A CRIME COMMITTED AGAINST A DALIT EVERY 18 MINUTE | 6 DALITS KIDNAPPED OR ABDUCTED EVERY WEEK | 3 DALIT WOMEN RAPED EVERY DAY | 13 DALITS MURDERED EVERY WEEK | 27 ATROCITIES AGAINST DALITS EVERY DAY
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Report on the 2nd Pressure building team organized by FJPK to respond to the attack on Dalit and Tribal Christians in Kandhamal in Orissa.

by udaya — last modified 2009-04-06 14:24

(This Report is from Mr. Vincent Manoharan, Secretary, International Advocacy, NCDHR who was part of a team of a FF Team on "the carnage in Kandhamal.”)

 

 

 

The team consists of the following persons

 

  • Ms. Seema Mustafa, renowned Journalist, Delhi
  • Ms. Sagari Chaabra, Film Maker and Journalist, Delhi
  • Dr. Kamal Mitra Chenoy, Professor, JNU, Delhi
  • Dr, Manoranjan Mohanty, Professor, DU, Delhi
  • Mr. Biju Lal, ISI, Delhi,
  • Dr. Prasad, NCDHR – NDMJ, Delhi
  • Mr. Vincent Manoharan, NCDHR, Delhi
  • Dr. Prakash Louis, BSI, Patna
  • Mr. Prafulla Samantray  Bhubaneswar.

 

This Team met on the 14th in Bhubaneswar and had a planning meeting  for two hours in the evening. The members were divided into 2 Teams and led by Mr. Vincent and Dr. Prakash respectively. On the 15th Sept,  these two teams visited  the relief Camps, damaged and burnt  houses, places of worship, institutions, NGO offices in the following places:

 

Kalinga, Tikabali, Nuogan, Baliguda, Mereka, Paburia,m Tiangia, Malikapada, Sarang guda, Pabingia, Kasipadar, Dimligud, Kasingpada, G.Udayagiri, Mandakia, Boruigia, Raikia and Phulbani.

 

The Team spoke to the Victims, Officials both Revenue Administration, Health and Police departments and also the Villagers.

 

The team headed by Dr. Prakash faced a threat by the Hindu Women who rushed with bamboo sticks, rods and stones and dared to face the consequences as FF  teams always help only the Dalit and Tribal  Christians. The men blocked the road with huge stones. Some how the team managed to escape by telling that they are Human Rights Activists  from Delhi and they are on a mission on unbiased  Fact Finding. The mob joined by the men threatened them that they should not support only the Dalit Christians.  

 

The teams returned to Bhubaneswar and drafted a press note as a preliminary finding and recommendations which is enclosed here. The Team met the press and shared their views and demands. Also met the State President of the Congress Party which is the main opposition in the state, the State Secretaries  of CPI, CPM and their senior colleague and some   Civil Society Leaders.

 

The team finalized to  come out with a good document within  a week time, to organize a press meet in Delhi and also to meet the Central Government Leadership to mount pressure to protect and compensate  the victims and to arrest and punish the perpetrators, besides strategizing for a long term plan of action to stop further violence and to establish justice and peace in Kandhamal.

 

The background, my own personal observations and recommendations:

 

The background

 

