BJP legislator sentenced to 7 years for Kandhamal riots

Published 30 June 2010  |  
One of the prime-accused in the Kandhamal anti-Christian riots has been sentenced to seven years in prison for a murder case.

A fast track court on Tuesday sentenced Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislator Manoj Pradhan to seven years "rigorous imprisonment" for the murder of Parikhita Nayak, a Dalit Christian on August 27, 2008, after riots broke out following the killing of a Hindu leader.

The 30-year-old legislator was sentenced under Section 326 (making severe injury to a person, which caused his death) and Section 148 (unlawful assembly) and has been ordered to pay a fine of 5,000 rupees. His accomplice Prafulla Mallick has also been convicted and handed the same punishment.

The court's decision was yesterday welcomed by the Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) that called it a "significant boost to the cause of justice in Orissa."

"We continue to encourage the state government of Orissa to ensure that all perpetrators and inciters of the 2008 violence are brought to justice, that victims are rehabilitated properly, and that community reconciliation is pursued," said CSW's National Director Stuart Windsor.

During the 2008 anti-Christian riots, over 40 were murdered and thousands were forced to flee after their homes were razed down.

It is no surprise that Pradhan had over 14 cases against him mostly murder charges. His acquittal in seven cases of lack of evidence came as a shock to the Christian community that expressed grave disappointment for the failing judiciary.

Despite his role in the riots, Pradhan was elected from the G Udayagiri constituency in the 2009 Assembly elections.

The Archbishop of Bhubaneswar-Cuttack Diocese, Raphael Cheenath, meanwhile has hailed the court's verdict against Pradhan. "This is the judgment which we had been waiting for since a long time. This gives an occasion to repose faith in the judiciary."

The Christian community in Orissa however is not fully satisfied by the decision.

"We are not entirely satisfied. Pradhan spearheaded the riots and has several criminal charges against him. He cannot be let off with a simple punishment," said attorney Bhibu Dutta Das, who is also the spokesperson for Orissa regional council of Protestant churches.

"We will be filing a criminal revision in the Orissa High Court for the enhancement of the period or for life-imprisonment. He sure cannot escape the judiciary," Das told Christian Today.

Over 800 criminal cases were registered during the peak of that violence which saw hundreds of churches and Christian institutions burnt down.


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