By ICC’s India Correspondent
05/10/2017 Washington, D.C. (International Christian Concern) – Khoraput is one of the several districts in India’s Odisha state that were affected by the 2008 Orissa riots, still considered India’s worst instance of anti-Christian violence. That violence displaced thousands of Christians across the state, including 34 Christian families from Talagumandi village, located in the Narayanpatna block of Khoraput.
Even though nine long years have passed, these 34 Christian families, accounting for approximately 150 people, are still living in pathetic conditions at an unofficial relief camp without sufficient food and barely any facilities, including clean water and toilets.
International Christian Concern (ICC) reached out to these 150 internally displaced persons (IDPs) and discovered that they were living in a deserted 900 square foot building. ICC provided these IDPs with food, including rice, pulses, pepper, onions, and other items, which will be sufficient to provide for them for more than two months.
For these Christian IDPs, justice is still a distant dream. The destruction of the 2008 riots left more than 100 dead and more than 56,000 displaced as many Christian villages were torched and ransacked by an aggravated mob of ultra-Hindu nationalists.
A victim named Pojith Kumar Paro told ICC how grateful he was for the food aid he received. “Your provision will not only feed us for the next two months, but this will give us space, where we can go to the authorities concerning our [rehabilitation],” Paro explained. “Our income is barely sufficient for food and it was not possible for us leave work and go after authorities. Thank you so much, now we can.”
Susmita Bidika, the mother of four children, said, “My children always cry for cookies and I know we cannot afford to buy them. I am so grateful to you for providing nutritious cookies pack. Thank God even for the rice, dal and the other pulses!”
Prmika Kandhapan, a 30-year-old widow with two daughters, had to work long hours as a domestic servant in the neighborhood. She explained how ICC’s assistance went beyond physical care. She said, “The provision of food gives me great relief. Of course relief from the work, but more than that, knowing that there are people who care for us and think of us. That gives me joy and motivation to endure what I have been enduring for the last nine years.”
Kandhapan, from Talagumandi, remembers what it was like when the Hindu fanatics attacked the village, displacing these 34 families. On January 13, 2009, more than 3,000 Hindu radicals stormed into the 34 Christian homes in her village, looting everything they had.
“Immediately I locked the door from inside,” Kandhapan recalled. “People were shouting outside of the door asking me to open the door. I was terrified. They broke the door with axe and five men came inside and I heard them talking to each other and said, ‘Let’s rape her.’ I begged them to leave me and God was gracious. That night, all 34 Christian families walked more than 15 miles in the dark to save our lives from the angry mob.”
“We left everything, our lands, houses, household things, and never went back to that village again.” Loksham Khora explained. “We never think of going back because we know that we will be killed if we ever go back to that village.”
“The Christians were dumped here like animals in an old deserted house,” Rev. Debendra Singh, the pastor of an independent church in Khoraput told ICC. “Many of them came just with a single pair of clothes did not have another one to change into. I was shaken and cried looking at their situation. Even in that situation, they wanted to follow Christ no matter what. ICC’s help is significant in their lives, as they realize that they are part of larger family of God’s people. Thank you for the gesture you have shown.”
These 34 families have nothing of their own now. They left everything that belonged to them nine years ago, 80 miles away, in a village they can never return to. The efforts from the government to rehabilitate these families have been ineffective thus far. They need roofs over their heads, employment to feed themselves, and of course dignity. Please pray for these 34 Christian families as ICC continues to serve them and seek for solutions for their long-term future.