Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Justice K.T.Thomas & RSS


Complete Text of the Speech Delivered by Justice K T Thomas, on the Occasion of Guru Pooja at Kochi

The remarks made by Supreme Court Judge K T Thomas on Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh have been both commendable on account of its genuineness and content of truth. But political leaders like Ramesh Chennithala, President of Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee has been quick enough to spring the much expected objection, as part of their usual quota of tailor made slander. Here is the complete text of the Presidential address made by Justice K T Thomas, delivered on the occasion of Guru Pooja, at Kochi

Respected Mohanji Bhagwat, other respected men on the dais and respected members of the audience,
I was wobbling in my mind as to whether I should speak in the language in which the proceedings were being conducted thus far or in a language in which my speech would be understood by our honorable guest. I have chosen the latter. Because, if I speak in English, in a State like Kerala where the literacy rate is so high, the audience will be able to follow and our honorable guest will also be able to follow.

I deem it as a real honor and privilege that I am invited to preside over this highly venerated function, Guru Pooja. You know from my name that I am a Christian. I was born in that and I practice that religion. I am a Church-going Christian. But my advantage is that I learnt many things about the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. I developed an admiration for this disciplined core of this country as early as 1979 when I was posted as Additional District Judge of Calicut. The Principal District Judge was Mr. A.R.Sreenivasan. Anyone who knew him will agree that his honesty was hundred percent, his integrity was transparent, his scholarship was unparalleled and his commitment to the country was unquestionable. Above all, the discipline he followed in his life was also very admirable. On his retirement, I took over as the Principal District Judge. But immediately Mr. A.R.Sreenivasan became a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. We used to communicate and converse many things. That occasion gave me the advantage of jettisoning many things which the smearing and simmering propaganda made by interested persons outside about the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. Such notions could be eliminated from my mind. I became a real admirer of this organization.

I regard many things on the objectivity point of view. Prejudice is a weakness of human being. Human being is not prepared to accept a thing without objectivity. When objectivity is applied, the smearing propaganda earlier that RSS is responsible for the murder of Mahatma Gandhi, appears to be unjust and uncharitable. I learnt more about it. Of course, the mere fact that the assassin happened to be once upon a time a member of the organization cannot make the disciplined organization responsible for the murder of the Father of the Nation. Had it been so, can you say that the entire Sikh community of India is responsible for the murder of Indira Gandhi? Can it be said that merely because Jesus Christ was crucified by Roman soldiers at the orders of a Roman Judge, that the whole Roman people at that time committed the murder of Jesus Christ?

There should be objectivity in approaching these things. And I, therefore, went and read the judgment of Justice Khosla in the Mahatma Gandhi assassination case and I found that the learned judge of Punjab High Court has completely exonerated Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh as not having anything to do with the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. I say that this smearing campaign must end in this country. Otherwise it will really be unjust on the part of anyone. With this approach, I have seen this organization from a distance. I happen to travel with the predecessor of our honorable guest today. Mr.Sudarsanji was with me in the train from Chennai up to my home town station. We could communicate many things that time. It is amazing to learn about his great scholarship and how he insisted on a simple living. And I found out that this is a hallmark of the members of this organization. Simple living and high thinking. And thereafter, I want to tell you, that for every Christmas he used to send me a Christmas greeting card which contains a quotation from the Gospel of the Bible and a precept from Bhagavad Gita. I used to reciprocate in the same way as he did.

For me, it gave me an opportunity to learn more and more about this organization. And the best test in my life about this organization is during the dark months of Emergency when Indira Gandhi declared Constitution suspended – on the major portion – and when the whole country became benumbed before the whip swished by Indira Gandhi. The only non-political organization which worked fearlessly in the subterranean sector was the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh with the result that this country that is Bharat could be liberated from the pangs of a dictator. We owe very much to this organization for sacrificing many lives and many of the pleasures in life for regaining what our leaders had gained for this country, namely, the fundamental rights of this country.

Now I am disturbed in seeing that for the sake of vote banks, the security of the nation is compromised in many regards. Article 19 of the Constitution is a catalogue of freedoms for the Indian people. But every such freedom is restricted to one thing – that is reasonable restriction of a common factor – that is the security of the State. The Constitution makers were very insistent that primordiality should be given to the security of the State because we have to live in the State. When I come across with many official activities – governmental and political – where the security of the State is given less prominence than the vote bank, I am really disturbed. That is a matter in which the country should stand unanimously and uniformly and with a strident voice declare that we will not tolerate such a policy to be followed.

The propaganda that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is anti-minority is a baseless propaganda. After all, what is a minority? I have realized that according to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, whatever religion you belong to, you must be a full patriot. Your faith is immaterial. Whichever faith you follow, only insistence for you is that you shall not have any extra-territorial loyalties. I also realize that no one is entitled to tell somebody that ‘my’ religion is better than ‘your’ religion and therefore abandon ‘your’ religion and join ‘my’ religion. No person who has any knowledge of the fundamentals of his own religion can say that. The basic precept of one’s own religion is that the other religion is not only equally important but multiplicity of religions sometimes is a gift of God to mankind because all religions have got weaknesses. And in order to replenish the weakness of one religion some benefits are given to the other religion. It is a country where a composite culture has been created; where faith is immaterial but your loyalty, your commitment and your patriotism is most important.

