Chronicling the Courage: Anto Akkara’s Account of Kandhamal’s Christians
Publication and Public Announcement
In 2013, Anto Akkara authored the book “Early Christians of the 21st Century,” which documents the remarkable testimonies of Christians living in Kandhamal. The book’s official introduction to the public took place at the Silver Jubilee of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India, where Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, made the announcement. Over 130 bishops were present at this event, held at the Marian shrine of Vailankanni in southern Tamil Nadu.
Advocacy Through an Online Campaign
In March 2016, Akkara launched an online signature campaign advocating for the release of seven Christian men who had been wrongfully convicted in connection with the murder of a Swami, an incident that had sparked violence in Kandhamal. The campaign garnered attention and support when the illiterate wives of these seven men were brought to New Delhi to participate in the launch. Prominent Indian figures and political leaders joined the campaign’s initiation. Eventually, after 11 years of imprisonment, these men were released in 2019.
Recognition and Acknowledgment
During a film screening event, Akkara paid tribute to journalist Kuldip Nayar, describing him as a supportive figure during the Kandhamal campaign. Tragically, Nayar passed away on the 10th anniversary of Akkara’s efforts, just as he was preparing to release his first documentary uncovering the political conspiracy behind the Kandhamal events.
A Deeply Spiritual Pilgrimage
Kandhamal held profound spiritual significance for Akkara, who overcame physical challenges, including a fractured leg, to journey there. He emphasized the healing power of faith and recounted his personal healing experience at the very location where the first martyr of Kandhamal, Rasanand Pradhan, was martyred. Akkara expressed his sense of duty to speak up for the people of Kandhamal, bearing witness to their unwavering faith.
Premiere of the Film and Dignitaries’ Involvement
The film premiere event saw the attendance of numerous dignitaries, including a bishop, although heavy rains and traffic delays prevented some from reaching the venue in time. Three panelists with connections to Kandhamal, who had visited the region on multiple occasions, were present. Annie Raja, an activist and the general secretary of the National Federation of Indian Women, commended Akkara’s tireless advocacy. Another panelist, Sudhakar Pawar, a pastor and professor at the Caleb Institute, recounted his challenging experiences coordinating housing projects for the homeless in Kandhamal on behalf of Christian groups. John Dayal, a prominent Catholic human rights activist and columnist, praised Akkara’s unwavering commitment to justice for Kandhamal over the years.