Tag Archives: Anto Akkara

Marchers for dalit rights drenched in dirty water, face baton charge

priests in cassock braves dirty water canon

Priests in cassock brave dirty water canon

New Delhi, (Anto Akkara) — The decades of Christian protests for end to the discrimination against Christian dalits witnessed dramatic scenes on December 11 with over 400 protesters including half a dozen Catholic bishops arrested and detained.
The arrests came after the protesters led by over 20 bishops of various denominations, dozens of priests and nuns from across India broke through police barricades and marched to the Parliament shouting ‘we want justice’.

A nun pleads with Police on her knees

A nun pleads with Police on her knees

The government introduced 15 percent reservation in educational institutions and government jobs as well as free education for Hindu dalits in 1950 for the social uplift of ‘untouchable’ dalits- while excluding non-Hindu dalits from its purview.

Though these statutory privileges were later extended to Sikh dalits in 1956 and Buddhist dalits in 1990, the repeated cry of the Christian dalits who account for two thirds of 27 million Christians in India have gone unanswered despite frequent protests and rallies across the country.

Archbishop Anil Couto of Delhi addressing the gathering

Archbishop Anil Couto of Delhi addressing the gathering

Scores of Muslims also had joined the march that was jointly organized by the Catholic church, National Council of Churches in India that groups 30 Orthodox and Protestant churches, Muslim and social action groups.

In desperate bid to stop the marchers, police first lathi-charged and beat up several protesters across the Patel House Metro station. 

Even nuns could be seen questioning the police for the brutality even as church leaders confronted the police.

Police beat up peaceful protestors

Police beat up peaceful protestors

Undeterred, the protesters including priests in cassocks soon regrouped and knelt on the road with crosses in hand even as police truck mounted with water cannons sprayed them with muddy water several times.

It was shocking that police later claimed that they never used dirty water despite photos clearly proving it.

With the protesters including bishops refusing to budge, police arrested more than 400 of them including the bishops led by Delhi archbishop Anil Coutto and detained them.


Two lawyer nuns plead with Police

Two lawyer nuns plead with Police

“The Prime Minister has agreed to meet us tomorrow. So, we are leaving the police station now,” said Franklin Caesar, an outspoken Catholic dalit activist on getting out of the police station after five hours of ‘protest’ in the Parliament Street police station.


Filed under Abuse of Church authority, AICU, Anto Akkara, Archbishop Anil Couto, Dalit Christians

Institute NIA inquiry, says Digvijaya Singh on Kandhamal 5th anniversary

book release- allNEW DELHI –  The AICC general secretary and senior Congress party leader, Digvijaya Singh has called for an inquiry by NIA (National Investigation Agency) into the widespread anti-Christian violence in Kandhamal while releasing an investigative book on the fifth anniversary of the Kandhamal violence.

“Communalism in the name of any religion should not be tolerated. Kandhamal is a fit case for NIA inquiry,” pointed out Singh at the release of the book titled ‘Kandhamal craves for Justice’ authored by senior journalist Anto Akkara.

Singh congratulated the author of the investigative book for ‘pursuing the case of carnage in Orissa single-handedly’ and said that it has brought out shocking information about what had happened in Kandhamal. “I know, more than all of you, the level of infiltration that fascist forces have made into the military, police, judiciary and legislative bodies,” Singh added.

“What has happened in Kandhamal is travesty of justice. Yet, the NHRC and the government has not even responded to the report the People’s Tribunal,” pointed out Justice Ajit Prakash Shah, former Chief Justice of Delhi High Court and chairman of National People’s Tribunal on Kandhamal, after releasing the book and handing over the first copy to Digvijaya Singh.

Following the murder of Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati on August 23, 2008, the massive funeral procession across Kandhamal district turned it into an inferno. In weeks of unabated violence, more than 100 Christians perished while 300 churches and 6,000 Christian houses were looted and torched, rendering 56,000 Christians refugees.

“It is shocking to read that an MLA, accused in seven murders, was sitting outside the Fast Track Court with his men – questioning everyone who goes inside,” noted Justice Shah drawing attention to ‘shocking facts’ brought out in the book published by Veritas India Books.