I have a different concept about minority. I use to speak out this aspect on many platforms for which I had received more brickbats than flowers. Who is a minority in this country? – Only that section which has got minus features. Minority is discernable from Article 29 of the Constitution where any section of India can be a minority. It can be based on culture, script, language, etc. Any section which is suffering from any disadvantage can be a minority provided they are numerically less. Faith – wise minority recognized in Article 30 is only for one limited purpose. That is for conducting educational institutions without the steamroller-majority rolling over them. If a person is able to read Article 29 first, as a student of Constitution I will tell you, it does not envisage a minority based on religion or faith. When it comes to Article 30, this word religion is meant only with regard to the educational institutions.
I was a member of the 11 Judges’ bench of the Supreme Court first, which could not complete the argument in TMA Pai case. The point of view which emerged among the majority of judges at that time was that the education which is envisaged in Article 30 should only be secular education and not professional education. When we put this to Mr. Fali S Nariman, the great lawyer became angry and he said that it is an aspect which has been concluded long, long ago and the word education will cover anything even beyond, much beyond secular education. Unfortunately our bench could not complete the arguments and hearings and the judgment could not be delivered. Many years later, after my retirement, an 11 member bench was formed and there also Fali S Nariman addressed arguments and finally the verdict came accepting that education in Article 30 means education at any level.

I am mentioning this for another purpose. That great lawyer who really is the author of this concept of the plenary meaning of the education has written an autobiography wherein he confessed that “today I intensely regret having adopted that attitude towards education.” The whole disaster in this country in the field of education is on account of pioneering that aspect in this country which the Supreme Court accepted unfortunately. I wanted to mention this in some august place. I have chosen this assembly for bringing to notice that the education in Article 30, even according to the great lawyer who once pioneered this argument, is that it should be limited to the secular education. So, that is the only area where religion has something to say about minority. Otherwise, in a big country like India, minority should have nothing to do with faith. Faith could be changed by anybody. That was exactly what happened when a medical college was started by one Palaniappa Gownder in Tamil Nadu. Later when he found that because of some new legislation he will get more benefits, he converted in to Christianity and became Deivasahayam and he is continuing the medical college now. Anyone can change religion like that.

You are making a law based on a faith! In a secular nation, in a secular republic like ours, that shall not happen. In a secular republic, religion shall not be your identity but your being an Indian shall be your identity.
That is what precisely Zakir Hussain, when he became the Rashtrapathi of India, said. He was congratulated by TVR Shenoy, the journalist. Zakir Hussain was a great scholar. He was a Vice Chancellor. When TVR Shenoy approached him and told him “Rashtrapathiji, I congratulate you because it is a great victory of secularism in India.” Zakir Hussain asked him in what way it is a victory of secularism. Shenoy said that a Muslim became the President of India is a great victory of secularism. Zakir Hussain looked at him and smiled. TVR Shenoy asked “Why Rashtrapathiji, you are smiling at me?” He answered – “Shenoy, I smiled hearing your notion about secularism.” He said, and mark the next sentence – “Secularism will be achieved in India only on that day when you do not know my religion!”

My dear friends, take it from me – secularism has nothing to do with religion in this country. You should not know my religion in the same way I shall not bother about your religion. That is your faith. And whatever way you acquire it or develop it – it is your private matter. This is something very much I learnt during my travel with Sudarsanji from Chennai to Kottayam. He insisted on that. He told me that – “Sir, you can be a pious Christian” I asked him in what way he knows that I am a pious Christian. “That is a different matter”- He said. “But we are only insisting that whatever be your faith, your primary commitment must be to this nation, to this country.” On that matter I very much admire – I am a great admirer of this organization.

The discipline exhibited everywhere – and even today – the manner in which the flowers were offered to the Dhwaj gave me the real impression that discipline has given real impetus to your working and performance. Discipline is needed for a nation and discipline is fundamental to the growth of a nation. Whichever nation has grown, you can see discipline is inculcated in the citizens. I think, on that matter, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is a model to me also.
Written by: India Portal on August 11, 2011.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

A TALE OF THREE REPORTS - Violence against Christians

Violence against Christians in Karnataka


By P.N. Benjamin*

The fledgling BJP Government in Karnataka confronted its first major crisis when as many as 57 Christian churches and prayer-halls were vandalized in nine districts in the State in September-October 2008 allegedly by “Hindu extremists/terrorists”. The government appointed a retired judge of the Karnataka High Court, Justice Somasekhara, as a One-man Commission to inquire into these incidents of violent attacks on Christian places of worship. He submitted his report in January this year.

During the course of the inquiry, the Commission received 1,019 petitions and examined 754 witnesses spread over a period of 300 days of judicial sittings. More than thirty advocates representing various sections of the society including the Government presented their case before the Commission and the final arguments were heard over a period of 53 sittings. As many as 2,437 documents were marked by the Commission as exhibits in addition to 34 material objects in the form of Electronic Storage Documents (ESDs).

