Victims of Kandhamal massacre demands justice and return to peace
Over 5,000 Christians of Eastern India joined in a protest organized by Kandhamal Nyaya Shanti O Sadbhabana Samaj in Raikia on September 02, 2015. The participants demanded justice and a return to peace and harmony seven years after Hindu fundamentalists massacred Christians in 2008. They have sought President of India - Pranab Mukherjee's intervention for justice saying the State has failed to punish the guilty and compensate for losses seven years after the deadly violence.
Shouting slogans like ‘We Want Peace, Not Violence’, ‘Stop Atrocities on Minorities and Women’, ‘Do Not Divide People in the name of Religion and Caste and ‘We Demand Appropriate Compensation’, protesters walked for about two kilometres. A memorandum was sent to the President's office on August 31, when thousands demonstrated to mark the anniversary of the riot in Kandhamal District, Odisha State. Some 5,000 people marched through the district's main Raikia town demanding justice for victims.
Mr.Mani Shankar Aiyar, Former Union Minister (Indian National Congress) Brinda Karat, Member of Rajya Sabha (Communist Party of India (Marxist)) and Kavita Krishnan, Farmer MP (Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist)) were participated the rally.
Speaking at the event, Mr Aiyar insisted on not forgetting what happened. People of different religion and caste lived here he said and then suddenly, many were killed, displaced; their homes and churches destroyed, women raped and molested. He described what he saw in those days of violence. "As a minister of the Central Government, I was visiting this beautiful land before the violence. Now that I am back here, I feel deep pain.”
The 2008 incident forced 56,000 people to flee their homes, leaving them exposed to looting and fire. Some 6,500 houses were affected this way in some 600 villages. According to data collected by the Church and social activists, some 350 churches as well as 35 convents, schools, hostels and welfare facilities were destroyed. At least 91 people, including the disabled, elderly, children, both women and men, died.
The association estimates that at least 10,000 children were forced to quit schools. Many children also ended up in the hands of people traffickers, sold as sex slaves or hired out as domestic workers at the mercy of abusive employers, unable to take the latter to justice because they had to earn a living for their families.
Meanwhile, the Orissa Bishops' Regional Council has decided to observe “Kandhamal Martyrs Day" every year to remember those killed in the riots seven years ago. They were killed because of their faith and the observation will begin next year, John Barwa the Archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar said. He added that the lives of those who were killed will inspire the Christian community at large.
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