BANGALORE, FEB. 28, 2008, 09.30 Hrs (CBCI News):
Christian leaders expressed "serious concern at surge in Hindutva violence as General Elections draw near"; seek CBI probe in Orissa violence during Christmas 2007 and allege complicity of police, bureaucracy alleged in many States.
The following is the text of the Press Statement issued on Thursday, 28th February 2008, at the Press Club, Bangalore, by Dr John Dayal, President, All India Catholic Union and Member, National Integration Council of India, Fr Adolph Washington, President, Indian Catholic Press Association, Fr Dr Ambrose Pinto, Mr Mariaswamy, Convener, Karnataka Dalith Christian Federation, and Mr Sam Joseph, All India Christian Council, Karnataka unit.
1. On the 6th anniversary of the massacres of Gujarat 2002, India's Christian Community joins other minorities and the Dalit and OBCs in welcoming President Pratibha Patil's assurance in the 2008 Budget Session of Parliament that "the Government will remain ever vigilant against the machinations of any anti-social and anti-national groups seeking to disrupt law and order, communal harmony and the unity and integrity of our Republic."
We also welcome the assurances of the Prime Minister's New 15 Point Programme hoping to ensure that benefits of the development programmes flow equitably to the minorities. But we also hope that the poor of the Christian Community, especially Dalit Christians will also benefit from the special programmes earmarked for Minorities. Our experience so far has been that the Christian community remains entirely untouched by such programmes.
2. But the guilty the mass murders of Muslims in 1993 and 2002 remain unpunished, as do those involved in the anti Sikh violence of 1984. The killers, rapists and attackers of Christian Nuns ad Pastors, the desecrators and destroyers of churches an average of more than 200 hundred cases a year since 1998 -- also remain unpunished. In almost all cases, the assailants have been identified as members of the Sangh Parivar, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the Bajrang Dal, the Adivasi Kalyan Sangh and their local units under various names.
3. We are deeply disturbed that despite the Union government' claims of vigilance against communal forces, the Sangh Parivar has been given a free run of the country. As the Bharatiya Janata Party targets power in Parliament and Major State Assemblies in the coming General Elections, including in Karnataka, the militant and armed Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal have unleashed terror in many States. Last Sunday, the Sangh gangs had the audacity to attack a Church in the heart of the National capital of New Delhi, while also carrying out simultaneous attacks on Churches in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and other states.
4. Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have also not been immune to the Sangh conspiracy to polarize society and to target both Muslim and Christian religious minorities. In Karnataka, it is widely known that the Sangh Parivar, once again aided and abetted by the bureaucracy and the police, is Communalising the environment and is demanding that Churches and Mosques not be allowed to be constructed in region such as Udipi. Devangere and other districts are also affected, and even in the capital of Bangaluru, it is becoming difficult for the community to even voice its protest without being accosted by the Sangh Parivar. Terrorism and political extremist violence are real threats to the nation, but the Sangh Parivar poses no less threat to the nation.
5. The situation, of course, remains critical in the Kandhamal District of the state of Orissa, where the BJP is a partner in the government and the police are entirely siding with the Sangh Parivar. During Christmas 2007, over a 100 big and small churches were utterly destroyed, over 700 houses and 40 Christian shops burnt widespread arson, five convents, five presbyteries, the states major leprosaria ashram, seven hostels and training centres were set on fire. Even a cow was killed by Sangh terror mobs. Police and magistrates watched in most cases. Five Christians were killed in the mob violence, as also a Hindu. But while many arrests have been made, and even pastors tortured in the hunt for his killers, the murderers of the Christians go scot free. The arsonists are in fact members of so called government peace committed.
Three thousand Christians are in refugee camps in sub human conditions, the women subject of humiliation. Basic human dignity has been violated, and daily needs are not met. School going children face a bleak future wit no books, no coaching and no nourishment other than a fit barely fit for human consummation.
The police are refusing to register First Information Reports, and in fact turning on the Christian community. The senior administrators have as yet not been able to give any genuine assurance of tree rehabilitation of the victims who lost their houses to Sangh arsonists. The government must take steps to show to the world that Lakhmanand Saraswati, widely known to be behind the anti Christian violence, is not above the law. He and his hordes continue to spew hate, and terrorize the Christian victims.
The community desperately needs legal aid. It cannot trust the Judicial Commission headed by a retired judge which was announced two month ago, but is yet to start its work., Even before it begins it work, the commission has come under the pressure of the Sangh Parivar and the BJP ministers in the State government who have clearly made known that they expect the retired Orissa High Court Judge to indict the Christians for conversion rather than to identify the killers and the men who burnt the churches and the homes.
We reiterate our demand for a Government of India probe through the Central Bureau of Investigations.
6. The suffering of Dalit Christians remains unabated. The Supreme Court has had to repeatedly adjourn hearings in the Writ Petition by the Public Interest Litigation Centre and Dalit groups because of the Central government's refusal to commit itself as it did earlier for Dalit Sikhs and Buddhists. The National Commission headed by former Chief Justice Jagan Nath Misra accepted their demand for inclusion in the list of Scheduled Castes. But the National Commission of Scheduled Castes headed by Dr. Buta Singh has said this can be done only through a fresh set of quotas. This will not be possible unless the Supreme Court raises the limits of reservations above 50 per cent. Effectively, government, court and commissions have been passing the buck to each other while millions of Dalit Christians and Muslims suffer a double discrimination.
7. We also call on the Supreme Court to ensure the neutrality of the subordinate judiciary, the district magistracy and the State police forces. The Supreme Court must also encourage the rebuilding of Civil Society which is currently in a state of hibernation and has been struck dumb out of fear of the Sangh Parivar. The religious minorities are being demonized as threats to national security, and therefore fit target of Sangh and official terror. Certain sections of the media have also fallen into this trap and are publishing or broadcasting stories without a shred of evidence.
Instead of chastising the few voices of protest from Human rights activists such as Ms. Teesta Setalvad, the highest court in the land must help strengthen the civil society and human rights movement in the country which alone can unite the minorities and the marginalised to face the onslaught of the Sangh Parivar, and to help preserve the unity and integrity of secular India.