01/12/2009, 00.00
INDIA
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Orissa: insecurity and hatred await Christians forced out of refugee camps

by Nirmala Carvalho
The government closes down camps, handing out paltry sums to refugees. After being forced to return to their destroyed homes, the latter must live side-by-side with their persecutors. Back home they are refused employment, even day work, whilst store owners refuse to sell them any supplies.
 

Bhubaneshwar (AsiaNews) – There is no sign that the long journey of suffering by Orissa’s Christian community is anywhere near its end. The government has decided to shut down refugee camps and force Christians to leave but no one is providing them with any guarantee as to their security against further violence once back home; instead, they are still the object of hatred and rejection.

Father Nithiya, a Franciscan, is among those who saw first hand this new, more subtle anti-Christian violence in Kandhamal. Here last August groups of radicals killed hundreds of people, setting fire to churches and homes, and destroying crops and fields.

Of the 50,000 people who fled the massacres, some 20,000 found refuge in camps set up by the government.

Father Nithiya, who is also executive secretary for the Justice and Peace Commission, visited some of the refugees from the village of Gobalpur, who underwent neurolinguistic therapies to help them overcome their trauma.

“Government-run refugee camps have been closed,” he told AsiaNews, “and people are being sent away with some money, about 10,000 rupees (or US$ 200).

“They are really scared and are trying to emigrate to other districts or states. Security is being maintained in the big cities but in remote villages there is no safety for Christians. It is ridiculous for the government to get rid of Christians for a just 10,000 rupees.”

Kesamati Pradhan, a resident in Kajuri village, together with other victims, filed a complaint with Orissa’s High Court against the forced evacuation of the camps of victims from Kandhamal without “adequate protective measures for their life as well as assistance and compensation for damages.”

In addition to 10,000 rupees victims also get about 50 kilos of rice and a polythene roll to repair as best they can their damaged homes.

However, many returnees have to live amid the ruins of what was their home, using plastic sheets as roof and some piece of wood or a plant as walls.

“Christians in Kandhamal are treated like animals. They live in fear and cannot find shelter, anywhere. They cannot live in dignity. The money they got [from the government]  is not enough to buy food; their fields lie abandoned, burnt; their homes all but destroyed.”

Insecurity and racism

Right now there is no security. “Two days ago in the village of Mokobili, Hindu extremist groups found where Christians from refugee camps were sheltering, woke them up during the night and threatened them,” said a source from Raikia, a town already scarred by several massacres.

“Faced with this, returnees don’t have the heart to repair their homes out of fear that Hindu radicals might destroy them again. They are under pressure to withdraw their complaints about the violence their neighbours perpetrated on them, but this is not possible. Still, since the time complaints were filed no one has been arrested yet and our people are forced to live in the ruins of their homes along side their persecutors and assassins.”

Brother Oscar Tete, superior of the male Missionaries of Charity, Mother Teresa’s order, said that “there is no certain future” for them.

The order’s homes and their leper colony in Srasananda (Kandhamal) were destroyed twice, in December 2007and August 2008.

Now the missionaries are based in Berhampur but each week they visit Srasananda’s Christians and lepers because their presence is “comfort for out people.”

“We do not know yet whether we will repair our home in Srasananda or not. We are waiting for after the elections; then we will think about it. But the situation is even more painful for our faithful who rely on day work whom no one wants to hire. Even if some had some money, store owners refuse to sell anything to the Christians, even food.”

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