New report, new theory
Bhubaneswar, Dec. 25: The Justice Basudev Panigrahi commission, which is probing the Kandhamal communal riots of 2007, has indicated that large-scale religious conversions mainly triggered violence in the district.
The report, which has come to light close on the heels of Justice A.S. Naidu Commission's report on 2008 riots in the same district holding Maoists as the chief culprit, may trigger a fresh debate on conversions in the state that could be taken advantage of by the BJP that has been railing against the government for playing the minority card.
The probe into 2007 riots sparked off following an attack on VHP leader Laxmanananda Saraswati who was killed in August 2008 at his Jalaspeta ashram in Kandhamal. The violence that broke out in 2007 just a day ahead of Christmas had claimed three lives while causing extensive damage to houses and several places of worship belonging to a particular community.
Talking to The Telegraph, Justice Panigraghi said: "First the orthodox elements in the minority community engaged in conversions. Later, the hardliners from the majority community did the same. The clash of interests led to the violence."
Blaming the media for overplaying the attack on Saraswati, Justice Panigrahy advised newspersons to exercise restraint while reporting such incidents.
Justice Panigrahi, who submitted his 550-page report to the government on November 28 this year, said the riots were not new to the backward district. "There are many other historical reasons for this," he said, adding that the simmering tension between the Kandha, a dominating tribal community and the Kui, a community of scheduled castes had led to frequent episodes of violence in Kandhamal.
"The Kandhas have a feeling that the members of Panas community are trying to snatch away their rights and privileges," he said. He also argued for the implementation of the rules under the prevention of cow slaughter act.