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|January 29, 1999||
Fear of communal riots haunts Orissa
Though a red alert has been sounded throughout Orissa following the killing of Graham Stewart Stains and his two children, various parts of the state continue to be tense.
According to intelligence reports, communal violence is likely in the tribal-dominated districts of western Orissa, particularly in Phulbani, where many Christian missionaries are active. The Bajrang Dal and the Sangh Parivar are also active in these areas.
Within five days of the killings at Manoharpur village in Keonjhar district, three drunken men threw stones at a church in Baleswar and assaulted its caretaker on Wednesday night. The police have promptly arrested the three men.
According to the police, the three men had come to Baleswar from three different districts on business. They went to the church near their hotel on Orissa Trunk Road in a drunken state and tried to force their way in.
When the caretaker blocked them, they beat him up. One of them even bit his ear, which needed stitches. The terrified church officials immediately informed the police. The incident has evoked strong protest from the Christian community, which is yet to recover from its shock after the Stains killing.
According to intelligence sources, if such attacks on churches and Christians continue in Orissa, there could be retaliation in the tribal-dominated areas in the western parts of the state. The tribals there are armed mostly with bows and arrows, but do not usually resort to violence. But if they retaliated, it is feared it could result in large-scale communal riots.
Meanwhile, the Stains killing has been politicised by all political parties. Biju Janata Dal chief and Union Minister for Steel and Mines Naveen Patnaik holds Orissa Chief Minister Janaki Ballabh Patnaik responsible for the incident and demanded his resignation.
The Orissa Janata Dal, the Communist Party of India and the Communist Party of India-Marxist have also accused J B Patnaik of remaining a silent spectator while the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal, with help from the BJP government at the Centre, spawned communal tension in the state. They demanded fresh elections in the state.
The Bajrang Dal is trying in vain to control the damage done due to reports that the main accused, Dara Singh, was a member of the organisation and because the Dal has been held responsible for the killing.
J B Patnaik, though, has been almost aided by the case, since it has shifted attention from the Anjana Mishra gang-rape case.
Public attention has now been diverted to the Stains killing and J B Patnaik quickly accused the BJP and the Sangh Parivar for the incident.
But the chief minister has made no effort to tighten his administration and is a mere spectator to the mudslinging in the police following the incident. It is alleged that other than in the five cities of Orissa there is no administration of the rural areas.
Landlords, moneylenders and local hoodlums are allegedly a law unto themselves in areas inhabited by poor tribals. These tribals, tortured and exploited over several decades, are aided by Christian missionaries.
The landlords, moneylenders and the hoodlums realised that the tribals were not only embracing Christianity but also becoming conscious of their rights due to these Christian missionaries. So they allegedly use organisations like the Bajrang Dal and the VHP to counter the threat.
Tension had been developing for a long time between the two sections but the state's intelligence department appears not to have noted the danger.
How effective is the intelligence department in Orissa? If one goes by the admission of Orissa Director General of Police B B Panda and the records, it is in a shambles.
After the Stains killing, Panda held the police intelligence branch responsible for the lapse. Intelligence officials said not only Panda but even the chief minister had not taken any action earlier against Dara Singh, despite its recommendations.
One senior official said his department had briefed the state government about Dara Singh's activities and how he allegedly donned saffron clothes and terrorised the minorities in Keonjhar and Mayurbhanj districts.
At one stage, the home department was planning to book Singh under the National Security Act, but nothing came of it. Many others too had reportedly asked J B Patnaik to tame him, but to no avail.
J B Patnaik's detractors allege that though he is a Bajrang Dal activist, Singh was close to Jaydeb Jena, the minister for mass education in Patnaik's cabinet, and had campaigned in his election from Anandapur constituency.
"This was why Patnaik did not take any action against Singh. Because of that the Congress is suffering," they said.
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