A fast-track court in Orissa on Monday sentenced five people to six years in jail for their involvement in the last year's communal violence in the state's Kandhamal district, a government lawyer said.
"Sobhan Kumar Das, the additional sessions judge at the fast-track court at Phulbani - the district headquarter of Kandhamal - sentenced Disara Kanhar, Durbasa Kanhar, Gupteswar Kanhar, Rabindra Kanhar and Naresh Kanhar each to six years of rigorous imprisonment and ordered them to pay a fine of Rs 5,000 each," special public prosecutor Bijoy Krishna Pattnaik told IANS.
"If they fail to pay the fine, they will have to undergo another six months of rigorous imprisonment," Pattnaik said citing the court order, adding that the court pronounced the sentence after examining eight witnesses.
More than a 100 people on September 13 last year caused damage to the house of Subash Digal and set fire to houses of nine other people at Salaguda village, 41 km from the district headquarter of Phulbani. On September 14 Digal reported the matter at the local Gochhapada police station.
Police submitted the charge sheet about six months ago against about 30 people of the same village, including seven people who were on trial.
The court has, however, acquitted Umesh Kanhar and Sukdev Kanhar for lack of evidence, Pattnaik said.
Kandhamal district, about 200 km from Bhubaneswar, suffered widespread violence after the murder of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and four of his aides at his ashram on August 23.
More than 25,000 Christians were forced to flee their homes after their houses were attacked by rampaging mobs, who held Christians responsible for Saraswati's killing although police blamed the Maoists.
Although no violence has been reported from the region since October last year, about 700 victims are still taking shelter in two government-run relief camps in the district.
The government has set up two fast-track courts to try cases related to the communal violence. A fast-track court had earlier sentenced a 58-year-old man to two years in jail on June 30 this year.