Boston event links Black Liberation and Palestinian movements with the Anti-Caste Struggle

September 24, 2015 by admin  
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Anti-Caste-StruggleBoston, September 21, 2015: The #DalitWomenFight United States tour reached Boston on Saturday, September 19th, 2015 with a panel titled “Dalit Women Fight – Moving Beyond Caste Apartheid” at Encuentro5, a collaborative project and space for progressive movement building in downtown. An estimated 70 people attended.

The speakers were Yamila Shannan – a Harvard educated Palestinian teacher and activist, Nina LaNegra – an Afro-Mexican-Indigenous leader who produces a long-standing Boston-based radio show and open mic, and Brandi Artez, an activist with #blacklivesmatter and Mass Coalition Against Police Brutality. They were joined by Asha Kowtal, Vee Kay, Manisha Mashaal and Anjum Singh from the Dalit Women Fight collective, who are promoting awareness about and fighting caste-based sexual violence against women in India. The panel was moderated by Dolly Arjun, a Boston based activist and member of Survivor Theater Project.

Yamila Shannan said from her experience with oppressive systems in Palestine, the U.S. and Latin America, those in power build an ideology of the ‘other’ – and give it different names but the power group themselves remain nameless and are never a subject of study. In this way the powerful want to remain unnamed because their culture, ideology, and way of life are the “normal,” and so the ‘other’ is abnormal. In this system everything that the oppressed group does is subject to comment, analysis, scrutiny, and diagnosis and are often blamed for their plight. However, the power group escapes the same scrutiny because they are ‘the normal’. She said this invisibility and normalization is ‘perfect power.’

Dr. Shannan also cautioned that the role of the state in oppressive systems is sometimes overlooked or underestimated or sometimes oppressed groups look to the state for justice; the same state that sanctions their oppression. She reminded that the key functions of the state (health, schooling, housing, judiciary, policing, etc.) are in hands of the powerful groups and are thus designed and administered in ways that make it inevitable that the benefits of access to those resources accrues to those groups. Emphasizing the centrality of land ownership as a key course and indicator of power, Dr. Shannan argued that calling the judicial system a ‘justice’ system masks the role of the law and the state in creating and sustaining oppressive systems and structures.

Vee Kay, who is a transnational activist with All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch, and is coordinating the North American Self-Respect tour, explained that caste originated in Hindu scripture in Rig Veda which describes that Brahmins were formed from head and Dalits from feet. She said hierarchy is intrinsic in this system. She explained that knowledge, wealth, power and land are concentrated in the top of the caste hierarchy even though they are a numerical minority.

Nina LaNegra shared that as a practicing Buddhist for last 40 years she was horrified to see a system like caste which does not even believe in the basic principle that all humans are equal. She continued that it was sad to see that Buddhism which believed in equality was overthrown by Hinduism in India and caste was introduced in the land where Buddhism was born. Ms. La Negra said that maintaining independent self-identity of oppressed groups is a crucial part of the struggle and was interested in learning more about the ‘Mulnivasi’ or ‘original inhabitant’ discourse in the anti-caste movement.

Asha Kowtal said that they have been working on sexual caste atrocity cases for the last four years and are confronted repeatedly with systematic caste bias in India’s judiciary and law enforcement system from the top to the bottom. She stated that while the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocity Act was a progressive law passed 25 years ago, the conviction rate for cases of violence against Dalits remains less than one percent. Dalit women continue to face direct threats, harassment, negligence, and non-cooperation from the law enforcement and judiciary. She said that they were now at a crucial juncture and thinking about how to proceed because the legal system is proving time and again to be hostile and unable to serve the quest for minimum justice for those who have experienced the brutalities of caste-based sexual violence.

Ms. Kowtal added that being a Dalit woman multiplies the effect of belonging to only one category. She said that the feminist movement In India primarily articulates the concerns of upper-caste women and the caste question is never seriously on the agenda. Similarly, within the Dalit movement, she said that the caste-gender intersection was often invisibilized.

