A delegation of the Kandhamal Committee for Peace and Justice comprising of the victim-survivors of the 2008 anti-Christian carnage, met the Presientof India on September 7. The members were accompanied by Brinda Karat, Mani Shankar Aiyar and Kavitha Krishnan. They demanded that a sitting Supreme Court judge should head a panel to look at the failure of the criminal justice system in Kandhamal and make the required legal intervention so as to ensure justice to the victims of violence
The President gave a patient and sympathetic hearing to the delegation and assured them of intervention.
The main issues are (1) lack of adequate compensation (2) no livelihood opportunities (3) failure of criminal justice system (4) demand to reopen cases which have been arbitrarily closed and inquiry into all complaints which had been made to the police at the time and not chargesheeted.
Those who were displaced from three grampanchayats and relocated, now want to go back to their villages. State Government must facilitate their return. On the contrary they are afraid because of threats that they will have to “convert” to Hinduism to return.
The Memorandum Presented to the President of India
KANDHAMAL NAYA SANTI O SADBHABANA SAMAJ
Munda Sahi, Balliguda Kandhamal, Ph-9438072385, 943836396, 9439267344
Ref No: – 151/2015 Date: 31.08.2015
The President of India,
Sub: Demanding urgent steps to be taken to ensure peace to be restored in Kandhamal district and due justice be done to the survivors of Kandhamal communal violence of 2008
We the undersigned members of “Kandhamal Nyaya, Shanti O Sadbhabana Samaj”, Kandhamal, Odisha, herewith present this memorandum for your kind perusal and appropriate, necessary and urgent action. We urge you Sir, to use your high constitutional office to intervene with the Central Government and State Government of Odissa on the issues we list in this memorandum.
After seven years of Kandhamal communal violence, we the victims of Kandhamal are still seeking justice in all spheres, including on legal and socio-economic issues and have been suffering from various constraints and psychological trauma.
The anti-Christian violence in 2007-08, took the lives of a total of over 90 persons that included disabled and elderly persons, children, men and women. The Government however recognised only 35 murders of Christians. The communal frenzy engulfed more than 600 villages. At least 6500 houses were looted and burnt. 56000 people were made homeless. 395 churches and worship places were razed and gutted. 35 schools, philanthropic institutions including leprosy homes, tuberculosis sanatoriums and dozens of non-profit organisations were looted, damaged and burnt down. It was estimated that more than 10,000 children dropped out of school due to displacement and insecurity while thousands were pushed to unhygienic relief camps for nearly three years.
1. Due to shoddy investigation by the police and also due to intimidation of the witnesses in the court premises, most of the culprits in the communal violence cases are acquitted and gone scot-free. Of 3232 complaints lodged in police stations only 825 FIRs were filed by the police and of these 605 only were chargesheeted. 302 cases were closed arbitrarily in the name of “no evidence.” Of the 35 murder cases, itself an underestimation, 33 cases were closed. There are convictions in only two muder cases with a life sentence to just ten people. Sir you will be shocked to know that after such a carnage there have been convictions in total of only 73 cases and that also for lesser offences. At present except for one man sentenced in the rape of a nun, all the rest have been released on bail including those convicted for murder. Sir, is this not a total travesty of justice?
2. Sir we have been petitioning the authorities to reopen all these cases from the initial complaints to the closing of the cases. Urgent review is required otherwise the message to the Christian community is extremely negative. However our pleas have been unheard by the auhtorities. Our request is that a sitting Supreme Court judge should head a panel to look at all these cases and make the required legal intervention so as to ensure justice to the victims of violence. We request you to intervene on this demand of our’s to the Government.
3. The anti-Christian minority violence is engineered, directed, instigated and operationalised by the fundamentalist outfits and groups backed by some political parties. For this reason the guilty have enjoyed the patronage of powerful people. Their role has still not been properly identified. Sir, in this aspect also we have requested a judicial inquiry as even today the administration is influenced against the poor Christian community victims.