Kandhamal“Kandhamal’s story of five years is a travesty of justice. Of the 3,232 complaints, there has been a mere 75 convictions despite two Fast Track Courts being set up. Among the 27 murder trial verdicts, the Fast Track Court has found the accused guilty only in two cases. Is this justice?” asked the journalist who made 17 trips to Kandhamal ‘to investigate the mountain of injustice’. “The stoic silence of the NHRC on Kandhamal is shocking. It has not even made a press release on Kandhamal so far,” pointed out the author.

Further, Akkara noted that Kandhamal has “exposed the ugly face of Hindutva”. “Apart from hounding the Christians, the self declared protectors of Hinduism, gang-raped and burnt alive even an orphan Hindu college student looking 22 Hindu boys at a Christian centre. Is this Hinduism?” pointed out the author.

“A silent, obliging media also plays a role. Only a handful of fearless journalists like Anto Akkara have doggedly reported on the atrocities in Kandhamal. We need to applaud their work. Because, truth alone will prevail. Truth alone will save us,” remarked Swami Agnivesh, outspoken eminent social activist and reformist Arya Samaj leader.

“Without the connivance of the Chief Minister of a state, communal violence cannot happen. Even if it happens, it cannot drag on for more than 24 hours,” noted Swami Agnivesh. He also decried the silence of the NHRC to the massive injustice in Kandhamal.

Vrinda Grover, senior lawyer and human rights activist said that the injustices after the riots against Sikh in Delhi in 1984, Muslims in Gujarat in 2002 and Christians in Kandhamal calls for a stringent legislation ‘to curb the impunity behind communal violence’.

For more info Contact: antoakkara@gmail.com
+91.9958602840, 9448383350


Filed under Anto Akkara, Christianity, Christians Harassed in Orissa, Kandhamal, Kandhamal Craves for Justice

‘Kandhamal Craves for Justice’

InvitationNEW DELHI — A new book entitled ‘Kandhamal Craves for Justice’ authored by journalist Anto Akkara packed with real-life stories, telling photos and incisive research inputs is due for release, 23rd August 2013.

Former Chief Justice of Delhi High Court Justice A P Shah released the explosive investigative book on Kandhamal and gave the first copy to AICC General Secretary Mr. Digvijaya Singh at Speaker’s Hall, Constitution Club, Rafi Marg, New Delhi.

The book by award-winning journalist Anto Akkara raises uncomfortable questions on the justice delivery system and throws up vital leads about the murder shrouded in mystery that triggered the mayhem.

Five years into the orgy of violence and deprivation, the journalist author calls for national attention into the travesty of justice in Kandhamal demanding answers to unanswered questions like:
Was there a bigger conspiracy behind the murder in the jungle?
How did the mighty arms of the Secular Democratic Republic of India respond to the challenge?
Did the judicial system falter in delivering justice?
Why did the national human rights watchdog remain silent on the blatant human right abuses in Kandhamal?

Earlier Akkara stirred the national conscience with his investigative book ‘Kandhamal – a blot on Indian Secularism’. Veteran journalist Kuldip Nayyar described it as ‘a must-read book’ at its launch in New Delhi in April 2009. Justice M F Saldana commented at the release in Bangalore that given the objectivity of the book, it should be treated as an ‘official report’ on the Kandhamal violence and urged the government to act on it.
Late K G Kannabiran, president of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties, hailed the book as ‘a charge-sheet on Kandhamal’ during the launch in Hyderabad.
Home Minister P Chidambaram who visited Kandhamal soon after receiving the book from the author told the Parliament on July 15, 2009 that what had happened in Kandhamal was ‘a blot on the face of Orissa’ – quoting the title of the book.
Armed with post graduate diploma in journalism and LL.B from Delhi University, Anto Akkara has been a journalist with international media for over two decades. The author has reported extensively from hotspots in South Asia on human rights, religious issues and social problems, winning a dozen national and international media awards in the process.
91.9958602840, 9448383350, 9343501214


Filed under anti-Christian attacks, Anto Akkara, Christians Harassed in Orissa, Kandhamal

Journalist Anto Akkara wins International award

Anto Akkara

Anto Akkara

KOLKATA (28 June) —  Geneva-based  ICOM (International Christian Organisation of the Media) has chosen Indian journalist Anto Akkara for the Titus Brandma International award for journalism to be conferred at the World Media and Journalism Congress to be held at Panama city in October.

