Published: 10:00 GMT Daylight Time - Wednesday 04 April 2012
Only one of 157 suspects of anti-Christian violence convicted in India
Country/Region: India, South and East Asia
Courts in India have acquitted 156 people in connection with the mass anti-Christian violence by Hindu radicals in Orissa state in 2007-08, and convicted only one, who was jailed for life for murder.
Three cases concerning incidents that took place in Kandhamal district were heard by fast-track courts towards the end of last month.
|Over 4,000 homes were destroyed in the violence|
In one, the judge acquitted all of the 142 people arrested by Brahmunigam police in connection with two house-torching incidents in 2007. In another, 14 people accused of house burning in Dakedi village were cleared, the judge citing lack of proper evidence.
One person, Kartik Parmanik, was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Ramesh Digal of Dakarpanga village on 25 August 2008.
Kartik was arrested after Ramesh's brother Naresh lodged a complaint with the police. Ramesh was murdered while fleeing with his family when their house was set on fire.
The anti-Christian violence in Kandhamal started on Christmas Eve 2007 and was followed eight months later by large-scale riots, which subsided in October 2008.
At least 50 Christians were brutally murdered – some cut to pieces and others burnt alive – with around 18,000 people injured, many of them severely, and numerous Christian women were raped. Over 4,000 homes as well as several orphanages and hundreds of church buildings were destroyed.
Many Christians remain displaced, fearful of returning to their villages, where they risk death or forced conversion at the hands of hostile Hindus who do not want Christians in their midst.
There has been very limited justice for the Christian victims. Of the more than 3,200 criminal complaints relating to murder, abduction, violence and arson, only around 830 were converted to First Information Reports (FIR), which mark the beginning of further investigation and the case being brought for trial.
In its latest annual report, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom put India on its "Watch List" of countries that require close monitoring because of religious freedom violations. The lack of progress in achieving justice for victims of large-scale communal violence was one of the primary reasons for its inclusion.
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