Christian villagers tonsured and forcibly converted to Hinduism
The All India Christian Council in a press conference said that the families were forced to accept Hinduism while the Hindu Jagaran Samukhya in its statement said that the Christian families have deliberately tonsured their people and this is a conspiracy on the part of the missionaries to malign the Hindu Community. Considering the seriousness of the issue, PUCL Bhubaneswar and Cuttack Units constituted a fact-finding team to investigate into the matter with following terms of reference.
Terms of reference
People, organisation and officials met
The District Collector of Jagatsinghpur was contacted over phone on 12th February for seeking prior appointment, but he couldn’t be met since he was away on tour on the day of visit. The team had a discussion with Prof D.K.Samantray, Member, State Level Committee on Communal Harmony on 18 March 2004. PUCL had also written to state Home Secretary to elicit the views of the Government but have not received any reply so far. The spokesman and office-bearers of major political parties like Congress, BJD and BJP were contacted several times over phone. In some cases, in spite of prior commitment no meeting could take place due to last minute cancellation by them on the plea of other engagements.
The Spokesman of the United Christian Forum of Orissa Sri Muduli also could not give an appointment to us due to his other personal preoccupation. The Secretary of Hindu Jagaran Sammukhya, Sri Rabi Pattnayak was also contacted on various occasions but the meeting with him could not take place sometimes due to his prior engagements and sometimes due to that of the team members. The statements of some of the concerned people and officials met are annexed to the Report (Annexure-2)
After collating all the information gathered from various sources in the course of fact-finding, the team has arrived at a tentative understanding, within the parameters of our TOR, of the developments that led to the tonsuring and its aftermath. Since we had depended mostly on oral interviews, we are constructing a general chronology/sequence of events, without being too exacting with dates and figures. But before going into the relevant events, we would like to record a thumb-sketch impression of the site of occurrence.
Kilipal- an overview
But one sees quite a contrasting picture in the Dalit basti (Bauri Sahi)
- a little separately settled from the main village. Here nearly 40 families
reside. Houses are small and low, made of mud and thatched with straw.
They have unevenly sprung up over a small piece of land. After the last
cyclone in 1999, a few pucca houses, still under construction, have come
up, courtesy Indira Awas Yojana. Most of the Dalit families are marginal
or landless farmers. Periodic migration to places like Delhi, Bombay and
Assam is not uncommon, particularly among the youths of both higher caste
and Dalit communities.
The nearest Church where they used to congregate for Sunday Mass was in the house of one Sri Gouranga Mallick at the adjacent Kanimul village of the same Panchayat, hardly a kilometer away. Gouranga Mallick is the younger brother of Sri Prafulla Das who is supposed to be the first in the area to embrace Christianity in 1992. Most of the Christians of the village, whom the team could meet , said that they accepted Jesus as their Saviour, because through His blessings they got cured of some incurable disease, attained peace of mind, or got a new life. All of them felt happy with their new religious identity.
The other villagers, including blood relations of the new faithfuls, resented the change of faith by a handful of their caste people. They viewed the other faith and its practices with great suspicion and mistrust from the very beginning. In no time there developed a divide on religious lines, which sometimes manifested in animosity and hostility. Subas Samal, the Pastor, who was once the apple of the hamlet’s eyes, started being perceived as a villain who brought an alien faith into their ‘homogenous’ village. Initially the Christians were persuaded to return to the Hindu fold, but since no one returned, the rift continued. The principal grouse against the minorities were cultural; that they no more adhered to the Hindu rituals, like taking Jagannath Mahaprasad, visiting the temples, lighting an evening lamp/wick by the Tulasi-Chaura (Sanjabati), taking non-veg foods during mourning or ‘holy’ festivals, the married Christian women’s refusal to wear bangles and vermilion etc.
Things took a turn for the better after the ‘super-cyclone’ of 1999. Ironically, the devastation caused by nature destroyed their homes and crops, and in the process brought them together. Also, when the people were in need of relief, World Vision and other Church-based NGOs came to their help. They distributed relief, without discrimination, to all affected people, and that further helped mend fences between communities. A prolonged period of relative peace ensued, that lasted almost till the end of 2003.
Around the same time, two young sisters, Mamata and Narmada, aged around 20-22, the eldest of the 4 unmarried daughters of Niranjan and Guni Bhoi of Bauri Sahi, started taking an active interest in Christianity. They spent a lot of time with their Christian neighbours, started attending their congregations, and refused to practice the Hindu rituals like other Hindu unmarried girls of the village. Niranjan Bhoi, who happens to work as a lineman with CESCO (Central Electricity Supply Co.), and has a relatively higher income among the Dalits, took great exception to the change of faith of their daughters. He went to Gauranga Mallick of the adjacent Kanimul village, in whose house the Christians congregated, and complained about his daughters coming to the Church. (According to Gauranga, he assured Niranjan that his daughters would no more be allowed into his house.) He and his wife, Guni, started putting pressure on the girls to revert to Hindu ways, but to no avail, and when the pressure became unbearable, the sisters left their parents’ house to stay at their aunt’s house near Paradeep. The incensed parents blamed the Christians, particularly Subas Samal, of ‘corrupting’ their daughters. They said they were deeply concerned about their daughters’ marriage, and felt that with Christians in their family it would be impossible to get bridegrooms.
Similarly, some other young people too started evincing interest in what they thought to be Christianity. Jharna, aged 16/17, daughter of Babajee Das, an ice-cream vendor, started adhering to some Christian practices against the wishes of her parents. Dolly Bhoi, aged about 20, daughter of Bishnu Bhoi, too got attracted to Christianity, without as much resentment by her parents; her parents still remain Hindus. Likewise one Golak Rout, aged about 22, also got attracted to Christianity whereas his family members didn’t.
All these instances managed to fuel visibly the simmering tension that was building up against the minority community, ever since Sujit Jena’s departure. Till then it was perceived that Christianity was a problem for the Dalits only, and the upper-caste remained by and large indifferent. Sujit Jena’s forsaking his family responsibilities caused a reaction among them too. Opinions against the perceived wrong doings of the Christians started being mobilised actively. Intra-family conflicts and assorted vested interests, both, of the political and apolitical kind that exist in a typical village, had played its role. ( Due to lack of factual information, as well as the limitations of TOR, we are not going into it.)
