By Matters India Reporter
Jharsuguda, March 2, 2019: Anto Akkara has won this year’s Loius Careno Award for his relentless campaign for justice for the survivors of anti-Christian violence in Odisha’s Kandhamal.
“It is befitting to honor Akkara for his crusade for Kandhamal,” said St Paul Father Alfonse Elenjikal, president of the Indian Catholic Press Association (ICPA) that chose the veteran journalist for the annual award.
The award ceremony was held on March 1 at the end of the ICPA-organized National Convention of of Christian Journalists at Jharsuguda, Odisha.
The ICPA is the national association of Catholic newspapers and periodicals, news agencies and publishing houses, journalists and teachers of journalism in India.It was founded in 1963, the year Akkara was born.
In 2003, the association set up the “Louis Careno Award for Excellence in journalism” in memory of Father Joseph Carreno, a Spanish Salesian priest in India and author of several scientific books and articles.
Sponsored by the Salesians’ Mumbai province, the award is given to an individual or institution for outstanding contribution to the press in English or Indian languages other than Hindi.
“This is an honor for the poor but valiant Christians of Kandhamal. It is their amazing witness and suffering that inspired me to take up the campaign for the voiceless,” Akkara said while receiving the award.
He urged everyone to speak up for the seven people of Kandhamal languishing in jail for a decade due to what he said was the subversion of the judicial system to perpetrate the Sangh Parivar (Hindu nationalist) fraud.
“The imprisonment of the 7 innocents of kandhamal is a blot on the nation and its judicial system,” Akkara pointed out.
Violence against the Christians of Odisha erupted in Kandhamal district with untold savagery, with Hindu extremists blaming Christians for the August 23, 2008 murder of Hindu leader Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati, despite Maoist rebels claiming the assassination.
Some 100 Christians were killed and an estimated 395 churches and 6,500 Christian houses were destroyed.
Father Elenjikal said they chose Jharsuguda as the venue for the program to express ICPA’s solidarity with the survivors of Kandhamal violence.