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Hindu militant convicted of Christian's murder in landmark Orissa decision

Catholic World News - June 29, 2010

A prominent Hindu-nationalist politician has been convicted of murder in a case stemming from the burst of violence targeted against Christians in the eastern Orissa state.

Manoj Pradhan, a member of the Orissa state legislature representing the ruling BJP party, was sentenced to 7 years in prison for the killing. The decision was a breakthrough for the cause of justice; Pradhan had previously been acquitted of six other murder charges.

In previous trials, witnesses declined to provide compelling testimony against Pradhan, evidently because of threats from other Hindu militants. But a 6-year-old girl gave decisive testimony that she had seen Pradhan kill her parents.

More than 90 Christians were killed in a series of targeted attacks by Hindu mobs during weeks of violence in the Kandhamal district last year. The carnage left more than 5,000 homes and 300 churches destroyed or seriously damaged, and 54,000 Christians homeless.

Christians have charged that authorities in Orissa-- which is controlled by the Hindu-nationalist BJP party-- failed to protect the Christian minority during the violence, and have been slow to prosecute those responsible.

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