By Oliva Kerketta
Phulbani: The perpetrators of Kandhamal violence ten years need to be held accountable, said N. Paul Divakar, a human rights activist.
Addressing a public gathering organized to mark a decade of anti-Christian persecution in Phulbani, district headquarters of Kandhamal, on August 28, he spoke on Kandhamal violence and foreground dedicated to the question of justice.
“I am saddened when I hear turn the other cheek, close your eyes to injustice. I come from the same tradition,” said Divakar, general secretary of National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights based in New Delhi.
He spoke of his mother who was killed in a bomb blast because his father challenged the land mafia – and how his father was advised them to pray and forgive. “We should pray, but should not let perpetrators of Kandhamal violence go free. We must hold them accountable to the rule of law,” said Divakar.
He pointed out that despite the atrocities that Dalits and tribals, face, every day, democracy is alive because of the struggles they take on to make democracy a reality. He insisted that people think of today also as a celebration of the strength and spirit the people of Kandhamal have shown in challenging the forces of terror which seek to divide Dalits and tribals, in the fight for ownership of resources, in the fight for justice.
In his speech, Niranjan Patnaik, Odisha Pradesh Congress President, said that the biggest religion is service to humanity.
“Our sacred book is our Constitution. But unfortunately today the killers of Mahatama Gandhi are in the government,” he said.
“Does any religious book teach us to hate another religion? No. There will be no development with such violence and hate. They are shouting ‘development’ and celebrating it, but they should come to Kandhamal and see the reality of it.
More than 6 million Odisha youth migrate to other states for jobs. “What development is this even after 72 years of Independence? He asked.
Patnaik wanted to live in Kandhamal and serve the people. He said Odisha will develop only when Kandhamal develops. That will happen through creating fraternity, and not by spreading hatred. Without this feeling of fraternity, there will never be any development.
“Promises are plenty today, but where is development? I want to appeal to every party our primary task should be developed Kandhamal. For this, we need a fraternity. But their agenda is not development; their agenda is just to grab power,” the Congress leader said.
CPIM MP Mohammed Salim began his address by stating that what happened a decade ago in Kandhamal has today become a national project. Kandhamal was not an isolated incident, and the effect of what happened is not limited to Kandhamal alone.
“There is an attempt, by the powers that be, to change the Constitution given to us by B.R. Ambedkar. The divisive forces of the day want to take away the most basic rights from people who have nothing. When we fight for the right to food, housing, and employment; basic fundamental rights as laid down by the Constitution, they call us anti-nationals,” he said.
He continued by explaining that the differences used to divide us are fabricated – that a different way of dressing, eating, and praying still leads to the same human blood being spilled.
He ended by stressing that anti-nationals are not going to be found in Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, or in tribal areas. “You are stealing from us, displacing us – when we challenge them, they call us anti-nationals. If you have hate in your hearts you are the anti-nationals,” said Salim.
Aruna Roy, a political and social activist who founded the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan addressed the gathering as well on Kandhamal carnage.
Quoting Ambedkar, Roy said that it would be fateful that day when the leaders of this country will consider their caste, they are religious, and their community interests to be bigger than the interests of the country. “So we need justice, but we do not need violence. If we go in dividing ourselves like this, this entire country will be splintered into pieces. Where will you stop these divisive politics? Our identity our character is our difference, our plurality, if we don’t take note of this, this could try will be destroyed,” she said.
She added, “Your [of Kandhamal people] struggle has brought to the face of the country the injustices and the inequalities existing on our society and I am grateful that you have continued your struggle through these years. Your cases are still in the courts. Despite the Supreme Court order to reopen cases, but the administration, the Odisha Chief Minister, the system is sitting idle. Why? They are saying in Delhi that we have the best system in this country. But how do you measure a system, by counting the number of toilets? Or by giving justice?”
If anyone says anything against injustice in Delhi, Raipur, Ranchi or anywhere else, they call them “anti-national.” We don’t elect bosses, we elect representatives to rule for us. There is a darvesh in Sufi tradition. They dance in a trance with one hand in the earth and one on the sky. The human is in between. In a democracy, you one hand should be in Kandhamal, the other has to be in Delhi and Bhubaneswar. Or else there will be no justice, she said.
What is happening in Kandhamal, is not happening just here. This fear is being spread everywhere today. They killed Kalburgi, Pansare, Gauri, and Dhabolkar.
“They want to silence us all using this fear and terror. If we want to build something we become “anti-national,” but those who are breaking the country are being celebrated as hardline Hindu extremists. The rules of the day want to change the word secularism and make it into Hindu Rashtra, but we won’t allow that.
Ten years since the Kandhamal carnage, people in large numbers assembled in Phulbani to remember the carnage and to demanded justice.