2016-02-26 15:43:00

Website to redress India's Odisha Christians’ injustice ‎

A website has been launched to focus attention on the failure of India’s federal and Odisha state governments to ensure comprehensive justice and rehabilitation for the victims of the 2007-2008 anti-Christian riots in the state.  The website, www.kandhamal.net, has been commissioned by a group of social activists, jurists, lawyers, academicians, writers and artists who have been frustrated at the snail pace of justice process which has seen many killers and arsonists go scot free, while many others not have been arrested.  Rights activist, Father Ajaya Kumar Singh, one of the moderators of the website, said that the website will be authentic source of information, data and legal documentations which will be used by advocacy and legal aid groups as well researchers working with the victim survivors of the violence.

Anti-Christian violence by Hindu extremists erupted during Christmas of 2007, which served as a trial run for violence on a much larger scale in August 2008, following the assassination of Hindu leader Laxmanananda Saraswati on August 23, in Kandhamal District.  Even though Maoists claimed the murder, extremists Hindus blamed it on Christians.  An estimated 101 Christians were killed and several women including a ‎Catholic nun were gang raped, besides large scale destruction to homes and church property.  Civil society groups estimated more than 56,000 people were displaced.

The two commissions of enquiry on Kandhamal violence appointed by the Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Pattnaik submitted their reports to the Odisha government in late 2015.  The victim community had for a time boycotted the commissions, with their leaders alleging bias in the hearings and coercion of victims.  In fact coercion of victims has also been alleged to be a major factor in most of the criminal cases of murder and arson which had been tried in the Fast Track Courts (special courts), and later in district courts, said John Dayal, human rights activist and prominent Catholic lay leader.

By January 2016 of the 3232 complaints were lodged and only 827 were registered and police charge sheet filed only in 512 incidents. 2405 complaints were not registered by the police at all. Out of 30 murder cases, there are only two convictions. According to a study, there is only 5.13% conviction while the acquittal rate as high as 88.60% and the rest 6.25% are still absconding (KANDHAMAL: Introspection of initiative for justice 2007-2014 by Supreme Court Lawyer Vrinda Grover and Associate Prof. Saumya Uma). Presently, there is not a single person behind bars for heinous crime like murders and gang rapes.

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