Friday, January 18, 2008
Thursday, January 17, 2008
16th January 2008:
The Orissa violence against Christians is hardly erased from our memory and yet again the Hindutva brigade is doing what it does best: targeting minority communities in different parts of the country.
Bothali Village, Chhattisgarh
The latest incident comes from Chhattisgarh, where in Bothali village in Dhamtari district about 100 Hindutva activists from Dharma sena (Religious army) attacked a Christian meeting causing huge damage to property and people.
A three day prayer meeting was going on at Bothali village and after the meeting was closed and people were having tea and snacks suddenly 3 trucks carrying about 100 Dharma Sena activists descended on the venue and started vandalizing. They dragged the Pastor Mohan C Thomas, from Sector 10, Bhilai, and started beating him. He received grave injuries.
The attackers proceeded to burn the shamiyana, pandal and other things. They also burned a fiat car and a Honda motorcycle during this time. Reports say that about 70,000 Rupees in cash was kept in the car which got burnt along with it.
It was not that police protection was not asked for by the Christians. They had applied to the local police station to give them protection during the prayer meetings but in vain.
Meanwhile, in Kondagaon, also in Chhattisgarh, the police arrested 7 Christians on false complaints from Dharma Sena activists alleging that a girl died after local Christians had prayed for her. Some of the names of the people arrested are Laxman Patel, Shyamlal Patel, Ramlal Patel, Charan Patel and Malik Patel.
The trouble started on the 9th January 2008, but reconciliation was reached on the 12th January 2008 due to the intervention of the local police. Soon after that, according to reports, pressure came from the capital for the police to take action against Christians in the area. So the Christians were called one by one on the pretext of questioning and arrested.
They were charged under sections 295(a) of the IPC and under section 3 and 4 of the freedom of religion bill and put under arrest. Last heard their bail application was rejected by the lower court and they were preparing to file a bail application in the session’s court.
14th January 2008:
RSS activists kidnapped Mr. Raju Soni, a Christian, from his home at about 8:00 pm. They had been keeping tabs on him for some time and on the pretext of speaking to him, they led him away from his home.
When till about 11:30 pm he did not return, his wife, also a Christian, got suspicious and went to the local police station to lodge a complaint. She found her husband over there, sitting amidst local policemen and small time RSS politicians, being pressured to give statements against local Pastors.
She was not allowed to speak to him or to meet him, but was treated rudely and turned away from the police station and asked to come again in the morning. But Raju Soni was detained in the police station for the night.
Sources confirm that Raju Soni was forced to give a statement against Christian leaders in the area that night, which the RSS activists plan to use against pastors in the area. Some pastors have even gone in hiding for the fear of being dragged into false cases.
Raju Soni was detained in the police station till afternoon the other day and was released only when he and his wife consented to the pressure put on them by RSS activists and local police to change his religion to Hinduism.
He was then taken to a temple nearby and forcibly made a Hindu. His forehead was smeared by Tilak and he was made to recite Hindu prayers. The couple now full of fear is not willing to speak to anyone.
What is surprising in this incident is the involvement of the local police. In BJP ruled states, it seems all is possible.
Barwani, Madhya Pradesh
11th January 2008
A minor dispute between brothers turned communal when one brother was incited by the RSS activists to file a case not only against his brother who was a Christian but also against his pastor and other members of the Philadelphia Church.
9 people were arrested under Sections 151, 294, 323 and 506 of IPC and Section 3 of the Dharma Swatantrata Adhiniyam and were kept under custody for 5 days. It was only after 6 days that they were able to finally get a bail.
Thursday, January 10, 2008
Greetings From Orissa ! This is just to say that God was so gracious to me and our team during our visit to different areas in Kandhamal (Phulbani) district. I reached Bhubaneswar on 5th morning and after a few preparations left for G. Udayagiri (the Phulbani Diocese Headquarters) with my friend Mr. B.D. Das, an Orissa High Court advocate. Two other representatives of the National Council of Churches in India Ms. Sagarika and Mr. Bharat joined us at a place near Berhampur. We reached G. Udayagiri after midnight and were received by Bishop B.K. Nayak. We came to know that curfew was declared at Balliguda and Barakhama from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm on the Sunday. Therefore at 8:00 am on Sunday were proceeded to visit areas that were free from curfew. (A Christian journalist Mr. Anto working for the Council for World Mission, Bishop B.K. Nayak and Mr. Pitara Digal from Kalinga joined our group). We visited Kirpakia, Sirtiguda, Simonbadi, Daringbadi, Kandpa, Dasingbadi, Shikarmoha and Brahmonigaon. Initially we found most of the places deserted but the people started to gather around us when they came to know we were representing the church. Every individual was eager to narrate stories of terror, anguish and suffering. Many of the them couldn’t hold their tears as they talked to us. We took photographs and vides at each place and collected necessary data and documents and returned to G.Udayagiri in the late evening. We were so shocked and disturbed to see the church buildings and people houses burnt and their belongings totally destroyed sleep didn’t come so easily.
On Monday we left for Barakhama knowing well that many important state and national leaders were denied entry to Balliguda and Barakhama. However, we went ahead trusting in God’s providence and protection. We reached Barakhama without any hurdle and went directly see the Churches first. The churches were badly damaged and rendered totally irreparable. Within few minutes a big number of Christians belonging to different denominations gathered. I could recognize most of them and even remembered their names. I didn’t quite know how to greet them as we were meeting just after Christian and New Year but in a sad situation. The local leaders told us how they had to run for their lives when thousands of armed attackers came rushing towards the church. We divided our team and started visiting different areas assessing the damage. Most houses were not only burnt. NOTHING WAS LEFT TO BE RECOVERED. We saw rice-grains still burning (after a days) in two houses. Two tractor, one auto rickshaw, Motor Cycles, sewing machines bicycles, T.V. other valuable equipments were destroyed by fire. The attackers plundered the houses and took a way money, ornaments and other valuable. When the time of our departure came we gathered to pray. I could hear some people sobbing during the prayer. Our next visit was to the Balliguda Churches. We visited the Balliguda CNI church, the Roman Catholic Church (St. Paul) and the Convent. In the R.C. Church we were pained to see not only the statue of Jesus and Mary burnt and broken but also the Holy communion vessels destroyed by fire in front of the church.
The whole campus of the Convent was a scene of great destruction. The Clinic, Computer Center and the Children’s Hostel were attacked with vengeance. We talked to the sisters who were inside the building when the attacks took place. The miscreants put fire to the ambulance and threw a gas cylinder into it hoping it would burnt. The vehicle was completely burnt but fortunately the gas cylinder didn’t burst. The Convent staff were seen busy cleaning the Hostel as the children had come back from hiding. The sisters told us that they were not going to leave under threat as they felt they were needed most to serve at Balliguda.
As we left Balliguda our hearts were burdened with so many stories and impressions. We realized we had to get back to Cuttack and send out photos and reports to all of you to know the actual situation. We came to Bherhampur last night and met the local church leaders this morning. Now we are back at Cuttack compiling our report before I return to Amirtsar tomorrow. It is already 3:00 am so I need to stop and send you the same. I will edit the video and send you a copy only if you wish to receive one.
Please pray for the affected people as they are still traumatized. The relief is scanty and the people are in dire need of blankets, clothes, soap, milk powder and other essential commodities. Distribution of relief materials is banned by the Govt. so the urgent need is to collect money and hand over to the local relief co-ordination Committee either directly or through the Utkal Christian Council (regional branch of the NCCI) so that people can by things for themselves.
So far the Govt. has not made any announcement for the reconstruction of the church buildings. I feel we need not beg the Govt. to rebuild our churches. We can do it ourselves.
Please circulate this letter among all your contacts.
Bishop P.K. Samantaroy
ORISSA COMMUNAL VIOLENCE
1. It appears that the violence was a pre-planned act . The district collector and superintendent of police of Kandhamal district and local police had prior knowledge of a group of people intent to fan communal riot. However they opted to be silent in stead of taking any preventing action. The district administration is equally responsible for gross negligence of duty .
2. It appears that the furniture of the Churches were dragged out, lit into a grotesque sculpture in the presence of the police . The police witnessed the entire episode , remained silent and allowed it happen. When the Roman Catholic church was burnt at Baliguda , opposite the street the fire station witnessed the incident, but did not intervene. This shows the step motherly attitude of the district administration to the minority community.
3. It appears that till date people remain still missing. The post violence trauma has resulted many people suffering from psychiatric problems .The official deaths are three and unofficial sources claim much more than that . however the death counts are yet to finalized by the administration. This shows the inefficiency of the district administration.
4. It appears that the administration has failed to adequately respond to immediate needs of people. Relief provided by the Government to the victim is grossly inadequate . One thin blanket for one family consisting of 6 members are just inadequate . Rice and Dal is being distributed in the relief centers for adults. No provision have been made for the babies and lactating mothers. The victims , who have taken shelter in forest and schools need soap, oil and winter clothing. The administration does it allow any NGO and churches to intervene in this area for the reason best known to them. Confidence of the minority community is lost for this act of the government. From the past 10 years records revealed that this kind of situation had also prevailed earlier , but because of right kind of intervention by the district administration the situation was brought to normalcy within few days. For centuries the church has been playing pivotal role in philanthropic activities. It had also intervened for relief and rehabilitation of the communal victims irrespective of caste , colour and religion. But the present administration neither distributes the relief properly nor it allows other to do it .
5. It was reported that the police refuses to accept first information reports (FIR) from the Christians . It is also reported that no FIR copy is being given to the informant as per law. People still live in fear psychosis to go to police station . It is also reported that false cases have been registered against Christians U/S 302 and 395 and many other sections under the IPC. In a riot hit area like Barakhama, if thousands of people armed with deadly weapons attack the village, the only option for the victim residents to flee from the site to save their lives . It is obvious that during riot when people climb to the roof , there is probability of causality. It is impossible for handful of people to face thousands of riotous people and to escape from there hand after killing a person . Therefore the allegation and cases filed against church leaders are not sustainable. On the other hand in Brahmunigaon, cases have been registered U/S 395 ( Dacoity ) which is far from belief. In case of communal violence , there can be attack and counter attack , but not certainly Dacoity. On the other hand the police has not registered the case with proper section against those who attacked Christians. Hence church leaders who have been falsely implicated because of false FIR will suffer unnecessarily. Therefore the FIR has to be challenged and Criminal Cases be filed before the SDJM with proper section of the IPC against the accused persons .
6. It was reported that the following have been damaged/ destroyed . This list may change after the final assessment is made.
