She struggles with the language, but not the answers, as she recalls her ordeal. Then, suddenly, she lowers her head and tears begin to flow. The seven years since she was raped by a mob in a tribal hamlet in Kandhamal has not diminished the 27-year-old woman’s trauma. Most of the 25 men accused of the crime have been acquitted. Only two still face trial. The fear of being stalked by the accused still haunts her.
“I was raped because my uncle refused to become a Hindu. I told the mob I am Hindu … only he is a Christian. But they said this would teach him a lesson,” she told The Hindu. Violence had engulfed the district after the murder of Vishva Hindu Parishad leader Swami Lakshmananda Saraswati on August 23, 2008.
Kanakrekha, 34, and her two daughters saw her husband Parakhit Nayak being hacked to death and burnt by a mob near their house in Tiangia village. The accused in the case included BJP MLA Manoj Pradhan, who was convicted by a fast-track court for culpable homicide not amounting to murder in 2010. But Kanakrekha and her daughters now live in a slum in Bhubaneswar, unable to return to the village or tend to their house and fields for fear of being victimised by the powerful perpetrators.
Over the years, these women have been reduced to mere statistics: just two of the 56,000 people affected by the 2008 anti-Christian violence in Kandhamal. On Monday, they were part of a delegation led by CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Brinda Karat that met President Paranab Mukherjee to seek re-investigation of the cases and adequate compensation on the lines of the package announced for the victims of 1984.
“As time goes by, a large number of cases have ended in acquittal. Meagre compensation has been paid and the utter failure of the criminal justice system has come to the fore,” Ms. Karat told The Hindu. Of the 3,232 cases that were filed, only 827 were converted to FIRs and eventually life imprisonment has been handed down to only 12 of the accused.