 Detailed and transparent inquiry

The Justice B K Somasekara Commission of Inquiry has said its final report on the church attacks was prepared after a detailed and transparent inquiry but was misinterpreted by a few. Justice Somasekara stated there was no need for Christian petitioners to be apprehensive about the direct or indirect involvement of politicians, especially of the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Sangh Parivar and the State Government in the attacks. Every bit of inference and findings of the report was based on evidence and elaborate discussion of all contentions presented before the Commission.

He said there was no lapse on the part of the Commission and any fair comments were welcome. “But all such expressions by anybody shall be subject to legal consequences under Section 10A (1) of the Commission of Inquiry Act. Ignorance of the law is no excuse; and this will apply to all,” he said.

 Fraudulent conversions

The Commission said fraudulent conversions have damaged the reputation of Christians as people who serve society and contribute to nation building. It also called for some laws to regulate some organizations that indulge in conversion “uncontrolled by any law.”
The report regretted that the attacks have “deeply affected” relations between Christians and Hindus who now suspect each other.

 Absolves Government, BJP, Sangh Parivar

Justice Somasekara categorically declared that there was "… no basis to the apprehension of Christian petitioners that the BJP, Sangh Parivar and the State Government directly or indirectly, are involved in the attacks.” He also said that "…the impressions and allegations that the present ruling government is showing cold shoulders to the interest of minority Christian community in Karnataka and try to suppress them for the political ends, like vote-catching has no basis.” noting that while it was “reasonable” for victims to suspect that the government was either slow or negligent in responding to the incidents his inquiry proved otherwise.

It also mentions that the attacks on churches or places of worship has deeply affected the harmony between the members of Hindu and Christian religions and created suspicion in the minds of each other.

The Justice noted that while, “True Hindus have no role to play in any attack directly or indirectly…” the attacks were carried out by “…misguided fundamentalist miscreants of defined or undefined groups…” who believed that they would be protected by the party in power .

He advised that action be taken against Mahendra Kumar, then convener of the Bajrang Dal, “…who sought to justify the attacks on churches….” It is important to note that Mahendra Kumar recently joined the Janata Dal (Secular) party.

 Police action justified

Justice Somasekara commented on the police response, commending them for the good work but also expressing concern when their response was either weak or unclear. “The police action against the Christian protestors in several incidents were justified,” he said while confirming that the police action at St Sebastian Church, Permannur, was “unexplainably excessive, unreasonable and is in violation of the expected norms prescribed.” He dismissed out of hand the allegation that the police and the district administration had colluded with those who attacked the churches: “…the impression and allegations that the top police officers and the district administration had colluded with the attackers in attacking the churches or places of worship has no merit.”

 Critical of local administration

Justice Somashekara, however, was critical of local administration and police in Bellary and Gulbarga districts: “The failure of the district administration functionaries, including corporation, municipality, electricity board and village panchayat authorities, in protecting the rights of the religious minorities guaranteed under the Constitution and their interference in their activities by misuse of power is evident and apparent, particularly in Bellary and Gulbarga districts…. Their acts of locking the places of worship and preventing the devotees from offering prayers is unprecedented in the history of administrative process and constitutional governance.”

He castigated the police for being “… imprudent, unreasonable and inexperienced…” when they entered some churches in “… Dakshina Kannada without following legal requirements amounting to violation of religious interests and human rights protected under the Constitution of India,” but the “saving grace is that there is no evidence to conclude that it was motivated or influenced by any other force.”

He also expressed concern about some acts of the police, including the lathi-charge in some situations in Dakshina Kannada. “The impressions and allegations that the government and the district administration did not treat the Christian protestors sympathetically and with compassion is justified in a few instances noted in the report categorically,” he noted, and that the grievance expressed by some that the compensation awarded in some instances was too meager, or inadequate was justified, he said.

 All attacks were not spontaneous

A significant observation by the Justice is regarding the nature of the attacks and enmities between the two communities: “Not all attacks were spontaneous or accidental. Some were deliberate, well-planned communal antagonism with fundamentalism brewing since several years. The events leading to the attacks were many including local groupism, personal competition in trade, and education and political activities.”

Justice Somasekara noted that the allegation that some Christians and some Christian groups were indulging in “mischievous activities” including distributing “…literature maligning the Hindu religion, Hindu ancient systems, Hindu sacred beliefs, practices and sentiments….”

 Mass conversions & foreign funds

Justice Somashekara has said that “… the impression that some persons involved in conversions are getting funds from some sources including foreign countries…” and that such funds are used for “…mass conversions of innocent and helpless members of the society belonging to the weaker sections is true.”

 No conversion by Catholic Church.

The Commission has absolved the Catholic Church of any wrong-doing: “There appears to be no conversions at all by Roman Catholic churches or its members except for routine purposes like marriage or voluntary instances.”

The Commission rightly rejected some Hindu groups’ demand to ban Christian literature, including the Bible, that the groups claimed were “anathema to Hindu practices.” On the other hand it asked the government to seek the help of all religions and political parties to convince Christians to be sensitive and sympathetic to Hindu complaints.