Brandi Artez from Black Lives Matter Boston said that she was inspired by the Dalit women led movement in India and hoped that Black Women could form such national movements to articulate their interests independently. She said Black Women’s concerns are often not given proper space in the movement. She emphasized that a member of an oppressed group can behave in oppressive manners too. She said that as a Black woman the oppression from the system was very similar to the stories of Dalit women in that their communities were subjected to ideological violence because the dominant culture is attempting to erase their history permanently.

Manisha Mashaal, a state leader, said that she became involved when there were incidents on 40 gang rape cases of Dalit women and girls reported over a period of only 1 month in Haryana. She was shocked to find that in most of the cases even a simple FIR (First Information Report) has not been filed by the police and the families were living in fear. In one case, to persuade the authorities to conduct, what should have been a routine autopsy, on a Dalit girl who was raped and killed they had to protest for seven whole days. She contrasted this to the Delhi rape case of a dominant-caste girl that elicited international outcry and coverage and where the body was flown to an international hospital for autopsy.

Anjum Singh described working in remote areas in Uttar Pradesh where extreme caste-based feudal systems prevailed. There were entire villages where there was not a single person of any age who was literate and in these areas there was extreme vulnerability to sexual violence from dominant castes.

Both young activists described many instances where they were threatened and intimidated by dominant castes collaborating with police who followed them constantly. Their vehicles had been attacked and they operate in a climate of fear even to go on a fact-finding mission after an atrocity case. However, Ms. Mashaal said that she was not prepared to stay at home out of fear and that if she was killed tomorrow she would rather die as a leader than as a victim. She also said that if she is killed for speaking up about caste-based atrocities in India she hopes that before she dies she will inspire a thousand other such Manishas to raise their voices.

The panel was followed by a question and answer session where attendees wanted to learn more about the caste system and other aspects of Dalit struggles. The standing-room only audience was diverse and the majority was not South Asian. Audience members were visibly moved and many stayed afterwards interacting one-on-one with panelists. Critically acclaimed Pulitzer Prize-winning Dominican-American writer, MIT Professor, and MacArthur “Genius” Fellow Junot Díaz was also in the audience and expressed his admiration and support for the panelists. Díaz said that the event was “profoundly important on one level – a master class in the kind of community education and solidarity building that keeps so many of us alive in our communities, but also for the important knowledge about Dalit Women’s struggles without which I am not sure one can really understand what’s going on in the “Shining India”.

The event was locally co-sponsored by the Association for India’s Development Boston, Dorchester People for Peace, FANG North East, Grassroots International, Haley House, Survivor Theater Project and Activist Calendar, who provided financial, logistical and outreach support, and co-organized by Pampi and Loreto Paz Ansaldo, local community artists, activists and educators.

- tcn

Owaisi asks government to spell out its stand on RSS chief’s statement

September 24, 2015 by admin  
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RSS meet in BangaloreHyderabad, September 21, 2015: : Asserting that reservations to other backward classes (OBCs) can’t be discontinued at all, MIM president Asaduddin Owaisi on Monday asked the Narendra Modi government to make its stand clear on the statement by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat.

He said the true face of the government was slowly coming out as it wants Hindu consolidation to ensure that OBC reservation and other reservation comes down.

“We would like to know what is Modi government’s policy on the statement given by the RSS chief who is ideological guru of all swayamsevaks including the prime minister,” the Hyderabad MP said while reacting to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief’s statement.

Owaisi said calling for a review of reservation policy was convenient way of saying that reservation should be discontinued to OBCs. “This can’t be done at all,” he said.

The Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) leader challenged the Modi government to release caste census. “The whole world will come to know what is the actual reality and then OBCs will decide.”

He also wanted to know why the government was opposing promotions to Dalits in government employment.

Bhagwat has called for a review of the reservation policy in the country, contending it has been used for political ends. He suggested that an apolitical committee be set up to examine who needs the facility and for how long.

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Wakf income can solve all problems of minorities: Heptulla

September 24, 2015 by admin  
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WakfHyderabad, September 21, 2015: Minority Affairs Minister Najma Heptulla on Monday said the income generated from Wakf properties across the country can help solve all problems faced by the minorities regarding their development.

