ICC Note: Ten years after India’s worst case of anti-Christian violence, seven Christians remain wrongfully convicted of murdering a Hindu cleric that sparked the riots. In June 2015, police officials testified that the allegations against the seven Christians were false, yet appeal hearings since have been repeatedly postponed. When will India serve justice to these seven Christians and the tens of thousands of others effected by the 2008 riots?
08/26/2018 India (World Watch Monitor) – Ten years after the worst case of anti-Christian violence in India’s history, the local community continues to struggle, with reparations from the government slow in coming and seven reportedly innocent Christians still in prison.
Nearly 100 Christians were killed, 300 churches and 6,000 Christian homes were damaged, and 55,000 people were made homeless in the Kandhamal district of Odisha after the killing of a Hindu leader, Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, on 23 August 2008.
By the end of that year, the seven Christians – Chalanseth, Sanseth, Durjo Sunamajhi, Bhaskar Sunamajhi, Budhadeb Nayak, Munda Badamajhi and Sanatan Badamajhi – had been charged with his murder. In 2013, they were each found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment.
The convictions shocked India’s Christian community, which was still reeling after the deadly retribution attacks by Hindu mobs, who accused Christians of the killing of the swami even though Maoists had claimed the killing soon after it took place.
In June 2015, two top police officials testified that the allegations were false, yet the Christians’ appeal hearings have since been repeatedly postponed.
The seven – three of whom are Dalits, the other four tribals – continue to maintain their innocence.
According to Catholic journalist Anto Akkara, who has led a campaign for their release, their trial and conviction was “the result of an outlandish Hindu radical conspiracy rooted in the slain swami’s boastful claim that the United States, Europe, the pope and [Catholic politician] Sonia Gandhi had a vested interest in making Kandhamal a Christian region”.
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