Subhash Nayak told Compass that four unidentified men assaulted him as he made his way home to Laburi village from the hamlet of Kapingia in Kandhamal district. Hindu extremists in Kandhamal district killed more than 100 people in several weeks of attacks following the murder of Hindu extremist leader Swami Laxamananda Saraswati.
An 80-year-old monk who for decades spearheaded the anti-conversion movement in Orissa’s tribal-dominated areas, Saraswati was shot dead on Aug. 23, 2008. Area church leaders such as Biswajit Pani of Khurda told Compass that villagers in Laburi have planned to attack at least one Christian around that date every year.
Nayak said the assailants left him for dead.
“I could not see their faces as it was very dark, and they tried to poke my eyes with their sticks,” said Nayak, still in pain. “They stomped on my chest with their feet and hit me relentlessly till I fell unconscious. They left me thinking I was dead.”
Nayak said that he was returning from work at a construction site in Kapingia when, about a kilometer from his home in Laburi, a stone hit him. Four men appeared and began beating him.
The stone struck him in the forehead between 7 and 8 in the evening as he was riding his bicycle, he said.
“As I fell on the road with sharp pain, figuring out who hit me, four people came and started to hit me with wooden sticks,” Nayak said.
Asserting that no one had any personal enmity toward him, Nayak said that Hindu extremists in Kandhamal district have been telling people, “We destroyed and burned their houses and churches, which they have rebuilt, but now we will attack their lives, which they cannot rebuild.”
Pani and another area Christian, retired school teacher Tarsish Nayak, said they also had heard Hindu nationalists spreading this message.
Nayak recalled that a year ago, while returning to his village at night around the anniversary of Saraswati’s murder, he heard someone whispering, “Here he comes … He is coming near,” at which point he fled.
“There were people hiding, seeking to attack me,” he said.
Saraswati, a leader of the Hindu extremist Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council), was assassinated by a Maoist group, but Christians were falsely blamed for it. The ensuing anti-Christian attacks killed more than 100 people and burned 4,640 houses, 252 churches and 13 educational institutions. Violence also erupted in Kandhamal district during Christmas week of 2007, killing at least four Christians and burning 730 houses and 95 churches.
The area where Nayak lives and works was one of the worst-hit in the anti-Christian attacks that took place after Saraswati’s assassination.
After regaining consciousness, Nayak strained to stand up and felt blood dripping down his cheeks, he said. His bicycle was lying at a distance, its front light broken.
Nayak said he was not sure how long he lay unconscious on the road, but it was 11 p.m. by the time he managed to walk home. He said it was only by God’s grace that he “slowly, slowly reached home.”
“‘I am dying,’ were my words as I entered home and fell unconscious again,” Nayak said.
His wife Mamta Nayak, two of his children, his parents and eight villagers carried the unconscious Nayak on a cot three kilometers before getting him into an auto-rickshaw and on to Raikia Government Hospital at 1 a.m.
A doctor was summoned from his home to attend to Nayak, who required stitches on the right side of his forehead. He sustained injuries to his right knee, face, an area near the ribs and chest, and he still has difficulty chewing food, Nayak said.
“I feel nausea and pain in my head as I move my jaw,” he said.
Feeling weak from blood loss, Nayak received a saline solution intravenously for eight days in the hospital. He said he earns very little and had to sacrifice some of his valuables to pay the medical expenses. The doctor advised him to undergo a head scan, which he has eschewed as he cannot afford it, he said.
Pani told Compass that Nayak has refused to file any complaints with police out of fear of retaliation.
Nayak explained, “The police will not take any action, and we have seen in the past that I will be threatening my life by doing so.”
Shireen Bhatia, Compass Direct