Today in Dalit History, we mourn our fallen during the ethnic cleansing of Dalits and Adivasis in Kandhamal, Orissa. From August to December 2008, thousands of Dalits and Adivasis belonging to the Christian minorities fell victim to premeditated, organized Brahminical violence of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), Bajrang Dal (BD), the present ruling party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). These groups already had a history of killing not only Kandhamal Dalit Christians but anyone working for the upliftment of them such as the killing of Graham Staines, Christian from Australia, in 1999 in Orissa is one such example.
Remembering Kandhamal Dalit Christians killings by RSS/VHP/BD
Statistics from tribunal hearings and fact-finding missions, state that more than 600 villages were ransacked, 5600 houses were looted and burnt, 54000 people fled and were left homeless, hundreds of people were murdered, hacked, dismembered and tortured, including women, disabled and aged persons and children; and an unestimated number suffered severe physical injuries and mental trauma. Many more victims of physical and sexual assault are believed to have been intimidated into silence. 295 churches and other places of worship, big and small, were destroyed. 13 schools, colleges, and offices of 5 non-profit organizations were destroyed and ransacked. During this period about 2,000 Dalits and Adivasis were threatened and assaulted into rejecting their faiths and publicly declare themselves “Hindu”. (Source: National People’s Tribunal Hearing on Kandhamal Report, 24th August 2010)
Well before the pogroms took place, the area of Kandhamal was already fraught with the Caste and religious tension. Brahminical forces were at odds with local populations of Dalits and Adivasis who were ever-increasingly rejecting being called “Hindu”, and entering into the Christian faith which they found offered them a more respectable position, not only in society, but under the eyes of God himself.
When Laxamananda Saraswati, a VHP leader was reportedly killed by Dalits and Adivasis, immediate plans for mass pogroms were made. The police and the state were nowhere to be seen, somehow information was gathered on the addresses of Dalits and Adivasis and the brutal violence that ensued was decidedly without chaos. In fact, it was a systematic and well-organized
The State’s actions and response during this time are widely criticised as being negligent. Amongst other things, they ARE condemned for failing to protect the constitutional right of citizens to religious freedom, failing to provide compensation to families who fell victim, being negligent with testimonies and evidence, and allowing perpetrators to walk free either on bail or completely unpunished. All of which are in violation of the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act, 1989 which insists on very strict penalties, lack of bail and other provisions to be taken in events of violence against Dalits and Adivasis.
Today, nearly a decade has passed since the events of terror and many Dalits and Adivasis who have lost their homes, property and family members remain without justice. They continue on their fight and today we recognize their courage and resilience as they take on the ongoing reign of Brahminical terror.
Kandhamal Dalit Christians are still suffering and living out in jungles almost 10 years after the killings. Brahminical forces don’t want that anyone other than Brahmins progress and they try to eliminate those who are potential threats to their supremacy.
From – Dalit History Month Collective