By BosNewsLife Asia Service
NEW DELHI, INDIA (BosNewsLife)-- India's anti-terror agency was under pressure Monday, March 28, to investigate anti-Christian violence amid allegations that right-wing terrorists played a key role in the massive killings of Christians in India's state of Orissa and violence in Karnataka state.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) learned from a key suspect that her fellow activist, identified as Luitenant Colonel Prasad Srikant Purohit, "masterminded" the 2008 anti-Christian violence in Orissa in which over 100 people were killed, The Indian Express newspaper reported, citing an internal document.
"He was into big things like blasts, etc., and had masterminded the Orissa and Karnataka ‘disturbances,’," the newspaper quoted Pragya Singh Thakur, who was arrested for planning seperate bombings targeting another religious minority, Muslims, in west India in 2008.
Among Christians killed in Orissa were men and women who witnesses said were burned alive, or hacked to death.
Also, in Orissa's Kandhamal district alone, over 6,600 homes were destroyed, 56,000 people rendered homeless, and thousands injured, according to Christian rights activists.
Thakur’s statement to the NIA followed a Directorate of Military Intelligence report saying Purohit had confessed to having killed at least two Christians in Kandhamal district.
The Orissa violence followed the murder of Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, the leader of the nationalist grouping Vishwa Hindu Parishad, or 'World Hindu Council'. Maoists reportedly claimed responsibility for the killing, but Hindus blamed Christians.
Thakur reportedly also admitted to playing a role in the 2008 violence in Karnataka and other stateswhere activists say hundreds of churches were desecrated and Christians were beaten up by Hindu militants.
The revelation by Thakur was not surprising, said John Dayal, secretary general of advocacy group the All India Christian Council.
"We have held that the military precision of the Kandhamal riots, which spread fast and raged for months, could not be a work of mere common people, and that higher brains were at work to ‘teach the Christians a lesson’ while sending out signals of their power lust to the entire nation," he said in published remarks.
In Orissa, tensions remained high Sunday, March 27, following reports of new violence. In one of the latest cases Angad Digal, a Catholic man from the town of Mondasoro im Kandhamal went missing this month. Residents said he was killed in Tilakapanga around March 10, when he travelled with Hindu acquaintances.
For days, family, volunteers, and human rights activists in Cuttack diocese have been searching for his body, without success, Christians said.
One of the men suspected in Digal’s murder has been arrested, said Laxmikant Pradhan, a local priest.
It was not immediately clear what the suspect, who was not identified, had told authorities about the whereabouts of the missing man.
"We must find Digal’s body and stop this culture of impunity," said priest Pradhan, who complained that authorities had not done enough to intervene.
The case have underscored growing pressure on religious minorities in India, a predominantly Hindu nation, according to rights and church groups. (BosNewsLife's Santosh Digal in India and Stefan J. Bos at BosNewsLife News Center contributed to this story).