She told media persons here that an annual income of Rs.12,000 crore as estimated by the Sachar Committee in its 2006 report will ensure implementation of the schemes without imposing a burden on the government.

She said the Sachar Committee in its report stated that Wakf property is spread over six lakh acres across the country.

As many Wakf properties were encroached, a bill to remove the encroachemnts and develop them is pending in parliament.

Heptulla exuded confidence that the bill will be passed in the winter session or the budget session.

“I will speak to M. Venkaiah Naidu (parliamentary affairs minister) to list the bill in the coming session. If not this session, the bill will definitely be passed in the budget session,” she said.

She said the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Social Justice and Empowerment, to which the bill was referred, recently gave its report.

To deal with the problem of encroachments firmly, the panel recommended increasing imprisonment of up to three years and a fine of up to Rs.1 lakh for encroachers on Wakf property.

She said the department was implementing various schemes for the development of minorities in tune with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s slogan of ‘sab ka saath, sab ka vikas’.

While her ministry was working for all six minority communities, the focus was on Muslims as they are the largest in number and most backward, she said.

She pointed out that the Sachar Committee in its report said the condition of Muslims was worse than that of Dalits.

Targetting the Congress party, she said the Muslims were worst victims of the excesses committed by the party.

She denied that attacks on minorities have increased since the BJP-led NDA came to power last year. “There has not been a single attack or a riot. This is all in your mind,” she said in reply to a query.

- tcn

Catholic cemetery vandalized in Belgaum

September 21, 2015 by admin  
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Catholic cemetery vandalized in BelgaumBelagavi, September 9, 2015: Vandals have attacked a Catholic cemetery in Belgaum breaking and uprooting over a dozen crosses installed atop graves.

Some of the graves inside the cemetery in Bharatnagar of Shahapur had also been damaged and a waiting room inside the cemetery was found burnt. Empty liquor bottles and other material were found littered in the room, the Hindu newspaper reported.

The incident came to light on Monday morning when a group of people went to the cemetery to prepare a grave for a deceased person. The matter was brought to the notice of the Christian priests and community leader and the police.

Police in Shahapur have registered a case and launched investigation.

Bishop Peter Machado of Belgaum said the incident had hurt the community, which treats its cemetery as the “second holiest place, after the church”. “Yet, he prayed that God forgive the perpetrators of this dastardly act,” he said.

He also said that he expected the Belgaum City Corporation to provide proper fencing to the cemetery.

- the hindu

Bangladeshi, Pakistani minorities can stay in India after visa expiry

September 21, 2015 by admin  
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Minority refugees from Pakistan and Bangladesh can stay back in IndiaNew Delhi, September 8, 2015: India on Monday decided, on humanitarian grounds, to exempt Bangladeshi and Pakistani nationals belonging to minority communities, who entered the country on or before December 31 last year, to stay in the country, even after expiry of their visas, an official statement said.

“The central govennment has decided, on humanitarian considerations, to exempt Bangladeshi and Pakistani nationals belonging to minority communities who have entered into India on or before December 31, 2014 from the relevant provisions of rules and order made under the Passport (Entry into India) Act, 1920 and the Foreigners Act, 1946, in respect of their entry and stay in India without such documents or after the expiry of those documents, as the case may be,” the home ministry statement said.

It said the central government has accordingly issued two notifications in the official gazette on Monday under the two acts, adding that there were reports that a number of Bangladeshi and Pakistani nationals belonging to minority communities, such as Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Jains, Parsis and Buddhists, in those countries were compelled to seek shelter in India due to religious persecution or fear of religious persecution.

“They have entered into India either without any valid document including passport/other travel document or with valid documents but the validity of such document has expired. The issue of regularization of entry and stay of such Bangladeshi and Pakistani nationals in India has been under consideration of the central government,” the release said.

- ians

NACEIM- A new coalition of Indian Muslims in the US formed

September 21, 2015 by admin  
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coalition of Indian MuslimsChicago, 8 September 2015: A new coalition of Indian Muslims was formed in Chicago on the sidelines of the ISNA Convention. NACEIM or the North American Coalition for the Empowerment of Indian Muslims was announced formed after a meeting of representatives of several Indian Muslims individuals and organizations.

