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Aid ban overturned in India: CEN 4.18.08 p 8 April 21, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of North India, Persecution, Politics.

India’s Supreme Court has overturned a state court ruling banning Christian aid agencies from assisting victims of the Christmas pogrom in Orissa.

“This is a big victory for the churches,” the Church of North India’s Bishop Samson Das of Cuttack said. “The people have suffered like anything during last few months.”

“We are happy that at last our right to help suffering people has been upheld,” said the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Bhubaneswar, Msg. Raphael Cheenath, who observed the proceedings in the New Delhi courtroom.

A week of anti-Christian violence by Hindu militants left over 100 churches destroyed, hundreds of homes burned, and forced several thousand Christians into refugee camps and into the jungle for safety.

On Jan 11, the District Collector of Kandhamal, the administrative magistrate for the area torn by violence, issued an order banning Christian aid groups and NGOs from undertaking relief work, arguing this would further inflame sectarian tensions. The state supreme court upheld his order on Jan 28 following an appeal by the Human Rights Law Network and the Catholic Church.

On April 9 the Indian Supreme Court stayed the District Collector’s order, effectively opening the region to relief efforts.

Dr. John Dayal, the president of the All India Catholic Union charged the state government had been “strangely silent and utterly inactive on this issue. No rehabilitation or relief policy has been announced” and the government’s relief effort “appears to be at a standstill.”

He charged the District Collector and the Orissa state government with siding with the Hindu militants, whom he said were “roaming free” and continuing to terrorize Christian villagers.

“To say that some persons would be upset because victims of a communal riot were getting relief is quite irrational to say the least,” he charged. And if Hindu militants were “upset because relief is being provided to the victims it is the duty of the state government to keep such communal elements under control rather than use them to prevent relief reaching the victim community,” Dr. Dayal said.

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