ON THE VIOLENCE IN THE KANDHAMALA DISTRICT
PRELIMINARY REPORT OF THE FACT FINDING TEAM
LED BY DR JOHN DAYAL WHICH VISITED THE KANDHAMALA DISTRICT, ORISSA ON
29TH DECEMBER - 3RD JANUARY AND FROM 1ST JANUARY TO 3RD JANUARY 2008
RELEASED AT BHUBANESWAR 5TH JANUARY 2008
1. Introduction: A tragedy that was waiting to happen and a tragedy
that could repeat itself. Conclusions from the facts as the Fact
Finding Team found them.
2. Significance to Orissa state, Nation, and Church in India -- issues
of grave concern
3. Fact Finding Team Composition
4. Tour programme; Phulbani aborted visit 29-30 December 2007, and the
second visit and 1st to 3rd January 2008
6. Main Findings of simultaneous violence
7. Suggestions to Union and Orissa Government and Church;
8. Annexure : Illustrative case histories
1. A tragedy that was waiting to happen and a tragedy that could
repeat itself. The following are urgent conclusions from the facts as
the Fact finding team found them.
1.1 The Events in the Kandhamala hill district of Orissa in the
Christmas Week from 22nd December to 1st January 2008 are a story of a
tragedy foretold, of political and official condoning, if not actual
support to the activities criminals and political activists spreading
bigotry, the ideology of hate and violence. It is also a painful
narrative of police and administrative indifference, repeated
complicity and consistent incompetence. And finally it is the
documentation of an utter collapse of the law and order machinery on
24th, 25th, 26th and 27th December 2007. So much in a state where
Christians number about 2 per cent, less than the national average.
1.2 There is an urgent Caution, and a Warning in the Kandhamala
developments: Unless everyone - Union Government, Orissa Government
and its agencies, and religious, social and development agencies wake
up and act in concert, there is more tragedy waiting to happen. Like a
coalfield fire, passions and tensions are simmering, wounds are
suppurating. Only a Judicial Enquiry by a Supreme Court Judge,
assisted with the findings of a criminal investigation by the Central
Bureau of Investigations, meets the ends of justice.
1.3 It is beyond doubt that the violence was premeditated, pre-planned
and the work of a well disciplined group to ensure simultaneous
eruption across the Kandhamala district within hours of the first
incident, and to sustain it for five days despite the presence of the
highest Police officers in the region. It is clear that the attackers
were, in the main, upper castes non-tribals and non-Dalits, migrated
from other districts of Orissa and other states, though some youth of
the suppressed communities had been persuaded to join the mobs. The
role of the Rasthriya Swayam Sewak Sangh, Bajrang Dal, the Vishwa
Hindu Parishad, the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram and their extension
organisations must be subject of an intensive investigation by the
Central Bureau of Investigations.
1.4 The sequence of events is quite clear. The Christian community and
its institutions were targeted for more than 48 hours with the
police looking on, and being physically present at the spot in many
cases. The anti Christian violence continued till 27th December 007.
The anti Hindu violence in Brahminigaon took place more than 60 hours
after the first Church was burnt down.
1.5 There are unique, unprecedented and possibly dangerous elements to
the Kandhamala violence of Christmas Week 2007, although the state has
an unhappy history of recorded and unrecorded persecution of
Christians, including the burning alive of Australian leprosy mission
worker Graham Stuart Staines and his sons Philip and Timothy, and Fr
Arul in 1999, attacks in Rakia block of the Kandhamala and other parts
of the hill tracts of Orissa.
1.6 This is the first time at least one Hindu Oriya non-tribal house
cluster has been destroyed by arsonists, affecting perhaps a total of
97 families in the villages of Brahminigaon and Godapur.
1.7 This is the first time that there has been reported incident of
an exchange of fire between the police and a mixed group of tribals,
non tribals and outsiders in Bamunigaon on 27th December 2007. It is
in fact a dubious first for India in which Christians' involvement is
alleged. This by itself must be subjected to close study by academics
and state organisations, as also by the Christian leadership.
1.8 This is the biggest recorded case of such a allege number of
Christian houses burnt, in Brahminigaon and Barakhama, other than
Churches, convents and Hostels which have been targets of violence in
other states, most notably in Gujarat 2002, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh,
Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, and occasionally even in New
Delhi, Haryana, Punjab and Kashmir. We have recorded over 200 cases of
violence across the country before the outbreak in Kandhamala in
1.9 The burning of medical centres and hostels speaks of a criminal
disregard for humanity and the welfare of the people. We were told of
several instances where nuns said they and their patients were in need
of food and medicines.
1.10 This is the first time in history since Independence that may be
3,000 Christian men, women and children are forced to live in two
refugee camps, eating boiled rice not fit for human consumption
because of the quantity of sand and grit, and living in the cold wit
no toilets, precious little medical care and no woolens. In the camp
in Brahminigaon, they share this misery with their Hindu brothers and
sisters. The irony is not lost. In the Super Cyclone and other natural
disasters that devastated the state of Orissa in the past, Christian
NGOs and Church groups were almost always among the first to set up
relief camps and rehabilitation projects for the common people
irrespective of the consideration of religion and ethnic identity.
1.11 The quality of violence against the Christian faith must be
recorded so that lessons can be learnt. It has to be seen to be
believed. Hate so deep and pungent does not augur well for the
country, and of course, poses an immediate threat to the ideals of
secularism and freedom of faith the right to life and the right to
dignity enshrined in the Constitution of India. Church buildings are
broken, nuns manhandled, priests chased away, convent cows killed as
their straw is set afire. These are heinous crimes. The ravishing of
statues of Mary, grinding her face under foot till nothing remains but
shreds, desecrating the Host which Catholics hold to be the Body of
Christ, and vandalizing of ritual holy material before setting
everything on fire speaks of a ideologically cultivated venom that has
percolated deep and will need deep political and social activism to
quell, defeat and eliminate.
