Christian Indian wives wait for justice Ten years after arrest of their illiterate husbands,

The wives of seven Indian Christians imprisoned for 10 years for a murder many believe they didn’t commit (World Watch Monitor)

It was around midnight on 4 October 2008 that Munda and Sanathan Badamajhi, and Durjo Sunamajhi, were arrested by dozens of police in their shanty homes in India’s eastern Odisha state.

Ten years on, these three illiterate Christians, from the remote Madaguda area of Kandhamal are yet to return home.

Four other Christians – Bhaskar Sunamajhi, Bijay Kumar Sanseth, Buddhadeb Nayak, Gornath Chalenthseth – also arrested by police in December 2008 – continue to languish in jail.

All seven were charged with the August, 2008 murder of Hindu leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati that triggered the worst orchestrated anti-Christian violence in modern India.

(Nearly 100 Christians were killed, 300 churches and 6,000 Christian houses plundered and torched, leaving over 56,000 homeless in Kandhamal after a Hindu nationalist group promptly claimed that the murder was a ‘Christian conspiracy’).

The seven were abruptly convicted to life imprisonment in October 2013 by a third judge after two trial court judges – who had openly indicated during the trial that the accused were innocent – were transferred one after another during the long four years of trial.

However, in June 2015, two top police officials – who had relied upon the same conspiracy theory to ensure the conviction of the innocent Christians – testified before the Kandhamal judicial inquiry commission that the allegations were false. Despite this, the appeal hearing has been constantly postponed.

“My husband had never gone to that place (the ashram where the Hindu leader was shot dead). He was with us at the time the Swami was killed. How could he be punished for that murder?” Pabitra Sanseth told the media in mid-September, tears pouring down her cheeks.

With three other wives, she had travelled to Bhubaneswar, 380 kms from home, for the dubbing into Odia of a documentary ‘Innocents Imprisoned’.  (It was commissioned by journalist Anto Akkara, who has championed the men’s case for release).

“Since my husband was a firm believer and active Christian leader, they targeted him,” said Pabitra about her husband Bijay – the only one in the group to go to school in childhood.

Jeremiah Sunamajhi, nephew of Durjo, has a witness to his uncle being carried away by the police around midnight. But in fact, when the Swami was killed, Durjo had been out of Kandhamal with Jeremiah to board a train to southern Kerala to seek a job.

“It is a matter of shame and sorrow that the judicial system has let the innocents down,” Jeremiah told WWM. “Even Hindus around us ask why they are still in jail.

“We cannot understand why their appeal (in the Odisha High Court) is dragging on,” lamented Jeremiah who had met the Indian president in 2015 in a delegation seeking the release of all seven men.

“Our lives have been ruined by the illegal arrest and shocking conviction of my father,” Nithaniel Chalenseth, son of Gornat, told WWM October 5 from Kotagarh area of Kandhamal where his father was the Block Panchayath (Area Village Council) president before his arrest.

Nithaniel had to drop out of Engineering studies and seek a job to support his mother and younger siblings. A decade on, Nithaniel is still to settle down with a steady job as he often has to rush home for family concerns.

Here is a summary of the men’s cases:

1. Sanatan Badamajhi

Sanatan Badamajhi’s wife Badusi said that a few days before her husband’s arrest, on 4 October, 2008, some Hindu village leaders had warned him he would soon be arrested.

But on the day of the Swami’s murder, Badamajhi, 36, had been tending cattle and sheep, according to a Hindu neighbour, Nakula Mallick.

“Police never came to investigate or ask anything about him. If we had been called, we would have testified for him in the court,” said Mallick.

The judge said a gun was seized from Badamajhi’s house, but his wife says they never owned a gun.

Police also claimed to have seized an axe from the house, but his wife said the police brought the axe from the house of Mukantho Mallick, a Hindu neighbour, who had accompanied them to identify the house.

