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Friday, September 3, 1999 Published at 14:14 GMT 15:14 UK

World: South Asia

Catholic priest killing condemned

By Daniel Lak in Delhi

Church leaders and political parties in India have condemned the murder of a Catholic priest in the eastern state of Orissa, and called for more protection for the state's non Hindu minority groups.

Home Minister L K Advani: "No real tension between Hindus and other groups"
The priest, Father Aruldoss, was killed by suspected Hindu extremists in a remote village, very close to the scene of the murder of an Australian missionary and his two sons last January.

Last month, a Muslim shopkeeper was also killed and police suspect that religious hatred lies behind all three crimes.

Murder condemned

The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Delhi, Alan de Lastic, has sent an urgent telegram to the Indian government calling for greater protection for India's non-Hindu religious minority groups.

He said it was distressing that attacks on Christians and Muslims were continuing, despite assurances from the authorities that they were doing all they could to stop them.

Other Christian groups have condemned the more hardline Hindu organisations close to the governing Bharatiya Janata Party, for creating a climate in which religious hatred is tolerable.


The Prime Minister, Mr Vajpayee, and his close colleague and Home Minister, L K Advani, have both called for the perpetrators of the attacks to be brought to justice as quickly as possible.

One suspect, a local criminal and Hindu fanatic named Dara Singh, has been accused of both the murder of an Australian missionary, Graham Staines, and his two sons last January, and the killing of the Muslim trader in the same area as Father Aruldoss was attacked.

Police are investigating possible links.

Tribal territory

In this remote part of Orissa religious violence was almost unknown until recently.

Christian missionaries have been working with the area's extremely poor indigenous tribes and some people have converted to Christianity.

Conversion from Hinduism or tribal beliefs can cause local resentment that in turn is exploited by fanatics.

Land ownership issues can also take on religious overtones as can family feuds.

Many in India, though, of all religious faiths are revolted by the spate of attacks Orissa and pressure to bring them to an end will definitely grow.

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