The announcement of the formation was made by Javeed Mirza on Sept 6th. Mirza has been coordinating the discussions leading up to this coalition formation for the last several months.

Coalition constituents have decided that education will be their top priority.

According to Mirza this new coalition will be not duplicate or undermine the work of the constituent members. Following organizations have agreed to join the coalition:
Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC)
Good India Foundation
Indian Muslim Relief & Charities (IMRC)
US India Policy Institute (USIPI)
Indian Muslim Education Foundation of North America (IMEFNA).

The following organizations expressed their support for the formation of the Coalition:
Support for Educational & Economic Development (SEED)
Foundation for Economic and Educational Development (FEED)
Aligarh Forum
Aligarh Educational Society
Gujarat Cultural Association
Hyderabad Association of Washington Metropolitan Area (HAWMA)
CHIPA society

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Bishops to dedicate day for Kandhamal martyrs

September 12, 2015 by admin  
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Kandhamal tragedySambalpur, September 2, 2015: Catholic bishops in Odisha have decided to dedicate a day to remember those who died in the anti-Christian riots, calling them martyrs of faith.

The regional council of bishops decided to observe “Kandhamal Martyrs Day” every year to remember some 90 Christians killed during the riots in the Kandhamal district of Odisha state seven years ago.

They were killed because of their faith and the observation will commence from next year, Archbishop John Barwa announced after their regional meeting Aug. 31.

“We are pleased to announce that the Church in Odisha would like to honor the Kandhamal martyrs who were killed during the anti-Christian persecution in 2008,” said Archbishop Barwa, whose Cuttack-Bhubaneswar archdiocese covers Kandhamal.

Bishop Simon Kaipuram of Balasore said the bishops may later request the national bishops’ conference to dedicate a day at national level to remember “Kandhamal martyrs.”

The regional bishops are yet to ascertain the exact date in month of August for remembering the martyrs. “It will be done after due consultation with all stakeholders,” Archbishop Barwa said.

The lives of those who were killed will inspire the Christian community at large,” the archbishop told Sept. 2.

Bishop Niranjan Sualsingh of Sambalpur said the celebration Martyrs Day would “strengthen peoples’ faith and enable them to live a life of Christian witness in the world according to the principles of Jesus and his gospel.”

Mobs of frenzied Hindus attacked Christian homes seven years ago shouting to convert to Hinduism or get killed. The violence claimed more than 90 lives and displaced some 56,000 people as mobs burnt down houses, churches and Christian institutions like schools and orphanages.

Reports say Hindu-Christian tension has been simmering for years in the district as its Christian population increased to some 27 percent, registering a four fold increase in four decades.

Murder of Hindu leader—Swami Lakhmananda Saraswati—on Aug. 23, 2008 triggered the riot after Hindus accused Christian for the murder. Maoists later claimed responsibility for the murder.

Catholic priest and social activist Father Ajaya Kumar Singh told that the observation of Martyrs Day would motivate Christian community and others to stand for truth and freedom in the region. “The sacrifice of martyrs would be a source of inspiration for faith and witness in the state, India and internally as well,” the priest added.

- ucan

Muslim board to launch ‘save religion and constitution’ movement

September 12, 2015 by admin  
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MuslimsHyderabad, September 05, 2015: All India Muslim Personal Law Board, the apex body of Indian Muslims, announced on Saturday that it will launch a nation-wide campaign against attempts by the government to impose a particular religious culture.

The board has also involved other minority groups and organisations from depressed classes in its campaign ‘deen aur dastur bachao’ (save religion and constitution).

Voicing concern over the ‘alarming’ situation prevailing in the country, AIMPB general secretary Moulana Sajjad Naomani told a news conference here that as part of the campaign public meetings, seminars and symposiums would be organised to bring public awareness.

He said that there is a threat to the Muslim faith and culture as attempts were being made to impose a particular culture by way of yoga, surya namaskar and Vande Mataram.