  • Orissa is a state with 30 districts having a population of 40 million  in which 17% are Dalits and 23% are Tribals.
  • Its known for its mines and mineral resources, forests and flowing of rivers. But the people are poor and the basic amenities are yet to be provided  for the people to lead a decent life.
  • This state constitute around 9 lakh  (0.9 Million) Christians mostly the from the Dalit and Tribal communities. 
  • Ruled by the Coalition of BJD and BJP who count 61 and 33 MLAs to their alliance  out of the total 147 Assembly constituencies. Congress owns 40 MLAs and CPI and CPM have got  one each  to their credit, JMM 4  and the rest are independents.
  • Kandhamal District having Phulbani as its Head Quarters owns 6.48 lakh population in which Dalits Constitute 18% and Tribals 52 %. – Out of this the Dalit and Tribal Christians constitute  around 1.20 lakh.
  • Kandhamal  has got 12 Blocks and 153 Panchayats.
  • Panos and Khands are the major sub sects among Dalits and Tribals respectively
  • Christianity claimed to have  its presence for the last 200 years and this district has got the major percentage of  Christians.
  • Catholic Church and its institutions are more in number while protestants are very minimal.
  • The Dalit and Tribals who embraced Christianity have become literate, owned government jobs and have become traders involving in petty business gradually enhancing their  economic power.
  • This economic improvement gave them social assertion and they object to the caste based subjugation and reject the oppression and subjugation  of the Dominant caste.
  • Since their literacy rate is improved, they are able to  analyze  the  political situation and understand the ideology and designs of Hindutva forces and parties.
  •  Land and business owning non Dalits are behind the Hindutva forces and they   played a major role in the politics of this district, now  began to feel that their socio, economic and political interests and dominance  are at stake owing to the empowerment of Christian Dalits and Tribals who were benefited by Christianity.
  • The Non Dalit Hindu Land owners do not get adequate labour force to work in their field and also to carry all the filthy jobs since many have turned into literates and economically empowered owing to the involvement of Christianity.  
  • Therefore, they started supported the Hindu Fundamentalist forces organizing the Hindus especially the Hindu Dalits and Tribals against the Christian Dalits and Tribals.
  • VHP began to develop its cadres from 1960s onwards and Lakmananda slowly emerged as its leader in this district and also the state.
  • The VHP is said to have more than 1 lakh of its cadres who are trained with the ideology of RSS and its strategic designs.
  • This state faced the cruel killing of Graham Staines, a Christian Missionary in 1999 and later Priest Aruldoss in 2005. The Christian Institutions were  targeted and terrorized the Christian clergy, its workers and the Christian population.
  • The Hindu Dalits and Tribals who are visibly far  behind the Socio, economic empowerment of Christian Dalits and Tribals and therefore it was easy for the Brahmanical forces to  drag them into the Hindu communal fold.
  • Hate speech was systematically promoted and the communal feeling on the religious lines were incensed into the minds of the Non Dalits especially into the Hindu Dalits and Tribals.   
  • Land is another prime issue which divided the Christian and Hindu Dalits and Tribals. While Hindu Dalits and Tribals at least able to get lands as they come under SC category of the Government, the Christian Dalits and Tribals are not able to get that much ownership of land  from the Government as they are treated as OBCs and not as SCs.  Now the Christian Dalits and Tribals also demand to   come under SC status which has been seen as an encroachment of their area of interests of Hindu Dalits and Tribals.
  • VHP, Bajrang Dal and RSS masterminded their strategy to make use of this situation and slowly have sown the communal feeling in the minds of the Hindu Dalits and Tribals and also the Non Dalits.
  • Christmas celebration organized by Dalit Christians  in December 2007 in the name of Ambedkar Traders Association  was seen as an act of assertion of Christian Dalits and this attempt was thwarted by the Hindu Fundamentalists.
  • Especially Lakmananda Saraswathy the Hindu VHP leader played a major role in spreading violence on the churches, institutions, humiliating priests, nuns, damaging, razing, looting and burning the houses of all Chrisitians and the institutions.
  • The  State Government was conspicuously inactive to proceed against the offenders and protect the victims but owing to the pressure mounted by various CS organizations and intervention made in the Legal Forums, the State Government ordered for a Judicial Enquiry headed by Justice Panigre and  tried to bring back normalcy after 8 months of the well designed attack of VHP on the Christians and Christian Institutions. 
  • In the mean time, Swami Lakhamanada was claimed to have been killed by Maoists ( which is to be probed and confirmed )  on the 23rd August and the VHP took up his murder as a chance to terrorize once again the Christians and their institutions, their homes and other livelihood, on the pretext that Christians were behind the killing of Swami Lakhamananda. They carried the dead body of Lakhmananda for 150 kms and at every village they kept the body and  attacked the Christians and their properties. Large scale  Terror was unleashed.
  • This time still more organized attack was unleashed on the Churches, Institutions, homes and livelihood of the Christian Dalits and Tribals. Burning, looting, ransacking are designs of vandalism besides beating and humiliating the Priests and Nuns were reported.
  • Again the Christian Dalits and Tribals ran into forests for lives leaving their properties to be razed down and torched by the Hindu Fundamentalists.
  • Those who were caught by the mob were forced to accept to get back to Hinduism on dagger point and forced to follow Hindu rituals on putting weapons on their head.
  • Persons resisted were either killed or maimed.
  • The State Government  which could easily expect such planned attacks on Christian Institutions and Christians could have taken proper measures to prevent such carnage by arresting the VHP leaders and cadres and also providing security to the Institutions and habitations. But since the State Government is ruled with the support of the Communal Party – BJP, it did not take any measure to stop this violence or to protect the people. Instead it gave protection and permission to the National VHP leader to roam the entire district to inflame the tension and the attacks.
  • The Central Government on its part also miserably failed to take cognizance of this massive violence although reports were on papers and on air and also the pressure came from the National Christian Leaders and the Human Rights Defenders.
  • The state CM, visited the Ashram where Lakhmananda lived and paid homage to the departed Swamiji and also visited one or two camps were the victims were housed.
  • The Central Government sent its Minister of State for Home to visit this district who was sent back by the State Government as the area is still in tense.
  • Later the Central Minister for Home Affairs visited the State and accelerated the police protection by providing Central Reserve Police Force on the request of the State Government.
  • Later the CRPF head  passed allegations  that the State Police does not give proper support to maintain law and order.
  • The High Court was approached by the Church and a Local Movement which issued direction to the State Government to ensure safety of the people.
  • Supreme Court was also approached when VHP announced that it would organize meetings in entire state for the death of Swami Lakhmananda and also to carry his Ashes as a rally. The SC pulled the State Government and in turn the State assured that it will not allow any such activity by the VHP and other Hindutva Forces. Also it had informed the Court that it had taken 421 persons into custody for perpetrating violence. But who are they is a question.