Churches destroyed -7
Village churches - 53
Parsonage/ Presbytery - 4
Homes / Hostel - 6
Training Center - 5
Houses destroyed - 447
(319 Houses - Barakhama, 31 Christian – Brahminigaon, 67 Hindu Houses - Brahminigaon Oriyasahi, 30 Christian houses – Brahminigaon, Ullipadar)
Convents - 5 ( Balliguda Pobingia Phulbani Brahminigaon Sankharakhole)
NGO office destroyed - 1
Shops destroyed - 100.
Vehicle destroyed - 3 jeeps, 2 tractors, 1 three wheeler
This list does not include loss of other personal valuables such as jewelry, T.V. sets, furniture, bicycles, stored food grains for the whole year and livestock.
B. D. Das
BHOPAL: More than 250 people from different walks of life staged a dharna (sit in) at Roshanpura Square here on Wednesday to protest against the communal violence in Orissa and Dewas, M.P.
The dharna, according to the participants was also staged to exhort all the peace loving people to come forward to protect the nation’s democracy.
The communal violence at Orissa and Dewas had shown the ugly face of communal hatred. This should be nipped in the bud, said, Javed, a member of a social organisation Yuva Samvad.
According to him, unless, the right thinking people come forward to raise voice against such elements trying to divide the people on communal line, it would spell disaster to the country’s democracy and its pious tenets of secularism.
The troublemakers, he feared were trying to infuse the poison of communal hatred as a preparation trial to the Assembly elections scheduled in the state later this year. He appealed to all the right thinking people to fight against the menace of communalism in unison.
Kumit Singh, Secretary, Sarokar,( an Organization working for communal harmony), wanted stern action against such people and organizations which spread disharmony in the society.
“Such people are mentally ill we need to treat them”,she added. The communal violence in Orissa where Christians were forced to flee in the forest on the eve Christmas was a shame on the nation as a whole.
The hooligans besides killing people also set Christians house, Churches, convent and other establishment on fire, he regretted. So was the cases of communal violence in the state including the recent incident in Dewas against Muslims. It is to be recalled that in Devas recent communal violence was the result of the killing of a former functionary of an Organization. This was proved that the real culprits were belonging to the same religion but to insight violence it was looked from the communal point of view Such violence, she said would be curbed only when right thinking people come forward to stop the trouble mongers.
Those trying to divide the county on communal lines would not succeed said L S Hadenia adding that the country was secular and would continue to remain so.
According to advocate J P Danopay, the BJP government in the state was trying to follow the Gujarat model to retain power in the state. The BJP, he suspected would adopt an aggressive Hindutva in ensuing assembly polls in the state.
The spokesperson of Catholic Church in M.P, Father Anand Muttugal said, the BJP’s success in Gujarat was the charisma of Chief Minister Narendra Modi and development he had ushered in. The hard core Hindutva, he said failed in Uttar Pradesh and other states. However, he cautioned the people against the gradual rise of communal hatred in country.
Speaking on the issue L.S Herdenia said,” those trying to use communal violence will not succeed in it because the mind of India is secular.”
Round fourteen organizations together are organizing this Dharna. One of the convenors of this movement Upasana says,” we are planning for a long term programme to awake the conscience of the people to resist communal disturbances in state.” The important organizations working are Rashtriya Secular Manj , Yuva Samvad , Progressive Writers Forum , and Madhya Pradesh Isai Maha Saba , Quami Ekta .
Fr. Anand Muttungal
PRO & Spokesperson
Catholic Church, M.P & C.G
Thu, 2008-01-10 02:36
By Tukoji R. Pandit - Syndicate Features
For a country that swears by secularism attacks on the minority communities is a matter of deep concern. The outside world cares little if these attacks are sporadic or frequent. For the world it matters even less if the offence against the minorities comes from the state or a small organised section of fundamentalists among the majority community, even if that is true in most cases.
The history of Hindu-Muslim clashes is old and looks intractable. Though few and far between, there have been Hindu-Sikh clashes. And in recent years the Christian community has also been subjected to frequent attacks in a number of states. It hardly lessens the guilt that the clashes are more or less confined to small tribal belts in one or more states. The crimes against Christians have included murder, arson and rape with the law enforcing agencies unable to take preventive action despite intelligence warnings of impending trouble.
Christianity in India is nearly as old as the religion itself. The oppressive caste system in the majority community was one of the factors that led to its expansion in India over the centuries. The community has a high percentage of literacy and is known to be peaceful and docile with no history of enmity with other communities.
Orissa had shocked much of India and the outside world in 1999 when a 58-year old Australian missionary, who had worked among leprosy sufferers for 34 years, and his two sons aged 10 and 8 were burnt alive by a Bajrang Dal mob, led by Dara Singh who saw his death sentence commuted to life imprisonment even as he refuses to express any regrets for what he did.
More shocking was the effort of the BJP-led NDA government of the time ruling at the centre not to take a serious note of the crime because the perpetrators belonged to the Sangh Parivar to which the dominant party in the ruling coalition owed allegiance. One union minister in the coalition, a Christian to boot, appeared eager to dilute the allegations against the Bajrang Dal. The then prime minister tried to sidestep the issue by saying that the matter needed a national debate; a formula that he wanted applied to Gujarat too. He later went on to claim that reducing communal violence was one of the great achievements of his government!
The Orissa incident was condemned worldwide, much to the embarrassment of the country though not the Sangh Parivar. The Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused the NDA government of failing to prevent violence against Christians and compounding that lapse by ‘exploiting’ communal tensions for ‘political ends’. In a 37-page report, it said that attacks on Christians had increased ‘significantly after the BJP came to power (at the centre) in 1998’.
The BJP-led government at the centre has since gone but that has apparently not reduced the tension between the Hindu fundamentalists and Christians in the tribal belts of Orissa as well as some nearby states in eastern and central India. With nearly 95 percent of its population Hindu, the minorities constitute a very small number of Orissa’s population. Even among the scheduled tribes in the state, over 88 percent are Hindus and only a little over 7 percent are Christians.
Attacks on such tiny population in one state cannot be justified on any ground. The entire tribal belt in Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgrah and Gujarat, where Hindu-Muslim tensions have taken a dangerous turn in recent years, is equally afflicted by Hindu-Christian tensions. Rajasthan is another state to witness Christian bashing and not just in remote villages but also in some of the big towns.
If the Sangh Parivar is to be believed proselytiser priests are at the root of the clashes with the Christians. The Christians deny the charge that they offer inducements or force the largely illiterate but poor and neglected people in the tribal belts to convert. There is no justification for use of force or even any kind of inducement to convert a person. But by the same token ‘re-conversion’ can also be faulted. Several Indian states, Orissa among them, have laws that ban forcible conversions. How many times have acts of ‘forcible’ conversions been brought to the notice of police?
But assuming that even the police cannot altogether prevent conversions that result out of ‘force’ or some allurement, there is a more important related aspect to the proselytising controversy. Even the Sangh Parivar says that almost all the cases of ‘forcible’ conversion are reported from among the Adivasis who are among the most backward. The booming economy has not made much difference to their lot. They are not considered part of the mainstream and they hardly command any respect from the caste-ridden society.
If anyone or any group is really concerned about the Adivasis they should be really emulating the Christian missionaries in reaching out to them, spreading education and attending to their sick and hungry. It is only in the last few years that the Sangh Parivar has tried to reach out to the Adivasis but with a political agenda—wean them away from rivals and enlist them as supporters.
The Sangh Parivar may have opened schools in the tribal belt of a few states but it is yet to match the missionaries’ efforts in opening health care centres. No Sangh Parivar member has, for instance, rendered the kind of service to the lepers in Orissa’s Adivasi belt that Graham Staines, the Australian missionary killed in Orissa in 1999, did?
If Hindu fundamentalists are really concerned about forcible conversion they have to adopt a two-pronged strategy to stop it. Give the poor their self-respect and meet their needs for some of the basic facilities like schools and hospitals—and jobs.
Unprovoked attacks on the Christian community whether in a remote village or in towns will not serve any purpose other than defaming the country and weakening its roots.
- Syndicate Feature -
A group of Hindu activists attacked a group of Christian families on Sunday in Kharbar District of Udaipur, Rajasthan, in India.
The incident took place at around 9.00pm local time during a prayer meeting which was being conducted at the house of a believer named Naru, reports the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI).
Around three Christian families had come to attend the meeting.
The attackers surrounded the house and then barged inside the room and started beating the families present.
Several people were injured severely in the incident, and Naru was tied down in a room by the activists.
The local Christians are trying to contact the Inspector General of that area and are also in the process of sending a report to the state minority commission.
The local police have refused to release any information regarding the incident.
The EFI's General Secretary, Rev Dr Richard Howell, "Pray for the injured believers and that the miscreants would be caught and be brought to justice."
Wednesday, January 09, 2008
Written by AICC
See www.indianchristians.in for more details
Tuesday, 08 January 2008
RESEARCH & FACT FINDING REPORT BASED ON VISITS TO KANDHAMAL, ORISSA IN THE AFTERMATH OF ANTI-CHRISTIAN ATTACKS
Jan. 7, 2008
PREFACE: From January 3-5, 2008, a fact finding team from the All India Christian Council (aicc) Orissa chapter surveyed extensively & visited all the villages and places in Orissa attacked since December 24, 2007. Team members included: Rev. Dr. Pran Ranjan Parichha, aicc Orissa Chapter General Secretary; Mr. Harish Chandra Arisalya, Human Rights Activist; Rev. Abhiram Keshari Singh, Associate Secretary, aicc Balasore District Chapter; Rev. Samaresh Naik., Secretary, aicc Balasore District Chapter.
They found that the VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad) instigated the attacks and carefully targeted Christians throughout Kandhamal District, Orissa. Most of the Christians were Dalits. Here is a summary of findings from spot visits, interviews, and personal talks with victims as written by Mr. Harish. [Note: we have used the local spellings for some villages which may not be the official English version.]
B. Seriously Injured
C. Other Violence
D. Slogans Used During Attacks
E. Weapons Used by Attackers
F. VHP Leaders
G. Disturbing Facts About the Attacks
H. Police Response
I. The Scenario Today
There are different figures given by different people on the number of deaths from the minority (Christian) community. No figure is wrong, in a sense. The ground reality is many people are still underground or hiding literally in the forests to escape attacks & possible death from VHP cadre. Those who are missing in the villages may be alive in the forests or at nearby villages, or killed and their dead bodies are taken away or kept secret by the VHP cadre. This truth can never be ruled out.
During our visit we have interviewed and found names of four confirmed dead.
1. Bhogra Naik – Male – 50+ years – village Barkhama. I have visited his broken house and met with his eldest son. Photograph of his son is available. He was a Christian and killed by the VHP cadre.
2. Tileshwar Mistri – Male – 42 years – village Kasupanka GP, Hatimunda. He was killed by the VHP mob.
3. Rajesh – Male – 22 years - from Alanjori GP. Christian young man killed by the VHP mob.
4. Kundan Mantri – Male – 21 years – Jholasahi village. Died of firing (gunshot).
The VHP cadre is making all efforts to hide / destroy dead bodies of Christians killed by them to avoid death record.