 Grabbing of public property

About the attack on the Saint James Church at Mariyannapalya in Bangalore, did take place, said the Commission. “There appears to be a grabbing of public property by both church people and Chittiappa of Sri Adi Kaveri Trust which requires a serious inquiry and appropriate action,” it noted. There were attempts by Christians to convert people in the area, and resistance by the members of Adi Kaveri Trust of Chittiappa and local Hindus were the reasons for the incident, the Commission said.

The Commission categorically said that the Sangh Parivar had no role in the attack and it was a purely a local problem. It said that “the church should provide its own security and cooperate with the local police”.

 A make-believe attempt

Referring to St Mary’s Church in Kolar, the Commission ruled out the involvement of any Hindu organisation. The allegations of conversion are true, it noted, but that was not the reason for the attack. It was a deliberate attempt by some local group/s or political force/s to “create evidence” to link the attack to other such incidents involving churches, and to thereby demoralise or defeat the ruling BJP government.

The incident at Holy Name of Jesus Church at Rajarajeshwarinagar, according to the report was “sporadic -- carried out by either a passerby or by some miscreants to create evidence against the ruling party”.

Attack on St Anthony New Church at Yedanahalli. In this case, the report said the attack was a make-believe incident aimed at linking it with other similar incidents. The main culprits were allegedly Father Santhosh, David and his men, and two police constables, B M Nagaraj and B P Nagendra Kumar. The CoD police failed in their investigation to locate the culprits, the report said.

 Mass mobilisation of Christians & Vote bank politics

The reactions to the Commission’s findings were quick and swift. There was a mass mobilisation of Christians in Karnataka demanding the immediate withdrawal of the report and an orchestrated attempt at disseminating mischievous, unsourced, and spurious allegations about the Commission. Massive protests marches and meetings were held in many parts of the State.

However, when you politicize the church and make demands by using numerical minority vote bank for the politicians to see that we have power, then it means muscle power, which goes along with money power. To use religion and to ghetto people is divisive and anti-national. The church leaders have misused their position and authority to barter and bargain. The politicians yield not because of justice and fair play but because of the vote bank politics-this towards attaining their own power. The church leaders have been playing the game of politicians and turned themselves into semi politicians, using the ‘flock’ as tools.

Justice Saldanha’s report

I have with me a copy of the 304-page report by the retired judge Michael Saldanha, said to be based on his “independent inquiry” into the attacks on churches in Karnataka on September 14, 2008. It reads like a political party’s charge sheet against its opponent. It is far from an unbiased and independent report when the publication of the book itself has been funded by a former Congress minister T. John. To say the least, the book reads like Satan’s ‘ gospel of hatred’ – revulsive, repulsive and provocative. Needless to add, it is also meant to demoralise the law and order machinery in the State by freely and recklessly terming them (the Karnataka Police) as "state criminals", "state goondas", ‘khaki terrorists", "official terrorist of India" etc.!.

 Not unbiased.
The retired judge is the president of the Catholic Association of South Canara (Dakshina Kannada). It is therefore difficult to believe that an inquiry conducted by the president of the Catholic Association of Dakshina Kannada would be impartial. Justice Saldanha says any Commission of Inquiry set up by the government to investigate its own actions is unlikely to be impartial but gives himself privileges he denies the government. In addition, Saldanha has in the past three years persisted in demonising the BJP government in Karnataka

Justice Saldanha claims to have visited 413 places where incidents took place, obtained 673 types of evidence and testimony from 2,114 affected persons after visiting hospitals, courts, police stations, jails and government offices. Interestingly, he is not appointed by the State Government under the Commission of enquiry Act, but on the other hand self appointed and funded by Churches and discredited Congress leaders like the former minister T. John to give his ‘unbiased’ Report.

Highlights of Saldanha’s findings

 The Hindutva brigade was behind the violence, but even worse was the fact that the Chief Minister and the then Home Minister implicitly and explicitly abetted the Hindutva elements.

 The brute force of armed police, state administration and the lower judiciary was used against the hapless Christians and their institutions, who/which were soft targets in the attack, but provides no evidence of the use of what he calls “brute force”.

 The religious violence was pre-planned and executed with great precision for maximum impact which it did achieve and the persecution continues over the last three years.

 There is flagrant disregard of the rule of law and an atmosphere of anarchy prevails, with non-state & extra-constitutional players running riot and the government doing nothing.

Some genuine doubts & questions:

 No death reported

If brute force were used it would have resulted in the death of some and injuries to many Christians. Justice Saldanha has neither counted the dead (none), nor enumerated the injured, leaving us to believe that the mass circulation of hysterical pronouncements in foreign countries was the main aim of Justice Saldanha.

 One-sided report

Justice Saldanha’s Report is one-sided. Nether witnesses were examined nor allowed for Cross-Examination. No Documents are taken on record. Being a retired judge of the Karnataka High Court, it is surprising to know, he has not followed the basic principles of natural justice while giving his findings, adverse to the interested persons/groups/administration/officials.

How has the persecution of Christians for three years continued and to what effect? On the other hand, the number of Christians in Karnataka has increased and they have been able to worship and carry on their livelihood without hindrance.

