Bhubaneswar : The situation in Orissa’s Kandhamal district, where at least 38 people were killed during communal violence in 2008, is still not normal, the archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar said Saturday. District officials however denied the claims.
“Fifteen months after they were uprooted, thousands still live in makeshift shanties along the road and in the forest,” Archbishop Raphael Cheenath told reporters here.
Cheenath also expressed concern at slow pace of reconstruction and rehabilitation of the victims.
“At least 4,400 families continue to live in tents, makeshift shelters or the remnants of their damaged houses,” he said, adding that more than six thousand victims continue to live outside the district.
“Some of them just do not want to go back as they are being threatened,” he claimed.
Criticising the state and district authorities for not maintaining neutrality and transparency in their rehabilitation initiatives, Cheenath said many households are yet to figure in the government list for compensation.
“There is gross malpractice due to corrupt and indifference attitude of the local officials,” he alleged.
Despite the claim of the state and district administration, the human dignity, rights and life of the Christian victims of the 2008 violence remained far from normal, Cheenath said.
However, officials in Kandhamal denied riot victims were still living outside the district.
District Collector Krishan Kumar told IANS that though many groups alleged a large number of people were staying out of Kandhamal because of fear, they have not been able to provide a list of such people.
“If there is any person outside Kandhamal and wants to come back and not able to do so because of threats, the administration is ready to provide such a person full security so that he can return to his village,” he added.
Kandhamal, about 200 km from here, witnessed widespread violence after the murder of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and four of his aides at his ashram Aug 23, 2008.
More than 25,000 Christians were forced to flee their homes after their houses were attacked by rampaging mobs, which held Christians responsible for Saraswati’s killing, although police blamed the Maoists.