Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Police identify Kandhmal blast victim, unsure of Maoist link

Phulbani (Orissa), Sept 29 (PTI) The person, who was killed in a bomb explosion three days ago at a rehabilitation centre for riot victims in Kandhamal district, has been identified, the police said today.
The victim was identified as Ajaya Digal (35) of nearby Gutingia village under Sarangagada police station in the district, Superintendent of Police Praveen Kumar said.
A senior police official said that his antecedents and whether he had link with Maoists were being inquired into as he had left his village in March.
Digal's parents were also being questioned, he said.


Three detained for blasts in Kandhamal

Phulbani (Orissa), Sept 28 (PTI) Three persons were detained today for interrogation in connection with the bomb blast at a rehabilitation centre in Kandhamal district which left one dead.
They were being interrogated for their suspected Maoist links, Kandhamal SP Praveen Kumar said.
Seizure of four guns from the site of the blast led to the suspicion that they had Maoist links, he said.
The identity of the person killed in the explosion yesterday has not been ascertained so far, while the injured has been identified as Patrasen Mallick of Batikola village.
The person who died in the blast did not belong to Batikola village and had arrived at the rehabilitation centre at Nandagiri barely five days ago, he said.
A forensic team visited the spot to determine the nature of the explosive used in making the bomb.


Relief camp blast kills one

Bhubaneswar, Sept. 29: For the second day today, police and forensic experts continued with their investigation into the bomb blast at a relief camp in Kandhamal that left one dead and two injured on Sunday.

A police team, led by Kandhamal superintendent of police Praveen Kumar, is carrying out probe into the incident that is suspected to have Maoist links. Inspector-general of police (law and order) Arun Sarangi has also arrived there.

While the identity of the deceased is yet to be known, the two injured — Anthony Malick and Patrasa Malick — are undergoing treatment at MKCG Medical College and Hospital in Berhampur.

“We have already conducted autopsy of the deceased,” Kumar said, adding that the forensic team had collected samples to determine the nature of explosives used in making the bomb.

About 162 people at the relief camp have fled into the forest, fearing arrest.

The mishap took place at Nandagiri relief camp under G. Udayagiri police station in Kandhamal district after a crude bomb being prepared at the centre went off.

The duo were first rushed to G. Udayagiri primary health centre and later shifted to the MKCG Medical College and Hospital in Berhampur after their condition worsened.

Three persons were detained and four guns were recovered. “The persons are being interrogated,” said Rajkumar Murmu, the officer in charge of G. Udayagiri police station.

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Life imprisonment to 5 in Pastor murder case in Kandhamal, Orissa

Five youths were today sentenced to life imprisonment by a local court for killing a pastor during riots in Orissa's Kandhamal district last year.

Fast Track Court-I judge S K Das awarded life term to Sabito Digal (30), Mania Pradhan (28), Dharmaraj Pradhan (32), Abinash Pradhan (29) and Papu Pradhan (30) for the murder of Akbar Digal, a pastor of a Baptist church at Tatamaha village under Raikia police station area.

Digal's throat was slit by the youths in presence of his wife Lodia Digal on August 26, 2008, barely two days after riots broke out in the aftermath of VHP leader Swami Laxamananda Saraswati's killing.

The five persons were arrested on an FIR lodged by the pastor's wife.

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Five awarded life term in Kandhamal riots case

Phulbani (Kandhamal), Sept 23: A fast-track court here on Wednesday sentenced five youths to life imprisonment for killing a Pastor during the last year's communal riots in Odisha's Kandhamal district.

Those who were awarded life imprisonment by Judge of the fast-track Court-I S. K. Das were Sabito Digal(30), Mania Pradhan(28), Dharmaraj Pradhan(32), Abinash Pradhan(29) and Papu Pradhan(30).

The Judge also imposed a fine of Rs. 5,000 each on the convicts.

The convicts had killed Pastor Akbar Digal by slitting his throat at Tatamaha village under Raikia police station in Kandhamal district.

The Pastor was killed on August 26 when Christian families and their houses were attacked in the aftermath of the killing of Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Swami Laxamanananda.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Panel for amendment to Christian divorce law

The Law Commission has recommended to the Union government to amend the law to empower a deserted Christian woman to file a petition to divorce her NRI husband, which otherwise is barred in the existing Act enacted during the British rule 150 years ago.

