Kandhamal's Christian leaders demand higher compensation for victims of anti-Christian violence
According to a leading bishop in eastern India’s Odisha state, Christian victims who suffered outrage and violence in Kandhamal district have not been adequately compensated by the government. Archbishop John Barwa of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar was speaking to AsiaNews as local Christian leaders on Wednesday handed a local authority a memorandum, calling on the state government to enforce the Supreme Court ruling that awards higher compensation to the victims of the terrible anti-Christian violence in 2008.
Violence against Christians
Violence against the Christians of Odisha erupted in Kandhamal District with untold savagery, with Hindu extremists blaming Christians for the August 23, 2008 murder of Hindu leader Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati, despite Maoist rebels claiming the assassination. Nearly 100 Christians had been killed and 300 churches and 6,000 Christian houses plundered and torched in unabated violence that followed.
Christian victims of Kandhamal deserve more compensation,” Arch. Barwa said in support of India’s apex court sentence of August 2016, that the victims of the violence carried out by Hindu radicals should receive higher compensation. Christian leaders noted that so far nothing has been handed out even though "the money is already in the district.”
The memorandum was delivered to Kandhamal District Collector Drunda D who received the Christian delegation in private. They included Christian leader Paul Pradhan; Klesha Pradhan, secretary general of the Church of North India (the largest Protestant denomination) in Kandhamal; Rev Sushant Nayak, moderator of the Kandhamal Baptist Church; and Fr Ajaya Kumar Singh, a Catholic priest with the Archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar.
The memorandum cited the various provisions of the Supreme Judge's Verdict, which has remained a dead letter so far. They include the additional compensation of 300,000 rupees (US$ 4,625) per victim; 30,000 rupees (US$ 465) for serious injury, 10,000 rupees (US$ 155) for simply injury; and 70,000 (US$ 1,085) for fully damaged houses.
Christian leaders noted that the Court ordered the reopening of the 315 recorded cases of sectarian violence - and never pursued, as well as new investigations into the trials that did not lead to any verdict. Out of 362 cases, only 78 ended up in trial.
The district collector assured she would ensure the distribution of the compensation at the earliest as per the Supreme Court order. She advised that with regard to further enhancement of compensation and enlisting of those who are left out, they should deal with the stae administration directly. The ecumenical leaders have decided to meet the state officials and minority minister of Odisha government shortly.
7 Christian men unjustly behind bar
Archbishop Barwa stressed that all what Christians want is peace, “that is why they are fighting the Odisha government." Speaking about the 7 Christians unjustly blamed for Swami Laxamanananda’s murder, the archbishop noted they are languishing in jail under life imprisonment. “Their case is in the hands of good lawyers, who are doing their best to get their release. Let us pray for them that they may soon go back to their families."
Anto Akkara, a rights advocate and journalist, has been vigorously campaigning for justice for the Christian victims. He has written several books after numerous trips to Kandhamal to find out first-hand about the serious human rights violation there. He has also an online signature campaign for the release of the 7 men. Akkara was among others who helped launch a prayer campaign on October 15 at Kochi, for the release fo the 7 men. (Source: AsiaNews)