The ICOM in its communication to Akkara, working with international media as South Asia correspondent, said that its triennial award has been instituted in memory of Blessed Titus Brandsma who was a Dutch journalist and Carmelite priest who died in 1942 at the Dachau concentration camp in Germany.

“The jury took the decision considering the contribution you have made in defending human rights and speaking up for the oppressed in your journalistic work in South Asia. By deciding to confer this prestigious honour to you, the jury acknowledges the stellar role you have played in highlighting the gross denial of fundamental rights and freedom of religion in the Kandhamal jungles of Orissa,” ICOM said

(Kindly go to https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?shva=1#search/icom%40bluewin.ch/13ca5fd7d1aef3e6 for more info about ICOM and the award).

After masters in English literature from St Thomas College Thrissur, Akkara did LL.B from DelhiUniversity and has been working for over two decades with international media as foreign correspondent covering South Asia.

The journalist author who has won several media awards stirred the national conscience with his investigative book ‘Kandhamal – a blot on Indian Secularism’ following the orchestrated anti-Christian violence in Kandhamal jungles of Orissa from August 2008. Akkara’s latest book on Kandhamal ‘Early Christians of 21st Century’ released in February 2013 at Vailankanni.

Contact: antoakkara@gmail.com, 91.9448383350, 91.9745359402


Filed under Anto Akkara, International Christian Organisation of the Media, Titus Brandsma award, Uncategorized

Faith stories from Kandhamal released

cardinal releases book with arbp thazhathKOCHI, ( Adv. Jose Vithayathil) — Major archbishop Cardinal George Alencherry released  the Malayalam translation of the English book ‘Early Christians of 21st century – stories of incredible Christian witness from Kandhamal jungles’ in Orissa at the Kerala Catholic Council assembly in Kochi on December 11.

The 75,000 word book, authored by journalist Anto Akkara and is being translated into French, is a collection over of 100 stories amazing witness to the Christian faith amid brutal persecution of poor but valiant Christians and has been translated by Fr Dr. Devassy Panthallookaran, former principal of St Thomas College, Thrissur.

Cardinal Alencherry released the book in the presence over 100 top Kerala church leaders including three dozen bishops by handing over the first copy to archbishop Andrews Thazhath, president of Kerala Catholic Bishops Council (KCBC).

malayalam book cover“I congratulate Anto (Akkara) for bringing to the attention of the world the sufferings and unwavering faith of the persecuted Christians of Kandhamal, going beyond his role as a journalist,” said Cardinal Alencherry while releasing the book. In his additional foreword to  the book (apart from the one from Cardinal Oswald Gracias, president of Catholic Bishops Conference of India),  Major archbishop Cardinal Alencherry, head of the Syro Malabar  church  has described the book as ‘a testimonial for martyrs’.

“This is an inspiring book in the year of Faith,” remarked archbishop Thazhath, head of the Kerala church, during the release at the headquayPastotrheld .

Orthodox bishop Gabriel mar Gregorios, president of Kerala Council of Churches (that comprises of all major non-Catholic churches in the Christian heartland of Kerala), in his tribute to the book has described it as ‘a book that every Christian must read’.

Akkara in his response said that though he visited Kandhamal initially as a journalist to report from the ground zero, it was the incredible faith of the valiant Christians who remained firm in their faith despite untold suffering that forced him to make arduous trips to Kandhamal repeatedly for five years since Christmas 2007.

“I have tried to document truthfully their incredible faith, pains and sufferings in words and pictures,” said the photo journalist author who added that more than 100 Christians died for their faith in Kandhamal while 300 churches and 6,000 Christian houses were looted, torched or destroyed rendering more than 56,000  people homeless.

