ‘Pana’ dalits, who were Christians.

This was another factor behind tribal anger, he said suggesting the state government expedite freeing of tribal land in possession of non-tribals, take up fake certificate cases and remain vigilant to conversion and re-conversion.

“Once the basic issues are addressed, the Kandhamal problem could be solved,” he said.

Replying to a question, Justice Mohapatra said he had not blamed anybody for the violence in the interim report.

Sources, however, said the commission which was set up on September 3 last year could fix responsibility for the violence on any organisation or government body.

In the interim report, Justice Mohapatra had not blamed any religious body or the CPI (Maoist) which claimed responsibility for killing of VHP leader Laxmananda Saraswati on August 23 last year.

Killing of Saraswati and four of his associates had triggered large-scale violence in Kandhamal which evoked condemnation from many quarters in the country and abroad.

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