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India

Top court backs additional Odisha compensation claim

Judges direct Indian state government to offer more reparations to victims of 2008 anti-Christian violence

Ritu Sharma, New Delhi

Ritu Sharma, New Delhi

Updated: August 04, 2016 01:18 AM GMT
Top court backs additional Odisha compensation claim

Christians in Odisha on Aug. 25, 2014 demand justice for the victims and survivors of the anti-Christian violence in Kandhamal. (ucanews.com photo) 

India’s Supreme Court has directed the eastern Indian Odisha state government to provide additional compensation to victims of anti-Christian riots of 2008.

The two-judge bench on Aug. 2 called the compensation granted to victims of communal violence in Odisha’s Kandhamal district "inadequate."

The judges were delivering a ruling on a petition filed by retired Archbishop Raphael Cheenath of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar.

The ruling however, did not set down how much extra the claimants should get.

A lower court earlier awarded 50,000 rupees (US$746) in compensation to those who lost their homes and 500,000 rupees to families whose relatives were killed.

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In his petition, the archbishop asked the court for 1.5 million rupees for the families of those killed and 400,000 rupees for damaged houses.

"The Supreme Court has recognized the need of providing adequate compensation to the victims," said Father Ajay Singh, who has been working for the rights of the victims.

It remains to be seen though "how much additional compensation will be awarded and how it will be calculated," he told ucanews.com.

The sectarian violence in Kandhamal was triggered by the murder of a Hindu spiritual leader, Laxmanananda Saraswati, which was blamed on Christians.

More than 100 Christians were killed by Hindu mobs and many more injured or sexually assaulted during seven weeks of violence that broke out on Aug 25, 2008.

Homes, churches and orphanages owned or run by Christians were also targeted.

A 2013 report — "Unjust Compensation" — by Centre for the Sustainable use of Natural and Social Resources (CSNR), a secular NGO dealing with disaster relief, said the compensation the state awarded victims and survivors by was insufficient for them to resume a normal life.

"Many families have not been able to adjust to the changed situation while many have left their villages in search of jobs elsewhere," the report said.

The state government did not enumerate loss of property such as household articles, vital documents (such as educational certificates, land records), agricultural equipment, utensils, clothes, agricultural and forest produce, livestock, poultry, and livelihood-related losses, the report said.

Wide disparities existed in the assessment of the value of the damaged and destroyed houses, and their classification by the government, CSNR said.

"The grossly inadequate amounts of compensation for repair and reconstruction of damaged houses have impeded the housing rights of the affected families," the report added.

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