Christians continue to be harassed in Orissa, says Archbishop

Following is an update from Archbishop Raphael Cheenath, SVD of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar Diocese on the situation of displaced Christians in refugee camps in and outside Orissa. The Archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneshwar comprises the civil districts of Cuttack, Phulbani (Kandhamal) and Puri in the state of Orissa.
Harassment continues with impunity
On the other hand, humiliating and discriminatory rituals are imposed upon the Christians by the Sangh Parivar elements with impunity. For instance: Some villagers from Betticola had gone to their village. They were told by the people in the village that they will never allow the Christians to come back. If they did, Christians have to live as Hindus. They have to follow certain rules, like Christians have to pay a fine of Rs. 501 for their return.
If a Christian is riding a cycle and happened to meet a `Hindu’ Tribal, he has to get down from the cycle and walk. While bathing in the pond in the village, tribal `Hindus’ have to take bath first, only then Christians can bathe. People from Tiangia, Betticola, Chanchedi and a few other villages are still frightened to go to their villages. Local BDOs are forcing the camp people to go back to their villages knowing fully well that there is no guarantee for life in the interior villages. 17 people from Gimangia had gone to their village but they were threatened by the local villagers and they returned to the camp. Women are also asked to wear a towel and something to cover their body. (A Brahminic dictate to humiliate women) Christians have to salute tribals whenever and wherever they meet them. Christians are threatened with dire consequence if they dare to go to the Church. If they still make an attempt there are prescribed sanctions like they will have no access to drinking water wells, ponds, gathering of firewood, etc. They will also be subjected to social segregation and exclusion.
Another dangerous trend that is unfolding now is to kidnap or whisk away individuals and leaders and murder them. (On 20th Feb. 2009 dead body of Hrudanada Nayak, a Christian was found in the forest. He was found missing for a couple of days.)
Ridiculous Compensation Package
After the attack on Christian institutions in December, 2007 the administration gave compensation to the institutions of social, educational, health care, etc., but refused to give compensation to the churches and religious institutions. The Supreme Court, after the recent violence, has directed the District Administration to give compensation also to the churches and religious houses.
The District Administration is making an assessment, but without the presence and opinion of the beneficiaries (families, priests, etc). Unfortunately the whole process is tardy and unfair. For instance, a parish church, which could have in its campus Church, presbytery and religious houses etc, even if all of them are attacked, they are to be considered as one single unit for compensation to a maximum of Rs. 2 lakhs. Any normal sensible person will say it is unfair, since all the institutions are heavily damaged. We are still negotiating with the District Administration for an increased package of compensation and to consider each institution separately. I hope that Supreme Court will intervene in this matter.
Published : March 05 2009\ continue-to-be-harassed-in-Orissa


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