ASIA/INDIA - Christian Leaders to the Government: "Need to enforce the Supreme Court ruling to reopen cases and indemnify the Christians of Orissa"

Thursday, 26 October 2017 religious minorities   violence   persecutions   religious freedom   justice   human rights  

Cuttack (Agenzia Fides) – The state government must urgently enforce the Supreme Court ruling on the reopening of investigations and compensation for Christians in Orissa (or Odisha), victims of anti-Christian violence in 2008: this is the request raised by a group of Christian leaders , human rights activists and social operators. As Agenzia Fides learns, a delegation of leaders, composed of Catholic, Baptist reppresentatives, and other confessions, during a meeting held in recent days in Kandhamal district, pointed out that a sum of money, to be allocated to the Christian families who were victims of that violence, is already in the district and it is now the task of the local administration to carry out the Court’s provisions.
The leaders had a brief meeting with state officials and with the Minster of Minorities in the government of the state of Orissa. The delegation also informed other issues concerning the marginalization and social exclusion of Christian minorities, bringing them to the attention of civil authorities and handed them a memorandum.
In Kandhamal district, nearly 100 people were killed and 56,000 Christians were forced to flee during the violence that began on 24 August 2008 and lasted nearly four months.
What triggered the violence was the assassination of Hindu leader Swami Lashmananada Saraswati, who had lived in Kandhamal for decades, and carried out a long campaign of opposition against Christian missionaries. Christians were accused of murder (then claimed by the Maoist groups) and this was the pretext for inciting the massacres. During the violence of 2008, about 300 churches and Christian institutions and over 600 homes were destroyed. Some faithful were burned alive for refusing to convert to the Hindu religion.
After the mass violence on the Christian community of Kandhamal, Catholic Archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubanewar, Mgr. Raphael Cheenath SVD (who died in 2016) filed a complaint with the Supreme Court asking for justice for the victims. The Court ruled on 2 August 2016, establishing further compensation: an additional compensation of 300 million rupees for the family members of the deceased; in the case of injuries suffered by the victims during the violence, compensation from 30,000 to 10,000 rupees, depending on the gravity of the injuries; a compensation for the destruction of a house (50,000 by the state government and 20,000 by the central government) or for its damage.
Christian leaders note that the Court ordered the reopening of the 315 recorded cases of sectarian violence, only 78 ended up in trial. It therefore requested the reopening of investigations inviting the state to prosecute the perpetrators. Therefore, the state of Orissa should secure the protection of witnesses so far reticent for fear of intimidation and threats received, and set up a group of magistrates to promote a free and fair investigation.
This historical judgment remains inapplicable: "We ask you to enforce it as soon as possible. More than nine years have passed and, after a long judicial battle, the time has come to enforce it"; say Christian leaders to Fides, requesting the review of the case and the compensation to the victims. "It would be like applying a balm to the victims' wounds", reads the Memorandum, which also calls for the release of seven innocent Christians, unjustly condemned for the alleged homicide of Hindu leader Laxmanananda. (SD-PA) (Agenzia Fides 26/10/2017)