9 Oct 2008, 0219 hrs IST, Anand Soondas,TNN
BHUBANESWAR/RAIKIA: Five men, surrounded by a posse of policemen, quietly went to a charred house in Tikawali, Kandhmal, on Wednesday, and scraped off a few bones lying scattered on the floor since August 24. At 1 pm, they put the remains in a coffin and buried it with a quick prayer session.
It was Kandhmal's first funeral after about 60 people were killed in communal violence. The rest of the survivors are awaiting administration's permission to send off their loved ones according to Christian rites.
Rasanand Pradhan had a paralytic stroke when he was just a boy and had beessn wheelchair-bound. On August 24, when a bloodthirsty mob converged at his house in Tikawali, he couldn't escape. The mob burned his house down with him inside. ''We felt very uneasy and sad all this while,'' said Rasanand's elder brother Motilal, an army man posted with a unit guarding India's international border at Suleiman Chowki, Fazilka (Punjab). ''We just got a part of his hip bone and head. His limbs were missing. There were five of us and the policemen, but my brother's soul will now rest in peace.''
Motilal had to petition everyone, from the SP to collector, asking for police protection so that he could bury his brother, Rasanand, the youngest of three siblings and 32 when he was killed. He got the permission last week.
''There were about 20 CRPF men and a small contingent from the Tikawali police post,'' he said, talking about the funeral. ''We had to hurry things up and catch a bus to Bhubaneswar, where we are in a relief camp. I had never imagined I would be forced to do such undignified things - being forced to complete funeral in 10 minutes''
Others, though, aren't so lucky. A priest in Raikia, Kandhmal, who insists he be called 'Rev Naik' as he too is still in hiding, said, ''People ran for their lives when the killings began soon after Laxmananda Saraswati's murder on August 23. We were compelled to leave the dead behind and directed our efforts towards protecting those alive. There are many bodies waiting for burial. People are afraid to come back from relief camps for the last rites. I don't know how long our dead will remain in this state.''
Something else also happened here after Christian villages were pillaged. Many say the marauders took the bodies of their victims away so that their relatives couldn't claim compensation. The government, after all, had made no provision to compensate the kin of those missing.
''Yes, it's true,'' said Jacob Pradhan, another priest in Phulbani. ''People didn't get a chance to bury the dead. How could they have when everyone's so scared of returning to their villages? Even now I am told every two days to embrace Hinduism or forget about returning to my village. I know of 33 people, in Tikawali, Baliguda, Raikia, G Udayagiri, whose bodies are strewn around, waiting for burials. Maybe now, after Motilal Pradhan took the bold step, others will follow.''