1.12 The police force of the district failed on all counts. Government
must ensure that in future police action is not thwarted by
roadblocks, however big the tree that has been felled, communication
failure and lack of mobility. It is a matter of regret for the people
of the state, and shame for the Orissa Police authorities, that
several incidents of grave violence and heinous crime were committed
while the police look on. This happened in more than one block
1.13 It is a matter of regret that till 3rd January when we spoke to
the last police officer before leaving the district, we recorded an
extremely partisan, even bigoted, behavior in senior field police
officers of the rank if Circle Inspector and Sub Divisional Police
officer. Senior development officers of the rank of Commissioner in
their language to the victims, and to us, displayed a condemnable
cynicism and bias towards a minority community. We are happy to record
that junior and young tehsildars rushed in the last days show a more
1.14 There is a continuing reign of terror. Many villages are now
villages of women. The men are in hiding. Elsewhere, entire villages
are deserted. Steps must be taken to create a situation in which the
people can return to their homes and not live in terror.
1.15 Despite four days of extensive investigation, we have not been
able to speak authoritatively of the number of dead killed by
arsonists, in clashes, in police firings, or of injuries. Two dead in
Brahminigaon and two dead in Balliguda are confirmed by the police --
the one killed in police firing remains unidentified. Any one dead
body just confirms a single death, but does not tell how many others
may have died whose bodies have not been recovered by the authorities.
1.16 Similarly, only major Church buildings, particularly of the
Catholic Church and the Church of North India and the Baptist church
can be easily counted because they are along the roadside in major
crossroads and towns. Independent Evangelical churches and mission
stations of major denominations exist in villages which have still not
1.17 The State Government's claims of an overlay of the issues of
Maoist activities in the region, the agitation of the Kuis, and the
Christmas Week violence is not tenable. The presence of Maoist or
Naxalite and the Kui movement are real in some blocks, but the nature
of the violence against Christians is in a group by itself. Whatever
overlay does exist could have been overcome and much violence
prevented if the authorities had not given permission to the hartal,
or closures, on Christmas Day, a date with which they are, and ought
to be, familiar as educated persons.
1.18 Attempts are also being made to present the incidents as a Tribal
versus Christian conflict. The evidence is to the contrary. The
relations between Christian tribals and Christian Non tribals,
Christian Dalits and Dalits of other faiths, as well as between
Christians belonging to the tribal and Dalit communities remain
cordial as they have been historically. The issue that remains
pertinent is the targeting of Dalit and Tribal Christians by political-
1.19 It is clear that Christians, both Tribals and Panos, and Dalits
of various religious persuasions, are particular victims of violence.
Persons opposed to the demand by a section of the community to seek
Scheduled status have mobilised and hijacked some of the youth of
their followers to join the mobs in various hamlets and town. The
issue of Scheduled Tribe status must be amicably resolved with the
help of a judicial or similar commission, and through appropriate
enquiry without delay.
1.20 The government must, also, sympathetically consider the
classification of a group of people who are being discriminated twice
over because of their religion. This is a group which was listed as a
Scheduled tribe under the British government, and then listed as a
Scheduled caste by the State administration. Those of them professing
the Christian faith are denied protection of the law, and access to
affirmative action programmes of the government, on both counts. They
do not get Scheduled Caste Reservation and other privileges because
hey are now Dalits. And they do not get the privileges their Dalit
brothers and sisters get because as Christians, they are no longer
supposed to be even Dalits. They remain in an inhuman, un-
Constitutional limbo, discriminated against just for their religious
beliefs. This discrimination must end forthwith if the guarantees
under the United Nations Charter and the Indian Constitution of
Freedom of Faith are to have any meaning.
1.21 The Government of India, the Supreme Court of India and other
State agencies must take notice, and learn their lesson. Peace
committees as being constituted are not the answer. They have lost
credibility. Victims have lost faith in committees constituted of
their persecutors. Truth and Reconciliation and an entirely unbiased
State are the answer. Every one has a role to play in this.
1.22 Keeping in view the deep distrust that victim communities have of
the local police officers, Central Police Forces must remain in the
area will confidence is restored.
1.23 Peace and reconciliation will be possible only with justice and
truth. The guilty must be identified, prosecuted with all the might of
the State. Biased officials, as much as corrupt officials, are
responsible for the lack of development in the Kandhamala region. They
must be identified so that they are never again in command positions
where they can join with communal political elements pursing their
agenda of hate. There are many wise suggestions contained in the
Justice Wadhwa Commission report that enquired into the murders of the
Staines family, as also in other commissions set up in the aftermath
of communal incidents in other states. They need to be implemented,
specially those relating to the police and the administration, and
fundamentalist organisations, if Orissa is to remain peaceful.
1.24 Orissa does not have forums such as a State Minorities Commission
which can move fast to restore confidence. The State Minorities
Commission, as recommended by the national Minorities commission, must
be set up soon with statutory powers.
1.25 Relief too must consist of materials and compensation according
to national standards set in states which see communal violence and
persecution, and it must also contain compassion, fairness and
1.26 Irrespective of the slogan Swami Lokhanananda Saraswati, who has
made Kandhamala his home in recent years with an avowed objective of
purging the region of every Christian presence, Christians are not
Enemies of the people of India, or of the State. To say that, as he
says repeatedly even in the presence of the police, "Whosoever
converts to Christianity becomes an enemy" is a crime under the law of
the land. To say "Christians will not be tolerated.' And to say it on
National satellite channels is equally a crime. Action must be taken
in the interests of justice and protecting the Constitution. This
saintly gentleman is obviously not just above the law, but is the Law
in the area, judging by the attitude of the Police and local
administrative officers towards him.