By this time the Christians were thoroughly terrorized. They were completely ostracized, to the extent that they were denied access to public tube-wells, even denied access to the roads leading to their fields; they could not graze their cattle along with the cattle belonging to the Hindus. However one Sri Sarat Dash, a relatively well off businessman of the village, in spite of community pressure, allowed the ostracised Christians to use water from his well and use his fields for defecation. In a meeting the Christians were asked to ‘reconvert’ to Hinduism. The terrorized Christians, asked for two months’ time to think over the matter; that proposal was rejected outright. A committee led by one Abhaya Sahu was formed to oversee their ‘reversion’ to the Hindu faith, and also to oversee if the ‘reconverteds’ are faithfully following the Hindu rituals. The other committee members were Sarat Tarai, Rajendra Bhoi, Gauranga Sahu, Sunakar Jena, Nemai Sethi, Nilamani Samal, Nrusingha Sethi, Chandan Bhoi and Purosttam Bhoi (Curiously, many from this ‘committee’ belong to the Dalit community, the community who were traditionally considered ‘untouchables’ by the upper-caste Hindus, and, in spite of legal abolition of ‘untouchability’, still continue to suffer ostracisation due to this caste-system.)
The ground made ready, the execution part remained, and things happened swiftly from early February 2004. We are attempting to table a brief chronicle of events in February. Here, with crosschecking wherever possible, we are relying mainly on the victims’ version.
Sequence of events
On 6th February Police took Subas to the police station. When the police came to the village the Christian families had reported to the police about the decision of the villagers denying them the use of tube wells and asked the police to do something about it. The police had not intervened. .
On 7th February Sukadeb Samal and some other villagers reached the Police station. At the police station Subas was misbehaved with, by the police, and got a few slaps from them for disregarding Hinduism. Subas alleges that police told him ‘what proof is there that you are a Christian? If you want to be a Christian why don’t you go to Australia? If you convert people you will face the fate of Staines’. (Graham Staines, an Australian Christian missionary, working in Orissa, along with his two sons, was burnt to death in 1989 ) Subas also alleges that police and the villagers forced him to sign an agreement in which it was written, among other things, that he had agreed to return to Hinduism. Then, Subas was handed over to the same villagers who had complained against him.
On 8th February, one Chakradhar Bhoi of Kilipal and another man who is an outsider took Subas on a motorbike to a RSS meeting.
On 9th February, Nisha Samal (one of the Christian women) was beaten up by her brothers-in-law, Gura Samal and Sukadeb Samal. The same night the men folk of the Christian families, apprehending trouble, left the village and came to Bhubaneswar with the hope that if the men folk left the village nobody would create any trouble for the women and that they would return after the situation normalised in natural course, say within 10/15 days. Subas didn’t leave the village apprehending more trouble for him from police, since he had been made to undertake in writing in the police station that he would return to Hinduism and keep peace in the village etc Subas’s parents had left the village a day or two earlier.
On 10th February realising that the men had fled, the committee that was leading the opposition, started suspecting Subas that he is playing with them and forcibly tonsured him. Then they forcibly dragged the women from their houses and tonsured them in full public view. Nobody came to their rescue. Subas begged them not to do anything with the women. But no body paid any heed to him. Some sympathisers expressed their sympathy by saying ‘we have been asking you to leave your faith and come back to Hinduism. You didn’t listen to us. Now they are tonsuring you, what can we do !’ One of the Christian women, Kokila Kandi had gone to the next village (Damodarpatna) to make a phone call to Bhubaneswar and after hearing about the tonsuring, managed to hide herself and her two sons for two days and thus has been saved from being tonsured.
After tonsuring, the women, in the absence of their men folk, found life extremely difficult for them. They had to walk quite a distance to collect water as they were not allowed to use the village tube wells; besides, they found the humiliation of walking in the middle of the village with their tonsured heads and the hostile villagers watching, unbearable. On the same evening, apprehending more violence and humiliation and even murder, all the women with their children secretly left the village. One Baba Kameshwar Das, a Sanyasi of Avadhoot sect, in his ashram, Bayananda Kutir, gave them shelter. From there, with the help of Gauranga Mallick, a fellow Christian from Kanimul village, they managed to leave for Bhubaneswar at dead of the night. One of the women, Smt. Lata Samal was at an advanced stage of pregnancy and now has delivered a baby girl.
On the same day, Babaji Das, Sukadeb Samal, Gurucharan Samal and Chakradhar
Bhoi, took Subas to the police station.
On 16th February Subas was again taken to the Police station and released on the 17th night at 2 AM.
On 19th February Police took Subas and others to record their statements before the SDJM, Jagatsinghpur.
1] The eight people, seven women and their pastor, who were tonsured, had embraced the Christian faith on their own volition over a period of last ten years, and still repose complete faith on Christianity. They were terrorised, some of them physically roughed up, and then forcibly tonsured by some neighbours in broad daylight with the active support of the entire Hindu population of their Dalit hamlet. Even if they had succumbed to the terror unleashed, and had ‘agreed’ to ‘reconvert’ to the Hindu faith, it can in no way be construed as voluntary. Even the reported case of voluntary ‘reconversion’ of Sri Golak Rout is not entirely true. He had got himself tonsured under social pressure two days earlier and does not complain against it since he wants to keep out of all controversy. It may be recalled that the male members of the seven Christian families had already fled the village in terror, hoping the villagers won’t misbehave with their women folks.
2] Although from day one there were resentments among the villagers, particularly in the Dalit hamlet (Bauri Sahi), about a small minority embracing a different faith, the manifestations were never so virulent as seen in the recent months. Since all the Christians, excepting Sujit Jena, belonged to the Dalit community, the tension was most palpable in their hamlet. But, not withstanding notable exceptions, the large majority of the entire village, cutting across party affiliations, seems to suffer from deep-seated prejudices against the minorities. There is vitiation and xenophobia in the air. Even if the Christians are proved to be having prejudices, that has not contributed to the vitiation.
3] Though the immediate causes for the precipitation of tension may be traced to the vociferous affirmation of the Christian faith by two unmarried sisters, Mamata and Narmada, against the wishes of their parents, or Sujit Jena’s leaving his dependant family to embrace Christianity, all this has to be seen in the backdrop of the prejudices, mistrust and misgivings that people harboured against other religion, in order to make any meaningful intervention and diffuse the existing tension.
4] Though the Hindus of the Bauri Sahi
were united in their opposition to the Christian families, the lead in
the aggression against them were taken by the close Hindu relatives of
the victims. They were vociferously opposed to their extended family members’
conversion to a different faith. It was as if they took it as a personal
affront for not adhering to their customs. The aggressive role played
by the women of the hamlet, particularly those belonging to the families
of the Hindu relatives of the victims, is distressingly noticeable.
6] The fundamental rights of the Christians of the village to chose and practise their own faith, as enshrined in our Constitution, has been blatantly violated. Even their fundamental right to liberty, dignity and access to common resource like water from government tube wells, through the process of ostracisation and terror, has been violated. They are insecure, terrorised and traumatised by the turn of events, and are still understandably scared to go back to the village. They form the poorest of the poor of the relatively prosperous Kilipal village, mostly landless sharecroppers, and want desperately to return to their homes and earn their livelihood.