In its report, Law Commission chairman A R Laxmanan said: “The Law Commission has come to the conclusion that Section 2 of the Divorce Act, 1869, insofar as it concerns the jurisdictional rule in regard to petitions for divorce, is not only not in tune with the present times but is also harsh upon Christian women in India.”
According to the Act enacted by the then British government, a deserted Christian woman does not have the right to file a petition before a family court in India seeking dissolution of her marriage if her husband has taken the citizenship of another country and also a domicile of a foreign country.
The Indian courts should also be given the right to decide on the dissolution of the marriages of Christian couples solemnised abroad, the Commission said. In the report submitted to Union law minister Veerappa Moily, Justice Laxmanan suggested that the law should be amended in order to entitle the Indian courts to entertain a petition for dissolution of a Christian marriage where either of the parties is domiciled in India at the time of presenting the divorce petition.
The Indian law does not confer jurisdiction on family courts to dissolve Christian marriages of non-domiciled couples. Further, in determining the domicile of the parties in a proceeding for dissolution of a marriage, it is the domicile of the man alone which is to be considered since a woman takes the domicile of her husband upon marriage.
Due to this law, many Christian women in India are unable to approach the court, despite being deserted by their husbands living abroad. The Centre had referred the ruling of the Madras High Court in the Indira Rachel vs Union of India to the Law Commission for suitable suggestion, leading to an amendment in the law.
Indira Rachel had filed a petition before the Madras High Court in 1995 seeking direction to allow her to file a petition for divorce from her husband Andrew Solomon Raj, who was then working as assistant supervisor with the Bank of Kuwait and Middle East in Kuwait.
However, before the court could decide on the matter, Raj died, making the petition infructous.
In the suggestion to the government, the high court said:“Therefore, according to us, such provision should be interpreted to mean that the courts in India shall be entitled to entertain petition for dissolution of marriage where either of the parties has domiciled in India at the time when the petition is presented.”

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Fast track court sentenced six persons to three-year RI

Phulbani ( Orissa ) : Six persons have been awarded rigorous punishment and Rs 4,000 fine for their involvement in the Kandhamal violence that rocked entire nation.
This was the third conviction by the court in riot cases.
A fast track court at Phulbani on Tuesday however acquitted five other accused for lack of evidence.
The fast-track court in Kandhamal was hearing a case relating to the torching of a house.
Earlier on September 7, Phulbani fast-track court sentenced six people to four-year jail terms each for their involvement in Kandhamal violence last year.
The Government has set up two fast-track courts to try cases related to the communal violence.

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Friday, September 18, 2009

Kandhamal Conversions: Only two recorded in the official register

Bhubaneswar, Sept 16 Conversion cases in Kandhamal between 2004-2007 far exceeded the official records of just two, the judicial commission probing last year's riots in the district was told today.
"There were many cases of conversions but few intimated the district administration," former Kandhamal district magistrate cum collector Gangadhar Singh told the Justice S C Mahapatra Commission probing the largescale communal violence that followed the killing of VHP leader Laxamananda Saraswati.
Refusing to comment on whether conversion was a cause of violence in Kandhamal last year, Singh who was the DM of Kandhamal from September 15, 2004 to October 3, 2007, said during cross-examination that though there was a register at the collector's office recording cases of conversion, only two intimations regarding conversion were registered in the district in January, 2004.
"The statutory provisions of the Orissa Freedom of Religion Act (OFRA) were not followed", he said, adding that there were no prosecutions as no complaint had been made against conversion, he said.
The census figure, on the other hand, showed rise in the size of population of all religious groups in Kandhamal, he said.

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Conversions took place against law

BHUBANESWAR: Former district collector of Kandhamal Gangadhar Singh on Wednesday said religious conversions had taken place in the southern Orissa district without following the statutory provisions of the Orissa Freedom of Religion Act (OFRA), 1967.
Singh, while appearing before the one-man judicial commission, headed by retired Justice Sarat Chandra Mohapatra, informed that till January 2, 2004, the district administration had received only two intimations of change in religion. But conversions without following the provisions of OFRA had taken place, he added, though he refused to agree that such conversions were "large-scale" in nature.
Singh, who was the Kandhamal collector from September 15, 2004, to October 3, 2007, disclosed that during his tenure no prosecution was sanctioned under OFRA. Replying to a query during cross-examination, he said there was widespread encroachment of government land, including forest patches, in the district, but he had not inquired into whether any church was constructed on such encroached land.
Singh, who also submitted an affidavit to the commission, also revealed that as collector he had received oral complaints relating to transportation of cows. Singh, who is presently serving as additional secretary, higher education, said during his tenure as collector there were cases of issue of caste certificates to persons not eligible. But he denied there had been large-scale issue of such "fake" caste certificates.
"During my period the caste certificate issue had not invited law and order situation," he said. He further observed that the demand of the Phulbani Jana Kalyan Sangha, an association formed by some Panas (a SC group), in August 2007, for change of their status to Kui (a ST group) had created serious apprehensions among tribals. "On account of this apprehension some tribal organizations formed a coordinating body, Kui Samaj Coordination Committee, and held rallies and processions in different parts of Kandhamal and submitted memoranda to Governor and chief minister challenging the claims of non-tribals to be recorded as Kui. Because of this, ill-feeling grew among the tribals and non-tribals," he said.
Earlier in the day, inspector general of police Arun Sarangi stuck to his stand that the state police headquarters was not aware of any Maoist threat to Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati (whose murder on August 23, 2008, had triggered ethno-communal carnage in Kandhamal), but stated that "from the report of SP, Kandhamal, and information gathered by me during my visit to Shankaracharya Kanyashram, Jalespeta, after the incident and from other intelligence inputs, it is absolutely clear that the assassination was the work of the CPI (Maoist) cadres."

