Church people and activists in Orissa have expressed joy at a supreme court directive ordering a report on government efforts to compensate and rehabilitate victims of anti-Christian violence in the eastern Indian state. “We welcome the court order as it could help restore things to what they were before the violence began,” Bipra Charan Nayak, convener of the Survivors Association of Kandhamal Violence, said yesterday. Acting on a petition by retired Archbishop Raphael Cheenath of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, the apex court on Monday ordered the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to draw up a status report on compensation and rehabilitation efforts within six weeks. The court also criticized the Orissa government for its poor handling of relief and rehabilitation efforts. Archbishop Cheenath had alleged the process by which the government chose who were qualified for assistance was seriously flawed. He also said the government had failed to compensate victims enough to match their pre-violence status. Lan Singh Rongmei, a Supreme Court lawyer assisting the victims, said they expect the NHRC would submit a fair and independent assessment. Nayak also accused the Orissa government of not bothering to give proper compensation to survivors of the 2008 violence. He expressed hope the NHRC report would address their concerns. “We will hold a meeting of survivors and present our grievances to the NHRC,” he added. Father Manoj Kumar Nayak, who directs the archdiocese’s social service center, said the Church has petitioned the government several times about property destroyed in the violence, but has yet to receive any compensation. “We hope the NHRC will look into our case as well as all the other Kandhamal victims,” he said. Dhirendra Panda, coordinator for National People's Tribunal on Kandhamal, says the NHRC would not serve its own purpose if it toes the Orissa government line. The national body must take a “proactive” role in representing the victims’ rights and set the standards for the government to follow. Related links: Hindu radical charged with rape of Orissa nun Six-year-old Orissa girl identifies dad’s killer Five sentenced to life for murder during Orissa violence Kandhamal probe a failure, say activists
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