Bhubaneswar: Religious conversion was the reason behind the riots in Kandhamal district of Odisha in 2007 and "tribals, along with Hindus, were behind it," retired judge of the Orissa High Court Justice Basudev Panigrahi, who headed the one-man Commission to probe the riots, today said.
"Conversion was the reason behind the communal riot in Kandhamal in 2007," Justice Panigrahi told reporters.
At least three persons were killed in the riot which devastated the Kandhamal district during the Christmas week between December 24 and December 27, 2007.
Over 100 churches and church institutions, including convents and hostels, about 700 houses and other structures were burnt in the incident.
Incidentally, Laxmanananda Saraswati, who was shot dead during Janmastami celebrations in August, 2008 at his Jalespata ashram in the district, had also been injured in the attack during the December, 2007 violence.
Justice Panigrahi Commission, which submitted its findings to Odisha government recently, in its report said though there had been a strong legislation prohibiting religious conversions, that was not implemented leading to communal tension in Kandhamal.
"The local tribals had been tolerating the conversion activities for a long time. But they were strongly opposed to it. Tribals, along with Hindus, were behind the riot. There should be proper coordination between communities in order to avoid such tensions and riots in Kandhamal," Justice Panigrahi said quoting his 560-page report.
Justice Panigrahi also pointed out that while Hindus in Brahmanigaon area of Kandhamal were affected in the 2007 riot, Christians of Barakhama bore the brunt of the riot.