7] The fact of taking Subas to a RSS meeting before the incident and to the Yagnya of Dharma Raksha Samiti/VHP, the post-incident utterances of the Hindu Jagaran Samukhya and other ‘Hindutva’ forces, as reported in the media and their campaign by publication of booklets and provocative wall writings, their petitioning to SP can not be considered so unrelated or merely coincidental to the Kilipal happening. Besides, the virulent campaign of communal hatred, religious intolerance and xenophobia unleashed by the so-called Hindutva forces in the state in recent times have reinforced and lent sustenance to the perpetrators of the vendetta against the hapless minorities. This can be discernible from the import of words like ‘Hindustan’, ‘Pakistan’, ‘Hindustan’s dharma’, etc by some tormentors of Christians and also the utterances of police.
8] The role of the police is questionable. Their statements to the team reveal an inherent bias against the minorities; further, they are also full of inconsistencies. The local PS was well aware of the simmering tension, but did precious little to preempt the untoward incidents, or diffuse the tension. They did not intervene to protect the rights, dignity and livelihood of the threatened minorities; on the contrary they were perceived to be openly supporting the majority community by various acts of omission and commission, which must have emboldened the majority community to perpetrate such atrocity. In spite of the evidences of forcible tonsuring being so obvious even for a lay man, the police appear to be deliberately holding on to the view that the Christians voluntarily got tonsured. The allegations of custodial misbehaviour, that included verbal abuse, beating and coercing a false statement, with pastor Subas Samal appears credible. Till date the perpetrators are moving freely in the village, while the victims are hiding in Bhubaneswar. It is true that mere arrest of the handful of perpetrators booked under various sections of Cr.PC wouldn’t solve the problem, but it would at least have acted as a deterrent, and would have instilled some faith in the rule of law in the hearts of the terrorised victims .
9] The civil administration and the Government
failed to take any proactive step to protect the rights of its citizens,
before and after the incident. Through their inaction they have fueled
further insecurity among the minorities, besides fanning the communal
sentiments. No confidence-building measure has been taken by the Govt
to rehabilitate the victims. Even a district level official has not bothered
to meet the victims. The State Level Coordination Committee for Communal
Harmony, a body constituted by the state Government and chaired by the
Chief Secretary (that includes secretaries of some other state depts.),
did not meet once after the incident in spite of request by some non-official
members, nor did they issue a statement on the issue. In the process,
they seem to have abdicated their responsibilities in the most callous
11] The ‘peace-committee’ constituted with the help of the police is a sham. Initially that committee was formed by the villagers to ‘reconvert’ the Christians, and later that same committee was renamed as the Village Peace Committee, by the administration. It not only does not have any Christian representation, but has in it persons who participated in the vendetta on 10th February. It seems the administration has not made the minimum effort to seek out the saner elements in the locality to include them in the Peace Committee to make the committee appear meaningful and credible.
12] There was no evidence of any coercion or material inducement in the process of conversion to Christianity of the few villagers of Kilipal. The Christians remained as poor as their Hindu neighbours and relatives.
13] The Christians were known supporters
of the Congress party, and so were most of their attackers. The local
(village-level) Congress leadership not only did not take any initiative
to diffuse the simmering tension, but appear to have played a behind-the-scene
role to foment it for political gain.
List of women who have been tonsured
Sanjukta Kandi, Aged about 45
Statement/Version/ Opinion of various persons and officials interviewed
Rev. D. Misal
The committee was set up with the express purpose to review the action taken by the administration, as well as the law & order authorities where communal amity has been disturbed and suggest remedial measures, to deliberate on various aspects leading to the disturbances, etc. The members can visit disturbed places with prior information to and approval of the Government and District Administration. The last meeting of the Committee was convened in July 2003.
Rev. Misal has written to the state Home Secretary vide letter dated 21.2.2004 regarding the Kilipal incident, seeking intervention from the Government and asking for making arrangement for the visit of the non-official members of the Committee on Communal Harmony to the spot but hasn’t received any response. There were a few incidents in the past where the government has responded positively and communal conflicts have been avoided. But there are also cases when the Government has simply remained silent.
Meeting with the women victims
“On the day of tonsuring our men were not at home. They had left the village the previous evening apprehending problems. They thought the villagers would not do anything to us, the women. But in the morning when these people discovered that our men had left the village they became furious. We were huddled up inside our houses in fear. They came and forcibly dragged us to the centre of the village. We protested but were forcibly dragged. I was in a sari only and had to cling to it when dragged ….you can imagine what it was like. Nishamani was beaten up the previous day by Gura Samal and Sukadeb Samal, her brothers-in-law”
“We were crying when they tonsured us in public. So many men and women were watching but nobody came forward to stop it. Some women expressed sympathy by saying ‘we have been saying that you leave Christianity and become Hindu again. But you didn’t listen to us. What can we do now’.
“After the tonsuring the whole day we stayed inside. We couldn’t even collect water. How could we when we were humiliated like this in public? How could we walk in the village with our tonsured head? We hadn’t had food the whole day. We could sense that the villagers were planning to do more dangerous things. They might just set fire to our house at night and we would all die. In this condition we decided to leave the village. But we could do it only at night, not when people could see and further punish us.
“Once the night fell, we all secretly left the village avoiding the regular road and going through the fields. We managed to reach Gauranga Mallick’s house and from there we were taken to the Matha. We stayed there for a few hours and sent to Bhubaneswar in a vehicle in the same night.
“One of us, Lata Samal was spared from tonsuring because she was in an advanced stage of pregnancy. She too came with us to Bhubaneswar and now she has delivered a baby girl.
“Manjukta Kandi, another Christian woman, escaped tonsuring because
she was in the field at the time of tonsuring and after hearing of it
from some people managed to hide with one family in Damodarpatna, a hamlet
adjacent to Kilipal.’’
The trouble started when one upper caste (Khandayat) boy Sujit Jena (whose house is in the middle of the village) became faithful to Christianity.
Things started worsening since January when two daughters of Sri Niranjan Bhoi, Mamata and Narmada developed interest in Christianity against their parents’ wishes. The father of these two sisters used to complain and express his concerns for quite some time. The two sisters were often beaten up for not accepting their parents’ faith. At times they were not given food. At one point they left their village and went to live with one of the relatives in some other village. Their father complained before some villagers and appealed them to do something about it. The villagers called 2/3 meetings to resolve this issue. The parents of Sujit Jena (a general caste boy), who has accepted Christianity, were worried too about their son’s conversion. The villagers put the entire blame on Subas Samal, the Pastor. They accused him of hiding these two girls somewhere. Subas expressed his innocence. Subas was also asked to stop conversion activities in the village and the Christian families were asked to change their religion and accept Hinduism.
