Update on the plight of Kandhamal riot widows

BHUBANESWAR, (Ajaya Kumar Singh) — Last one week, I was in Kandhamal and met a few widows. Except one widow, where there is a conviction of the accused, the rest cases the accused are acquitted despite stinging evidences. Presently, the majority of widows are living in other than their own villages due to security concerns.

The government gives a widow pension of Rs 300 per month while Asmita Digal is supported generously by private source as shared to me that is good enough to meet the housing rent. She could not be entitled to get Rs 300 and a grant of Rs 10,000 by the block office as she is yet to receive the death certificate of her husband. It is irony that the same government recognized her widow and provided Rs 5 lakh and yet still not providing death certificate to give her widow pension.

The very minimum expenses for the month reaches upto Rs 3000 that includes the housing rent Rs 500 to Rs 700 per month. The deficit is met by the bank interests of the deposit of Rs five lakh provided to each widow and the occasional generosity of well wishers. As the widows have lost their breadwinners, the compensation deposits are also getting depleted with some are having Rs two to three lakh each presently. Of course, they are being caught up with their own survival with dignity and that of their children’s future.

UNDP, GOI and Odisha government in its latest Odisha Human Development Report said 92% and 87% of tribals and dalits of the region live under BPL. We could imagine what would be the state of affairs with the onslaught. The relatives who join the widows on their mobility and at home and their expenses are also met by the widows themselves. The trauma, fear as well as injustice have toll on their security and peace. The government compensation is not enough to rebuild the lives of the widows. They are wailing for justice. Yet the widows and homeless people are grateful to all the goodwill and generous people who did and continue to do their best in word, prayer and action in every way possible.
As far as the information I have, Bishop Joab’s group is one of the very few church groups who are one of the first ones wholeheartedly came forward to rebuild several hundreds houses and other supports when the survivors were scattered and were in panic. They continue to be involved in restoring and rebuilding affected people.

I would also put on a note that David Griffith, whom I met five times in the aftermath of Kandhamal violence in Odisha came to me as a person very much concerned for the victims and survivors. The last one being in the last month to understand the issue. He has been raising the issue.  If Kandhamal issue and religious freedom of Christians in India were raised in Human Rights Council, Geneva in September 12 that asked India to address, David is one of the very few persons working for it. We do feel obliged and grateful to him for what he does.

The attack on Christians is the longest and largest in Odisha beginning from early 1960s and we should not allow it happens not only in Odisha, but throughout in India. We are planning for timeline to start with in Odisha. If anybody has any information on the attacks, please do share so that we could circulate it.

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