Orissa: Hindu fundamentalists block Catholic church

March 21, 2014 by  
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persecution in OrissaOdisha, March 03, 2014: A group of radicals threaten a catechist and his father in the village of Gudrikia. The area suffered major damages in the 2008anti-Christian pogrom. Since then, the local Christian minority has been living in fear.

A group of Hindu fundamentalists yesterday blocked the construction of a Catholic chapel in the village of Gudrikia, in the Archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneshwar (Kandhamal District, Orissa), this according to a local lawyer, Ramakant Parichha, who spoke about it to AsiaNews.

The incident renewed fears and tensions in the village, which was badly hit in theanti-Christian pogroms that shook Orissa in 2008.

The incident apparently occurred at around nine o’clock pm, when the attackers threatened a number of Catholics and carried away the stones they had brought to start the work.

According to local sources, the extremist group threatened Bhagawan Pradhan, 44, a catechist in the village, and his father Danardan Pradhan, 63.

The two Catholics said that they are “frightened” but still plan to file as soon as possible a complaint about what had happened.

During the 2008 anti-Christian pogrom, the village church and the shrine were destroyed.

On that occasion, Mathew Nayak, a young clergyman in the (Anglican) Church of North India who had come to visit his family, was burnt alive in the church where he had taken refuge.

Another local Christian, Lalita Digal, was taken away and murdered, her body never found.

Since then, Catholics and other Christians have been denied free access to local land and forest.

Hindu fundamentalists now farm the land where the church once stood. In November 2013, some Christian leaders went to the police to complain about it, but the latter refused to register their case.

In addition, each year radical groups organise Ram Navami celebrations (honouring the birth of Rama) near the shrine’s ruins.

– asianews

Kandhamal: Christian Prayer Hall under construction damaged by radicals in Pradhanpada

March 7, 2014 by  
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kandhamalOdisha, March 02, 2014: Armed forces deplyed in Kandhamal after attack on prayer hall

Armed forces were deployed at Pradhanpada village in Odisha’s Kandhamal district today as tension prevailed following damage to an under-construction prayer hall on Thursday. Two platoons of armed police (about 70 personnel) were deployed in the village as part of measures to prevent further trouble and to restore normalcy

A group of anti christian people had attacked the under-construction structure on Thursday. Two persons have been arrested in connection with the incident while a manhunt was on for others as efforts were on for amicable settlement to the issue, they said.

According to a complaint made by the christian leaders, the accused persons threatened 15 persons of eight families involved in the construction work of the prayer house.

All the 15 persons met the SP Kunor Bilash Singh yesterday and apprised him of the situation, who further gave directives for necessary action against those involved.

– business standard

Report of gang rape & murder of young Dalit girls in Kandhamal

January 14, 2013 by  
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It is shameful that heinous crimes including gang rapes and murder of young Dalit girls in Kandhamal is excluded from the discourse on rape in our country, says Asha Kowtal, All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch

Report of gang rape and murder of young Dalit girlOrissa, January 11, 2013: The National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights with allied organizations like NAWO, Odisha Forum for Social Action, human rights activists and journalists conducted a fact finding visit to investigate into the recent cases of rapes in Kandhamal district, addressed the media today at Red Cross, Bhubaneswar.

On January 10, 2013, the fact finding team visited five villages ( Tiangia, Simanbadi, Daringbadi, Badagaon, Sarangoda and Tikabali ) in Kandhamal district. In each village, the team has met the rape survivor, the family, community members and the investigating police officers at the police station. Finally, the fact-finding team has met the District Collector in Kandhamal and shared the findings and recommendations.

The members of the team express their shock and anguish over the gruesome cases of rape and murder of Dalit Christian girls in the recent months at Kandhamal and at the same time are angered with the fact that these cases never figure in the recent discussions on sexual violence and rape in India. Dalit girls living in remote tribal areas of India with little access to livelihood and life are battered brutally and killed, and yet this is not enough for the Orissa Government to hang its head in shame.

In Kandhamal, if at all given, a rape case is given Rs. 5000 and rape and murder is given Rs. 10,000 as compensation and in Delhi the recent much publicized case was announced Rs. 15,00,000 (Fifteen Lakh rupees) !!! This shows the apathy of the Government and clear exclusion of issues of Dalit and minority girls. The discussion with the District Collector in Kandhamal has revealed that the district administration has no money for rehabilitation of rape survivors and their families. He said, “I have no money for the compensation and rehabilitation of minority (Dalit Christian) girl survivors of rape.”

