'Kandhamal riots could have been prevented'
Bhubaneswar, Feb 23 : The communal violence in Odisha's Kandhamal district in 2008 that claimed 38 lives could have been avoided had the state government acted promptly, a Christian leader told a probe commission Saturday.
Kandhamal, about 200 km from here, witnessed widespread violence after the murder of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and four of his aides at his ashram in Jalespata village Aug 23, 2008.
At least 38 people were killed and more than 25,000 Christians were forced to flee their homes in 2008 after their houses were attacked by mobs, who accused Christians for killing Saraswati, although police had blamed the Maoists for the ashram killings.
Disposing before the Justice A.S Naidu Commission which is probing into the violence, Odisha Minority Forum (OMF) president Swarupananda Patra said the government also did not take a step to put a stop to the rumors at that time.
"Although the government took care of the people who suffered, it could have prevented it from happening," Patra told IANS citing the points he raised before the commission.
The government did not provide adequate security protection sought by Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati.
"It also did not take steps to stop the rumors after the murder of the Saraswati which eventually contributed to the spread of violence," he said.
Patra also accused the chief minister (Naveen Patnaik ) of 'losing the human element' as he did not visit a relief camp in Bhubaneswar that had housed hundreds of riots' victims.
"The chief minister did not visit a relief camp even if it was situated within two kilometers from his residence in Bhubaneswar" Patra said.
More than 150 people including government officials and eyewitnesses have so far deposed before the one-man headed commission that is probing into the killing of Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and the subsequent communal riots in the state.
The commission is likely to hear about 50 more people. The next hearing is scheduled to be held in Kandhamal district March 6-7-8.