“Muslims can never compromise on their faith come what may. The community is disturbed with the developments,” he said while pointing out that India is a secular democratic country and the constitution guarantees the religious freedom.

Naomani said some forces were best upon to distract the community from its fundamental faith and way of life. He cites the examples of large scale changes in the education system and changes in the syllabus of schools and colleges.

The board leaders claimed that efforts are being made to amend the laws, which many affect the Muslim personal laws.

“The communal forces are upbeat with the support of people at the helm of affairs. The growing communalism is not only a danger to the Muslim community but also to other religious, cultural and social groups. This communalism will hamper the growth and well being of the people,” the board said.

AIMPB secretary Moulana Vali Rehmani and other key figures including AIMIM president Asaduddin Owaisi, Abdul Raheem Qureshi and Moulana Khalid Saifullah Rehmani were present.

- tcn

Muslim Board to campaign against imposition of Brahminical culture

September 12, 2015 by admin  
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IMPBLHyderabad, September 05, 2015: The All India Muslim Personal Law Board, the apex body of Indian Muslims, has decided to launch a nationwide campaign against attempts by the government to impose Brahminical culture and vedic dharam.

Voicing concern over the threats posed to the religious and cultural identity of minorities and other groups, the board announced the launch of the ‘deen aur dastur bachao’ (save religion and constitution) campaign.

The board has also involved other minority groups and organisations from the depressed classes in the campaign.

Stating that an “alarming” situation was prevailing in the country, AIMPB general secretary Moulana Sajjad Naomani told a news conference here on Saturday that the attempts to impose a Brahminical social order and rituals like yoga, surya namaskar and Vande Mataram were against the Indian Constitution.

“This is not bothering just Muslims but also all other social and religious units. As the largest minority, the board took up the responsibility to take all along and launch a movement to save our faith and constitution,” he said.

As part of the campaign public meetings, seminars and symposiums would be organised to bring about public awareness and to demand implementation of the constitution in letter and spirit.

The board also plans to wage a legal battle by challenging the imposition of Brahminical rituals. It will also challenge in the Supreme Court the orders of the Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan high courts, which ruled that rituals like surya namaskar should be optional.

“Even optional is against the constitution. Imposing culture of a particular community on all is not fair,” he said.

When asked if the board would also make a representation to the prime minister or home minister, he said this was not on their agenda for now.

Naomani said it is shameful that Prime Minister Narendra Modi says one thing and then does something else.

“We have no objection to what he is saying. What all he is saying is good but there is so much difference in what he says and what he is doing. Our movement is against his actions not his statements,” he said.

The Muslim leader said minorities can’t be deprived of their religious and social identity in the same of development. “On one side you talk of development and on the other you want to deprive minorities of religious and social identity and you take actions and make legislations for this,” he said.

He also took strong exception to the prime minister’s meetings with the RSS leaders and said this was a government of India and not a government of Hindus and Brahmins.

“Muslims can never compromise on their faith come what may. The community is disturbed with the developments,” he said while pointing out that India is a secular democratic country and the constitution guarantees religious freedom.

Naomani said some forces were bent upon distracting the community from its fundamental faith and way of life. He cited examples of large scale changes in the education system and changes in the syllabus of schools and colleges.

The board leaders claimed that efforts were being made to amend the laws, which may affect Muslim personal laws.

“The communal forces are upbeat with the support of people at the helm of affairs. The growing communalism is not only a danger to the Muslim community but also to other religious, cultural and social groups. This communalism will hamper the growth and well being of the people,” the board said.

AIMPB secretary Moulana Vali Rehmani and other key figures including AIMIM president Asaduddin Owaisi, Abdul Raheem Qureshi and Moulana Khalid Saifullah Rehmani were also present.

- tcn

Thousands of Odisha pogrom survivors accuse the BJP of protecting religious terrorism

September 9, 2015 by admin  
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kandhamalBhubaneswar, 01 September, 2015: More than 5,000 Christian Dalits and Adivasis took to the streets yesterday in Raikia, in Odisha’s Kandhamal District, demanding justice and a return to peace and harmony, seven years after Hindu fundamentalists massacred Christians in 2008.

