Kandhamal: Never Again
On the 6th anniversary of the Kandhamal carnage, the Evangelical Fellowship of India stands in solidarity with the victims of the violence in Kandhamal district of eastern Indian state of Orissa in 2008. Orissa has a long history of anti Christian violence including the attack on the villagers of Kattingia in Kandhamal (1986), a series of burning of 19 churches in Kandhamal (1986-87), the Catholic Health Centre of India near Latur (1996), burning of Bibles and attacks on the Christian congregations and the burning alive of Pastor Graham Steward Stains along with his two sons, Philip and Timothy, aged 9 and 7 years, who were sleeping in a jeep after a village festival. (1999, January).
However, August 25, 2008 started the worst ever violence against the minority Christian population in the history of independent India. Between 75 and 123 people were killed in the violence – though the government has confirmed only 54 deaths in all. The majority of those killed were Christian dalits or adivasi. Many more were injured, close to 5,000 houses belonging to Christians were destroyed partially or fully, and at least 264 churches and prayer halls were desecrated and demolished. An unestimated number suffered severe physical injuries and mental trauma. While there were a few media reports of women being sexually assaulted, many more such victims were threatened into silence. Although Kandhamal was the epicenter of the attacks, the violence spread to over 14 districts of Orissa and a few other states.
Though the Orissa government claims it took strict action against the accused, statistics show that out of the 827 FIRs filed, charges against the accused were framed in only 512. And only 75 cases ended in convictions, in which only 477 persons were convicted but primarily for smaller or “petty” offences such as burning of houses and damaging property. Only nine people have been convicted for their role in killing of the Christians. The failure to effectively prosecute those accused of carrying out violent attacks against the Christian community and the apathy of the state machinery has left victims vulnerable to threats, discrimination and social isolation. The impunity enjoyed by the mobs in Orissa has also emboldened other fundamentalist groups to attack the community elsewhere in the country.
The compensation received by the victims is paltry at best and many victims have complained that they have yet to receive even the full compensation declared by the government. There are petitions pending before the Supreme Court calling for an increase in the compensation payable.
The Evangelical Fellowship of India calls upon the central government and the government of Orissa to take active steps to ensure the protection of the rights of religious minorities in India and strict action is taken against those responsible for violence and hate crimes against religious minorities.
Rev. Dr. Richard Howell,
Evangelical Fellowship of India,
New Delhi, India
Evangelical Fellowship of India (established 1951) is a charter member of World Evangelical Alliance, an accredited NGO with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations