It has been 5 years since mobs of radical Hindus swept across the valleys of Kandhamal, India, purging over 400 villages of their Christian inhabitants. In marking this anniversary, Christians are highlighting the fact that many of the perpetrators of the 2008 violence have escaped justice. Christians are often harassed by either radicals or police into not pursuing cases against their attackers, leading to a dramatic under reporting of anti-Christian violence in Kandhamal. Please pray for these persecuted brothers and sisters.
8/25/2013 India (BosNewsLife) – The Christian community in India’s troubled Odisha state is this weekend marking the fifth anniversary of what was the country’s worst anti-Christian violence on record amid fears of more violence in the area.
At least 90 people were killed and 54,000 displaced in the 2008 clashes in the state’s Kandhamal district, after decades of anti-Christian hate speech and smaller scale attacks by Hindu groups opposing the spread of Christianity.
“Against the backdrop of a rising number of acquittals of perpetrators of the 2008 violence, the Christian community still faces harassment and violence,” said advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).
It cited reports that 29 girls from their community were sexually assaulted in the last year alone.
Though 30 percent of suspects in the 2008 violence was convicted, a rate higher than the national average, many are free on bail and the “majority of complaints were never subject to a police investigation,” CSW told BosNewsLife.
Additionally, “Many witnesses in the cases that have been investigated have been threatened against giving evidence in court, and without sufficient protection, a large number have lost faith in the justice system,” added the group, which closely followed cases.
Some human rights activists say they also face harassment from Hindu extremist groups as well as police, who accuse them of being Maoist supporters.
Priest Ajay Singh, a prominent Odisha-based human rights activist, said he was threatened after being awarded the Minority Rights Award by the National Commission for Minorities in July this year.
“Insecurity and fear still prevail among the Christian community here due to the rise in the number of acquittals of criminals. Justice delivery systems have failed and are costly. The people cannot afford it” as “90 percent of victims are struggling for their livelihood,” he added.
Yet, “The Church and the civil society groups are not able to make the government accountable to the people,” the priest acknowledged. He accused authorities of not feeling “obliged” to the community. “The history of the Kandhamal situation shows us that every time we spoke about peace without fighting for justice, violence continued to take place”.