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Upananda Brahmachari | HENB | Bhubanewsar | Dec 25, 2015:: Religious conversion was the reason behind the riots in Kandhamal district of Odisha in 2007 and “tribals, along with Hindus, were behind it,” retired judge of the Orissa High Court Justice Basudev Panigrahi, who headed the one-man Commission to probe the riots, today said.
“Conversion was the reason behind the communal riot in Kandhamal in 2007,” Justice Panigrahi told reporters here. At least three persons were killed in the riot which devastated the Kandhamal district during the Christmas week between December 24 and December 27, 2007.
Over 100 churches and church institutions, including convents and hostels, about 700 houses and other structures were burnt in the incident. Incidentally, Laxmanananda Saraswati, who was shot dead during Janmastami celebrations in August, 2008 at his Jalespata ashram in the district, had also been injured in the attack during the December, 2007 violence.
Justice Panigrahi Commission, which submitted its findings to Odisha government recently, in its report said though there had been a strong legislation prohibiting religious conversions, that was not implemented leading to communal tension in Kandhamal.
“The local tribals had been tolerating the conversion activities for a long time. But they were strongly opposed to it. Tribals, along with Hindus, were behind the riot. There should be proper coordination between communities in order to avoid such tensions and riots in Kandhamal,” Justice Panigrahi said quoting his 560-page report.
Houses of families belonging to both the communities were burnt on December 24, 2007 in Bramhanigaon village. When police rescued villagers of a particular community and brought them to police station, a mob of about 500 people opened fire at the police station and the police opened fire to disperse the crowd.
In the clashes and firing that went on for more than an hour, at least three people were killed and three police officials injured. Trouble escalated on Monday when some people attacked the vehicle of VHP leader Swami Laxmananda Saraswati near Daringbadi when he was on his way to perform a yagna in Brahmanigaon. Dozens of churches and prayer houses were burnt, vehicles were torched and houses of both Hindus and Christians attacked in the days that followed.
Justice Panigrahi also pointed out that while Hindus in Brahmanigaon area of Kandhamal were affected in the 2007 riot, Christians of Barakhama bore the brunt of the riot.
The Commission was set up in December 29, 2007 to probe into the violence during Christmas the same year. The Commission received 481 affidavits and evidence was provided by 76 persons.
Source: PTI and ENS.