Odisha people observe Kandhamal violence’s 14th anniversary
Bhubaneswar, Aug 26, 2022: A state-level peace and harmony convention was held in Odisha on the fourteenth anniversary of the Kandhamal communal massacre in the eastern Indian state.
More than 300 civil society groups, political leaders, journalists, lawyers, writers, students, and academicians, including priests, and nuns across the state joined the day-long peace and goodwill convention August 25 at Geet Govind Bhawan, Bhubaneswar, the state capital.
The chief speakers at the convention were Prakash Yashwant Ambedkar, a former Member of the Parliament, and Arfa Khanum Sherwani, a renowned journalist and the senior editor of the Wire online portal.
Sister Justine Geetanjali, a member of the Odisha unit of the Citizens for Communal Harmony Peace and Justice, in her introductory remark briefed about the current state of affairs in the country and about the Kandhamal riots.
Ambedkar, the grandson of the founder of the Constitution, Baba Saheb Ambedkar, who addressed the first session, raised questions on sensitive incidents such as the case of Bilkis Bano. He said injustice done to the exploited class is not known. It has been going on for many decades.
“Ambedkar made many provisions for the benefit of the people in the Constitution. He ensured equality, women’s protection, and justice for all. But today the rulers are working completely against the constitution. Exploitation, harassment, and atrocities against Dalits, tribals, women, and the poor have increased,” he added.
To counter this tyrannical system, our only force is the common people. There should be a mass movement with political considerations, he emphasized. Ideology and mass movements are the two methods we have to fight against the tyrannical system, he added.
Several political party representatives expressed their views in the first session. They included Dushmanta Das of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), Forward Bloc’s Jytharanjan Mohanty, CPIM (Liberation) Mahendra Parida, Samajwadi Party Sudhan Pradhan, Aam Aadmi Party’s Rangveher Pradhan, Professors Dhaneshwar Sahu, Basant Kumar Mallik, Maharashtra’s lawyer Priyadarshi Telang Maqar, and environmentalist Prafulla Samantra.
Human Rights Activist Father Ajay Kumar Singh opened the second session with his remark that India may have recorded strong economic growth over the recent years, yet what it takes for the wholesome development of a nation is a combination of human values. There is a gross violation of human rights and dignity in the country over the past years, he added.
Father Singh recalled that the Kandhamal riots had displaced 56,000 people and 18,000 of them are still struggling to survive in various slums in Bhubaneswar. On that day, 6,005 houses, 400 religious institutes, training centers, and health centers were burnt.
It was announced that 50,000 rupees and 20,000 rupees would be given to the houses of the victims. Most could not get this compensation. The women were the most affected by the riots. A total of 40 women, including nuns, were subjected to various kinds of atrocities in the riots. But nobody got justice. There were 30 murder cases but only 2 cases were filed.
Many of the riot victims are now forced to live outside in the southern Indian states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, Father Singh pointed out.
Sherwani, in her keynote address, said the Kandhamal riots could not be noticed by the media as the national media forgot their ethics and responsibility and became Delhi-centric. The victims of the Kandhamal riots did not get justice because Indians tolerated everything quietly and retreated to protest.
Many are celebrating the nectar of freedom but the Dalits, Tribals and minorities are not getting justice, she bemoaned.
Sherwani further cited the example of the nine-year-old Dalit boy who was beaten to death by the casteist teacher for drinking water from the pot in northwestern Indian state of Rajasthan.
To understand the pain of such victims, one does not have to be a Dalit, nor a human rights activist. All they need is to become a human with a empathetic heart, she added.
Another guest speaker was Vidya Dinkar, the president of the Indian Social Action Forum. She congratulated the people of Odisha for standing up for justice and challenged to stand with the values of radical love and radical equality.
Human rights activist Vashapriya Kanungo and social activist Sudhir Pattnaik also attended the meeting and infused the audience with the spirit of Ambedkar in the second session.
This article first published in https://mattersindia.com/