Bhubaneshwar (AsiaNews) – Almost a year after Christians were victims of a pogrom in Orissa the Union and State government have announced their intention to financially help the victims of the violence and pay for the reconstruction of destroyed churches.
The Orissa government said that it will spend 4.23 million rupees (US$ 82,000) on churches and other religious buildings. Overall the money will go to 196 buildings, churches and places of worship that belong to various Christian denominations located in Kandhamal District.
The State’s decision came after months of pressures by Christian groups on Orissa authorities.
Back in May the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) and the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) had submitted a report on the victims and the damages caused by the extremists.
“Now we have to pursue the cases” not included in this compensation package as well as protect “the witnesses who have to testify in the trials against those accused of the violence as well as their families,” said GCIC Chairman Sajan K George.
Two days ago India’s Union (federal) government joined Orissa in pledging money for reconstruction. Delhi announced its decision to spend 10.5 million rupees (US$ 210,000) to help 35 families who lost a member in the violence of last August.
As for the number of people killed during the anti-Christian outbreaks, Orissa authorities and Christian groups are still far apart.
For the state government only a few tens of people were killed. Yet back in November a government official told a delegation from India’s Communist Party-Marxist-Leninist that 500 had been killed and that he had personally seen the cremation of at least 200 bodies.
In addition in the villages of Kandhamal Christians who filed charges against their attackers are still subject to death threats.
Sources told AsiaNews that Kantan Nayak has been the object of threats. He is one of the main witnesses in the trial of those accused of raping Sister Meena Barwa (see AsiaNews of 24 October 2008) and has been warned not to testify in the nun’s case unless he wants to die.