1.27 National TV channels and segments of the local media need to do
some introspection if in their reportage of the Kandhamala
developments, they have observed the Code of Ethics of the Editors
Guild of India, and practices observed in their reporting. Secularism,
fairness and truth must remain part of the training of your media
persons in Media insitutions as week as in Print, Television and Cyber-
media Organisations as an on-going process. It is interesting to note
that Video interviews of Lokhanananda Saraswati were made by a private
videographer, a known activist of the RSS, within the premises of a
medical centre of another RSS activist, the tape then telecast without
further corroboration. In the tape Lokhanananda Saraswati repeatedly
said, "When people become Christians, they become enemies, they become
enemies of the nation. I will NOT tolerate this" [translated from the
Hindi/Oriya]. This statement, assiduously propagated, went a long way
in fanning the fires.
1.28 THE STATISTICS OF THE VIOLENCE:
1. Deaths - Police confirm three deaths - One in the police firing
[Unidentified, but unofficially listed as Christian by the police] and
two [one Hindu, One Christian] Two each in Barakhama and Brahminigaon.
Human Rights activists understand that six persons have died in the
police firing in Brahminigaon. The bodies have not been found,
presumed taken away by the mob. There have been no deaths reported in
the arson though several priests and nuns had a close encounter with
2. Missing: There are persons reported missing from almost every
hamlet. This is the subject of long term investigations. Many have
fled out of fear of the police. Some are in safety with relatives.
Others are in police custody with the police not admitting or
confirming this. It will take many weeks before a count becomes
3. ARSON: FIRE WAS THE INSTRUMENT OF CHOICE. The arsonist mob was well
motivated, well armed and had come prepared with weapons and iron
cutting instruments. The following is a preliminary list of the
properties/places destroyed and desecrated:
CHURCH INSTITUTIONS DESTROYED [Total - 71]
PARISH CHURCHES [Total - Five]
VILLAGE CHURCHES [Total - 48 ]
Kamapada - Balliguda
Ulipadaro - Bamunigam
7 [Seven] churches, Sirtiguda, Balliguda
4 [Four] churches in Phiringia
7 [Seven] churches in Phulbani
4 [Four] churches in Ruthungia
4 [Four] churches in Kalingia
2 [Two]churches in Tikabali
4 [Four] village Churches - Nuagam
3 [Three] more village church
This list of village churches is not exhaustive for reasons of
topography and accessibility
CONVENTS [Total - 5]
PRESBYTERY [Total - 4]
HOSTELS [Total - 7]
Pobingia 2 [Two]
Balliguda 2 [Two]
Brahminigaon 2 [Two]
Minor Seminary (Balliguda)
3.1.6 OTHERS: [Total - 2]
188.8.131.52 Vocational Training Centre (Balliguda)
184.108.40.206 Sarshnanda, leprosy centre (Pobingia)
3.2 HOUSES DESTROYED / BURNT AND LOOTED [Total - Over 500]
3.2.1 400 Houses destroyed and looted in Barakhama, Tractors, cycles,
motorcycles / shop goods burnt
3.2.2 31 Christian Houses burnt in Brahminigaon
3.2.3 67 Hindu Houses Burnt in Brahminigaon Oriyasahi
3.2.4 30 Christian houses burnt in Ullipadar [Brahminigaon]
[Arson in Phirignia, which continues, is political involving
supporters and opponents of former Orissa minister Padmanabha Behera
and the Caste issue]
3.3 SHOPS /OTHER PROPERTIES DESTROYED [Total - 126]
3.3.1 Brahminigaon 81
3.3.2 Godapur 
3.3.3 Barakhama 
3.4 Vehicles and Other properties destroyed : Survey not yet done
3.5 Animals Killed:
3.5.1 One Cow, Black Jersey milch cattle, Balliguda Convent
consequent to arson
[TOTAL PROPERTIES DESTROYED IN ARSON AND MOB VIOLENCE - 697]
RELIEF CAMPS: Government of Orissa has set up two relief camps in
Barakhama and in Brahminigaon in school buildings. The conditions in
both camps are inhuman and shameful, particularly the utter lack of
regard for the needs of women, children and the ill. Despite its
experience of natural calamities, the government has not learnt
lessons in immediate succor and assistance to the distressed and
needy. We find incomprehensible that the Union Home Minister and the
Orissa Chief Minister came in a helicopter to Barakhama, came to the
Relief camp, and chose to sit under a shamiana or tent and talk to
the people across a rope. They did not walk down a few meters to the
class rooms where injured and sick people were lying down. Nor did
they even bother to look at the cooked rice, full of grit, which the
people had to eat for want of anything else.
2. SETTING UP OF THE FACT FINDING COMMITTEE:
The first act of violence [see narrative and sequence of events,
below] violence took place on the morning of 24th December 2007 in the
small town of Brahminigaon, which has a Police Station, the office or
the Revenue Office and other institutions. This is a major entry point
to the entire Kandhamala hills region and an important market place.
Some Christians own shops and are comparatively better off than
others. They have mobile phones, as does the parish priest whose
Church was the first to be burnt down. They informed Archbishop
Raphael Cheenath and his office, and they in turn informed others
including Dr John Dayal in New Delhi. Dr John Dayal and others
immediately informed the national media in New Delhi and Mumbai. But
it was Christmas Eve and News Planners were focussed on the
celebratory and commercial aspects of the Holiday season. The event
did not get the coverage it deserved.
Church and Civil Society groups however were alerted, in swift order,
the offices of the Prime Minister, President and Union Minister were
informed as was the office of the Chief Minister of Orissa. The Prime
Minister was not initially available, but a delegation called on Union
Home Minister Shivraj Patil on 27th December 2007. President Mrs.
