The village where Uglu Sandi Majhi lived was sacked and burnt by Hindu radicals. His two-year-old son died of hunger, thirst and cold in the jungle. For Kotagargh’s parish priest, “No sword or physical threat can stop them from believing in Christ, our Redeemer.”
Cuttack-Bhubaneswar (AsiaNews) - "My son is dead, my house no longer exists because my village has been destroyed, but I cannot deny my faith in Jesus Christ,” said Uglu Sandi Majhi speaking to AsiaNews.
In August 2008, Uglu survived anti-Christian violence in Odisha (Orissa) after Hindu radicals attacked his village. “I hid with my family in the forest. My son Lombusandi Majhi was two years old. We were without food or shelter for three days.”
“Rain started, heavy, but we had no other place to go. Eventually my son died of cold, hunger and thirst in the jungle.”
Uglu is originally from Geret, near Kotagargh, Kandhamal District. Twelve Christian families lived in the village, all of whom fled during the worst pogrom in India’s history.
“The criminals brought lorries to loot everything we had in the house, including the harvest, the kitchen utensils and the chairs. Then they set the village on fire.”
Kandhamal was the most affected by the rage of the Hindu radicals. The violence broke out after swami Laxamananda Saraswati was killed, a crime claimed by the Maoist insurgents but blamed on Christians.
After an orgy of violence that lasted a month, 120 people were dead, almost 56,000 Christians displaced, 8,000 homes burnt or looted in 415 villages, 300 churches torn down, 40 women raped, 12,000 children unable to go to school.
For Uglu, flight was followed by peregrination to find a new place to live. He first settled in the village of Konoguda, then Gosipakal. Here he gradually moved away from the Pentecostal community, to which he belonged, to join the Brothers of Christ Church.
Eventually he met Tileswar Baliarsingh, a Catholic catechist who accompanied him on this journey of faith.
“I was visiting families and trying to pass on the Catholic faith,” Tileswar said. “The journey lasted five years”.
"The faith of the people of Geret, forced to flee into the forest, is very strong,” said Fr Pradosh Chandra Nayak, vicar general of the Archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar.
“Uglu in particular is a true believer in Jesus Christ, despite losing his son and property during the anti-Christian violence.”
“Fighting for their rights is a great challenge for them. They have come to accept the violence, the injustice towards them as bad luck and unfortunate fate.”
Fr Stephen Pangola, parish priest in Kotagargh admires “the faith of these simple people. No sword or physical threat can stop them from believing in Christ, our Redeemer.”
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court of India in late January 2020 acquitted over 3,700 people accused of "sectarian violence" in connection with the Kandhamal massacres.
For Archbishop John Barwa of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, “no justice was done. We always hoped and prayed for justice, so that the criminals could be punished and those who suffered receive compensation.”