They expressed their anger that initially it was only two families and now it is growing. Besides, earlier it was confined to the Bauri Sahi but now even an upper caste boy, Sujit Jena, has been converted which means it is going to spread further. Meanwhile, the two sisters returned to the village. When they were asked in the meeting to change their faith and comeback to Hinduism they refused to do so. After this they again left their parent’s house and nobody knows where they are now. Sujit Jena also had returned to the village and when he was asked to comeback to the Hindu fold he had agreed. The men from the Christian families attending the meeting requested the village committee to allow them two months’ time so that they can think of whether to leave their faith and live in the village or keep their faith and leave the village. But it was not granted. The youth committee decided to punish these families by asking the villagers not to allow them to use water from private or public wells/tube wells or to walk through their fields. And all except one Sarat Dash who allowed these families to take water from his own well implemented the order.
Since the details of the incident described by the victims are given under “Sequence of Events” above, we are not further repeating them here.
Sri Ashok Mohanty
The team that went to Kilipal village on 13th March 2004 first met Sri Ashok Mohanty, aged about 45 years, a village leader with active allegiance to Congress Party. His father was the erstwhile Zamindar owning most of landed property of the village, which at present extends to about 100 acres. He was also Sarpanch of the village for 20 years from Congress Party. Sri Mohanty also has house property with business at Cuttack and he often shuttles between Cuttack and his village.
According to Sri Mohanty “It all started with two daughters of Sri Niranjan Bhoi, Mamata and Narmada turning to Christianity. Niranjan Bhoi, a Bauri by caste, works as a Lineman with CESCO. He had saved around Rs. 1 lakh to give his daughters in marriage. He has no son but four daughters, Mamata and Narmada being the elder ones. Some two to three months back they had gone to the Church which raised the suspicion that they were turning to Christianity. Perhaps being scolded by their parents they left home and were absent for about a moth. The girls' parents suspected Subas Samal, the Pastor, persuading the girls to turn to Christianity. Likewise, one Sujit Jena, a Khandayat boy took to Christianity and left home. Sujit was earlier seen to be spending time with Subas Samal for which Subas was the clear suspect.
Earlier the conversion was confined to among the Dalits who live in the outskirts of the village in a separate hamlet. When for the first time a caste Hindu from the heart of the village got converted naturally it panicked the villagers. The mother of Sujit and father of Mamata and Narmada approached the villagers to call a meeting to find out a solution to the problem and get their children back. In the meeting of the villagers, Subas Samal, the Pastor was asked to bring back Sujit, Mamata and her sister. After that Subas brought all of them back. Sujit was being trained in Bible somewhere near Khurda. The girls were in their aunt's (mother's sister) place in a nearby village. After his return Sujit's mother exhorted him that if he went back again, let him also take her with him. Then Sujit agreed not to be a Christian again. But however he has gone back again. Now Sujit's mother has filed an FIR on this. The two sisters, Mamata and Narmada clearly told in the open meeting that they would rather prefer to leave their parents than their faith in Jesus. When their parents didn’t accept it they left the village and their whereabouts is not known. The villagers asked other Christian families and all of them volunteered to come back except one Sri Dhani Kandi who staunchly refused to return. One Sukadeb Samal (son of Subas's paternal uncle) told in the meeting that he was offered Rs. 50,000/- as bribe to convert but, during his baptism, when he could not see Jesus as told by the man who was baptising him, he lost his faith and returned to Hinduism two months back.”
Sri Mohanty further said “Poverty among the Bauris may be the main cause of their conversion to Christianity. Besides, it is seen that many well-dressed Christian youths from outside come to visit the Christian families which may be attracting the girls from these poor families towards Christianity, who must be aspiring for better material comforts by getting converted.”
“Children are getting converted to Christianity without the knowledge of the parents which causes tension. Dhani Kandi, a Christian convert, knows "Jhada Phunka" (exorcisation) through which he also induces others to Christianity. One small boy, hard of hearing in one ear was induced to get converted to Christianity by Subas and was offered books on Christianity by him which have now been seized by the police.”
“ The economic condition of the coverts has not at all changed by getting converted into Christianity,.”
On the incident of tonsuring, Sri Mohanty said “the priest of the Bauri community prescribed that for returning to Hindu community all including women should get tonsured for which the women on their own got tonsured. But after that, they disappeared from the village and the media flashed the news that they have been forcibly tonsured. Then the police came to our village and formed the Peace Committee. Earlier we had formed a committee to oversee whether after reverting to Hinduism the Christians were observing Hindu customs like taking Mahaprasad, lighting Sanjabati at Tulasi Chaura etc. or not. The police turned this committee into the Peace Committee.”
Sri Abhaya Sahu
Sri Abhay Sahu, (aged about 45 years) happens to be the Chief of the
Committee formed by the villagers to oversee the process of ‘reverting’
to Hinduism by the Christians, which has now been rechristened as the
Village Peace Committee by the administration. Sri Sahu was an employee
of OTM, Chowdwar and is now staying at village after OTM closed down.
Sri Sahu was present during the team's discussion with Sri Ashok Mohanty
and was supplementing Sri Mohanty.
Babaji Samal is an ice-cream hawker. Sometime back his daughter refused to light the customary wicks in the evening before the tulsi chaura and it was suspected that she was being induced to accept Christianity. Then Babaji thrashed her daughter to dissuade her from turning to Christianity. His complain was that no body would agree to marry his other daughters if this daughter of his got converted to Christianity.
Gauranga and Prafulla of Kanimul took these Christian people to Bhubaneswar and they are fanning the fire.
After the incident, police, instructed by SP came and took away four males - Sukadeb Samal, Babaji, Guru and Chakara and some women. When all the villagers went to the police station, they were let off. Then the village committee gave in writing that there would not be any breach of peace. Babaji and Guru Samal were produced before SDJM and their statements were recorded.
Due to some converting to Christianity, the entire Bauri Sahi was socially excommunicated by their friends and relatives elsewhere. People refuse to establish marital relationship with them, for which many girls remain unmarried”.
“The economic condition of the Christian converts has not improved; only their dresses. They now go to Sunday prayer putting on coat, tie and boot”.
“There is no connection of RSS or any kind of Hindutva forces with this incident”.
“After the Christians left the village, their neighbours are taking care of their cattle and fowl’’.
On the question of tonsuring, both Sri Mohanty and Sri Sahu told that
all of them had agreed in the meeting to come back to Hindu fold and therefore
have tonsured their heads voluntarily. To the question whether such agreeing
to return to Hindu fold was voluntary or there was some community pressure,
both Sri Mohanty and Sahu told that this could not be entirely ruled out.
Smt. Amitarani Jena
The team spoke to Amitarani Jena, mother of Sujit Jena. She had two sons.
