India: No justice for Christians raped and murdered

John Dayal

The new year should bring an important priority: justice for the victims of the anti-Christian massacres that occurred in Orissa, northern India.

This is what the Indian Christians gathered in the All India Christian Council (AICC), an organization committed to the defense of rights of believers in India demand. 

Figures provided by local Christians in Orissa speak for themselves: more than 3,500 complaints presented after the massacres of 2008, 827 cases registered by the police. The number of final reports submitted to the courts after the surveys are 315 cases and those which "ended with a sentence" are only 68, with 412 people sentenced with a minimum punishment. The cases closed with an acquittal were 140 people and in all 1,900 were acquitted. The cases still awaiting trial, three years after the tragic events, are 304.

The figures say that "justice is still a huge problem for some 56,000 Christians for whom life has changed dramatically since August 2008", says John Dayal, AICC Executive Secretary in a statement. "Aggressors - he recalls - asked them to convert to Hinduism and burn a Bible as a sign. They did not do it and chose to escape. In 400villages the Christian presence was completely cancelled, more than 5,600 homes and about 295 churches were burned, hundreds of deaths, some women, including at least one nun, were raped".

Tension remains high in Orissa, aggravated by the murder of a legal assistant, and former Catholic catechist, Rabindra Parichha, who was involved in the protection of witnesses. Violence continues: before Christmas, in the village of Bujlimendi, Kaleswar Digal's house, a 45-year-old Christian with a wife and three children, was burned down shortly after midnight. Now the 25 Christian families in the village with 100 houses live in fear.

Rabindra Parichha is the third Christian leader to be killed in 2011, after the murder of two Protestant pastors, Saul Pradhan from Banjamaha (Raikia) and Minoketan Nayak from Midiakia (Baliguda).

According to eyewitnesses, Manoj Pradhan, a member of the Legislative Assembly of the state of Orissa, and the first defendant in several cases of murder, went from one village to another instigating anti-social elements to "eliminate all the Christian leaders of Kandhamal". The police - the AICC denounces - is also deaf to the complaints of hate speech, that regularly occurr during demonstrations on behalf of Hindu extremist groups.

"The saddest thing in Orissa today is the lack of dispensation of justice, especially in the courts, where not a single person was previously convicted of murder, especially because the witnesses were forced to remain silent and the police presented little evidence, after shoddy investigation", concludes Dayal. 

Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.


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