Burnt orphanage in Orissa - arson attacks continue in some districts (Photo: © Edwin Vas)
Persecuted Christians start burying the dead but wonder if life will ever be the same
The first Christian funeral in Orissa for 45 days took place on Wednesday amid tightened security which has seen violence lessen in Kandhamal but spread to neighbouring districts.
Motilal Pradhan, an officer in the Indian army, was allowed to return to his burnt-out home in Tikawali village to scrape up a few remains of his brother Rasanand, a paralytic.
Rasanand had insisted the rest of his family left him behind as they fled, believing that no one would harm a person with so severe a disability. Related stories
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The hurried burial, under the watch of more than 20 police officers, had to be completed in just 10 minutes.
“I had never imagined I would be forced to do such undignified things,” he told the Times of India.
Pradhan has been featured in the Indian media because of his army job guarding the Indo-Pakistani border and his record fighting in the Kargil war against Pakistan in 1999.
On Tuesday, there were arrests in another high profile case - the alleged rape of a Catholic nun.
The arrests followed the suspension of the local police inspector, who had only obtained the medical report on the nun last week, despite the complaint being made on 26 August.
The case hit the Indian media after the mother superior of the order, Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, wrote to the prime minister asking for justice.
The nun had filed a written statement saying she was attacked by a mob of 40-50 men, raped by one and then paraded naked in the street in full view of a dozen police officers.
Tens of thousands of Christians in Mizoram, north-east India, held a peace rally in solidarity with Orissa Chistians (Photo: © Synfo)
Also on Tuesday, India’s home minister, Shakeel Ahmad, said that the Bajrang Dal, the Hindu extremist group behind many of the attacks, was a terrorist organisation and could be banned. This has been one of the key demands of Christian and minorities groups following the Orissa violence.
Fresh violence occurred on Wednesday in Boudh district, neighbouring Kandhamal, where houses were set on fire. On Thursday 12 Hindus and five Christians were injured in clashes in Malkangiri district.
In Kandhamal, some 600 arrests, mostly of Hindus, have been made in the last week, and dozens more each day, a senior police official told the Times of India.
But Christians are still in hiding in the forest and some 18,000 in refugee camps, too fearful to return to their villages.
“The life of the Christians in Orissa is going to change forever,” said the Bishop of Amritsar of the Church of North India, the Rt Rev PK Samantaroy, who visited the area recently.
The Evangelical Fellowship of India states that in total, across 14 districts, 300 villages have been destroyed, 4,300 houses burned, 57 people murdered, 18,000 injured and 50,000 made homeless.
Meanwhile, a Maoist group has claimed responsibility for the killing of right wing Hindu leader Swami Lakshmananda, the incident which triggered the violence back in August.
Maoist representatives told Indian news website NDTV that they left two letters at the scene claiming responsibility but these were suppressed by the state government. However, from the beginning, police said Maoist groups were the chief suspects. CMS is able to receive donations which will be sent to provide relief and support to the most affected and vulnerable communities in Orissa as soon as it can be delivered.