Pratibha Patil was met with by the Bishop of the Andamans and Nicobar
Islands, and eventually Archbishops Cheenath and Archbishop Vincent
Concessao of Delhi met with the Prime Minister. Two public rallies and
candle light vigils were taken out in New Delhi as also in Mumbai,
Bhubaneswar and other cities.
At those rallies, it was decided that the facts of the Kandhamala had
t be ascertained in detail and without bias.
At a meeting of Christian and other activist groups in Bhubaneswar,
the fact finding group was set up
The fact finding team consisted of
1. Dr John Dayal, Member, National Integration Council, Government of
India, Senior Editor and Political Columnist, and well known national
Human Rights activist with experience of many People's Tribunals and
fact finding Missions.
2. Advocate Nicholas Barla, Lawyer and Human Rights expert from
Rourkela with experience in Police and social conflicts in the State.
3. Mr Hemant Nayak, social scientist and Human Rights and Development
The team was facilitated by many persons at various stages.
The team made two visits to the district. The first visit was aborted
at the Phulbani offices of the Police superintendent on 29th
December 2007 after having visited affected churches and Convents in
some of the area. The second visit was from 1st January to the night
of 3rd January 2008 and covered almost every affected area barring
It is important to record the circumstances of the first visit. We
believe that Truth must prevail, and that facts, if unearthed early,
naturally quench doubts and ensure that rumours are not given
currency. W noted in our Press statement in Bhubaneswar on 30th
December 2007: I report with deep sorrow and anguish that I and a five
member Fact Finding Team that had gone to the Phulbani area of
Kandhamala district on Saturday, 29th December 2007, was forcibly
expelled by Inspector General of Police Pradeep Kapoor who ordered the
Phulbani Town Police Inspector to ensure that I left the district that
night. The Town Police Inspector then made us follow an armed police
escort for a one and a half hour drive through the night darkness till
we reached the border of Ganjam district, where he left us. We could
return to Bhubaneswar by 4 am today, 30th December 2007, deeply
distressed and feeling very frustrated with the experience. The fact
finding team was set up at a meeting of activists in the Swosti Hotel
in Bhubaneswar on 28th December 2007 to get an authentic first hand
account of the developments and the violence in the Kandhamala
district because rumours, absence of authentic media reports and often
inaccurate government accounts of the casualties, had left the people
confused. There were also fears that lack of authentic information
would impact on the confidence building measures and the peace
process. I was requested to lead the Fact Finding Team in view of my
experience in Gujarat, Nandigram, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan
the Northeast. As a matter of abundant precaution, I wrote to the
Director General of Police, Orissa, on 28th December 2007. I, inter
alia, said "I am a Member of the National Integration Council,
Government of India, and the National President of the All India
Catholic Union. I am part of a Fact Finding team set up by civil
society and Human Rights groups to assess the situation in the
violence affected areas of Orissa for us to be able to formulate
People's initiative for confidence building and peace. The team,
consisting of six persons including me, intends to leave Bhubaneswar
on the morning of 29th December 2007 and return in the evening of 31
December 2007. We will have a night halt in Phulbani. We will
appreciate any assistance and facilitation we can get from the Orissa
Police and in particular from the Police forces of the District. I am
sure your office will take the necessary steps, and inform the
District Police of the area." We drove to Phulbani on 29th December;
reaching safely and without any problems, by about 5 p.m. En route we
were able to assess the damage done to the NISSWAS School of Social
Work set up by Dr. R K Nayak, IAS retired and currently a Member of
Parliament, Rajya Sabha. We also saw the damage done to the Carmelite
Convent and the Carmel English School. Nuns we interviewed told us how
attempts were made to set the convent on fire even as the Nuns were
cowering in a room where they had locked themselves in. Two sisters
who could escape injured themselves in the process. Later, we went to
the Offices of the Police Superintendent to discuss with them our
onward journey to Balliguda that evening or early next morning, and to
see if there was need for Curfew Passes, which are normally given to
Media and other groups. The Inspector General of Police, Mr Kapoor,
the Divisional Commissioner and the Deputy Inspector General of Police
were present in the room. I was questioned in some detail, always very
politely, by Mr Kapoor who wanted to know about my membership of the
NIC, my credentials as a journalist and the books I had authored. He
also photographed my colleagues and me with his Mobile Telephone
camera. I gave a patent reply to every single question. I also pointed
out that this was not a government enquiry, but that I would prepare a
report I would submit to the authorities and which would also help
facilitate the National Minority Commission members who are scheduled
to visit the spot on 6th January 2008. I reminded the police were a
peaceful group, and our team included an Advocate, apart from
interpreters and with expertise in ethnic studies. Mr Kapoor was ever
polite, but remained adamant. My colleagues felt they were being
interrogated in a police station. Mr Kapoor said he would not allow me
to proceed, or even to remain in Phulbani. He said it would not be
safe for me, or for the persons with whom I would stay. He said the
Rapid Action Force had been deployed in Phulbani town and I had to
draw my inference from this fact about the situation and tension in
the place. I told him there was no way we would be crashing police
barriers. It was not for fear of our lives but in deference to the
rule of law that we would go. He was apparently not satisfied. He
called the Phulbani police officers and ordered them to escort me out.
The Kandhamala region needs not just media coverage and government
relief operations. The rescue, relief and rehabilitation programme has
to be done in a transparent manner. Already there have been too many
complaints of police and administrative apathy, complicity and even
aggressive force against one community, the victim community.
Independent fact finding teams and the information they give help in
maintaining transparency and positively contribute to the peace
process. I hope we will be able to visit and record the situation in
every affected village as an important part of building long term
peace, harmony and in ensuring relief, compensation and
rehabilitation. -- John Dayal."
