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    » 12/15/2008, 00.00


    Orissa: Christmas of Namrata, the little Dalit disfigured by a bomb

    Nirmala Carvalho

    Hers is the best-known face among the victims of the attacks against the Christians. After 45 days in the hospital, she is now healed. Her family, who are day laborers, have lost everything. Fears and hopes ahead of Christmas.

    Bangalore (AsiaNews) - Namrata Nayak is a 10-year-old Dalit from the village of Sahi Panchayat, near Raikia (district of Kandhamal, Orissa). Three months ago, at the outbreak of violence against the Christians, the little girl's face was disfigured by a bomb thrown by Hindu extremists. After 45 days in the hospital, she has healed, and is happy. "Christmas is joy and peace," says Namrata, "and I am so happy here: so many people take care of us; so many are praying for us and for peace and justice in Kandhamal." Namrata, together with her mother Sudhamani and 20 other people, have gone to Bangalore from the refugee camps in Orissa, thanks to the efforts of the Global Council of Indian Christians.

    The little girl was disfigured on August 26. When she arrived in the hospital of Berahampur, she had lesions on 40% of her body. Now she is practically healed. "For me," Namrita tells AsiaNews, "Christmas is a time to thank the Baby Jesus who saved me from the fire and saved my face, which was disfigured and wounded. I am one of the few fortunate ones who escaped death, although I had to spend a long time in the hospital. I feel very loved by the people of India, and by so many people in the world who have seen my photo and have prayed for me.

    "In Kandhamal, there is so much pain and suffering, and I don't know how long the special forces will protect us. But Christmas is a time of gratitude. I am afraid that my people will still be attacked, but this is our life. If God has saved me, he can save other Christians too."

    The radical Hindus have promised to organize another strike on Christmas, if those responsible for the killing of Hindu leader Swami Laxamananda Saraswati are not arrested. His assassination began the pogrom against Christians last August 23. The Churches are afraid that the gatherings of radical Hindus could break out into uncontrolled violence again. "Christmas is also a time of forgiveness," says Namrata, "and we forgive the Hindu radicals who attacked us, who burned our homes. They were out of their minds, they do not know the love of Jesus. For this reason, I now want to study so that when I am older I can tell everyone how much Jesus loves us. This is my future. The world has seen my face destroyed by the fire, now it must come to know my smile full of love and peace. I want to dedicate my life to spreading the Gospel."

    Namrata's parents (Akhaya Kumar, 45, and Sudhamani, 38) are agricultural day laborers. Their three daughters and one son are students. In order to supplement the family's meager income, the oldest daughter, Trusita (18) also works as a maid in the home of a Hindu convert, Harihar Das. When the violence against Christians broke out, Akhaya and Sudhamani fled to the forest, sending their children to hide in the home of Harihar Das.

    On the night of August 26, the Hindu radicals entered the house, breaking down the door and destroying and burning everything. The family of Harihar Das and Namrata and her sisters hid in a little bathroom. Before they left, the Hindu fanatics left a bomb in a dresser. After the attackers had gone, the occupants came out of the house, but little Namrata was curious and stayed behind to look at the damage. The bomb exploded, burning her face, while some of the shrapnel wounded her face, hands, and back.

    Sudhamani continues the story: "The next day, I and my husband came out of the forest, running to the house of Harihar. We saw everything burned, and feared that everyone had died in the flames. Instead, thanks to God, everyone was safe. Only that my daughter had been wounded. But Jesus took care of her. We took her to the hospital in Berhampur, still unconscious and badly hurt. But after 45 days of care, she's well now."

    "My hope," she tells AsiaNews, "is that we can still have a future in Raikia. We possess nothing, and we could still leave, but in Sahi Panchayat we have some relatives, and our neighbors. If we leave, we will be wanderers.

    "Christmas brings hope, hope is our only treasure now: we were poor, and now even the little we had has been destroyed. But Christmas means that Christ is born, and every birth means a new life. Jesus came down from heaven to save us from this misery, from the pain, from abandonment, from our homelessness. His power fills us with hope, love, and forgiveness."

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    See also

    13/12/2008 INDIA
    Christmas, moment of peace and hope for young widows of Orissa
    The husband of Asmitha Digal, a 25-year-old mother of two daughters, was killed by Hindu fundamentalists during the first days of the pogrom against Christians. The woman testifies to the violence she has suffered, but says that she will not give in to the logic of violence. A Christian activist denounces treatment as "second-class citizens."

    20/01/2009 INDIA
    Widow of Graham Staines: "Do not give up hope, pray for India"
    10 years ago in Orissa, Hindu extremists burned alive the Christian Graham Staines and his two sons. His wife, back in India, connects the recent anti-Christian persecution to her husband. To the many recent widows of Kandhamal, she speaks of forgiveness and strength "in Christ."

    18/12/2008 INDIA
    Indian bishops: violence against Christians in Orissa is terrorism
    The lower house of parliament has drafted an anti-terrorism law that does not satisfy the bishops' conference. According to the bishops, the attacks against ethnic or religious minorities are among the instances to be condemned. They are calling upon the government to revise the national security law of 1986.

    16/01/2009 INDIA
    Bringing a ray of hope to those in Orissa who have lost everything
    Two months ago Fr. Dushmant Nayak returned to Orissa, where an anti-Christian persecution took place in August. He tells about a time of difficulty, but above all of great hope. Among people abandoned by the state, but "anchored on the rock of Christ."

    17/12/2008 INDIA
    Orissa: catechist disappears. Government bans Hindu demonstrations at Christmas
    The extremists will respect the ban only if the police arrest those guilty of the murder of Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati. Accusations against Christians continue, while the police have already arrested seven people and continue their investigations.

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