Shouting slogans like `We Want Peace, Not Violence’, `Stop Atrocities on Minorities and Women’, `Do Not Divide People in the name of Religion and Caste, and `We Demand Appropriate Compensation’ (pictured), protesters walked for about two kilometres.

Organised by the Kandhamal Nyaya Shanti O Sadbhabana Samaj, an organisation representing pogrom victims and survivors, the event saw the participation of several political leaders,

Former Union Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar in an Indian Congress-led government was present as were Brinda Karat, a Member of the Rajya Sabha for the Communist Party of India (Marxist), and Kavita Krishnan, a former MP for the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist).

Speaking at the event, Mr Aiyar insisted on not forgetting what happened.  Officials from India’s Communist parties slammed the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for punishing the innocent instead of bringing to justice the guilty.

Christians complain that seven years after the horrific anti-Christian pogroms, whose anniversary fell on 25 August, justice has not yet been served.

The death of Laxamananda Saraswati, a leader of the Hindu ultra-nationalist Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), who was killed on 23 August 2008 by a Maoist group, sparked the violence in Odisha (Orissa).

Even though the insurgents claimed responsibility for the assassination, Hindu radicals blamed Christians. The guru had criticised lay Christians and clergy alike for helping tribals and dalits and had accused them of proselytising among these groups.

Aiyar described what he saw in those days of violence. “As a minister of the central government, I was visiting this beautiful land before the violence. Now that I am back here, I feel deep pain.”

“People of different religion and caste lived here. Then suddenly, many were killed, displaced; their homes and churches destroyed, women raped and molested. Even now many survivors cannot return home.”

The survivors’ association wrote a letter to Indian President Pranab Kumar Mukherjee, citing figures for the attacks. The 2008 pogroms forced 56,000 people to flee their homes, leaving them exposed to looting and fire. Some 6,500 houses were affected this way in some 600 villages.

According to the government, 38 were killed and two women raped. But many more people suffered loss of limbs and permanent, debilitating injuries.

However, according to data collected by the Church and social activists, some 350 churches as well as 35 convents, schools, hostels and welfare facilities were destroyed. At least 91 people, including the disabled, elderly, children, both women and men, died.

The association estimates that at least 10,000 children were forced to quit schools. Many children also ended up in the hands of people traffickers, sold as sex slaves or hired out as domestic workers at the mercy of abusive employers, unable to take the latter to justice because they had to earn a living for their families.

Many others suffered as well, like Fr Thomas Chellan, director of the Divyiajyoti Pastoral Centre, was beaten, and Sister Meena Barwa, who at the time of the attack was with her uncle, Mgr John Barwa SVD, archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar,  was raped.

Unlike them, Fr Bernard Digal died in hospital after months of suffering. He was  honoured at the ceremony inaugurating the first monument erected in honour of the martyrs of the anti-Christian pogroms.

“What the Sangh Parivar* has done in Kandhamal has to be seen as terrorism. If this is not terrorism what else is it?’ said Kavita Krishnan.

In his view, the “BJP is not a representative of the Hindu religion. It represents the politics of hate in the name of religion”.

What is more, “let me remind the government here that instead of providing justice for the victims and survivors of Kandhamal, you are grabbing and punishing innocent people.”

The reference here is to the seven Christians who were sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of guru Laxmanananda after phoney trials that were postponed on several occasions.

Dibakar Parichha, a lawyer, called on the government to identify and prosecute those who are threatening witnesses and members of the Christian community.

According to a survey, assets worth Rs 90 crores (US$ 13 million) were damaged in the communal violence and compensation given so far was only Rs 70 lakhs (US$ 100,000).

Human rights activist Ajaya Kumar Singh, a Kandhamal Nyaya Shanti O Sadbhabana Samaj, said that peace is not the absence of violence; living a life free from fear and insecurity is. Even seven years after Kandhamal’s communal violence, this has not yet come about. Nevertheless, “We still have a right to equality, freedom and justice. These rights are universal, indivisible and inalienable,” he said.

- asianews

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