New Delhi: A website launched focuses on the failure of Odisha and federal governments to ensure justice to victims of anti-Christian violence the eastern Indian state witnessed eight years ago.
The website www.kandhamal.net launched on February 24 has been commissioned by a group of social activists, jurists, lawyers, academicians, writers and artists who are frustrated at the snail pace of justice process, Fr Ajay Kumar Singh, one of its promoters, told Matters India.
He regrets that the courts have set many accused of murders and arsons free, allowing them to roam around in Kandhamal, the epicenter of the violence of 2007 and 2008. Police have not arrested several accused, he alleges.
The website promoters claim it is an authentic source of information, data and legal documentations that can be used by advocacy and legal aid groups as well researchers working with the victim survivors of the violence.
The two commissions of enquiry on Kandhamal violence appointed by Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik have submitted their reports to the state government in late 2015. The reports have not yet been made public.
The Justice Naidu Commission investigated the circumstances of large scale violence triggered by the killing of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Laxmanananda Saraswati on August 23, 2008. Saraswati was shot dead in his center at Jalespata, Kandhamal. Although Maoist active in the state claimed responsibility for the killing, mobs allegedly instigated by VHP activists killed estimated 101 Christians in several weeks of organized violence.
Several women including a Catholic nun were gang raped. The Christian community counted more than 8,500 of their houses and 395 churches burnt. Civil society groups have estimated that more than 56,000 people were displaced in the violence. Half of them were housed in government-managed refugee camps, while the rest fled to safety after spending days in the thick forests.
Justice Naidu had taken over the commission after the death of judge Mahapatra, who was appointed to head the commission in 2008.
The Justice Panigrahi Commission was appointed to investigate the violence of Christmas 2007.
Justice Panigrahi submitted his report after Justice Naidu had filed his findings to the government.
The victim community had for a time boycotted the commissions with their leaders alleging bias in the hearings and coercion of victims.
Activists alleged coercion of victims was a major reason for acquittals in most criminal cases first by the Fast Track Courts (special courts), and later district courts.
By January this year, as many as 3,232 complaints were lodged but only 827 were registered and police filed charge sheet only in 512 incidents. Police did not register 2,405 complaints at all, activists say.
Out of 30 murder cases, only two resulted in convictions. According to a study, only 5.13 percent cases had conviction while the acquittal rate was as high as 88.62 percent and 6.25 percent absconding, says a report, Kandhamal: Introspection of initiative for justice 2007-2014 by Supreme Court Lawyer Vrinda Grover and Associate Prof. Saumya Uma.
No one is in jail for crimes such as murder and rapes during the 2008 violence.