Indian Christians sentenced to life in prison for 2008 killing of Hindu leader, even though others already confessed
By Madison Ruppert
Editor of End the Lie
Seven Indian Christians were sentenced to life in prison for the 2008 murder of a Hindu leader, even though Maoists claimed responsibility for the killing shortly and two Maoists confessed to carrying it out.
Christians in India were violently attacked after the killing of Laxmananda Saraswati, part of the growing persecution of Christians around the world.
The seven individuals were sentenced to life in prison and a fine of 10,000 rupees each by a court in the Kandhamal district of Orissa. One senior Christian leader in India called the Oct. 3 sentencing a “travesty of justice,” according to Christian Today.
Soon after Saraswati was killed on Aug. 23, 2008, a top Maoist leader claimed responsibility for the act. The Maoist leader, Sabyasachi Panda, told reporters that Saraswati was killed because he “did not pay heed” to the Maoists’ warnings.
In July 2009, two young Maoists confessed to the killing of Saraswati along with other attacks.
Even though Maoists took responsibility for the killing of the Hindu leader, militant Hindus violently attacked Christians in the Indian state of Orissa, officially rendered in English as Odisha as of November 2011.
The number of Christians reported killed varies from the official number of 56 to over 100 and thousands more injured in the violence that ensued. Church in Chains places the number of injured as high as 18,000.
Some 5,600 homes were destroyed and around 56,000 Christians were left homeless. Little assistance has been provided by the government and the “intentionally ineffective police force,” according to International Christian Concern.
Almost 300 churches and other Christian properties were destroyed as well.
UCA News reports that over 400 villages were purged of all Christians and many women were raped.
Some described the 2008 violence as “an anti-Christian pogrom.”
Over 3,500 complaints were filed after the 2008 violence and only 827 cases were registered by police, according to Spero Forum.
Only 315 cases were submitted to the courts and of those only 68 ended with a sentence. A minimum punishment was given to 412 people.
In all, 1,900 people were reportedly acquitted and as of January 2012, 304 of the cases were still awaiting trial, three years after the events.
Christians were told, “Come back as Hindu or don’t come back at all!” during the violence, according to Barnabas Fund.
John Dayal, executive secretary of the All India Christian Council, also said that aggressors “asked them to convert to Hinduism and burn a Bible as a sign.”
The seven Christians sentenced last week have been in prison since January 2009, even though others confessed to the crimes and there appears to be little evidence against them.
The men were convicted on Sept. 30, a decision which the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the major Hindu nationalist party in India, welcomed.
Sajan George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), denounced the decision.
“It is shameful that innocent fathers of families have been locked in jail for almost five years and subjected to trials for a crime they did not commit,” George said.
The treatment of the killing of Christians in India provides a stark contrast.
Christian Pastor Michael Nayak, for instance, was found dead on July 28, 2011 with a deep wound behind the neck. Police dismissed it as “accidental death,” and Nayak’s brother was reportedly threatened when he went to police to demand the reopening of the investigation.
Saul Pradhan, another pastor, was found a few days after he disappeared on Jan. 10, 2011. His death was also ruled to be “accidental” and the case was closed, despite wounds that pointed to murder, according to Church in Chains.
In 2011, Volker Kauder, a German delegate and chair of the Christian Democrat Party’s parliamentary group spoke of the violence in 2008 after visiting Orissa.
“The fact that some perpetrators of the violence are still at large is an obstacle to reconciliation and long-term stability,” Kauder said.
Yet seven Christians are now slated to spend the rest of their lives in prison, even though others have confessed to the crimes they are accused of committing. The contrast between the treatment of Christians in India and others is quite stark indeed.
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