B. SERIOUSLY INJURED:–
6 (SIX) Christians were strangulated and fired at by the VHP cadre.
They are hospitalized.
1. Sumanta Naik
2. Abhinay Naik
3. Dipti Senapati
4. Amar Naik
5. Kishore Baliyarsingh
6. Remez Singh
C. OTHER VIOLENCE: DESTROYED, LOOTED, ROBBED & MOLESTED:-
We have numerous pictures of property that was destroyed, burnt, and made to ashes. You will see only heaps of ashes, charcoal, and marks of black smoke in many churches and Christian institutions.
Total no. of churches burnt, destroyed:- 95
This includes all village churches and churches of all denominations.
Total no. of houses set on fire and completely destroyed:- 730
(In Barkhama village alone:- 415 houses.)
In most of the villages the VHP miscreants not only destroyed the houses but looted gold jewelry, cash, and valuables.
They did not spare ladies. Whomever they caught, they molested.
D. SLOGANS USED DURING ATTACKS:-
We have asked at all the villages regarding the slogans given by the attackers. Following are the slogans given by them during and after attack and killings. This is a fact.
A) Bajrang Dal Jai [Hail Bajrang Dal! (Bajrang Dal is the youth wing of the VHP)]
B) Hindu Hindu Bhai [Hindu Hindu Brother]
C) Jai Shriram [Hail Shriram! (Shriram is a Hindu deity)]
D) Jai Shiva Shambu [Hail Shiva Shambu (Shiva Shambu is also a Hindu deity)]
E) Jai Bajrang Dal [Hail Bajrang Dal!]
F) Only Hindus to stay here – no Christians to stay here
G) Bharatmata ki jai [Hail mother India!]
H) Bajrang Dal ki jai [Hail Bajrang Dal]
I) Kill Christians
E. WEAPONS USED BY ATTACKERS:-
The VHP cadre attacked with guns, knives, trishuls (a tri-tipped spear), bombs, and other lethal weapons. Many of them had tied a yellow ribbon on their heads and put vermillion on their foreheads.
F. VHP LEADERS:-
Based on our research, the following people/groups were behind the attacks.
1. Chitta Bindhani – this man is not a local. He is not from Kandhamal district. He is actually from Jajpur district which is part of the coastal belt. This belt is the stronghold of VHP.
2. Bhagaban Panda – VHP leader of Kandhamal who co-masterminded this operation.
Both were staying adjacent to Hanuman Mandir at Balliguda town. They are not locals but settled in Kandhamal and have been instigating threats against innocent tribals and Dalits for some time.
3. Kui Samaj - local leaders of the alliance of VHP which agitates for caste and reservation status for the Kui speaking people.
G. DISTURBING FACTS ABOUT THE ATTACKS:-
FACT - 1. BARKHAMA CHRISTIANS SUFFER GREATEST ATTACK
Barkhama is a village about 12 kms away from Balliguda town sub division in Kandhamal. This village has Hindu majority but there are 450 Christian families. Out of 450, 415 houses belonging to Christians were completely smashed. This village has 7 churches of different denominations. All churches had well constructed buildings and six of the seven were seriously damaged.
FACT – 2. POLICE INACTION AT BARKHAMA
Barkhama village was attacked two times – on 24th & 25th December 2007. The sub division police head office is only about 12 kms away at Balliguda. But the police came only on the 25th night at 11 pm. They took no action but remained as silent spectators and went back. This was the exact repetition of the Gujarat carnage and its methodology.
At Daringbadi, people also witnessed police watching vandalism silently as if they are watching a Hindi movie. This also was reported in Baminigaon. These are clear examples of police helping the VHP in the operation.
FACT – 3. CONSPIRACY TO HIDE DEAD BODIES
We believe there is a conspiracy to hide the bodies of Christians killed by the VHP cadre in order to destroy evidence of deaths in the Christian community. Many are missing -- both adults and children -- in every village.
FACT – 4. PLACE OF WORSHIP VS. CREMATION OF THE DEAD
Every year at Barkhama village, all the 7 churches join together and conduct a combined Christmas Eve & Christmas Day service on open ground belonging to the church. This year just as the service was over on Christmas Eve the VHP cadre attacked the congregation.
They burnt the pulpit and ransacked the church buildings. On that day an old Hindu person had died naturally. In order to desecrate the place of worship of Christians the VHP cadre brought the dead body and cremated right in front of the pulpit. The ashes of the dead body remain there until today. We have a photograph. Yesterday, 6th Jan the Hindu community had a puja (worship) to mark the 10th day of the death. [Due to curfews and other restrictions, the celebration was delayed slightly.] This was not at the church ground but was intended as an insult and disrespect to the faith of the Christian community.
FACT – 5. FIRST DEATH
Bhogra Naik, a Christian, was killed and his body cut into three pieces. I talked to his son, Bipse Naik, and visited his destroyed house. The dead body was retrieved by his family and buried on his own land.
FACT – 6. PASTOR ADAM NAIK: EYE WITNESS
Pastor Adam Naik of Barkhama village was the chief speaker of that combined Christmas service. He ran for his life and is alive today. We talked to him over the phone. Both Bhogra Naik and Adam Naik were running for their lives. But Bhogra Naik could not run fast enough and succumbed to death by the VHP cadre. Adam Naik saw Bhogra brutally killed and heard him screaming for help.
FACT – 7. PASTOR'S WIFE MISSING OR DEAD
Pastor Krushna Chandra Digal and his family with three kids left home and ran for their lives. All went to the nearby forest in different directions with the crowd. They lost track of each other. After two days in the forest, the pastor started searching for his family. One by one he found his three children but till today his wife, Mrs. Sabita Digal, is missing. She might be killed or alive -- nobody knows. This is only one example, and there are more people. This is the reason no one can give now a definite figure on the death toll.
FACT – 8. NO MEN AT BAMINIGAON VILLAGE
Baminigaon village was the epicenter of this violence against Christians. Today you will see only women at the village and relief camps, but no men. All the men have gone into hiding in the forest to save their lives and to avoid the police, atrocity, or arrest. Nobody knows how many of them are alive in the forests.
FACT – 9. TIGER & BEAR SIGHTED IN JUNGLE
The people of Barkhama ran for their lives to the nearby jungle (forest). The name of the jungle is Kade Dangar Hill. Many families stayed for 3 nights in the jungle. Some slept under trees and behind huge rocks. It was difficult to manage in the cold of the season. Two times they saw tigers passing by and once a bear passed by. People spent the nights unharmed. This was the testimony of Pastor Lalit's wife, Mrs.Sadhaban. She was with her 4th standard girl, Rolly.
FACT – 10. LICKING LEAVES FOR WATER
During their stay in the forest, people did not get water to drink. Adults managed but kids were helpless. So they licked the dew on the leaves of plants and trees to quench their thirst. The children survived and returned to villages, but many asked what is the government doing to help?
FACT – 11. MEDIA REPORTS
Except NDTV and ETV, the TV and print media did not seem aware of the facts. They were giving biased reports, figures, and stories from VHP sources. There was no impartial report and "news" in the true sense of the term. The ETV reporter went to the forest and covered the condition of the people hiding there. Immediately he was shifted to other place by the media. The name of the reporter is Mr.Panda. Thus, we request people to please do not rely on the facts & figure of the media.
FACT – 12. CHURCH VANDALISED AND GOAT KILLED
In Baminigaon, the epicenter of the violence, the VHP cadre attacked the Roman Catholic church and all the adjacent houses of the priest & nuns. They took away one goat from a Christian family and butchered it to get the blood. The whole mob used that blood for Tilaks (forehead marking) and shouted "Jai Bajarangbali" [Hail Bajrang Dali! – the VHP youth wing] and "Jai Shriram" [Hail Shriram! – a Hindu deity]. Later, with that blood mark on their foreheads, they started attacking & looting other Christian houses.
FACT – 13. HOLY COMMUNION TRAMPLED
While destroying the Roman Catholic church building and attacking those inside, they brought out the holy communion elements – bread, grape juice, containers, and distribution cups. They crushed these articles under their feet. This is a great barbaric and insulting act.
FACT – 14. RECONVERSION PLOT – TONSURED – GOAT BLOOD
Under Balliguda tehsil is Kutikia GP. The Christian families are very few in number here. There was a small church that was attacked. The pastor, Rev. Kalia Mani Digal, and 12 Christians were forcibly taken to a field and were tonsured (heads shaved) because they refused to deny their Christian faith. Later all of them were told to eat raw rice mixed with goat blood in order to become Hindus.
FACT – 15. OFFICIAL PERMISSION OBTAINED
The youth wing of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar Banik Sangha at Baminigaon applied to the government authorities and obtained the required permission to hold worship & meetings with P.A. system and a stage on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. In spite of that, the minority Christian community was attacked.
FACT – 16. WHO IS THIS LAKHMANANDA SARASWATI
He is not a tribal from Kondhmal district. He hails from a small village near Talcher of Dhenkanal district which is in the central part of Orissa. He murdered someone in his locality and had a fight in his family, then he ran away. Many years ago, Kondhmal was a peaceful district with tribals and Dalits. This man took shelter here and joined the VHP. He established an ashram at Chakkapada and became the mouthpiece of the VHP for Kondhmal.
FACT - 17. ONLY CHRISTIAN HOUSES WERE CAREFULLY DESTROYED
Their (VHP) strategy was so meticulous that if a Christian office (i.e. World Vision) was in a rented house of a Hindu, they did not attack that house but brought out everything on the road and then set it on fire.
H. POLICE RESPONSE:-
In all the villages we have visited, people testify that the attacks, destruction and looting was done in the presence of police. Police did not prevent the situation and they could have taken action.
There was one exception. In Balliguda town there was a police sub-inspector from the Christian community. He used to warn the Christian community of Barkhama village of a possible attack by the VHP. Even on that fateful day (Dec. 24, 2007) he told the pastors to leave the village and run for their lives. Next day the said inspector was transferred. Even today we believe the police are shielding the VHP cadre.
I. THE SCENARIO TODAY:-
The present situation in most villages is like a man-made desert. Everywhere there are heaps of ashes, charcoal, and broken pieces. People cannot believe the VHP's:-
• well planned attack
• organized vandalism
• pre-planned looting, arson & robbery
• meticulous destruction
• local police as silent spectators
• sheer devastation
• quick destruction
• barbaric mutilation
The situation right now feels like after a war. During this winter people will now be deprived of a roof above their heads. If you make a round through the villages, you will feel & hear testimony from victims that one of the following things is true:
a) India is not a democratic country or
b) there is at least no rule of law in this place
c) or Hindu fundamentalists are on the ruling throne of the nation
Many are still in hiding or missing, and there is still much fear. We appeal for assistance and justice in light of these horrible events from Dec. 24, 2007, til now, Jan. 7, 2008.
