New Delhi: On the eve of elections in Orissa, a book written by a journalist author contested the state government’s report on the number of causalities claiming that at least 75 people belonging to the minority community had been killed in the communal violence in Kandhamal.
However, the state ruling Biju Janata Dal or BJD, which had parted ways with its decade-long political ally Bharatiya Janata Party over the communal clashes among other issues, the government was trying its best to bring back normalcy to the region. The Kandhamal district, about 200 km from Bhubaneshwar, witnessed widespread communal violence after the murder of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and four of his aides at his ashram on 23 August. Official records say 38 people were killed in the violence.
Some BJD leaders, who did not want to be identified, viewed the move to release the book ‘Kandhamal, a blot on Indian Secularism’ by journalist author Anto Akkara on the eve of elections – Orissa’s 21 parliamentary and 147 assembly constituencies are going for polls on 16 and 23 April – as “politically motivated.” Orissa is witnessing a triangular contest between the BJD, BJP and the main opposition Congress.
Akkara in his book stated that the violence had not been a “spontaneous” reaction of the Hindus as claimed by some fundamentalist groups, but was “orchestrated”
Pointing out that the incidents in Kandhamal were “definitely deplorable and heinous”, BJD leader and Lok Sabha MP Bhartruhari Mahtab said: “The government has put out the death toll on the basis of the information available. In a communally charged situation, lot of people go on missing and you cannot declare one as officially dead unless you get confirmation.”
However, he added: “The situation there is coming back to normalcy. It is not good to whip up passions again. You are not even helping the community also (by releasing such books).”