“Later, Mukantho has been repeatedly complaining that the police took away the axe. I had only one axe and it is still in my house,” she said. “Can anyone understand my pain and sorrows of the last 10 years without my innocent husband?”

2. Munda Badamajhi

Munda Badamajhi, 34, was arrested on the night of 4 October, 2008, at his home in the village of Duringpodi.

The prosecution said it recovered a gun from his home, but his wife, Bandigudali, said

“We never had a gun and my husband could not even use a gun,” she said. “This is shocking…

Did he commit any mistake? But still to spend 10 years in jail!”

 

3. Durjo Sunamajhi

Durjo Sunamajhi, 35, was woken up on the night of 4 October, 2008, when police barged into his house in Budapada village and took him away, as well as the barrel of a broken gun that they found in his house.

His wife Gumili said her husband was on a train towards Kerala on the day of the Swami’s murder and had never touched the gun, which she said was an old and broken hunting rifle last used by her husband’s grandfather.

“The government claim is that they recovered two guns [from the houses of these people], but actually only one barrel of a broken gun, which has not been used for years, had been picked up,” said journalist Anto Akkara. “[Gumili] says her husband never used it, her husband’s father never used it; only her husband’s grandfather used it. Imagine! And there was only a barrel of the hunting gun. Now, the government claims to have recovered two guns from two houses, but in the judgment the judge says he has got three guns, and he names the three! How is that possible?…”

Gumili told WWM in Oct 2018 “We lost our 10 years without committing any mistake! We want justice!”

4. Bijay Kumar Sanseth

Sanseth’s wife, Pabitra, said police phoned her on 12 December, 2008, and told him to report to the police station the next day. He did so, and has been detained ever since.

However, police recorded events differently, saying that on 12 December Sanseth met three of the other accused Christians at a Maoist meeting in a jungle near the village of Sartuli. They added that Sanseth, 42, had been overheard discussing plans to murder the Swami outside Kotagarh High School. This claim was attributed to a witness, Mahasingh Kanhar, who initially denied the claim, but eventually endorsed it during a retrial.

“Wherever I go, people tell me: ‘He was a good man. Why he is in jail?’” said Sanseth’s father, Salei. “The popularity of my son and his high contacts with government officials have led to this tragedy. Many were jealous of him.”

5. Bhaskar Sunamajhi

Bhaskar Sunamajhi, 32, was playing cards with his friends in the village of Kutiguda when police came to collect him on 13 December, 2008.

“You can return tomorrow,” his wife heard them say, when they took him away. But after more than seven years, Sunamajhi has not returned home.

The judge said Sunamajhi was “hand in gloves” with the Maoists and had undergone several weeks of training at a Maoist camp. However, his wife Debaki said he “never ventured [far] from home”.

Biracha Paraseth, a neighbour, added: “This is a total lie. He was with us on the day [the Swami was killed]”.

Pavitra Sanseth, another neighbour, added: “He is a good man. He will not do such a crime like killing of a Hindu leader. All of us feel very bad about this. Sir, if we all could have gone [to court] and explained his innocence, please tell us how we can help and ask for his release.”

6. Budhadeb Nayak

Before his arrest, one of the village elders urged Nayak, 42, to go into hiding, but he refused, saying he had done nothing wrong.

Police later came to his house, threatening his eldest son, 20-year-old Lingaraj, that they would soon arrest his father.

On the night of 13 December, 2008, they came back and Nayak was arrested.

“He was wearing only a [sarong]. They tied his hands to take him away. He asked for clothes and I gave him a shawl,” recalled his wife, Nilandri.

Three days later, the family visited him in Balliguda jail. The police said he had been with Maoists in the jungle on 12 December, alongside three of the others accused.

7. Gornath Chalanseth

Chalanseth, 41, was taken into police custody on 13 December 2008, but initially suspected nothing as he was active in politics.

His cousin, a pastor, accompanied him to the police station, and saw him taken away.

A couple of days later, after his cousin had not returned, he went back to the station and heard he had been charged with murder.

