National Peoples’ Tribunal on Kandhamal (Press Release; August 24, 2010)


The National People’s Tribunal on Kandhamal Violence against Christians recommends a number of steps in order to bestow justice on the victims of communal violence in Kandhamal district of Orissa state.


(The National People’s Tribunal on Kandhamal Violence took place at the Constitution Club in Delhi on 22, 23 and 24 August, 2010. 43 victims from Kandhamal and several study and fact finding reports were deposed before the Jury Panel headed by the former Chief Justice, Delhi High Court – Justice A.P.Shah. The Jury presented their PRELIMINARY FINDINGS & RECOMMENDATIONS (Interim Report) in a large gathering of 400 people along with several media representatives. Please find the Interim Report along with an Additional Note by Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat, member of the Jury Panel, attached herewith for your kind information and reference. The Panel will release their final report within a couple of months.


Also, please see the press release done by the National Solidarity Forum in this regard – that organised the NPT.)


The National People’s Tribunal (NPT) on Kandhamal is an initiative promoted by the National Solidarity Forum,  a nationwide platform of civil  society actors, with the purpose of seeking justice for the victims of communal violence in Kandhamal district of Orissa state.


Kandhamal witnessed an upsurge of violence against the minority Christian community beginning on Christmas-eve 2007, which was considerably aggravated in August 2008, following the killing of VHP leader Swami Lakshmananda. Official statistics, which understate its magnitude, testify to an unacceptable level of violence against the religious minority, who are mostly of dalit and adivasi origin. The recorded cases cover a range of gross violations of human rights, particularly the right to life and security.


The NPT heard testimonies of murder, torture and sexual assault. Many of the victims have suffered displacement from their places of residence and have had their homesteads and means of livelihood destroyed. Many of them have been coerced into repudiating their faith as the price for returning to the villages that they were supplanted from.


The NPT has concluded on the basis of the testimonies of 43 victim-survivors of Kandhamal that the violence there was the consequence of the subversion of constitutional governance in which state agencies were complicit. The NPT has found evidence of a shocking level of institutional bias on the part of the state agencies, leading to their collusion in the violence and connivance in efforts to block the subsequent processes of justice and accountability.


Witness and victim testimonies have shown that women and children have been especially vulnerable in recent outbreaks of violence. The continuing failure of the state and district administration to provide redress for the violence suffered, puts India in default on constitutional guarantees and commitments made under international  covenants.


The NPT has recommended among other things:


That all officials who held positions of authority in Kandhamal during the violence, should have their records scrutinized and strict disciplinary action taken where they have been found wanting;


The continuing program of communal provocation that the groups and organizations of the Hindutva ideology have been engaged in should be ended forthwith through strict administrative action.


Legal aid procedures should be instituted to help the victim survivors seek  justice and to identify the many roadblocks that have been placed in their way;


A special investigation should be undertaken into the accuracy of the First Information Reports (FIRs) that have already been filed;


Where trial procedures have been compromised by weak and ineffective prosecution and willfully recording crimes of lesser magnitude in the FIRs, these should be reopened with fresh charges instituted under applicable provisions of the law;


The state government greatly increase the scope of the compensation packages offered, that rehabilitation of victims be done on an accelerated time frame and security threats they face be dealt with.


A.P. Shah, former Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court, presided over the NPT.


“The incidents of Kandhamal are a national shame and a complete defacement of humanity”, said Justice Shah.


Mahesh Bhatt, eminent filmmaker, also a member of the NPT, adds: “Preventing, stopping and punishing the guilty  of Kandhamal is in all our interests; it is in fact a matter of urgent national importance”.


National Solidarity Forum (Ram Punyani, Dhirendra Panda and Organizing Committee)



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