08/25/2015, 00.00
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Still no justice for Kandhamal’s Christians seven years after pogroms

by Nirmala Carvalho
In August 2008, Hindu radicals unleashed anti-Christian violence.. The heartbreaking story of the widow of a man burned at the stake for his religious faith. The Global Council of Indian Christians provides legal and financial support to the families of victims.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - Seven years after the violent anti-Christian pogroms in Kandhamal (Orissa State) in 2008, the killers of Rajesh Digal, burned alive by a mob of Hindu nationalists as he returned from work, remain at large and unknown.

Asmitha, Digal's wife (pictured) is still waiting for some form of compensation and the restitution of her husband’s remains.  His body was thrown into a river to cover the traces of the crime.

This is according to the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), is providing financial and legal support to the families of victims of the most violent episode of persecution against Christians ever recorded in the country.

GCIC president Sajan K George, told AsiaNews: "Rajesh’s name is on the list of 'missing persons', since his body was never recovered and the remains of his ashes were scattered in a river. For this reason the family has not yet received compensation. We will fight to ensure justice to his wife Asmitha".

Violence broke out in 2008 in Orissa following the death of Laxamananda Saraswati, a leader in Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), a Hindu ultranationalist group, who was killed by a Marxist group.

Although Marxist rebels claimed responsibility for the murder from the start, Hindu activists turned their anger against the Christian minority, especially Dalits and Adivasi, in Kandhamal District.

As a result of the pogrom, 55,000 Christians fled. Some 5,600 homes in 415 villages were plundered and set on fire. According to government figures, 38 people were killed, two women were gang-raped and many people were left permanent physical injuries due to torture.

In August 2008, Rajesh, a local Christian, was returning home from work when he was blocked by a crowd of radical Hindus. The crowd surrounded him and ordered the man to confess his religious affiliation.

Since Rajesh did not deny his Christian faith, the group attacked him and took his bag, in which there was his personal Bible. At the sight of the sacred text, the mob started beating him savagely, until he was unconscious.

The radicals then dug a pit and threw Rajesh, who was still alive, into it setting him on fire. When the man cried out in agony, his murderers replied: "Call your God. He will save you."

Asmitha, his widow, tells AsiaNews: "The crowd laughed at him for two days. When he said 'I am thirsty', one of them urinated in his mouth. The crowd shouted, teased him, telling him: 'Call Jesus so you can rise again".

The woman said that her husband's body was thrown into the waters of a river, so that the evidence could not be gathered. Moreover, none of those who were present at the time of the murder wanted to testify against the aggressors.

 "Every year – she concludes - on the anniversary of his death, my suffering grows even more because I don’t even have a grave where my children and I can pray. This is my cross, I'll carry it for a lifetime".

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