Christians say murder case shows continuing violence in Orissa
02/20/09 BHUBANESWAR, India (UCAN) — Church people in Orissa say the suspected murder of a Baptist lay leader shows that anti-Christian violence continues in the eastern Indian state.
The body of Hrudyananda Nayak, 45, was found in the jungle near Rudangia, his village in Kandhamal district, officials of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar Catholic archdiocese confirmed on Feb. 20.
They suspect Nayak was killed two days earlier while he was returning to a government-managed relief camp after leaving his elder sister in their village. When he did not return, a search was conducted and the body was found in the jungle.
“The cause of murder is not yet known,” said Bidhan Nayak, the victim’s cousin. He said his cousin had received numerous threats since anti-Christian violence by Hindu radical groups began in the state in August 2008.
The violence that lasted seven weeks killed more than 60 people, mostly Christians, and destroyed thousands of homes displacing an estimated 50,000 people. Thousands of Christians are still staying in relief camps as they fear death if they return to their villages.
Hindu groups have accused Christians of the murder of a Hindu leader, an allegation Christians have denied.
Father Prasanna Singh, a parish priest in Kandhamal, said the latest murder tells the world that violence against Christians is continuing in the tribal-dominated district under Cuttack-Bhubaneswar archdiocese.
The murder, apparently committed during an afternoon, has shocked Christians in the state, Father Singh said.
Collector Kishan Kumar, the highest government official in the district, visited the site with top police officials. No one has been arrested so far, the Church people said.
“If the government cannot take stern steps to control this violence, (the Hindu radicals) will finish off all priests and Christian leaders” in the district, Father Singh said.
Rabindra Parichha, a social activist, said he suspects the Hindu radicals have decided to kill the district’s Christian leaders. “They are working toward their target,” he warned.
He said Nayak was the fourth Christian to get abducted and killed after the anti-Christian violence subsided by the end of October. “The state should take strong action against the culprits,” Parichha said, adding that in some instances, bodies were not found and the police could only report these as missing persons.
Christian leaders also allege the state government tacitly supports the violence. The pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (Indian people’s party) is a partner in the state’s two-party coalition.
Nayak is survived by his wife Rina, 39, daughter Jesia and son Saibil.