Monday, November 15, 2010

Hindu Boycots threaten christians in Orissa - India

The persecution did not stopped.

All India Christian Council

The Collector: of Kandhamal, Orissa, Dr. Krishan Kumar who headed the district during the anti Christian violence of August-October 2008 which left 100 dead, 5,600 houses burnt and about 56,000 persons displaced, seems now to be presiding over a well thought out economic boycott of the minority community.

Confronted with the stark reality, Krishan has taken to blaming the Church and its leadership for being a hindrance in restoring peace - possibly because they have petitioned the High Court and the Supreme court of India on issues of justice in the region.

The economic boyctott of Kondh and Panos Christians in Kandhamal, which first came to light in the People's National Tribunal headed by former Delhi chief justice Shah, held in New Delhi in August this year, continues to be a source of major harassment of the community, a fact finding team of social activist and lawyers has discovered in a field study of the region earlier this month. The preliminary report was released yesterday.

The fact finding team consisted of four well-known activists led by Advocate Nicholas Barla, a tribal activist leader, with Advocate Brother Marcus, a social worker, Jugal Kishore Ranjit, a dalit human right activist and Ajay Kumar Singh, human right activist.

They visited Kandhamal on 5th of November 2010 to verify the allegations of social and economical boycotts of Kandhamal Christians. The team visited four villages of four police stations of three blocks in violent hit district of Kandhamal in Orissa.

The following is the operative part of the Fact Finding Report and

Despite the state administration claims of normalcy, what has been found by the Fact-finding group report reveals a state of lawlessness and utter fear and sense of insecurity of the persecuted Christians.

The team first visited Gadaguda village under G. Udayagiri police station under Tikabali that witnessed violence as late as 30th of October 2008, almost two months after violence was unleashed against Christian. An elderly couple in their late 70s were axed and then burnt alive here. Scores of people were injured.

One of them, an army man, has bullets in his hands and thighs. Some are still in tents. The team interacted with the people of Dakanaju village and nearby villagers. They included the postman, Sarapanch and a group of affected Christians. The team was told the Christians of Dakanaju village were barred from taking water from the government dug well.

The team then met Gadaguda Sarapanch, Sachindra Pradhan and asked whether he was aware of such instance. Mr. Pradhan told that he was not aware and would look into the matter and sort out at the earliest.

The team then headed for Bodimunda village under Tikabali police station in Tikabali block. They parked the vehicle on the roadside and headed towards the broken buildings and houses, a sure sign of wrath of anti-Christian violence. Upon reaching the village, the team members headed for a pastor's house as there were hardly anybody seen on the street amidst the ruins.

The pastor, Binod Pradhan (name changed), welcomed the group to his house and a definite anxiety reflected on his face. The team found that his house was intact. The pastor told the group that he has been forced to become a Hindu to save his old mother, who could not have escaped the violence as she was not in a position to walk even.

Within minutes of the team's coming, a person later identified as a RSS cadre came to the house to enquire about the group. The pastor informed him that the guests are bank officials as his relative works in a bank. It was a sign that the team should leave the house soon.

Meanwhile, the team was informed of social and economical boycott imposed on the Christians by the right wing group RSS, the parent group of the Bharatiya Janata party, and there would be fines if any vehicle ferry any Christian be he healthy or sick, or their belongings from the village to outside or from outside into village.

The team wanted to verify the allegations and went to a house of certain Bamadev Pradhan, a tribal Christian. Bamadev was lying on the muddy floor and could not get up as he was struck with paralysis. The family members told the group that being paralysis man and was suffering from fever, they looked for a hired auto to take him to a nearby hospital, Tikabali, 8 kilometres away from the village.

Nobody was ready to come to village and finally a Christian who owned an auto-rickshaw was almost forced to pick up the paralytic person. when the hired auto was returning after the drop, it was stopped and taken away by the RSS elements.

The owner took the help of the auto union, which negotiated for the release of the auto paying fine of one thousand fifty one rupees (Rs 1,051) and with the assurance that the auto owner would not ferry any Christian from the village.

The team has started interacting with the paralysed family members for five minutes, when a Christian villager; Jesaya Nayak entered the house and informed the team members that it should leave the place as the situation was volatile.

The team went to another house. A fearful group of Christians had assembled there and interacted with them. The fearful Christians said, "We are in a state of shock. Those who have something have moved out the village and we poor people are left behind.

What haunts us and saddens us is the administration, the BDO and police, who are hand in glove with RSS. Instead of becoming sensitive to our plight, the administration wants to deprive us of our basic amenities. They have banned the local auto-rickshaws, the only means of transportation in the area from taking Christians passengers.

"We are not allowed to bring housing materials nor food provisions or medicines nor allowed to buy anything from the local shops. We do not have any shop of our own. Here, we are struggling to live as human being", the victims said.

The team enquired whether they had complained it before the police, the people replied positively and explained the statement of Inspector in charge, IIC, Tikabali, who said "being a Christian you have to suffer and there is no option'

The team wanted to meet the auto-rickshaw owner and others who have been fined. A villager volunteered to join to meet the auto owner, who has to pay the fine for ferrying the paralytic to the hospital. The auto-rickshaw owner, a pastor, told the team that he had to pay the fine one thousand fifty one rupees despite he had to complain to the police.

The team then met Birendra Nayak (name changed and a Hindu himself), who told the team members that he had to pay Rs 5000 to get his tractor released as it was transporting the housing materials for the construction of the house of a Boarder Security Force soldier, which was destroyed during anti-Christian violence.

Birendra Nayak went on to add, "It is because the local police takes percentage, (a bribe) and protects the anti-social elements who rule the roost. I informed the local police, but nothing happened".

Pushpanjali Nayak, the soldier's mother said who could be contacted over the telephone, told the group, "this incident shocked her army son, who became ill and left the village in disgust. We are presently living under polythene like a cowshed without roof and floor and proper wall with little money that we have had managed to collect, yet we cannot build our houses.

We had brought sand for the house and were taken away by RSS. Our life is hell here". She continued sobbing as she narrated. The former pastor, who says that he would openly practise the faith if situations become normal adds, "The sand that the tractor brought for the house was taken away to build the temple in the village".

Incidentally, there are a group of 15 police persons stationed in the village and they are mute spectators to these incidents. The team then headed for Keredi village under Phulbani block and went to a Christian household. The team found a huge photo of Lord Krishna.

Naresh Digal, an ex-army man (name changed) explained that he had to" live like a Hindu as they are four households in the locality. The environment is quite hostile and there is no support from the administration. He went on to further state that his neighbour, an ex- army man, had to bear the brunt of RSS people and his house was destroyed.

He filed the complaints and after eight days police came to see and left the place even without entering the broken house. The life time earnings of his neighbour are gone. What will he invest on the family's future? What is the use of this way of life if there is no support from anywhere?" The woman, who shared that her cousin has become a nun, said"we are waiting for the day when we could be free to practise the religion of our choice. "Not sure when the day would dawn."

The team then went to Gandapadar village in Minia gram panchayat in Phiringia block. It was deep in the interior. It was not difficult to identify the Christians' houses. The woman of the house welcomed into the repaired house. The team saw a huge framed photo of Lord Shiva on the wall. When asked about the photo, she changed her face and struggled to explain," The RSS has given us the photo and a "Tulsi" plant for worship. We have kept as often they come to check whether we reconverted to Christianity. We know we can never leave our faith." The villagers also stated that almost all the houses in the village have two photos; that of Jesus and Shiva. Tarabati Digal explained that there are 10 families still living outside the village.