(Photo: AP Images / The Indian Express, Partha Paul)
Christians in India are still waiting for justice three years after the massacres in Orissa in 2008, and the All India Christian Council (AICC) is demanding that more people be punished for the uncounted murders and rapes that occurred in the region.
Around 4,000 Christian homes and 400 churches were destroyed in a string of violence in the remote eastern region of India between August and September of 2008. Angry Hindus reportedly organized against Christians who were converting Indians to Christianity and urging them to leave their caste system.
Many of the Hindus that had converted were Dalits, or "Untouchables," who are the lowest caste in India and make up around one-fifth of the population. Dalits are treated as less than human, and reportedly see converting to Christianity as a way to escape their low class status.
"We saw 14 to 15 families being forced to drink cow urine as part of the conversion ceremony to purify their sins and then they had to sign a letter saying that they had become Hindus and would obey orders to attack Christians," one resident from Kandhamal, Vinod Nayak, revealed to CBN, referring to attempts by Hindus to force those who had converted to Christianity back into the caste system.
Those who refused to convert where reportedly raped or killed, and more than 50,000 Christians were displaced and forced to move into relief camps.
Now, more than three years later, the AICC wants to bring those who committed the crimes to justice, The Energy Publisher reported.
According to statistics gathered by Christians living in Orissa, local police only registered 827 cases of more than 3,500 reports of violence they received. The cases that went to court that ended with a sentence were only 68, and 412 offenders received a minimum punishment. In addition, 1,009 people were acquitted, and 304 cases are still awaiting trial.
John Dayal, the AICC executive secretary, explained in a statement that justice is still "a huge problem" for the tens of thousands of Christians who were affected by the attacks in Orissa. "Aggressors asked them to convert to Hinduism and burn a Bible as a sign. They did not do it and chose to escape. In 400 villages the Christian presence was completely cancelled, more than 5,600 homes and about 295 churches were burned, hundreds of deaths, some women, including at least one nun, were raped," he revealed.
Three Christian leaders were killed in the region in 2011, including Rabindra Parichha, a former Catholic catechist who was involved in the protection of witnesses, as well as two Protestant pastors – Saul Pradhan from Banjamaha of Raikia and Minoketan Nayak from Midiakia of Baliguda.
The AICC is also accusing Indian police of turning a blind eye to the demonstrations of Hindu extremist groups who are trying to eliminate Christian leadership from the region. The council has made it its mission to defend the rights of Christians in India and bring justice for the crimes that occurred.