Archbishop Raphael Cheenath who played pivotal role in bringing justice to the Kandhamal pogrom victims was remembered in a function in Delhi. Archbishop Emeritus Raphael Cheenath of Kandhamal passed away in Mumbai on 14th August 2016 after a brave struggle against cancer. He was 81.
The Archbishop played major role in the people’s struggle for justice after the August 2008 targeted violence in which more than 100 Christians were killed, 6,000 homes and over 300 big and small churches destroyed. Over 60,000 children, women and men, most of them Adivasis and Dalits, were displaced.
Acting on his Public Interest appeals, the Supreme Court recently ordered reopening of more than 300 criminal cases of violence that the police had prematurely closed. The court also accepted the appeal for enhancement of compensation.
Speakers recalled the leadership the Archbishop gave in the aftermath of the pogrom. The speakers remembered that he did not differentiate between the Catholics and the Protestants and the Christians and the non-Christians. He believed in secularism while standing firm in his Christian faith.
Seema Mustapha, leading journalist, who had been part of the fact-finding team that visited Kandhamal in the immediate aftermath of the violence gave the key note address.
The resounding message of the meeting was that all citizens must rise above religious identities and think for each other and fight together for citizens’ collective rights that flow from the Constitution of India and other rights instruments, and ensure that another Kandhamal, Gujarat, or Delhi, etc, should not take place.