Webinar

Kandhamal is now deeply seared  into the collective memory of the Christian community in India. It is also now a part of Independent  India’s tragic list of hate-driven mass violence targeting religious minorities, Adivasis and Dalits by non-state actors enjoying extraordinary impunity.

The malevolent violence in the  Kandhamal and adjoining districts of Odisha in 2007 and 2008 stands out for its organised attack on an entire population of Dalits, Adivasis Christians  women and children among them, whose life, liberty and  human dignity and were violated with impunity. In the violence, over 100 Christians were killed, several of them from the Clergy, over 75,000 displaced. More than 5,600 homes were destroyed, apart from 360 Churches and other places of worship, and public institutions including schools, social services and  health institutions which were looted and  destroyed. More than 40 women were raped, molested and humiliated. Several cases of forced conversion to Hinduism were reported. The education of 12000 children was disrupted. Many continue to suffer psychologically from  the trauma of the violence they suffered.

A study conducted by Supreme Court Advocate Vrinda Grover and Law Professor Dr. Saumya Uma, found the conviction rate to be as low as 5.13% of the cases brought to court. It was a mere 1% of the reports made to the police by the victims and survivors. The struggle for relief, rehabilitation and justice continues in courts and government forums.

Kandhamal violence is a unique case of multiple violations of basic human rights and dignity of the most vulnerable groups. Justice is yet to be done and rights to be restored.

The National Solidarity Forum was constituted by over 70 organisations and groups which came together in the wake of the violence, and worked on various issues relating to trauma, counselling, rehabilitation and advocacy for justice. NSF has commemorated Kandhamal Day on 25th August every year will mass meetings in Kandhamal, Bhubaneswar, New Delhi and other places.

NSF  organised the National People’s Tribunal in Delhi in 2010 headed by Justice AP Shah, former Chief Justice of Delhi High Court and former Chairman of the National Law Commission.  Since then every year on 25th August is observed as “Kandhamal Day” in Kandhamal and other places.  After 13 years of the violence, most of those who were responsible for the Kandhamal violence were not held accountable by law,. Victims and survivors continue are continue their struggle for justice.

The last decade has, meanwhile, seen a rapid deterioration in the situation of religious minorities, specially of Muslims, and Christians. Adivasi and Dalits  too see perceptible erosion of their rights , and an increase on violence against them. Incriminated in the violence and hate are majoritarian fundamentalist groups,  which are no longer on the fringes of society having grown in numbers and aggressiveness with the tacit, and sometimes open, support  of political leaders.. Lynch mobs and violent gangs  fabricate fake arguments of ‘forcible conversion’, ‘love-jihad’, ‘cow-transport’, to attack, and often kill, hapless and innocent young men.

The Covid pandemic, and the economic crises created by the lockdown, has emboldened these criminal forces.  With political support, these elements now target the  life, livelihood, liberty and dignity of the minorities, the Adivasis, Dalits and the poor in urban and rural areas alike. Of deep concern is the scapegoating  of Muslims in particular with sponsored propaganda pillorying them as ‘carriers of the virus’, making it difficult for them to receive timely medical care in hospitals.

The United Nations Human Rights Council and various High Courts in the country have expressed concern over targeting the minorities. activists and organisations have documented number of cases of violations of rights on minorities in exercising their freedom of religion.

In this context, the National Solidarity Forum feels it is important to consolidate solidarity for those who struggle for justice. At the same time, there is a greater need to strengthen the efforts of liberal-secular forces to promote and protect minority rights, freedom, democracy, justice and peace.

With this purpose, the National Solidarity Forum plans to organise several  virtual events – a Film Exhibition on 24 August, 2021 and a  National Webinar on 25 August, which is being commemorated as Kandhamal Day. These will be on the Zoom Platform. On 25 August 2021,  the event will start with Human Rights Awards to Individual  and  an Institution or Group.

Design of the Events:

–          Film Exhibition Day long (Details to be shared later), the Tuesday on 24 August, 2021

–          National Webinar on 25 August, 2021 from 4:00 to 7: 00 PM

Duration –3.00 hours

Participants: 500 above from different places of India and abroad

  • Representatives from Indigenous communities
  • Representatives of various minority groups – Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs and others
  • Survivors of violence in Kandhamal and other places
  • Human Rights and Civil Rights Activists and organisations
  • Representatives of Democratic and Liberal political activists

Three eminent speakers of national/international repute will be invited.

