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Fact Finding-Kandhamal Communal Violence: Four Years Later #MUSTSHARE

A Report

27 August, 2012

A synopsis of the fact finding report on the situation of violence affected people in after four years

One of the most severe took place in Kandhamal in 2008 following the alleged murder of Swami Laxamananda Saraswati, a front-line leader of Sangh Parivar by the Communist Party of India (Maoists). The violence forced 55000 minority Christians to displace, 5600 homes in 415 villages were looted and burnt down, 38 persons were killed, two women were gangraped, several people were tortured, disabled.

A Fact Finding Team visited 16 villages during 10th to 14th August, 2012; interviewed about fifty persons including victims, witnesses, leaders of different political and social organisations, District Collector and Superintendent of Police and reviewed various documents and records.

Highlights of Observations:

Status of the Livelihood (income source) of Victims and Access to MGNREGS:

Almost all the victims belong to families below poverty line, mostly dependent on daily-wage labor, cultivation and small vending works. After the violence they had to run here and there for their life without any means for livelihoods. After coming back, they found it very difficult to get back their previous livelihood practices. They are not getting labor works in the fields/houses of people from other communities either because of insecurity feeling or not allowed. People are not able to access MNREGS works regularly for alien treatment by Gram Sathi and PRI leaders. People depending on forest product are barred by the other community people to collect these items.

Migration:

Among those survivors who left Kandhamal during violence to other places, at least 10,000 people are yet to return to their respective places. In Bhubaneswar alone, more than five thousand people are struggling to live anyway. Many of those who returned began to migrate, again, as it became quite hard to find viable livelihood options at their locality. Out of fear the minorities of Mlahupanga, Dadingia, Beticola villages who were compelled to shift to other places like Nandagiri of Kandhamal, do not have any dependable sources of income and are planning to migrate outside.

Children’s Education: Many Christian students had to drop their study. Some parents informed that they have sent their kids to outside Kandhamal for study as they feel their children (already undergone traumatic conditions) are not safe inside Kandhamal. The eight years old son of widowed Ludhia Digal is staying at Punjab. However, the team noticed some of violence affected children cleaning the table, washing the plates and serving water in some hotels run by higher caste people in Baliguda, G.Udaigiri, Phulbani children.

Caste Certificate:

Both adivasis and dalits are facing difficulties in obtaining caste certificate. Tahasil officials are issuing certificates to only those who have recommendations from Vishwa Hindu Parisad and Kui Samaj Samanmaya Samiti and other Hindutya groups. In Bagadi, Kandha people failed to get the certificates. In Bhaliapada of Gumamaha Gram Panchyat, many victims complained dalits (Pano) children are deprived of getting admission in the govt. run Ashram Schools or getting stipends for being unable to get a certificate from Tahasil offices. Even if the DM clarifies that there are other ways of assessing caste identity and issuing certificates, the dominance of Sangh Parivar (VHP or KSSS) continues in decisions of Tahasil officials.

Compensation – Housing and Properties

About 5600 people lost their houses during the violence. Odisha government provided Rs.50000.00 for fully-damaged houses and Rs.20000.00 for partially damaged houses. As of now, there are 5% families are yet to get any compensation. Many families, even if they had to replace their house walls and roof fully have been enlisted in the ‘partially damaged houses’. Compared to other states, the compensation for house damage in Orissa is much less. Of course, most of the survivor families could get some additional supports from non-official sources.

The government did not enumerate loss of properties (other than housing) such as household articles, agricultural and forest produces, domestic animals, vital documents (like educational certificates, land records) , agricultural impliments, utensils, clothes, loss of livelihood etc. Average cost of damage of such properties per family came about Rs.200000.00. Many people lamented – it’ll take another generation recuperate their losses. The DM tells – the government does not have a policy to enumerate or compensate such losses. 

130 shop keepers who got their shops destroyed they have received a little compensation in comparison to their loss, which is far below the requirement to revive their business.

Almost no compensation (little cases very small compensation) has been given against the damage of institutions such as hospitals, schools, NGOs, churches.

Condition of Government-established Colonies (Ghettos) for victims: 
When the government failed to take back the people to their respective villages as it did not succeed in providing security there and they put the people in new villages – Nandagiri, Ashirbada colony, Ambedkar colony. Although more than 150 families are made to stay in these colonies, there are opportunities for their livelihoods and no adequate facilities for water and sanitation. A sizable section of the victims migrate to other states.

Christian families in Beticola village were threatened not to return to their village unless they convert into Hinduism. Ajay Mallick, Trashant Malick and Gochhi Nayak (63) and others had to leave back their moveable and immovable properties and livelihood and came to Nandagiri.

Justice Delivery:

Against the total 3232 criminal complaints lodged by the victims, while the district police acknowledged 1541 cases, only 828 were registered as FIR (First Information Reports)s by the Police. Out of 245 cases disposed by the Fast Track Court, convictions have been made in 73 cases and in 172 cases no convictions have been made. 267 cases are pending for trial. Total persons acquitted as of now are 2433 and only 452 persons have been convicted.

Out of total 30 murder cases heard till now at the Fast Track Court, only in 2 cases (6 Persons) have been given the punishment for life-imprisonment and in 5 other cases lesser punishment have been given. But, in the rest 22 cases almost everybody got acquitted.

The witnesses are being motivated by some influential persons like Manoj Pradhan (accused of 11 murder cases), MLA of G.Udayagiri constituency.

The court premises are dominated by the supporters of fundamentalist forces while hearings are made including influential political persons and hooligans with them. In many places the accused have not been arrested and they are roaming freely and threatening repeatedly to the victims and witnesses to withdraw the cases against them.

Security and Peace

The survivors are living under stress and strains. Threats, hate campaigns are regularly used to demonize the minorities. They feel insecure. In Bodimunda, the minorities are being treated as the 2nd class citizen and suppressed by the Sangh Parivar. The minorities are not allowed to raise their voice in a meeting or while collecting the water from tube well they have to wait till all the Hindus fetch. Even, they are allowed to rebuild their houses. The district administration claims that the normalcy has come after the four years of violence, which is found to be self-complacent. Undeclared social boycott could marked in at least 2-3 villages out of 17 the team visited i.e. Bodimunda. In some villages, conditions are imposed on minorities if they would be allowed to stay in the village provided that they withdraw the cases, convert into Hindu
ism and stop taking beef etc.

Fake Arrestees

The innocent peoples are arrested suspecting the killer of Laxamanananda and connecting them with Maoist which harasses victims and their family member. Seven persons accused of being Maoists and murdering Swami Laxamanananda namely Sanatana Badamajhi, Duryadhana Sunamajhi, Garnath Challanseth, Budhadev Nayak, Bijay Sanseth, Munda Badmajhi and Bhaskar Sunamajhi from Madaguda Gram Panchayat are suffering in jail for last 4 years. They belong to adivasi and dalit communities. In the meantime, 40 out of 42 witnesses have submitted their statements before the Court that the accused persons are innocent and not involved in the murder. The three times polygraph tests conducted on them proved nothing against them. The conditions of their family members are miserable. The police are deliberately prolonging the case claiming that all the witnesses had been motivated and, hence, arguing for re-deposition by the witnesses before the Court. Instead of searching of real culprits, the self-complacent officers are putting their entire weight on wrong targets.

Fact finding Team members:

Mahendra Parida, Cell: 9437106174 
Surya Mishra 
Manoj Nayak, 
Sanjay Das, 
Manas Sahoo 

Date of Visit: 10th to 14th August, 2012

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