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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 37, New Delhi, August 29, 2020

“Kandhamal Never Again, Never Anywhere” - Appeal on 12th Anniversary of the Pogrom in Kandhamal

Friday 28 August 2020

Document and Appeal

REMEMBERING KANDHAMAL

“Kandhamal Never Again, Never Anywhere”

The National Solidarity Forum, representing 70 national and regional organisations, has issued the following Appeal to observe the 12th Kandhamal Day anniversary on 25th August 2020. The Forum observes the pogrom against Christians in the Kandhamal district of Orissa masterminded by the Sangh Parivar, with the then BJD-BJP coalition government looking on. “Kandhamal Never Again, Never Anywhere” has been the anniversary slogan ever since. NSF’s appeal is signed by its core committee consisting of . with core team members; Dr. Ram Puniyani, Dr. John Dayal, Willy D’Costa, KP Sasi, Dr. Stanley, Dhirendra Panda and Ajaya Kumar Singh. The following is the text of the appeal:

KANDHAMAL DAY MEMORIAL

We hope you remember the diabolic attacks on Christians in Kandhamal, Odisha in two consecutive years 2007 & 2008. The well planned attack on Christmas eve of 2007 was a forewarning of what was to come within months. Barely after eight days after the celebration of Independence Day, India witnessed the organized communal attacks on Christians, the biggest in the history of India during the last three centuries, that began in Kandhamal and immediately spread to different parts of Odisha and other states.

Over 395 churches and worship places which belonged to the Adivasi Christians and Dalit Christians were destroyed, around 6,500 houses were destroyed, over 100 people were killed, over 40 women were subjected to rape, molestation and humiliation and several educational, social service and health institutions were destroyed and looted. More than 75,000 people have been displaced. Several cases of forced conversion to Hinduism have been reported.

During the communal violence in Kandhamal, there have been more than 3,300 complaints, but only 820 odd FIRs were registered. The rest of the complaints were not even registered. Among these complaints, only 518 cases were charge sheeted. The remaining cases were treated as false reports. And out of these 518 cases, 247 cases disposed of. The rest of the cases are pending before the sessions and magistrate’s courts. And among those cases which have been disposed of, many are already acquitted. According to study conducted by Supreme Court Adv Vrinda Grover and Law Prof Saumya Uma, it is reported that the conviction rate is as low as 5.13% of the charge sheeted cases. If you take complaints as a yardstick of justice process, it is just around 1% only.

None of the criminals responsible for destruction are in jail today. The murderers, rapists, looters and destroyers are today running scot free. However, seven innocent persons in jail for 11 years with fabricated cases, have come on a bail

On August 2, 2016, the Supreme Court led by Justice TS Thakur and Justice Uday Lalit mentioned in their judgement that the quantum and scope for compensation was not satisfactory and found that the court also found it disturbing that the offenders of law were not booked and ordered to review 315 cases of communal violence that were filed. The cases are still not yet reopened even after four years as Supreme Court has not set any deadline. There are houses, churches, institutions and volunteer organisations, whose properties destroyed were never found in the compensation list. There are many yet to receive the house damage compensation despite the SC order. Assets and shops of thousands of people were not listed nor considered.

It is a tragedy that even after 12 years; there are hundreds of families are not able to return back to their ancestral villages for fear of losing life. This has taken a huge toll on their lives. The displaced ones within the districts now live in new colonies without access to resources for livelihood and life. The migrants, who left the district for life & livelihood are caught up badly with the pandemic COVID 19. The widows, the relatives of those killed are fighting a court battle as well as survival besides the fear of the fanatics’ threats.

The Survivors have the following demands:

1. Implementation of Supreme Court Verdict of August 2nd, 2016: Reopen of 315 closed/acquitted cases of violence and completion of compensation support

2. Constitute a Task Force to monitor the cases, Initiate & ensure Witnesses Protection Mechanism, Ensure Police officers for free and fair investigation to reopen the cases & appoint impartial and special prosecutors for the cases

3. Enhance up to 15 lakh for the death compensation in line of Muzaffarnagar violence cases. Enlist the dead, not made into death list for compensation and for criminal justice delivery system

4. Book state and non-state actors’ perpetrators involved in the attacks;

5. Announce special package for repair and reconstruction of houses as recommended in a study by former UN Special Rapporteur, Miloon Kothari up to 5 lakh and compensate those who lost their businesses. Enlist those who are not missed out by acts of commissions and omissions for swift compensation packages.

6. Immediately establish Odisha Minority Commission

7. Facilitate Minority schemes and scholarship in time bound manner and hold the officials responsible for any lapses and delays in implementations.

8. Ensure minority community presence in important administrative machinery to ward off biased decision as well as for harmonious and participatory decision processes.

