Thursday, May 12, 2011

Still no justice for Christian victims of 2008 Orissa violence

One of many churches destroyed during
the 2008 Orissa attacks.
Almost three years after radical Hindus brutally attacked Christians in Kandhamal, Orissa state, trials are marred by all sorts of irregularities, reported AsiaNews.

Out of 3,232 criminal cases filed, only 828 complaints were actually converted into First Information Reports. Of these, only 327 went before a judge ending in 167 acquittals and 86 convictions on minor charges. Another 90 cases are still pending.

According to official figures, 1,597 suspects have been acquitted, a number that does not include the thousands who could not be arrested and tried.

On August 24, 2008, radical Hindus began attacking Christians, one day after the assassination of the World Hindu Council leader, despite a Maoist group’s claims of responsibility.

Half of Orissa’s 30 districts were involved. Six thousand houses were burnt in 400 villages. About 296 churches were also torched. Over 56,000 people were displaced, with about 30,000 living from three months to a year in government-refugee camps. Over 20,000 men, women and children have spent days hiding in forests. Over 10,000 are yet to return home. Many have been warned or threatened by their neighbours that they can return home only if they become Hindus.

AsiaNews reported that Christian victims are subject to abuses even after complaints reach the courts. Victims’ lawyers have no role in court other than feebly protesting from time to time to the judges. Threats are openly proffered in the courtroom against relatives of the dead and eyewitness. Video footage and photos by taken mobile phones have not been examined either during the investigation phase or during the trial itself. Neither the Directorate of Prosecutions nor the police have tried to pursue or upgrade certain cases.

The government of Orissa has acknowledged and admitted to 52 deaths in Kandhamal during the violence of 2007 and 2008, including 38 Christians.

Christian sources reported 91 people died during the pogrom, 38 died where they were attacked, 41 succumbed to their injuries, and 12 died in police action. These numbers do not include the cases of suicide and deaths caused by post-traumatic syndrome among the very young and the very old who witnessed the violence close-up and then spent long periods in refugee camps or slums.

Please continue to pray for Christians in Orissa state and throughout all of India.

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