A Citizen's Delegation, which met President Pratibha Patil on Monday, informed her that in the riot-hit district of Kandhamal in Orissa, as many as 50,000 people were hiding in forests or had taken refuge in camps, to escape the rampaging mob.
Earlier in the day, the Orissa government had claimed that the situation in Kadhamal and other riot-hit areas in the state were under control.
The delegation, led by filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt, urged the President to enforce Article 355 in Orissa, so that the Naveen Patnaik-led administration takes adequate measures to protect the Christian minority from the ongoing violence.
While Article 356 calls for the imposition of President's rule in the state, Article 355 reminds both New Delhi and state governments of their duties to protect states against internal disturbances.
The delegation reminded the President that the violence, which started after VHP leader Lakshmanananda Saraswati's killing on August 23, justifies the use of this Article.
The delegation told the President that the violence had even reached parts of neighbouring Madhya Pradesh. In Orissa, it was no longer confined only to Kandhamal but had affected other districts as well.
The delegation claimed that over 4,000 houses have been completely destroyed, and as many as 100 churches had been torched.
The Citizen's delegation was led by film maker Mahesh Bhatt and included Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Hind President Maulana Mahmood Madani, MP, National Integration Council member Dr John Dayal, Orissa Archbishop Raphael Cheenath, Delhi Archbishop Vincent Concessao, Maharashtra Government State Minorities Commission vice chairman Dr Abraham Mathai, Jamiat leader Mohd Faruqi, Al India Christian Council regional secretary Rev Madhu Chandra, Delhi Catholic Archdiocese Federation President Adv Jenis Francis and Mumbai's Catholic Social Forum secretary general Joseph Dias.
The President assured the delegation that she would examine their demand for the imposition of Article 355. She said the government had briefed her about the steps taken to combat the violence in Orissa.