The Malayalam translation of the book is published by Veritas India Books, a new publishing firm based in Thrissur.

Adv. Jose Vithayathtil
Secretary, Laity Commission, KCBC
Contact: 9447027145

(Akkara had earlier authored two books, ‘Kandhamal – a blot on Indian Secularism’ – investigative book that stirred national conscience on Kandhamal in April 2009, and later ‘Shining Faith in Kandhamal’)

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Filed under anti-Christian attacks, Anto Akkara, Kandhamal, Orissa

Kandhamal Junos eats with his immobile fingers – suddenly back to normal functioning after two years

Pellets are still embedded in shattered right hand bones which went stiff 2 years ago!

THRISSUR – Award winning journalist Anto Akkara who reported on Kandhamal Orissa and arranged for the surgery for Junos Naik survivor of 11 bullet wounds writes… The pellets in the hand have not been touched. Yet, the stiff hand is normal now!
The good news is that cheerful Junos left for Orissa on Sunday night after intense treatment here for 17 days. Besides the gun pellets being removed in the leg and a soft long leather shoe fixed to ease the strain. Junos had dinner in my brother’s house [Anto lives in Bangaloe] eating with his fingers. Remember he had come to Thrissur with stiff right hand – shattered bone supported with steel plate, riddled with gun pellets and unmovable fingers. What a miracle!
For me, it is mission accomplished. I could not believe the miracle when he sat with me and ate with his fingers with ease.
As each good story has a sad moment, my parish turned out to be the spoiler but maybe an instrument in God’s plan to testify to the genuineness of Kandhamal faith. Though the parish priest wanted Junos to speak at the feast day celebrations in the evening ahead of a professional drama performance. Though we fixed the program, some of the parish committee members adamantly opposed it at the last minute saying the drama would be ‘late’ if Junos was presented on the stage. So, the young parish priest decided to go with the committee decision.
I told the committee convener Sunday [21 Nov, 2010] morning standing in front of the church that it was a shame to invite a ‘living St. Sebastian’ on the feast of St Sebastian and later decide not to acknowledge his presence while many other parishes wanted me to take him to them.  Ironically, on the previous and later during the solemn feast day mass too, the sermon by outside priests was on Junos only – a living saint and [my work in bringing him to Thrissur].
The feast was to end with a third mass in the evening, solemn procession, fireworks followed by the drama by a professional troupe. I kept my word and brought Junos home from the hospital as scheduled Sunday afternoon.
Meanwhile, I informed the Sisters in the nearby convent about Junos visit and told them that I could take Junos to the convent so that they would meet a living martyr. Instead, the nuns were adamant that they will come to my house (though I did not want to create a conflict in the parish with all the nuns coming to my house). Mysterious are the ways of God – that’s my Kandhamal experience.

