NGO to hold hearing on anti-Christian violence in Orissa


New Delhi : Forty-three heinous cases related to the 2008 violence in Orissa’s Kandhamal district will be heard here in a three-day session of a tribunal, comprising retired judges and social activists, starting Sunday.

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NGO National Solidarity Forum (NSF) is holding the National People’s Tribunal (NPT) to probe the violence unleashed by right wing Hindu activists against Christians.

The tribunal will start its hearings Aug 22 at the Constitution Club on Rafi Marg in central Delhi. It will be headed by former Delhi High Court chief justice A.P. Shah.

The NPT will hear 124 people who witnessed the 43 most heinous cases of brutalities committed during the violence. The jury would pronounce its verdict Aug 24 – the concluding day of the tribunal’s deliberations.

NSF coordinator, Orissa, Dhirendra Panda said Saturday that they planned to give a report on the verdicts to President Pratibha Patil and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The NPT jury will include former Delhi High Court chief justice Rajinder Sachar, former Naval chief admiral Vishnu Bhagwat, well-known film maker Mahesh Bhatt and feminist writer-publisher Urvashi Butalia.

Besides the NPT, the social activists have also planned demonstrations by students and the trade union organizations of the Left parties.

On Sunday, eminent lyricist Javed Akhtar will inaugurate an exhibition of articles and paintings from the violence-hit areas in Orissa.

Addressing media persons, secretary general of NGO National Dalit Movement for Justice R. Prasad said most people think that Kandhamal violence was past but this was not true.

He said that though for the record the relief camps organized by the state government have been wound up, every village where violence-hit tribals live were a picture of a relief camp.

Prasad said that Kandhamal carnage was a result of incidents of violence that were taking place regularly in the state since the late eighties.

Paul Divakar, general secretary of NGO Dalit Arthik Adhikar Andolan, said that the saffron backlash was aimed at suppressing the tribals’ assertion of their economic rights.

He said that it was not violence against the Christians but against the Dalits seeking their distinct space in society.

Director of NGO Jana Voices Ajay Singh highlighted the magnitude of Kandhamal brutalities. He said that of the 3,400 complaints that were lodged, cases were registered only in respect of 800.

Pointing the needle of suspicion towards the prosecution, Ajay Singh said that though two Fast Track courts were trying the cases related to violence, the conviction rate was poor.

He said of the 12 cases decided so far, conviction took place only in one case.