Most of the Christian families living in the relief camp at Tikabali block in Kandhamal owe their lives to their “Hindu neighbours” who tipped them off about the systematic carnage that was to take place.
When the rioters struck at these houses, they found them empty as most of them had already fled following the tip off.
More than 900 people whose houses were torched by a mob in Kandhamal district, now living at a relief camp being run from a government school in Tikabali have a common story to narrate.
“On September 26, one of my neighbours informed me that our village was going to be attacked. Without wasting any time, we moved to the nearby jungle to escape the wrath of the mob. An hour after we had left, we came to know that our house has been attacked. I owe my life to my Hindu neighbour who tipped me off. He had been given the task to attack us. More than myself, I was more concerned about the women in my house as these people (the rioters) could have raped them also,” said Ranjit Digal (32), a resident of Gardingia village.
Villagers said the number of dead could have been much more had they not fled in time. “The attacks were carried out in a planned manner. The Hindu people from our village were roped in and the rioters used to convene a secret meeting. They decided the time and place of attack. Some of the people in our village with whom we have grown up and who know us for several years, were kind enough to let us know that it was our turn this time,” said Vikram Pradhan, a resident of Katadi village.
Before police help came, these families were holed up in nearby jungles for nearly two days, surviving on some “wild fruits.”
“We have been given clear instructions that if we want to come back to our village, we would have to convert to Hinduism,” said Balabhadra Pradhan, a resident of Bodimunda village.
To maximise the damage and slow down the police, the rioters used to block the entry and exit routes by felling off trees. “This way we would have lost valuable time in clearing the logs,” said Inspector SN Pradhan of the Tikabali police station.