A 14 year-old Christian boy was murdered in the village of Kenduguda, Malkangiri District, Odisha, on 4 June.
According to a First Information Report (FIR) registered with local police, the victim has been identified as Samaru Madkami and was picked up from his house at about 11pm by several men who took him to a jungle approximately four kilometres from his home.
Samaru’s hacked body parts were later found buried in the ground by police who were taken to the scene by the alleged perpetrators who were being investigated. Local sources report that Samaru was martyred for his faith, as his murder was carried out by Hindu nationalists who had been targeting his and other Christian families in their village. The perpetrators had later returned to Samaru’s home to kidnap his cousin, Onga, and his wife, but they managed to escape.
Samaru was cared for by his father, Unga Madkami, after losing his mother when he was around six years old. Mr Madkami’s village was previously home to thirteen Christian families, but only four remain; these have since been relocated to a safer place. According to one source, Christians in the village have been pressured to forsake their religion by local Hindu nationalists for several years. According to Pastor Bijay Pusuru, who leads the Bethel House Church, which Mr Madkami attended, since the start of this year, there have been four harassment complaints made at the Malkangiri police station. So far, four people have been arrested in relation to the murder of Samaru.
The state of Odisha has witnessed some of the most brutal killings carried out against the Christian community in recent history. In 1999 Australian missionary Graham Staines, who provided care for leprosy patients, was burnt to death with his sons Philip (10) and Timothy (6) while they were asleep in their vehicle in Manoharpur, Keonjhar District. In 2008 targeted communal violence against Christians in Kandhamal resulted in nearly 100 deaths, around 56,000 people being displaced and nearly 295 churches and places of worship destroyed.
John Dayal, a civil rights activist and writer in India, said: “This is the most heinous and gruesome case of anti-Christian violence that has come to light in the enforced silence of the coronavirus lockdown. There has been an unending series of various degrees of violence against the Christian community in several states. What is equally and compellingly obnoxious is the way local politicians and a section of media are trying to erase or at least underplay the abduction and lynching of the young believer. The case must be investigated by the national Investigating Agency as the state police and administration have lost the trust of the people.”
CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said: “Our deepest prayers and condolences go out to Samaru’s father, Mr Madkami, for the loss of his son. Samaru was martyred for his faith. We are deeply concerned by the intolerance and violence towards Christians that continues to fester in Odisha despite lessons from the savage attacks against Christians in Kandhamal which took place 12 years ago. There is clearly a systematic plan to wipe out the Christian community in these areas. We urge the state government to identify the sources of hate and crimes against minorities and to hold those responsible to account.”