Friday, December 28, 2007

Bomb blasts cases

Were Hindu fanatics behind the Church blasts in 2000? CHURCH BLASTS CASES (Full story) 31 convicted for church blasts
javascript:clippopup(944600);javascript:clippopup(944600); TIMES NEWS NETWORK[ FRIDAY, DECEMBER 03, 2004 12:50:28 AM ] BANGALORE: A TADA court in Hyderabad has convicted 31 persons in the church blast cases that caused ripples in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Goa in June-July 2000. The charge of conspiracy levelled against the 31, belonging to the Deendar Anjuman, was proved and they were sentenced to a four-year term. They were released because they had already spent over four years in jail. They will, however, be handed over to the Karnataka police for trial in Bangalore. "They had hatched a conspiracy to plant bombs in churches all over south India to create social unrest. They had triggered blasts in Wadi, Gulbarga and J.J. Nagar in Bangalore," the police officers who investigated the cases said on Thursday. The accused will be brought here this month. Their trial will take place in a special court constituted by the state government, the police said. The accused were caught after an explosion occurred in a van being used by them as a getaway vehicle. HISTORY BBC Thursday, 8 June, 2000, 16:37 GMT 17:37 UK Bombs rock Indian churches Separate bomb explosions have damaged three churches in two southern Indian states. Four people have been injured in the blasts which took place in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Two people were hurt when two bombs went off near a church in Gulbarga, Karnataka. Two other churches were partially damaged in explosions in two towns on the Andhra Pradesh coast, injuring two people. Bomb discovered Police discovered one of two explosives which detonated near St Anne's Church in Gulbarga but were unable to prevent it from going off. Christian groups have expressed their outrage over the attack which, they said, were part of a sustained campaign to intimidate them. An investigation has been ordered and extra security is in place to protect churches and Christian establishments in Karnataka. Earlier, a bomb exploded in the American Baptist Church at Ongole in Andhra Pradesh, 350km south of the state capital, Hyderabad The bomb, which was kept under the last row of benches in the church, shattered the windowpanes and damaged the benches. Two church workers, Sugunamma and Solomon, were injured. They were taken to the district hospital for treatment. A second bomb went off in Tadepalligudem, 450km north-east of Hyderabad. No one was reported to have been hurt. The bomb, which was placed at the pulpit, damaged the building from inside and shattered the window panes. Minority fears Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu visited both places and condemned the attacks. He directed police to provide extra protection to prevent any more attacks and also to conduct a probe into the incident. These latest explosions have caused fears among the minority Christian community about their safety. Last month, a blast in a crowded Christian religious congregation in Machlipatnam left 30 people injured. A week later, police recovered two bombs from two churches at Medak and Viqarabad town near Hyderabad. Christian organisations said they suspected that the attacks might have been carried out by Hindu fundamentalist groups. Police, however, said that a feud between two groups of Christians in a village was responsible for the Machlipatnam blast. That was denied by the chief of Andhra Pradesh's Christian body. Thursday, 17 August, 2000, 15:01 GMT 16:01 UK Arrest over Indian church attacks An Indian air force officer has been arrested over a series of church bombings earlier this year. Syed Hasan Ur Zama, a junior air force officer, was arrested near Delhi by police from the southern state of Karnataka. He is suspected to be behind a series of bomb blasts at churches that took place in Karnataka and two other southern states in June and July. "Information gathered from the accused in the bomb blast cases....has revealed a deep-rooted conspiracy to blast places of worship to create enmity among various religious groups in the country," a police statement said. He is also suspected of passing on sensitive information to contacts in Pakistan including "the location of various vital installations, defence establishments, railway bridges". Blasts Last June, a series of blasts took place in churches in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Goa. A month later, crude bombs rocked two more churches in Karnataka. Sixteen people have so far been arrested over the attacks. In the past, Indian Church leaders have blamed the attacks on hardline Hindu organisations - an accusation denied by the groups. A hate campaign A fresh round of attacks on Christians lead the police to new theories in Karnataka, while in Tamil Nadu the police see no pattern in the violence. PARVATHI MENON in Bangalore T.S. SUBRAMANIAN in Chennai POPULAR anger and revulsion against the relentless attacks on Christian places of worship, and the pressure - even from its allies - on the Bharatiya Janata Party to rein in the violent groups, have not stopped the violence. Reports of attacks on priests , nuns, churches and church-goers in Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, and more recently in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, continue to appear in the mainstream and alternative media. In most of these cases there is direc t proof of the involvement of organisations of the Hindu Right in the attacks. In the two years since open attacks on the Christian community began, the violence has ranged from gross forms of physical and mental intimidation to murder. Nuns have been ab used, spat at and physically attacked, priests have been beaten, churches have been burnt, groups of students engaged in social work have been brutally beaten. Most recently, some activists assaulted a nun, Sister Sissy, in Gandhinagar, Gujarat and loote d a godown where bags of wheat meant for distribution to the drought-hit people in Limbdi taluk of Surendranagar district were stored. T.L. PRABHAKAR Karnataka Home Minister Mallikarjun Kharge at the site of the blast in a van in Bangalore on July 10. While physical attacks of this nature