Delays in investigation, serious lapse in role of police, zero support from district administration and total break down of statutory bodies is clearly visible in every case that has been investigated. The entire child protection system, including CWC, JJB, Child line has not played any role in support of the victims as well the minor accused in the cases that we have investigated, says Manju Prabha, NAWO

Bogus baba’s and fake leaders like Bhagwat have been issuing baseless statements to the media and we condemn them as anti-human and misogynist ideas. The impunity enjoyed by a few in our country has instigated such people and others to get away scot-free. Such is the case in Kandhamal as well, where community control has been dismantled and hence people and officials are shocked to witness such horrific crimes in the area.

The Chief Minister of Orissa claims to have stayed away from New Year celebrations, in solidarity with the recent victim of rape in Delhi, but we wonder what he has done in response to these five inhuman acts of sexual violence on young Dalit girls in Kandhamal? , says Namrata Daniel, National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights

The families of the rape victims live in abject poverty conditions, without access to basic entitlements. Absence of job cards, access to PDS and other flag- ship programmes was clearly visible in all cases.

Key observations of the fact-finding team:

All the five cases reported to the fact-finding team was found to be authentic and the alleged crimes were truly reported. The detail of each case is attached.

All the acts of sexual violence were intentional and pre-planned to victimize the girl by raping and murder.

Rape survivors and family members do not have any knowledge about their legal rights and steps to be taken towards access to justice.

SC/ST PoA has not been invoked in Tikabali case and hence the accused have been roaming scot-free for more than 5 months. No compensation, no protection and no justice for this young girl who was raped and almost lost her life because the accused slit her neck with sharp knives.

The team observed that that local police did not registered FIR immediately and even those case registered police not supply free FIR copy to the victims

Severe gaps in investigation were observed particularly allegations relating to the police forcing the victims to change the statements.

Filing of Charge sheets has been delayed inordinately in all the cases. Police were not able to give a justification for this.

Filing of false / counter cases on family members of victims has been observed.

The entire child protection system is a total failure and has not been linked with any of the case yet inspite of several complaint letters and phone calls. None of the concerned members have supported. In addition, the girl was denied rehabilitation support by the administration.

After the rape and murder of young girls, Siblings of victim’s family and other girls in the villages have dropped out from school in fear.

The victims are living a life of extreme poverty and have not access to life and livelihood. The team observe that financial assistances not given immediately after the cases. In one case Rs. 10,000 was given in case of gang rape and murder and Rs. 5000 for rape was given.

District administration and police have not taken serious steps and it seems are purposefully neglecting the cases of violence against dalit and minority girls

Human Rights Commissions and other statutory bodies have failed completely in addressing the life security and protection of dalit girls and women in Orissa. No committee working in the district such as Women and child development committee and District Vigilance and Monitoring Committee (DVMC) under SC/ST (PoA) Act 1989 and Rule 1995.


1. The Orissa Government should ensure speedy trial for all the cases immediately.

2. Fast track courts should be set up for these trials.

3. Ensure filing of charge sheet immediately for the investigated cases.

4. Review of enforcement of SC/ST PoA Act at district and state level should be taken up the state and include SCST minorities to be included in the PoA Act as they are targeted with the same prejudices biases.

5. Full rehabilitation plan for the survivors and families should be made for the survivor and family. Provide a job for the family member, residential school for the survivor and compensation of Rs. 15,00,00 for rape and murder case.

6. Panchayat standing committee should be activated and take serious action in these cases of violence.

7. Health department (NRHM) has not taken any action in any of the cases. Trauma counselling and medical treatment for the survivors and the witness should be provided immediately.

8. Education department ( SSA ) should ensure that the girls go back to school.

9. Minority Commission to be set up in the district and Orissa State level to look into all matters concerning minority groups.

10. Residential school for minority girl children should be set up to ensure quality education, safety and security of the children.

11. The child protection system ( ICPS ) should be strengthened and activated with continuous monitoring and follow up.

12. The district administration to take steps to generate awareness of legal rights in particular for women and young girls.

13. Sensitization on Gender and exclusion issues – training of police and other district officials should be conducted.

– Asha Kotwal Manjuprava

In Jagannath’s name, 25,000 acres, a lot of it encroached

January 14, 2013 by  
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56,000 acres estimated owneship, 25,711 acres in govt records.Orissa, January 14, 2013: He is possibly the only god in India who owns so much land —25,711 acres — but Lord Jagannath is struggling to get part of it back from encroachers.