I am very happy the fact Finding team could visit the Kandhamala
region again from 1st January 2008 without police escort, without
police protection, without official cooperation and with no help other
than the goodwill of all people - Christians and Hindus alike.
3. CALENDAR, CHRONICLE AND NARRATIVES OF VIOLENCE:
3.1 SEQUENCE OF ERUPTION OF VIOLENCE BY DATE - dateline --
Church youth and Ambedkar Banika Sangh take permission for Christmas
Celebrations. Officials approve. Police C-Inspector and SDO inspect
site and approve. Promise protection from 23rd December
23rd December 2007 - Hindu youth tell Church women and youth not to
put up Christmas decorations. Christians show government permission.
24th December 2007 - 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. - Mob forces shops and haat
weekly traditional market to close. Police intervenes to get shops
opened. Mob attacks market-goers. Christmas pandal on road is
destroyed. Two Christians [Sillu and Avinash] are shot and injured
2 p.m. Rumours of attack on Lokhanananda Saraswati attacked in
6.30 p.m. Evening Church attacked in Balliguda, Convent [cow killed in
convent in arson], Seminary, CNI Church, Pentecostal church and
burnt. No police action. No curfew.
25th December 2007 - Attacks take place in Brahminigaon, Pobingia,
Srasananda, Barakhama, Budaguda, Nuagaon, Tikkawali
26h December 2007 --
28th December 2007 --
VIOLENCE AFFECTED REVENUE BLOCKS, KANDHAMALA DISTRICT:
3.2.1 Daringbari Block
3.2.2 Balliguda Block
3.2.3 Phiringia Block
3.2.4 Phulbani Block
3.2.5 Tikabali Block
3.2.6 Khajuripoda Block
3.2.7 Nuagaon Block
3.2.8 Gumsar Udaigiri Block
3.2.9 Tumudibandha Block
3.2.10 Kothaghar Block
3.2 CHRONICLE OF THE KANDHAMALA VIOLENCE Dec 2007
Sl no. Name of the place Date Time Narration
1. Brahminigaon 9.12.2007 Swami Lokhanananda Saraswati commonly
referred to as Swamiji, had come to Brahminigaon and had a secret
meeting with the Bighneswaro Banika Sangh who are the members of RSS
and VHP. The situation was tensed in and around Brahminigaon on that
2 Brahminigaon 19.12.2007 Permission for Christmas Celebration was
obtained from the Sub Collector and CI Office Balliguda.
3. Brahminigaon 21.12.2007 SDPO visited Brahminigaon. The Christian
elders met the SDPO and apprised him of the situation., he also
assured his participation in the celebration. He also had called the
leaders of both the parties, the Hindus and Christians, but the Hindus
did not come for the meeting.
4. Bhubaneswar 21.12.2007- 23.12.2007 The Arya Samaj of Bhubaneswar
organized a three days YOGA PROGRAMME of Baba Ram Dev at Capital High
School, Unit III of Bhubaneswar. In 25 to 30 buses of people were
brought from Kandhamala for the purpose.
On 22nd December all the presidents of RSS from each Panchayat of
Kandhamala District had a secrete meeting from 11.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m.
to an unknown place.
On 23rd evening the yoga class was over and all of them back to their
respective places. And on 24th morning onwards the attacked begun in
the different Church communities.
5. Kandhamala Dist. Headquarter 22.12.2007 The Christian Jana Kalyan
Samaj of Kandhamala met the collector and S.P. and handed over written
statement against the BANDH called on 25th and 26th December at
Kandhamala, but to allow the Christians to Observe the Christmas.
6. Brahminigaon 22.12.2007 The S.P. had come to Brahminigaon to
enquire about the situation, learnt the matter but did not put any
7. Brahminigaon 23.12.2007 1.30 p.m. Dr. B.R Ambedkar Banika Sangh of
Brahminigaon together with six Sarpanches of the area have appraised
the situation and have sent fax message to S.P , Phulbani. And met him
Dr. Ambedkar Banika Sangh of Brahminigaon went to the police station
and discussed about the tensed situation in the area. They also
discussed about the secret plan of performing Yagyan (puja) by Swami
Lokhanananda Saraswati and VHP leaders in front of the church.
8. Brahminigaon 23.12.2007 6.30 p.m. One of the members of the Vanika
Sangha of Brahminigaon phoned Superintendent of Police Mr. Narasingh
Bhol and requested for police force in the village.
9. Brahmunigaon 24.12.2007 6.00 a.m. The Sarpanches of six Gram
Panchayats together with Village heads went to the police station and
requested to allow the market to be opened, which the RSS and Bajrang
Dal people were opposing.
10. Brahmunigaon 24.12.2007 7.00 a.m. The ASI came to the market and
told the people to open the market.
11. Brahmunigaon 24.12.2007 8.30 a.m. The weekly market was going on.
Suddenly the RSS leader Mr. Bikram Rout, Dhanu Pradhani and others
came and threatened the sellers and buyers to stop marketing. They
also ordered the shopkeepers to close down their shops and there were
already tussled between them. One of the buyers was beaten up by the
Bikram and group. The Christian People were in need of buying some of
the important articles as 25th was Christmas day.
Some of the Christian members were making Christmas decoration, big
pandal for worship, crib, sound system etc for the night worship. The
same miscreants came there and asked the community to close down and
they threatened not to have any celebration. Here also some tussle
between both the groups took place
Bikram and others RSS, VHP, Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram Bajrang Dal members
came with guns, swords, iron rods and other lethal weapons and
attacked on the Christians around 10 a.m. The Christians were unarmed
and ran away to the forest to save their lives. On the process two
were injured by bullet shot. Some are injured by other weapons.
The police was inactive, did not take prompt action on the miscreants
and all this took place in the present of the police. The police
station is just 400 yards from the Church.
