Orissa tribal community accuses state government of bias

May 12th, 2009 - 12:04 am ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, May 11 (IANS) The Kandh tribals of Orissa has approached the Supreme Court alleging that the state government was helping another tribal community in grabbing their land in Kandhamal district. The court Monday issued notice to the Orissa government on the matter.
A bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, Justice P. Sathasivam and Justice Deepak Verma issued the notice on a lawsuit filed by the Kui Sanskrutik Parishad, representing the Kandh tribals who have been given Scheduled Tribe status.

In its lawsuit, the Kandhs have accused the state government of helping the Panas tribals, who are recognized as Scheduled Caste, in grabbing tribal land on the basis of an apex court order to provide safety and security to Christians in the state.

Detailing their running feud with the Panas community, the lawsuit by the Kandhs, says, “In complicity with the state government, Panas have used the Supreme Court order as a cover to capture land belonging to Kandhs.”

“While the state government had initially recognized that the Panas were using this court’s order to legalise illegal structures, built on land belonging to the Kandhs, they later backtracked under pressure from the Panas and the church authorities,” said the lawsuit.

The lawsuit referred to an apex court order earlier asking the state government to sympathetically consider the Christian community’s plea for monetary compensation to build their churches, destroyed in the arson and communal violence in 2008.

Responding to the plea, the apex court in October 2008, had said, “The state will take a generous view of the matter, will identify the damaged churches, assess the extent of the damage and take steps towards rebuilding them.”

Appearing for the state government, senior counsel K.K. Venugopal had expressed the government’s willingness to help rebuild the damaged churches but only under court’s order, or “even a suggestion” to that effect.

The apex court issued the order on a lawsuit by Cuttack Archbishop Raphel Cheenath, seeking safety for Christians in Kandhamal district, that was ravaged by anti-Christian violence following the killing of Hindu spiritual leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and his four associates on Aug 23 last year.

In an another court proceeding later on the lawsuit, the Archbishop’s counsel Colin Gonsalves had alleged that the state was dilly-dallying in giving appropriate compensation for reconstruction of the churches on the pretext that were built on disputed land.

Venugopal explained to the court that the churches were built on government land and also forest land belonging to tribals, and the state government did not want them to be rebuilt on such land.

However, the Kandhs have alleged that the government was helping the Panas grab their land to build churches.

The Kandhs accused the Panas of grabbing their land in collusion with government officials through manipulation of official documents.

The Kandhs’ lawsuit also annexed with it the names of several state government officials facing department proceedings for fudging land records in their bid to help the Panas grab tribal land.

The Kandhs also accused the Panas of converting to Christianity while retaining their Scheduled Caste tag to get the state benefit of quota in education and employment.

They also accused the Panas, who they said were more advanced compared to them, of having links with Maoists and targeting them through the ultras.

The lawsuit listed several other acts of alleged atrocities committed by the state police in collusion with Panas against Kandhs.

In the lawsuit, Kandhs said that they were being targeted by the state police and paramilitary forces owing to the general perception that they are behind the communal violence against Christians.

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