Her husband is a mentally ill person and elder son is mentally and physically
challenged. Sujit, about 19 years old, is the younger son.
About six moths back Sujit had disappeared from the village. I had not informed the police about this, but asked Subas a few times to tell me Sujit’s whereabouts. Subas had denied having any knowledge of Sujit. Then I requested Mr. Ashok Mohanty a number of times to do something about Sujit but he hadn’t done anything. It was when Mamata and Narmada’s case came up, a village meeting was convened and Subas was asked to bring them all back to the village. Sujit did come back as also Mamata and Narmada and it was confirmed that Subas knew about Sujit. After Sujit returned, Subas told me ‘your son has returned and don’t blame me anymore. Now it’s your responsibility’. In one of the village meetings when Sujit was asked to return to Hinduism he had agreed and said ‘whatever my mother wants I would do’.
This time I noticed Sujit totally unmindful and indifferent to the happenings around him and I suspect that they must have cast a spell on Sujit. After staying for about fifteen days in the village Sujit again disappeared.”
While talking Amitarani was sobbing and expressed her anger as well as helplessness about Sujit, her only hope that he was. She said that she had lodged an FIR in the Police Station about his son’s disappearance. (But IIC Tirtol PS told us that Amitarani Jena had lodged no such FIR.)
When asked whether the Christian families were pressurised to return to Hinduism she said ‘No, no pressure was applied on them’.
Sri Santosh Jena
Santosh Jena, a boy of around 14 years studying in Class IX is the son of Siba Prasad Jena, the paternal uncle of Sujit Jena. Santosh is hard in hearing in one ear.
"Subas told me that you are not able to hear in one ear. Jesus can cure you. Jagannath will not listen to you but Jesus will listen. He gave me some books on Jesus to read."
When asked how Subas could know that he was deaf by one ear Santosh replied that he had known it from Sujit.
Sri Guru Charan Samal
After meeting the above people the team went to Bauri Sahi (Hamlet of the Bauri Caste, to which all the Christians, except Sujit Jena, belong). It being a small and congested place, people including women folk gathered there. Even though some people were being interviewed selectively, others were also participating. Guru Charan Samal (Age about 50) is one of the persons who are reportedly accused of forcibly tonsuring the Christians.
"First, Nishamani Samal, wife of my elder brother Narahari Samal accepted Christianity, then her husband Narahari and another of my brothers, Harekrushna also accepted Christianity. Harekrushna Samal fell sick and he was prevented from going to doctor by other Christian converts and was given faith healing by them inside closed door. Sometimes he told that he was feeling better. But gradually his condition deteriorated and ultimately he died. I was going to file FIR against these people for killing my brother.
Nishamani used to crush under her feet the "Sanjabati" (Ghee wicks) lighted before the Tulashi Chaura (altar of Tulashi) in the evening. She refused to wear bangles or vermilion.
When Harekrushna Samal died nobody in the kinship came to lift the dead body or perform funeral rites since he was converted. Ultimately I had to pay a fine to the kinsmen. Narahari ate crab and fish during the mourning period after our mother's death. Narahari told our children “ask your father to take to Dharma (Christianity). We will go to heaven, but you will be thrown into the cauldron of burning oil on your death". They also urinate on the Tulasi Chaura..
Due to some people in this village converting to Christianity, the Bauris of other villages don’t accept us, neither relatives from other villages keep good relation with us.
These converts use to take non-veg foods even on holy auspicious occasions.”
"These people dishonour Jagannath' Mahaprasad (food offerings to Lord Jagannath). In community feasts whenever they are served with Jagannath prasad they throw it under their leaf plates. During the month of Kartik, we never touch non-veg foods for one month but they take it. Due to their converting Sarala Ghanta (Sarala is the famous Goddess at Jhankada nearer to the village) refused to come to our hamlet. Even though we have invested around Rs.3000/- in purchasing musical instruments for our Kirtan group, nobody invites us to perform.
We have boycotted them from taking water from the village tube well. We have told them don't walk on our ancestors' road. This is Hindustan's pond, don't take water from there or bathe there. Go to Pakistan. No body from Pakistan comes to take water from here, then why should you .....
One and half month's back we took them to Oradha, 20 km away from here to the meeting where they were welcomed to Hindu religion. I came to know of a Yagnya being conducted by VHP or some thing like Dharma Raksha Samiti at Jagannathpur, nearer to my sister’s house. Then we collected around Rs.500/- by contributing Rs.20/- or Rs.50/- each and hired a Maruti to take them to that Yagnya to come back to Hindu Dharma. Before that we told them you have dishonoured Hindu Gods for which you all have to get tonsured. Subas Samal, Nayana Samal, Bali Bhoi (Dolly's father), Lata Samal (Ramesh's wife), Golak Rout, Kanan Das were taken to the Yagnya.”
On being questioned how the women got tonsured which generally does not happen among Hindu woman, particularly young unmarried girls, almost all participating in the discussion with the team including Guru and Rajendra fumbled.
"That we don't know. How can we know ? .... They all tonsured voluntarily".
When the team asked how come when the male folk were absent, the women tonsured themselves voluntarily, Rajendra and others told "we don't know how they got tonsured". During this time, Sri Ashok Mohanty, who was also present there tried to intervene and moderate on their behalf, but the team requested him to allow the people to answer for themselves.
To the question whether their priest had prescribed for tonsuring of women almost all present there answered in negative. "Nothing like that has happened."
Rajendra further told "You see what they have gained by becoming Christians. Are you seeing the doors of their houses. Look there, that is Subas Samal's house; are you not seeing that "Konark Door" (a metaphor to depict a badly worn out object)....... that one with so many holes on it. Do you think that I have not seen Christian's house ?. I have seen them in Bombay, so huge mansions with doors worth Rs.10,000/-. But see our Christian's door. Sala, (an offensive slang-wife's brother) don't know why all of them are running after it like mad people ..... If someone has been benefited then he is Goura Mallick."
Just after some time when the team was talking to the womenfolk of the
hamlet Rajendra interrupted and told the team “....You all people
are from Bhubaneswar .When you again meet Dolly you tell her that I was
inquiring about her. Let her come back .”( Dolly is the niece of
Rajendra whom she was reportedly proposing to adopt, since he remains
issueless after a long married life). When some of the team members asked
jokingly ‘you people have humiliated her by forcibly tonsuring as
she says, then how come you inquire about her well being now’ Rajendra
replied with some self-importance “This Rajendra Bhoi was not there
in the village that day, therefore these rascals ( meaning the villagers)
could dare to do like this type of nasty thing. Had this man been there
in the village that day this incident would not have happened”
When asked about the prospect of returning of the Christians fleeing the village all the villagers of Dalit Sahi present there replied "They have to accept our Dharma if they want to return. Yes, they can return but they have to follow our customs and traditions. Then only we would accept them. Otherwise how can they use Hindustan's pond, tube well, roads, etc. They have to accept Hindustan's Dharma".
