Christians across India are preparing to mark the 9th anniversary of the worst incident of persecution in the country’s independent history. Kandhamal Day is a day in which the victims of the 2008 Kandhamal Riots are remembered by the Indian Church. The anti-Christian riots were sparked by the murder of Hindu leader Saraswati Laxanananda in the Kandhamal District by Maoists. Followers of Saraswati Laxanananda blamed Christians for the murder and unleashed a three month pogrom against Christians. As a result, over 50,000 were displaced and at least 91 people were killed.
08/24/2017 India (Herald Malaysia Online) – “My prayer is that Kandhamal Day is remembered as a people’s movement and that the struggle, the suffering, of our people – the lost, the last and the least – are witnesses of the faith for everyone.” This is the wish of Msgr. John Barwa, Archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, on the eve of the day that commemorates the massacre of Christians in Orissa.
Tomorrow, will be the ninth anniversary of the violence carried out by Hindu radicals in August 2008. For the occasion, more than 10,000 people will gather in Kandhamal, the district most affected by the murderous fury of nationalists, in solidarity with the victims. People of every faith will join together to [show] solidarity and love.
On August 25, the Indian Church remembers the fierce pogroms triggered by Hindu nationalist and Hindu militant groups. On August 23, 2008, a Maoist group killed Hindu leader Saraswati Laxanananda in his ashram, in Kandhamal District, a fact the group readily admitted. However, the followers of the radical Hindu cleric blamed Christians, whom he had criticized for a long time because of their social involvement with tribals and Dalits and had accused, along with bishops, priests and nuns, of proselytizing.
In Kandhamal, Hindu extremists unleashed the most violent persecution against the Christian minority that India has ever seen. Overall, the pogrom forced 55,000 Christians to flee, with 5,600 houses and 415 villages raided and set on fire. According to government figures, 38 people were killed and two women raped. Scores of people were injured and permanently maimed. Church and social activists reported the destruction of almost 300 churches, plus convents, schools, hostels and welfare facilities. At least 91 people died, 38 immediately, 41 from injuries sustained in the violence, and 12 in police action.