Justice Saldanha hyperbolically alleges “flagrant disregard to rule of law” but if indeed what he alleges is true where is the evidence for such lawlessness? That a retired justice would stoop to such calumny is evidence of the organized challenge to the BJP-led government by Christian groups and Christian leaders who cannot stand the idea of the BJP coming to power anywhere in India.

 Blissfully unaware

Saldanha is blissfully unaware that the sordid events in Mangalore and elsewhere are the obvious result of unethical religious conversions and the denigration of Hindu practices and symbols by evangelists that polarize families and communities and aggravate long standing social conflicts as well.

He doe not seem to have read the report in Times of India on October 8, 2008 quoting Intelligence Bureau sources that the provocative activities of the New Life Christian church were a major source of disquiet in Karnataka and other States .The New Life movement has been accused of brazenly indulging in conversions in Karnataka and other states. In fact, the Catholic hierarchy is itself concerned about the activities of New Life movement which is allegedly taking many faithful members away from the mainstream Church

 Whipping up hatred against Hindus and a bluff called

Spreading hatred like butter on hot bread seems to have become a pastime for M.F. Saldanha. For example, the Compass News reported in August 2010: “Christians in Karnataka State are under an unprecedented wave of Christian persecution, having faced more than 1,000 attacks in the last 500 days, according to an independent investigation by a former judge of the Karnataka High Court".

In the meantime, the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) has recorded only 72 attacks on Christians in 2009. That represents a decline from 112 attacks the previous year.

When this writer asked for the list of names of churches and dates of attacks Justice Saldanha failed to do. Justice Saldanha’s utterly false and outrageous bluff that there were 1,000 attacks against Christians in Karnataka during the last 500 days was thus called because the reality was easily verifiable. The allegation reflected his shocking ignorance about the real religious situation in Karnataka.

Report of the Citizens for Harmony

Below are details gathered by the fact-finding team sent by “Citizensfor Harmony,” a Bangalore-based voluntary organisation. The team consisted of Mr. Y R Patil (retired Inspector General of Police) and Director of Academy of Career Counseling and Coaching, Bangalore, Mrs. Vijayalakshmi, (Social worker and Creative Director, Varnila Designs, Bangalore), and P N Benjamin (founder and coordinator, Bangalore Initiative for Religious Dialogue – BIRD.

The team visited Mangalore and Udupi on September 30 and October 1, 2009 respectively, and received several complaints and representations from Hindu and Christian organizations and from individuals who did not represent any institutions. Nearly 200 affected persons deposed before the team and submitted memorandums with documentary evidences at the open hearings held at Circuit House, Mangalore and Travelers Bungalow at Udupi. The team also visited most of the trouble spots and sought to know from the local communities, their responses to the incidents of violence. Following are excerpts from the report of the fact-finding team submitted to the Chief Minister of Karnataka in November 2008.

Excerpts from the Report

 All the incidents of violence that came to the notice of the team were directed against what is known as independent churches, house churches, Christian fellowships and associations belonging to New Life, Pentecostal, Assemblies of Gods, etc. All of them are independent of the mainstream Christian churches in India.

 The Catholic Churches were targeted because of mistaken identity. The majority of Hindus cannot distinguish between the mainline churches and the independent churches. On 14th September some miscreants damaged and desecrated the idol of Jesus Christ at the Perpetual Adoration Chapel of the Monastery of the Poor Clares in the premises of Milagres Catholic church in Mangalore. The VHP and Bajrang Dal have condemned the desecration of Jesus Christ’s idol in the chapel. They have also clarified that they are not against the Catholic Church.

To a pointed question to those who deposed before the fact-finding team as to why the miscreants turned their ire against the Catholic Church the answer was simple and straightforward: “How can we – the Hindus – distinguish between Catholic Christians and evangelicals? All denominations of Christianity are one and the same in the eyes of Hindus and we need not know the differences within the Christian community.”

 The places of worship which were attacked in Mangalore
and surrounding areas included the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration Monastery (Mangalore), Christ Church at Kodikal near Mangalore, Believers Church of India at Puttur, Mahima Prathanalaya and Indian Pentecostal both at Madanthyar and Bethesda Aradanalaya at Sullia. In Chikumagalur, miscreants attacked Yavana Swami church at Magodu village, and Time and Paul Gospel Harvest prayer hall at Koppa. In Udupi district, New Life prayer hall located behind KSRTC bus stand was attacked apart from two other prayer halls at Shiroor and Kollur.

 Aggressive evangelization and conversion

According to depositions before the team, a large number of Hindus and organizations were highly critical of the many Christian groups that have been indulging in aggressive evangelization and conversion activities in recent years in Mangalore and surrounding districts. They denigrate Hindu gods and their rituals in their attempt to get new converts from Hindu community. These activities made a section of the Hindu community ‘very angry’, but they had internalised it for long. But the killing of the Swami in Kandhamal and the Christian leaders’ call for protest closure of schools triggered the sudden eruption of violence in Dakshina Karnataka, especially in Mangalore and Udupi, on September 14 and 15.

