Wednesday, February 03, 2010

AICC press release on EU visit



Protest against hounding of G Udaigiri refugees as Kandhamal Administration cleans up district on eve of European Delegation Visit; government must give time frame for rehab, employment of all victims Kandhamal-Bhubaneswar, 3 February 2010.

All India Christian Council Secretary General Dr John Dayal, who is also a member of the National Integration Council, has expressed his deep distress and anguish at the hounding of and forcible evacuations of Christian refugees living in shanties in G Udaigiri in a cosmetic operation on the eve of the visit of the European delegation which will go to the district on 4th and 5th February 2010.

In letters to the EU delegation, as also to the State government and national human rights and minorities commissions, Dr Dayal narrated the plight of the 91 members of 21 families of 11 villages now being forced to live under plastic sheets along the road in the New Hatu-Pada [weekly marketplace] of G Udaigiri town, just outside the town.

The families are originally refugees from the villages of Killaka, Kutuluma, Rotingia-Porakia, Kiramaha, Dokadia, G-Mangia, Ratingia, Dhangarama, Lorangia, Dakapala, Rudiangia, in Raikia and other blocks. The group includes 11 married women, three widows, and an old man with fracture of the hips and thighs, and two infants who were born in the camp.

The families said they had to flee their villages in the first wave of violence on 25-26 August 2008, and were out up in the Habaika High school refugee camp run by the government. After some months, as the government arbitrarily started closing down the formal refugee camps, they were dispersed from Habaika and came to stay in the cemented platforms and structures of the New Hato Pada market just outside the G Udaigiri township. The men folk found casual work as labour in the shops and fields nearby as they were not being given any aid by the government, or indeed by any other official or voluntary agency. They had been abandoned to their fate.

They were constantly harassed by the market authorities, but allowed to stay on after their daily dose of threats and abuses. They could not go back to their villages where they had been threatened all these months with the village leaders insisting they would be allowed only if they converted to Hinduism.

Suddenly, when it was learnt that the EU delegation was coming, the Market Committee secretary, Jeevan Pattnaik, came with uniformed men, said he was going to lock up the pump of the bore well which provided them water, and told them to get out of the market. Barring the family of the man whose thighs are fractured and who cannot move at all, the other families fled the market and set up their shanties along the road, on the raised boundary, using plastic sheets as a roof to shield them from the winter.

Last night the Naib Tehsildar, the civil officer in charge of the G Udaigiri block, came to spot with a jeep of police accompanying him and asked the refugees to get out their shanties and move away. When they, and in particular the women, protested, he told them they could for the night come back to the market sheds, but to clear the road, as those were his orders. A blackout of the mobile phone system in Kandhamal which had lasted 48 hours prevented a faster implementation

of his orders as other officials had to be summoned from the Raikia town by sending a messenger. When I left the place at 10 pm, the refugees were still on the road in their shanties.

Dr Dayal said it was a matter of regret that a drive has been launched to ensure that visiting fact finding teams, and in particular the EU delegation, do not see the real magnitude of tragedy, and that it is continuing. Much worse, the inhuman trauma on the children, women and men who have been thrice displaced, has not even been taken into official consideration.

At this moment, there is no information if the authorities at all want to give land and rehabilitate this group of 91 human beings. The government has also not spoken of the rehabilitation of tens of thousands of refugees, or how it intends to see that the houses which were destroyed, are completed. Even with the help of the church, more than half of the 5,600 or so houses will still remain un-built, or incomplete. There is no information on employment of the victims and resuming the interrupted education of thousands of children. There are also over 270 families in Barakhama who were displaced in the December 2007 violence and are still to get land or house. The government must give a time frame for all this, Dr Dayal said.

The AICC has expressed the hope the authorities will take humanitarian action and settle the G. Udaigiri refugees. “We also hope the justice dispensation process will ensure just punishment for all those who are threatening this group with forcible conversion. The authorities must also take disciplinary action against the erring officials”, the press statement said.


John Dayal