The administration, the Sal trees on the hills, vast stretches of barren fields and nondescript hamlets of this Orissa district give an impression that everything is alright with the people living here. But the reality on the ground is different.
A visit to some villages where Christian families were attacked in the aftermath of the killing of VHP leader Lakshmanananda Saraswati showed that the rehabilitation of the riot-hit population was nowhere near completion.
“I am still not able to return to my village. I have filed a case against those who burnt down our house. Those from the Hindu community have put up an impossible condition for my return. They want that I bring along with me the two youths who had been sentenced to five years’ imprisonment for their involvement in my case,” says Subas Digal.
Digal (32), who belongs to Padhanpada village, is presently living in a rented house at Tengedapathar village near Tikabali, and maintains his family by working on daily wages.
“Of the total eight Christian families in our village, only one family has returned so far. Others are living in different places or distant towns outside the district,” Digal says.
Although there has been no communal clash in the district in the recent past, except for a small conflict between the members of the two communities on the eve of the EU team’s visit, many affected families are still living in relief camps away from their villages.
The process of payment of compensation is still incomplete. Many at Tengedapathar said they had not received any compensation as they were away in relief camps when their damaged houses were surveyed by the authorities.
“What Kandhamal needs now is not relief but measures that would provide livelihood support to a majority of the people who are suffering from poverty, illiteracy and ill-health,” said a villager belonging to the Hindu community at G. Udaigiri.