It was brought to the notice of the team that the Christian evangelists and missionaries have been targeting the poor and illiterate extensively as also the youth. Scheduled castes and scheduled tribes like Kudubis, Vishwakarmas and Lingayats are some who have fallen prey. Their modus operandi is to visit poor Hindu houses without their permission and distribute Christian tracts and literature. They seek those who are mentally and financially weak and induce them to give up their Hindu way of life and join the Christian religion with promises of moral and financial support on conversion to Christianity.

The team also was told that there is a drastic increase in recent times in aggressive faith marketing strategies followed by the Christian groups in this region, which has caused this anger and resentment against Christians.

 Encroachment of private and public property

There have been instances of Christian groups encroaching upon public and private properties in Mangalore. Two specific cases in point are: The Nagavana, at Shanthinagar, is a place of worship for the Kudubi tribes for centuries. The property has been encroached upon by the International Jesus Christ Church in India. A large church complex and living quarters have been built on this land by desecrating the sanctity of the Nagavana and also preventing the Kudubis from their worship at their sanctified shrine. It has led to much emotional trauma to the tribals of incomplete rituals. There has been a continuing protest by the Kudubi community but of no avail.

The same Church also causes much disturbance to the entire neighborhood with its week-end events that include loud music and dancing through the night shattering the peace and tranquility of the entire area. The leaders of the Kudubis have expressed their anger and disgust, displeasure and resentment, against the presence of this Christian group several times in the past to the civic authorities and have also legally proceeded against them in the civil court.

The founder of this church is Pastor Mani David Joseph and the present pastor is Immanuel Santosh Kumar.

 Pachinady Kurchugudde incident

This is a hillock belonging to the government. A couple of years ago, the Catholic Church authorities encroached on it and erected several crosses all around its boundaries. They also built a statue of the Crucified Jesus Christ and a house-like structure. The Mangalore Bishop inaugurated it on January 20, 2007.

The Mangalore Municipal Corporation has illegally allotted a number to the structure thus giving it a semblance of legal sanction, and creating an impression among the local people that the land and the structures are owned by the Catholic diocese.

The local residents who met the team at the site asserted that this particular property belongs to the government. They wanted to know how the Municipality had allowed the Christians to erect the structures, a statue of Crucified Jesus Christ and several concrete crosses on the said government land.

Some activists of Hindu organizations have, in the aftermath of Mangalore incidents, hoisted several flags on this land in protest against the illegal occupation of the hillock by the Catholic Church. Incidents such as these have led to growing anger, heartburn and tension amongst Hindus against Christians.

 Incidents at Holy Cross Church,
Kulshekar - A Case Study

On September 14 and 15, church bells continuously tolled in all the Catholic Churches of Mangalore signaling to the faithful that the churches were in imminent threat of destruction. Consequently, at the Holy Cross Church compound in Kulashekar, about 800 Parishioners gathered within a few minutes. In addition, many people who had attended the first Mass were holed up inside the Church. All the gates to the church premises and school building adjacent to the church were locked from within. The school was closed inspite of a government directive not to close schools.

Some miscreants from among the crowd inside the Church compound snatched away the wireless set from an Assistant Sub-Inspector (ASI). They were asked to return it and the priest was unable to convince the youngsters to do so saying that he was recently transferred to the church and did not know anyone of them personally and therefore helpless.

The police surrounded the compound from outside because all the gates were locked. Police Inspector Ganapathy repeatedly asked the miscreants on the megaphone to voluntarily come out and surrender the police wireless set. He also requested the crowd to disperse as it was against the curfew orders that had been clamped to congregate in public.

The negotiations went on for almost five hours until the Superintendent of Police (Mangalore) Satheesh Kumar arrived on the scene. The situation was getting out of control. Sensing the seriousness of the situation, he entered the compound wearing a helmet supplied by a constable and broke open the gates with the help of about 50 constables.

As they moved in, they were attacked with stones and bricks from the top of the school. The photographs of youngsters – face covered with duppatas/clothes given to them by girls/women — throwing stones and roof tiles from the third and fourth floors of the school in the Church compound, are seen in the unedited videos in the possession of the fact-finding team. This was handed over to them by an amateur free-lance videographer.

When the miscreants started attacking the police, the SP had no other option but to order a lathi-charge and ultimately burst teargas shells. In the melee, several policemen were injured and a woman constable suffered serious head injuries. A Tata Sumo belonging to the Deputy Superintendent of Police was also destroyed by the miscreants.

 Church using doctored tapes to spread hatred

It has come to the notice of the fact-finding team that the Church authorities have been circulating doctored video clips of the events that day in the church. Fr. Frances Vincent of Holy Cross Church showed us the tampered video to prove that the police action against the church members, said to be numbering about 800, was brutal, inhuman and heartless. He also emphatically claimed that the police “brutality” was without provocation on September 15, and in violation of all canons of human rights.

The video clips in the possession of the Church were supplied by the same source that gave the fact finding team the unedited version of the video pictures. It is shocking that the video tapes in the possession of the fact finding team show pictures of mounds of stones, sticks and bottles stored inside the Holy Cross church. There is no explanation forthcoming from the Church as to why those materials were stored inside the church. Circulation of such doctored tapes by the church authorities has been further stoking the flames of ill-will against the police and the Hindus at large.

