Christians demand release of ‘innocents’ sentenced
The murder was used as a pretext by Hindu extremists to carry out a massive anti-Christian massacre in 2008, which resulted in the death of more than 100 Christians and heavy property damage.
The Catholic Church has called for the release of seven Christians sentenced by a court in the eastern state of Odisha for the murder of a Hindu leader.
Left wing extremists groups called Maoists had claimed that its cadre was behind the murder of the Hindu extremist group Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s leader Swami Laxmanananda, pinned on the 7 Christians.
After the conviction, priests and civil society activists in Odisha launched a campaign for justice. Father Charles Irudayam, Secretary of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Episcopal Conference said, "First of all we want to reiterate that the seven Christians are innocent. The same court that sentenced the 7, sentenced a Maoist leader for the same crime for which they are accused, a day after the ruling. The ruling is manifestly wrong and unjust. We call for the release of the seven innocent, sentenced without evidence," he said.
The murder was used as a pretext by Hindu extremists to carry out a massive anti-Christian massacre in 2008. More than 100 Christians were killed, 600 Christian villages looted, 5,600 homes burnt and over 54,000 people displaced in the violence unleashed by Hindu extremists.
The priest said that the Indian Church would appeal before the High Court. “But in the meantime the seven, remain in prison and the suffering of their families continues. Furthermore, who will pay the lawyers? And who will take care of their families and children? An adequate compensation will be needed. The conviction is paradoxical; Christians in Odisha are still victims, not murderers, and many of them are still waiting for justice for the devastating violence they suffered," he said.
The seven Christians are Bijay Kumar Sunseth, Gornath Chalanseth, Budhadeb Nayak, Bhaskar Sunamajhi, Durjo Sunamajhi, Munda Badmajhi and Sanatana Badmajhi.
Sajan George, leader of the NGO ‘Global Council of Indian Christians’ committed to the campaign for the release of the 7, said in a statement: "It is really a heart-breaking story for modern India. Seven people have already lost five precious years of their lives in prison without a fair trial. And thousands of other Christians who survived the most brutal wave of attacks are still living in fear. Prosecutors and judges have intentionally delayed the trial. The judiciary is influenced by Hindu nationalist groups and extremists."
Source: Agenzia Fides, Ucan India