 

My observation:

 

My observation is based on my two visits – the first one on the 1st September where NCDHR and FJPK  organized a Preliminary Pressure building team in the name of Concerned Citizens of India,   with the presence of Swami Agnivesh, Justice Suresh, Ms. Shabnam, Ms. Meenakshi Ganguly, Dr. Prakash Louis, Dr. Prakash and Mr. Manas Jena – and the second visit now along with the team which is mentioned above.

 

  • It is a well planned attack on the Church, its Institutions and Dalit and Tribal Christians by the Hindu Fundamentalist forces, especially the VHP.
  • They instigated the Hindu Dalits and Hindu Tribals to attack Christian Dalits and Christian Tribals besides the Hindu Non Dalits.
  • It appears to be a Communal violence based on religious  dimension, but the serious “under current” is a Caste conflict.  The Hindu Non Dalits were not able to digest the socio, economic growth of Dalits and Adivasis, who may tilt the political overtures as well.
  • The clear lists were drawn for the attacks. Outsiders were also brought in to this district to inflict violence along with the local perpetrators.
  • The Hindu Non Dalit business community supplied the Fuel – Kerosene and Diesel and petrol for burning the properties.
  • Local weapons were supplied to the mob.
  • National VHP leadership was leading and monitoring the attack.
  • Large scale looting was masterminded and all properties were either damaged or emptied by the mob
  • Those we remained in the houses especially the women and children and the otherwise abled  were the worst affected with physical violence.
  • Those who objected to this violence were either killed or mutilated.
  • There were instances that persons were cut into three pieces, lynched with heavy stones, and buried alive.
  • The Priest and Nun were striped naked and humiliated with untold manners. They were beaten up and kerosene was sprinkled on them. The mob took the nun inside a hall in a nearby temple and it was reported that she was raped.
  • Many have run into forest to save their lives. The whole family was shattered as they do not know who runs where and which directions.
  • Those who gave shelter to Christian Dalits and Tribals were also attacked by the mob.
  • The police remained as spectators. When they were approached they told that they do not have any orders and persuaded them to run away for life.
  • The State Administration did not take any preliminary measure to safe guard the live and properties of  Dalit and Tribal Christians.
  • Even now after 3 weeks, no protection whatsoever is provided to the churches, and properties of the Dalit and Tribal Christians. They were allowed to be attacked by the Hindu Fundamentalist Forces.
  • The Civil society organizations and NGOs who were active after the last Christmas violence were identified, their offices and the houses were damaged and burnt all documents, materials and articles were looted and ransacked. Many flee to forest to save their lives.
  • Vehicles of all sorts – 4 wheelers and two wheelers and cycles were burnt down.
  • The statue of Jesus and other religious leaders were denigrated and broken into pieces. Bibles were burnt. Crosses broken.
  • Not adequate arrests were made. And Police refused to receive the complaint from the local people who witness the violence. Either they were chased or threatened with false cases.
  • The State Administration prevented the outsiders to enter in to this district with the excuse that tension is prevailed there. However, it allowed VHP National leaders to roam the district with full protection and escort.
  • The Chief Minister visited the Ashram and paid homage to the Swamiji who was killed. He also made use of this opportunity to visit one or two relief camps.
  • Even the Minister of State for Home from the Central Government was also not allowed citing the unsafe situation.
  • Relief camps were established in 18 places to house more than 26,000 Dalit and Tribal Christian victims.
  • Tents were pitched in close ranges and no proper sanitation arrangements were made.
  • Due to rain, leakage and seepage takes place in all tents and the people were not able to even sit there. No blanket or spreads were provided to them.
  • Medical team is insufficient and Malaria and Diarrhea broke out.
