Mumbai (AsiaNews) - An Orissa court condemned yesterday seven innocent Christians for the murder of Hindu leader Laxamananda Saraswati, who in 2008 triggered violent anti-Christian pogroms in the state. On October 3 the judges shall will pronounce the sentence. These men have been in jail for five years without any evidence against them and despite the Maoists having always claimed responsibility for the murder.
For Sajan George, President of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), the court's decision is "a travesty of justice". "It is shameful -he stressed to AsiaNews - that innocent fathers of families have been locked in jail for almost five years and subjected to trials for a crime they did not commit."
Accused of having shot Laxamananda Saraswati, leader of the Hindu extremist movement Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), the seven were arrested and tried by the Fast Track Courts, special tribunals established after the pogroms to speed up processes. However, these courts have used every procedural loophole to defer the hearings, to deliver the case to a regular Session Court, which has established their guilt.
According to government estimates, during the pogroms over 600 villages were looted; 5,600 houses burglarized and burned; 54,000 people lost their homes; 38 people were killed (but according to the Church, the victims are at least 100, -ed.). Almost 300 churches have been destroyed, as well as numerous convents, schools, hostels and care institutions. Surviving Christians still live in difficult conditions: peasants, farmers, artisans and workers have lost their jobs and suffer from the boycott of the Hindu majority. Many live on less than a dollar a day. At least 10,000 Christians live in real ghettos.