 Police Action

Seventy-two cases of arson were registered in Mangalore and two in Udupi. Sixty-seven policemen suffered injuries when Christians attacked the police. Twenty-six Christians and 17 Hindus were injured in police lathi-charge. The police conducted more than a mild-lathi-charge. However, it is fair to suggest that the police were also at their wit’s end having seen some of their injured colleagues and did not want to take any chance, especially when they did not have any wherewithal to judge the armed nature of the miscreants.

Incidents in other places in Karnataka: 2009-2010

As a member of the State Minorities Commission, I have visited the following places and gathered information about the alleged violent incidents reported from there during this period.

Hebbagodi attack: Infighting, the Real Cause

St. Francis De Sales church at Hebbagodi, on the outskirts of Banglaore, was attacked in the second week of September 2009. Five persons were taken into police custody in connection with the attack. It was later confirmed that the incident was an effect of the infighting and confusion between different factions in the church, mainly the Syrian and Latin Catholic groups. Many were sore with the authorities after they were forced to vacate the quarters in the rear of the church compound, where they were living for decades.

Meanwhile, a section of believers had protested against the prayers being held in different languages and also vented ire over the celebration of Onam (harvest festival of Kerala) inside the church. In addition, another section was fuming after the priests failed to give permission to bury a parishioner, Peter, who had died three months before.

St. Antony's Church in Bangalore

Miscreants broke open St. Antony’s church in Kavalbyrasandra in near Bangalore on November 7, 2008. The miscreants had probably broken open the doors of the newly built church past midnight. The main door was forcibly opened and the miscreants had obviously tried to steal the gold-plated chalice and two ciboriums kept in the tabernacle and also in the sacristy for keeping the Blessed Sacrament. The tabernacle was broken open and the communion elements were thrown out and sprinkled all over. (Deccan Herald, November 8, 2008)

Four persons including three juveniles were arrested for allegedly breaking into the St. Anthony’s Church in Kavalbyrasandra on November 11. The accused had destroyed the Holy Communion and escaped with valuables. They were drug addicts and had cases against them. The three juveniles were all 16 years old, and the fourth accused, Nauphal, is 20. On November 11, at about 2 a.m., they used iron rods to break the church door and emptied five offering boxes.

Later, they desecrated the church, broke the Holy Tabernacle, and got away with two gold-plated bowls, old iron pieces and also the crown of Christ, the police added. The accused then sold these articles in a scrap shop belonging to Alkatti Mazhar and Alkatti Wazeer at Lingrajpuram. The stolen articles were later dispersed in the Sunday bazaar (New Indian Express, December 14, 2009).

Attack on Humnabad Church

The ‘attack’ on a church in Humnabad town in November 2009 embarrassed the district administration and the police and caused quite a stir among the Christians who wanted the Government to take immediate action against those responsible for the attack. Furniture, electrical fittings in the main prayer hall, and the cross on the dome of the church were damaged.

But, according to The Hindu, December 18, 2009, police investigations revealed that the previous pastor of the church – Vasant -- had hired three goons, all belonging to the same locality, to attack and vandalise the church on November 17, 2009. Vasant was the pastor of the church till June 2009 before his transfer to a church at Basantpur in Chincholi taluk in Gulbarga district. He had conspired to damage the church with the hope that the church authorities would cancel his transfer and keep him in Humnabad.

 Reasons for violence against Christians

In most of the cases the reasons for the attacks against Christian groups are not difficult to ascertain. Simply put, they are a reaction to the “aggressive faith marketing,” propaganda, and mindless evangelism and conversions through foul and unethical means indulged in by Christian missionaries who denigrate and make fun of Hindu gods and abuse Hindu rituals as barbaric.

The Indian subcontinent has become the principal target for a wide range of western Christian missions which are determined to spread the gospel to India’s "unreached" people. There is little doubt that the current communal tension in India would not be serious if foreign-funded missionaries had been content with giving Indians the choice of Christianity and left it at that.

Christians under siege

Christians are a small minority in India. But their attitudes often elicit counter-reaction from among militant Hindus who sometimes incite violence against Christians. Many preachers of the Christian Gospel rattle off verses from the Bible to preach hellfire and damnation to those who do not agree with their interpretations of the contents of the Bible. They lay enticing traps for people whom they think must be "saved" at all costs. One hopes that the fanatics among the Christian faith will soon realize that theirs is a losing battle even if they derive their financial and other means of support from the wealthy nations overseas.

Animosity against Christians is a reaction to the aggressive propaganda and mindless evangelism of thousands of foreign-funded, cultic, fundamentalist, fanatic, and revivalist Christian groups working in India. They denigrate Hindu gods and abuse Hindu rituals as barbaric. They are the root cause of tension between Christian and Hindu communities. Invariably, incidents of violence against Christians are always bloated out of proportion and internationalized. Why should anybody be surprised if the “extremists” among Hindus are offended and react violently? It is urgent that leaders of the established mainline churches, known for their erudition, equipoise, and empathy came out in the open and disowned such provocative acts of intolerance of the fundamentalist Christian groups masquerading as real Christians.

