Friday, January 30, 2009

Orissa police file charge sheet in rape case

Special Correspondent

BHUBANESWAR: The Crime Branch of Orissa police filed a charge sheet in the Kandhamal nun rape case on Thursday.

As many as 10 persons who were arrested in the case have been named as accused. The charge sheet was filed in the court of the Sub-Divisional Judicial Magistrate at Baliguda in Kandhamal district.

The accused were charged under Sections 376, 34, 147, 148 and 149 of the Indian Penal Code, according to police. According to Crime Branch sources, the investigation was kept open as 20 other accused were not arrested so far. A supplementary charge sheet will be filed after completion of investigation.

The nun was harassed in public by a mob at K. Nuagaon in Kandhamal on August 25 last and subsequently raped when anti-Christian violence was at its peak in Kandhamal.

Communal violence erupted following the killing of Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Lakshmanananda Saraswati in Kandhamal on August 23. At least 38 were killed in the violence.

The test identification parade of the accused arrested in the case was conducted at the Chaudwar jail near Cuttack recently.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Orissa not to reduce forces in Kandhamal

BHUBANESWAR: As the situation was yet to turn normal in riot-hit Kandhamal, the Orissa government on Thursday decided not to scale down the presence of paramilitary personnel in the district despite beginning of the phase-wise withdrawal of Central forces from the State.

“We will not decrease the presence of Central Reserve Police Force in Kandhamal district at the moment,” State Director-General of Police Manmohan Praharaj told The Hindu.

According to Mr. Praharaj, a total of 10 companies of CRPF were withdrawn from the State during the day, including seven from Kandhamal. However, five companies of CRPF that were deployed in other parts were moved into Kandhamal, he added.

Two more companies of Central forces were to be moved into the district soon.

“The deployment of around 35 companies of CRPF will continue in Kandhamal,” Mr. Praharaj said.

As many as 53 companies of additional Central forces were deployed after anti-Christian violence broke out in the aftermath of the killing of Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Swami Lakshmanananda and four others in Kandhamal on August 23 last. While 38 companies were deployed in Kandhamal, the remaining were positioned in other parts.

According to police sources, the Centre earlier issued instructions for withdrawal of all the 53 companies by March end.

However, the Centre subsequently agreed to extend the deadline for withdrawal of all the companies after Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik requested that at least 20 companies of CRPF deployed in Kandhamal should continue till the end of the forthcoming general elections.

Meanwhile, the Communist Party of India demanded that the deployment of Central forces should not be scaled down in Kandhamal and adjoining districts.

Secretary of CPI(M) Orissa State Committee Janardan Pati also demanded that the administration should continue to run the relief camps in Kandhamal where thousands of riot-affected Christian people had taken shelter.

Those living in the relief camps should not be asked to leave the place until the government helped them rebuild their homes that were damaged or burnt down during the communal violence, Mr. Pati said.

At least 6,000 people belonging to Christians are presently living in different relief camps in Kandhamal.

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Three withdraw anticipatory bail application in nun rape case

Cuttack (Orissa), Jan 19 (PTI) In a new development in the nun 'rape' case in Kandhamal district, three persons named in the police record today withdrew their anticipatory bail application from the Orissa High Court.
Fakir Mohan Das, Dhruva Charan Das and Hrushikesh Das decided not to pursue their cases for anticipatory bail after realising that their applications would be rejected by the high court.
Earlier, the court had rejected the anticipatory bail applications of three other accused.
The nun who lodged an FIR at Baliguda police station had alleged that she was raped at K Nuagaon during the Orissa bandh on August 25.
The nun had identified two persons, allegedly involved, during a Test Identification Parade (TIP) at a jail here on January 5.


Kui Samaj calls Kandhamal bandh on Jan 21

Cuttack (Orissa): The tribal organisation ‘Kui Samaj’ has given a bandh call in Kandhamal district on January 21 alleging that the State government is not taking proper steps to fulfil their demands.
Secretary of the coordination committee of the Kui Samaj Lambodar Kanhar said they had handed over a list of demands to the government.
According to him initially the State government had shown some interest to fulfil the demands and to pacify the Tribals.
Taking advantage of this slackness the exploitive non-Tribals had started using legal hassles to hold grab over tribal land and to protect the benefits they had acquired through false tribal certificates, Kanhar said.
“But later the State government has started ignoring the tribals,” Kanhar alleged.
According to him the State government did not prefer to consult with the tribal organisation and its leaders even while taking decisions related to the Tribals.
The organisation was not satisfied with the way in which the Tribal Advisory Council (TAC) had suggested to the addition of the term ‘Kandha’ with ‘Kui’ in the Scheduled Tribe (ST) list without consulting the Tribals. They were opposed to the use of ‘Kui-Kandha’ as proposed by the TAC.
The tribal organization wanted it to be used in the form of either ‘Kui (Kandha) or ‘Kandha (Kui)’. According to Kanhar use of ‘Kui-Kandha’ would allow deceptive Kui speaking non-Tribals to get identified as Tribals.
In the volatile Kandhamal district bandh calls have become part of life. It is easy to observe a bandh as the panicked residents have no desire to take risks and prefer to stay inside and put down their shutters at the call of a few posters.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Christmas War’s Real Casualties

