India: twelve sentenced for involvement in 2008 Orissa violence 28/11/2012
A fast-track court sentenced 12 people to six years' imprisonment yesterday for their involvement in the communal violence in Orissa's Kandhamal district in 2008.
According to a report by the Press Trust of India (PTI), the judge also fined the defendants 5,000 rupees in connection with arson, rioting and the torching of houses in Jarkinaju village, near Raikia, on 25 August 2008. The court ordered that non-payment of the fine would result in an additional one-year jail term.
Ten others who had been accused in the case were acquitted due to lack of evidence.
Communal violence against Christians broke out in Kandhamal district in August 2008, following the assassination of local Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) figurehead Swami Lakshmananda Saraswati and four of his followers by Maoist insurgents. It was the worst single outbreak of anti-Christian violence in the history of post-independence India, and caused at least 90 deaths and the displacement of an estimated 54,000 people.
The overwhelming majority of cases relating to the 2008 violence have either been dismissed or have resulted in acquittals, including many murder cases. Human rights activists working in the area continue to decry significant flaws in the delivery of justice.
Dr John Dayal, a Member of the Government's National Integration Council (NIC) who has visited Kandhamal regularly, said, “Justice must be done, and must be seen to be done. The aggregate of justice in the fast-track courts in Kandhamal does not inspire a sense of confidence and closure among the victims. Many killers are roaming free, and a Member of the Legislative Assembly is at large after his conviction, because the courts seem to think he is too important to be incarcerated”.
David Griffiths, CSW South Asia Team Leader, said, “Any convictions in Kandhamal mark a step forward, and credit must also be given to the human rights defenders providing essential legal aid to victims and witnesses. However, we continue to urge the state administration in Orissa to fight against the prevailing impunity, because the victims deserve justice, and because the rule of law is the essential foundation for peace.”