Tuesday, December 10, 2013

European Union members take stock of religious freedom in India

A Christian delegation has met the members of the European Union (EU) in Orissa to apprise them of the situation of the community five years after the anti-Christian violence in the eastern state.

The 6-member delegation, including human rights activists, met Joao Cravinho, ambassador of EU, Janos Terenyi, ambassador of embassy of Hungary, Feilim McLaughlin, ambassador of embassy of Ireland and Miloslav Stasek, ambassador of embassy of Czech Republic on Dec. 2.

“They have come to understand the issues of the vulnerable and marginalized groups and the status of minority communities,” Fr. Ajay Singh, who was part of the Indian delegation, told ucanews.com today.

The priest said the EU delegation wanted to know the situation of the religious freedom in the state after the 2008 anti-Christian violence and also about the compensation and justice given to the victims of the communal violence.

The delegation also presented a report to the EU members, highlighting the crisis in the criminal justice dispensation system and police investigations in the mass violence against Christians in Kandhamal district of the state.

In a seven-week rampage that began on August 25, 2008, groups of fanatic Hindus burned Christian homes, churches and convents, killing some 100 people and displacing at least 50,000.

Several women were raped, including a Catholic nun.

“We have been extremely unhappy and dissatisfied with both the relief and the rehabilitation process of the government and the pace and quality of the criminal justice dispensation system, including the police investigations,” said John Dayal, member of the national integration council, in the report submitted to the EU delegation.

Dayal, who was also part of the Christian delegation, said that the community has filed Public Interest Litigations in the Supreme Court of India demanding better relief and rehabilitation and retrial of murder cases.

The report also noted that those who lost their jobs have not been rehabilitated or compensated, nor children compensated for trauma and lost education.

“The government’s package for constructing houses was meager and people would have remained without a roof if it were not for the assistance of church organizations which gave the bulk of the money for the houses and for helping families start a new life,” it said.

It brought to the notice of the EU delegation that there has been just one conviction for murder during the violence and most culprits have got away scot free.

“The government’s Judicial Enquiry commissions have after five years not yet given their reports. The Fast track courts were been wound up on 31st March, 2013, and local Courts in Kandhamal are now trying the cases,” it added.

The EU members also met Archbishop John Burwa of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, other civil society groups and government officials on the issues.

“They would prepare a report on the data that they have gathered from us. They said that they would visit early next year to get stock of the latest situation,” said Fr. Santosh Digal, spokesperson of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar Archdiocese.

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