Christian Kandhamal victims deserve greater compensation, says Bishop Barwa

Odisha Christian leaders today handed the authorities a memorandum, in which they call on them to enforce the Supreme Court ruling that awards 2008 pogrom victims higher compensation. The archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar calls on the faithful to pray for the seven innocent Christians still in prison.

Cuttack-Bhubaneswar (AsiaNews) – "Christian victims of Kandhamal deserve more compensation,” Mgr John Barwa, archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, told AsiaNews.

The prelate backs a memorandum presented today by some Christian leaders in Odisha (Orissa) asking the state government to enforce a decision of the Supreme Court of India. In August 2016, the Court ruled that victims of the 2008 Odisha pogroms carried out by Hindu radicals should receive higher compensation.

So far, the Christian leaders noted, nothing has been handed out even though "the money is already in the district.”

The memorandum was delivered to Kandhamal District Collector Drunda D who received Christian leaders in private. The latter included Tribal Christian leader Paul Pradhan; Klesha Pradhan, secretary general of the Church of North India (the largest Protestant denomination) in Kandhamal; Rev Sushant Nayak, moderator of the Kandhamal Baptist Church; and Fr Ajaya Kumar Singh, a Catholic priest with the Archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar.

The note cites the various provisions of the Supreme Judge's Verdict, which has remained a dead letter so far. They include the additional compensation of 300,000 rupees (US$ 4,625) per victim; 30,000 rupees (US$ 465) for serious injury, 10,000 rupees (US$ 155) for simply injury; and 70,000 (US$ 1,085) for fully damaged houses.

Christian leaders note that the Court ordered the reopening of the 315 recorded cases of sectarian violence - and never pursued, as well as new investigations into the trials that did not lead to any verdict. Out of 362 cases, only 78 ended up in trial.

Christians, said Mgr Barwa, "want peace, and that is why they are fighting the Odisha government."

Speaking about the seven Christians unjustly blamed for Swami Laxamanananda’s murder, which triggered the 2008 violence, the archbishop noted that “They are all still in prison.”

“Their case is in the hands of good lawyers, who are doing their best to get their release. Let us pray for them that they may soon go back to their families."