New Delhi (Agenzia Fides) - The Supreme Court of India granted bail to Gornath Chalanseth, one of the seven innocent Christians languishing in jail for a decade due to the alleged murder of a local Hindu religious leader, Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, which occurred on August 23, 2008 in the district of Kandhamal, in the state of Orissa, eastern India. The murder, attributed to Christians by Hindu extremist groups such as Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), was the pretext to unleash the ferocious anti-Christian persecution that took place in Kandhamal in 2008, which killed over a hundred people and displaced 50,000 among the local Christian population.
Gornath Chalanseth obtained bail thanks to the appeal presented by the legal team of the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), an organization that defends the rights of Christians, protects fundamental freedoms and human dignity. Gornath along with six other men had been convicted to life imprisonment by a third judge in 2013 abruptly after two judges had been transferred. While their bail pleas had been twice rejected by the Odisha High Court, Cuttack, last in December 2018, their appeals against the conviction by subversion of the judicial system has been dragging on for over five years in the Odisha High Court.
Anto Akkara, a senior journalist and author, who followed their case closely, tells Fides: "This bail order is a landmark and huge victory in the fight for justice for Kandhamal’s seven innocents. This bail order of the Supreme Court, led by the ADF legal team, will be the first step towards acquittal of the innocent Christians languishing in jail for a decade for a crime they never committed".
One of his initiatives is an online signature campaign demanding their release with the website www.release7innocents com. Each online signature generates four instant emails to the Chief Justice of India besides the President of India, Odisha High Court and the National Human Rights Commission.
The Church has also launched a prayer campaign for their release.
According to Akkara, who examined the case thoroughly and wrote some inquiry books, the accusation of the seven Christians "serves to cover up the fraud organized by the Sangh Parivar", a Hindu nationalist organization. Akkara's book "Who Killed Swami Laxmanananda?" reports documentary evidence on the innocence of the seven.
Chalenseth should be released early next week from Phulbani jail in Kandhamal. (SD) (Agenzia Fides, 13/5/2019)