National

Outrage over panel’s clean chit to Sangh in Church attacks

The Somashekhara Commission that probed attacks on 57 churches in Karnataka in 2008 has given a clean chit to the Karnataka government and the Sangh Parivar. This final report is in contrast to its own prima facie report issued in February 2010, in which it had said that the commission is of the opinion that top police officers and local administration and other authorities conspired with members of the Bajarang Dal and Sree Rama Sene covertly or overtly in attacking the churches. According to a story published in the Asian Age on 28 Jan, the commission in Annexure XLVII of its 456-page report had established that right-wing outfits Bajrang Dal, Hindu Jagran Vedike, the police, the district administration of Davangere and deputy commissioner K. Amarnarayan in particular and local panchayat members attacked churches, resulting in loss of properly and injuries to people.

Retired judge Michael Saldanha in his reaction to the findings of the panel said, “There is 100 percent evidence of two things: the state machinery and the police had a role in attacks on churches. There is videographic and photographic evidence of police entering places of worship. Those who led the attacks appeared on television to state that they have done it. The committee ignored such overwhelming evidence.” He further said, if nothing concrete happens within stipulated timeframe, he would seek judicial intervention from the Supreme court or the High court.

The Panel said, “The attacks were done by misguided fundamentalists of defined or undefined groups or organisations against Christians and Christianity. The attackers mistakenly presumed that they would be protected by the party in power.” It further said, “The circulation of derogatory literature with insulting attitude against Hindus and issues of conversion by a few organisations and self-styled pastors were provocations behind the attacks.”

Union Law minister in response to Commissions findings, accused the Karnataka government of having hijacked the Somasekhara Commission and demanded a CBI probe into the case. According to the judicial panel, “There are clear indications of conversions to Christianity in the districts of Bangalore, Kolar, Chikkaballapura, Bellary, Davanagere, Chikkamgaluru and Udupi by a few organisations and self-appointed pastors with the help of unaccounted funds from foreign countries.”

Bangalore vicar general Archdiocese S Jagayanathan reacted sharply on the findings by saying that “the commission has let down the Christian community. The entire Christian community is disappointed and feels the report is unfair.”

In 2008, Christians and their churches were attacked in Mangalore, Udupi, Chikamangaluru, Kolar, Chikaballapur, Bellary and Devangere districts. Altogether there were 112 attacks on Christians within less than three months in that year. The commission in its 300 sittings examined 754 witnesses before submitting its report to the chief minister of Karnataka. Civil society and Christian bodies are contemplating approaching the Central government. Maharashtra Minorities Commission has also written to the National Commission for the Minorities to send a fact-finding team to investigate the issue again. (Mohammad Naushad Khan)

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-28 February 2011 on page no. 4

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