Orissa, second of seven Christians imprisoned for pogroms released on bail

​Bijaya Sanaseth has been in prison since 2008. Before him, in May the supreme judges freed Gornath Chalanseth. The accusation of killing a Hindu swami sparked fierce violence against the Christian community. The local Church has always denounced the sham trials against the seven Christians of humble origins.


New Delhi (AsiaNews) - The Supreme Court of India has granted the release on bail to Bijaya Sanaseth, one of the seven Christians sentenced to life imprisonment with the accusation of having murdered the Hindu swami Laxamananda Saraswati. That murder, claimed by Maoist guerrillas but attributed by Hindu fundamentalists to Christians, has triggered sectarian violence known as "the Orissa pogrom".

The man had been in jail since 2008, with a life sentence handed down in 2013. He is the second of the "seven innocent Christians" to whom the highest judicial body in India has recognized the right to leave prison, after more than 10 years spent behind bars. Before him, in May the same court freed Gornath Chalanseth, the first to be reunited with his family.

At the moment it was not established when Bijaya will be able to leave prison; for Gornath two weeks had passed from the sentence to the actual liberation.Bhaskar Sunamajhi, Buddhadev Nayak, Durjo Sunamajhi, Sanatan Badamajhi and Munda Badamajhi (with mental disabilities) remain behind the bars. 

In August 2008 in Orissa the Hindu radicals carried out the most ferocious persecution against Christians in India.  At the end of the pogroms the toll was severe: 120 deaths;  almost 56 thousand faithful forced to flee;  8 thousand homes burned or looted in 415 villages;  300 churches demolished;  40 raped women (including Sr. Meena Barwa, niece of the archbishop);  12,000 displaced children and forced to interrupt their studies.

The Church of Orissa has always claimed the innocence of the condemned and reported the show trials against them. Meanwhile, in Kandhamal faith has continued to flourish joyfully, reinforced by the memory of the martyrs who sacrificed their lives instead of denying Christ. However, the Indian state is undergoing a delicate process of peace and there are still episodes of violence against Christians, a sign that the flame of hatred has not been completely extinguished.