06/10/2013, 00.00
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Orissa: after the pogroms, Christians get a fraction of the damages

According to a report by two secular NGOs, amounts paid out to victims by central and state authorities cover only damaged houses, not other types of property, like land, furniture, farm equipment or tools. For the retired archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneshwar, there was "No help even for damaged places of worship."

Bhubaneshwar (AsiaNews) - "In the Kandhamal context, the central and state governments have failed to discharge their constitutional mandate to protect the fundamental rights of citizens," said Mgr Raphael Cheenath, archbishop emeritus of Cuttack-Bhubaneshwar, as he presented AsiaNews with a report whose findings show the gross inadequacy of state and national compensation offered to the victims of the violent incidents of 2008.

Released last Friday, the study, titled Unjust Compensation: Assessment of Damage and Loss of Private Property during the Anti-Christian Violence in Kandhamal, India, was authored by the Centre for the Sustainable Use of Natural Resources (CSNR, in Bhubaneshwar) and the Network for the Right to Housing and Land (HLRN, in New Delhi). The two NGOs presented their work in cooperation with the Church and the Red Cross.

According to the study, the Orissa government paid out money only in the case of deaths and damaged or destroyed houses. All other type of property-land, personal valuables and furniture, documents, farm equipment, tools, and food reserves-were excluded from the compensation package. This, the prelate said, "has seriously damaged people who suffered almost total ruin."

As the study indicates, the problem is that there are no policies in the country, at the state or national levels, to settle such losses.

The issue of compensation also goes for destroyed or damaged places of worship. "The government," Mgr Cheenath noted, "says it cannot fund the rebuilding of damaged churches and religious facilities because India is a secular country."

In the past, the bishop had presented a petition to the Supreme Court, asking for 30 million rupees (about US$ 500,000) to repair damaged Church buildings.

Even though, the court ruled in favour of compensation, the government has only devoted a fraction of the funds originally requested. (NC)

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