Supreme Court of India orders State Government of Odisha to compensate victims and survivors of violence against Christians
What’s at Stake:
Justice and compensation for innocent Christian victims of persecution
In late August 2008, Christians in the Indian district of Odisha were subject to some of the most extreme mob violence in recent memory. Instigated by Hinduvsta activists, the frenzy of aggression left 123 tribal and Dalit Christians dead. A further 30,000–40,000 people were displaced, 295 churches attacked, and thirteen schools, colleges, and non-profit organizations were reported damaged. During the course of the rampage, police and other state authorities failed to take action against the Hindu mobs.
With so many Christian homes destroyed, displaced families had to stay in state sponsored relief camps. The condition of the camps was poor, yet many families had no option but to remain there for years, because the State Government failed to provide enough compensation for them to rebuild their properties.
The pain of the Christian victims was exacerbated by the failure of the justice system. In the aftermath of the brutality, victims lodged over 1,000 complaints with local police. Of these, only 827 were formally registered and in 315 of these cases, no offence was found or the offenders allegedly could not be found. Just 78 of the trials resulted in a conviction.
In response to the situation, the Initiative for Justice, Peace and Human Rights filed a Criminal Writ petition. The petition sought an investigation into crimes committed by the Central Bureau of Investigation during the violence. It also called for the setting up of special courts to deal with crimes committed during the persecution. Another petition was filed on behalf of Archbishop Raphael Cheenath, which sought directions to relevant authorities to provide adequate facilities in refugee camps and sufficient compensation for victims of the violence.
In August 2016 the Supreme Court passed its judgment. It ordered the state to give extra compensation, in addition to that already given, to those who had suffered injuries because of the violence and to those whose houses were damaged. In its judgment, the Supreme Court commented: ‘The State could do well in looking into all these 315 cases and see that the offenders are brought to book… The concerned authorities must see to it that the matters are taken up wherever acquittals were not justified on facts.’