Capturing the spark that led to communal riot in Kandhamal,Indian state of Orissa against Christians

CHENNAI: In 2008, Odisha’s Kandhamal district witnessed the worst communal violence in its history. Many thought conversion was the main reason. But what led to the so-called conversion?
K P Sasi’s 90-minute-long documentary “Voices from the Ruins: Kandhamal in search of justice” looks at the history of communal violence in Odisha, exposing the reason that contributed to a series of violence, The Times of India reported.

Kandhamal is mainly inhabited by adivasis and dalits, many among them Christians. The hate campaign against Christians in Kandhamal began in the late 1960s and it continued for several decades culminating in violence against minorities in 1980s, 1990s and 2000s, said Sasi.

“In 2008, Kandhamal witnessed the biggest violence on the Christians in modern India. More than 300 churches and worshipping places were destroyed. At least 6,000 families were attacked in the violence and 60,000 people were displaced. It was a shame on our democracy. I made the documentary to create awareness among the public about the survivors of the violence,” he said. “Voices from the Ruins” was screened recently as part of the Chennai international documentary and short film festival at the department of politics, University of Madras.

The survivors of Kandhamal violence, according to Sasi, are having a tough time. “Many who lost their houses are not been rehabilitated. They are yet to get a proper compensation. The documentary brings in the struggles of the survivors in their own voices,” said Sasi, who is an activist-filmmaker.

While shooting for the documentary, Sasi met many Christian leaders who were afraid to speak to him. But Archbishop Raphael Cheenath was different.

“He was the Bishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar when the violence took place in Kandhamal. He was brave enough to stand up for justice for the adivasi Christians and dalit Christians in Kandhamal, though he was neither an adivasi nor a dalit. He was in Mumbai after that, suffering from cancer when I interviewed him for the documentary.

Later, I heard that his stage of life was critical. But even in his critical stage, he was following up with his petition in the Supreme Court for the victims and survivors of Kandhamal,” said Sasi, who has screened the documentary across India. “Many who are responsible for the violence are having a free life today. Unfortunately, seven innocent people are in jail. It shows how ridiculous our system is.”

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