Bhubaneswar (AsiaNews) – Police arrested Hindu extremist Pandit Bishimajhi last Friday morning. He is accused of involvement in 15 acts of violence, including the rape of a Catholic nun in August 2008 during a wave of anti-Christian persecution in Orissa’s Kandhamal District. Bishimajhi, who was on the run for a year and half, was caught in the village of Kudutulli in Kandhamal after a long and patient investigation.
Christians welcomed his arrest. As Fr Ajaya Singh, social services director of for the Archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, told AsiaNews, “He organised heinous crimes in Kandhamal. According to some reports, he used a local police station for three days to perpetrate the massacre.” He is “also the local representative of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the main Hindu nationalist party.”
“If people have faith in the justice system, a process of reconciliation” between the community and the authorities can start, Singh said.
“I am sufficiently optimistic that this is a positive sign,” he added. “We, along with a group of Christian lawyers, social workers and human rights activists, will continue to follow and monitor the situation.”
According to local sources, Bishimajhi threatened witnesses with violence and received police protection. Now that he is under arrest, he is not likely to instil as much fear as he did before. Hopefully, witnesses will have the courage to come forward to testify.
The accusations against the PJP leader include a number of actions that targeted Christians in August 2008. In addition to raping Sister Meena (pictured) as well as beating her and Fr Thomas Chellan, he is charged with setting fire to the social services centre and the pastoral centre of the diocese in Jan Vikas.
Eyewitnesses have also said that they heard him say repeatedly that Hindus must persecute Christians without fear of consequences.
Fr Dibya Parichha, the archdiocese’s legal affairs coordinator for the riots, believes that the arrest can be seen as a positive signal that the rule of law will be respected and that the law will follow its normal course.
“This,” he explained, “will support the peace-building process and help develop security and justice for victims.”