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Christian meeting held in Karnataka on Human Rights

BANGALORE: Born last year against the backdrop of attacks on churches and church staff, the Karnataka United Christian Federation for Human Rights (KUCFHR) met on Wednesday at the conference hall of the CSI Bishop’s house on Mission Road.

Archbishop Bernard Moras, KUCFHR president, said, “The federation is a common forum for fellowship and dialogue and for collaboration in common concerns particularly of human rights among Christian communities, as also of other minority communities in Karnataka.” He said CSI, Catholic and Methodist bishops, and heads of many other denominations had already claimed that they did not indulge in forcible conversions or denigrate other religions. But KUCFHR would assert Christians’ right to practice the faith without violating the IPC or the Constitution. It would also work towards removing unwarranted or deliberately created animosity against Christians.

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There are no forced conversions

BANGALORE: Bangalore archbishop Bernard Moras has said there has never been a single case of forced or induced conversion by Christians.
Moras was speaking at a meeting of the Karnataka United Christian Forum for Human Rights on Wednesday. The forum, representing the `right of all communities to co-exist peacefully', aims to bring together Christians of different denominations under one roof. Wednesday's meeting was attended by bishops from Bellary, Gulbarga, Karwar, Mangalore, Chikmagalur and other cities.
Moras said the meeting was convened to remind the forum that it had to protect human rights, irrespective of religion. "There are accusations of forced conversions against the community. Let me tell you we cannot convert people like that. We respect all religions and don't convert people either through aggression or enticement. The accusations are wrong," Moras said, explaining that the forum's role is to protect the community when such accusations come up.
"We ourselves have differences of opinion. We should be clear about what stand we should take regarding our community and how we should interact with other communities. We should have common ethics and actions though we have different interpretations of the scriptures," he added.
Bishops of Believers church, Methodist church, Catholic church, CSI church, Jacobite church and members of the Federation of Christian Churches Organisation were present.

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Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Six sentenced in connection with Orissa violence

Phulbani (Orissa), Sept 7 (PTI) At least six persons including five tribals were today sentenced to four-year's imprisonment and slapped a penalty of Rs 2,000 each after they were convicted in the Kandhamal riot case by a local court.
Additional sessions judge S K Das pronounced punishment for the youths after they were found guilty of setting a number of houses on fire at Gochhapada area during the ethno-communal violence in Kandhamal last year.
They were also found to be making unlawful assembly by defying curfew.
The imprisonment period could extend for three more months in case penalty amount were not paid.
With conviction of six persons, the total number of persons convicted relating to the riot increased to 12 while over 42 persons were acquitted.


Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Assault on two Protestant churches in Karnataka. Police accused of aiding and abetting

Bangalore (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Two Protestant churches attacked, Bibles and prayer books destroyed or sequestered, pastors and believers threatened. This happened in the district of Tumkur in the state of Karnataka in southern India.   The crime is reported by the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), which attributes the attack to members of the Sangh Parivar and accuse local police officers of aiding and abetting the violence.

Local sources say that in the late evening of 28 August, a group of Hindu radicals stormed the Gypsy Prayer Hall in Mavunakatte Palay. Led by three well-known activists (Rangantha, Ramalingayya Gowda and Ramesh) members of the Sangh Parivar were seen aboard a jeep along with three deputy superintendents of police, the chief inspector and deputy chief inspector of the district.  

The group has accused Hanuma Naik, the 33-year old pastor the place of worship, of forced conversions and deception, to the detriment of the local inhabitants. After having been beaten along with a student present at the time on the site, police dragged Naik to the police station opening a case against him.

The GCIC reports that after the incursion in Mavunakatte Palay, some of the attackers directed their rage on the Baptist church in Krupashraya. There too the scene was repeated. In the absence of the pastor, the group threatened his wife with punitive actions and confiscated Bibles and prayer books.  

The Sangh Parivar activists then stopped at the Protestant church of the International Cooperation Ministries (ICM) near Agrahar. They failed to cause any major harm given that the pastor barricaded himself into his house for fear of attacks.

