India: ethnic violence and religious extremism on the rise, in five years over 3800 cases

Bhubaneswar, India - In the last five years, India has seen a sharp increase in violence provoked by religious and ethnic diversity. These are the findings from a report submitted by Ajay Maken, Minister of State for Home Affairs, to the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of Parliament in New Delhi.

Over the past five years extremist attacks number more than 3800. The report refers only to those detected by the authorities, but the real number could be much higher. From the 677 cases registered in 2004 it has passed, in a gradual crescendo, to 943 in 2008. The report says that 11Union States registered no cases during 2009, but despite this the country is marked by an average of two attacks per day. Member States lead the sad standings are Maharashtra (681), Madhya Pradesh (654) and Uttar Pradesh (613).

The report on the violence of religious and ethnic radicalism came to the Rajya Sabha in the wake of the review of special law, known as the Communal Violence Bill 2005, which is once again at the centre of political debate after the recent wave of attacks against religious minorities, particularly Christians in Orissa and Muslims in Gujarat.

While the government of New Delhi is studying new judicial and police tools to stem the flow of these episodes, the victims of violence complain about the inaction of the institutions and continuing insecurity.

The case of Orissa is the most striking. At a meeting December 7 in Berhampur, Christian leaders, human rights activists and residents of Kandhamal took stock of the situation: more than 5 thousand houses burned or looted, nearly 300 churches destroyed, more than 50 thousand displaced people and nearly 2 500 complaints of which only 823 registered by the police authorities.

The victims of the pogroms doubt positive verdicts in trials and the complete disbursement of compensation promised by the authorities (to date the distribution of compensation for the violence in 2007 has yet to be completed). That is why they created the Sampradayik Hinsa Prapidita Sangathana, an Association of victims of violent extremism, with the support of the Catholic bishops of Bhubaneswar and Berhampur, the evangelical bishop of Bardhan and organizations like All India Christian Council and Human Rights Law Network.

The unresolved problems are many: from the slow pace of rebuilding homes and churches, to the insecurity in which Christians in the region are still forced to live today. The Sampradayik Hinsa Prapidita Sangathana designed to monitor the individual needs of victims, is promoting projects to help especially women and children and to act together as a united front to put pressure on the civil authorities.