Sri Santosh Samal
"My home is in Bhutmundei (near Paradeep). I have been staying here for last 3 months since the conflict started. I was not in the village on the day the incident of tonsuring occurred. Even though, I am not sure, I heard after returning to village that they have been forcibly tonsured..... I can't tell anything more. I am an outsider, I don't want to be enmeshed in the conflict. Now me and my wife are staying here to look after the house, and cattle of my in-laws till they return".
Smt. Guni Bhoi
Guni Bhoi (wife of Niranjan Bhoi , Age around 50) is the mother of Mamata and Narmada, the two sisters who have turned to Christianity. They have chosen to adhere to their faith against the community and family pressure to accept Hinduism and hence, have left home.
"Only due to Subas two of my daughters have deserted me. He snatched away my children from me. One month back my daughters left home. We told them you are not allowed in the family if you turn towards Christianity. One of them has passed 8th class and another 9th class. Their age will be around 18, 19. We have 4 daughters, they were the elder ones. We don't have any son. They were our future. But they have ditched us. We had arranged their marriages but they told that they would only marry among the faithfuls (Christians). We told we would go by the community's decision, not by that of our children. If you don't come back to our tradition, we will not accept you. Then they left home. They were earlier at Bhanbati, in their aunt's house, now their where about is not known to us.
We in our community perform the rituals of our common deity by shifts. These converts don't attend to their shifts. Therefore, they were socially boycotted”.
To the question whether her daughters will have to undergo tonsuring if they decide to come back to Hindu fold she said that no, they didn’t have to.
To the question that if other women were required to undergo tonsuring which they did "voluntarily" how come her daughters were not required to do so, she remained silent.
Sri Golak Rout
Golak Rout (Age 22) has been tonsured to return to Hinduism and is still there in the village.
"…..I have studied up to Class-IX. Once I had been to Paradeep. There I saw leaflets on Christianity and from therein I collected the address of Churches. Then I went to the Church. I was very much fascinated by the songs they sing in the Church. That was my attraction for going there. I had not thought of any thing like conversion etc. I have not been converted. Will a swine become a cow if you feed him with husks? When I went to the Church, the villagers objected. Then I thought why get enmeshed in all these troubles. If this creates so much tension then it is better to get tonsured. After some people became Christians, Sarala Ghanta refused to visit our village, that created tension.....”
“No, I have not been offered any money for getting converted to Christianity. Rather I have offered money as donation to the Church. Are these girls or me small children that we would get converted by getting any inducement?”
“First I got tonsured. After two days these people got tonsured".
When asked whether people were forcibly tonsured, Golakh looked mortally scared to answer and remained evasive. After much insistence he obliquely told "Sir, do you feel that any woman would get tonsured on her own?”
"I was offered clothes, sacred thread, the Bhagavata Book in the Yagnya at Jagannathpur".
Sri Gouranga Ch. Mallick
" On the day of tonsuring, around 30 to 40 people from Kilipal gheraoed my house alleging that the disappeared male Christians were hiding in my house. Sukadeb Samal, Babaji and Gura led the mob. When the people of my village (Kanimul and Berhampur) gathered to question the mob as to how dared they come down from another village to gherao the house of a resident of a different village, then only they had to disperse. My villagers advised me not to file any FIR on this with the police, which would have created further tension. Bijay Das of BJD also advised me not to politicise the issue, it being an election time.
I have a very cordial relation with my villagers. They never feel that I am a Christian or I never feel that they are Hindus. I attend their festivals and they attend the festival on Christmas Day in my house. They use to say that just because one of our brothers is from a different faith we find an additional festival to participate and get entertained.” The team could, to some extent, even though not conclusively, crosscheck this claim of Sri Mallick with some people from his village present in the Bayananda Kutir when the team went there subsequently.
“I was told by Subas that he was being pressurised to bring the girls. Subas, being their neighbour, was aware that they were in their aunt's house. Therefore, he could have brought them, if at all he brought them. Niranjan Bhoi’s daughters once came to our congregation in my house. Then Niranjan came complaining to me that we were getting his daughters converted. I assured him that he would never see his daughters again here. They won’t be allowed.”
“Gura Samal etc. filed an FIR with the police that they were offered money to get converted. They got the FIR forwarded by Sri Debasis Samantray of BJD, they being BJD supporters. Then police got active and took away Subas. I learnt that before the FIR was filed with police it was shown to RSS. ....... No, RSS is not very active in the area”
“Sir you draw your own conclusion if people are offered money or other inducements to get converted. You must have seen the houses of the Christians”.
At that time one Sri Bhagabat Samal, a Christian youth of around 30, present there quipped “Sir, I am a graduate but without a job. I am now wandering from this opera party to that to earn my livelihood. Then you guess for yourself”.
Gouranga further told “ ......I was not in my house when the tonsured women ran away from their village in the night and came down to my house. My wife got panicked and asked them to leave immediately. After hearing it on my return, just after these people had left my house, I rebuked my wife that rather she should have got killed than refusing shelter to them in such hapless condition. Then immediately I went for searching them with a torch in my hand. I found them crammed under a kewda bush, apprehending that the angry villagers were searching for them. I took them to the nearby matha (Bayananda Kutir) and requested the Baba to give them shelter for sometime to which he sympathetically agreed. Then I arranged a vehicle from Tirtol over phone and sent them away to Bhubaneswar”.
To the question if the Christians refuse to take Jagannath Prasad he replied “you ask any of my villagers, I take Jagannath Prasad along with them in the village festivals. Yes, we have adhered to one faith; we can’t do different things of different faiths at a time. We don’t have a Tulasi Chaura. We don’t light evening wicks before it etc. But are we mad to urinate on someone else's Chaura or crush the ‘wicks’ under our feet ? Think for yourselves”.
Sri Sarat Dash:
Sarat Dash is a well- to-do and upper caste person of the village. Besides
landed property, he owns a poultry farm. The team met him at his farm
and had a long discussion.
When asked about the tonsuring issue, he emphatically said “It had been done forcefully; women have been dragged out of their houses and beaten up. After the tonsuring they were weeping under the bamboo grooves. No woman would voluntarily tonsure herself in Orissa”Going emotional, he said “whoever has tried to dishonour women will be meted out with divine justice”.
He also affirmed “Some people from Kilipal had gone to gherao the
house of Gaurang Charan Mallick. I was hearing their excited talking while
passing by my house”.
Explaining the political dimension of the recent incident, he said “Both
the Congress and the BJD had equal presence in the Bauri sahi. The Christian
community has always been the supporter of the Congress. As the recent
issue has polarised the Sahi on the basis of religion, the Congress taking
advantage of it, sided with the bigger section to expand its vote bank”.
