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PUCL, April 2004
[Published in PUCL Bulletins, June & July 2004 ]

PUCL Bhubaneswar and Cuttack
A fact-finding report into the incident of atrocities on the Christians in Kilipal village

Christian villagers tonsured and forcibly converted to Hinduism

Introduction
On 15th February 2004 the media flashed a report that some families belonging to Christian community were forced to accept Hinduism and some of them including seven women and a pastor were forcibly tonsured in Kilipal village under Tirtol police station of Jagatsinghpur District. The media continued to publish conflicting reports on this disturbing incident for the next one week-- that the women and men were forcibly tonsured as they refused to accept Hinduism and, that they volunteered to be tonsured as a part of the rituals to return to Hinduism. It was also reported that seven families have left the village out of fear of further violence and taken shelter in Bhubaneswar.

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

  1. To find out whether there has been forced (re)conversion.
  2. If yes, to find out the forces or organisations behind it.
  3. What has been the role of Government authorities and social forces:
    (a) in preventing the incident,
    (b) in providing security to the life, liberty and property of the victims after the incident and
    (c) taking necessary steps to prevent such incident in future.

People, organisation and officials met
The team met the people associated with the Church and who have given shelter to the victims, the victim Christian families staying in Bhubaneswar, on 4th, 5th, 8th and 18th of March. The team visited village Kilipal on 13th March and met a cross section of people and met the IIC Tirtol Police Station and SP Jagatsinghpur on 14th March.

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
Kilipal - a mixed-caste village of a little more than 200 families - belongs to Kanimul Panchayat under Tirtol Police Station of Jagatsinghpur District. From outside, the village wears a relatively prosperous look. The village is 20-22 km away from the police station and more than 50 km from district head quarters. It has a college, and a school established way back in 1934. Electorally, it has been divided into 4 wards. Regular bus service is also available to the village. The village has got a picturesque look. Houses, facing each other, are constructed on the two sides of the narrow, sandy village road. In between, one sees patches of lush green banana plantation. The upper caste people of the village i.e. the Brahmins, Karans, Khandayats, Banias and others, mostly inhabit this part of the village. One of its visible aspects is that of the presence of a good number of pucca houses indicating prosperity in a rural setup, though dotted with thatched houses. The villagers have acquired some prosperity not through their landed property alone, but also because at least one member from most families is either employed in Government organisation or working in some factories. A major portion of the total village land belongs to only 5 families. For example, Sri Ashok Mohanty and his brother, sons of the erstwhile zamindar family of the locality, own nearly 100 acres of land, which they do not cultivate themselves, but through sharecroppers.

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.

Genesis

In the backdrop of poverty and deprivation that one gets to see at the Dalit hamlet (Bauri Sahi) of Kilipal village, a small number of Dalits - mainly confined within seven families - embraced Christianity over a period of around last 10 years. Among the first to get converted was one Subas Samal in 1994 while he was at Mumbai, and later became the Pastor of the village. According to him, he came in contact with Christian teachings at Mumbai, where he had stayed for a while. He was perceived as one of the brightest boys of the hamlet, and was among the most educated. They (the Christians) belonged to the Church on Mount Zion.

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.

Buildup
Trouble started again when some young people started taking active interest in Christianity. Some time during the last quarter of 2003, Sujit Jena, a Khandayat (upper-caste) youth from the village heartland, disappeared, leaving his helpless family behind. Later it was revealed that he went to study Bible in one of the Church organisations at Khurda. He left his aggrieved mother to fend for herself, a mentally unsound father, and a cerebrally palsied elder brother. Upon failing to pass his Class 10th exams, earlier he had gone to Guwahati in Assam as a migrant worker, where he stayed for some time. According to his mother, Amitarani, after returning from Assam, Sujit used to be seen often with Subas Samal, whom she accuses of having taken her son from her. She often found Sujit alone, reading a Bible, and brooding over it. In spite of her strong disapproval, she failed to dissuade her son. Finally, Sujit left the village.

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.)

Endgame
The year 2004 ushered in with the anti-minority feelings assuming feverish pitch. On the one hand Subas Samal was exhorted to bring back Sujit Jena and the Bhoi sisters; on the other hand a vicious hate-campaign was launched against the minorities, led by the self-styled protectors of the ‘Hindu’ faith. According to Subas, with great difficulty he managed to bring them back to their parents. Allegations were made, some of which the Team found incredible, while others, like the Christians not conforming to Hindu rituals, or the villagers being ostracized by neighbouring villages, for which the Team believes the Christians could not be held responsible. Meeting after meeting were held to arrive at a ‘solution’. In one such meeting, the sisters, Narmada and Mamata loudly affirmed their faith in Christianity, even if that entailed forsaking their parents. When threatened, they left the village. Sujit Jena, apparently succumbing to pressure, told at a meeting that he would ‘revert’ back to Hinduism and abide by his mother’s wishes. After that declaration, he was seen brooding and visibly depressed, till one day he suddenly disappeared again.

