Kandhamal Carnage: No Justice Yet! What “Independence” to Celebrate?

Ten Years since the Kandhamal Carnage:  Yet no Justice!

What kind of “freedom” do we celebrate on 15th August every year?

This August 25, 2018, it will be ten years, since the biggest anti Christian violence, biggest communal violence in Odisha, will complete ten years. It was on this date, in the wake of the slaying of VHP leader Swami Lakshamananda Sarswati on the night of August 23, 2008, that a nun working in the Dibyajyoti Pastoral Centre of Kandhamal, ran away from the centre with Father Thomas Chellam fearing attack from a violent mob. She was forced out of her shelter the next day and was subjected to horrifying physical and sexual violence. As reported by the National Solidarity Forum in the communal fire that raged over Kandhamal, around 393 churches and worship places which belonged to the Adivasi Christians and Dalit Christians were destroyed, around 6,500 houses were destroyed, over 100 people were killed, over 40 women were subjected to rape, molestation and humiliation and several educational, social service and health institutions were destroyed and looted. The shocking fact is that all these incidents took place in full view of police and the police remained mute spectators.

The National Solidarity Forum goes to report that because of the carnage, over 12,000 children lost their education. More than 56,000 people were forced to flee from Kandhamal. Several cases of forced conversion to Hinduism by the Sangh Parivar have been reported. And those who had to flee from Kandhamal, are spread out in different parts of the country today. Many of them cannot come back to their villages since they were told that unless they become Hindus, they would not be allowed to survive in Kandhamal. These displaced persons are victims of communal genocide. Perhaps, they are around your own areas in India.

The national solidarity Forum goes on to state that the compensation provided by the Government for the victims and survivors of Kandhamal has been minimal. There have been more than 3,300 complaints, but only 820 odd FIRs were registered. The rest of the complaints were not even registered. Among these complaints, only 518 cases were charge sheeted. The remaining cases were treated as false reports. And out of these 518 cases, 247 cases were disposed off. The rest of the cases are pending before the sessions and magistrate courts. And amongst those disposed cases, many are already acquitted. If you take complaints as a yardstick of justice process, it is just around 1% only. On August 2, 2016, Justice TS Thakur and Justice Uday Lalit mentioned in their judgement in the Supreme Court, that the quantum and scope for compensation was not satisfactory in Kandhamal.

Seven innocent Christians from Kandhamal are still languishing in jail following the mysterious murder of Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati.  These innocent Christians – six of them illiterates including a mentally challenged – were convicted in 2013 for the murder touted as a Christian conspiracy.

Such a context calls us to bear witness to the gospel and to stand for the principles of justice and secularism as enshrined in the Indian constitution.

The National Solidarity Forum and the Kandhamal Survivors Association are giving a humanitarian call to all those who believe in secularism, democracy, justice, peace and harmony to OBSERVE KANDHAMAL DAY on the coming August 25, 2018. The National Solidarity Forum is a network of over 70 organisations in different parts of the country trying to work for justice for the survivors of Kandhamal. The Kandhamal Survivors’ Association is a grass root movement with units in every affected village in Kandhamal.

Hence, the appeal to you to support and work for the implementation of the following demands:

  1. Implementation of Supreme Court verdict of August 2nd, 2016.
  1. Enhance up to 15 lakh for the death compensation in line of Muzzaffanagar violence cases. Enlist the dead who are not listed in death list for compensation and for criminal justice delivery system.
  2. Reopen the acquitted cases of violence.
  3. Book for both state and non-state actors perpetrators involved in the communal violence; institute special inquiry into the district and police administration, who are in nexus with the communal forces
  4. Announce special package for repair and reconstruction of houses as recommended in a study by former UN Special Rapporteur, Miloon Kothari up to 5 lakh and compensate those who lost their businesses. Enlist those who are not missed out by acts of commissions and omissions for swift compensation packages.
  5. Immediately establish Odisha Minority Commission.
  6. Facilitate Minority schemes and scholarship in time bound manner and hold the officials responsible for any lapses and delays in implementations.
  7. Ensure minority community presence in important administrative machinery to ward off biased decision as well as for harmonious and participatory decision processes.
  8. Scrap Odisha anti-conversion law and Presidential Order 1950 para 3 to make religion neutral and delink it from affirmative action.
  9. Constitute Citizens and community interface with the administration for effectively combating the communal forces

For more details, see

https://countercurrents.org/2018/08/01/decade-of-kandhamal-call-for-action-on-kandhamal-day-august-25th-2018/

Rev. Dr. Roger Gaikwad,
General Secretary,
National Council of Churches in India.

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