NEW DELHI (BP)--Nearly 11 months after an unprecedented wave of anti-Christian attacks shook the eastern-India state of Orissa, a reign of terror continues in the region, with former rioters issuing death threats to witnesses.
Of more than 750 cases filed in various police stations in Orissa's Kandhamal and Gajapati districts, only one has resulted in a conviction. Some trials are underway amid reports of armed extremists threatening to kill witnesses.
Dibya Paricha, a clergyman in the Cuttack-Bhubaneswar Catholic Archdiocese, said several witnesses are shrinking away to save their lives. On July 9, a witness in the village of Salapsahi refused to testify in a murder case.
"During the trial, the complainant, the younger brother of the victim, said he did not know anything about the case," Paricha, coordinator of the Christian Legal Association's (CLA) legal cell in Kandhamal, told Compass Direct News. "The previous day, he had said that he would tell the truth so that the culprits would be punished.... From a reliable source, we came to know that he was threatened with death."
On June 30, three men carrying pistols -- Sanjeeb Pradhan, Bikram Pradhan and Pratap Pradhan -- threatened witnesses in the Gondaguda area of Kandhamal, Paricha said.
The three men have been issuing death threats to witnesses through area villages, he said.
"I know them [the three gunmen] personally," Paricha said. "They were living hand-to-mouth until recently, and now they are riding a motor vehicle and threatening the survivors."
Information on the threats has been provided to the sub-collector (an administrative officer in charge of a sub-district), the sub-divisional police officer and the district collector (administrative head), Paricha said, and a First Information Report has been registered at the local police station.
Another witness and complainant in an Orissa riot-related case, 55-year-old Batia Digal, was threatened June 17, Paricha said. Gobida Chandra Pradhan from the village of Piserama and Shricharnan Mohan Pradhan from the village of Dodaingia tried to pressure Digal to withdraw the case, in which a local legislator from the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Manoj Pradhan, is one of the accused. Read More