07/01/2009, 00.00
INDIA
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Orissa: first conviction in anti-Christian riots case

by Nirmala Carvalho
Nine months after the first attacks in Kandhamal district, a court issues a first conviction for one of the people who instigated the violence. Father Chellan, who was among the victims of Hindu fanaticism, wants the authorities to provide witnesses with full protection because they are still under constant threat.

Bhubaneshwar (AsiaNews) – A court in Phulbani has come down with the first conviction in the Kandhamal communal riots case. It found Chakradhara Mallick guilty of setting fire to the house of Lokanath Digal, a Christian living in the village of Dampidia. The defendant was sentenced to four years in prison plus a fine of 4,000 rupees (US$ 70).

The judge found Mallick, a tribal leader who was also involved in other riot-related cases, responsible for instigating others to torch Mr Digal’s house.

Fr Thomas Chellan, director of the Pastoral Centre in Konjamendi (Kandhamal) and one of the first Christians victimised by Hindu violence, told AsiaNews that with “this conviction, Kandhamal Christians will be filled with hope that they will receive justice and that normalcy will return to Kandhamal.”

At present many Christians are still living in refugee camps, afraid to go home for fear of other attacks.

The atmosphere of insecurity and fear is compounded by constant death threats by Hindu fanatics against Christians and slow police action against those responsible for the violence.

“Witnesses should be given full protection to testify,” Father Chellan said; “otherwise they will hesitate to come forth out of fear that they might fall into the hands of villagers.”

In fact the people who have been accused for their role the anti-Christian pogrom are also the same ones who are preventing refugees from going home. 

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