Junos in front of family altar

Seven nuns spent over an hour with Junos in my house along with my multi-media presentation to explain the Junos’ mystery hand. At 5 pm, the mass was to end and the solemn procession to start. Some of the nuns rushed to distribute communion and the heavens came down pouring… From then on for next five hours  it rained, so much so that the solemn procession, fireworks and the drama – all were washed out – without a ball being bowled. Even my 90 year-old neighbour said that there has been never such heavy unseasonal rain on the feast day in her memory [on the feast day].
I have no doubt that this was divine retribution for insulting the incredible faith of Kandhamal people. In the end Junos said, ‘God’s office is open 24×7 and the response is instant.’
Compare this with the incredible moments Junos testimony produced at the sanctuary of Divine Retreat Centre in Muringoor with over 6,000 people from across the country standing up and shouting ‘Halleluiah’ when I held up Junos hand with shattered bone and riddled with gun pellets.
When I first brought the X-rays to the doctors during the preparatory visit to Thrissur, doctor told me that the hand had to be amputated (same thing Junos had been repeatedly told by doctors).
So, it was with a heavy heart I told Junos to book the train ticket to Thrissur as my friend and a senior doctor at St John’s  Medical College in Bangalore too had cautioned me saying ‘keep your fingers crossed’.
But, remember in the end, Junos went back home with absolutely normal hand without putting the surgical knife on his miracle hand. It was indeed a miracle!
I felt sad for my good parishioners who missed an incredible opportunity to listen to a living saint due to the obstinacy of some senior parishioners. May be, God wanted my parish to be an instrument to manifest his glory.
When the rain started, I checked the status of Junos wait listed train ticket [WL 241]. It had been confirmed as per my request – by railway ministry headquarters in Delhi.
When we reached the station at 10.pm, the rain stopped briefly as Junos had to reach the platform walking from the parking area with the new long leather shoe the hospital provided to him ease the strain on the leg from which pellets had been removed. We could not afford to get it wet and God saw to it that rain did stop.
As soon as Junos got into the train, rain started again. I was worried that he was travelling alone as his travelling companion [nephew] had left after 10 days.  Then, I saw him chatting merrily with a young man seated next to him while I stood outside in the rain. Then, he told me that the young man was from his village only.
For those who believe in God, He is there to guard you like a guardian angel! Maybe, it may not be in the way human minds crave for. Indeed, mysterious are the ways of God!
I will never forget the 17 days I spent with Junos – the martyr!

CT scan pic of Junos hand

Akkara adds: For me, it is mission accomplished. I could not believe the miracle when he sat with me and ate with his fingers with ease – with the same hand any doctor – if he had a look at the X-ray – would still say that it has to be amputated.
Doctors at the Catholic Medical College Hospital were willing carry out to complicated surgery to remove the imbedded pellets (see the black spots in the attached Xray). But, it would not have done much good except being excellent specimen for medical research by removing the cluster of pellets embedded in shattered bone, remove the clumsily implanted steel. However, even after that there cannot be much change as the muscles have contracted in two years, they added.


Filed under Christianity, Christians Harassed in Orissa, Minorities in India

“Jesus kept me alive”: Christian with 11 bullets in his body*


Junos Nayak with 11 bullet wounds & Akkara.