  • Children and women are worst affected as no milk was supplied and the pregnant mothers do not get adequate attention.
  • Drinking water was insufficient and it was kept  in an unhygienic  manner.
  • Toilets are not properly set in and managed.
  • Only rice and dhal were supplied all the time. People rush for getting food.
  • Relief camps were protected by the Police who stay in School and terraced buildings but the people were asked to stay in tents which are pitched in the grounds.
  • People who went to see the situation in their villages were forced by the Hindu forces to reconvert themselves by applying tilak (dot) in their fore head and asked to drink the cow dung mixed water to purify themselves once they relinquish the foreign religion. They were then asked to demolish the same church in which they worshiped or to place the Hindu idols. Any rejection or denial is met with murder or severe attack. The same thing was meted out to those who came out from forests.
  • Since the condition of the Relief camps are not conducive for a safe living, slowly people leave and try to go to the nearby towns or to the homes of their relatives. But government claims that people return to villages as normalcy returns.
  • Government claims that from 26,000 inmates now it has been reduced to 17,000 in all the 18 camps. But the reality is that people do not go to the villages as they do not have their homes and also under threat by the mob.
  • Still smoke erupts out of burning of properties every day and police do not prevent or arrest the perpetrators. They have a free movement .
  • The victims do not have any confidence on the government and afraid of going back to the places where they lived.
  • School going children and college students both boys and girls are in desperation as they are in camps or in forests and their books were totally burnt.
  • All documents like ration cards and other certificates that they received from the government were fully burnt.
  • Many remain in trauma and they lost confidence and hope to talk to any one.
  • Tears gush from their eyes when they began to talk to us. They were bewildered to see that their own neighbors turned to be killers and abettors.
  • The young girls and their parent live in full fear as at any point of time anything may happen to them. It was a pathetic sight to see them in despair.
  • Media is fully biased and communalized. It does not play its genuine role to be secular, transparent and unbiased.
  • The Ruling party BJD  needs the  support of BJP to remain in power. Therefore it does not bother about the pains and sufferings of people.
  • The opposition party , the Congress,  does not play its crucial role to mount pressure on the Government.
  • CPI and CPM issued statements condemning the violence and also organized rallies. Their presence is not felt much in this state.
  • Central Government also failed to play its constitutional role to restore peace and to render justice to the victims.
  • The Governor is  receptive to meet the Civil Society but he is also not adequately active in terms of visiting the violence hit area or to send a report to the centre as the constitutional authority of the state.
  • Perpetrators were not properly booked, arrested and proceeded against.
  • No compensation was given to those who lost their family members or their properties are damaged, burnt and looted.
  • No rehabilitation package is announced to restore peace and to resume the normal life.
  • Civil Society is satisfied with organizing rallies and issuing statements.
  •  Peace committees were said to have been formed but nothing is functioning.
  • In many villages the Panchayat presidents have led the attack against their own people – The Dalit and Tribal Christians. They did not protect the victims and give shelter to them, instead they became attackers.
  • NHRC did not act based on its suomotto jurisdiction. When approached, it asked for a report from the State Government, following the usual and casual procedures.
  • National Minority Commission is also not very much effective or vocal in condemning this and to call for the action of the State and Central Governments exercise its authority.
  • High court and Supreme court, when approached passed orders to direct the State Government to maintain law and order and to protect the victims and to proceed with the accused.