Tuesday, January 08, 2008
NEW DELHI (ICNS): The Churches of India have asked the Orissa government to allow credible organizations such as the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India and National Council of Churches of India to disburse relief in the riot-hit areas.
“We demand that credible national organizations such as CBCI and NCCI should be permitted to send their team of people to meet with the affected people to express solidarity and provide relief materials meant for all people irrespective of caste and creed,” a joint statement of the United Christian Forum comprising of National Council of Churches of India (NCCI), Catholic Bishop’s Conference of India and the Regional Utkal Christian Council said.
The note was jointly signed by Bishop DK Sahu, General Secretary, National Council of Churches in India, Archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar Archbishop Raphael Cheenath, CBCI spokesperson Rev Dr Babu Joseph and Bishop Samson Das, President Utkal Christian Council
“The hapless victims of violence had to take shelter in forests for many days without proper food and sanitation. As of now few have turned either to relief camps or to their relatives, but the situation is far from satisfactory as those in camps are receiving inadequate supply of quality food and clothing, and the living conditions are less than hygienic,” the statement said.
‘While acknowledging the steps taken by the State Government for rehabilitation package and ordering a judicial inquiry, we strongly demand for a CBI enquiry into the whole incident and fix responsibility on organizations and individuals that are behind this most unfortunate human tragedy,” it added.
The statement said the forum “takes serious note of the development in Kondmal District of Orissa where communal harmony was seriously disrupted on the occasion of Christmas 2007.
“The people of Kondmal district belonging to different religious communities have been living in peace and harmony for several decades. However with deep regret we note that the Christmas celebrations of 2007 were rudely interrupted by some lawless elements initially at Brahmingaon and the matter should have been sorted out immediately by the administration with prudence,” it said.
It noted that, “Due to lack of timely intervention by the district administration despite prior information, the situation went out of control and communal elements took the fullest advantage of the situation which resulted in large scale arson and rioting.
“We strongly condemn the violence, destruction and desecration of places of worship and burning of houses belonging to innocent people. We would like to place on record our findings of the damages caused in the communal flare up in Kondmal district,” the statement said.
The following are the figures summing up the total destruction gathered by the Church groups
large churches destroyed 5;
village churches 48;
residence of religious women 5;
residence of priests 4;
hostel 7 meant for 800 children;
vocational training center 2;
houses destroyed or burned over 500;
shops destroyed 126.
By Angana Chatterji
December 25 2007: Seven churches, Catholic, Protestant, Pentacostal, Independent ... burned in Barakhama village, Kandhamal district, central Orissa.
December 23, 2007: Hindutva (Hindu supremacist ideology) affiliated Adivasi (tribal) organisations organised a march, rallying, "Stop Christianity. Kill Christians."
A Dalit (formerly "untouchable" groups) Christian leader testified, "We went to the local police and informed them of the situation. They assured us that things would be under control. On December 24, in the daytime, we heard voices of Bajrang Dal, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Shiv Sena people, chanting, ‘Hindu, Hindu, Bhai, Bhai’; ‘RSS Zindabad’; ‘Lakshmanananda Zindabad.’ They shut down shops. That night they felled trees to block roads, severed power and phone lines. On the 25th, we went to the inspector-in-charge of police again. On the 25th, at 2.30, about 200 of us sat down to Christmas prayer at our church, and around 4 p.m. we heard the mob approach."
The mob, about 4,000 persons, many bearing symbolic tilaks (religious mark on forehead), belonged to various Sangh Parivar (Hindu nationalist, militant) groups, named above, inciting local Hindus into rioting. Estimates state 20 per cent of the mob comprised people from Barkahama, 80 per cent from surrounding Baliguda, Raikia, Phulbani, as far away as Beherampur. "They broke the door to our church. We ran. We fell and kept running." Women and men were intimidated and assaulted. Cries rent the air. "Christians must become Hindu or die. Kill them. Kill them. Kill them. Gita not Bible. Destroy their faith."
The crowd carried rods, trishuls, swords. They used guns, a first in Orissa. Predominantly middle class caste Hindus participated in looting, destroying and torching property. Handmade bombs started the fires. Breakage was systematic. Women and men hid for days in forests, later seeking shelter in Baliguda town relief camp, returning to decimated Barakhama on January 2. Engulfed in soot and sorrow, people attempted to function amid charred remnants. A woman said, "Everything burns down and we are left with nothing. How little our lives are made (of). How alone we are, so far away from everything."
In Baliguda, in one church, furniture was dragged out, lit into a grotesque sculpture. The private violated in public, made spectacle. A Catholic church burnt, opposite the street the fire station witnessed the incident, but did not intervene. A cow, dragged from a shed, set afire, was beaten to death, identified as "Christian."
Targeted: Bammunigaon, Bodagan, Daringbari, Goborkutty, Jhinjirguda, Kamapada, Kulpakia, Mandipanka, Nuagaon, Phulbani, Pobingia, Sindrigaon, Ulipadaro villages. Convents, presbytery, hostels, a minor seminary, vocational training centre. Organisational offices, as that of World Vision. Two churches in Chakapad. Christian religious services were not permitted in Phulbani. A Hindutva mob surrounded Tikabali police station, two jeeps were torched.
Independent investigators charge that the violence was planned, that the police had prior knowledge of Hindutva groups’ intent to riot. The pertinent district collector and superintendent of police have been transferred, not discharged. A Judicial Review Commission (JRC) chaired by a former (not sitting) judge has been appointed by the government of Orissa to investigate the riots. Its power or legitimacy is in question. The Central government did not appoint an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation, even as it is apparent that the very administration that failed to contain the riots and delayed deploying adequate forces, and whose officials at the district level may have been involved in its execution, cannot administer justice.
Hindutva activists have lobbied the JRC to organise its terms of reference premised on the claim that an attack on Lakshmanananda Saraswati, a Hindu proselytiser, by Christians in Bammunigaon started the riots. This timeline is falsified.
Sources state Hindutva groups planned Christmas day strikes, organised vandalism of Christmas symbols, and incited rioting. Christians in one area responded with reciprocal, not proportionate, violence. Dominant rationale reduces this to majority vs minority communalism.
Rather than focus on systematic targeting of Christians, their overwhelmingly peaceful submission to Hindutva’s violence, and vast structural injustices and differences in relations of power between majority and minority, the scrutiny appears to be focused on the failure of all Christian groups to simply submit to dominance.
The Kandhamal riots were not unexpected. Saraswati has been overseeing Hinduisation there since 1969. Adivasis, Dalits, Christians, Muslims are targeted through social and economic boycotts, forced conversions to Hinduism, and other violences. The Orissa Prevention of Cow Slaughter Act, 1960, deployed against Muslims; Orissa Freedom of Religion Act, 1967, against Christians. In 1999, Mayurbhanj Catholic priest Arul Das was murdered, followed by destruction of Kandhamal churches. In 2004, Raikia Catholic Church was vandalised, eight Christian homes burnt. In 2005, converting 200 Adivasi Christians to Hinduism in Malkangiri, Saraswati stated, "How will we ... make India a completely Hindu country? This is our aim and this is what we want to do." In 2006, celebrating RSS architect Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar’s centenary, presided by Saraswati, seven yagnas (sacrifices) were held, culminating at Chakapad in Kandhamal, attended by 30,000 Adivasis. Between July-December 2007, Hindutva rallies across Kandhamal raised anti-Christian sentiments.
Hindutva leaders rumour, "Phulbani-Kandhamal is a most important Christian area in Orissa with rampant and forced conversions." The Christian population in Kandhamal district is 117,950, Hindus number 527,757. Sangh leaders claim, "By VHP data there are 927 churches in Phulbani district built on illegally taken land." Church leaders respond there are 521 churches. Orissa Christians number 897,861, 2.4 percent of the state’s population. Constitutionally authorised, the Hindu Right inflates conversions to Christianity. This circulates in retaliatory capacity even among progressive communities, who fixate on conversions as contributing to the communalisation of society, debilitating to the majority status of Hindus. Muslims are seen as "infiltrating" from Bangladesh, looting livelihood opportunities, dislocating the "Oriya/Indian nation," non-Hinduised Adivasis and Dalits as "unruly."
Hindutva legitimates violence as patriotic response. The Sangh uses local militarism (Kandhamal) as consort to state controlled militarization (Kashipur, Kalinganagar). Hindu cultural dominance organises Hindu nationalism. Orissa amalgamated as a Hindu state between 1866-1936. The absence of structural reforms and assertion of Hindu elites define post-colonial governance. The Sangh has proliferated into 10,000-14,000 villages, operating 35-40 major organisations, with a massive base of a few million. A Balasore district Shiv Sena unit formed the first Hindu "suicide squad." The Hindu nationalist BJP-BJD coalition yields power. The Hindu Suraksha Samiti organises against Muslims. Revolting slogans, "Mussalman ka ek hi sthan, Pakistan ya kabristan (For Muslims there is one place, Pakistan or the grave)," perforate neighbourhoods.
In Kandhamal, Hindu militant groups, neighbours, police, chief minister, Central government acted with egregious impunity. People remain missing, death counts inaccurate. The police refuses Christians seeking to file first information reports. The Baliguda relief camp is skeletal. Despite continuing tensions, police presence has abated. Confidence building steps are absent. Relief, compensation, reparation are incommensurate with the extent of social, psychological, and economic losses of communities. Political parties, focused on politicking the issue, fail to respond to immediate and long-term needs of people.
Angana Chatterji is associate professor of Social and Cultural Anthropology at California Institute of Integral Studies
PRELIMINARY REPORT OF THE FACT FINDING TEAM LED BY DR JOHN DAYAL WHICH VISITED THE KANDHAMALA DISTRICT, ORISSA ON 29TH DECEMBER - 3RD JANUARY AND FROM 1ST JANUARY TO 3RD JANUARY 2008
RELEASED AT BHUBANESWAR 5TH JANUARY 2008
1. Introduction: A tragedy that was waiting to happen and a tragedy that could repeat itself. Conclusions from the facts as the Fact Finding Team found them.
2. Significance to Orissa state, Nation, and Church in India—issues
of grave concern
3. Fact Finding Team Composition
4. Tour programme; Phulbani aborted visit 29-30 December 2007, and the
second visit and 1st to 3rd January 2008
6. Main Findings of simultaneous violence
7. Suggestions to Union and Orissa Government and Church;
8. Annexure : Illustrative case histories
1. A tragedy that was waiting to happen and a tragedy that could repeat itself. The following are urgent conclusions from the facts as the Fact finding team found them.
