Orissa: Christians forced out of camps ahead of EU visit

Authorities in India's Orissa state are reportedly forcing Christian refugees out of the makeshift camps ahead of a visit this month by an EU delegation.

A 10-member EU delegation is due to tour the riot-hit district from January 27.
Led by deputy chief of mission in the Spanish embassy Ramon Moreno, the EU group is to go on a fact-finding mission during its four-day visit.

The camps' residents - Christians caught up in attacks in 2008 - say they are being forced to move out so that the authorities can project an image of peace in the area, reports Bosnewslife agency.

According to one source, about a hundred refugees in a local market complex in G Udaygiri of Kandhamal were asked to leave as soon as possible. They moved into the complex after the government closed many of the state-run relief camps.

"The local government has ordered to vacate people immediately and if we refuse police force will be used," a worried survivor was quoted by Bosnewslife as saying.

Meena Nayak, a mother of two, asked: "Where can I go with these two babies?" Her second child was born in the relief camp after violence perpetrated by Hindu extremists in August 2008 forced them out of their village.

"We cannot go back to our village, because they will not allow us to live there if we do not convert to Hinduism," she said. "The government is not prepared to provide security and necessary helps. On top of it they are trying to throw us out from here also."

About 50,000 Christians fled their homes during the violence in the aftermath of the murder of a local Hindu leader. At least 20,000 people still remain homeless without any support from the government.

Fr Ajay, who heads an NGO in Kandhamal, said: "Even after seventeen months there is no justice for survivors of communal violence."

The victims, many of them poor, are reduced to begging and the status of second class citizens, he said.

He the government should not show concern out of charity but because it is a fundamental right enshrined in the Indian constitution.

Although the government has promised compensation, Christians complain that it has not being equally distributed and falls short of the amount required to rebuild their homes and restore their lives.