Bishop Alex Dias of the Diocese of Port Blair in India’s Andaman and Nicobare islands has charged that the Indian government is not doing enough to halt the anti-Christian violence in the state of Orissa. Speaking in an interview, the bishop warned that the violence could spread if it is not halted in time, saying “The world must know that these things happen in India.”
“The government of Orissa and the Indian government are not doing all they should do, despite the presence of police,” Bishop Dias said in an interview with SIR News. “But if the violence against Christians is not stopped in time, it risks spreading to other Indian states that are famously anti-Christian, such as Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisghar. There are some signs of this happening already.”
The series of anti-Christian attacks began when a Hindu leader was killed by suspected Communist militants. Hindu extremists used the leader’s death as a pretext for the violence, in which many Christians have been killed and many Christian churches and homes burned to the ground.
“Even if all the world knows Christians are not responsible,” the bishop continued, “the Hindu fundamentalists want to kill a Catholic leader too. The archbishop is doing all he can to curb the violence, meeting politicians in Delhi, but that’s not enough.”
Bishop Dias said the India Supreme Court’s ban of a planned procession bearing the ashes of the murdered Hindu leader is a positive development, claiming that more actions against Christians were planned to follow the event.
“The world must know that these things happen in India, which boasts to be the world’s greatest democracy,” the bishop told SIR. “What is happening is ridiculous. In a democracy with a lay government, every religion should have its freedom.”
According to Bishop Dias, international diplomatic pressure is needed despite the Indian government’s condemnations of the violence and the deployment of a special police force.
“They should have acted earlier,” the bishop said of the Indian government. “They took action after the pressures of the Bishops Conference, in my opinion, a bit late and not adequately.”
Though it is reported that the situation in Orissa has calmed, there are still some attacks in relief camps.
“People do not want to stay there, because they feel threatened,” Bishop Dias explained.
There is still peace in the Andaman and Nicobare Islands, where about 40,000 Catholics make up a fraction of the archipelago’s total population of 400,000. Bishop Dias told SIR that after the violence in Orissa began, he met with the delegates of the local media.
“They all condemned the incidents,” he said. “Then, on September 4, we organized a procession with other Christian leaders and 12 delegates of the other religions.”
“The governor of the Andaman Islands reassured us that it will not happen here,” Bishop Dias reported.