By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service
SURREY, ENGLAND (ANS) -- A fast-track court has sentenced 12 people to six years imprisonment for their involvement in the communal violence in Orissa's Kandhamal district in 2008.
According to a report by the Press Trust of India (PTI), the judge also fined the defendants 5,000 rupees in connection with arson, rioting and the torching of houses in Jarkinaju village, near Raikia, on Aug. 25 2008.
The court ordered that non-payment of the fine would result in an additional one year jail term.
According to a news release from human rights organization Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), ten others who had been accused in the case were acquitted due to lack of evidence.
Communal violence against Christians broke out in Kandhamal district in Aug. 2008. CSW said it followed the assassination of local Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) figurehead Swami Lakshmananda Saraswati and four of his followers by Maoist insurgents.
It was the worst single outbreak of anti-Christian violence in the history of post-independence India, and caused at least 90 deaths and the displacement of an estimated 54,000 people.
CSW said the overwhelming majority of cases relating to the 2008 violence have either been dismissed or have resulted in acquittals, including many murder cases. Human rights activists working in the area continue to decry what they call significant flaws in the justice system.
Dr John Dayal, a Member of the Government's National Integration Council (NIC) who has visited Kandhamal regularly, said in the news release, "Justice must be done, and must be seen to be done. The aggregate of justice in the fast-track courts in Kandhamal does not inspire a sense of confidence and closure among the victims."
Dayal added, "Many killers are roaming free, and a member of the Legislative Assembly is at large after his conviction, because the courts seem to think he is too important to be incarcerated."
David Griffiths, CSW South Asia Team Leader, said in the news release, "Any convictions in Kandhamal mark a step forward, and credit must also be given to the human rights defenders providing essential legal aid to victims and witnesses. However, we continue to urge the state administration in Orissa to fight against the prevailing impunity, because the victims deserve justice, and because the rule of law is the essential foundation for peace."
Christian Solidarity Worldwide works for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.
For further information, visit www.csw.org.uk.