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The refugees of Kandhamal can't go home

April 13, 2009

Prasanna D Zore and Uttam Ghosh travel to Raikia in Orissa's Kandhamal district, the scene of horrific violence last August, to discover that life continues to be scary and traumatic for the refugees of those riots.

The murder of Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati, a Vishwa Hindu Parishad priest, on August 23, 2008 by suspected Maoists changed Ilyas Dighal's world, perhaps forever.

His fault: He is a Scheduled Caste whose forefathers converted to Christianity two generations ago.

Ilyas and some 200 others -- who lived in Mondakia, a majority Hindu town some 70 km from Phulbani (the district headquarters of Kandhamal) -- were driven out of their homes after Saraswati's slaying. "Five Christians were killed in the revenge killings by Hindus that followed the swami's death," he recalls.

In the violence following the murder, some 41 lives -- a majority of them Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Christians -- were lost. The repercussions remain eight months later.

Image: Refugees at a camp in Kandhamal

Also see: In Kandhamal, authorities battle heavy odds | India Votes 2009