Indian Gov't Compensates Victims of Anti-Christian Violence

Top Indian official Home Minister P. Chidambaram stayed true to his promise as the government began distributing funds to victims of last year's anti-Christian violence.

The Indian government has disbursed around $10.5 million in assistance among 35 families who were affected during the communal violence in Kandhamal district in the state of Orissa.

The allocation came under the "Central Scheme of Assistance to Victims of Terrorist and Communal Violence" which is aimed at providing assistance to the Next of Kin (NoK) of victims of terrorist and communal violence.

Additionally, funds have also been allocated from the Prime Minister's national relief fund. According to a government release, about $65.4 million has been distributed to meet the relief and rehabilitation measures. The compensation will be used to repair damaged houses, churches and public institutions, says Ajay Maken, Union Minister of State for Home Affairs.

The announcement comes just days after Home Minister Chidambaram visited relief camps in Kandhamal and promised "fair" compensation to the riot-hit victims to help the thousands of displaced people return to their homes. He further apologized to those affected and assured them of their safety and protection by the state and central government.

Last August, Hindu extremists attacked Christians in Kandhamal, killing dozens of people, destroying homes and churches, and forcing tens of thousands to find refuge in relief camps and elsewhere. The violence was triggered by the murder of a Hindu fundamentalist leader. Christians were blamed for the killing although Maoists claimed responsibility.

Although the government maintains that only a few dozen have been killed, church sources claim that at least 70 people were killed, 18,000 Christians were injured and 54,000 were rendered homeless.

Christian leaders have criticized the government for doing little to quell the violence and protect the largely Christian population in Orissa.

However, after the election of a secular and progressive government over a Hindu nationalist party in May, Christians have expressed hope that the Congress-led UPA government would offer more security for minorities.

Just last month, nearly a year after the outbreak of violence, the state government handed out its first conviction. A court in Phulbani, Kandhamal district found Chakradhar Mallick guilty of setting fire to the house of a local Christian. He was sentenced to four years in prison and given a fine of 4,000 rupees (USD $83).