MUMBAI, India – What happened ten years ago in Kandhamal, India, “should never have happened and should never happen again,” according to Archbishop John Barwa.
Kandhamal is a district of the eastern Indian state of Odisha, formerly known as Orissa, where an orgy of violence descended upon the impoverished Christian minority in August 2008.
A series of riots led by radical Hindus left roughly 100 people dead, thousands injured, 300 churches and 6,000 homes destroyed, and 50,000 people displaced, many forced to hide in nearby forests where more died of hunger and snakebites.
Barwa, the Archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, said the pogrom “will always remain a black spot in the history of the traditionally peace-loving people of Odisha and independent India.”
“What was heartbreaking was that the massacre of the innocents continued unabated for months. The attackers snuffed out human lives, destroyed and demolished churches, homes, schools, hospitals, dispensaries, offices, and centers working for the improvement and development of the poor and marginalized people especially the tribals, dalits, OBC [other backward class] and others. Women and young girls were gang raped and thousands had to flee to the jungles in fear and despair,” the archbishop said in a statement.
Dalits are the former “untouchables” of the Hindu caste system, while India’s Tribal people live outside the caste system, and therefore face discrimination.
Both Tribals and Dalits have long been at the bottom of society in terms of income, literacy, and life opportunities, and, in one of the typical pathologies of poverty, tensions between the two groups are common.
Read more at Crux.