9. Scrap Odisha anti-conversion law and Presidential Order 1950 para 3 to make religion neutral and delink it from affirmative action

10. Constitute Citizens and community interface with the administration for effectively combating the communal forces

On the call of the National Solidarity Forum many leaders, academicians and activists visited Kandhamal to show solidarity during Kandhamal Day; Aruna Roy, Suhashini Ali, Brinda Karat, Mani Shankar Aiyar, Annie Raja, Medha Patkar, Mohammad Salim, Harsh Mander, Teesta Setalvad, Kavita Krishnan, Prafulla Samantara and many other eminent citizens.

Justice AP Shah, Javed Akhtar, Mahesh Bhat, Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat, KP Krishnan, Harsh Mander, Mahesh Bhat, Miloon Kothari, Syeeda Hamid, Sukumar Muralidhar, Vahida Nainar, Vinod Raina, D. Raja, Swamy Agnivesh, Shabnam Hashmi, Collins Gonsalves, Adv Raju Ramachandran, Anil Choudhury, Paul Divakar have lent their voices and were part of interfaces.

Important resources on the Kandhamal journey include: White Papers by John Dayal in Tehelka; Kandhamal: The Law Must Change its Course by Vrinda Grover; Kandhamal: Waiting for Justice edited by Vahida, Nainar, Vrinda Grover & Saumya Uma; Kandhamal: Introspection of Initiative for Justice 2007-2015 by Vrinda Grover & Saumya Uma; Kandhamal: Unjust Compensation by Miloon Kothari & Shivani Choudhry; Documentary: Kandhamal: Voices from the Ruins, by KP Sasi; Exhibitions by Shabnam Hashmi; Photographs by Sashi Memmury; Photo Essay: Joe Athialy;

The late Justice Hospet Suresh, Teesta Setalvad, SB Sreekumar IPS and John Dayal led first fact finding team in the aftermath of first violence in 2007.

It is time for us to reflect on what Kandhamal meant people of India — Dalits, Adivasis, minorities and other marginalised sections.

‘There are reported cases of 122 violence against Christians; of which only 23 FIRs registered until June this year 2020. The latest incident involving murder of a young Christian boy named Somaru Madkami in Odisha to instances of physical assaults, threats and intimidation by family members and villagers alike and social ostracism. The year 2019 witnessed at least 328 incidents of targeted violence against Christians. The victims of these violent attacks included 275 tribal, 55 Dalits, 164 women and 117 children. Out of these, 131 incidents involved dereliction of duty by law enforcement authorities. The attacks on Christians have increased consistently like 292 in 2018, 240 in 2017, 208 in 2016, 177 in 2015 and 147 in 2014. As a matter of fact, according to the World Watch List of 50 countries, India is the 10th most dangerous country in the world to live in for Christians as against 28th in the year 2014’, reports by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) — India

It is not just the Christian minority, but other vulnerable groups bear the brunt of hate crimes. “Amnesty International India documented 721 such incidents between 2015 and 2018. In 2018 year, itself, it tracked 218 hate crimes, 142 of which were against Dalits, 50 against Muslims, 40 against women, and 8 each against Christians, Adivasi and transgenders”. (The Hindu; 10 July, 2019)

Since 2009, people of Kandhamal and outside have been organizing 25th August as Kandhamal Day each year. This year on August 25, 2020 will be the completion of twelve years of Kandhamal communal violence and are still struggling for Peace, Justice and Harmony.

We at the National Solidarity Forum, a network of over 70 organisations in India, appeal to all of you to observe Kandhamal Day on August 25th onwards for a fortnight and support the victims and survivors, whose Freedom of conscience and Religion violated. The organisers intend to promote India democratic & pluralistic values as pronounced by the Constitution of India and good practices.

Therefore, we appeal to you to:

  • Support and contribute the struggle of the survivors for justice, peace and harmony and observe Kandhamal Day in your area;
  • Organise Webinar events, press release programmes, candle lights in your own houses for harmony;
  • Organise film screenings in your area to spread the word. The films on this issue and written materials on this issue can be distributed if you contact the people noted above;
  • Use social media and mainstream media to spread awareness on this issue and share information to maximum number of people within your network. Use media for photo & art exhibitions.

We are sure that if all humanitarian forces join hands to build peace, justice and harmony in this country, we will be able to achieve results in these dark times and protect the values of Indian Constitution so that no such violence takes place in India.

National Solidarity Forum:

Dr. Ram Puniyani: ram.puniyani[at]gmail.com

Dr. John Dayal: john.dayal[at]gmail.com

KP Sasi: kpsasi36[at]gmail.com

Willy D’Costa: willyindia[at]gmail.com

 Dr. Stanley William: stanley111[at]gmail.com

Dhirendra Panda: dhirendrapanda[at]gmail.com

Ajaya Kumar Singh: ajaysingho[at]gmail.com

Manoj Kumar Nayak: jvmanojcc[at]gmail.com

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