The Hon’ble Members of the Minority Commission, Govt. of India, New Delhi, 10th June 2009
Dear Madam / Sir,
On behalf of Orissa United Forum of Churches I would like to appreciate your concern and constant support for the affected people of Kandhamal. After the communal violence, the members of the Minority Commission have visited Kandhamal and also met various stakeholders, including the leaders of the Church to get to know first hand information of the situation. While I thank you for all your efforts, I take this opportunity to brief you on the present status and the views of the Orissa United Forum of Churches.
Security threat still looms large:
Even after 9 months after the second violence on 23 August 2008, over 4,000 people are either in the government run camps or in village camps. Despite the efforts of the district administration still in some GPs the situation is tensed and people cannot return to their villages. On 6 June the BDO of Raikia block took the people from Raikia camp to villages. As the villagers did not allow the people to enter the BDO had to bring the people back to the camps. The main reason is that the perpetrators of the violence are still scot-free and continue to incite the ordinary people. While the district administration focuses on humanitarian aid it did not keep up its promise in taking stern action against these culprits.
The leaders of the Church are of the opinion that unless the culprits are arrested and legal action is initiated, peace will not be established in Kandhamal. The district administration may be able to maintain law and order in the towns but in villages the condition is precarious. It is the responsibility of the State to provide security of life and property of all its citizens. If people have to have faith in the administration it is a must that the culprits are arrested immediately. Moreover, the culprits block the entry of NGOs, Church leaders and humanitarian agencies.
While the government run camps are being provided with dry ration, those who were forced to leave the camps by the district administration and could not get back to the villages live in market places or outskirts of villages. They are over 2000. Their living condition is pitiable and many do not have enough food to eat. Basic food security must be ensured for the next few months by the state as people have lost everything and in the process of rebuilding their houses and livelihood.
Providing houses to the victims is the primary responsibility of the Government. What the government has given is much less in terms of compensation. The Churches and humanitarian agencies are willing to play a supportive role in the house construction to the district administration. But the district administration must ensure safety and security of volunteers, aid workers and the materials. For example, in the first week of June when the members of the Church went to assess the damages in two villages in G Udayagiri they were not allowed. The district administration need to ensure housing for the people as the rainy season is fast approaching. If housing will take time then the district administration has to prepare itself to meet the emergency needs of the people during rains.
While we appreciate the efforts of the district administration in issuing advance land possession documents the process need to be quickened especially in Tikabali and G.Udayagiri Blocks. Issuing Pattas (ROR) to those who have been given advance land possession document is also need to be speeded up.
Lack of support from local officials:
Yet another concern is that the support provided by the local administration to the villagers is weakening day by day. The peace committees are not functioning. We have requested the district administration to organize regular peace meetings as well as meeting among local officials, communities and aid workers so that the peace process could be speeded up.
Invitation to NGOs and INGOs:
The needs of the affected people in Kandhamal are enormous – food, shelter, health, livelihood etc. We do not know the plans of the government to address these concerns. On the other hand humanitarian agencies are hesitating to come forward to work in Kandhamal since in the initial stage the state denied admission to human rights and humanitarian organizations. If the administration can send out an open invitation to humanitarian agencies many of them are willing and ready to support the housing programme and various needs of the people. We make an appeal that that the state in collaboration with district administration could organize a state-wide consultation on ‘Peace building in Kandhamal’ inviting all humanitarian organizations, so that many agencies will come forward to work in Kandhamal.
Compensation package to people:
The compensation package provided to people is minimum. Given the fact that the people could not involve in normal activities for the past 9 months, a good portion of the compensation provided by the state for housing is already spent by the people on various basic needs like medicine, education, food etc. The state must ensure that people are provided with employment opportunity so that food security can be ensured.
Compensation package to religious and public institutions:
The compensation offered to partially or fully damaged Churches, religious places and other institutions is far too less of the actual need. Hence once again we appeal to you to help us to provide with reasonable compensation support by the state and centre to these religious places and institutions.
We the members of Orissa United Forum of Churches believe that you would use your good office to get justice to the affected people.
Thanking you for your support and understanding.
Fr. Joseph Kalathil
For Orissa United Forum of Churches, C/o Archbishop’s House, Satyanagar, Bhubaneswar – 751 007