By Kandhamal Nyaya Shanti O Sadbhabana Samaj

Marking the completion of seven years of communal violence in Kandhamal, Odisha, more than 5,000 Adivasi Christians and Dalit Christians gathered at Raikia, Kandamal upholding the need for Justice, Peace and Harmony. Thousands of people marched from Beradakia Chowk to Raikia College Chowk, covering a distance of one and half kilomenters, shouting slogans `We Want Peace, Not Violence’, `Stop Atrocities on Minorities and Women’, `In the Name of Religion and Caste Do Not Divide People’, `We Demand Appropriate Compensation’. The rally was organised by Kandhamal Nyaya Shanti O Sadbhabana Samaj, the organisation of victims and survivors of Kandhamal communal violence.

Prominent national leaders like the former Central Cabinet Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar, Member of Parliament, Polit Bureau member of CPI (M) Brinda Karat, Former Member of Parliament and Leader of CPI (ML) Kavita Krishnan addressed the gathering.

As a Central Minister, I had come to this beautiful land before violence and now when I came here, I feel deep pain,’ said Mani Shankar Aiyar. ` Diverse religions and castes used to live in peace. But suddenly a lot people were killed, displaced, houses and churches destroyed, women were raped and molested. Even now many people who were displaced cannot come back. Should we forget what happened? Forgetting can be a crime. Justice has to be achieved.’

`Only two cases of murder have received some sort of imprisonment, `said Brinda Karat. `Does it mean that the rest of those who were killed were not human beings? Though the Maoists had taken the responsibility of the murder of Swami Laxmananda, seven innocent Adivasis and Dalits are in prison today for the same crime. You do not punish the guilty and you punish the innocents with fabricated cases. These innocents are not even given bail, while bails are easily given to those who are responsible for communal violence in any part of this country.’

`What the Sangh Parivar has done in Kandhamal has to be seen as terrorism. If this is not terrorism what else is it?’ asked Kavita Krishnan. ` BJP is not a representation of Hindu religion. It represents politics of hate in the name of religion. When thousands of people protested against a rape which took place in Delhi, I reminded them that these struggles are also against the rapes of innocent women in the name of religion in places like Kandhamal. Two innocent villagers who went to make a phone call to their son, were killed CRPF by recently in the name of combating Maoist violence. I would also like to remind the government here that instead of providing justice for the victims and survivors of Kandhamal, you are grabbing and punishing innocent people. In spite of all such troubles, I congratulate all those victims and survivors, especially women, who have arrived here in large numbers to demand justice, peace and harmony.’

Adv. Dibakar Parichha who coordinates the legal matters of the Kandhamal communal violence asked the government to identify and prosecute those who are threatening the witnesses and members of the Christian community. According to a survey, properties worth Rs 90 crores were damaged in the communal violence and compensation given so far is only Rs 70 lakhs. He said that a case has been filed in the Supreme Court of India, seeking the court’s intervention in dispensing adequate compensation to the victims.

Jacob Pradhan, the local Member of Legislative Assembly, said that compensation given to Kandhamal communal violence victims are very meagre compared to Gujarat and Muzaffarnagar riot victims and even that is not properly distributed yet. He asked the government to expedite the process of distribution of a proper compensation and to take measures to restore peace and harmony in Kandhamal.

Suresh Panigrahi, the state secretary of CPI (M) said that everyone has the right to choose and practice their religion and no forces should be allowed to disrupt this fundamental right.

Human rights activist Ajaya Kumar Singh, who presided over the meeting, said that peace is not the absence of violence, but living a life free from fear and insecurity. This has not happened in Kandhamal even after seven years communal violence. `We have a right to equality, freedom and justice. These are universal indivisible and inalienable rights’, he said.

The meeting started with homage to the people who lost their lives during the violence. Fr.Prasan Pradhan prayed for the departed souls.

Bipra Charan Nayak, Agustine Singh, Suranjan Nayak, Dipti Digal, Nalini Nayak, Adikanda Singh and Suranjan Nayak of Kandhamal Survivors’ Association were the organisers of the meeting. Amir Chandra Nayak and Fr. Pradosh Kumar Nayak conducted the meeting.

The national leaders, Mani Shankar Aiyar, Brinda Karat and Kavita Krishnan expressed their commitments to the crowd to take the message of the demand for justice, peace and harmany, at a national level.

Kandhamal Nyaya Shanti O Sadbhabana Samaj

Sri Bipra Charan Nayak, Member, KNSSS, Mob: 9438072385

Sri Amir Chandra Nayak , Member, KNSSS, Mob: 9439267344

For further details:

Adikand Singh, [email protected], Mob: 9437589618