India’s President meets victims of persecution against Christians in Orissa
New Delhi (AsiaNews) - The President of India Pranab Kumar Mukherjee has met a delegation of Kandhamal Committee for Justice and Peace (Kandhamal Nyaya Shanti Samaj Sadbhabana O), including some victims of the massacres against Christians perpetrated by radical Hindus in the Indian state Orissa in 2008.
The three women present at the meeting (see photo) - of which a Hindu, raped by a group of fundamentalist just because her Christian uncle had refused to convert to Hinduism - accompanied by Mani Shankar Aiyar, Brinda Barat and Kavita Krishnan, the political representatives of opposition parties. Earlier this month these politicians supported the march of thousands of Christians survivors in Kandhamal district asking the government to stop protecting the perpetrators and bring them to justice .
The Kandhamal Committee for Justice and Peace is a Christian association that brings together survivors of sectarian violence that erupted in August 2008 in Orissa following the killing of Laxamananda Saraswati, a leader of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP, Hindu ultra-nationalist group). Although a group of Maoist guerrillas immediately claimed the murder of the holy man, Hindu fundamentalists in Kandhamal unleashed the most violent persecution ever committed against the Christian community in India [in August 25 the anniversary - ed].
Brinda Barat, current MP and member of the Communist (Maoist) Party of India said: "The complete failure of the judicial system is shocking. All those responsible for the massacres are out on bail. At first the state government, then the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party, the Hindu nationalist party led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi) have tried to minimize the severity of attacks, which damaged Christians physically and morally as well as their property. It is shocking to know that 11 thousand offenders are out of prison. "
The activists handed over a memorandum to President Mukherjee detailingthe toll of the violence: at least 90 victims (although only 35 recognized by the government), including the disabled, elderly, children, women and men; 395 churches and places of worship destroyed; 600 villages looted, 6,500 houses destroyed and 56 thousand people forced to flee; 35 institutions (convents, schools, hostels and assistance centers) damaged, burned or looted; 10 thousand children forced to leave school.
Not only that, the members of the association complained that the judicial system was inefficient and superficial in dealing with complaints: of the 3,232 complaints received, only 825 were registered and of these only 605 cases collected data from the victims; 302 cases were closed because of "no proof".
In the press conference the activists said they had requested the intervention of the President to ensure that the victims be given the right compensation and be allowed to return to their villages of origin. They presented President Mukherjee with the serious failings of the Indian courts and requested that the cases filed in an arbitrary manner be reopened and complaints with missing data be completed.
Brinta Barat also met seven innocent Christians in prison. They were convicted after a series of postponements and sham trials for the murder of the Hindu leader, despite the Maoists confession to the crime. "They are appealing for your intervention - he said, turning to the President - to uphold the rights of all citizens of India, so that everyone is free to practice their religion without fear of persecution and those who are persecuted in the name of religion can get justice".