By Santosh Digal, BosNewsLife Asia Correspondent reporting from India
BHUBANESWAR, ORISSA (BosNewsLife)– Authorities backed by Hindu militants have halted the reconstruction of a Baptist church that was destroyed in deadly anti-Christian violence in India’s volatile state of Orissa, local Christians said Tuesday, August 23.
“The administration appears to be siding with Hindu fundamentalists,” explained missionary K.J.Markose, who helps Christian survivors of the 2008 bloodshed, in an interview with BosNewsLife.
At least over 100 people, most of them Christians, died when Hindu militants attacked churches and other Christian properties, according to rights investigators.
In Bakingia village, local believers said they wanted to rebuild their destroyed Baptist church as they had worshiped there for over 60 years.
Only a small portion of the old building remains following attacks by angry Hindu mobs.
Yet, after church members started reconstruction over a year ago “Hindu fundamentalists” dug up land between the church and a graveyard to create a dispute, Christians said.
Local authorities reportedly declared it “disputed land” and Revenue and police officials told the Christian community not to proceed with reconstruction work.
“On August 23 a Revenue inspector came to the site to issue an order to stop the work,” Markose explained.
Besides the Baptist church, a Catholic Church in Bakingia and at least one other congregation were told to halt reconstruction after Hindu pressure, added Markose, a brother with Catholic religious congregation Montfort Missionaries.
Christians comprise a minority in Hindu-dominated India, but Hindu nationalists are concerned about the spread of Christianity in especially impoverished rural areas of the country.
It was not immediately clear Tuesday, August 23, when or if church building would resume in the area in the near future.
The 2008 violence in Orissa broke out after the killing of Hindu leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and four of his aides.
Although Maoist rebels reportedly claimed responsibility for the attacks, Hindu militants blamed Christians, despite strong denials by church groups and Christian officials.
(With additional reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos).