India

Fast Track Court Convicts 4 for Kandhamal Riots

Tarique Anwar, BeyondHeadlines

New Delhi: A fast track court in Orrisa today awarded two years rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs. 2,500 each to four persons for their involvement in the religious violence in state’s remote forest region Kandhamal in 2008.

Chitta Ranjan Dash, additional sessions judge (fast track), Court No. 2, announced the sentence after convicting them.

According to the prosecution, the four along with others had torched the house of a member of the minority Christian community, Ugrasen Digal, of Madinata village under Balliguda police station on August 31, 2008 during the riots.

Digal had lodged an FIR with Balliguda police, which arrested the four.

On August 25 to 28, 2008, Hindu mobs, allegedly incited by leaders like Manoj Pradhan, an elected state legislator from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), set fire to many Christian settlements, and at least 38 people were killed. In addition, more than 25,000 Christians were forced to flee their villages after their houses were attacked by rampaging mobs.

At the time of the mob killings in Kandhamal in 2008, the Orissa Government of Naveen Patnaik was a coalition with the Bharatiya Janata Party. Consequently, in the immediate aftermath of the riots, the government did not condemn the Hindu groups who are ideologically linked with the BJP. However, in the runup to the 2009 elections, Patnaik broke his ties with the BJP, saying that “the alliance in the state had to be broken because it became impossible for him to stay with the saffron party after the Kandhanmal riots which “horrified the entire world”.

In November 2009, after winning the elections without the BJP coalition, re-elected Orrisa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik admitted that Hindu rightist organizations Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Bajrang Dal as well as the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) were involved in organizing the Kandhamal violence in which at least 38 people were killed.

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