Kandhamal victims still face intimidation: People`s tribunal

A `people`s tribunal` today said the victims of 2008 Kandhamal communal violence in Orissa continue to be intimidated.

New Delhi: A `people`s tribunal` today said
the victims of 2008 Kandhamal communal violence in Orissa
continue to be intimidated, "systematically" denied protection
and access to justice, recommending that state government must
protect those affected and the witnesses of the cases.

A 12-member jury of the public tribunal on Kandhamal
violence, headed by former Chief Justice of Delhi High Court A
P Shah, recommended setting up of a special investigation team
to re-examine the registered FIRs and examine the registration
of fresh FIRs, noting that cases of sexual assault remained
"grossly" unreported due to "fear and intimidation".

"What happened in Kandhamal was a national shame, a
complete defacement of humanity. Most of victims are dalits
and tribals. Survivors continue to be intimidated and
systematically denied protection and access to justice. They
can not return to their villages unless they re-convert,"
Justice Shah said at a press conference here.

The tribunal recorded testimony of 43 victims, survivors
and their representatives and heard fact-finding reports
prepared by various voluntary organisations and experts.

"From the testimonies heard and the detailed reports
received, the jury is convinced that the carnage in Kandhamal
was an act of communalism mainly directed against the
Christian community," Justice Shah said.

"It is clear to us that there was deliberate strategy of
targeting of the community, fed by groups of Hindutva ideology
such as RSS, VHP, Bajrang Dal and active members of BJP."

The jury is convinced that communal violence in Kandhamal
was the consequence of a "subversion of constitutional
governance in which state agents were complicit," he said.

The jury observed that delay in obtaining forensic
evidence, failure in obtaining corroborative evidence and the
"rampant" intimidation to victim, survivors and witnesses have
led to many acquittals in the cases of Kandhamal violence.

Claiming "grave dereliction" on the part of police and
administrative officials, the tribunal recommended a probe
into such matters. It favoured appointment of a special public
prosecutor "who enjoy confidence of affected community."
"State must provide protection to victims and witnesses,
during and after the trial process, according to guidelines
provided in recent judgement of Delhi High Court," it said.

The tribunal said state government should recognise the
rights of those displaced in the violence and create all
"possible enabling conditions" to facilitate their return.

"Designate the affected areas as communally sensitive,
appoint officers with professional integrity...develop
appropriate response mechanism to halt the brewing of hate
mobilisation and religious and caste-based discriminative
activities," it added.

The tribunal felt that the compensation given to victims
were "extremely arbitrary and inadequate," and recommended
that both Centre and state adopt "at the very minimum" the
Gujarat compensation package to enhance the amount.


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