Today is the tenth anniversary commemoration of the Kandhamal anti-Christian communal violence. Ten years ago, this violence started in Kadhamal district and continued for two months.
The perpetrators were, in large part, allegedly, cadres of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). Today, many people have come back to the district. However, there are still some families who have not yet come back home.
They live in Bhubaneswar, Berhampur and other parts of Odisha. There are still families who are internally displaced persons (IDPs) living in a rehabilitation colony, Shanti Nagar, near G Udayagiri in Kandhamal.
The victims of this violence had filed 3232 criminal cases against 11,000 perpetrators. But the police only registered 827 cases. Out of those cases the police closed 315 cases siting those as ‘lack of evidence’. Out of rest of 362 cases convictions were secured in only 78 cases! Out of 30 murder cases, conviction happened only in two cases.
The Supreme Court had instructed the government of Odisha to reopen those 315 cases in 2016. But nothing has been done in local courts. Will the guilty ever be punished?
This documentary on Kandhamal titled Innocents Imprisoned: Kandhamal’s Travesty of Justice was released in New Delhi on August 23, 2018 – to mark the 10th anniversary of the Kandhamal carnage:
Communalism Combat 2008-2018
In sustained and well planned attacks, Christians and Christian institutions and religious places were attacked by members and office bearers of various wings of Hindu supremacist and racist organisations (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-RSS/Vishwa Hindu Parishad-VHP, Bajrang Dal-BD) and Bharaitiya Janata Party -BJP) on the eve of Christmas 2007, forcing poor Dalit and Tribal Christians to flee to forests. In February of the next year, extremist left organisations wrote communications that the state intelligence bureau accessed declaring their intent via-a-vis the Hindu rightwing organisations. From August 24, 2008 onwards after Swami Lakshmananda was killed in an attack on his ashram, a bloody and vengeful funeral procession covering 220 kilometres was organised and allowed by the state administration, taking his body in a motor cavalcade, in which Praveen Togadia, international General Secretary of the VHP and BJP ministers from the state cabinet participated.
"Before the mob came we heard the sound of people approaching. The sound of hatred. Our lives, our faith, our existence is under attack and neither the neighbours, the police nor the state care." – Dalit Christian woman in Kandhamal
The hate-filled speeches inspired bloody mobs to attack and kill 59 persons (list of victims can be accessed at www.cjp.org,in ) and attack dozens of hamlets and villages on the way. Brutal rapes were also part of the sub-text.; 50,000 were rendered refugees in their own land, 15,000 are still internally displaced.
Like clockwork around the same time, in the southern state of Karnataka where the saffron flag had flown on the state’s assembly for the first time in the previously held elections, 57 Churches were attacked systematically in Mangalore, Udipi and other parts of the state. The attacks, thoroughly documented by Justice Saldanha in his report, on an Inquiry requested by Transparency International and PUCL, Karnataka, presents a dangerous tale of how the highest echelons of those in power, assisted by some communally minded policemen, not only allowed mobs to attack Christians at prayer and desecrated their places of worship, but worse also systematically destroy any evidence of the attack as soon as they had taken place.
Independent media were also made targets and other sections, wooed through monetary considerations by the state government, were complicit or silent. Action against the perpetrators has not taken place with the state government in a malafide action simply withdrawing all criminal cases against the RSS, VHP, BD and BJP. The officially appointed Justice BK Somasekhara Commission that released its report in January 2011, has been an eye-wash.
You can watch a film on the Kandhamal carnage here: