Christian group demands jobs, protection for riot victims

Bhubaneswar, Feb 23 (IANS) A Christian group Tuesday demanded adequate jobs and protection for riot victims in Orissa’s Kandhamal district where at least 38 people were killed during communal violence in 2008.

‘Hundreds of riot victims continue to live under fear as justice eluded them,’ Sajan K. George, president of Bangalore-based Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), told reporters here.

Although the district officials denied the claims and said adequate steps have been taken to rehabilitate the victims and to ensure their security, George said he has come across a large number of cases and found that no jobs were given to many of the victims.

Citing examples he alleged that people living in at least 14 villages have no means of livelihood and their children are not able to go to schools due to fear.

‘The people living in 14 villages from Bakinga to Behragao Khari Sahi have no means of livelihood. No jobs were given to them. Their children are not able to go to school fearing safety,’ George said.

‘GCIC demands the government ensure employment to all the victims under National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and protection to their families,’ he said.

‘Though the riot victims had filed 3,232 complaints in different police stations in Kandhamal district, only 832 cases were registered; while 89 people were convicted, 251 were acquitted due to lack of evidence,’ he said.

‘A special investigation team under National Human Rights Commission should investigate the role of the district officials including the collector, block and tehsil officers,’ he said.

‘It is strange that officers in whose presence the violence took place and thousands of houses were burnt are still in office and are declaring that there is peace in the district,’ he said.

Kandhamal, about 200 km from here, witnessed widespread violence after the murder of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and four of his aides at his ashram Aug 23, 2008.

More than 25,000 Christians were forced to flee their homes after their houses were attacked by rampaging mobs, which held Christians responsible for Saraswati’s killing, although police blamed the Maoists.

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