India, a nation that boasts religious diversity and freedom, has become a hotspot for sectarian violence. Religious persecution is at its ugliest in the state of Orissa. And it looks like the government has decided not to get involved. Freelance writer Ca
Hindu sects are terrorising the Christian community in Orissa, a state in eastern India. Reports of burnt homes, burnt churches, brutal murders, rapes and attacks on the Christians in the state are documented daily, especially in the region of Kandhamal. Yet both the national and state governments seem unwilling to intervene or launch investigations.
In the past two months alone more than 300 Christian homes have been burnt down in Orissa; daily reports of murders, gang rapes and people being buried alive have become so common that they have ceased making headlines and have been relegated to the backburners of the media’s attention.
Mainstream Hindu organisations such as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Bajrang Dal (the youth and military wing of the VHP) have been accused of instigating these violent atrocities against the Christians that live in Kandhamal, Orissa.
The VHP is an international Hindu organization that was founded in 1964 to protect the interests of the Hindu community in India. S.S Apte, one of its founders and the general secretary has said: “The world has been divided to Christian, Islam and Communist. All of them view Hindu society as very fine rich food on which to feast and fatten themselves. It is necessary in this age of conflict to think of and organise the Hindu world to save it from the evils of all the three.”
The VHP, which had been founded in peace for the intention of safeguarding the rights of the Hindu people in India,j has been accused of terrorism against the Christians of Orissa.
The VHP claim that a particular sect of the Christian community had been responsible for the killing of their leader Saraswati, despite Maoists claiming responsibility for the attack.
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad also believes the Christians in Orissa’s Kandhamal district were burning their own houses to receive compensation from the government. “Christians are setting their own homes on fire to get good compensation. There are rivalries among Christian groups. They are attacking and killing each other,” Mohan Joshi said, the VHP central unit secretary.
Joshi denied that the VHP had much of a presence in Kandhamal, which has been suffering from an onslaught of violence for the past two months. “Only a few conveners, but no units of the VHP function in Kandhamal,“ Joshi said. This statement was in direct contradiction to one made by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh functionaries (a Hindu nationalist organisation) that insisted the VHP had a very large presence in the area for the purpose of ”working and doing social service.”
The hatred directed towards the Christian population in Kandhamal by Hindu extremists derives from resentment that some Hindus in the area have renounced their faith and embraced Christianity. Reports from the region, which have been greatly downplayed, suggest that over 35 people have lost their lives and thousands have been left homeless.
Kandhamal is one of the regions in Orissa that has been most effected by anti-Christian violence, and if things are allowed to continue the way they are, other regions will be close behind.
On August 25 this year a Catholic nun, Sister Meena Lalita Barwa, was attacked and dragged to a deserted office of an NGO and then brutally gang raped. She was then publicly humiliated by being paraded naked in the streets by a mob of 40 men, while other’s looked on.
Even more horrific than this, was that Sister Meena’s case was mistreated by the State Police of Orissa.
“The State police had failed to stop the crimes, failed to protect me from the attackers, they were friendly with the attackers, they tried their best that I did not register an FIR (First Information Report), not make complaints against police, police did not take down my statement as I narrated in detail and they abandoned me halfway,” said Sister Meena in a public statement made at a news conference in New Delhi.
While trying to flee the mob, the nun said she heard shouts of: “come let’s rape her; at least 100 people should rape.”
A police inspector in the region, who heard her case, asked her if she was “interested in filing an FIR and whether she knew of the consequences of doing so.”
When Sister Meena did file her FIR, she was requested by the head constable not to go into great detail. “So I rewrote it for the third time in one-and-a-half pages. I filed the FIR but I was not given a copy of it,” Sister Meena said.
The Supreme Court rejected an application for a CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) inquiry into this case by the Archbishop of Cuttack, Raphael Cheenath.
The Chief Minister of Orissa allegedly denounced the act saying that it was “shameful and barbaric.”
However, the brutal and horrific public gang rape of Sister Meena Lalita Barwa is just one example of what the minority Christian community is going through for their faith. Thousands of Christians, who have lost their homes, now hide in the nearby forests and are in fear of their lives on a daily basis.
The state has tried its best to deny the extent of the violence as it prepares for elections. Meanwhile, the media has turned a blind eye towards the suffering in Kandhamal and other regions of Orissa for other news – sports, rocket launches, the weather and Bollywood celebrities.
Some neighboring states have reported sporadic attacks of violence against Christians. Yet, the saddest part of communal, religious and racial violence is the fact that the international community only begins to take notice when things get totally out of control. While the Christians in Kandhamal and other regions of Orissa continue to pray to God for help, extremist Hindu sects in the area continue to plot their attacks. They know it is highly likely that along with the Chief Minister of Orissa, most of India will turn a blind eye to the destruction of Kandhamal Christian’s.
In a nation that is home to over a billion people, few have the time to stop and listen to the cries of anguish of a persecuted minority. However, these barbaric acts of torture, rape, arson and murder are gruesome enough and must be brought to the attention of a global audience before it starts to engulf other states in India.
1st – six churches attacked, vandalized and burnt
2nd – 96 Christian homes attacked and set ablaze
3rd – Church in Padunbadi attacked and heavily vandalised
8th – nine Christian homes burnt
9th – Man in Nilungia captured by group of Hindu extremists
11th – Two Christian homes burnt
13th – Church burnt down by irate mob
21st – Ten Christians homes in Kandhamal burned.
24th – Forty Christian homes set on fire; two Churches burnt
25th – Four Christian homes burnt, nun gang raped
26th – Twenty-five Christian homes set on fire; Young Christian man, Rajesh Digal, attacked and buried alive by VHP attackers.
30th – Sixty Christian homes burned in broad daylight, one Christian woman shot to death, seven others injured.
3rd – Anti-Christian mob attacks Dubla village, Bolangir District
5th – Forty Christian houses burned, Christian church at Sikuli attacked; 15 Christian homes in Kandhamal burned down at night
14th – Twelve Christian homes burned
The numbers continue to grow.
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