Christians not consulted before forming Orissa probe panel: Archbishop

October 22nd, 2008 - 11:49 am ICT by IANS  

Cuttack, Oct 22 (IANS) Unhappy with the composition of the probe panel into the recent spate of communal violence in Orrisa that killed 36, a Christian leader said here Wednesday that the “victim community” was not consulted before appointing commission of inquiry.The Orissa government appointed retired high court judge S.C. Mohapatra to head the commission of inquiry that will investigate the violent incidents that rocked the state, especially Kandhamal district, since August this year, killing at least 36 people and leaving thousands displaced.

“I am disappointed with the fact that the chief minister (Naveen Patnaik) did not consult the victim community before deciding on the people to head commission of inquiry,” Archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar Raphael Cheenath said in a press release.

Such appointments, Cheenath said, need to inspire “confidence of the victim community”.

The people to head commissions of inquiries should “in the perception of the victim community, be both independent and strong willed to held officers of the state responsible”, he said.

“Justice Mohapatra issued notice to the victim community in the middle of all this violence to file affidavits by the Nov 15,” he said.

“Victims who do not know where their next meal is coming from or those who are hiding in the forests will hardly be able to meet the deadline,” he said.

“I do not have confidence that the commission will do justice to the victims,” he said.

Cheenath also criticised the Justice Basudev Panigrahi Commission of Inquiry to probe last year’s violent incidents in the same Kandhamal district.

“Our experiences with the Justice Basudev Panigrahi Commission have been demoralising,” the archbishop said.

Advocates for the victim communities appeared before Panigrahi and filed statements on behalf of approximately 275 victims but before they had begun full hearted participation in the inquiry, some Christians and their advocates were threatened.

“They requested Justice Panigrahi to adjourn the hearing for two months but he refused,” Cheenath said.

“This leads me to the conclusion that the Justice Panigrahi Commission is more interested in covering up (the violence targeting Christians),” he said. This was also true for the S.C. Mohapatra Commission, he added.

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