Kandhamal Pogrom Website Launched
By Santosh Digal
26 February, 2016
A website has been launched to focus attention on the failure of the governments of Odisha and the federal to ensure comprehensive just and rehabilitation for the victims of the anti-Christian pogrom of 2007-2008 in the Kandhamal district and adjoining district of the State of Odisha. The website has been commissioned by a group of social activists, jurists, lawyers, academicians, writers and artists who have been frustrated at the snail pace of justice process which has seen many killers and arsonists go scot free, while many others not have been arrested. The website www.kandhamal.net according to the group will be authentic source of information, data and legal documentations which will be used by advocacy and legal aid groups as well researchers working with the victim survivors of the violence.
The two commissions of enquiry on Kandhamal violence appointed by the Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Pattnaik have submitted their reports to the Odisha governments in late 2015. The reports have not yet been made public. The Justice Naidu Commission was appointed to investigate the circumstances of large scale violence following the killing of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Laxmanananda Saraswati on August 23, 2008. Saraswati was shot dead in his Ashram at Jalespata, Kandhamal. The Maoist active in the State claimed the responsibility for the killing, but mobs roused by VHP activists kille, and estimated 101 Christians in several weeks of organised violence. Several women including a Catholic nun were gang raped. The Christian community counted more than 8500 of their houses and 395 churches burnt. Civil society groups estimated more than 56,000 people displaced in the violence, half of whom were housed in government-managed refugee camps, while the rest fled to safety after spending days in the thick forests. Justice Naidu had taken over the commission after the death of judge Mahapatra, who had been appointed to head the commission in 2008.
The Justice Panigahi Commission had been appointed in investigate the earlier violence of Christmas 2007, which also had seen large scale violence.
Ironically Justice Panigrahi submitted his report after Justice Naidu had filed his findings to the government.
The victim community had for a time boycotted the commissions with their leaders alleging bias in the hearings and coercion of victims.
In fact coercion of victims has also been alleged to be a major factor in most of the criminal cases of murder and arson which had been tried in the Fast Track Courts (special courts), and later in district courts.
By January 2016 of the 3232 complaints were lodged and only 827 were registered and police charge sheet filed only in 512 incidents. 2405 complaints were not registered by the police at all. Out of 30 murder cases, there are only two convictions. According to a study, there is only 5.13% conviction while the acquittal rate as high as 88.60% and the rest 6.25% are still absconding (KANDHAMAL: Introspection of initiative for justice 2007-2014 by Supreme Court Lawyer Vrinda Grover and Associate Prof. Saumya Uma). Presently, there is not a single person is behind the bar for heinous crime like murders and gang rapes.