Still Hounded, Indian Christians Stand Fast in the Faith

BY Anto Akkara


January 11-17, 2009 Issue | Posted 1/5/09 at 8:04 AM

RAIKIA, India — For thousands of Christians in the troubled jungles of the Kandhamal district in Orissa, India, Christmas 2008 held out little hope. Hindu fundamentalist groups threatened to force a complete shutdown in the troubled region on Christmas Day.

Yet, the hounded Christians still remain unfazed and firm in their faith.

“Even if I do not have cake, meat, or new clothes for this Christmas, I will celebrate Christmas in my heart,” said Kadamphul Nayak, who was widowed in last year’s attacks on Christians in Orissa. “My family members have paid with their lives for our faith. So, I am also prepared to face any hardship for my faith.”

In fact, Kadamphul is not an ordinary hounded Christian from Kandhamal like thousands of others. Her septuagenarian blind mother-in-law and her husband, Samuel Nayak, perished at the hands of Hindu fundamentalists in the orchestrated violence against Christians in eastern Orissa state.

Since the twin murders in her family in late August, Kadamphul had been living at a crammed refugee camp at Raikia that is sheltering more than 8,000 homeless Christians in slum-like conditions. Recounting her horror story, Kadamphul said Hindu fundamentalists barged into her house at Bakingia when her husband was reading the Bible. The Hindu mob asked her husband to throw the Bible away.

“When he refused, they started beating him up with rods,” Kadamphul recalled. When he started screaming in pain, his blind mother came in shouting, “Who is beating my son?” The Hindu thugs instantly poured kerosene on the elderly lady and set her on fire.

After dragging Samuel out of the house, the mob hacked him with an axe. When Kadamphul rushed forward to shield her husband, she was cut at the waist and thrown, while others finished the job of killing her husband.

Illiterate Kadamphul shared her horror story with the Register on Dec. 8 in Bangalore, after the Global Council Indian Christians brought her to the city along with two dozen Kandhamal widows to draw attention to the suffering and continuing neglect faced by the victims of the anti-Christian violence.

“I am glad we had an opportunity to celebrate Christmas here. We may not get this chance in Kandhamal,” said Kadamphul as she prepared to return to Kandhamal by train along with other impoverished widows who were given a thorough medical check-up during the visit to Bangalore.

Sajan George, the council convener, said that although the government has declared compensation of $4,000 for those killed, only two of the 24 widows had received it. Police and government officials insist on documentary proof for the murders, including recovery of the bodies. But some bodies were thrown in rivers or dumped in deep jungles.

While the Orissa government puts the death toll at around 50, George pointed out that more than 120 Christians have lost their lives in the orchestrated anti-Christian violence let lose by Hindu groups following the murder of Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati. The senior-most leader of Hindu nationalist groups in Orissa was shot dead along with five of his junior monks by Maoist rebels who stormed his base Aug. 23.

Though the Maoist rebels claimed responsibility for the murder, Hindu groups say it was a Christian conspiracy, as the 85-year-old slain monk had carried out a vociferous campaign against conversion to Christianity in Kandhamal, where he was based.

The orgy of violence displaced more than half of the 100,000 Christians who live in the Kandhamal district, with more than 4,000 Christian houses, more than 200 churches and dozens of Christian institutions emptied and torched.

“As long as I am alive, I will not leave the Lord,” said Kumaro Kanhar, a 43-year-old Catholic from Sadingia, who had been beaten severely by Hindu fundamentalists and left bleeding while his house was reduced to ashes.

The fact that Kanhar was attacked on Sept. 28 showed that even five weeks after the attacks on Christians began Hindu bigots had a free rein in Kandhamal. That explains why terror-stricken Christians continue to flee, even from the government-run refugee camps to cities outside Kandhamal and even outside Orissa to remain alive and to practice their faith amid Hindu groups trying to force them to embrace Hinduism.

