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Kandhamal violence must not be forgotten

25 Aug 2021

Victims of targeted violence in Kandhamal, India that started on 25 August 2008 and continued for months, are still waiting for justice and compensation.

It was one of the most severe outbreaks of anti-Christian violence in the country’s history. 

Almost 100 people were brutally killed, an estimated 395 churches destroyed, over 40 women were raped or subjected to sexual assault, and over 75,000 people left homeless in attacks by Hindu extremist organisations. For the survivors and the families of the victims, the fight for justice continues to this day. 

Local human rights defenders have criticised the manner in which the legal cases against alleged perpetrators have been handled, resulting in a high number of acquittals.

According to the National Solidarity Forum (NCF) there were  more than 3,300 complaints made against perpetrators in the Kandhamal violence. However only 820 First information Reports (FIR), which are required to start police investigations, were registered, from which only 518 cases were charge-sheeted, the process by which the police set out charges against a person for alleged crimes committed. The remaining cases were treated as false reports. From the 518 charge-sheeted, 247 cases were dropped. The remaining cases are still pending before the Sessions and Magistrates courts.

The government of Odisha is yet to act on a 2016 Supreme Court order to the police to re-investigate 315 cases that were closed without proper investigations. Compensation was also not issued for assets and properties that were damaged in the violence, despite the Supreme Court’s order to do so. 

The internally displaced survivors of the Kandhamal violence now live in new colonies with no access to basic resources, while migrants who left the district have now been stranded because of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Odisha state remains a dangerous place for Christians. In June, approximately ten families were attacked and excommunicated from their villages. A 14-year-old Christian boy in Odisha was also killed that month, his head crushed with a stone. 

In a special webinar marking the Kandhamal anniversary,“13 Years: Remembering Kandhamal,” the NCF launched the Kandhamal Human Rights Award, to honour the contributions of individuals, organisations and groups to the promotion and protection of human rights, particularly on behalf of the vulnerable and marginalised groups in India.

CSW’s Founder President Mervyn Thomas said: "Some memories are painful, but we must remember what happened in Kandhamal so that we ensure that it never happens again.  CSW calls on the government of Odisha to reopen the 315 cases that were prematurely closed and to obey this and other provisions of the 2016 Supreme Court order regarding justice and compensation for the Kandhamal victims and survivors, who continue to experience hardship and loss 13 years on. We also congratulate the recipients of the Kandhamal Human Rights Award for their dedication in promoting human rights for the most marginalised communities in India.”



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