Witnesses of Christian Attacks in Orissa Fail to Show Up at Hearing

For a second time, no witnesses showed up on Wednesday to testify before a state government appointed commission about the 2007 attacks against Christians in the Indian state of Orissa.

Justice Basudev Panigrahi, a retired judge of Orissa High Court, waited until evening to record statements by witnesses who were notified to join the hearing in Daringbadi.

Tight security had been arranged and vehicles were sent to escort the witnesses, according to an official, but none turned up.

The Justice Basudev Panigrahi Commission is probing the violence that broke out during Christmas celebrations in 2007. Dozens of churches were damaged, hundreds of Christians were injured and many more fled their homes to avoid the attacks by Hindu extremists.

The chief minister of Orissa confirmed that 800 families were affected in the violence and over 1,453 people were booked in 127 cases.

The Global Council of Indian Christians had labeled it their worst-ever Christmas.

Prior to Wednesday's no-shows, an earlier group of witnesses also failed to appear for a hearing in Phulbani, Orissa, due to the distance, according to some sources.

As a result, the commission shifted its venue to Daringbadi and G. Udaygiri, a town in the Kandhamal district of Orissa.

Following Wednesday's no-shows, another hearing was scheduled for Thursday in addition to the two more scheduled for Friday and Saturday in G. Udaygiri.

Notices have been issued to a total of 28 persons who have been called to have their testimonies recorded before the commission.

It is unclear whether the first two groups of no-shows appeared during their rescheduled hearings.