1.1 The Events in the Kandhamala hill district of Orissa in the Christmas Week from 22nd December to 1st January 2008 are a story of a tragedy foretold, of political and official condoning, if not actual support to the activities criminals and political activists spreading bigotry, the ideology of hate and violence. It is also a painful narrative of police and administrative indifference, repeated complicity and consistent incompetence. And finally it is the documentation of an utter collapse of the law and order machinery on 24th, 25th, 26th and 27th December 2007. So much in a state where Christians number about 2 per cent, less than the national average.
1.2 There is an urgent Caution, and a Warning in the Kandhamala developments: Unless everyone - Union Government, Orissa Government and its agencies, and religious, social and development agencies wake up and act in concert, there is more tragedy waiting to happen. Like a coalfield fire, passions and tensions are simmering, wounds are suppurating. Only a Judicial Enquiry by a Supreme Court Judge, assisted with the findings of a criminal investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigations, meets the ends of justice.
1.3 It is beyond doubt that the violence was premeditated, pre-planned and the work of a well disciplined group to ensure simultaneous eruption across the Kandhamala district within hours of the first incident, and to sustain it for five days despite the presence of the highest Police officers in the region. It is clear that the attackers were, in the main, upper castes non-tribals and non-Dalits, migrated from other districts of Orissa and other states, though some youth of the suppressed communities had been persuaded to join the mobs. The role of the Rasthriya Swayam Sewak Sangh, Bajrang Dal, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram and their extension organisations must be subject of an intensive investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigations.
1.4 The sequence of events is quite clear. The Christian community and its institutions were targeted for more than 48 hours with the police looking on, and being physically present at the spot in many cases. The anti Christian violence continued till 27th December 007. The anti Hindu violence in Brahminigaon took place more than 60 hours after the first Church was burnt down.
1.5 There are unique, unprecedented and possibly dangerous elements to the Kandhamala violence of Christmas Week 2007, although the state has an unhappy history of recorded and unrecorded persecution of Christians, including the burning alive of Australian leprosy mission worker Graham Stuart Staines and his sons Philip and Timothy, and Fr Arul in 1999, attacks in Rakia block of the Kandhamala and other parts of the hill tracts of Orissa.
1.6 This is the first time at least one Hindu Oriya non-tribal house cluster has been destroyed by arsonists, affecting perhaps a total of 97 families in the villages of Brahminigaon and Godapur.
1.7 This is the first time that there has been reported incident of an exchange of fire between the police and a mixed group of tribals, non tribals and outsiders in Bamunigaon on 27th December 2007. It is in fact a dubious first for India in which Christians’ involvement is alleged. This by itself must be subjected to close study by academics and state organisations, as also by the Christian leadership.
1.8 This is the biggest recorded case of such a allege number of Christian houses burnt, in Brahminigaon and Barakhama, other than Churches, convents and Hostels which have been targets of violence in other states, most notably in Gujarat 2002, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, and occasionally even in New Delhi, Haryana, Punjab and Kashmir. We have recorded over 200 cases of violence across the country before the outbreak in Kandhamala in Orissa.
1.9 The burning of medical centres and hostels speaks of a criminal disregard for humanity and the welfare of the people. We were told of several instances where nuns said they and their patients were in need of food and medicines.
1.10 This is the first time in history since Independence that may be 3,000 Christian men, women and children are forced to live in two refugee camps, eating boiled rice not fit for human consumption because of the quantity of sand and grit, and living in the cold wit no toilets, precious little medical care and no woolens. In the camp in Brahminigaon, they share this misery with their Hindu brothers and sisters. The irony is not lost. In the Super Cyclone and other natural disasters that devastated the state of Orissa in the past, Christian NGOs and Church groups were almost always among the first to set up relief camps and rehabilitation projects for the common people irrespective of the consideration of religion and ethnic identity.
1.11 The quality of violence against the Christian faith must be recorded so that lessons can be learnt. It has to be seen to be believed. Hate so deep and pungent does not augur well for the country, and of course, poses an immediate threat to the ideals of secularism and freedom of faith the right to life and the right to dignity enshrined in the Constitution of India. Church buildings are broken, nuns manhandled, priests chased away, convent cows killed as their straw is set afire. These are heinous crimes. The ravishing of statues of Mary, grinding her face under foot till nothing remains but shreds, desecrating the Host which Catholics hold to be the Body of Christ, and vandalizing of ritual holy material before setting everything on fire speaks of a ideologically cultivated venom that has percolated deep and will need deep political and social activism to quell, defeat and eliminate.
1.12 The police force of the district failed on all counts. Government must ensure that in future police action is not thwarted by roadblocks, however big the tree that has been felled, communication failure and lack of mobility. It is a matter of regret for the people of the state, and shame for the Orissa Police authorities, that several incidents of grave violence and heinous crime were committed while the police look on. This happened in more than one block headquarters
1.13 It is a matter of regret that till 3rd January when we spoke to the last police officer before leaving the district, we recorded an extremely partisan, even bigoted, behavior in senior field police officers of the rank if Circle Inspector and Sub Divisional Police officer. Senior development officers of the rank of Commissioner in their language to the victims, and to us, displayed a condemnable cynicism and bias towards a minority community. We are happy to record that junior and young tehsildars rushed in the last days show a more humane nature.
1.14 There is a continuing reign of terror. Many villages are now villages of women. The men are in hiding. Elsewhere, entire villages are deserted. Steps must be taken to create a situation in which the people can return to their homes and not live in terror.
1.15 Despite four days of extensive investigation, we have not been able to speak authoritatively of the number of dead killed by arsonists, in clashes, in police firings, or of injuries. Two dead in Brahminigaon and two dead in Balliguda are confirmed by the police— the one killed in police firing remains unidentified. Any one dead body just confirms a single death, but does not tell how many others may have died whose bodies have not been recovered by the authorities.
1.16 Similarly, only major Church buildings, particularly of the Catholic Church and the Church of North India and the Baptist church can be easily counted because they are along the roadside in major crossroads and towns. Independent Evangelical churches and mission stations of major denominations exist in villages which have still not been reached.
1.17 The State Government’s claims of an overlay of the issues of Maoist activities in the region, the agitation of the Kuis, and the Christmas Week violence is not tenable. The presence of Maoist or Naxalite and the Kui movement are real in some blocks, but the nature of the violence against Christians is in a group by itself. Whatever overlay does exist could have been overcome and much violence prevented if the authorities had not given permission to the hartal, or closures, on Christmas Day, a date with which they are, and ought to be, familiar as educated persons.
1.18 Attempts are also being made to present the incidents as a Tribal versus Christian conflict. The evidence is to the contrary. The relations between Christian tribals and Christian Non tribals, Christian Dalits and Dalits of other faiths, as well as between Christians belonging to the tribal and Dalit communities remain cordial as they have been historically. The issue that remains pertinent is the targeting of Dalit and Tribal Christians by political-religious fundamanentalists.
1.19 It is clear that Christians, both Tribals and Panos, and Dalits of various religious persuasions, are particular victims of violence. Persons opposed to the demand by a section of the community to seek Scheduled status have mobilised and hijacked some of the youth of their followers to join the mobs in various hamlets and town. The issue of Scheduled Tribe status must be amicably resolved with the help of a judicial or similar commission, and through appropriate enquiry without delay.
1.20 The government must, also, sympathetically consider the classification of a group of people who are being discriminated twice over because of their religion. This is a group which was listed as a Scheduled tribe under the British government, and then listed as a Scheduled caste by the State administration. Those of them professing the Christian faith are denied protection of the law, and access to affirmative action programmes of the government, on both counts. They do not get Scheduled Caste Reservation and other privileges because hey are now Dalits. And they do not get the privileges their Dalit brothers and sisters get because as Christians, they are no longer supposed to be even Dalits. They remain in an inhuman, un-Constitutional limbo, discriminated against just for their religious beliefs. This discrimination must end forthwith if the guarantees under the United Nations Charter and the Indian Constitution of Freedom of Faith are to have any meaning.
1.21 The Government of India, the Supreme Court of India and other State agencies must take notice, and learn their lesson. Peace committees as being constituted are not the answer. They have lost credibility. Victims have lost faith in committees constituted of their persecutors. Truth and Reconciliation and an entirely unbiased State are the answer. Every one has a role to play in this.
1.22 Keeping in view the deep distrust that victim communities have of the local police officers, Central Police Forces must remain in the area will confidence is restored.
1.23 Peace and reconciliation will be possible only with justice and truth. The guilty must be identified, prosecuted with all the might of the State. Biased officials, as much as corrupt officials, are responsible for the lack of development in the Kandhamala region. They must be identified so that they are never again in command positions where they can join with communal political elements pursing their agenda of hate. There are many wise suggestions contained in the Justice Wadhwa Commission report that enquired into the murders of the Staines family, as also in other commissions set up in the aftermath of communal incidents in other states. They need to be implemented, specially those relating to the police and the administration, and fundamentalist organisations, if Orissa is to remain peaceful.
1.24 Orissa does not have forums such as a State Minorities Commission which can move fast to restore confidence. The State Minorities Commission, as recommended by the national Minorities commission, must be set up soon with statutory powers.
1.25 Relief too must consist of materials and compensation according to national standards set in states which see communal violence and persecution, and it must also contain compassion, fairness and transparency.
1.26 Irrespective of the slogan Swami Lokhanananda Saraswati, who has made Kandhamala his home in recent years with an avowed objective of purging the region of every Christian presence, Christians are not Enemies of the people of India, or of the State. To say that, as he says repeatedly even in the presence of the police, “Whosoever converts to Christianity becomes an enemy” is a crime under the law of the land. To say “Christians will not be tolerated.’ And to say it on National satellite channels is equally a crime. Action must be taken in the interests of justice and protecting the Constitution. This saintly gentleman is obviously not just above the law, but is the Law in the area, judging by the attitude of the Police and local administrative officers towards him.
1.27 National TV channels and segments of the local media need to do some introspection if in their reportage of the Kandhamala developments, they have observed the Code of Ethics of the Editors Guild of India, and practices observed in their reporting. Secularism, fairness and truth must remain part of the training of your media persons in Media insitutions as week as in Print, Television and Cyber-media Organisations as an on-going process. It is interesting to note that Video interviews of Lokhanananda Saraswati were made by a private videographer, a known activist of the RSS, within the premises of a medical centre of another RSS activist, the tape then telecast without further corroboration. In the tape Lokhanananda Saraswati repeatedly said, “When people become Christians, they become enemies, they become enemies of the nation. I will NOT tolerate this” [translated from the Hindi/Oriya]. This statement, assiduously propagated, went a long way in fanning the fires.