4. During the Kandhamal violence, many houses and institutions were demolished; heinous crimes like rapes were carried out in front of the police personnel and some of the police officers belonging to Christian communities were instructed to take no action. It clearly shows that, it was the dereliction of duty by some top police officials that gave a free hand to the communal forces to kill dozens of innocent Dalits and Adivasis and also destroy and loot their houses, institutions and properties. This clearly shows the collusion of the government officials in the communal violence. Since they are still in positions of power no one can touch them. The judicial enquiry is necessary to look into their role and to ensure exemplary opunishment to those guilty.
5. Soon after the killing of Swami Laxmanananda, even though the Maoists publicly declared that they had killed the Swami, the police picked up 7 innocent people belonging to Adivasi and Dalit communities. They are completely innocent and have appealed to the High Court against their conviction and life imprisonment. They have been in jail for the last seven years without bail. Thus while all the killers of Christians, those who raped, burnt and looted them are all on bail, only these seven have been denied bail. They are from poor families and being the main wage earners the family members suffer terribly. Fresh evidence has become available but the Government has not taken any cognisance of it. We believe that the Government should take measures to punish the guilty but not innocent people.
6. The widows and children of those people, who were killed, burnt and buried alive, are striving for survival without any hope. Sadly the Government has provided no measures for their rehabilitation. This is also essential.
7. The village churches which are destroyed must be provided a compensation of Rs. 15 lakhs and the parish churches that are destroyed must be provided a compensation of Rs. 30 lakhs.
8. Many houses that are destroyed during the violence are not rebuilt until now, and even there are many damaged houses which are not enlisted in the Govt. list. Due to the communal violence that prolonged for six months, thousands of people left their houses un-attended and went to different districts and states and taking advantage of their prolonged absence, the communal elements looted their valuable properties and destroyed whatever properties and assets that were left. Unfortunately all these aspects are not accounted for in the Govt. level damage assessment. Therefore, Govt. should undertake a reassessment of damaged and looted properties and compensate them with a sum of Rs 7 Lakhs to each and every family and rehabilitate them completely.
9. Many children have dropped out of school due to fear and destruction of their study materials including books, uniforms and personal clothes. Many of them are now doing child labour in hotels, factories and private offices and houses in many other districts and states. Many children are psychologically traumatized and suffer from mental illness also. Till today neither the Govt has declared any special package for these children nor took any steps to bring them back to schools. Govt. should declare a special package to provide them study materials and declare a fee exemption in schools.
Sir, we humbly request you to consider our request to you and to impress on the unfeeling Government to bring justice to the Christian community in Kandhamal comprising mainly of poor dalits and adivasis.
Members of Kandhamal Nyaya Shanti O Sadbhabana Samaj.
For Further Contacts:
Adikand Singh, [email protected], Mob: 9437589618
Testimonies two victims who met the President of India, as captured by Saumya Uma, Associate Professor, Law School University of Bangalore,
I Continue to Live in Hiding, Like a Fugitive
I am a dalit Christian woman, aged about 30 years, whose husband was killed in the 2008 violence.
On 25 August 2008, a mob, holding lathis, axes, knives, guns, petrol and kerosene, entered our village and started destroying and burning the houses of Christians and killing them. I ran with my husband, two daughters and other family members to a nearby jungle to save our lives. The mob searched my house for my husband as he was working in the local church, and they wanted to kill him. We stayed in the jungle for two days. Thereafter, along with my husband and daughters, I tried to escape to the nearest town in a bicycle to save our lives, but we were caught on the road by a violent mob. Some persons in the mob called others from Hindu communities in nearby villages, who joined them in a little while. All of them gathered around my husband. I fell at the feet of several of them, begging and pleading with them not kill my husband. I told them “ Cut his hands and legs if you want, but let him live. My daughter is physically challenged, how can she live without a father?” The mob did not listen to me. One person hit on the neck of my husbvand with an axe, while another stabbed him on his belly. Five others cut his body into three pieces. Somehow I escaped from the place with by children, but observed the horrifying incident from a distance. Other men from the mob dragged my husband’s body by a rope, and burned it with some pieces of wood, straw and kerosene in a bearby place. After they killed my husband, the mob started searching for me and my daughters, and said, “let’s find her and rape her”.