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 4th February Sukadeb Samal lodged an FIR against Subas. Subas Samal, the Pastor, was allegedly first beaten up by his cousin Sukadeb Samal for transgressing into the field of the latter.

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 15th February Subas Samal, his sister Nayana Samal, one Golak Rout and one Bishnu Bhoi were taken to a village Oradha, near Tirtol, where a yagna, organised by VHP/Dharma Raksha Samiti, was going on and there they were sprinkled with holy water, given the sacred thread and a new dhoti to wear - all these to purify them as a mark of their return to Hinduism. People who accompanied them were Babaji Das, Sukadeb Samal, Gurucharan Samal, Chakradhar Samal and others. They went in a Maruti van that belongs to one Rabi Jena. Another four/five people went to the Yagna on by-cycles.

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.

Findings
After perusing all the available versions of different parties, cross-checking and verifying them wherever possible, as well as reading into the statements (particularly reading between the lines), and above all taking into consideration the experience gained out of our team’s visit to the area, we are reasonably convinced about the following observations/conclusions;

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.

5] However, in the midst of such an atmosphere of animosity there still exist some saner elements like Sri Sarat Dash, Baba Kameswar Das, villagers of Kanimul and Berhampur who have exhibited exemplary courage and humane attitude in coming to the rescue of their harassed neighbours.

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 way.

10] The team was distressed to find the absence of any secular initiative, on behalf of any ‘secular’ political party or social organization, at the village or Panchayat level, to bring about communal amity. It appears the Government and all the political parties professing themselves to be secular are conspicuous in their studied silence over the matter as if they have thought these seven victim families to be politically dispensable during the election time; rather taking up their cause might cost them the vote of majority community. It exposes the true colour of the “secular” parties. No minister in the Government, nor any political leadership - ruling or opposition - has visited the area, nor have met the victims and nor have they expressed their opinion on the issue.

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.

14] The clauses of the Orissa Freedom of Religion Act (OFRA) has been discriminatingly used. While none of the perpetrators had been booked under OFRA on some technical alibi, Subas Samal, the pastor has been booked under it. The local church leaders clarified to us that the embracing of Christianity by the villagers was not intimated to the administration since they were not properly aware of the existence of such legal provisions. Besides, Subas accepted Christianity at Mumbai where provisions of OFRA don’t apply. The team believes that OFRA does have some draconian clauses that can be discriminatingly used against the minorities.

15] The role of vernacular media in reporting the incident was questionable. Some reports on the incident, particularly one published in the Samaj on 17.2.2004 was highly opinionated and biased against the minority community. It appeared to have been written without any basic inquiry into the incident when the evidences of forcible tonsuring are so clear and further there was not an iota of evidence of conversion by inducement .


Suggestions
The team wishes to suggest the following to attempt at finding some meaningful solution to this distressing incident-

1] The Government should take immediate step to rehabilitate the victims, those who have fled the village to their native place by ensuring their safety, security, right to practice their faith and right to livelihood. For that, high level officials should visit both the victims at Bhubaneswar to restore their confidence in the administration and Kilipal village to talk to the responsible and respectable villagers on the matter

2] To pre-empt future problem the Government should make allotment of separate land for the Christians for the purpose of their burial ground. Generally communal tensions often take place on such questions.

3] The Peace Committee should be meaningfully reconstituted by including the respectable and saner elements from various adjacent villages under Kanimul panchayat .

4] It is disturbing to note that the State Level Committee On Communal Harmony does not have a Hindu member on it as if only the minorities have the responsibility to maintain communal harmony and the majority community doesn’t have any responsibility in this regard. The State Level Committee on Communal Harmony should be reconstituted by including credible representatives from various communities including the Hindus who must be commanding respect and faith of their respective communities. At the same time it must be looked into by the Government why this committee is kept so dysfunctional and action should be taken against the officials responsible, particularly against those who have not taken any action on the various letters written by the private members of the Committee on Kilipal and other similar issues.

5] Strong disciplinary action should be taken against Sri Siba Charan Rout, the then OIC of Tirtol police station for his alleged custodial torture of Subas Samal and derogatory remark on his fundamental right to profess and practice his faith, after proper inquiry. Police officials responsible for not taking any preventive measure against the occurrence in spite of being aware of the tense situation prevailing there should be proceeded against for negligence of their duty.

