Indian court convicts five more for Orissa anti-Christian violence

|PIC1|The men were found guilty of setting houses on fire and engaging in unlawful assembly in their village, Salaguda, on September 13, 2008, when the riots were at their peak.

Judge Sovan Kuma Das also imposed a fine around £60 on each of the men - Bisra Kanhar, Durbasha Kanhar, Rabi Kanhar, Gupteswar Kanhar and Naresh Kanhar.

Two other people charged by the police were acquitted following a lack of evidence, the Press Trust of India reported.

Another fast track court convicted Chakra Mallick of Gochhapada on June 30 for his involvement in the violence. At least 15 people were acquitted in different cases due to lack of evidence.

Anti-Christian violence broke out in Orissa after a Hindu fundamentalist leader, Laxmananda Saraswati, was murdered in August 2008. Hindus blamed Christians for killing Saraswati even though Maoist rebels publicly claimed responsibility.

Following the swami’s death, Hindu mobs attacked Christians, burning their homes, shops, churches and orphanages. More than 30,000 Christians from Orissa were forced to take shelter in refugee camps, where the living conditions were poor, or in the jungle, where they were in danger of being attacked by wild animals.

About 4,500 Christian homes were burned and 180 churches destroyed. At least 60 Christians were killed, according to the Orissa government’s report, but church leaders in Orissa report higher figures and have accused the government of intentionally undercounting the number of deaths.

Ten thousand people were named in 827 cases registered during the August riots. Chargesheets have already been filed in 437 cases and investigations are ongoing in other 354 cases, including the rape of a nun.

A judicial commission has already begun investigating the violence and has submitted a 28-page interim report to the state government.

In the report, the commission headed by retired Justice Sarat Chandra Mohapatra, said the final recommendations would take at least another two years for completion.

The preliminary report, however, made no mention of the role of Hindu ‘saffron’ outfits in the violence after the murder of Swami Laxmananda. It also did not blame any religious body or the Maoist militants allegedly behind the swami's August 23 assassination.

The fast track courts are expected to deliver more verdicts in the coming days.