New Delhi (AsiaNews) - Christian victims of the pogrom in Kandhamal (Orissa) in August 2008 are not only still waiting for justice, but also to be allowed to survive. This is why Sajan K. George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) sent a petition yesterday, on the third anniversary of the massacres, to the judge KG Balakrishna, chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in New Delhi. The petition points out that there are still 54 Catholic families and Pentecostal 17 in Nandagiri, a "colony" for refugees where there is a small community hall that serves as a place of worship. The hall is under threat of demolition by the authorities even though, after the notification of demolition, there were verbal assurances that it will not be applied.
"We are once again approaching NHRC with a plea for your sympathetic consideration of the severe violation of human rights and natural justice in Kandhamal, Orissa" Sajan K. George begins in his petition. "We appeal to you to consider the helpless cries of hundreds of victims of hatred and government apathy." Over 100 Christians were killed three years ago in the pogrom, and many thousands forced to flee into the jungle to save themselves. But the persecution continues. "Many police stations where complaints of [forced] conversions have been lodged against Christians, when questioned about why they were acting on frivolous complaints, revealed that they had orders from above that Christians who are dragged to the police station under false allegations should immediately be locked up, beaten up and denied bail by the lower judiciary, which functions as the loyal partner of the police department. Sometimes this injustice may be visible like the tip of an iceberg, but most of the time it would be invisible to an inexperienced eye”.
"Thus Kandhamal has become a test case for criminal justice, not just of the ability of the government to dismantle radical criminal gangs, but of its ability to uphold citizens’ rights (Christian) while doing so. Below are some facts of the tragedy that continues to unfold in Kandhamal to this day. "
The list is reminiscent of the mysterious deaths, like that of Mukesh Nayak, a Christian of 43 from Baliguda, who had testified in the Kandhamal trial, the inability to arrest the killers of Pastor Saul Pradhan (08/04/2011 Orissa Police "complicit" in the death of a pastor. Demands for immediate re-trial
The state government has not even given reasonable compensation to the victims of the pogroms, and has used an irrational and arbitrary system to decide on the extent of damage suffered, and who should be compensated. In addition, says the petition, the State of Orissa has failed miserably in rehabilitation and recovery operations for victims of interreligious violence.
The list continues with some individual examples. There is the case of Mithun Digal, of Belgadi, who has been denied the right to register with the District Employment Exchange, for specious reasons. He is denied residence, caste, and income certificates.
Snehal Behera, 16, became a widow four months ago in Luhapanga, and was denied a pension and insurance payment because she has no card BPL card (Below Poverty Line). Local authorities are unjustly refusing to give her the card.
In another instance, Indira Awas, was denied a pension. "These are just some examples that demonstrate the attitude of the various branches of Christians."
The problem also affects many other families besides those of Nadagiri. The petition says that "When the demented crowds attacked the Christians and destroyed their houses along with their belongings, most of the victims found shelter in the distant jungles and saved themselves from death. They ran away to those forests practically leaving everything behind since it was a matter of life and death for them. Most of them lost all identification cards for widow pension, old age pension and even the very voter identity cards. When they came back after prolonged periods of time, quite a number among them also lost the place where the house was situated along with the other pieces of land along with all their documents. Special arrangements must be made to issue all such cards to those victims who are eligible."
The list of injustices that are still ongoing is long. During the pogroms the church of the Christian community from the village of Bakingia (Raikia) was destroyed. Then they started to rebuild it, but they were forced to stop work because of threats by radical Hindus. Just as more than two hundred children were forced to stop going to school.
Hence GCIC demands that a door-to-door survey be held in all the 12 blocks in order to ascertain the details about all the victims and the extent of damage and destruction they were subjected to. Among other things, “the economic situation of practically all the victims is still very bad in Kandhamal. It is difficult for some families even to have a square meal per day. Hence, free/subsidized rationing for the victims should be resumed. And the socio-economic boycott of Hindus against Christians "is playing havoc in the lives of the victims and it is affecting the normal life of the Christian minority in the region. Hence, strict measures must be taken both by the State as well as the Central Governments to put an end to these inhuman and barbaric methods of taking revenge against enemies". The economic boycott "is bleeding the Christians, who are unable to rebuild their damaged and destroyed homes and churches. The Orissa government should rebuild their houses. " (N.C.)