Odisha’s Kandhamal protests killings by rightwing groups
By Purushottam Nayak
Kandhamal: The nationwide protest in various parts of India against rightwing violence found an echo in Odisha’s Kandhamal district, which was severely affected by right wing violence in 2007 and 2008.
Hundreds of people from the eastern Indian district gathered at Phulbani, its headquarters, on October 2 to urge the government to stop the killings and stifling of dissenting voices.
“We can’t tolerate any more killings and attacks on dissent voices,” “Stop atrocities and killings of Dalit and minorities,” “Hands off communal forces” were the slogans raised by the protesters.
The protest called by ‘Forum Against Assassination of Gauri Lankesh” was supported by local groups such as Campaign for Peace , Indian Social Action Forum, Banabasi Surakshya Parishad (council for the protection of forest dwellers) and Adivasi Adhikar Aandolan (struggle for the rights of tribal people)
Lankesh, a journalist-turned-activist, was gunned by unidentified gunmen on September 5 at the entrance of her house in Bengaluru, southern India.
The protesters marched from Madikunda Chhak and went around the town to also condemn earlier killings of M M Kulbargi, Govind Pansare and Narendra Davolkar, who fought to safeguard secular India.
They stressed to need to save democracy, diversities and constitutional values.
The rally ended with a meeting in front of the Gandhi statue and paying homage to the father of the nation, whose 148th birth anniversary fell on that day.
The speakers called for united action to oppose hate campaigns by the divisive forces and uphold democracy, constitutional values, secularism and right to expression.
“We are not the subjects of any kingdoms, we are the citizens of democratic and constitutionally ruled India” they asserted.
The meeting decided to organize similar activities across the district and bring common people on platform for the basic rights of Dalits, tribal and other poor marginal sections.
Nabakishor Digal a Catholic in Phulbani who joined the protest, said Lankesh’s murder cannot stop the voice of justice, truth, and fundamental right. “Many more good souls will be born to fight for peace and justice,” he added.
He bemoaned that the independent, secular and democratic India is being destroyed by extremist and sectarian groups. “India is witnessing hatred and vengeance. The values of Constitution are destroyed. India is going through a dark period. It is our first and foremost duty to uphold the values of the Indian Constitution that promised justice, equality and fraternity to its citizens,” the priest added.
Prasanna Bishoyi, president of the Catholic Union and convener of Campaign for Peace in Kandhamal, reminded the gathering that they have the fundamental rights right to equality, freedom of speech and religion. They also have the right against exploitation.
“It is high time that we jointly raised our voice against atrocity in the name of religion,” he added.
Bipro Charan Nayak, a touring catechist of Balliguda parish in the district, said they had witnessed the worst anti-Christian violence by Hindu Radical nearly a decade ago.
“We have lost life, property, shelter. Nine years have passed not even single perpetrator is in the jail. We are targeted because we are Dalit and minority group,” he alleged.
“We are here protest against killing, murder of Dalit, Christian and Muslim minority, journalists and intellectuals,” the Catholic leader said.
Chakradhar Malick, a Baptist Christian of Daringbadi who joined the protest, said no one can stop “our voice against injustice, atrocities, toward Dalit and minority. We stand together against the killing, murder of journalist.”
“We demand our safety and security being the citizens of India, we have every right to profess our religion according to the constitution of India” said Bhanu Priya Malick, a woman Christian leader who joined the rally. “We shall continue to fight against fundamentalist in every nook and corner of the districts,” she added.