Lord Jagannath, presiding deity of the 12th century temple in Puri, is listed as a landlord in the Orissa government’s revenue records. He reportedly owns 56,000 acres, of which at least 25,711 acres is registered against the name of “Sri Jagannath Mahaprabhu Bije, Puri” in the state’s land revenue records. The temple’s managing committee headed by the Puri king manages the land on behalf of the deity. The lands are spread over 23 of Orissa’s 30 districts as well as states such as Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

But the land mafia, allegedly helped by bureaucrats and corrupt politicians, is believed to have parcelled away at least 20 per cent of his recorded land in Orissa. Chief administrator of the temple Arvind Padhee, a senior IAS officer, decided to strike back early this week. The temple administration cleared 250 acres in Jatni area near Bhubaneswar and Delang area of Puri district. The land is worth an estimated Rs 500 crore.

“When I started clearing the area, there were goons all over the place. But we were determined to clear it,” said Padhee, who as revenue divisional commissioner, central division, has been trying to get the lord’s land records updated. Among the alleged encroachers was the son of a former Assam governor, whose stone crusher was obscuring the landscape. The anti-encroachment team’s bulldozers razed a rice processing mill, a housing society, a market complex and several dhabas that had mushroomed over the land. A head clerk working at the temple’s Jatni office, who was found guilty of conniving with the land mafia, was suspended.

Officials said the encroachers had sought to justify the land-grabbing, saying it had been authorised by the endowment commissioner under the Orissa Hindu Religious Endowments Act, 1951. But Padhee cited section 16(3) of the Shri Jagannath Temple Act, 1954, which says any transfer of immovable property recorded in the name of Lord Jagannath of Puri by any person including any institution would be null and void. As per section 2(1) of the temple Act, the provisions of the Hindu religious endowments Act are not applicable to the temple except with respect to actions taken, things done and contributions levied as such.

Padhee said the temple administration is now planning to evict encroachers from at least 1,000 acres in the next few weeks. After it is freed, the land would be sold to the general public through the Bhubaneswar Development Authority. The funds so generated would be deposited in the temple corpus fund.

Encouraged by the success of the drive, the temple administration is now in the process of identifying the remaining 30,000 acres for which there is no record of rights as yet. “Most of these lands are in districts of Puri, Khurda, Cuttack and Ganjam. If we get back the land, the lord’s would probably be the richest among all shrines in India,” Padhee said.

– indian express

The Widows of Kandhamal

October 10, 2012 by  
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Odisha: Asmita’s husband Rajesh was buried alive in a muddy riverbank in the remote Kandhamal district of India’s Odisha (Orissa) state, just over four years ago. He is not enumerated in the official death toll of the anti-Christian pogrom which began in August 2008, because police did not find his body. In fact, they did not look for it. Asmita has no death certificate, because you don’t get one here if the body hasn’t been found and identified. She doesn’t get a widow’s pension since, officially, she isn’t a widow. Either for want of resources or inclination, her husband’s family no longer cares for her. She has sent her two young daughters to hostels for their safety and education, but they are 300 miles apart because that is where spaces could be found for them.

Other widows of the 2008 violence have equally desolate stories. Their husbands are among over 90 killed during the wave of anti-Christian attacks that followed the assassination of local radical Hindu nationalist leader, Swami Lakshmananda Saraswati, by Maoist insurgents. One widow said her husband was cut up and burnt inside a church, and the case was never brought to trial. Another, whose husband was murdered inside the church he oversaw, said her future was simply “full of sorrow”.

The widows of Kandhamal may have among the worst tales to tell, but in a way these are a metaphor for the wider community of victim-survivors of that terrible violence four years ago: broken by tragedy, let down by the system, and struggling to cling on to any hope that their lives can be pieced together again. It is hard to escape a nagging feeling that the worst sting of the 2008 pogrom was not necessarily in the violence itself, but in the long months and years afterwards, as the unresolved suffering of its victims is gradually forgotten about.

