Normalcy still a far cry in Kandhamal: Congress

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Bhubaneswar, Oct 7 (UNI) Leader of the Opposition in Orissa Assembly J B Pattnaik today said normalcy had not been restored in the strife-torn Kandhamal district as the victims of communal violence were still living in a state of panic and unwilling to return to their homes.

Mr Pattnaik, also a Congress leader, told newspersons here that about 40 victims of the violence-hit Kandhamal met him today and later went to Orissa Governor M C Bhandare to apprise him of the tense situation still prevailing there.

He held Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik squarely responsible for both the assassination of VHP leader Swami Laxmananda Saraswati and the unabated violence in the Kandhamal district.

''The Swamiji had time and again requested the government that his life was in danger, yet the Naveen Patnaik government did not take any steps to provide him adequate security. Similarly, knowing fully well that Kandhamal was a communally sensitive district and a riot had taken place there in December last year, the Chief Minister kept mum and allowed the communal violence to spread to other areas following the killing of the VHP leader,'' he rued.

The Leader of the Opposition said the government maintained a stoic silence despite the repeated claims of the Maoists that they were behind the murder of Swamiji.

Even after the arrest of three Maoists in connection with the killing, the state government was not making anything public and deliberately encouraged communal violence in the district, Mr Pattnaik alleged.

He pooh-poohed the government claim that the situation had improved as thousands of people, who took shelter in the relief camps, had started returning to their homes.

The Congress leader, on the other hand, said most of them were leaving the district after being threatened that the people would be allowed to stay only after they returned to Hinduism.

Mr Patnaik said the state government, so far, had not taken any tangible steps to restore peace and harmony in Kandhamal.

''If the government was so keen in restoring peace in the area, it should ask the village headman that they would be held responsible if any cases of violence occurred in their village,'' the Congress leader added.

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