 

Recommendations:

 

  • The State Government should take all necessary immediate steps to bring normalcy in the District of Kandhamal and also in other parts of the state.
  • The perpetrators should be brought to book and arrested and speedy trial should be initiated to punish them
  • The Government officials should be booked for the dereliction of their duty and the willful negligence in protecting the victims and stop the violence.
  • The impunity being enjoyed by both the Hindu Fundamentalist forces and the Government offices should be cracked by proceeding legally against them.
  • State Government must be impeached for not taking adequate legal and protective measures as soon as the news came that Swami Lakhmananda has been killed.
  • State Government should allow the free entry of  CS and Human Right organizations into Kandhamal district to have their assessment and also to help the victims. 
  • The complaints given by the local people should be admitted and FIR should be registered on those who have been given as perpetrators.
  • The State Govt should  provide police protection to Churches and Institutions and also the areas where Dalit and Tribal Christians live.
  • State Govt should retrieve all goods looted by the perpetrators and retuned to the victims.
  • State Govt should send officials into forests to bring back those who still hide there for lives.
  • Relief and Rehabilitation measures should be geared up for restoring normalcy.
  • The Relief camps should be kept in tact in terms of providing adequate and nutritious meal to those who are housed there.
  • Sanitation and medical facilities should be improved in the camps. Free medical treatment should be provided to those who got injured during the attacks.
  • School going children should be given protection to go to schools and books and notes should be provided to them. Special classes should be conducted to such children.
  • Pregnant mothers and children in the camps should be given extra care in the camps
  • Confidence building measures should be chalked out  up by the government for the victims to go to their places.
  • Govt should provide police protection for those who are prepared to go to their places.
  • The damaged and burnt houses should be rebuilt by the government enabling the victims to go there.
  • Such amount spent on rehabilitation should be recovered from the perpetrators and the outfits to which they belong to.
  • Extensive and proper damage assessment should be done by the government with the help of CS organizations and govt should ensure  full compensation .
  • The buildings,  churches and houses should rebuilt by the government
  • The movables burnt should be replaced from the Govt exchequer.
  • The Central Government should issue direction to the State Government under Article 256 and 257 for the enforcement of law to protect the victims
  • Central Government should declare the entire Kandhamal district as a disturbed area and issue directions to the State Government under article 355 for immediate action of the State Government for curbing this internal disturbance.
  • VHP, Bajrang Dal and RSS should  banned  for terrorizing the people
  • No more activities of these Hindu Fundamentalist forces in this area should be allowed and all events to pay homage to Lakhmananda should be banned.
  • Govt should watch over of issuing of pamphlets instigating violence in the name of Religion.
  • CBI enquiry should be ordered to enquire and investigate the killing of S Lakhmananda and the violence perpetrated after that.
  • Media who played a biased role should be referred to Press council for its enquiry.
  • Govt should seriously follow the directions given by the Orissa High Court and Supreme court of India.
  • Govt should ban the entry of trouble creators from VHP, BD and RSS into Kandhamal district.
  • Praveen Togodia, and Ashok Singhal should not be allowed to enter into Kandhamal district to stop further violence on Dalit Christians and Tribals.
  • An all party meeting should be organized to have the Peace Committee formed for the State, District, Block and Village levels where CS organizations should also be included as committee members.
  • The Panchayat Presidents who involved in inflicting violence should not allow to function as Presidents and they should be brought under law.
  • The traders who supplied weapons, diesel, kerosene and petrol should be booked as abettors and punished under the law.
  • A long term strategy should be worked out to render justice to the victims and to promote peace in Kandhamal.
  • All necessary steps should be worked out to promote harmony and peace in the whole state of Orissa.

 

J. Vincent Manoharan

NCDHR

19.09.08

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                         

 

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