The sting is in the miserable failure of the justice system, which lets down the victims at every turn. Catholic Archbishop Raphael Cheenath started writing letters to the state government in the 1970s, warning that sporadic episodes of targeted violence against Christians in his diocese were building up to something bigger in the future, and urging that justice be done to safeguard against this. His warnings were tragically vindicated. The 2008 violence was devastating – many of the 90 who were murdered died in terrible circumstances, and over 56,000 fled from their destroyed homes. But hundreds of complaints were never filed properly by police. Of those that were filed, many more – such as Asmita’s – received cursory investigation and did not result in conviction. The justice system has made little effort to accommodate the needs of victims and witnesses – many are uneducated and need patient help to get their statements straight, while nearly all of them fear reprisals from the accused if they testify against them, and the state provides little or no protection. When perpetrators have been convicted, they have often been bailed in non-bailable offences, such as state assembly member Manoj Pradhan, out on bail despite receiving a seven year prison sentence for rioting and causing grievous harm in one of the fourteen cases against him. A girl who was raped on account of her uncle’s Christian faith is terrified for her life, as the rapists are on bail after a superficial investigation, and continue to threaten her. She, like many, has lost all confidence in the justice system.

The sting is in the poverty of the victim-survivors, many of whom now struggle to survive. A terribly haphazard compensation programme left many in want of their basic needs, including food and shelter. The state effectively devolved its own responsibility to charities and churches to meet these needs. The extremist Hindu nationalists who stoked the violence in the first place have worked hard to manufacture antipathy between people along religious lines, and now the Christian survivors, many of whom worked as daily wage labourers, do not get any work from Hindus. Charities have built houses for many victims, giving the impression they live in reasonable conditions – but when you go inside, you find they are boiling pumpkin leaves to survive, because they can’t afford rice. Some collect leaves from sal trees in the forests, and sew them together into plates; they need to work for eight hours to make 120 plates, which would earn enough (15 rupees, about 17p) to buy a kilogram of the lowest-quality rice.

It is in the way the local administration has bowed to the hard-line Hindu nationalist groups, the Sangh Parivar. Their infrastructure in this region surpasses that of any other institution, including the state itself, particularly through a network of formal and informal schools which covers almost every village, and they have an immense influence over the local administration. This is the result of its decades of activity in the area, creating a strong Hindu nationalist mindset among local people, while promulgating hate against Christians (the largest religious minority here), positioning themselves as a bulwark against violent Maoists, and putting about propaganda to the effect that Christians and Maoists are in cahoots with each other and pose a common threat. Now the local administration seems to have outsourced some of its welfare provision to the Sangh Parivar. The configuration of welfare benefits here is complicated, but anyone (of any religion) who belongs to a “Scheduled Tribe” is eligible for a range of benefits, including school scholarships, jobs, and land ownership. However, the local administration is routinely telling tribal (adivasi) Christians that they must obtain Scheduled Tribe certification from the Sangh Parivar groups; and these groups insist the Christians convert to Hinduism first. This is against the law, but it continues, and it locks the Christian community into a spiral of ever-worsening poverty.

It is in the way community has been shattered. Efforts to address the material needs of all the impoverished people in this region have been seriously hampered: a tribal welfare centre in Paburia village was burnt down because it was run by a Christian, and with no compensation and continued opposition, it has now been swallowed up by the jungle. Thousands of victim-survivors have simply migrated elsewhere, some of them falling into the hands of traffickers along the way.

Hope has not flickered away entirely, thanks in large measure to bold human rights activists who help keep it alive among the victims. An appeal to the Supreme Court is being prepared, to reopen over 30 murder cases which were dismissed without proper investigation. The National Human Rights Commission has been approached to secure a comprehensive package of compensation more in line with that which victims of 1984 anti-Sikh violence and 2002 anti-Muslim violence eventually received. And on 30 August, around 5,000 victim-survivors held a rally in the district town to build solidarity among themselves, and to march for justice, security and livelihood.

Nobody, though, has a deeper resolve than the widows on behalf of their children – that they will live lives of freedom and security, and honour the memory of their fathers. But for that to happen, they will need all the help they can get. Is anyone listening?

– david griffiths

Orissa: Prayer meeting stopped, junior pastor injured in kandhamal

October 2, 2012 by  
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Bajrang Dal

Bajrang Dal ( file photo )

Orissa, September 24, 2012:  In Krutamgarh, Balligada, Kandhamal. Orissa, 12 Hindu extremists from the Bajrang Dal disrupted a prayer meeting and beat up a junior pastor, seriously injuring him.

According to our correspondent, Smeeta Pramanik, Pastor Krishna Chandra Deva was conducting a meeting reported at about 1 p.m. when the extremists forcibly entered the meeting, verbally abused them and started chasing them out.

The believers ran towards the forest to escape the attacks. However, the extremists got hold of junior Pastor Mantu Nayak when he fell into a ditch and beat him up mercilessly.

He suffered serious injuries to his head and fractures on both his arms. He had to be rushed to a nearby hospital for treatment.