All the Christians ran away to the forest including the priest and
nuns leaving theirs all belongings.
12. Dasingbadi 24.12.2007 10.45 a.m. Swami Lokhanananda Saraswati who
is known as SWAMI at Jalespatta of Tumudibandha P.S., Dist Kandhamala
was going to Brahmunigaon by his vehicle. One private bus was going
ahead of his vehicle. Due to narrow road and due to technical fault of
the bus it stood on the road at Dasingbadi near upper primary school
There is a small village Church in Dasingbadi a little distance on the
road side and the Christian youth were busy in decorating their
village church for the Christmas. Christmas music was going on.
Lokhmananda hearing the sound apparently asked his bodyguards and his
driver to go and have it stopped. The security guards and the driver
(who are govt. security men) went to the spot, got into an argument
with the Christian youth, and at some time pulled down the decorations
and the sound boxes etc even as the Christian youth confronted them.
There is no evidence of a physical assault on Lakhmananda Saraswati.
Because of the controversy surrounding this incident, there is need
for a Central Bureau of Enquiry specifically into this as part of a
Then with his vehicle he went to Daringbari and showed his security
men to medical officer Dr. Pradhan at Daringbadi Community Health
Center. There he stayed for two days in the family planning office
looked after by Dr. Pradhan (who is also a Bajrang Dal member ) There
the I. I.C. of Daringbari Mr. Pradhan provided 8 to 10 police man
guarding him. The IIC has advised Mr. Laxamananda not to go to
Mr. Dharmendra Pradhan and Mr. Surendra Sahoo who both are of
Daringbari went to meet Lokhanananda. Lokhanananda, hearing the
incident, that there was tussle between his security men and the
Christian youths at Dasingbadi. They also felt sad about the incident
and proposed to have peace meeting and resolved the issue. But
Lokhanananda said "KRANTI NO THILE SHANTI NAHI , Mote kichhi mado hoi
nahi" (in English "without revolution no peace, I am not hurt") in
the present of the I.I.C. and other local leaders.
On 25th December at about 1 p.m. he left Daringbari community hospital
by block jeep through Soroda road.
One RSS boy Muna Sahoo who is having video camera he took the
interview and statement of Lokhmananda which was telecast on satellite
television channels in the media.
13. Balliguda 24.12.2007 7.30 p.m. At About 7.30 p.m. more than 400
miscreants, kumkum on their foreheads, chanting "Jay Sri Ram" most
likely the Bajrang Dal and RSS members with guns, Swords, axes, Pharsa
and other lethal weapons in their hands broke opened the main gate of
the church, abusing the few Christian youths who were busy in
decorating and giving the last touches for the worship on the birthday
of their Lord Jesus. There was stoning.
They came running towards the youths shouting "SALLE CHRISTIAN MANONKU
JEEVAN RE MARI DIYO, GIRJA DHANSA KORO" means "kill the Christians,
destroy the church." The youths together with priest, nuns, hostel
boys, seminarians seeing the barbarous nature of the crowd ran to the
jungle to save their lives.
Then they collected all the furniture, worship materials, hostel
godowns, furniture and all the belongings and set them fire that
became assess within few minutes.
The schools, hostels, the sisters residence which is in another
compound was also ransacked and put in to fire. The sisters and the
hostel girls had very difficult time to save themselves.
One of the sisters was caught and man handled very badly.
A cows died as a consequence of the arson.
All this took place in the presence of the police officials' right
from the Tahsildar, BDO, Sub Collector, IIC etc.
14. Barakhama 24.12.2007 4.00 p.m. 1. The Christian community already
knew that some incident would take place, they started their worship
at 4 p.m. itself.
2. A group of hoodlums about 2000 people having red marks on their
foreheads, armed with swords, axes, pharsa etc. chanting "Jay Sri Ram,
Christian manonku mari diyo( Kill the Christians), Girija dhanso koro
(Destroy the churches) etc. destroyed the Pentecostal church, which is
in the eastern part of the village.
3. Seeing the mob and the flames the Christians of the village started
running towards forest to save themselves.
4. The people whose houses are burnt mostly of the Christian community
and now are sheltered in the Barakhama high school.
5. The male members of the family are staying in the jungle and
officials demanding their females to bring their husband else they
would not receive relief materials. On the other hand when the male
members are coming to the camp from the jungle, the police are booking
them on the falls cases and arresting them. The FIRs are not accepted
by the OICs.
15. Brahmunigaon 25.12.2007 10.00a.m.
11.45 a.m. 1. First the mob entered the village Church of Ulipodor and
destroyed and burnt 30 Christian houses and also beat them very badly.
2. The mob entered the main gate of the church breaking the grills,
houses, Church, the priest residents and other places and put fire and
thus irreparable damage was done to the Christian community as a
16. Pobingia 25.12.2007 9.00 am The mob entered the Church of Pobingia
and instantly burnt the Church, Presbytery, Boys Hostel, Convent and
girls Hostel .
17. Brahmunigaon 25.12.2007 2.00 p.m. 1. The miscreants once again
gathered and entered in to the market and burned the shops and houses
of the Christian community.
18. Bodagan 25.12.2007 Night Church was attacked
19. Kamapada 25.12.2007 Night Church was attacked
20. Kulpakia 25.12.2007 Night Church was attacked
21. Sirtiguda 25.12.2007 Night 7 Churches were burnt .
22. Phirignia 25.12.2007 Night Church was attacked
23. Srasa Nanda 25.12.2007 10.00 p.m In the presence of Magistrate and
22 police personnel the church was attacked and burnt.