6] Perpetrators of the atrocity on the Christians should be immediately arrested and proceeded against as per law to have a deterrent effect on the recurrence of such incident and to instill confidence in the victims for all the humiliations they have suffered. Not taking any action against the culprits on the specious logic that it may further aggravate the tension and hamper the peace process would tantamount to buying peace by appeasing the stronger at the cost of dignity of the weaker.

7] At the same time creating awareness among the people at the socio-cultural level about the cultural plurality, tolerance of other’s way of life and other’s faith etc as the hallmark of democracy is the only antidote against this type of xenophobia. We call upon the social forces, media, intelligentsia, political parties and above all the common people to assume this responsibility to pre-empt not only this type of mishappenings but also the type of social chaos we are being thrown into by the type of baseless hate campaigns concertedly unleashed by the Hindutva forces.

8] We also urge upon the Government to initiate criminal proceedings against those organisations/individuals who have started provocative wall writings against the Christian priests by making baseless allegations following the Kilipal incident, for deliberately inciting communal hatred . Our report must be giving some indication, at least from this incident, how baseless may be the allegation of conversion by ‘inducements’ etc.

9] We are forwarding this report to various fellow human right groups, groups working for communal amity and cultural plurality for creating wider public opinion against the recurrence of such type of incident and call upon them to exert pressure on the Government to implement the above suggestions or any other suggestion they may be having. We are also marking this report to NHRC, SHRC, National Minority Commission, Women Commission (National/State), High Court and Supreme Court for their intervention.

Annexure-1

List of women who have been tonsured

Sanjukta Kandi, Aged about 45
Sumitra Kandi, Aged about 22
Sumitra Kandi, Aged about 19
Nayana Samal, Aged about 21 (sister of Subas Samal)
Nisha Samal, aged about 40
Shanti Kandi, aged about 25
Dolly Bhoi, aged about 20

Annexure-2

Statement/Version/ Opinion of various persons and officials interviewed

Rev. D. Misal

The team first met Rev. D. Misal, Secretary, All Orissa Full Gospel Church, on 4.3.2004. He is one of the three Christian representatives in the State Level Committee on Communal Harmony set up by the State government. The committee was formed through the recommendation of the National Minority Commission during 1999 with Chief Secretary of Government of Orissa as the Chairman. There are eight secretaries as members besides the Director General of Police, Asst. Director General of Police (Intelligence) and 6 Non-Government Member from different minority communities (3 Christians, 1 Muslim, 1 Buddhist and 1 Sikh).

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
After the social pressure started mounting on the Christians their male members fled the village on 9th February 04 and after the incident of tonsuring on 10th February, the women fled the village .A total number of 27 Christians have left their village and have been staying in Bhubaneswar in two groups. The women of six families, along with their children and a few men are put up in the office of an NGO called UNI WORLD VISION, United Neighbor’s Ideal Service. The Christian families who have left their village are taken care of by Mr. Sanatan Mohanty, Senior Pastor, Church on Mount Zion, Bhubaneswar. He is also the head of the above NGO. Others are staying in another place.


The team met the women victims on 4th, 5th and 8th of March in different groups. The following is their narration of the incident: The narration was made by Sanjukta Kandi, one of the tonsured women, and all other tonsured women present at the time of interview agreed to it.

“ We know Prabhu / Jesus since last 7/8 years. In the beginning our relatives and caste brothers were against us for our accepting the Christian faith. We were not allowed to work in their fields and our cows were not allowed to be taken together with their cows for grazing. But gradually these things were relaxed and after the super cyclone (October, 1999) we once again became good neighbors. However, Mamata and Narmada’s parents were often harassing these two sisters for their belief in Jesus.

“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.’’
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Meeting with the male victims (including Subas Samal, the Pastor):

Initially Subas Samal evinced interest in Christianity around 1994 while he was in Mumbai. He was fascinated by the story of resurrection described in the Bible. Over a period of time, other people of Bauri Sahi (Dalit hamlet) developed interest in Christianity mainly through faith healing. Sri Dhani Kandi developed his faith in Christianity after his cure from some chronic ailment by `holy water’ given by a Christian to him. Smt. Nishamani Samal got cured of leprosy by praying Jesus. Initially, there was some subdued resentment among the Hindu community of Bauri Sahi against the people who changed their faith into Christianity. But it had not taken the form of animosity. Rather whatever ill feeling was there got diffused during the post-super cyclone period.

