Kandhamal Probe a Failure, Say Activists

A top official of National Commission for Minorities concluded his visit to Orissa yesterday but rights activists say he is unable to assess the situation of anti-Christian violence.

“We are disappointed as he didn’t go to most of the affected villages,” said Adikand Singh, one of the activists.The commission’s vice chairman H. T. Sangliana toured Kandhamal district last Sept. 14, the epicenter of the 2008 anti-Christian violence. But it was controlled by the state, Singh and others argued.

Sangliana arrived in state capital Bhubaneswar and met with Christian leaders including Archbishop Raphael Cheenath of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar and officials of the State Minority Commission before proceeding to Kandhamal.

A Church official said Christian leaders told the official that the state planned his tour of Kandhamal but kept it “a secret.” This was to avoid the official interacting with hundreds of people affected by the violence, he added.

Sangliana said he has received a lot of complaints on the eve of his visit to Kandhamal. “People are yet to return to their villages and they remain outside because of fear of further attack.” He said he planned to meet victims.

However the administration took him only to just two of the 415 affected villages and some marketplaces, said Jugal Ranjit, another rights activist.

He said the state officials gave “conflicting” information about Sangliana’s itinerary so that local Christian leaders couldn’t interact with the official.

Prasan Bihoyi, a Christian activist, who traveled with the official to state capital to meet Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said Sangliana spoke of the administrative lapses in the area. “The administration has more to hide than to show,” he stated.

Bihoyi said Sangliana recommended that administration must strengthen relief and rehabilitation operations. The official also stressed the need of providing security to witnesses, who listed to testify in court against the radicals, Bihoyi added.

Redressal for Orissa victims Sought

Archbishop Raphael Cheenath has asked Orissa state to form an independent committee to assess the compensation being paid to victims of the 2008 anti-Christian violence.The archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneshawar met Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Sept. 14 and said that while assessing the compensation, the committee should also consider the opinion of victims.

In a memorandum submitted to Patnaik, the archbishop said compensation should not only include houses, but also household items.The Hindu extremist violence, which lasted from September to December 2008, killed 93 people and left some 50,000 people homeless. Some 6,500 houses, 350 churches and 45 health and educational institutes were destroyed, burnt or looted.

The compensation given to the churches and people was not adequate because it amounted to about “one-tenth of the total cost” of re-building, the archbishop said. He also asked the state government to ensure the safe return of those displaced during the violence and rehabilitate them according to UN guidelines. The archbishop noted that about 3,500 people are still living in temporary shelters in different villages of the state. The memorandum demanded a waiver of loans taken during and after the violence since people had no employment.

source: http://www.indiancurrents.org/zenit3.htm


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