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India: Threats in Kandhamal

Three years after the widespread persecution of Christians in Orissa state, India, gained worldwide attention, Christians in Kandhamal district continue to suffer at the hands of Hindu extremists. Three Christian leaders were brutally murdered in Kandhamal in 2011, and local authorities apparently did little to find and prosecute their killers.

In 2007 and 2008, many Christians were killed and at least 50,000 displaced in large-scale riots in Kandhamal, a large rural district in Orissa state on India’s eastern coast. Now, more than three years later, many of the Western NGOs have left, and riot victims have either returned home or moved on. While Westerners may have forgotten, Christians in Kandhamal have not. According to the Global Council of Indian Christians, “Memories of the horror during Christmas of 2007 are still fresh in the minds of Christians of Kandhamal.”

The fears of Kandhamal Christians were renewed after three Christian leaders were murdered in 2011. The first, Saul Pradhan, was killed in January. Police refused to conduct a post-mortem, claiming he died from the “bitter cold,” but Hindu radicals later confessed to the murder.

Seven months later, Michael Digal was murdered near Baliguda. Police initially claimed Digal died in a motorcycle accident, but his wounds pointed to assault rather than an accident. Under pressure from the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), investigators determined that Digal was likely targeted by Hindu radicals because he testified against some of the 2008 riot participants.

VOM helped the families of both Saul Pradhan and Michael Digal by providing housing, school fees for children and spiritual support for the widows.

Just last month, on Dec. 15, 2011, Christian legal activist Rabindra Parichhawas was murdered in Bhanjanagar. Attackers slit his throat and shot him before dumping his body.

These murders are evidence of the ongoing Hindu agenda to rid Kandhamal district of non-Hindus. During a Hindu supremacy rally in July 2011, Hindu-fundamentalist BJP political party members proclaimed, “Hindus are brothers; all others are traitors.” GCIC also reports that a BJP leader has been visiting Kandhamal villages, urging faithful Hindus to finish off Christian leaders one by one.

Sources: Global Council of Indian Christians, Asia News

Posted: January 18, 2012
Updated: January 23, 2012

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