The Arabs Are Coming, The Arabs Are Coming – to Congress

Editor George Duke’s comment (While Trump is in White House look what is happening? )

Ilhan Omar, a Somali-American Muslim running for a House seat in Minneapolis; Rashida Tlaib, a Palestinian-American Muslim running in Detroit; Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, running in the Bronx and Queens; and Leslie Cockburn, running in Virginia, are all part of a new fragment of the Democratic party which has “dared to breach what has been an almost inviolable orthodoxy in both political parties, strong support for Israel, raising the specter of a crack in the Democratic Party that Republicans could use to attract Jewish supporters,” according to Catie Edmondson, reporting on Sunday for the New York Times (A New Wave of Democrats Tests the Party’s Blanket Support for Israel).

But These candidates are not necessarily made from the same cloth. The realities of political life in America and whom you turn to for campaign support (nudge, nudge, wink, wink), as well as the fact that 18 leading members of the Democratic caucus in Congress once stood on Mount Sinai together (the one in the Wilderness, not on Fifth Ave.), have modified considerably the positions these new wave progressives are pushing regarding the Jewish State and its relationship with the US.

Ilhan Omar, who in 2012 tweeted that Israel had “hypnotized the world” to ignore its “evil doings,” and this year argued that condemning the “Israeli apartheid regime” was not a form of anti-Semitism, last summer told a candidates’ forum at a Synagogue that “It is going to be important for us to recognize Israel’s place in the Middle East and the Jewish people’s rightful place within that region,” and “I believe right now with the BDS movement, it’s not helpful in getting that two-state solution,” because “I think the particular purpose for [BDS] is to make sure that there is pressure, and I think that pressure really is counteractive. Because in order for us to have a process of getting to a two-state solution, people have to be willing to come to the table and have a conversation about how that is going to be possible and I think that stops the dialogue.”

Rashida Tlaib / Photo credit: candidate’s Facebook profile image

Rashida Tlaib is a different story altogether. Having lost the support of J Street, last August she told In These Times she supported a one-state solution that would, in effect, end Israel’s unique status as a Jewish state. “It has to be one state,” she said. “Separate but equal does not work.”

According to Middle East Forum, Talib’s campaign funding—she raised more money by far than any other Democrat in the 2018 primaries, more than $1.3 million—come from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Emgage USA – Empowering Engaged Muslims, the Muslim-American Society (MAS), and the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC).

Last May, Talib said on Facebook: “It cannot be our foreign policy to tolerate the killing of Palestinians. Send me to Washington and I’ll use my unique lens on this issue to be a voice for peace.” No, it doesn’t look like she’ll be a voice for peace, but her voice would be plenty anti-Israeli.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez / Photo credit: candidate’s Facebook profile image

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez got herself into hot water in the spring, when a PBS interviewer asked her to defend her statement that condemned Israel for defending itself against rioting Arabs along the Gaza Strip border, calling it a massacre – until the candidate backed down sheepishly and admitted she was not an expert on foreign policy, and could somebody please educate her.

In August, it looked like somebody had gotten to her: Ocasio-Cortez was cheered by the crowd at an event hosted by the Immigrant Arts Coalition at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, where she spoke about every issue of concern to Democrats, without uttering the words “Jew” or “Israel.”

Leslie Cockburn / Photo credit: candidate’s Facebook profile image

Leslie Cockburn, not an Arab, but the author of an anti-Israel, if not worse, recent book about Israel titled “Dangerous Liaison,” about the “secret ties” between the US and Israel. We didn’t read it, but the NY Times reviewer wrote that the book, “supposedly a history of the secret ties between Israel and the United States, is largely dedicated to Israel-bashing for its own sake. Its first message is that, win or lose, smart or dumb, right or wrong, suave or boorish, Israelis are a menace. The second is that the Israeli-American connection is somewhere behind just about everything that ails us.”

So now you know.

