Bhubaneswar, India, Sep 12, 2015 / 05:01 am
Victims say that they are still waiting for justice, seven years after some of the most violent anti-Christian attacks in India's recent history.
"Justice has alluded us," Fr. Ajay Singh of the Kandhamal Committee for Peace and Justice said, Reuters Foundation reported.
"After knocking on every door within the state government, we found no one willing to come forward to secure justice for the victims of Kandhamal."
Following the August 2008 murder of Swami Lakshmanananda, leader of the right-wing Hindu nationalist organization Vishna Hindu Parishad, Hindu fundamentalists attacked the Christian minority in Kandhamal district of Odisha, whom they blamed for the murder.
In the months that followed, nearly 100 Christians were killed for refusing to convert to Hinduism and 56,000 people were displaced, while 6,500 houses and 395 churches were destroyed. About 10,000 people have still not returned due to fear of reprisals.
Fr. Singh's group said that although more than 3,000 complaints have been submitted, only 827 of them were registered by the police, with 237 having been dismissed for a lack of evidence because many witnesses are still afraid to come forward with their stories.
Of those complaints, only 33 have been given a judgement.
On the anniversary of the attack last year, Fr. Thomas Chellan, a survivor of the violence, recounted to the charity Aid to the Church in Need his narrow escape from a mob of hundreds that descended on his parish pastoral center in August 2008.
"We could see our home going up in flames. The mob broke open all the doors and windows, thinking we were hiding inside," he said.
He and a religious sister were able to hide in the home of a Hindu man who took them in despite the huge threat he faced from the radicals seeking out Christians.
The mob came and searched the man's house and found the sister and Fr. Chellan in a shed in the backyard. The priest said he was beaten with sticks and iron rods while the religious sister was brutally raped. When the priest tried to intervene, the mob doused him in gasoline and threatened to set him on fire.
The two eventually escaped and found refuge at a local police station.
Local government official Yamini Sarangi denies any neglect of the victims, telling the Thomson Reuters Foundation that "Everybody had returned back home" and victims have been justly compensated.