Shutdown Called Off in India to Allow for Peaceful Christmas

( [email protected] ) Dec 20, 2008 09:13 AM EST

Christians in Orissa, India, can cheerfully celebrate Christmas this year. The state government has officially called off the proposed statewide shutdown called by the Sangh Parivar on Dec. 25.

On Saturday, Bhala Chandra Sarangi, central committee member of CPI( ML-New Democracy), announced that in the face of tremendous opposition, "The Sangh Parivar had no other option but to call off the bandh as the entire country opposed their move to create more trouble in riot-hit Kandhamal."

The decision was made after the leaders of Swami Laxmananand Saraswati Shraddhanjali Samiti met with Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik along with BJP leaders.

The proposed bandh, or shutdown, was called off after Patnaik assured the delegation that the government would do all that is necessary to ensure the arrest of those involved in the murder of Hindu leader Swami Laxmananda Saraswati and four of his aides.

Earlier the CM had castigated the bandh call and said, "The government will come down heavily on those who try to create any trouble.”

Christians had expressed fears that the proposed bandh would lead to more attacks against its community. Violence against the Christian community erupted in August when the Hindu leader was murdered and Christians were suspected, although Maoists claimed responsibility.

Bishop DK Sahu, general secretary of the National Council of Churches in India, commented earlier, "We condemn the bandh on Christmas, when people should celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. It is a well-planned deliberate act to incite violence on indigent Christians."

Church leaders nationwide had denounced the bandh call, with some using their personal and political contacts to ensure that Christians in Orissa are not victimized to attacks any more attacks. The leaders have made efforts to help Christians in India celebrate a peaceful Christmas this year unlike 2007.

The state government has been criticized from all sides for its failure in curbing the violence on Christian minorities. Despite the international community condemning the government and Indian Christians meeting with top Indian politicians, "the state is still very volatile and barbarous atrocities are perpetrated on Christians," a source, whose identity is undisclosed for security reasons, told Christian Today.

Violence since Aug. 23 has forced thousands to leave their homes and left at least 300 churches burnt. Church agencies claim that at least 110 people have been killed by Hindu fundamentalists.