1.28 THE STATISTICS OF THE VIOLENCE:
1. Deaths - Police confirm three deaths - One in the police firing [Unidentified, but unofficially listed as Christian by the police] and two [one Hindu, One Christian] Two each in Barakhama and Brahminigaon. Human Rights activists understand that six persons have died in the police firing in Brahminigaon. The bodies have not been found, presumed taken away by the mob. There have been no deaths reported in the arson though several priests and nuns had a close encounter with death.
2. Missing: There are persons reported missing from almost every hamlet. This is the subject of long term investigations. Many have fled out of fear of the police. Some are in safety with relatives. Others are in police custody with the police not admitting or confirming this. It will take many weeks before a count becomes possible.
3. ARSON: FIRE WAS THE INSTRUMENT OF CHOICE. The arsonist mob was well motivated, well armed and had come prepared with weapons and iron cutting instruments. The following is a preliminary list of the properties/places destroyed and desecrated:
CHURCH INSTITUTIONS DESTROYED [Total - 71]
PARISH CHURCHES [Total - Five]
VILLAGE CHURCHES [Total - 48 ]
Kamapada - Balliguda
Ulipadaro - Bamunigam
7 [Seven] churches, Sirtiguda, Balliguda
4 [Four] churches in Phiringia
7 [Seven] churches in Phulbani
4 [Four] churches in Ruthungia
4 [Four] churches in Kalingia
2 [Two]churches in Tikabali
4 [Four] village Churches - Nuagam
3 [Three] more village church
This list of village churches is not exhaustive for reasons of topography and accessibility
CONVENTS [Total - 5]
PRESBYTERY [Total - 4]
HOSTELS [Total - 7]
Pobingia 2 [Two]
Balliguda 2 [Two]
Brahminigaon 2 [Two]
Minor Seminary (Balliguda)
3.1.6 OTHERS: [Total - 2]
22.214.171.124 Vocational Training Centre (Balliguda)
126.96.36.199 Sarshnanda, leprosy centre (Pobingia)
3.2 HOUSES DESTROYED / BURNT AND LOOTED [Total - Over 500]
3.2.1 400 Houses destroyed and looted in Barakhama, Tractors, cycles, motorcycles / shop goods burnt
3.2.2 31 Christian Houses burnt in Brahminigaon
3.2.3 67 Hindu Houses Burnt in Brahminigaon Oriyasahi
3.2.4 30 Christian houses burnt in Ullipadar [Brahminigaon]
[Arson in Phirignia, which continues, is political involving supporters and opponents of former Orissa minister Padmanabha Behera and the Caste issue]
3.3 SHOPS /OTHER PROPERTIES DESTROYED [Total - 126]
3.3.1 Brahminigaon 81
3.3.2 Godapur 
3.3.3 Barakhama 
3.4 Vehicles and Other properties destroyed : Survey not yet done
3.5 Animals Killed:
3.5.1 One Cow, Black Jersey milch cattle, Balliguda Convent consequent to arson
[TOTAL PROPERTIES DESTROYED IN ARSON AND MOB VIOLENCE - 697]
RELIEF CAMPS: Government of Orissa has set up two relief camps in Barakhama and in Brahminigaon in school buildings. The conditions in both camps are inhuman and shameful, particularly the utter lack of regard for the needs of women, children and the ill. Despite its experience of natural calamities, the government has not learnt lessons in immediate succor and assistance to the distressed and needy. We find incomprehensible that the Union Home Minister and the Orissa Chief Minister came in a helicopter to Barakhama, came to the Relief camp, and chose to sit under a shamiana or tent and talk to the people across a rope. They did not walk down a few meters to the class rooms where injured and sick people were lying down. Nor did they even bother to look at the cooked rice, full of grit, which the people had to eat for want of anything else.
2. SETTING UP OF THE FACT FINDING COMMITTEE:
The first act of violence [see narrative and sequence of events, below] violence took place on the morning of 24th December 2007 in the small town of Brahminigaon, which has a Police Station, the office or the Revenue Office and other institutions. This is a major entry point to the entire Kandhamala hills region and an important market place. Some Christians own shops and are comparatively better off than others. They have mobile phones, as does the parish priest whose Church was the first to be burnt down. They informed Archbishop Raphael Cheenath and his office, and they in turn informed others including Dr John Dayal in New Delhi. Dr John Dayal and others immediately informed the national media in New Delhi and Mumbai. But it was Christmas Eve and News Planners were focussed on the celebratory and commercial aspects of the Holiday season. The event did not get the coverage it deserved.
Church and Civil Society groups however were alerted, in swift order, the offices of the Prime Minister, President and Union Minister were informed as was the office of the Chief Minister of Orissa. The Prime Minister was not initially available, but a delegation called on Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil on 27th December 2007. President Mrs. Pratibha Patil was met with by the Bishop of the Andamans and Nicobar Islands, and eventually Archbishops Cheenath and Archbishop Vincent Concessao of Delhi met with the Prime Minister. Two public rallies and candle light vigils were taken out in New Delhi as also in Mumbai, Bhubaneswar and other cities.
At those rallies, it was decided that the facts of the Kandhamala had t be ascertained in detail and without bias.
At a meeting of Christian and other activist groups in Bhubaneswar, the fact finding group was set up
The fact finding team consisted of
1. Dr John Dayal, Member, National Integration Council, Government of India, Senior Editor and Political Columnist, and well known national Human Rights activist with experience of many People’s Tribunals and fact finding Missions.
2. Advocate Nicholas Barla, Lawyer and Human Rights expert from Rourkela with experience in Police and social conflicts in the State.
3. Mr Hemant Nayak, social scientist and Human Rights and Development activist, Bhubaneswar.
The team was facilitated by many persons at various stages.
The team made two visits to the district. The first visit was aborted at the Phulbani offices of the Police superintendent on 29th December 2007 after having visited affected churches and Convents in some of the area. The second visit was from 1st January to the night of 3rd January 2008 and covered almost every affected area barring one.
It is important to record the circumstances of the first visit. We believe that Truth must prevail, and that facts, if unearthed early, naturally quench doubts and ensure that rumours are not given currency. W noted in our Press statement in Bhubaneswar on 30th December 2007: I report with deep sorrow and anguish that I and a five member Fact Finding Team that had gone to the Phulbani area of Kandhamala district on Saturday, 29th December 2007, was forcibly expelled by Inspector General of Police Pradeep Kapoor who ordered the Phulbani Town Police Inspector to ensure that I left the district that night. The Town Police Inspector then made us follow an armed police escort for a one and a half hour drive through the night darkness till we reached the border of Ganjam district, where he left us. We could return to Bhubaneswar by 4 am today, 30th December 2007, deeply distressed and feeling very frustrated with the experience. The fact finding team was set up at a meeting of activists in the Swosti Hotel in Bhubaneswar on 28th December 2007 to get an authentic first hand account of the developments and the violence in the Kandhamala district because rumours, absence of authentic media reports and often inaccurate government accounts of the casualties, had left the people confused. There were also fears that lack of authentic information would impact on the confidence building measures and the peace process. I was requested to lead the Fact Finding Team in view of my experience in Gujarat, Nandigram, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan the Northeast. As a matter of abundant precaution, I wrote to the Director General of Police, Orissa, on 28th December 2007. I, inter alia, said “I am a Member of the National Integration Council, Government of India, and the National President of the All India Catholic Union. I am part of a Fact Finding team set up by civil society and Human Rights groups to assess the situation in the violence affected areas of Orissa for us to be able to formulate People’s initiative for confidence building and peace. The team, consisting of six persons including me, intends to leave Bhubaneswar on the morning of 29th December 2007 and return in the evening of 31 December 2007. We will have a night halt in Phulbani. We will appreciate any assistance and facilitation we can get from the Orissa Police and in particular from the Police forces of the District. I am sure your office will take the necessary steps, and inform the District Police of the area.” We drove to Phulbani on 29th December; reaching safely and without any problems, by about 5 p.m. En route we were able to assess the damage done to the NISSWAS School of Social Work set up by Dr. R K Nayak, IAS retired and currently a Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha. We also saw the damage done to the Carmelite Convent and the Carmel English School. Nuns we interviewed told us how attempts were made to set the convent on fire even as the Nuns were cowering in a room where they had locked themselves in. Two sisters who could escape injured themselves in the process. Later, we went to the Offices of the Police Superintendent to discuss with them our onward journey to Balliguda that evening or early next morning, and to see if there was need for Curfew Passes, which are normally given to Media and other groups. The Inspector General of Police, Mr Kapoor, the Divisional Commissioner and the Deputy Inspector General of Police were present in the room. I was questioned in some detail, always very politely, by Mr Kapoor who wanted to know about my membership of the NIC, my credentials as a journalist and the books I had authored. He also photographed my colleagues and me with his Mobile Telephone camera. I gave a patent reply to every single question. I also pointed out that this was not a government enquiry, but that I would prepare a report I would submit to the authorities and which would also help facilitate the National Minority Commission members who are scheduled to visit the spot on 6th January 2008. I reminded the police were a peaceful group, and our team included an Advocate, apart from interpreters and with expertise in ethnic studies. Mr Kapoor was ever polite, but remained adamant. My colleagues felt they were being interrogated in a police station. Mr Kapoor said he would not allow me to proceed, or even to remain in Phulbani. He said it would not be safe for me, or for the persons with whom I would stay. He said the Rapid Action Force had been deployed in Phulbani town and I had to draw my inference from this fact about the situation and tension in the place. I told him there was no way we would be crashing police barriers. It was not for fear of our lives but in deference to the rule of law that we would go. He was apparently not satisfied. He called the Phulbani police officers and ordered them to escort me out. The Kandhamala region needs not just media coverage and government relief operations. The rescue, relief and rehabilitation programme has to be done in a transparent manner. Already there have been too many complaints of police and administrative apathy, complicity and even aggressive force against one community, the victim community. Independent fact finding teams and the information they give help in maintaining transparency and positively contribute to the peace process. I hope we will be able to visit and record the situation in every affected village as an important part of building long term peace, harmony and in ensuring relief, compensation and rehabilitation.—John Dayal.”
I am very happy the fact Finding team could visit the Kandhamala region again from 1st January 2008 without police escort, without police protection, without official cooperation and with no help other than the goodwill of all people - Christians and Hindus alike.
3. CALENDAR, CHRONICLE AND NARRATIVES OF VIOLENCE:
3.1 SEQUENCE OF ERUPTION OF VIOLENCE BY DATE - dateline --
Church youth and Ambedkar Banika Sangh take permission for Christmas Celebrations. Officials approve. Police C-Inspector and SDO inspect
site and approve. Promise protection from 23rd December 23rd December 2007 - Hindu youth tell Church women and youth not to put up Christmas decorations. Christians show government permission.
