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Lawmakers Plan To Raise Anti-Christian Violence In Parliament

10/7/08 NEW DELHI (UCAN) — The top echelons of state power in India are taking seriously the anti-Christian violence rocking the country.

Suresh Kurup, a Marxist parliamentarian, says attacks on Christians may become an issue during parliament’s winter session, which opens on Oct. 17. He told UCA News on Oct. 6 that several political parties including his Marxist Party of India are getting ready to raise the issue “in a big way.”

Kurup, who visited Orissa and Karnataka after violence broke out in those states, said the parties would soon work out details for raising the issue in parliament.

He said he saw “the gravity of the situation” when he visited Karnataka’s Mangalore city, where several churches were attacked in September. “Christians are living in the shadow of fear and insecurity in that area,” he added.

Kurup regretted that the Orissa government did not allow his team to visit Kandhamal district, the worst affected region in that state.

The violence in Orissa has claimed at least 52 lives since it began on Aug. 24. Meanwhile, attacks against Christians also have been reported from the central Indian states of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. Parliament has not held a regular working session since May.

The violence against Christians prompted Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to schedule an emergency session of the 141-member National Integration Council for Oct. 13. The federal advisory body, headed by the prime minister, was set up in 1962 to seek ways to combat sectarianism and other divisive tendencies in the country.

Media reported that a federal Cabinet meeting on Oct. 3 discussed the continuing attacks on Christians. Since it could not take definite action, the Cabinet decided to meet in the second week of October. The prime minister has asked federal Home Minister Shivraj Patil to prepare a report on the violence in Orissa for the coming meeting, reports said.

During the Oct. 3 meeting, Singh reportedly informed his Cabinet that he had received many complaints about the attacks during his recent 10-day trip to the United States and France. “I had no answers and had to hang my head in shame,” he was quoted as saying.

Briefing newsmen after the Cabinet meeting, federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi said the government is “quite concerned” about the anti-Christian violence, which he described as “very grave.” He said several ministers voiced concern about it during the meeting.

Federal Labor Minister Oscar Fernandes, a Catholic from Karnataka, blamed Bajrang Dal (party of the strong and stout) for the violence. He pointed out the group’s Karnataka unit had owned up to the violence in Mangalore.

Radical Hindu groups such as Bajrang Dal want to make India a Hindu theocracy.