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Church Says Hindus Fabricate Conspiracy Theory To Continue Violence

10/14/08 BHUBANESWAR, India (UCAN) — Christian leaders in Orissa have jointly dismissed as “cooked up” a document released by a Hindu group claiming that Christians conspired to kill a Hindu religious leader.

The release of “a forged and fabricated document by the Hindu fundamentalist organization was made with a purpose of maligning the Christians,” said a Church press statement issued Oct. 9 at a press conference. Catholic and Protestant leaders jointly conducted the event in Bhubaneswar, the state capital, 1,745 kilometers southeast of New Delhi.

Their press conference followed an Oct. 6 press statement from Hindu Jagaran Manch (front to awaken Hindus). The statement included what it claimed was a document detailing the minutes of a Bethikala (Betticola) Catholic parish council meeting on May 25 that allegedly conspired to assassinate 85-year-old Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati. The parish is in the state’s Kandhamal district, where the slain Hindu leader who opposed conversions to Christianity was based.

The text of the alleged minutes, distributed in the local Oriya language with a translation in English, spoke of a decision “to offer sacrifices” within three months against “Satanic activities that stand opposed to the expansion” work of the parish. According to the document, the parish council decided to execute its plan on Aug. 23, but it did not mention any murder plan and did not name Swami Saraswati.

The People’s Liberation Revolutionary Group, a Maoist organization, has claimed responsibility for killing the Hindu leader and four of his associates on Aug. 23, for mixing religion with politics, but Hindu radical groups blamed the murders on Christians.

Anti-Christian violence in which at least 52 people have died began the day after the killings. Hindu extremists have also burned down about 4,500 houses, 100 churches and 20 convents, as well as presbyteries and other Church institutions in the continuing pogrom. Some 50,000 people have been rendered homeless, with thousands still living in relief camps and maybe more hiding in forests.

Christian leaders denounced the alleged minutes of the parish meeting as “fabricated and baseless,” issued to sustain a hate campaign that “was slowly fading away” after police arrested some Maoists for the Hindu leader’s murder. They noted that the Hindu group issued the statement the day after a Maoist leader reiterated in the press that his group was responsible for Swami Saraswati’s murder.

“That took the wind out of the hate campaign against the Christians,” they said in the press statement, adding that the “cooked up” document was published “to drag Christians and the Church into this crime purposefully.”

The Church leaders stated they were “appalled by the dreadful intent of the Hindu fundamentalist groups to sustain the dying-out hate campaign against Christians.”

Father Prafulla Kumar Sabhapati, parish priest in Betticola, and Prafulla Kumar Nayak, the parish general secretary, were among those who addressed the press conference. Nayak told UCA News the entire document put out by the Hindu group was fabricated and the signatures on it forged. They would take the Hindu groups to court for defaming Christians and their parish priest, he said.

Other members on the dais at the press conference were Father Joseph Kalathil, vicar general of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar archdiocese; Swarupananda Patra, president of Orissa Minority Forum; Jesuit Father Savari Mathu from Bhubaneswar; and Bibhudatta Das, head of Utkal Christian Council.