Matters India | February 18, 2020
The seven ‘innocent’ Christians of Kandhamal who have been released recently on bail from the Supreme Court of India after languishing in jail for 11 years were presented at the on-going biennial plenary of the Catholic bishops.
Cardinal Oswald Gracias, re-elected president of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), on February 17 welcomed the seven Baskar Sunamajhi, Bijay Kumar Sanseth, Durjo S Sunamajhi, Munda Badamajhi, Gornath Chalanseth and Sanathan Badamajhi – at St John’s Medical College and Hospital in Bengaluru.
Activists and lawyers have been pointing out that the seven had been fraudulently convicted to life imprisonment for the 2008 murder of Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati in the Kandhamal district of Odisha that was used to trigger the widespread arson attacks on Christians.
“The Church should speak up for these innocents as they are victims of a political conspiracy,” urged out Anto Akkara, a journalist who manages an online campaign for ‘Justice for Kandhamal’ with the website ‘www.release7innocents.com’.
“Bail is not enough. The innocents must be acquitted. All of you must speak up for these voiceless Christians who have been put behind bars to blame the Christian community for the Swami’s murder, ” urged Akkara, pointing out that six of the innocents are illiterates including a mentally deficient.
The appeal of the seven has been dragging on in the Odisha High Court for six years, Akkara noted.
After Odisha High Court rejected the bail applications of the seven a second time in December 2018, the Alliance Defending Freedom and Human Rights Law Network moved the Supreme Court on the initiative of the Catholic Church of Kandhamal.
“Though they are free and out from jail, they remain branded and convicted as murderers. Only when they are acquitted, moves can be made for compensation,” Akkara explained.