3 November 2008

A delegation of the All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA), comprising of the undersigned visited Kandhamal district on 1st and 2nd November. We were able to visit some of the camps where those who were driven out of their homes have been staying for more than two months now and also a village where some of those attacked have returned. We also had discussion ns with the Collector and Sub-Collector of the District.

The entire district presents an extremely painful picture with house after belonging to members of the Christian community have been burnt, looted and broken. Many of their places of worship have also been destroyed or damaged. Such a planned and one-sided attack raises many questions.

We visited the camp at Tikabali where nearly half the inmates have left. While many have gone back to their villages, others have migrated. Those who remain are feeling very insecure. Some complained that they were being asked to convert to Hinduism before they could return home and other said that while their own neighbours wanted them to come back, ‘Outsiders’ were making this difficult.

In the camps, clothes, toilet article and books for the students of the higher classes are desperately needed. In Tikabali, there is a blind girl, Honduran Dial, who is a Kind Year student who has lost all her books including those in Braille.

We were told in the camp that one Siddeshwar Pradhan of Silesaru village, who belongs to the majority community, helped many of those who were attacked. Most tragically, he was burnt to death by the attacking mob. There were other cases like this but no one wanted to reveal the names of those who had helped them for fear of endangering their lives. This is a terrible commentary on the state of affairs. Those who should be an example to others are, in fact, living in danger.
Members of them visited the Chakapada Ashram and spoke with the Pradhancahary, Jagabandhu Das. When they asked him about the violent incidents following the horrible killing of Swami Lakshmananda Saraswati and his colleagues, he said that this was a ‘natural reaction.’ Even though the Maoists have announced that they are responsible for the killings, he insisted that the ‘Christians’ were also involved. When he was asked how those in the camps could return home and harmony be restored, he replied that they would have to withdraw all their cases in order for this to happen.

On the 2nd morning, we visited Mediakiya village where 27 families have returned from the camp. Most of the Adivasis have no work and are forced to migrate long distances. Both the communities are demanding that NREGA work be assured throughout the year. Members of the majority community that we spoke to said they are hopeful that there will be peace now.

We have raised some issues with the local administration and with the Chief Minister and we are enclosing our memorandum to the Chief Minister with this press note. In this we have requested him to accede to the demand made by Sister Meena for a CBI enquiry into the atrocity to which she was subjected.