“It is not true that World Vision and other church based Non-Government
Organisations had given relief material only to their fellow believers
in the post cyclone period. They had given it to all the affected people
materials worth around Rs1000 or1200 to each family”.
The Ashram of Baba Sri Kameshwar Das, a sanyasi of Avadhoot Sect of Bayababa lineage is situated between the house of Sri Gauranga Charan Mallick in Kanimul and Kilipal village. The team visited the Baba with a view to know his perception of the matter as he is some sort of a figurehead, at least locally, of Hindu religion. On the day of the incident, some time around 8-9 O’ clock at night, Sri Gauranga Charan Mallick apprised the Baba about the gravity of the situation and requested him to give shelter, at least for some hours, to those scared and fleeing Christian women so that meanwhile he can arrange some vehicle to lift them to Bhubaneswar. During that period some local people were having a feast in the Ashram premises. To avoid the attention of the feasting crowd Baba told them to sit quietly in the backside of the Ashram. Taking shelter for some hours in the Ashram they left for Bhubaneswar.
The Baba was always introducing himself in third person, instead of ‘I’ he would say ‘He’ or ‘this man’ etc. Asked about the incident he said in his detached monastic way “What does ‘this man’ know, what would ‘he’ say after all?. Yes, all over that day ‘he’ was hearing of something unusual happening. When in the night he (Gouranga) came running and asked for shelter I said OK.”
When asked about the issue of converting into other religion he said “There should be no bar. One is free to choose one’s own religion. That (Christianity) is also a religion. After all we belong to one father; religions are like sons of one father. Today there are four tomorrow there may be forty......”
However, he preferred to remain detached from the Kilipal controversy.
Meeting with the women of Bauri Sahi
The team spoke to a number of women in small groups of Bauri Sahi about the incident. However, every one of them, had one answer - that they were not present in the village at the time of tonsuring so they haven’t seen anything. Some of them avoided us by not saying anything. When asked what they have heard about the tonsuring, they said that the women tonsured their heads on their own as they had agreed to come back to Hinduism. The team spoke to the mother of Dolly Jena, one of the tonsured girls who have left the village along with other families. When she was confiding to one of the team members she broke down and sobbingly said “ those men and their women didn’t spare my young daughter and other young girls and forcibly tonsured them. How can you think of our young girls tonsuring their head voluntarily.
They have been pulled out of their houses and tonsured by the women of
those men. The girls were crying uncontrollably while they were tonsured.
My daughter had to leave because how can you live with the humiliation
in the village. Now also they are passing remarks that ‘we have
tonsured their heads, if they don’t come back to our way of life,
we will chop their noses off’. My daughter, Subas, Mamata, Narmada
and other girls have never done any harm to others. They are all nice
people”. While she was confiding there were a few other women sympathetic
to her with tear in their eyes. But they wouldn’t say a word as
if they would be punished if they utter anything. Even Dolly’s mother
was afraid of people watching from a distance. We spoke to Subas Samal’s
sister who is now staying in Subas’s house along with her husband
and children. She has not been converted to Christianity. But being Subas’s
sister she too has been ostracised. Women who are sympathetic to her have
been asked not to talk to her or allow her to visit their families.
When asked, if they would like the families to come back to their village, all of them said they would, but they have to leave Christianity and accept Hinduism. Otherwise, again there will be problems. As to their resentment towards the Christian families all of them have the same story to tell, that they were disrespecting Mahaprasad, Tulsi Chaura and Sanjabati. One old woman even said ‘how could they do things which is not done anywhere in the whole of Bharat’. When asked how much of Bharat she has seen or heard of, she said she had been up to Jagatsinghpur a few times. She also expressed her anger that these people have created a bad name for Kilipal.
Sri S.K. Mohapatra, IIC, Tirtol Police Station
The team met Sri S.K. Mohapatra, Inspector-in-Charge of Tirtol Police Station on the morning of 14th March2004 after meeting all concerned in the Kilipal and Kanimul village. Sri Mohapatra was very cordial in discussing the matter with the team.
“I joined here on 2.3.2004. Earlier I was CI of Cuttack Sadar. My predecessor here, Sri Siba Charan Rout was the investigating officer in the case who has now been transferred to DCRB at Jagatsinghpur. All the papers are with him; therefore, I am not in a position to apprise you in detail of the background or actual incident or the progress in investigation.
However, after I joined here I had visited the village and find that the women are a bit more aggressive in the matter than the male folk. In the Bauri hamlet, I have tried to interact with people and calm them down.
“Nobody is telling that they were forcibly tonsured. Had they been forcibly tonsured there would have been injury marks on their head or body. But nobody has even a scratch mark on their body”.
“I don’t have any information whether the house of Sri Gouranga Mallick was gheraoed.”
“People say that all the converts agreed in the village meeting to come back to Hindu fold and got voluntarily tonsured”.
“Taking only legal actions will not solve the problem. We are now concentrating more on somehow normalising the situation and restore amity among people. We have formed a peace committee in the village. ..... No member from the minority community has been taken on the peace community, because nobody from minority community is there..... If people feel that various other sections have not been included let them suggest names, even you may suggest their names we would include them”.
“We have posted police in the village for ensuring peace. Let all those people come back from Bhubaneswar. There would not be any problem, we would ensure their safety. .........Even our SP and Collector asked these people to come back .Why are not they coming even to meet them ? Christian organisations have a lot of money. They can maintain their people at Bhubaneswar for long. ...”.
“Two cases have been registered in Tirtol Police Station in the matter. Case No. 26 is registered under Section 341, 342, 299, 354, 355/44 of IPC on the incident of tonsuring of women. Case Number 30 is registered under 244, 506/34 of IPC and 4 of OFRA on the allegation of inducing others to get converted to Christianity, etc.”
“Since the officer having the detailed case record is absent now, I can’t provide you details about the informants and accused. You contact me even over phone after 2/3 hours, I would give you the details”.
The team failed to contact Tirtol Police Station over phone in spite of repeated efforts.
Sri S.B. Palsania, S.P, Jagatsinghpur
The team met Sri S.B. Palsania, S.P., Jagatsinghpur, at his residence on 14.03.2004. The S.P. was quite cordial and cooperative in his discussion on the matter.
“After the incident I and the Sub-Collector went to the village taking the media persons with us. I myself examined the tonsured people before the media persons. All of them present there told that they had agreed in the village meeting held on 10.02.2004 to revert to Hinduism and hence have voluntarily tonsured themselves. It is false that they were roughed up. It is simply media hype. Have you seen any injury mark on their body?”
