270809asianews


27 Aug,
2009

 

Orissa: impunity in Kandhamal, where
law and order have collapsed


by K.P. Fabian
One year after Hindu extremist violence, the future of Christians
remains uncertain. The culprits are free to roam the district and
discrimination against those who have returned to their homes
continues. Government and police are inert. Signs of hope in some
villages where Christians and Hindus together oppose extremist
groups.
 

Bhubhaneshwar (AsiaNews) –

K.P. Fabian IFS is a
retired diplomat of the Indian government, ex-ambassador to Italy,
Qatar, Finland and Canada. He is currently president of the
humanitarian organization Indo-Global Social Service Society. In
July of this year, Fabian took a trip to the district of Kandhamal
in Orissa visited refugee camps, where many Christians are still
housed, and met with the local superintendent of police, Catholic
leaders and other Christian denominations. A year after Hindu
violence he describes the situation of insecurity in which victims
of the pogroms of August 2008 still live, the impunity afforded
perpetrators and “the collapse of law and order in the district.”

Normalcy is still a
far off dream for the victims of the anti Christian violence in
Kandhamal , fear still lurks in the heart of the people and while
the anniversary of the killing of Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati –
which trigged off the large scale violence and the complete break
down of the law and order situation in the district- went off
without an incident, yet the question still remains about the future
of the Christians in Kandhamal district.

 

The atrocities
occurred because those responsible for it had planned and wanted it
to happen and, equally, because it was abundantly clear to the
organizers that the state government will not prevent them, and will
not take action against them after they have carried out their
plans.

 

It was utterly
imprudent on the part of the state government to have permitted the
procession carrying the dead body of the late Swami Lakshamananda to
take a 250 km route over two days, stopping in front of churches and
homes of Christians. In fact, a good part of the atrocities occurred
with the Collector and the Police Superintendent standing by.

 

In Orissa the first attack on a church
dating back to 1967, the first assault on a Christian community is
1984. We must also remember the government’s reluctance to take
legal action when Graham Staines, Australian Protestant missionary,
was burnt alive with his two sons in January 1999 [see

AsiaNews
,
20/01/2009,

Widow of Graham Staines: “Do not give up hope, pray for India”
].

 

In December 2007
there were other attacks that preceded the one in August 2008. Even
then, the Orissa authorities took no action against those who had
promoted the campaign of violence against Christians. And of course
the same people have implemented their plans in August, sure to go
unpunished.

 

On my trip to Orissa I was shown the man
who had raped Sister Meena; [see

AsiaNews
,
24/10/2008,

Sister raped in Orissa accuses police of being “friendly” toward
rapists
] he was riding a motor bike. I was told that his son
too was part of the mob which had attacked Fr Thomas Chellan and Sr
Meena [see
AsiaNews
,
03/09/2008,

Orissa: after his calvary Father Thomas willing to go back to serve
those who hurt him

] . The justice system has broken down, even in the case when a
cop was killed and a police station burnt down at Gochapada in
Kandhamal all the accused were acquitted, this is clearly indication
that the state is unwilling to even defend itself.

 

 

There is rampant
witness intimidation and even if two or three such persons are
arrested from a village the situation will immediately change for
the better. It is because some people have good and solid reasons to
believe that they are immune to lawÂ’s processes that the displaced
cannot return to their villages.

 

Some of those who
have returned to their villages continue to face severe
difficulties. They are denied access to water and to firewood. They
cannot even buy goods from shops owned by non-Christians. If they
are daily wage-earners they cannot get even employment.

 

The Central
Government should bring political pressure on the Orissa Government
to act. It is the responsibility of the Orissa Government to send
out a signal that those who are obstructing the return of the
displaced will be dealt with sternly. All those responsible for
violence against others and destruction of property should be
brought to book. About 2,600 complaints have been made and about 700
cases have been registered, but the police has not taken
consequential action and in some cases the alleged offenders have
obtained anticipatory bail.

 

On a brighter note
in at least three villages (Gohingia, Gundani, and Malikpadi) the
Hindus and Christians got together and prevented the mob from
attacking any one in the village and in at least two villages (Chanchedi
and Gudrikia) those who attacked the Christians have apologized.

 

 

 

 

 


 

 


 

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