Tribunal On Kandhamal Opens In Delhi
23 August, 2010
Initial Testimonies highlight abject failure of state machinery
Javed Akhtar Inaugurating the Tribunal
New Delhi: The 3-day National Peoples Tribunal (NPT) on the Kandhamal communal violence began today at the Constitution Club, New Delhi here with some 400 people in attendance which included 95 survivors from Kandhamal. The NPT is being organised by the National Solidarity Forum, a coalition of over 65 organisations and peoples’ movements that have come together to highlight the plight of victims and survivors; and attempt to bring justice. The NPT includes 15 jury panel having expertise in the field of housing, law, media, culture and administration.
The NPT was preceded by the inauguration of an exhibition of paintings, photographs and burnt remnants from the carnage of 2007 and 2008. Lyricist Javed Akhtar while inaugurating the exhibition mentioned that it was shameful that incidents such as the Kandhamal carnage against religious minorities continue to happen with alarming
frequency in India. ‘As citizens of this democracy, we should hang our heads in shame’, he said.
Father Ajay Kumar Singh from Kandhamal, himself a victim of the violence, provided a historical view on the emergence of right wing forces in Orissa which showed that their rise has been part of a systematic project by the Hindutva forces.
The first deposition was by Kanakalata Nayak whose husband was brutally killed by goons from the Bajrang Dal led by local politicians. Despite filing a case with the police and deposing before the court, she mentioned that the criminals were immediately given bail and continue to roam around the area, often intimidating her. Jury members including Former Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court A P Shah raised several clarificatory questions in order to understand the response of the police and judiciary.
Among the people who deposed was the Archbishop of Cuttack Raphael Cheenath who spoke about how the constitutional right to freedom of religion has been violated in Kandhamal.
The other depositions by dalit and adivasi women and men from Kandhamal included several instances of killing, rape, destruction of churches and property. All of the varied depositions have one common thread. They point to the abject failure of police, judiciary and the Orissa Government to protect its weakest and poorest citizens.
The tribunal hearings will conclude on 24 August when the jury is expected to issue a set of recommendations.
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Survivors of the Kandhamal Violence
Survivors deposing in front of the Jury
Mahesh Bhatt questioning the Survivors
The Jury Panel
Ram Puniyani addressing the Tribunal
A still from the Exhibition