By BosNewsLife Asia Service
NEW DELHI, INDIA (BosNewsLife)– A key human rights official warned Tuesday, February 12, that corruption within the police and government of India’s eastern state of Orissa has contributed to renewed violence against Christians in which at least five people were killed, while several “innocent” believers remain jailed.
Sajan K. George, president of the influential group Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), noted that relatives still await “justice and compensation” some three months after security forces shot dead four men and one woman, whom they allegedly mistook to be Maoist rebels.
The killed Christians, all farmers, were identified as Aiba Padra, 35, Shyamason Majhi, 50, Sanatan Mallick, 27, and Ghasiram Bagsingh, 33, from the aboriginal Khondh tribe. The other two, Ghasiram Bagsingh, 33, and Laxmi Kanta Nayak, the only woman, were Pano Dalits, the ‘lowest’ caste within India’s ancient system of Hinduism.
It was not immediately clear whether the Christians were targeted in the troubled Kandhamal district on November 14 for abandoning India’s main Hindu religion. However with high-level corruption and mounting anti-Christian feelings in the region, there is a lack of willingness among police and other officials to investigate the killings, according GCIC investigators.
In a letter, obtained by BosNewsLife, the brother of one of the victims also expressed doubts about police allegations that they opened fire after coming under attack.
“If you look at the whole incident it is pre-planned or arranged by the ‘sarpanch’,” or chief, “of the village,” said Brother Pramod of the Catholic Salesian order which is very active in Orissa and other areas.
He and other Christians say the victims were well-known and that no weapons were found at the site where they were killed.
“My elder brother…Ghasiram Bagsingh…was shot by the Special Operations Group along with four men without any reason,” he wrote.
“The bodies were taken to the police station and the families of those persons were really terrified and frightened to ask for the bodies because there was public noise that they died as encountered Maoists,” he recalled.
“Somehow we had grappled all our courage and got the bodies back.”
Yet, he is concerned about the future as his brother leaves behind a wife and four young children. “Now I am in dilemma what to do about them. I am in the seminary [and] I am [the] only male at home,” he wrote.
“My family needs financial support very badly. We have filed a case in the high court for compensation and to get justice done for the family and people as well. We [also] had [a] rally wherein people shouted slogans in order to get justice,” Brother Pramod added.
He said he had urged Christians to sign a petition calling for justice “as so far nothing has happened.”
George explained this wasn’t an isolated incident. On December 12, local authorities backed by local criminals allegedly tore down 12 houses, “forcing the residents, poor families headed by widows, into the streets without compensation or alternate housing.”
The GCIC official added that seven “innocent Christians” are still in jail after four years. Authorities have linked them to the 2008 killing of Laxamananda Saraswati, a Hindu leader, whose death sparked Orissa’s anti-Christian violence at the time in which over 100 people are believed to have died.
Though Maoist rebels claimed responsibility, Hindus have blamed Christians for the murder.
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