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.
"After Sukadeb returned to Hinduism, he was pressurised by Subas to come back to Christianity. Sukadeb filed an FIR with police. He was even offered bribe. Subas has given in writing in police station not to pressurise Sukadeb any more.

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.

They said ‘there would absolutely be no problem if all these people return to the village’.

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.

She told the team “After failing to pass the 10th standard examination Sujit had been to Assam as a migrant worker and had stayed there for about two years. Subas and Sujit were close friends. I had noticed Sujit often reading Bible literature instead of his study books. I used to admonish him for this but Sujit hadn’t listened to me. You tell us if we can manage by taking to another religion staying in middle of the village?”
“When I asked Sujit why he was getting into all these instead of trying for a job somewhere, he used to tell me that he would be offered rather better jobs if he turns to Christianity; we would be offered a tube-well also. He also told me not to worry for casting of the roof of our house. If you give an application, I could arrange Rs.30,000/- for it.

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.”


Sri Rajendra Bhoi

Among all the people the team met, Rajendra Bhoi (Age around 30) was the most vociferous and aggressive in his opposition to the Christians.

"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 whether they are allowed inside the village temples as they claim themselves to be Hindus, or if they are allowed to take food together with the caste Hindus in the village festivals, all the Dalits told that as a matter of tradition they don't enter into the village temple; they have their own temple. Even though they take food at the same time with the other villagers, they sit separately. Sri Ashok Mohanty told that the caste Hindus would have no problem if the Dalits enter into the village temple.

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
Santosh Samal (Age 30) is the brother-in-law (sister's husband) of Subas 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

Gouranga Ch. Mallick (Age about 50) is the younger brother of Sri Prafulla Das of Kanimul village, adjacent to Kilipal. Prafull Das is said to be the leader of Christians in the area and the local Church runs in Gouranga's premises. Prafulla Das is reportedly associated actively with Congress Party and unsuccessfully contested the last election for Sarpanch post as a Congress candidate. The team met Gouranga in the afternoon on 13 March, 2004, after talking to the villagers of Kilipal.

" 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.
He openly told the team “One group of people are deciding everything . They imposed the social boycott on the Christians; all the people of the village were not consulted. This was injustice. I had offered my well and pond for the use of the boycotted Christian families. There was some pressure on me, even threat to adhere to the boycott decision but I didn’t care”.

Tracing the history of the tension on the question of conversion, he said “8-10 years back there were two meetings in the village on this issue and the converted Christians were persuaded to come back to Hinduism. Force was not used on them.”

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”.

Rejecting allurement theory of conversion, he said “Social inequality in caste system might be the cause of conversion into Christianity”.

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”.

The local BJD leader, Biswanath Pradhan was present when Sri Dash was explaining this to the team. Sri Pradhan agreed to the views of Sri Dash.

“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”.

He alleged that all the Government officials who visited the village only met those people who are party to the incident.


Baba Sri Kameswar Das

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.

All the women, however, were of the opinion that Subas was the most honest and educated boy among all in the Bauri Sahi who was trusted by all to maintain the accounts of collective funds and community festivals.

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.”
“ ....... There was no participation from other castes in the conflict. Only the Bauris are resenting the Christians. Of course what they are telling that the Christians were urinating on their Chauras or crushing the evening wicks under their feet is not believable. Only some naughty boys can do like this......”

“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”.

2nd round meeting with the victims and members of Christian Community

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”

To the question why did he tell SP that he had voluntarily tonsured to accept Hinduism he replied “It was out of the fear of torture by the villagers who had threatened me that if I told otherwise I would not be allowed outside the village”.

Subas further told “ It is not correct that my elder sister was a Christian for which there was trouble in her in-law’s side as told by the SP. She is still a Hindu”

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.

Sri Dhani Kandi one of the Christians fleeing the village, clarifying on the question of conversion by inducement told “ My cousin remains boycotted by our kinsmen for my acceptance of Christianity from his extended family. Then how couldn’t I induce him to accept Christianity? He still remains a Hindu. All my in-law’s are in the adjacent village. I could have induced them also”

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.
Regarding why the Christian community blew the issue in media the victims replied “The media has not reported anything before the incident of forcible tonsuring or our fleeing the village. Then how all these things happened? The media reporting has not led to the incident rather it only reported what has already happened”. Sri Sanatan Mohanty, senior pastor told “Had we not taken up the issue it would have passed like another incident of ‘voluntary reversion’ to Hinduism courtesy someone like Dillip Sing Judeo, as frequently get reported in the media nowadays.”

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 ”

 

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