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Nuagaon, Kandhamal, Orissa 4 February 2010

Kandhamal survivors speak of violence, unemployment, demand for human

rights and dignity

European Union delegation sees extent of displacement, administration

failure in housing, jobs

The survivors of Kandhamal’s anti Christian violence of December 2007

and August-October 2008 today made a forceful demand for full
restoration of their human dignity and human rights, which were
incomplete without employment, relocation back to their villages in
rebuilt homes, and the resumption of the education of the children and
the youth.

Delegations consisting of men, women and youth, many of them still

living in make shift shanties with just a plastic sheet roof along the
road, met the European Union delegation as it entered Kandhamal from G
Udaigiri. The delegation stopped at several places to see the houses
that were demolished in the violence. They were visibly move d at many
places where old and sick men, infants born in the camps, and the
unemployed men told them of the miserable living conditions.

After visiting many places along the way, the delegation had a
detailed interaction with the survivors, as the victims of the
violence now describe themselves, at the burnt out Catholic Pastoral
Centre in Nuagaon. The delegation will stay the night in the district
capital of Phulbani. They will for Bhubaneswar tomorrow afternoon
after interacting with the district authorities and witnessing a
session of the two Fast Track Courts where the accused in the violence
are being tried by two additional session’s judges.

The Survivors Association of Kandhamal Communal violence also handed

over a memorandum to the EU delegation which said: “Homeless and in
agony, we still welcome you to our beautiful Kandhamal, where we have
lived generations upon generations since history began for us. We hope
your short visit to Kandhamal will help you see for yourself not just
the condition in which many of our brothers and sisters live, the
circumstances which wrecked brutal violence on us, turning us into
refugees in our homeland, forcing us into this life of ignominy shorn
of human rights and human dignity, our sorrow and our pain invisible
and unfelt to the outside world.

In this violence, 5347 houses were looted and destroyed by fire, many
women and girls were raped, and more than 75 people were murdered in
the name of religion and ethnicity. Large-scale displacement and
migrations followed with over 50,000 people becoming refugees in their
own motherland. The culprits of this inhuman activity are roaming
freely, neither arrested nor punished.
We hope your visit and the work of civil society, will persuade the
authorities to restore us to our lands, to our homes and to our normal
lives, and will ensure that the justice dispensation system ensures a
peace built on justice, and not on fear. We also hope that without
loss of time, we would be able to once again enjoy freedom of faith
and all those other things that make for a life of dignity.”

The survivors referred to three major issues:

1. Justice as critical to long term peace

2. Rehabilitation in our own villages without the threat of forcible
3. Employment and economic rehabilitation, and for our youth,
resumption of education.
They said Fast Track Courts, and the Court premises, have seen a
travesty of justice. Witnesses are being coerced, threatened, cajoled
and sought to be bribed by murderers and arsonists facing trial. The
court premises are full of top activists of fundamentalist
organizations. The witnesses are also threatened in their homes, and
even their distant relatives are being coerced. Even the media has
reported at the strange situation in the two Fast Track court of Ad
hoc Additional Session Judges which are trying all the murder and
arson cases against Legislative Assembly Member Manoj Pradhan. Though
witnesses have deposed strongly on his involvement in the crimes, he
has been let off in case after case.
The people demanded a Special Investigation team to investigate every
case of murder and arson. Similarly, there is also need for
transferring the cases against politically powerful persons such as
Manoj Pradhan, legislator, to outside Kandhamal, preferably to Cuttack
or Bhubaneswar.
The people narrated that more than one year after the violence, the
affected households is yet to be enlisted in the government list for
compensation depriving them all the support and rehabilitation. There
is gross malpractice due to corrupt and indifference attitude of the
local officials.
They said the compensation package declared by the State Government is
very meager, which is not sufficient for the house construction. They
demanded a special package for the violence affected people which
should include land, income generation, education and health care,
etc., so that the poor innocent people who have lost everything can be
rehabilitated properly.
The Memorandum demanded appropriate action against the district
administration and police which instead of unearthing the facts behind
Kandhamal carnage are resorting irrational conclusions and judgments.
The victims instead of the perpetrators of the violence.
It has been propagated that Scheduled caste people are guilty of land
grabbing by Scheduled Tribes in the district of Kandhamal which has
created the ethnic conflict. But this is apportioning blame without
any proof or basis. The memorandum demanded proper settlement of land
in the district, including lands to landless. The Government should
publish a “white paper” on the land issue the memorandum said.
SHPS, Kandhamal, Orissa.