The police registered First Information Report against the attackers, arrested eight extremists and are still searching for the other four extremists.

– efi

EFI calls upon India to observe international obligations on human rights

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Rev. Dr. Richard Howell, General Secretary, Evangelical Fellowship of India

Rev. Dr. Richard Howell

New Delhi, October 1, 2012: EFI calls upon India to observe international obligations on human rights; regrets India’s negative stance at UNHRC Universal Periodic review on Communal Violence Prevention legislation, Dalit Christians, and recalling so called “Freedom of Religion Acts” by States.

The Evangelical Fellowship of India welcomes the Indian Government’s assurances of its commitment to Human Rights and specially the Rights of Religious and other minorities, reiterated its Universal Periodic Review under the auspices of the United Nations Human Rights Council at its sessions from March to September 2012 at Geneva. The EFI however deeply regrets that the Government has deliberately ignored urgent international and entreaties for an early enactment of laws against communal and targetted violence, an abrogation of the so called Freedom of Religion legislation several states, and accepting the long-pending demand of Dalit Christians for their Constitutional rights.
The Indian and global human rights activists’ community has noted that the Government of India’s response to the 169 recommendations of the UNHRC reflected a pattern of only accepting recommendations that were generalized and broadly worded, lacking a targeted course of action directed to tackle discrimination and specific human rights challenges. Recommendations pertaining to specific as well as serious human rights issues were rejected, despite the Council’s expressed concern.
It is widely regretted that India has not accepted recommendations asking to create a comprehensive framework to deal effectively with the particular circumstances of communal or targeted violence. The government says communal violence is only a sporadic problem. We religious minorities contest this argument as we continue to be violently attacked in a number of states. As we have seen in Kandhamal and Karnataka specially, victims are also not able to access justice. And this situation, we fear, will continue to be repeated in future unless some immediate steps are taken by the government to prevent and pre-empt acts of communal violence.
The Evangelical Fellowship of India therefore most respectfully urges the government to bring forth the Bill on prevention of Communal and Targetted Violence, including issues of compensation rehabilitation, and reparation, at the earliest. We note that such a Bill was drafted by the National Advisory Council in 2011 and given to the government. This Bill should be taken out of cold storage, refined in consonance with principles of federalism, and enacted as law to effectively bring an end to communal strife which has ravaged this country in the last six decades.
The EFI also urges the Government to take necessary legislative and legal steps to recall the so called Freedom of Religion Acts promulgated in several states. These Acts are being used to harass and intimidate religious minorities, and in particular the Christian Community and their pastors, house churches and community gatherings.
Above all, the EFI calls upon the government to grant Scheduled Caste status to Dalit Christians as recommended by the Justice Rangnath Misra Commission, the National Commission of Minorities and the National Commission for Scheduled Castes. Not giving Dalit Christians this status amounts to discrimination on grounds of religion and denial of Freedom of religion to India’s Dalits.
Ending such discrimination and taking steps to pre-empt communal violence will go a long way in burnishing India’s image internationally as a secular democracy which is a haven for religious minorities, dreamt of by Nobel laureate Rabindra Nath Tagore, Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Baba Saheb Ambedkar.
– rev. dr. richard

Kandhamal Pastor brutally murdered after illegal detention by police

September 20, 2012 by  
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Charred Bible and blade. The blade was commonly used in the 2008 attacks on Christians in Kandhamal, Orissa

Charred Bible and blade. The blade was commonly used in the 2008 attacks on Christians in Kandhamal, Orissa

Orissa, September 15, 2012: Pastor Nirakant Pradhan (aged about 48 yrs) was a native of village Kerubadi (Daringbadi, Kandhamal). He was a pastor of Kandhmal Union of Baptists. He was badly beaten and tortured by Maoists in July 2009. The Maoists accused him to be an informer of the police.

On September 25, 2011, he was called by the local police to meet them. Thinking that it was a courtesy call, he reported to the police, not realising that he would never return home. His arrest was officially made on October 6, 2011, though he had been kept in police custody since September 25. According to his wife, he was accused of supplying provisions to the rebels. False charges were pressed against him in other cases involving Maoists. He was kept in Baliguda sub-jail and later transfered to Phulbani prison in May 2012.

On May 2, 2012 family members were informed that Pastor Nirakant Pradhan had expired in prison. As per official reports, he had complained of stomach pain and later lost consciousness. He died on the way to the hospital. Examination of the body in the presence of the magistrate revealed strangulation marks on his neck and white marks on his private parts.

