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Rights groups urge US, EU to end Orissa violence

August 29, 2008 10:33 IST

Human Rights Watch, Christian Solidarity Network, Dalit Freedom Network and the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty have appealed to foreign ministers in the European Union and the United States to immediately call for an end to the sectarian violence in Orissa.

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"International statements of concern are urgently needed to express solidarity with the victims, to help forestall yet more violence and to prevent the further loss of life," said a letter sent to the European Commissioner for External Relations, the Foreign Ministers of French, European Affairs, the British Foreign Secretary, and the US.

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"We, therefore request that you make a statement to call for an end to the sectarian violence and for the protection of vulnerable communities as soon as possible," it said.

"Mobs have been attacking minority Christians in retaliation for the killing of local religious leader Swami Lakhmananda Saraswati," says the letter, adding as of August 27, at least nine people have been killed, a nun gang-raped, and churches and houses have been destroyed in at least 12 districts.

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Condemning the murder of Swami, allegedly by Maoist insurgents, the letter said, "The fact that Christians have been made the scapegoats and victims of a Vishwa Hindu Parishad backlash is deplorable and calls for urgent intervention."

The outbreak of violence, it said, follows widespread attacks on Christian targets beginning in December 2007.

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Swami Saraswati, it said, was 'widely implicated' in the incitement of those attacks and in 'stirring anti-Christian hatred in Orissa state, but he was never prosecuted by the State authorities'.

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