24. Ruthungia 25.12.2007 Night 8 village churches were burnt.
25. Kalingia 25.12.2007 day Village Church was burnt.
26. Tikapali 25.12.2007 day Village Church was burnt.
27. Nuagaon 25.12.2007 Night 9 Village Churches were burnt.
28. Dalagaon 25.12.2007 Night Village Church was burnt.
29. Iripiguda 25.12.2007 Night Village church was burnt.
30. Krutumgarh 26.12.2007 1. The non Christian tribals of Krutumgarh
collected Rs. 50/- from each family. They had the YAGYAN (puja) in the
village. After the puja they were dancing with weapons like swords,
sickle, pharsa etc.
31. Padangi 26.12.2007 Night 1. Boriguda Village Church was burnt.
32. Sankharakhole 26-12-2007 Night 1. The mob entered the Church of
Sankharakhole and attacked the Church, Convent, Priest residence
33. Brahmunigaon 27.12.2007 12.15 p.m 1. There are differing accounts
even by the victims as to how the Oriya-sahi houses were burnt. Some
say villagers of local area burnt houses in Paikosahi Others say it
was outsiders, even from outside the district.
The police are not giving still a coherent account as to which
direction the mob came to the walled where civilians had taken
shelter, or were being kept, and the premises of the police station
nearby. This is not an open area, and involved rough ground, a narrow
road and many houses. Because this is in the nature of an encounter
between a mob and the police, with an exchange of fire, this needs a
separate enquiry under the law.
There is also need for a through probe as to what happened to
civilians injured in the police firing as many rounds were fired. The
police admit to one uniformed person injured.
There was police force and it opened fire on them and two were killed
and the crowed was dispersed.
THANKS: This Fact Finding Team's work would not have been possible but
for the assistance provided all through by many individuals,
organisations and institutions. Institutions and organisations we wish
to thank in particular are the Catholic Bishops Conference, the
Archdioceses of Delhi and Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, Dioceses of Rourkela
and Berhampur, the All India Christian Council, the All India Catholic
Union, the United Christian Forum New Delhi. Individuals include
Archbishop Raphael Cheenath, SVD of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, Archbishop
Vincent Concessao of Delhi, Catholic Fathers Dominic Emmanuel, Madhu
Chandra and Advocate Mary Scaria in Delhi and Bernard Bhubaneswar in,
Mrityunjay and Madan in Bhubaneswar, Dr Pran Parichha for his
motivation and his assistance with the media. Special thanks are due
to Mumbai Film Director Mahesh Bhatt and Maharashtra State Minorities
Commission Vice Chairman Dr. Abraham Mathai for making it possible to
meet with the Chief Minister and facilitating the Team's interactions
with government functionaries. Many Christians and Hindus, tribals and
non tribals, government servants and others, who were of help, wish to
remain anonymous, and we honour tier sentiments as we thank them.
Thanks must also be expressed to two brave drivers who did not care
for rumours and drove our SUV with care on the terrible roads.
And most of all, we wish to thank the Press -- the Print and the
Electronic Media -- in new Delhi an Bhubaneswar whose interaction,
assistance and coverage brought focus on the violence, n hopefully,
will also help in the healing of the wounds of the Kandhamala hills.
4.1 Illustrative Testimonies of key witnesses / victims
4.1.1 Text of the oral testimony of Catholic Father Rabi Sabhasundar,
Parish Priest, Bamunigam, and a born in the district, who saw his
parish church attacked, vandalized and then set on fire in the
"The Church of Our Lady of Lourd, Bamunigam, Kandhamala District,
Orissa consists of around 1630 of 217 families. Like any other year
this year 2007, the people of Bamunigam were preparing and getting
ready to celebrate Christmas. So they had put up Christmas Crib
(Pandal) in front of Christian shops where they used to do usually in
every year. The Christmas Crib (Pandal) was decorated with all light
and sound and with all the necessary decorative articles. For the
Pandal making and celebration, a committee (Ambedkar Banika Sango) had
already got the permission from the Collector, Sub-Collector and SP.
With the prior permission as they were proceeding with all the
preparation, on the eve of Christmas celebration, in order to disrupt
the celebration the committee of Banika Sango of Hindu group along
with the president of RSS Mr. Bigram Rautho 40 year of age son of
Kishore Rautho, Nuagam, Ps. Bamunigam, and Mr. Dhanu Pradhani s/o
Bainath, Jhinjiriguda, Bamunigam went to the police station and
complained repeately to SI not to have weekly market in Bamunigam. On
Monday 24th December, 2007 at 10 am, the RSS president Mr. Bikram
along with his RSS members and Hindu business people went to market
place and forcibly stopped the people not to have market on that day.
Meanwhile the SI of Bamunigam Police Station along with 5 Sarapanch of
the locality and majority of the village customers came to the market
place and convinced the Mr. Bikram and his team to carry out the
market. However, soon after the departure of the SI, Mr. Bikram and
his team physically harassed many villages people those who had come
to the market. Some were thoroughly beaten with sticks and iron bars.
They also showed the weapons to attack them. With the short period of
time nearly 200 people came running to the Crib with guns, spears,
axe, and many other tradition weapons and they completely destroyed
the well decorated Crib. Along with this they also broke, looted and
burnt all the shops of Christian people. At the same time some people
pour the petrol and burnt three motor bikes of Christian people. Angry
mob also burnt one generator, light and sound system and other
decoration articles of people of Digapainy, Gajapati district, who
were hired and employed by their owner for the Christmas celebration.