According to the wife and son of the deceased, Pradhan was tortured and killed. Some jail inmates had also mentioned that the late pastor had been badly tortured at the Baliguda sub-jail.

So far no criminal proceedings have been initiated against his killers. The family, too, has not received any compensation from the government.

– persecution.in

Serious attack on Christians in Orissa – 20 Christians seriously wounded – Their dependants flee for their lives

June 18, 2012 by  
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Orissa, June 16, 2012: A diabolic plan on the lines of Kandhamal attacks seems to be brewing in Balasore District of Orissa. Evangelist Baidhar, a 50 year old Prayer Fellowship Leader was waylaid and ruthlessly attacked by a group of armed Hindu fanatics and seriously wounded on Friday, 15th June 2012, in Mitrapur Village of Makhapada Block in Balasore District of Orissa while he was returning home after a prayer meeting in a believer’s residence in the village. The Evangelist left on the road profusely bleeding was rescued by the believers and was taken to the nearby hospital for necessary medical treatment.

When the radicals learnt that the evangelist was rescued by the believers in the village, a group of about 50 Hindu extremists mounted an attack on the entire group of about 12 Christian families at 8.30 in the evening the same day, causing serious injuries to about 20 believers. They also ransacked their houses and beat up all the believers, both young and old, and also tried to molest some of the young women folk including the tearing of their clothes etc. The tragic fall-out of the incident was that the members of their families fled from the village in order to save themselves, and their whereabouts are not known till now. It is apprehended that like after the Kandhamal incident in 2008, all of them must be hiding somewhere in the jungles.

The GCIC at Bhubaneswar, which received this information only on the 16th June morning, contacted the persons concerned, arranged to rescue Baidhar and others, and took them to the Nilgiri Police Station and lodged a complaint against the culprits and also got in touch with the S.P. The S.P. has assured to take stringent measures against all the perpetrators and he has also passed orders to immediately arrest them. GCIC is keeping track and further trying to rescue others who are lost and are hiding in the Jungles. The Police are also guarding the place and are searching for the culprits.

Another recent development was on 10.06.2012, when the Brahmagiri police of Puri District seized more than 50 hand bombs and 12 dynamites from a hut in Gambhari village of Brahmagiri Block and on the arrival of the Police, the miscreants had fled. The seized live bombs were brought to the Brahmagiri police station to be defused. The intelligence as well as the media report available to GCIC was that these explosives were collected and kept ready there as preparation for another ant-Christian riot in Orissa in a short while on the lines of 2008 Kandhamal riots.

– persecution.in

Orissa: Only one of 157 suspects of anti-Christian violence convicted

April 11, 2012 by  
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Over 4,000 homes were destroyed in the violence

Over 4,000 homes were destroyed in the violence

Orissa, April 04, 2012: Courts in India have acquitted 156 people in connection with the mass anti-Christian violence by Hindu radicals in Orissa state in 2007-08, and convicted only one, who was jailed for life for murder.

Three cases concerning incidents that took place in Kandhamal district were heard by fast-track courts towards the end of last month.

In one, the judge acquitted all of the 142 people arrested by Brahmunigam police in connection with two house-torching incidents in 2007. In another, 14 people accused of house burning in Dakedi village were cleared, the judge citing lack of proper evidence.

One person, Kartik Parmanik, was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Ramesh Digal of Dakarpanga village on 25 August 2008.

Kartik was arrested after Ramesh’s brother Naresh lodged a complaint with the police. Ramesh was murdered while fleeing with his family when their house was set on fire.

The anti-Christian violence in Kandhamal started on Christmas Eve 2007 and was followed eight months later by large-scale riots, which subsided in October 2008.

At least 50 Christians were brutally murdered – some cut to pieces and others burnt alive – with around 18,000 people injured, many of them severely, and numerous Christian women were raped. Over 4,000 homes as well as several orphanages and hundreds of church buildings were destroyed.

Many Christians remain displaced, fearful of returning to their villages, where they risk death or forced conversion at the hands of hostile Hindus who do not want Christians in their midst.

There has been very limited justice for the Christian victims. Of the more than 3,200 criminal complaints relating to murder, abduction, violence and arson, only around 830 were converted to First Information Reports (FIR), which mark the beginning of further investigation and the case being brought for trial.

In its latest annual report, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom put India on its “Watch List” of countries that require close monitoring because of religious freedom violations. The lack of progress in achieving justice for victims of large-scale communal violence was one of the primary reasons for its inclusion.

– barnabas team

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