For many of us in the National Solidarity Forum, the diabolic attacks on Christians in Kandhamal, Odisha in two consecutive years 2007 & 2008 was much beyond a matter of shock, shame, pain and grief. The well planned attack was a forewarning of what was to come within months. Barely after eight days after celebration of Independence Day, India witnessed the organized communal attacks on Christians, the biggest in the history of India during the last three centuries, that began in Kandhamal and immediately spread to different parts of Odisha and other states.

The Cases: There have been more than 3,300 complaints in Kandhamal, but only 820 odd FIRs were registered. The rest of the complaints were not even registered. Among these complaints, only 518 cases were charge sheeted. The remaining cases were treated as false reports. And out of these 518 cases, 247 cases disposed of. The rest of the cases are pending before the sessions and magistrate’s courts. And among those cases which have been disposed of, many are already acquitted. According to study conducted by Supreme Court Adv Vrinda Grover and Law Prof Saumya Uma, it is reported that the conviction rate is as low as 5.13% of the charge sheeted cases. If you take complaints as a yardstick of justice process, it is just around 1% only.

None of the criminals responsible for destruction are in jail today. The murderers, rapists, looters and destroyers are today running scot free. However, seven innocent persons in jail for 11 years  with fabricated cases,  have come out on bail. Most of those who were responsible for the violence were not really held accountable by law, though many cases have been filed.

The Compensations: On August 2, 2016, the Supreme Court led by Justice TS Thakur and Justice Uday Lalit mentioned in their judgement that the quantum and scope for compensation was not satisfactory and found that the court also found it disturbing that the offenders of law were not booked and ordered to review 315 cases of communal violence that were filed. The cases are still not yet reopened even after four years as Supreme Court has not set any deadline. There are houses, churches, institutions and voluntary organisations, whose properties destroyed were never found in the compensation list. There are many yet to receive the house damage compensation despite the SC order. Assets and shops of thousands of people were not listed nor considered.

Role of NSF and Others: Over 70 organisations which started acting under the banner of National Solidarity Forum undertook various forms of actions soon after the Kandhamal pogrom. A People’s Tribunal was held in Delhi in 2010 headed by AP Shah, former Chief Justice of Delhi High Court. Several exhibitions were organised in different parts of the country, different research studies on diverse issues related to Kandhamal were undertaken, effective documentation on different aspects of the pogrom was conducted, campaigns were held in colleges, universities and educational institutions, various organisations held public programmes, seminars and public debates in different parts of the country, many written reports in the mainstream media and social media appeared, video documentaries were made and exhibited in different parts of the country, books were released, support mechanisms, solidarity actions were organised in India and abroad, observing Kandhamal Day became a regular affair every year in Kandhamal, Bhubaneshwar and in many other parts of the country; and political leaders, cultural activists and celebrities extended their support to such events and so on.

The Demand: It is a tragedy that even after 12 years; there are hundreds of families are not able to return back to their ancestral villages for fear of losing life. This has taken a huge toll on their lives. The displaced ones within the districts now live in new colonies without access to resources for livelihood and life. The migrants, who left the district for life & livelihood are caught up badly with the pandemic COVID 19.  The widows, the relatives of those killed are fighting a court battle as well as survival besides the fear of the fanatics’ threats. Even after completion of twelve years of Kandhamal communal violence, victims  and survivors are still struggling for Peace, Justice and Harmony.