24th December 2007 - 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. - Mob forces shops and haat weekly traditional market to close. Police intervenes to get shops opened. Mob attacks market-goers. Christmas pandal on road is destroyed. Two Christians [Sillu and Avinash] are shot and injured
2 p.m. Rumours of attack on Lokhanananda Saraswati attacked in Dasingbadi
6.30 p.m. Evening Church attacked in Balliguda, Convent [cow killed in convent in arson], Seminary, CNI Church, Pentecostal church and burnt. No police action. No curfew.
25th December 2007 - Attacks take place in Brahminigaon, Pobingia, Srasananda, Barakhama, Budaguda, Nuagaon, Tikkawali
26h December 2007 --
28th December 2007 --
VIOLENCE AFFECTED REVENUE BLOCKS, KANDHAMALA DISTRICT:
3.2.1 Daringbari Block
3.2.2 Balliguda Block
3.2.3 Phiringia Block
3.2.4 Phulbani Block
3.2.5 Tikabali Block
3.2.6 Khajuripoda Block
3.2.7 Nuagaon Block
3.2.8 Gumsar Udaigiri Block
3.2.9 Tumudibandha Block
3.2.10 Kothaghar Block
3.2 CHRONICLE OF THE KANDHAMALA VIOLENCE Dec 2007
Sl no. Name of the place Date Time Narration
1. Brahminigaon 9.12.2007 Swami Lokhanananda Saraswati commonly referred to as Swamiji, had come to Brahminigaon and had a secret meeting with the Bighneswaro Banika Sangh who are the members of RSS and VHP. The situation was tensed in and around Brahminigaon on that onwards.
2 Brahminigaon 19.12.2007 Permission for Christmas Celebration was obtained from the Sub Collector and CI Office Balliguda.
3. Brahminigaon 21.12.2007 SDPO visited Brahminigaon. The Christian elders met the SDPO and apprised him of the situation., he also assured his participation in the celebration. He also had called the leaders of both the parties, the Hindus and Christians, but the Hindus did not come for the meeting.
4. Bhubaneswar 21.12.2007- 23.12.2007 The Arya Samaj of Bhubaneswar organized a three days YOGA PROGRAMME of Baba Ram Dev at Capital High School, Unit III of Bhubaneswar. In 25 to 30 buses of people were brought from Kandhamala for the purpose.
On 22nd December all the presidents of RSS from each Panchayat of Kandhamala District had a secret meeting from 11.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. to an unknown place.
On 23rd evening the yoga class was over and all of them back to their respective places. And on 24th morning onwards the attacked begun in the different Church communities.
5. Kandhamala Dist. Headquarter 22.12.2007 The Christian Jana Kalyan Samaj of Kandhamala met the collector and S.P. and handed over written statement against the BANDH called on 25th and 26th December at Kandhamala, but to allow the Christians to Observe the Christmas.
6. Brahminigaon 22.12.2007 The S.P. had come to Brahminigaon to enquire about the situation, learnt the matter but did not put any force there.
7. Brahminigaon 23.12.2007 1.30 p.m. Dr. B.R Ambedkar Banika Sangh of Brahminigaon together with six Sarpanches of the area have appraised the situation and have sent fax message to S.P , Phulbani. And met him at Brahminigaon. Dr. Ambedkar Banika Sangh of Brahminigaon went to the police station and discussed about the tensed situation in the area. They also discussed about the secret plan of performing Yagyan (puja) by Swami Lokhanananda Saraswati and VHP leaders in front of the church.
8. Brahminigaon 23.12.2007 6.30 p.m. One of the members of the Vanika Sangha of Brahminigaon phoned Superintendent of Police Mr. Narasingh Bhol and requested for police force in the village.
9. Brahmunigaon 24.12.2007 6.00 a.m. The Sarpanches of six Gram Panchayats together with Village heads went to the police station and requested to allow the market to be opened, which the RSS and Bajrang Dal people were opposing.
10. Brahmunigaon 24.12.2007 7.00 a.m. The ASI came to the market and told the people to open the market.
11. Brahmunigaon 24.12.2007 8.30 a.m. The weekly market was going on. Suddenly the RSS leader Mr. Bikram Rout, Dhanu Pradhani and others came and threatened the sellers and buyers to stop marketing. They also ordered the shopkeepers to close down their shops and there were already tussled between them. One of the buyers was beaten up by the Bikram and group. The Christian People were in need of buying some of the important articles as 25th was Christmas day.
Some of the Christian members were making Christmas decoration, big pandal for worship, crib, sound system etc for the night worship. The same miscreants came there and asked the community to close down and they threatened not to have any celebration. Here also some tussle between both the groups took place Bikram and others RSS, VHP, Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram Bajrang Dal members came with guns, swords, iron rods and other lethal weapons and attacked on the Christians around 10 a.m. The Christians were unarmed and ran away to the forest to save their lives. On the process two were injured by bullet shot. Some are injured by other weapons. The police was inactive, did not take prompt action on the miscreants and all this took place in the present of the police. The police station is just 400 yards from the Church.
All the Christians ran away to the forest including the priest and nuns leaving theirs all belongings.
12. Dasingbadi 24.12.2007 10.45 a.m. Swami Lokhanananda Saraswati who is known as SWAMI at Jalespatta of Tumudibandha P.S., Dist Kandhamala was going to Brahmunigaon by his vehicle. One private bus was going ahead of his vehicle. Due to narrow road and due to technical fault of the bus it stood on the road at Dasingbadi near upper primary school Dasingbadi.
There is a small village Church in Dasingbadi a little distance on the road side and the Christian youth were busy in decorating their village church for the Christmas. Christmas music was going on. Lokhmananda hearing the sound apparently asked his bodyguards and his driver to go and have it stopped. The security guards and the driver (who are govt. security men) went to the spot, got into an argument with the Christian youth, and at some time pulled down the decorations and the sound boxes etc even as the Christian youth confronted them. There is no evidence of a physical assault on Lakhmananda Saraswati. Because of the controversy surrounding this incident, there is need for a Central Bureau of Enquiry specifically into this as part of a general probe.
Then with his vehicle he went to Daringbari and showed his security men to medical officer Dr. Pradhan at Daringbadi Community Health Center. There he stayed for two days in the family planning office looked after by Dr. Pradhan (who is also a Bajrang Dal member ) There the I. I.C. of Daringbari Mr. Pradhan provided 8 to 10 police man guarding him. The IIC has advised Mr. Laxamananda not to go to Brahmunigaon.
Mr. Dharmendra Pradhan and Mr. Surendra Sahoo who both are of Daringbari went to meet Lokhanananda. Lokhanananda, hearing the incident, that there was tussle between his security men and the Christian youths at Dasingbadi. They also felt sad about the incident and proposed to have peace meeting and resolved the issue. But Lokhanananda said “KRANTI NO THILE SHANTI NAHI , Mote kichhi mado hoi nahi” (in English “without revolution no peace, I am not hurt”) in the present of the I.I.C. and other local leaders.
On 25th December at about 1 p.m. he left Daringbari community hospital by block jeep through Soroda road.
One RSS boy Muna Sahoo who is having video camera he took the interview and statement of Lokhmananda which was telecast on satellite television channels in the media.
13. Balliguda 24.12.2007 7.30 p.m. At About 7.30 p.m. more than 400 miscreants, kumkum on their foreheads, chanting “Jay Sri Ram” most likely the Bajrang Dal and RSS members with guns, Swords, axes, Pharsa and other lethal weapons in their hands broke opened the main gate of the church, abusing the few Christian youths who were busy in decorating and giving the last touches for the worship on the birthday of their Lord Jesus. There was stoning.
They came running towards the youths shouting “SALLE CHRISTIAN MANONKU JEEVAN RE MARI DIYO, GIRJA DHANSA KORO” means “kill the Christians, destroy the church.” The youths together with priest, nuns, hostel boys, seminarians seeing the barbarous nature of the crowd ran to the jungle to save their lives.
Then they collected all the furniture, worship materials, hostel godowns, furniture and all the belongings and set them fire that became assess within few minutes.
The schools, hostels, the sisters residence which is in another compound was also ransacked and put in to fire. The sisters and the hostel girls had very difficult time to save themselves.
One of the sisters was caught and man handled very badly.
A cow died as a consequence of the arson.
All this took place in the presence of the police officials’ right from the Tahsildar, BDO, Sub Collector, IIC etc.
14. Barakhama 24.12.2007 4.00 p.m.
1. The Christian community already knew that some incident would take place, they started their worship at 4 p.m. itself.
2. A group of hoodlums about 2000 people having red marks on their foreheads, armed with swords, axes, pharsa etc. chanting “Jay Sri Ram, Christian manonku mari diyo( Kill the Christians), Girija dhanso koro (Destroy the churches) etc. destroyed the Pentecostal church, which is in the eastern part of the village.
3. Seeing the mob and the flames the Christians of the village started running towards forest to save themselves.
4. The people whose houses are burnt mostly of the Christian community and now are sheltered in the Barakhama high school.
5. The male members of the family are staying in the jungle and officials demanding their females to bring their husband else they would not receive relief materials. On the other hand when the male members are coming to the camp from the jungle, the police are booking them on the falls cases and arresting them. The FIRs are not accepted by the OICs.
15. Brahmunigaon 25.12.2007 10.00a.m.11.45 a.m.
1. First the mob entered the village Church of Ulipodor and destroyed and burnt 30 Christian houses and also beat them very badly.
2. The mob entered the main gate of the church breaking the grills, houses, Church, the priest residents and other places and put fire and thus irreparable damage was done to the Christian community as a whole.
16. Pobingia 25.12.2007 9.00 am The mob entered the Church of Pobingia and instantly burnt the Church, Presbytery, Boys Hostel, Convent and girls Hostel .
17. Brahmunigaon 25.12.2007 2.00 p.m. 1. The miscreants once again gathered and entered in to the market and burned the shops and houses of the Christian community.
18. Bodagan 25.12.2007 Night Church was attacked
19. Kamapada 25.12.2007 Night Church was attacked
20. Kulpakia 25.12.2007 Night Church was attacked
21. Sirtiguda 25.12.2007 Night 7 Churches were burnt .
22. Phirignia 25.12.2007 Night Church was attacked
23. Srasa Nanda 25.12.2007 10.00 p.m In the presence of Magistrate and
22 police personnel the church was attacked and burnt.
24. Ruthungia 25.12.2007 Night 8 village churches were burnt.
25. Kalingia 25.12.2007 day Village Church was burnt.
26. Tikapali 25.12.2007 day Village Church was burnt.
27. Nuagaon 25.12.2007 Night 9 Village Churches were burnt.
28. Dalagaon 25.12.2007 Night Village Church was burnt.
29. Iripiguda 25.12.2007 Night Village church was burnt.
30. Krutumgarh 26.12.2007 1. The non Christian tribals of Krutumgarh collected Rs. 50/- from each family. They had the YAGYAN (puja) in the village. After the puja they were dancing with weapons like swords, sickle, pharsa etc.
