10/10/2013, 00.00
INDIA

Orissa pogroms: India's justice system is "criminal", Christian leader says

Nirmala Carvalho
A court in Phulbani sentenced seven innocent Christians to life in prison, whilst acquitting yesterday five people up on arson charges. In both cases, there was no evidence against the defendants. For Sajan George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians, the Orissa pogroms are "sadly unique, for their violence and their total lack of justice."

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - Yet another sham trial stemming from the 2008 anti-Christian pogroms in Orissa is evidence of a "criminal justice system" in which "local police are silent spectators and the authorities are completely useless", this according to Sajan George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC).

Yesterday, a court in Phulbani acquitted for lack of evidence five people accused of setting fire to a house during the 2008 violence in Kandhamal (Orissa).

However, just a week ago, the same court sentenced seven innocent Christians to life in prison for the murder of Hindu leader Laxamananada, whose death sparked anti-Christian violence five years ago. "There was no evidence of guilt against the seven," Sajan George insisted.

In fact, the Orissa pogroms stand as a unique event in India's history. They are "the largest case of violence against Christians in Indian history and the largest religiously-motivated attack in the state," Sajan George said.

The numbers speak for themselves. More than 600 villages were looted; 5,600 homes were pillaged and robbed; 54,000 people lost their homes; 56 people were killed (at least 100 according to Church sources); nearly 300 churches were destroyed, as well as numerous convents, schools, hostels and welfare facilities.

More importantly, in addition to short-term damages, the 2008 violence left a lasting legacy on the justice system.

"Out of 3,232 complaints," the GCIC president said, "only 828 have been converted into First Information Reports (FIR), which start the actual investigation that leads to a court case."

Only 327 cases of these have gone to trial, 170 ending in acquittal and 86 convictions, but only for minor offenses. Ninety cases are still pending.

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