Wednesday, September 29, 2010

[ZESTCaste] No more Kandhamals!

No more Kandhamals!

Published: Sep 29, 2010 01:52 Updated: Sep 29, 2010 01:52

In August 2008, one of the worst communal genocide attempts on the
Christian community occurred in Orissa's Kandhamal district — one of
India's poorest places.

Over 100 people including women, children, Adivasis and Dalits were
killed. Three women were gang raped and many were injured. Over 295
churches were destroyed. Educational and medical institutions were not
spared. And 15,000 fearful and threatened survivors, who cannot return
to their villages unless they revert to Hinduism, are still living in

The high displacement in the last two years, hellish life in refugee
camps and the breakdown of many families due to poverty, has affected
the aggrieved psychologically. Minor and adolescent girls are being
trafficked for 'security' and livelihood. Widespread ostracizing of
Christians in Kandhamal has affected adult employment and children's
education. The meager government compensation is insufficient for the
immediate medical needs of many.

While the Sangh Parivar followers attacked the Adivasis and Dalits,
the administration stood either as a silent spectator or indirectly
supported the violence. The state's deliberately negligent behavior is
common where the population primarily comprises marginalized
communities like Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (SC/ST as per
official jargon).

From 3,300 victims' complaints filed in the local police stations,
only 831 were registered as FIRs, most of which are pending inquiry.
The minimal investigations and bias have acquitted criminals,
'arrogating' them before the minorities.

The attacks on Christians spread to over 10 states in India, hurting
the fundamentals of democracy and spiritual harmony. Karnataka
recorded the maximum anti-Christian attacks in India in 2009 and is
keeping pace this year.

The National Solidarity Forum, a coalition of over 55 organizations
nationwide held solidarity events across India. Strongly condemning
attacks on religious minorities, it requested all democratic forces to
unite and fight the rising communal fascism. Appealing to all peace
loving people in the country to support the cause for justice in
Kandhamal, it demanded:

• Prosecution of — police personnel who failed to register FIRs and
encouraged communal violence in Kandhamal

• those responsible for forcing conversions to Hinduism

• relevant administrative officials for dereliction of duty

• Transfer of investigation to CBI/SIT

• Compensation for - houses destroyed in mass arson

• victims of gender violence,

• loss of livelihood for two years

• all widows/next of kin of those who died in the riots

• Resettlement in home villages with full land rights and security

• Employment of men and women victims

* Counseling for traumatized children, women and men

* Rehabilitation of children, especially girls whose education is interrupted

* Reissue of property documents and educational certificates destroyed

* Implementation of a witness protection scheme and provision of
necessary assistance to survivors to ensure their court testimony

* Repeal the Orissa Freedom of Religion Act, 1967, which fuels
prejudicial attitudes toward religious minorities

* Establishment of a State Commission for Minorities, like its
national counterpart

Peoples' Solidarity Concerns (PSC), Student Christian Movement, India
(SCM-I), St. Joseph's College of Arts and Science, Visthar and The
Other Media-Communications (TOMC) were among those who organized a
protest outside Town Hall, Bangalore, on Aug. 25, 2010. These groups
also facilitated a talk by Dr. Ram Puniyani on "Color of Terror:
Saffron, Green or Black" on Sept. 10, 2010 in Bangalore. Dr. Puniyani,
professor Ninan Koshy and Jagadish Chandra of PSC subsequently
responded to questions.

A set of poignant sketches by two artists whom the violence directly
impacted is available online at: .

— Pushpa Achanta writes for Citizen News Service (CNS), and is a
community volunteer based in Bangalore, India. Website:


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