continue, the sudden spurt of bomb blasts in and around churches is a new element in the ongoing violence. There was a series of blasts that took place on the morning of June 8 in three places simultaneously - Wadi in Gulbarga district of Karnataka, Vasco in Goa, and East Godavari in Andhra Pradesh. A month later, another incident took place in Hubli. On July 8 at around 3-45 a.m., a group of four men hurled a bomb at the St. John's Lutheran Church on the Hubli-Gad ag Road, which caused extensive damage to its doors and windows. Before people could come out of their homes, the men escaped in a van. Earlier the same group had driven up to the St. Peter's Church on Gadag road but fled upon seeing the watchman. And then on the night of July 9 yet another blast occurred in Bangalore in the premises of the St. Peter's and Paul's Church. Around 3,000 Christians had attended the Feast of Corpus Christi. The celebrations went on till 10 p.m. and all had left when th e blast occurred at 10-15. In all these cases the bombs exploded in the premises of the churches when there were no people present. The damage to church property has been extensive, and although there have been no injuries to people, the incidents have created anger and fear among st Christian congregations. In Hubli, crowds protesting against the violence took to the streets, threw stones on buses and later torched two buses. They forced the closure of shops and took out a procession through the city. A bandh was called by variou s Christian organisations in Hubli-Dharwad on July 10 and 11. In Bangalore too, agitated crowds were restrained by Christian community leaders. The emergence of a bomb culture has provided the Hindu Right and its leaders the opportunity to deflect the mounting criticism of their involvement in anti-Christian attacks. When the first incidents of church bombings took place last month, the leaders were quick to pin the blame, with zero evidence at the time, on Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence (ISI). Acharya Giriraj Kishore, the vice-president of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), said that he would take Christian leaders to court if they conti nued to hold the VHP and the Sangh Parivar responsible for the attacks. A meeting arranged by the National Minorities Commission between Christian organisations and militant Parivar groups for July 11 was called off following the bombing incidents. The first breakthrough made by the Karnataka police in the investigation of the latest bomb blast at a church in Bangalore reveals the involvement of a fanatical sect that shares anti-Christian sentiments. The Karnataka police were quick to establish ini tial leads into the blast. An hour before the bomb attack in the church, an explosion ripped through a van in the city killing two of the passengers and seriously injuring the driver. Police investigations revealed that the kind of explosives - nitroglyc erine (in the form of gelatin sticks) and ammonium nitrate - used in the church blast were present in the van. The house of the driver of the van, S.M. Ibrahim, in Varthur, Bangalore, was searched and incriminating information found in his computer. A co py of a pamphlet found in the van which contained a warning to Christian missionaries to "Stop Conversions or Quit India" with the "Om" symbol prominently displayed was also found on his computer. Books and pamphlets found in his house revealed that Ibra him is a member of a small cult organisation called the Deendar Channabasaveshwara Siddique Firqa. He had let out a part of his house to members of the sect. C. Dinakar, Director-General of Police, Karnataka, told Frontline that while the police h ad no evidence yet of the involvement of the ISI, it had been established that the particular sect had connections in Pakistan. "We know for example that the leader of the sect, Syed Zia-ul Hasan, is settled in the city of Mardan near Peshawar." Little is yet known about the antecedents and ideology of the Siddique sect. According to Obidulla Sherief, who is the editor of the Urdu newspaper Daily Pasban and is chairman of the minority cell in the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC I), the sect, a breakaway from the Ahmadia group (which is banned in Pakistan), was founded in 1932 in Hyderabad is the south. "Their founder, Siddique, declared himself an avatar of Channabasaveshwara, the founder of Veerashaivism," Sherief said. The se ct, which preaches a form of syncretic Islam, has been excommunicated by orthodox Muslim religious leaders. The group's headquarters is in Hyderabad (India), although it has branches in Hubli and Raichur. It recently held a conference in Tumkur. The basi s for its anti-Christian sentiments, sources of funding, and other linkages are yet unclear. Little is known of the Pakistan connection or its motives in targeting Christians, if it is indeed responsible for the blasts. "There has been tremendous restraint shown by the Christian community despite these attacks," Sajan George, national convener of the Global Council of Indian Christians told Frontline. "But tolerance levels are coming down and we want some positiv e action by the government to stop the hate campaign." Andhra Pradesh has also seen a spate of bomb blasts in churches and prayer meetings, and the police are now looking for linkages with the Bangalore incident. The Inter-Church Committee, an umbrella organisation representing as many as 25 Christian church organisations, called for a rally and public meeting on July 9 to observe a day of communal harmony in response to the series of attacks in the State. T.L. PRABHAKAR At the St. Peter's Church in Bangalore where a bomb exploded on the night of July 9. SPOKESPERSONS of the Christian community in Tamil Nadu whom Frontline spoke to say that their state too is no longer isolated from attacks on them, especially after the rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party to power at the Centre in 1998. According to them, 14 incidents of violence against Christians between March 1997 and July 6, 2000 have taken place in the State. These include attacks on churches, incidents of fires in prayer halls, preachers being prevented from distributing literature, and so on. The latest incident took place on July 6 when