08/20/2021, 11.37
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Gumili Sunamajhi, wife of one of Kandhamal's innocents, has died

by Nirmala Carvalho

In 2008 seven Christians were arrested for the death of the Hindu guru who triggered the pogrom against Christians in Orissa. Victims of a sham trial, they were released on bail only after 11 years in prison. Yesterday the wife of one died. She had been a tireless campaigner for her husband's aquittal. Bishop Barwa: "We will continue her battle for justice".



Bhubaneshwar (AsiaNews) - The death of the wife of one of the "Seven Innocents" of the Kandhamal district has brought deep sadness within India's Christian community, Archbishop John Barwa of Cuttack-Bhubaneshwar tells AsiaNews.

Gumili, wife of Durjo Sunamajhi, died at the age of 50 in hospital, where she had been taken two days ago for a very high fever. Her death has reopened an unhealed wound in Orissa. In 2008, during the Janmashtami (a Hindu festival celebrating the birth of Krishna), the Hindu ascetic Swami Laxmananand Saraswati was shot dead. And it was this murder that triggered the terrible pogrom with massacres and entire villages set on fire in what is remembered as the most serious wave of violence against Indian Christians in recent years. 

The response of the Orissa authorities was to look for a culprit for the death of Swami Saraswati: seven Christians were blamed and arrested in a mock trial. Durjo Sunamajhi, Gumili's husband, was even on a train to Kerala with his nephew and others when the Hindu holy man was killed. Yet he was convicted. 

"The wives of the seven innocents carried the cross on behalf of all Christians in Kandhamal, and through their long passion, suffering and pain, these women were able to bring the plight of their incarcerated innocent husbands to the whole world," Archbishop John Barwa said.

Twice, release on bail was denied by the Orissa High Court. It came only in 2019 from India's Supreme Court after 11 years in prison, while the appeal for their acquittal is still pending. 

"We are very sad, the fact that Gumili died without justice being done for her husband causes us great sorrow, but we will continue in our struggle so that the reputation of the seven is restored and they receive adequate compensation," continued Msgr. Barwa whose Archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneshwar has borne part of the legal costs.

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