Photo exhibition captures trauma of Kandhamal riot victims

Kandhamal accused. File photo

BHUBANESHWAR: A photograph of Tupuki Digal hanging by a narrow thread from a bamboo stick swayed to and fro without a restive mooring. The movement, however, was restricted to the thread’s limit of harmonic motion. Like her picture, Tupuki, whose son was allegedly lynched by a mob in 2008, wants to move on in life, but she can’t, as the fear in her mind refuses to abate.

In a creative tribute to the victims of the Kandhamal conflict, a combination of art work and photographs tried to recreate the state of mind of the riot victims in the southern district, four year after the mass killings.”The photographs tied to narrow strings and their restricted swing illustrate the strong desire of the people to live, but who are plagued by uncertainties in an environment of intimidation,” said Shabnam Hashmi, who conceived the one-day exhibition, titled Hamwatan, showcased in the city on Friday. Another part of the exhibition comprised pictures of the dead glued to inch-long sticks. At least 50 hapless faces of men, women and children in diverse age groups stared down accusingly from the walls. “This shows nobody was spared during the conflict,” said Hashmi.Tupuki, a resident of Barakama village in Baliguda block of Kandhamal, whose 22-year-old son Ajuban was killed in the riots, said, “It was in broad day light. They chased him and killed him just like they killed several others. I was so helpless then. I am so helpless now.” Like Tupuki, hundreds of the victims of the riots were in Bhubaneswar on Friday to narrate their tale of monumental losses from which they “could never really recover”.

Chanchala Nayak, whose husband Prafulla was beaten to death in 2008, said she is still suffering the aftermath of the tragic incident. “My elder son, who used to earn his living by working as a tailor, stopped stitching cloths because he can’t go to the market,” she said, adding life has not moved an inch for the likes of her after the carnage. Chanchala, however, draws some solace from the fact that her younger son works for Odisha police now and is posted at Paradip, a long distance away from home, attempting to start life afresh. Coinciding with the exhibition, a National People’s Tribunal (NPT) released its final report on Kandhamal here on Friday. The 197-page report of NPT, headed by Justice A P Shah, observed that criminal justice system has been rendered ineffective in protecting survivors and witnesses and ensuring accountability for the crimes perpetrated. The complicity of police and their collusion with the perpetrators indicate institutional bias against the victims, the report said. The report recommended settling long-standing landlessness and land alienation problems of dalits and tribals through land reforms and redistribution.

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Filed under Christians Harassed in Orissa, Kandhamal

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