Bhubaneswar (AsiaNews) – Christian women were beaten, abducted, suffered sexual and verbal violence during the August 2008-2009 anti-Christian pogrom in Kandhamal district, Orissa. Now a group of researchers connected with the College of Social Work Nirmala Niketan in Mumbai have conducted a research on the violence, the first step to finding a solution.
A team of 16 between 6 and 12 May interviewed a group of 300 women from several villages in Kandhamal, visiting the sites and their homes to gather information on their social situation and housing and families.
Sister Anita chat services, Daughters of the Heart of Mary, is a teacher at the Nirmala Niketan Center who participated in the research. She told AsiaNews that "women and girls of Kandhamal have suffered various forms of violence" such as cases of beatings, sexual violence, insults and threats, kidnapping, and have had to flee from their villages. According to information gathered, the Hindu extremist assailants belonged to different clans and tribes and came from different regions.
Sister Chata says that many women and their families are still traumatized by that time and are afraid to cultivate their land. Many women have reported a continuing state of anxiety, fear, tension, fear for their lives and those of their children at all times.
Sukumari Digal, 40, from Latingia village, mother of four children, now "only" suffers verbal violence and threats, along with other women of the village. But this has left a mark on her life and she says that together with other women, "we feel depressed. We do not feel for the land. Our cows have disappeared. " "I can not concentrate on daily chores, I am always afraid. I fear to travel on a bus. I feel great anxiety when any member of my family are away from home when the children are not with me. Now even I go to meet people I know and I feel ashamed and embarrassed when I talk with them. I feel anger toward those who should have protected me and did not do it. The situation is still tense and many people do not feel safe to return, because the refugee camps of the government are quite safe, but the village is not ". Sukumari says that about 50 girls and women of her village have fled to other cities looking for work and fearful for their safety. She has made reports to local police, but they have made no inquiries and no one was arrested for the violence. But they have help and support from priests, nuns and social workers.
"Despite all this, I feel no anger towards the people who caused all this."
Sunila Bhise, also a member of the research group from Mumbai, confirms that Kandhamal women continue to suffer from the violence. In their villages, they lack medical facilities, social opportunities and work security. Those who went home are finding it difficult to resume life as before. Others have gone to different cities.
Father Ajay Kumar Singh of the Archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneshwar believes that the study should provide a credible framework for Kandhamal women. The Church and other groups of civil aid, based on similar reports, want to develop strategies to help women and the entire population of the area.
The study of the Nirmala Niketan is a scientific report and will be submittedto the National Commission for Human Rights and other pro-rights groups by August.