Ron Halber, the executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, told the Times he wasn’t worried: “We’re talking about a handful of people; they’re certainly not going to move Congress’s wall-to-wall support for Israel. Could it turn into a ripple? Perhaps. You have a unique combination of forces right now.”

Habler raised a different concern, namely that Donald Trump’s friendly relationship with Benjamin Netanyahu is getting Israel’s image “caught up in the anti-Trump fervor, which is not fair to Israel.”

We’ll survive.

Or WILL WE?

READ THE WINDS OF MEGIDDO by George C Duke

Sara Netanyahu’s fraud trial begins, judge urges settlement

Prime minister’s wife is accused of defrauding the state by misusing public funds to purchase catered meals for the Prime Minister’s Residence, despite employing a full-time cook • Judge urges sides to narrow their differences “or even resolve the case.”

Sara Netanyahu, the wife of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, appeared in court on Sunday on the first day of a fraud trial in which she will be fighting allegations that she misused public funds to order catered meals to the Prime Minister’s Residence.

According to the indictment, Sara Netanyahu fraudulently billed the state for hundreds of catered meals supplied by restaurants, bypassing regulations that prohibit the practice if a cook is employed at the residence.

Video: Reuters

She was charged in June with two counts: one of fraud and breach of trust and one of aggravated fraudulent receipt of goods. If convicted, Netanyahu could face up to five years in prison.

Netanyahu denies any wrongdoing.

Former Deputy Director General at the Prime Minister’s Office Ezra Saidoff has also been included in the indictment, with prosecutors saying that he played an active role in the alleged scheme and even tried to cover it up with forged documents.

Sunday’s court session dealt mainly with procedural matters. The judge set a meeting with the prosecutors and the defendants’ lawyers for Nov. 13 and said he hoped all sides could narrow their differences “or even resolve the case.”

However, at this stage, the chances of a settlement appear to be slim because the prosecutors are likely to demand a guilty plea, something Netanyahu’s lawyer has ruled out.

At Sunday’s hearing, she was not asked to enter a plea.

Netanyahu’s lawyers have argued that the indictment does not hold up because the regulations for ordering meals were legally invalid and a household employee had requisitioned the food despite Netanyahu’s protestations.

The prime minister, who himself is embroiled in a number of corruption investigations, has called the allegations against his wife absurd and unfounded.

Christian woman faces death for giving water to Muslims

Asia Bibi

In what may be a final opportunity to save her life, a Christian woman in Pakistan appealed her death sentence for blasphemy to the nation’s Supreme Court on Monday.

Pakistan’s Supreme Court held a hearing on the case but “reserved its judgment.”

Members of the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan political party, the TLP, “which makes punishing blasphemy its main campaign rallying cry,” according to Reuters, said, “If there is any attempt to hand her over to a foreign country, there will be terrible consequences.”

In 2011, the governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, was assassinated by his bodyguard for speaking up for Bibi.

No one ever has been executed in Pakistan for blasphemy, but dozens have been killed by mobs bent on their own justice.

Reuters reported the TLP has no parliamentarians in the National Assembly but “wields outsized influence due to street power of its die-yard supporters.”

FRC said Monday there “appears to be a glimmer of hope that she could be acquitted by the high court and set free, with sources currently reporting the justices are set to reverse her conviction.”

As WND reported, a three-judge panel was assigned to hear her case.

Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar was to be joined by justices Asif Saeed Khosa and Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel.

The American Center for Law and Justice, which defended her, said Bibi was “convicted in 2010 under Pakistan’s medieval blasphemy laws and sentenced to death for blasphemy against the prophet Muhammad after she offered water to a Muslim co-worker who believed Asia had made the water ceremonially unclean by drinking from the same cup.”

“Since then the Christian mother of five has languished on death row, while her husband and children wait anxiously, praying for a miracle.

“This is a clear cut human rights violation,” ACLJ said.

If the court rejects her arguments, only the nation’s president could intervene.