I was paralysed with fear so I could not report abvout the incident to the police the same day. I gave a complaint the subsequent day, and named about 12 persons in the mob that I knew who were responsible for killing my busband. I have deposed in court several times. I was threatened for giving testimony in court, and was told that I would bve raped in the market place. Only two of the persons I named have been convicted. Many others have not even been arrested yet.
I continue to fear for my life and the safety of my daughters, who are nwo living in a hostels. I was in hiding for several years during the court case, and continue to live in hiding, l9ike fugitive. In the place where I live, I do not mix with the neighbours, as I am worried that they would communicate with my husband’s murderers and tell them where I live, and they would come to attack me.
I have studied up to Class VII and want to work and support myself. I fear loneliness, but how long can people stay with me? Who will support me life-long? I pray a lot and that gives me strength, and I am learning to stay by myself
The Raped Me Because My Uncle-a Christian-Had Not converted
I am a dalit Hindu woman. I have studied upt Class IX. I am the oldest of six children to my parents, and had gone to my grandparents’ village to visit them. On that fateful day, at night, some RSS activists barged into my home. One of them informed me that they were going to take revenge on me as my uncle had not converted to Hinduism though he was given several deadlines. Before I could understand what was going on, they picked me up by force and started carrying me to the jungle. I started shouting and screaming for help, but no one intervened to save me. They dragged me from the village to a jungle. Around 25 people were present in the mob, wearing tilaks and saffron head hands, with their faces partially covered with a mask. They looked extremely frightening. They carried knives and other weapons and shouted slogans such as “jai Shriram!” “Jai Bajrangbali!” I pleaded with them not to rape me. But they said “even if you are Hindu, your uncle is a Christian, and he has not converted, so we cannot leave you.”
4-5 men raped me after discussing with each other as to who will rape me first. I lost consciousness. After about three hours my grandparents with another person came searching for me, found me and carried me home. The mob had struck on my head and also cut me on my hand. Later on, other RSS members approached me and persuaded me not to file a complaint since it was a question of shame for the woman, since I am born and brought up in the village, I could recognize some of the attackers. The attackers removed their mask before they raped me. Earlier, they would to respect me. I was shocked that they took revenge on me for my uncle’s refusal not to convert to Hinduism.
My life has changed after the traumatic incident. I was in hiding for several years after the incident. Even after nearly five years, I am traumatized, sad, depressed and struggling. I cannot forget the incident, no matter how hard I try. I feel ashamed. I continue to be fearful of darkness, loneliness, loud noises and men. I cannot sleep properly at night. I have had several health problems including gynaecological problems and malaria. I have also lost a lot of weight.
I am confused and do not know what to do, as I am fearful of everything and have lost my confidence. I got a job in an institution where I had to take care of children, and I was offered a decent salary, accommodation, clothes, food and medicines. But I felt lonely and I returned. I was recently offered a job in Kerala for tailoring, but I was fearful of travelling alone, being with strangers, with no friends around. So I did not go. Out of confusion, frustration and anger, I decided to return to my village, sit at home and do nothing. However, I am not happy here either. I am not at peace with myself. I am not the same person that I was, any longer.
• Death confirmed -82 accepted by Governemt – 39
• House damaged above 6000 of which Government responded -4821
• Church damaged -395
• Shop damaged -101
• Women assult -2 (Rape).
• Molestation cases-40
• 12000 children affected
• 56000 people affected
• 415 villages of Kandhamal affected.
• 13 public institutions Like NGO offices, schools, etc.
1. Complaint lodged : 3232
2. Case registered: 827
3. Cases are not registered: 2404
4. Final charge sheet made: 512
5. Number of cases pending trial : 255
6. Disposed off cases: 273
7. Total Number of accused faced the trial: 4181
8. Number of persons/ accused convicted: 492
9. Number of persons/ accused acquitted: 3254
10. Number of accused get Life imprisonment: 12
11. Anticipatory bail granted: 11000