Declare December 25 Orissa bandh illegal: Christian leaders

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Bhubaneswar, Nov 19 (UNI) Christian leaders in the state today demanded that the ''Orissa bandh'' on December 25, the Christmas Day, called by some ''fundamentalist organisations'' be declared illegal by the government.

In a memorandum submitted to the three-member Central ministerial team, headed by Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, the Christian leaders apprehended that the Christian community might be attacked on the bandh day and sought appropriate steps to ensure that the community celebrated Christmas Day without any fear.

The signatories of the memorandum, including Archbishop of Cuttack and Bhubaneswar Raphael Cheenath, Orissa Minority Forum president Swarupananda Patra, Vicar General Catholic Church Fr Joseph Kalathali and Global Council of Indian Christian Chairman Sajan K George demanded that Orissa government should provide adequate protection to the Christian community, their places of worship and the Christian institutions.

The memorandum alleged that the Christians in Kandhmal were being prevented from harvesting their crop and their basic right to life was being violated.

They urged the Orissa government to take adequate steps to protect the Christians and ensure that they were allowed to harvest their crop in Kandhmal.

''The Orissa government should also declare the forced conversion perpetuated on Christians as illegal and take stringent action against the organisations and people undertaking such activities,'' the memorandum stated.

It also urged that municipality elections to Kandhmal and G Udayagiri be postponed as thousands of people, rendered homeless in the communal violence, were still living in the relief camps spread across Kandhmal, Bhubaneswar and Cuttack.

These people, the memorandum further said, would not be able to cast their ballot or stand in the elections in their respective wards in the present volatile situation prevailing in the district.

UNI DP DPM RP VC1638

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