In the process of destroying the Crib one boy of 15 years of age was
shot with a gun. Whereas another boy of 12 years of age was very badly
attacked and hurt on the head with a sharp edged sword. Seeing the
pitiful condition of this boy when his parents were coming to rescue
him, both of them were beaten and hurt with iron bar and by tradition
weapons. Seeing this fearful attack, many Christians of the locality
and many village customers those who had come from near by villages
run for their lives. Taking the advantage and disperse of the helpless
people, all the more Mr. Bikram together with his RSS members, Hindu
business people and many other Hindu people destroyed the shops of
Christian people one after the another. On 24th December, 2007,
instead of celebrating the Midnight Mass, most of the Christians with
their small children and babies went to the near by forest and had a
sleepless night and took shelter on that sever cold dark night. On
25th December, 2007, many people those who took shelter in the forest
came to their houses thinking that the atrocity will be stopped. But
the atrocity still continued on that day too. At 10 am. around four to
five hundred RSS people, Hindu business people of the locality and
many other Hindu people those who came from near by Hindu villages
marched towards the Christian Street with a slogan "Jai Sri Ram", Jai
Hanuman and they were also shouting and abusing with all kinds of
bulgur and threatening words like 'Magyasala', 'Padry Manongku
Jalidio, 'Semango Church ebang Anustano Pudidio, Christian manongu
Hatao', and burnt most of the houses and looted their properties.
After having completely destroyed the houses and properties they
forcibly entered the Church campus with the guns, petrol, diesel,
kerosene, bombs, and many other traditional weapons and broke and
burnt the doors, windows, statues, altar, and many other musical
instruments, lights and sound, furniture and many other church and
religious articles including Bible and completely desecrated the
church. Meantime some of them entered the presbytery and burnt the
Father's residence including their two motor bikes, one generator,
steel and wooden almirhars and all the documents and furniture and
looted several lakhs of properties. After the complete destruction of
the church and the presbytery the angry mob went around in search of
priests and nuns to harass and burn them alive. Hearing and seeing the
destructive behavior of the RSS people, three priests, one deacon, one
regent, two brothers, five sisters of Holy Cross Convent, Bamunigam
and four domestic workers run to the near by jungle together with many
Christian people to save their lives. It is a matter of great sadness
that all these atrocities, and destruction was done in the presence of
police force. Till today priests, nuns and people are in forests and
other near by villages with great fear and anxiety. Though the
government has lunched to give relief to the people of both the
communities, unfortunately one community of Hindu people are given
relief and Christians are neglected. When Christian mothers go to ask
for the relief, government relief officials harass them and telling
them to bring their husbands. After having experienced the atrocities
and harassment from both Hindu community and the government officials,
the Christian people continue to live with fear and anxiety. We don't
know how long this atrocity and violence will persist."
4.1.2 Statement of Sr. Zerina, CSST, eye-witness, Principal, Carmel
"The School is situated just about two kilometers away from the
Superintendent of Police and Collector's offices in Phulbani. There
are 550 students in our school. The school was started in 1989. There
are 98% Hindu students and only 2% Christians in the school. There are
4 Sisters, 4 Christian's teachers, 13 Hindu teachers 2 Christian staff
and one Hindu accountant in the school. Sister Zerina is principal
since last two years after completing her M.A. B.A. Bed in 2006. I
got news on 23rd December that something would happen and she also
leant about the Bandh 25th and 26th December. I wanted to go to Bhopal
for a meeting the same evening but one of the shopkeepers told her
not to go the next day or at night. The sisters decided not to go to
Bhopal for meting. On 24th some local people came and greeted us at
6.30 pm. They also reported that there automobile tyres were being set
on fire at Madiguda chowk, just 200 meters away from the school. The
same time The Parish priest Fr. Mathew phoned and up said there would
be no Holy Mass in the Christ Jyoti parish church. Sr. Zerina also
received a phone call from Sr. Christa from Balliguda, saying the
problem was escalating. The deputy collector, Shri Arun Parichha,
rang up to tell us that there was some problem in Brahminigaon. He
said the vehicle of the RSS leader has been attacked and there will be
more problem and he has seen the law and order. At about 8 p.m. Sr.
Christa from the Convent in Balliguda rang up Sr. Zerina saying the
convent of Balliguda had been set on fire. She asked us for our
prayers. Te sisters and I panicked. At about 8.30 pm we got the news
from Sr. Christa from Balliguda saying they were safe, but feeling
suffocated because the premises were filled with smoke. That was the
last connection we had with our sisters from Balliguda. On 25th around
9.30 a.m. one Hindu teacher Mr. Sarangdhar came to the school about my
travel plans. Fr. Bijya Nayak from Krotamgarh also rang up and warned
us of a possible attack on school, convent and parish. We rang up a
neighbour, Mr. Paul Raj from Sadhan to ask for help from police.
Meanwhile Sr. Christa also rang up and advised as to leave the place
taking all the important document. At 11.00 a.m. I went for prayer,
there were total of four Sisters, 2 maid servants and 2 girl hostlers
who were also with us the convent. At this moment Sr. Rohine shouted
"They have come inside." The mob was shouting "Jay Sriram" and "Kill
the Christian". They all carried swords and other weapons. On seeing
the crowd Sr. Rohine and Sr. Hemanti jumped over the convent wall and
ran for their lives. One of them sprained her leg in the process.
After 15 minutes of the attacked some policemen are came to our
school. There has been damage the school, and the school bus."
4.1.3 Statement of Fr. Laxmikanta Pradhan , Catholic Church Balliguda
"On 24th evening around 7.30 p.m. a huge group of Hindu
fundamentalist/ Rahudise with kumkum on their foreheads and carrying
lethal weapons like sword, guns, iron rods, axes in their hand
rushed to our church abusing the priest and sisters in very filthy
language. They broke the main gate and entered the church compound,
started breaking all the Christmas decorations, pandal and worship
materials. Then they wanted to kill some of the Christian who were
busy in preparing the Christmas celebrations. We ran for our life, and
took refuge in the jungle. From the hill we could see the flames
rising from our Church, residence and hostels. Later we found the
church and all the worship materials were burn down. In the residence
and hostels also we found that everything was burned down.