The National Commission for Minorities has indicted the Naveen Patnaik Government for offering little guidance and support to the Kandhamal district administration in the aftermath of the killing of Swami Laxmanananda and four of his followers on August 23.
NCM vice-president Michael Pinto in his report submitted to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday said that despite knowing that the public reaction to the murder of a prominent religious leader like Laxmanananda would be extreme, there is little evidence of application of mind by the political and administrative higher-ups in Bhubaneswar.
“Given the near certainty that a procession of over 170 km with the body of the slain leader was bound to arouse huge passions, it would have been proper for the senior leadership of the state to try to persuade the Swami’s followers to avoid a long procession and bury him in the ashram where he was murdered. Even if his followers had been adamant that he had to be buried at the site of his first ashram in Chakpad, the alternative of airlifting the body should have been examined,” the report said.
So far the Government had maintained that it was left handicapped over paucity of Central paramilitary forces between August 23 and 27, the peak period of riot. The Government had told the Supreme Court that the Central forces arrived after August 27.
The report which has exposed the lack of sound administrative judgement among Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and Chief Secretary Ajit Tripathy said how less than 18 hours after the murder, the funeral procession was allowed to be taken out. “It is certainly possible that if the procession had been banned or even delayed there might have been serious trouble at Jalaspeta. This might possibly have spread to other places as well. But a reasoned analysis of the pros and cons does not appear to have taken place,” the report said.
The report added the Christian population has registered a larger increase than that of the Hindu population. But if conversions by force or fraud were responsible for the feelings against Christians, it is absolutely amazing that the provisions of an Act designed precisely to address such conversions were never invoked, the NCM asked. “Although the Freedom of Religion Act has been in existence for 40 years, not a single case has been registered under this Act for forced conversion in Kandhamal.”