Junos Nayak, a former police constable, was one of the few Christians who survived a close brush with death during the Kandhamal carnage.
Lalji Nayak, his 65 year-old elder brother, was slashed with sword before him along with his sister-in-law Mandakini while 57 year-old Junos himself was pumped with bullets on 30 September 2008. While Lalji died in hospital next day, Mandakini went mad with broken skull.
“Look at these bullet marks. There are still 11 bullets in my body,” Junos narrated the spine-chilling attack that he survived in Gadaguda village, three kms from Udaigiri. “Four bullets (in outer parts of the body) had been removed. But the ones that are embedded deep and close to bones are still there,” Junos explained with the help of X-rays he had brought to New Delhi in August 2010 to attend the National People’s Tribunal to mark Kandhamal second anniversary.
However, this ordeal did not shake the faith of Junos, born to parents who had embraced the Christian faith decades earlier when their first born died.
“I have full faith in Jesus the Saviour. It is only because of Jesus that I survived,” said Junos, belonging to the CNI. “They fired so many bullets at me and look, not one hit my heart. Is this not a miracle?” asked Junos putting his right hand – still covered with bandage – to his heart.
“The power of God was very much there,” he replied when he was asked what he felt after the deadly attack that left his elder brother dead and sister-in-law mad.
Junos, who took voluntary retirement from police after he was injured in an attack by Maoist rebels in 1982, said that after the killing of Swami Lakshmanananda, local fundamentalists confronted the Christians: “Your people killed our Swami and tell us their names.”
“We will no longer tolerate Christianity here and all of you have to follow Hinduism now,” they also threatened.
With reports of anti-Christian violence pouring in from across Kandhamal, most of the 50 Christian families among 500 families in the three villages in the area including Gadaguda fled to the jungles. But three families including that of Junos and his brother Lalji decided to stay on.
“Being Christians, we did not want to be cowards and run away when we were threatened,” explained the former police constable.
However, his Hindu cousin confided to him that the fundamentalists were serious about the threat and were planning to attack the defiant Christians. Hence, he advised Junos to attend the reconversion ceremony and buy peace with them.
Meanwhile, another friendly Hindu suggested: “Why don’t you just go and eat the Prasad (sacred offering) at the temple? Later you can practice your faith secretly.”
But Junos was not prepared to make any compromise with his faith: “I told him I will not do the duplicate to please them. I will never compromise with my faith.”
A secret meeting was held in the jungle and fundamentalist leaders from outside briefed locals how to carry out the attack. Soon the village church was torched. Barrels of kerosene were brought and stored at the Panchayath office and nearby houses.
The drunkards among them spilled the news that deadline had been set to attack the adamant Christians.
His cousin approached Junos once again, clutched his hand and pleaded: “Please go away from here. Otherwise, I will have to leave the village as I don’t want to see you being killed in front of me.”
But Junos thought they would only loot and so, decided to stay on in the village. Later he came to know while he was in hospital that fundamentalists had landed in trucks on 29 September night and halted in the village.
“At four in the morning, a mob descended all of a sudden shouting ‘Jai Bajrang Bali’. They caught hold of my brother and ordered him to accompany them to the temple (for reconversion ceremony). When he refused, they hit him with a sword and he collapsed. Then, they hit sister-in law who had rushed forward,” recounted Junos.
Meanwhile, his wife Laila, son Sujan and daughter Asmita had moved away when the mob arrived.
“As they were attacking my brother and sister-in-law, I tried to run away. But they sprayed bullets at me from close range,” Junos recalled.
After that, Junos had only faint memory of being carried in an open truck among dead bodies and injured Christians including his brother and his wife to hospital by the police who rushed them later to Medical College Hospital at Berhampur, 150 kms away.
There, doctors told Junos’ son to rush him to the government Medical College Hospital at Cuttack (160 kms away) as he was very critical.
“Luckily, my son had a friend who brought a van and took me to Cuttack,” Junos said with a smile. During two week-long treatment at the Cuttack Hospital, his condition improved with the deep bullet wounds stitched together and four bullets removed.
Later, Junos and his family rented a house at Banja Nagar – on the fringe of Kandhamal – as they could not return to the village where his house had been reduced to a skeleton with its roof, doors and windows looted.
“My son goes there occasionally and they threaten that unless I withdraw the (police) complaint, they will finish me off,” said Junos.
However, Junos is not worried about these threats: “Whatever may happen, I will not forsake my faith.
“But I am worried about the bullets in my body. I have lot of pain and doctors have told me to remove them at the earliest. It is two years now. But I don’t have the money for the expensive surgery. Maybe, God will find me a way,” said Junos echoing true Christian hope.
PS: Akkara’s little parish St Mary’s Church Ambakad near Thrissur accepted his proposal to adopt ‘St Paul of Kandhamal‘ – buy a plot of land for him and build a house at Phulbani where he is living in a slum now.  “That’s not all,” says the intrepid social activist and journalist Akkara with law background on 27 October 2010, “I have also made the Thrissur archdiocese to agree to bear the entire cost of treatment to remove the 11- bullets in Junos Nayak. I sat with the surgeons on Saturday and Junos will be in Thrissur for admission at Jubilee Mission Medical College soon. So, I need to be there to receive Junos when he arrives by train. It will be a quite complicated surgery as the arm bones have been severely damaged and has infection. Removal of some of other pellets also pose major problem as they are embedded close to the body. Kindly keep him in your prayers. The operation will cost over one lakh but I will make sure that Junos and his son accompanying him will not have to spend a penny even for their travel. Apart from that, I am trying to get life-long commitment that Junos will not have to worry about his medicines.”
Anto Akkara is a journalist based in Bangalore. Malayalam edition of Shining Faith in Kandhamal entitled ‘Theeyil Thilangia Viswasam’ was released at the famous Maramon Convention on Pampa river by KCBC and KCC presidents in February 2010.
(*from Anto Akkara’s English language edition of book Shining Faith.)

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Filed under Christianity, Hinduism, Kerala Catholics, Laity