Karnataka has long been the scene of assaults and violence against Christians. Already in coincidence with the pogrom in Orissa last summer, the Indian state had recorded attacks on local churches and communities.

Local sources say that the increase in violence has coincided with the coming power in state government of Hindu nationalist party Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). In 2009, Karnataka has recorded at least 10 attacks against Christians, the last dating back to August 11. Mainly Protestant churches are targeted in the attacks accused of carrying out forced conversions.

Tribal, non-tribal conflicts keep popping up in Orissa

BHUBANESWAR: Resentment of tribals against non-tribals cornering their benefits is growing gradually in the State, taking violent form in Narayanpatna block in Koraput district.

Even though the situation is limping back to normalcy with the passage of time, the incidents of the last two months in the block, which is also a Maoist-infested area, has led to non-tribals leaving the area in fear. Reports reaching here said that the tribals are now slowly returning land forcibly acquired by them from some non-tribal families.

While the State Government has constituted a high-level committee to solve the problems which mostly are land related, the non-tribals are not yet fully confident of returning to their villages.

Elsewhere also, the situation is slowly turning serious. Though the situation has not aggravated like in Narayanpatna, rallies taken out by the tribals from time to time have put the district administrations on the defensive. Tribals in several districts are demanding that those who have usurped their benefits should be identified and condign punishment should be initiated against them. The State Government has made a beginning in Kandhamal district where the problem was identified as the root cause behind the riots which claimed more than 40 lives.

Persons who had submitted fake certificates to get government jobs and corner other benefits available for the tribals were identified and two dismissed from service. Similar demands have been raised by tribals from Balangir, Sonepur and Nuapara districts.

The white paper on law and order circulated by the State Government has admitted that such demands are coming in from the tribals of various districts on a regular basis. It said that the situations were brought under control by the timely intervention of the police on many occasions.

Meanwhile, 1,639 cases of torture on SC and ST were lodged during last year. Out of these, police have filed chargesheets in 196 cases. It said that chargesheets will be filed in 1,246 more cases. All 196 cases in which chargesheets have been filed are sub judice. It said that 1,355 cases are under police investigation.

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Status of Government help in Kandhamal: Official figures say less than half homes rebuilt

Bhubaneswar, Aug 28 (PTI) A year after houses and places of worship were ravaged during communal violence in Orissa's Kandhamal district, only 1981 houses were rebuilt completely while 70 Churches and other prayer houses have received financial assistance from the state government, official sources said here today.
Out of the 4600 houses damaged in the riots in the aftermath of VHP leader Laxamananda Saraswati's killing on August 23 last year, a total of 4435 families have received the first instalment for reconstruction of their houses, they said.
Similarly, 2868 people have so far got second phase instalment for house building while 1981 houses were completely rebuilt, said Chief Secretary Ajit Kumar Tripathy, who reviewed the progress on the special package for the riot victims.
Describing the rehabilitation project as "satisfactory", Tripathy attributed the delay in repairing of houses to the unwillingness of people in returning to villages even after the tension eased out.


In Kandhamal, youth clubs to heal riot scars

Bhubaneswar : A year after the Kandhamal riots, the district administration is hoping that a unique initiative involving youth will help defuse the hostility between the tribal Hindus and Dalit Christians, even as it spreads awareness about government schemes.

Kandhamal witnessed a spate of violence after VHP leader Laxmanananda Saraswati and four of his disciples were gunned down by Maoists in Jalespeta on August 23 last year. More than 40 people were killed in the riots and hundreds injured. Thousands of Christians lost their homes and took refuge in several relief camps, two of which still house around 700 people altogether.

However, the government hopes that a multi-departmental and multi-structured administrative approach called Antaranga (intimate) will help salve some of the wounds left behind by the riots. The programme has been launched in around 90 gram panchayats in an effort to bring different communities together.

“Under the programme, we are setting up Antaranga clubs with 20 youths as members who would be made aware of different government programmes. The youth clubs have equal representation from Christians, Hindus, Dalits, tribals and women. We have observed that if the energies of the youths are not channelised properly, then riots like those of 2008 may recur,” said Kandhamal Collector Krishan Kumar.

District officials said lack of development in Kandhamal contributed to the communal tension in the district. While some people gravitated towards Christianity as a way to better their lot, Hindu backlash also started as proponents of the Hindutva brigade claimed that the missionaries, funded by foreign NGOs, were out to make the district a “land of Christians”.

“For illiterate tribals and Dalits, flitting from one religion to another was their only vocation as basic development eluded them. They simply did not have any idea about the government programmes being implemented in the district and thus take advantage,” said an official.

The aim is to put in place 100 such clubs with 2,000 youths as members by the end of September.

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