over-zealous bureaucrats demolished a small shrine in the compound of the Directorate of Medical Services in Teynampet, Chennai, an action for which Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi later apologised. A publication compiled by the United Christian Forum for Human Rights (UCFHR), the Catholic Bishops Council in India , the National Council of Churches in India and the Evangelical Fellowship of India lists 184 incidents of attacks on Christians in India between March 1997 and July 2000. Of these 14 took place in Tamil Nadu. These include cases of arson in churches, the destruction of the Bethany Fellowship Church in Erode in February 1998, the murder of Belarmine, a Christian worker, in September 1999 in Kanyakumari district, the desecration of icons in several churches, intimidation of Christian believers, and so on. According to Dr. Ebe Sunder Raj, joint convener, United Christian Forum for Human Rights, there was "a definite conspiracy" behind the attacks. The Tamil Nadu police, however, say that of these incidents a majority relate to fires breaking out in make-shift, thatched roof structures that serve as "Assemblies of God" churches belonging to the Pentecostal sect. A police officer who investigated th e incidents told Frontline that six of these incidents took place between October 31 and November 7 when the Deepavali season was at its peak. "Rockets and crackers fired at that time fell on these prayer halls with thatched roofs resulting in fir es" he told Frontline. THE attacks on Christians in Tamil Nadu were strongly criticised at a public meeting organised by the Tamil Nadu State Committee of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) on July 6 in Chennai. Speakers from the CPI(M), the Tamil Maanila Congress, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the Congress (I) attributed the attacks to a "planned conspiracy" of the outfits of the Hindu Right. They pointed out that the number of such incidents had gone up dramatically after the BJP first came to power a t the Centre. "A Prime Minister who is in the grip of bigoted outfits cannot be trusted to provide protection to the minorities," TMC president G.K. Moopanar observed. Leaders belonging to the Indian Union Muslim League, the Indian National League, the D alit Panthers of India and the Rashtriya Janata Dal sharply criticised Karunanidhi for his party's alliance with the BJP. There are new organisations and groups that have come into being in the recent past, as the evidence that the police have unearthed on the Bangalore blast suggests. These can hardly any longer be dismissed as fringe groups. Take the Deendar Siddique sect . Its formal or informal linkages, if any, with other hate groups that have been active in the recent past in attacks on minorities have yet to be established by the police. But it is clear that such organisations have become active in an environment of intolerance and bigotry that the Hindu Right is squarely responsible for creating. Two churches hit with bomb attacks in India 10 July 2000 (Newsroom) -- Bomb blasts damaged two churches in India's southern Karnataka state over the weekend as Christians across the nation staged marches and rallies to protest sectarian violence. Early on Saturday a low-intensity bomb exploded at the doors of a Protestant church in Hubli, about 270 miles north of the state capital, Bangalore. Police said the blast occurred between 4 a.m. and 4:30 a.m. at St. John's Lutheran Church in Hubli's Keshavapura area, which has a 15,000-strong Christian population. The explosion damaged the church's steel gates and its belfry, but no injuries were reported, police said. On Sunday an explosion left a small crater and shattered windows in the St. Peter and Paul Church in Bangalore. The attack in Hubli came exactly one month after a bomb blast shook a Roman Catholic church in Wadi in the north Karnataka town of Gulbarga. Three other bomb attacks on churches occurred on June 8, in the coastal town of Goa and the southern state of Andhra Pradesh. Police say that the attack on Saturday is similar to the June 8 blasts, which are still under investigation. The federal government blames sympathizers of the Pakistan intelligence agency ISI (Inter Service Intellegence) and claims the neighboring nation is out to destabilize India and drive a wedge between Christians and Hindus. Church leaders allege, however, that right-wing Hindu groups are behind a series of attacks against India's 23 million Christians, and may be responsible for the latest church bombings. Christians believe many of the Hindu groups are closely connected to the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which leads the federal government's ruling coalition. A number of marginalized social groups have been victims of radical Hindus who go unpunished by the regime, said Sajan George, national convenor of the Global Council of Indian Christians. "It becomes clear from these attacks that whether it is Christians, Muslims, or Dalits, the attacks never end; they are part of the continuing spiral built into the sectarian ideology, out to justify acts of blatant violence and denial of fundamental rights to life, equality before the law, freedom of religion, and freedom of expression," George said after the Hubli church bombing. In the BJP-ruled northern state of Uttar Pradesh a Roman Catholic priest was murdered last month as he slept in the town of Mathura, near the Taj Mahal. One of the key witnesses to the murder, a cook called Ekka, died mysteriously under police custody. Bangalore was one of several state capitals where Christians marched on Saturday in remembrance of victims of religious persecution and in protest of continuing violence. At a rally in Hyderabad on Sunday the president of the All India Christian Council, Joseph D'Souza, read a list of demands to which a crowd of some 100,000 expressed agreement by raising their hands. The demands included state protection for church property and arrest and prosecution of all who openly engage in hate campaigns against Christians. The Deccan Herald of Bangalore reported Monday that city police had been directed by the Congress Party-led Karnataka government to step up security near churches and other places of worship

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