Kandhamal Violence: Collector Agrees To Compensate Priest Victim’s Kin

Kandhamal Violence: Collector Agrees To Compensate Priest Victim’s Kin

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By Purushottam Nayak

Kandhamal, Oct 28, 2022: Kandhamal Collector Ashis Ishwar Patil has promised to comply with a court order to give compensation to a kin of a Catholic priest, who died during the 2008 anti-Christian violence.

“I have received the High Court Order and asked some clarifications and documents,” the collector told Benadicta Digal, brother of Father Bernard Diga, when he met Patil October 27 in his office in Phulbani, the district headquarters.

Exactly a month ago, the Odisha High Court directed the Kandhamal collector to compensate Father Digal’s legal heir.

The documents sought by the collector are legal heir documents, account number and other requirements from the local tehsildar and revenue inspector. “Don’t worry I assure you to disburse 800,000 in your account immediately,” Benedicta quoted the collector as saying.

The priest’s brother said the compensation was delayed because of the Puja and Diwali holidays that came soon after the court order.

“So, it took time for Pratap Chhinchani, a lawyer who handles Father Bernard Digal’s case, to get the order and start the legal process,” Benedicta told Matters India.

The lawyer got the copy on October 26 and he and Benedicta met the collector the following day.

“Compensation from the government never comes automatically, one has to fight hard for it especially if it pertains to the minority community,” Chhinchani, who is associated with the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) India, a Christian legal advocacy organization, told Matters India.

Father Bernard Digal, the then treasurer of archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, was assaulted during the 2008 violence. He went into a coma and was treated in various hospitals in Mumbai and Chennai. After about a month, he was stated to have recovered. Thereafter, he had gone to Chennai purportedly to see an ailing friend. However, he was admitted to a hospital there where he died, two months after the assault.

Chhinchani said the case came to him in 2019, after 11 years of the priest’s death. The lawyer filed the writ in 2019 claiming compensation at par with other Kandhamal cases.

The state government opposed the claim primarily on the ground of delay and that the priest had recovered from the injuries. The government also maintained that since the priest died two months after the assault, his death cannot be said to have arisen out of communal violence of 2008.

“By the Grace of God, I could demolish both the grounds and recently obtained unprecedented order from the High Court directing the collector to disburse the aggregate compensation in favor of the only legal heir of Father Bernard. On the strength of the said order, Benadicta Digal will receive compensation,” the lawyer said.

Father Ajay Kumar Singh, a lawyer and human rights activist who had referred the case to Chhinchani, expressed happiness that justice has been in the case after 14 years. He commended Chhinchani, ADF, Fathers Manoj Nayak and Kulakanta Dandasena for their continuous efforts to get the compensation.

“It is noteworthy and raises hope for those who have not received compensation. We need to fight for increased housing compensation, and compensation to NGOs,” the priest told Matters India.

Similar sentiments were expressed by Pradeep Nayak, former principal of Jeeban Jyoti College in Kandhamal’s Raikia. Chhinchani’s legal battle has yielded success in difficult and complicated cases, he added.

Father Dibyasingh Parichha, commission for Justice and Peace In-Charge, legal cell of the archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, pointed out that the police had registered 827 cases out of 3,232 complaints. The court dismissed 272 mentioning the lack of evidence since the witnesses were frightened and threatened to turn hostile.

source : https://mattersindia.com/2022/10/kandhamal-violence-collector-agrees-to-compensate-priest-victims-kin/

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