Bhubaneswar, India - The arrest and conviction of a deputy from Orissa over the anti-Christian riots in Kandhamal district is a positive sign which shows the public that criminals can not escape punishment. The law pursues them, even if it takes time to get them". This is the reaction of Mgr. Raphael Cheenath, archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, to yesterday’s sentencing by a state court of Manoj Pradhan to seven years for having committed murder and acts of vandalism during the clashes.
The man is a leading member of the Bharatiya Janatha Party (BJP), the political party that promotes the "return to Hinduism in India” and carries out a vicious campaign of discrimination against religious minorities. Many analysts see the hand of the party behind the ethnic or religious clashes of the last decade. Among other things, he was elected deputy in District G Udaygiri, one of the most affected by the violence of the summer of 2008.
Speaking to AsiaNews, Mgr Cheenath notes that yesterdays' “was a long awaited judgment and it we are happy that the law has taken its course. it would have been preferred if Pradhan was given life term as a deterrent to others. It has restored the faith of the people in the judiciary, it shows that no one is above the law. It also serves as a warning to the criminals, that they cannot get away with anything and they cannot hold the country to ransom- the criminals will be strongly cautioned with this conviction, that the law will follow them and convict them. "
Regarding the situation in Kandhamal district, Mgr. Cheenath says: “There are signs that in Kandhamal the Church is getting stronger, the faith of the priests, religious and lay faithful is emerging stronger, importantly concern, support and communion is very present among about Kandhamal Christians. Within a few days, we will be finishing construction of 2,000 houses and handing them over to the people. While relief and rehabilitation work is going on in a slow manner, our education and trauma counselling and other activities are progressing well”.
With regard to the pacification of the area, the bishop says: “we have two Religious Advocates, Fr Nicholas and Bro. Mark who are trained professionals, - both have been living in Kandhamal district and working full time to bring about peace and reconciliation and harmony. Both of them move around from village to village convoking meetings between the Hindus and the Christians. It is heartening to see, the attitude of the Hindus changing, there is clearly a change of heart in favour of the Christians, they would sincerely like to mend fences with the Christians, and many of them have expressed regret for the Anti Christian violence”. (N.C.)