Rajendra | 25 Mar 2008

The death of an old Catholic woman in the Barakhama refugee camp on
19th march 2008   for want of adequate medicare, and prohibitory
orders banning outsiders from meeting the Christian refugees because
of a  buffalo sacrifice festival in this central Orissa village,
marked a tense and troubled Holy Week in the state.
Visiting Christian Priests and nuns, including National Integration
Council member John Dayal who had come to meet the bereaved family
were unceremoniously ejected by the Assistant Tehsildar, a special
magistrate, on orders of the sub collector. He said there was tension
in the village and he had strict orders not to allow anyone inside the
camp.  The posse of the Central Reserve Police had erected a barricade
on the road to the camp. There was however no ban on the movements of
others in the village.

The old woman, Mrs. Borili Digal, had suddenly fallen ill with fever
two days ago, her son Pero Digal told Dr Dayal and Supreme Court
advocate Mary Scaria who came to the camp. Yesterday, the family took
the women to the local government hospital where she was prescribed
some medicines. "We could not purchase the medicines," Pero Digal
said. His mother died early this morning. She was buried in a hastily
made coffin by the youth in the refugee camp, and then buried in the
Christian hillside cemetery about half a kilometer behind the camp.
The camp is located in a government school.  Borili Digal's husband
Doya Digal had died ten years ago. She is survived by three sons and
14 grandchildren.

The Barakhama camp has 345 Christian families whose houses were burnt
on Christmas Day 2007 by a mob allegedly led by the Vishwa Hindu
Parishad activists. The Parishad is led in the Kandhamal district by
Swami Lakhmananda Saraswati, who is listed in police records for
fomenting anti Christian violence even before the Christmas 2008 .
Seven churches were also destroyed in the violence in Barakhama, part
of the total of more than 100 Christian churches torched by marauding
mobs between 24 and 127 December last year.

Justice Basudev Panigrihi, a retired Orissa High Court judge, has been
appointed the One Man Enquiry commission by the government to probe
the serial arson and killings. The Christian community is demanding a
probe by the Central Bureau of Investigations.

Even as the Barakhama refugees complain of sub-human living
conditions, inadequate food and an utter absence of medical and
sanitary facilities, Civil Rights Groups are trying to bring the
communities together through village level meetings. Groups have also
been organized to give legal aid to the affected families in the
Kandhamal district.

The All India Christian Council has move the Orissa High Court to
bring relief to the victims - a humanitarian activity banned by the
District collector. The Catholic Archbishop, Raphael Cheenath, has
filed a Special Leave petition in the Supreme Court of India calling
for a quashing of the District Collector's orders.