31. Padangi 26.12.2007 Night 1. Boriguda Village Church was burnt.
32. Sankharakhole 26-12-2007 Night 1. The mob entered the Church of Sankharakhole and attacked the Church, Convent, Priest residence
33. Brahmunigaon 27.12.2007 12.15 p.m 1. There are differing accounts even by the victims as to how the Oriya-sahi houses were burnt. Some say villagers of local area burnt houses in Paikosahi Others say it was outsiders, even from outside the district.
The police are not giving still a coherent account as to which direction the mob came to the walled where civilians had taken shelter, or were being kept, and the premises of the police station nearby. This is not an open area, and involved rough ground, a narrow road and many houses. Because this is in the nature of an encounter between a mob and the police, with an exchange of fire, this needs a separate enquiry under the law.
There is also need for a through probe as to what happened to civilians injured in the police firing as many rounds were fired. The police admit to one uniformed person injured.
There was police force and it opened fire on them and two were killed and the crowed was dispersed.
THANKS: This Fact Finding Team’s work would not have been possible but for the assistance provided all through by many individuals, organisations and institutions. Institutions and organisations we wish to thank in particular are the Catholic Bishops Conference, the Archdioceses of Delhi and Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, Dioceses of Rourkela and Berhampur, the All India Christian Council, the All India Catholic Union, the United Christian Forum New Delhi. Individuals include Archbishop Raphael Cheenath, SVD of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, Archbishop Vincent Concessao of Delhi, Catholic Fathers Dominic Emmanuel, Madhu Chandra and Advocate Mary Scaria in Delhi and Bernard Bhubaneswar in, Mrityunjay and Madan in Bhubaneswar, Dr Pran Parichha for his motivation and his assistance with the media. Special thanks are due to Mumbai Film Director Mahesh Bhatt and Maharashtra State Minorities Commission Vice Chairman Dr. Abraham Mathai for making it possible to meet with the Chief Minister and facilitating the Team’s interactions with government functionaries. Many Christians and Hindus, tribals and non tribals, government servants and others, who were of help, wish to remain anonymous, and we honour tier sentiments as we thank them. Thanks must also be expressed to two brave drivers who did not care for rumours and drove our SUV with care on the terrible roads. And most of all, we wish to thank the Press—the Print and the Electronic Media—in new Delhi an Bhubaneswar whose interaction, assistance and coverage brought focus on the violence, n hopefully, will also help in the healing of the wounds of the Kandhamala hills.
4.1 Illustrative Testimonies of key witnesses / victims
4.1.1 Text of the oral testimony of Catholic Father Rabi Sabhasundar, Parish Priest, Bamunigam, and a born in the district, who saw his parish church attacked, vandalized and then set on fire in the Brahminigaon:
“The Church of Our Lady of Lourd, Bamunigam, Kandhamala District, Orissa consists of around 1630 of 217 families. Like any other year this year 2007, the people of Bamunigam were preparing and getting ready to celebrate Christmas. So they had put up Christmas Crib (Pandal) in front of Christian shops where they used to do usually in every year. The Christmas Crib (Pandal) was decorated with all light and sound and with all the necessary decorative articles. For the Pandal making and celebration, a committee (Ambedkar Banika Sango) had already got the permission from the Collector, Sub-Collector and SP. With the prior permission as they were proceeding with all the preparation, on the eve of Christmas celebration, in order to disrupt the celebration the committee of Banika Sango of Hindu group along with the president of RSS Mr. Bigram Rautho 40 year of age son of Kishore Rautho, Nuagam, Ps. Bamunigam, and Mr. Dhanu Pradhani s/o Bainath, Jhinjiriguda, Bamunigam went to the police station and complained repeately to SI not to have weekly market in Bamunigam. On Monday 24th December, 2007 at 10 am, the RSS president Mr. Bikram along with his RSS members and Hindu business people went to market place and forcibly stopped the people not to have market on that day. Meanwhile the SI of Bamunigam Police Station along with 5 Sarapanch of the locality and majority of the village customers came to the market place and convinced the Mr. Bikram and his team to carry out the market. However, soon after the departure of the SI, Mr. Bikram and his team physically harassed many villages people those who had come to the market. Some were thoroughly beaten with sticks and iron bars. They also showed the weapons to attack them. With the short period of time nearly 200 people came running to the Crib with guns, spears, axe, and many other tradition weapons and they completely destroyed the well decorated Crib. Along with this they also broke, looted and burnt all the shops of Christian people. At the same time some people pour the petrol and burnt three motor bikes of Christian people. Angry mob also burnt one generator, light and sound system and other decoration articles of people of Digapainy, Gajapati district, who were hired and employed by their owner for the Christmas celebration. In the process of destroying the Crib one boy of 15 years of age was shot with a gun. Whereas another boy of 12 years of age was very badly attacked and hurt on the head with a sharp edged sword. Seeing the pitiful condition of this boy when his parents were coming to rescue him, both of them were beaten and hurt with iron bar and by tradition weapons. Seeing this fearful attack, many Christians of the locality and many village customers those who had come from near by villages run for their lives. Taking the advantage and disperse of the helpless people, all the more Mr. Bikram together with his RSS members, Hindu business people and many other Hindu people destroyed the shops of Christian people one after the another. On 24th December, 2007, instead of celebrating the Midnight Mass, most of the Christians with their small children and babies went to the near by forest and had a sleepless night and took shelter on that sever cold dark night. On 25th December, 2007, many people those who took shelter in the forest came to their houses thinking that the atrocity will be stopped. But the atrocity still continued on that day too. At 10 am. around four to five hundred RSS people, Hindu business people of the locality and many other Hindu people those who came from near by Hindu villages marched towards the Christian Street with a slogan “Jai Sri Ram”, Jai Hanuman and they were also shouting and abusing with all kinds of bulgur and threatening words like ‘Magyasala’, ‘Padry Manongku Jalidio, ‘Semango Church ebang Anustano Pudidio, Christian manongu Hatao’, and burnt most of the houses and looted their properties. After having completely destroyed the houses and properties they forcibly entered the Church campus with the guns, petrol, diesel, kerosene, bombs, and many other traditional weapons and broke and burnt the doors, windows, statues, altar, and many other musical instruments, lights and sound, furniture and many other church and religious articles including Bible and completely desecrated the church. Meantime some of them entered the presbytery and burnt the Father’s residence including their two motor bikes, one generator, steel and wooden almirhars and all the documents and furniture and looted several lakhs of properties. After the complete destruction of the church and the presbytery the angry mob went around in search of priests and nuns to harass and burn them alive. Hearing and seeing the destructive behavior of the RSS people, three priests, one deacon, one regent, two brothers, five sisters of Holy Cross Convent, Bamunigam and four domestic workers run to the near by jungle together with many Christian people to save their lives. It is a matter of great sadness that all these atrocities, and destruction was done in the presence of police force. Till today priests, nuns and people are in forests and other near by villages with great fear and anxiety. Though the government has lunched to give relief to the people of both the communities, unfortunately one community of Hindu people are given relief and Christians are neglected. When Christian mothers go to ask for the relief, government relief officials harass them and telling them to bring their husbands. After having experienced the atrocities and harassment from both Hindu community and the government officials, the Christian people continue to live with fear and anxiety. We don’t know how long this atrocity and violence will persist.”
4.1.2 Statement of Sr. Zerina, CSST, eye-witness, Principal, Carmel School, Phulbani:
“The School is situated just about two kilometers away from the Superintendent of Police and Collector’s offices in Phulbani. There are 550 students in our school. The school was started in 1989. There are 98% Hindu students and only 2% Christians in the school. There are 4 Sisters, 4 Christian’s teachers, 13 Hindu teachers 2 Christian staff and one Hindu accountant in the school. Sister Zerina is principal since last two years after completing her M.A. B.A. Bed in 2006. I got news on 23rd December that something would happen and she also leant about the Bandh 25th and 26th December. I wanted to go to Bhopal for a meeting the same evening but one of the shopkeepers told her not to go the next day or at night. The sisters decided not to go to Bhopal for meting. On 24th some local people came and greeted us at 6.30 pm. They also reported that there automobile tyres were being set on fire at Madiguda chowk, just 200 meters away from the school. The same time The Parish priest Fr. Mathew phoned and up said there would be no Holy Mass in the Christ Jyoti parish church. Sr. Zerina also received a phone call from Sr. Christa from Balliguda, saying the problem was escalating. The deputy collector, Shri Arun Parichha, rang up to tell us that there was some problem in Brahminigaon. He said the vehicle of the RSS leader has been attacked and there will be more problem and he has seen the law and order. At about 8 p.m. Sr. Christa from the Convent in Balliguda rang up Sr. Zerina saying the convent of Balliguda had been set on fire. She asked us for our prayers. Te sisters and I panicked. At about 8.30 pm we got the news from Sr. Christa from Balliguda saying they were safe, but feeling suffocated because the premises were filled with smoke. That was the last connection we had with our sisters from Balliguda. On 25th around 9.30 a.m. one Hindu teacher Mr. Sarangdhar came to the school about my travel plans. Fr. Bijya Nayak from Krotamgarh also rang up and warned us of a possible attack on school, convent and parish. We rang up a neighbour, Mr. Paul Raj from Sadhan to ask for help from police. Meanwhile Sr. Christa also rang up and advised as to leave the place taking all the important document. At 11.00 a.m. I went for prayer, there were total of four Sisters, 2 maid servants and 2 girl hostlers who were also with us the convent. At this moment Sr. Rohine shouted “They have come inside.” The mob was shouting “Jay Sriram” and “Kill the Christian”. They all carried swords and other weapons. On seeing the crowd Sr. Rohine and Sr. Hemanti jumped over the convent wall and ran for their lives. One of them sprained her leg in the process. After 15 minutes of the attacked some policemen are came to our school. There has been damage the school, and the school bus.”
4.1.3 Statement of Fr. Laxmikanta Pradhan , Catholic Church Balliguda
“On 24th evening around 7.30 p.m. a huge group of Hindu fundamentalist/ Rahudise with kumkum on their foreheads and carrying lethal weapons like sword, guns, iron rods, axes in their hand rushed to our church abusing the priest and sisters in very filthy language. They broke the main gate and entered the church compound, started breaking all the Christmas decorations, pandal and worship materials. Then they wanted to kill some of the Christian who were busy in preparing the Christmas celebrations. We ran for our life, and took refuge in the jungle. From the hill we could see the flames rising from our Church, residence and hostels. Later we found the church and all the worship materials were burn down. In the residence and hostels also we found that everything was burned down.