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
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
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
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.”