Special Correspondent

BANGALORE: Condemning the violence against Christians in Orissa, Janata Dal (Secular) president H.D. Deve Gowda on Tuesday urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to immediately call an all-party meeting to chalk out a joint strategy to take communal forces head-on all over the country.

In a statement here, he said the Centre should extend all possible cooperation, including sending additional forces to Orissa, to tackle the situation. “I urge the Orissa government to crush the ongoing anti-Christian violence with an iron hand, take stern action against the guilty including the killers of Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Swami Lakshmanananda and other inmates of his ashram, pay adequate compensation to the bereaved families and ensure the safety and security of all minorities.”

Mr. Gowda, who condemned the murder of the VHP leader, said senior police officials of Orissa, where the BJP is a ruling coalition partner, had themselves categorically stated the killing was the handiwork of Left extremists. “What’s more, prominent Christian organisations including the Catholic Bishops Conference of India, the All India Christian Council and Evangelical Fellowship of India were the first to denounce the Swami’s killing and [have] demanded action against the guilty.” Yet elements in the sangh parivar with their “avowed agenda of dividing the nation on communal lines ahead of the Lok Sabha elections have sought to make a scapegoat of the innocent Christian minority.”