11/03/2009, 00.00
Send to a friend

Slow trials and a series of acquittals for Orissa pogroms

by Ajay Kumar Singh
Paradoxical judgment from Kandhamal court for three people accused of the murder of a Hindu chieftain who defended the Christians, and a widow of 65 years. The facts date back to August 25, 2008. The All India Christian Council: monstrous case. Dhirendra Panda, Hindu and human rights activist: A threat to the values of humanity and democracy.

Bhubaneshwar (AsiaNews) - They killed a Hindu chieftain who defended the Christians, then burned his body and his house not to leave traces. Now the court of Kandhamal has acquitted them of murder for lack of evidence, but sentenced them to three years rigorous imprisonment and a fine of one thousand rupees (14 euros) for having destroyed the evidence against them. For now they are free on bail until 25 November, the date on which the Orissa High Court to give its verdict on the ruling.

The protagonists of this story are Senapati Pradha, 62, Revenswar Pradhan and  Pradhan Tidinja both 65, accused along with seven other people for the murder of tribal leader Sidheswar Pradhan and widow Padisti Nayak, 65, who was burned alive from the village of Solesoru.   "I can not believe that the killers have been acquitted of the murder," Nabajini Pradhan, 35 year-old nephew of Sidheswar tells AsiaNews. He had reported to the police 12 days after the murder of his uncle. "Our family is at risk, we are constantly threatened with death and they want to eliminate us". Then he adds: "They killed my uncle and burned his body to destroy any evidence of murder."

The facts date back to August 25, 2008, a day after the funeral of the Swami Laxamananda Saraswati, the Hindu leader whose murder led to the anti-Christian violence in Orissa. Eye witnesses, who testified during the trial, said that Hindu extremists had already shown signs of wanting to attack Christians on their way to the funeral. Christians, frightened, had taken refuge in the forest.  A  brave few remained in the village. The latter were confident in the protection of Sidheswar Pradhan, a prominent tribal leader, who already had taken their defence the year before in front of Hindu radicals.  

Returning from the funeral of the Swami Hindu militants attacked the homes of Christians. The few remaining in the village rushed to Sidheswar Pradhan asking for his intervention immediately followed by extremist groups. The cousin of the tribal leader aged over 60, a Dalit Christian, recalls those moments today with AsiaNews. " Sidhewar asked the fanatics not to burn the houses of innocent and defenceless, 'You have destroyed the church and this is too much. Why do you attack people who have no guilt? Just because they are Christians? They are neither murderers nor criminals, they are our people '. " "My cousin - adds the relative of the victim - paid for defending Christians. He was only a fair and honest person. Some years earlier he had participated in the elections of the village also supported by the Bharatiya Janata Party. But Hindu radicals could not accept that one of their clan leaders hindered them in their religious cleansing. It was too much. They stabbed him repeatedly burned his body and they went away only after having set fire to his house".  

The same day of the brutal murder of tribal leader, Hindu extremists also burned alive Padisti Nayak. The woman had left her home  in Adaskupa near G. Udayagiri, to visit her only daughter, married and resident in the village of Solesoru. At the news of the attacks Hindu relatives left the house, while the 65 year old widow remained convinced that the extremists would not harm an elder. Twelve days after the attack on August 25, Iswar Digal, son of the old woman who fled to a refugee camp with his family, was able to contact the district magistrate to get information on his mother in law.  The authorities organized a visit on Solesoru where they found only pieces of bones and fragments of burnt human flesh, captured as evidence of the violence.    

Dhirendra Panda, a Hindu and human rights activist, says that "justice has been derailed and some investigators are linked to the Sangh Parivar extremists. They are determined to protect the accused, willing to manipulate cases rather than ensure justice for victims. Now not only are the religious rights of the population undermined, but also the core values of humanity and democracy".

John Dayal, the founder and leader of the All India Christian Council (AICC) defines the verdict a "monstrosity of justice" and has announced action to "get the justice they deserve at least for the victims." Then he adds: "We saw Sidheswar who killed and burned alive Padisti Nayak. But there is no evidence and now the leaders, their hands stained with blood, are out of jail, free to hunt down Christians".

Send to a friend
Printable version
See also
Indian Associations: On 25 August we remember the Christian victims of Kandhamal
16/08/2017 11:30
National Commission for Women asks for 'immediate action' in the nun rape case in Kerala
07/02/2019 17:28
Bishop Barwa: Kandhamal Day in memory of the suffering of Christians
24/08/2017 09:35
Christian leaders: Orissa government still ignores pogrom victims
Orissa court reopens Christian murder case dismissed by police


Subscribe to Asia News updates or change your preferences

Subscribe now
“L’Asia: ecco il nostro comune compito per il terzo millennio!” - Giovanni Paolo II, da “Alzatevi, andiamo”