As soon as he was able to move around, after being treated in a government hospital for several days, Kanhar, with his wife and young two children, set off for Bhubaneswar, Orissa’s capital.

“I need to find a place to stay now and do odd jobs to feed my family,” he said in an interview at the archbishop’s house in Bhubaneswar. “I am prepared to give up anything, but I will never give up my faith.”

After the anti-Christian violence began on Aug. 24, Kanhar said, Hindu fundamentalists ordered him to “give up Christianity and be a Hindu” if he wanted to live in his village. When he declined, they took out everything in his house and made a bonfire of it.

Despite being the only Christian in the area, the illiterate farmer, who became a Catholic in 1988, amid repeated threats, stayed in his empty house while thousands of Christians faced with similar threats fled to refugee camps or towns outside Kandhamal to escape the ire of Hindu fundamentalists.

Enraged by his defiance, the fundamentalists arrived at his door on Sept. 28, beat him up ruthlessly and set his house on fire.

“Until the situation improves there, I will find a job here and look after the family,” he said.

Manoj Nayak, who fled his village of Daringabadi under similar threats, said Hindu villagers have been calling on him to return to the village, assuring him of living “in harmony” and reminding him that his “crop is ready for harvesting.”

“This is a trick to lure the Christians back and to force us to undergo the conversion ceremony,” Nayak told the Register at the refugee camp the Missionaries of Charity opened at their leprosy home at Janla, about 18.5 miles from Bhubaneswar.

Said Nayak, “You can take our crops and eat it, but we will not come back to be Hindus.”

Anto Akkara is based

in Bangalore, India.

Can't protect minorities, then quit office: SC tells govts

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court's judicial conscience, pricked heavily by the ugly violence against Christians in Orissa's Kandhmal district last year, appears to be still raw despite peace returning to the area and Christmas and new year celebrations passing off peacefully.
In an unusual outburst, after passing several orders which were being obeyed by the Naveen Patnaik government and the Centre, a Bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justices Markandey Katju and P Sathasivam gave a general ultimatum governments -- sectarian violence and persecution of minorities would not be tolerated.
"If your government is unable to protect minorities, then you quit office," said Justice Katju, who for the first time was part of the Bench headed by CJI which had been hearing a petition by Archbishop Raphael Cheenath.
"We can't tolerate persecution of religious minorities. If your government cannot control such incidents, then quit office," came the second salvo from Justice Katju as a shocked senior advocate K K Venugopal, appearing for the Orissa government, said things were peaceful in the area and that the state has implemented earlier orders of the apex court in letter and spirit with cooperation from the Centre.
However, Venugopal tried to wriggle out of the messy situation by shifting the focus towards the Centre by complaining to the court against the latter's decision to withdraw its forces despite the situation still being sensitive in Kandhmal district, which erupted after the killing of Swami Lakshmananand.
Without allowing the matter to veer away from the earlier course, the Bench directed the Union home secretary and the state home secretary to coordinate and resolve the number of troops to be stationed.
At this point, the CJI asked Cheenath's counsel about the infamous gangrape case pertaining to the nun and said he had been flooded with queries from different countries about it.
The counsel, senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, told the Bench that the nun, after initial reservations against a probe by the local police, was now cooperating in the investigations and had participated in the test identification parade to nail the culprits.
However, he alleged that the state government was delaying payment of damages to churches which were over 50 years old. He said though the total loss to churches and their properties amounted to nearly Rs 6 crore, the government had agreed to pay a compensation of about Rs 45 lakh.
Reiterating its earlier view, the Bench asked the Naveen Patnaik government to take a generous view while granting compensation and make early payments.

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Nun identifies two accused


CUTTACK: The Baliguda Catholic Church nun, who was raped on August 25 last during the Kandhamal communal riots, identified two accused at the Choudwar jail here on Monday. All 10 persons arrested in this connection were paraded before the victim.

Along with them, 80 jail inmates were introduced as dummies.

According to reliable sources, the nun, however, erred in identifying another person who turned out to be a ‘dummy.’

Father Thomas Chelathin of the church, a key witness, could not identify any of the accused though they were paraded before him four times, the sources said.

It was learnt that the nun told the magistrate, who conducted the identification parade, that the main accused had not yet been arrested. The Orissa Crime Branch police, however, expressed satisfaction with her identifying Mitu alias Santosh Patnaik, whom the prosecution had been projecting as the main accused. Mitu along with two persons was arrested from Kerala.

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