“ ........... yes, what you are telling that even though there might not have been immediate application of physical force or resistance from the victims, the possibility of physical threat that could have cowed down the victims not to offer any resistance can’t be ruled out ...... We don’t have any information that the house of Sri Gouranga Mallick of Kanimul was gheraoed by some people from Kilipal village.
“The area is not known for strong communal sentiments. There is no involvement of any Hindutva force in the incident. So, the matter could have been settled peacefully. But since the Christian Community took up the cause of Christians, there is now reaction from the Hindu Organisations. Till date we have not registered any case regarding Sujit Jena. But now we are flooded with petitions and under pressure from different Hindu organisations to register cases under OFRA. Even media has blown the matter out of proportion which aggravates the situation. You see registering cases and taking legal actions will not solve the problem. It is not that we will not take any legal actions. Yours is a responsible organisation. I also solicit your cooperation to restore amity among different communities. You are from Bhubaneswar. You tell these people to return. There would absolutely be no problem. We will provide all the security........ Prafulla Das told me that he needs guarantee from 10 adjoining villages that there would not be any problem, before the victims could return. I told him this is a political decision beyond my power and jurisdiction”.
“ ...... Now we have registered a case suo motto without anyone’s
complain on the issue of alleged forcible tonsuring. Another complain
has been filed by the villagers alleging inducements by Christians to
get converted. I am given to understand that the Christians influenced
children and patients. Besides, children getting converted without parent’s
knowledge created problem...... Had they got converted in an open manner
with the knowledge of administration there would not have been any problem.
These people got converted in a hush hush manner and when it became gradually
public, that created tension. You must have seen Subas’s sister
now staying in Subas’s house. When it was known to her in-laws that
she was a Christian, that created tension for which she along with her
husband has been staying in her father’s house.”
“Since we are not sure that legally they had got converted to Christianity, we have not invoked OFRA in the tonsuring case. They are saying they converted seven years back. But seven years back many of them were minors......... Of course OFRA can be invoked later on if we find sufficient ground........”
“I find people of the area are very cunning. They change their version from time to time. Therefore, we produced people from both sides before the Magistrate and got their versions recorded. I have asked the women to come down from Bhubaneswar and record their versions before the Magistrate, otherwise their entire case may get spoiled.”
“..... No, it is not correct that there has been a spurt in conversion in this area after the recent cyclone. It is a fact that Christian organisations have distributed a lot of relief in the area. Even though, quite naturally, they have distributed more relief in the villages having Christian population, they have distributed it in almost all other areas. We have no report that they have used it as an inducement for conversion.”
“Since the area was very peaceful and had no history of religious animosity we were not particular about intelligence gathering on such issues and hence had no idea that there could have been any tension in the Kilipal village”.
Regarding the allegation of physical torture to Subas Samal by police out of religious bias, the S.P. told “ ... I have no information that Subas was beaten by the then IIC, Sri S.C. Rout, Tirtol or any kind of verbal abuse by him. Sometimes some bias might have been there at the lower level of the police or civil administration. That generally happens everywhere. Even though I am an IPS officer for last ten years I feel frightened to go to any police station in my native state Rajasthan. But I assure them all the security by police. Even we will try to regularise their religion in Government record. ....... No. No, nobody can say anything like that the Christians are not entitled to use Hindustan’s pond, tube well, etc. Everybody has a right to his religion. But they should get their religion regularised”.
“........ If there is any objection to the constitution of peace committee, let you suggest the names, let people suggest the names, we have no reservation in accepting them. ....... Kindly cooperate in normalising the situation”.
The team tried it’s best to meet the Collector, Jagatsinghpur and even has requested for the meeting much in advance. But as the Collector was away on tour to Naugaon, it was not possible to have his opinion. The team also tried to interview Sri S.C. Rout, the then IIC of Tirtol Police Station and investigating officer in the case who has now been transferred to DCR, Jagatsinghpur. But as Sri Rout was away on training to Mumbai the team could not record his views.
Prof. D.K. Samantaray
Prof Samantray is a member on the State Level Coordination Committee on Communal harmony since it’s inception on 1.1.2000 . Prof Samantray told the team -
“The committee was to meet at least twice in a year- January & July. There has been no meeting since May 2003. The Home Secretary has not bothered to respond to at least 3 letters written to him by me on 06.10.2003, 07.11.2003 & 01.12.2003. In the letter dated 06.10.03 I have suggested that the non-official members of the committee might be divided into 3 groups with 2 members each and tour communally sensitive districts to inquire into incidences of communal disturbances being reported from there. I wrote again on 07.11.03 asking the State Government to clarify the modalities of logistics to be provided for the non-Government private members of the committee while on tour to discharge their duties. I along with Sri Gurudev Singh, another private member of the committee again wrote to Government on 01.12.03 with detailed tour programme to Deogarh where an incidence of burning of a church came to light, but till date have not received any response”.
“There are some people in the higher echelons of government and administration who tacitly support communal activity which is evident from the fact that the government takes no interest to convene meetings of the State Level committee on Communal Harmony as per its own (Government's) guidelines and keep the members of the committee informed about the communal disturbances going on throughout the state”.
“Very often the conversion to Christianity is not informed to the
administration since many people are not aware of the existence of such
legal provisions and I have raised this issue in the Committee on Communal
Harmony which have been recorded in their proceedings. I have talked to
the pastor of Kilipal and the same thing has also happened there”.
The team met the victims and members of Christian community again on 18 March 2003 to elicit their opinion on certain points raised by the villagers and the SP, Jagatsinghpur.
To the question how could he locate Sujit, Narmada and Mamata, Subas
replied “It was known to their family that Mamata and her sister
were in their aunt’s house and their parents unnecessarily insisted
in the meeting that they would return only if I ask them to return. Regarding
Sujit when the villagers pressurised me I asked for 2 days time and had
to take help of my acquaintances in Christian community at Bhubaneswar
to locate Sujit”
Subas also denied the allegations of inducing Santosh Jena to accept Christianity and termed it as totally fabricated .
Almost all the victims present and Sri Prafulla Das disagreed with SP’s
version that since the Christians got converted in a hush hush manner
and kept it secret, that aggravated the situation when it was known, is
not at all correct. There were frequent open congregations and every year
on the Christmas Day there used to be celebrations to which people from
other community were invited. There are group photographs of all these
for anyone to verify.
All of the victims told that they have never received any message from the Collector or SP to meet them or to return to the village.
Sri Prafulla Das told that he had not asked for the guarantee by 10 nearby
villagers rather he has asked for a meeting of the village leaders of
adjacent villages of the Panchayat to deliberate the issue which may restore
the confidence of the terrorised victims since all the victims have lost
faith in their own villagers.
At the end the victims said “as followers of Jesus we have forgiven
our tormentors. We are desperate to go back to our village and live there
peacefully with our faith and dignity. Only this much should be ensured
to us ”