The Survivors have following demands:

  • Implementation of Supreme Court Verdict of August 2nd, 2016: Reopen of 315 closed/acquitted cases of violence and completion of compensation support.
  • Constitute a Task Force to monitor the cases, Initiate & ensure Witnesses Protection Mechanism, Ensure Police officers for free and fair investigation to reopen the cases & appoint impartial and special prosecutors for the cases.
  • Enhance up to 15 lakh for the death compensation in line of Muzaffarnagar violence cases. Enlist the dead, not made into death list for compensation and for criminal justice delivery system.
  • Book state and non-state actors’ perpetrators involved in the attacks.
  • Announce special package for repair and reconstruction of houses as recommended in a study by former UN Special Rapporteur, Miloon Kothari up to 5 lakh and compensate those who lost their businesses. Enlist those who are not missed out by acts of commissions and omissions for swift compensation packages.
  • Immediately establish Odisha Minority Commission.
  • Facilitate Minority schemes and scholarship in time bound manner and hold the officials responsible for any lapses and delays in implementations.
  • Ensure minority community presence in important administrative machinery to ward off biased decision as well as for harmonious and participatory decision processes.
  • Scrap Odisha anti-conversion law and Presidential Order 1950 para 3 to make religion neutral and delink it from affirmative action
  • Constitute Citizens and community interface with the administration for effectively combating the communal forces

The Onslaught:  Independent India chose to be a Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic. Three quarters of a century later, there are alarming trends that challenge the very foundations of the Republic our Founding Fathers laid. Global Peace Report 2016 ranks India among 20 most violent places in the world to live in; even less peaceful country than Burundi. India is the fourth worst in the world in safety women according to Thomson Reuters Report. India is fourth worst country in the World for Religious Hostilities among 198 according to Pew Research Study Report in April 2015.

NDTV’s study showed that there has been a 500% increase in the last four years in the use of hateful and divisive language by high-ranking politicians. In this, 90% of the hateful comments were attributed members of the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA). No one was prosecuted.

It is not Christian minority alone, but other vulnerable groups bear the brunt of hate crimes. “Amnesty International India documented 721 such incidents between 2015 and 2018.  In 2018, itself, it tracked 218 hate crimes, 142 of which were against Dalits, 50 against Muslims, 40 against women, and 8 each against Christians, Adivasi and transgenders”. (The Hindu; 10 July, 2019).

‘There are reported cases of 122 violence against Christians; of which only 23 FIRs registered until June this year 2020. The latest incident involving murder of a young Christian boy named Somaru Madkami in Odisha two instances of physical assaults, threats and intimidation by family members and villagers alike and social ostracism. The year 2019 witnessed at least 328 incidents of targeted violence against Christians. The victims of these violent attacks included 275 tribal, 55 Dalits, 164 women and 117 children. Out of these, 131 incidents involved dereliction of duty by law enforcement authorities. The attacks on Christians have increased consistently like 292 in 2018, 240 in 2017, 208 in 2016, 177 in 2015 and 147 in 2014. As a matter of fact, according to the World Watch List of 50 countries, India is the 10th most dangerous country in the world to live in for Christians as against 28th  in the year 2014’, reports by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) – India. Christianophobia became a tool to suppress the identity, dignity and justice ensured by the Indian Constitution, to a large number of minorities in India. It is time for us to reflect on what Kandhamal meant for people of India – Dalits, Adivasis, minorities and other marginalised sections.

The Call for Solidarity: The  National Solidarity Forum calls for the national meeting to generate solidarity for those who struggle for justice, keep the memories of Kandhamal alive and work for a society where such violence will not be duplicated again in history: “Kandhamal Never Again, Never Anywhere”.  The organisers intend to promote democratic & pluralistic values as pronounced by the Constitution of India and good practices. The following is the invitation:

In this context, the National Solidarity Forum invites you to a Film Festival on to the National Webinar 25th August 2021 from 4.00 pm to 7.00 pm to mark the 13th Anniversary of the targeted violence against Dalit and Adivasi Christians in Kandhamal, Odisha, which took place in 2008.

We are sure if all humanitarian forces join hands we can build peace, justice and harmony in this country, we will achieve results in these dark times and protect the democratic values and diversity laid out in the Indian Constitution so that no such violence takes place in India and elsewhere.

NSF’s invitation is signed by its core team members;

Dr. Ram Puniyani, Maharashtra

Dr. John Dayal, Delhi

Wilfred D’Costa, Delhi

KP Sasi, Karnataka

William Stanley, Andhra Pradesh

Dhirendra Panda, Odisha

Ajaya Kumar Singh. Odisha.


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