Terms such as "evangelistic campaign," "missionary strategy," "campus crusade," "occupying non-Christian areas," a "blitzkrieg" of missionaries, and sending "reinforcements" sound more appropriate to military enterprises than to Christian witness to God's redeeming love in Jesus Christ. The statistical approach implied in the words "the unreached millions" is derogatory to neighbours of other faiths. "Unreached" by whom? When Indian Christians themselves use these phrases, which have originated outside the country, to describe their neighbours living next door to them in the community, Christians should not be surprised if the neighbours are offended, as Dr. Stanley Samartha mentioned in his book, “Courage for Dialogue”.

The real source of danger to the Indian Christian community is not the so-called Hindu extremists but the self-styled saviours of Christianity who assert that they alone are the holders of valid visas to heaven and paradise.

 Agents provocateurs or riot-entrepreneurs ?

The tragedy is that those who claim to be spokesmen and defenders of the Indian Christian community spread distress and division, and fan the flames of hatred against peace-loving Hindu community. They have turned out to be agents provocateurs who instigate and manipulate whatever the proximate trigger for violence against Christians. And, there is always a politician with an axe to grind, pulling the strings, inflaming passions, exploiting the victims for purely political ends. But the chances for success of such politicians ---the breed “riot-entrepreneurs” -- would be remarkably lower if there is vigorous and communally -- integrated civic life, not just through everyday casual contact but through formal associations that consolidate the mutual management of the two communities, Hindus and Christians.

To all appearances, these Christian leaders enjoy the grace and favour of the Congress Party and other so-called secular political parties. This encouragement helps the growth of powerful elements of separatism and disunity in the country.

It is unfortunate that there are not many Indian Christian leaders who can light a candle amidst the encircling gloom spread by religious proselytizers of both fundamental Christianity and Jihadi Islam. Most of the Christian leaders are unfortunately agents provocateurs or riot-entrepreneurs who are bank-rolled by US and other western Christian funding agencies.

It is high time Indian Christian leaders made an earnest attempt to appreciate this basic fact. That would be true humility if that is indeed possible for them to manifest. When greater inter-religious understanding and mutual respect is the need of the hour, leveling wild accusations that do not have any foundation is dangerous gamesmanship.

 Reaction to the provocations

Finally, Hindu “fundamentalism” is a reaction to the provocations of Christian proselytizers. Under attack, Hindus have partly woken up to the need for self-protection and self-preservation. When they attack such Christian proselytizers they generate much criticism, especially from Christians and their leaders and from the media world-wide.

People like me know that all such propaganda is being peddled in the name of a bogey man called Sangh Parivar. If one is honest in one’s analysis, it is not the Sangh Parivar but certainly the actions of Christian proselytizers and jihadi Muslims who challenge the religious sensitivities of the Hindu majority in the State.

 A bogeyman called Sangh parivar

The Sangh Parivar bogey man will disappear if the mainline Churches in India come out openly and affirm that they are taking a solemn pledge in the name of Jesus to abide by the admonition of Jesus not to go miles to make a proselyte. If they can do that, the so-called bogey man will disappear.

Yes, no civil society should condone violence. But mere condemnation is not a method to avert the repetition of violence. We have to find out if the violence is deliberate and unprovoked, or due to provocation. If it is the former, then there is one set of solutions, which mostly involves applying the law and severely punishing the perpetrators of the violence. However, if there is provocation, then we have to study the issue in greater detail. We have to understand why there has been a provocation for the violence, and who are the persons or organisations behind the provocation.

 Spreading animosity against mainline churches

It is worth recalling what Father Adolf Washington of the Archdiocese of Bangalore wrote in the Deccan Herald two years ago: “There are several groups of people doing the rounds in Bangalore adopting persuasive techniques not just to convert people but also to spread animosity against mainstream Christian denominations. They hurl invectives against the teachings of Christian denominations and even induce people to tender a written ‘resignation’ to the pastor or priest. Since some of these groups do not even accept the divinity of Christ, in effect, their conversion should not be understood as conversion to Christianity but to their organisation. Mainstream Christian denominations do not go on a conversion spree, only splinter groups and cultic groups do so probably for some self-gain.”

 Inter-faith dialogue: need of the hour

As in the case of all communal riots in our country, most of the incidents of violence against Christians have been instigated and manipulated: whatever the proximate trigger for violence, there have always been Christian leaders/politicians with an axe to grind, pulling the strings, inflaming passions, exploiting the victims for purely political ends. But the chances for success of such leaders -- the breed “riot-entrepreneurs” -- would be remarkably lower if we encourage a culture of inter-faith dialogue between Christians and Hindus and a vigorous and communally-integrated civic life, not just through everyday casual contact but through formal associations that consolidate the mutual management of the two communities.

 Political conspiracy

Lastly, the incidents of violence against Christians throughout Karnataka that have taken place ever since the BJP government came to power in 2008 have been minor in nature but all have been the result of jointly hatched political conspiracy by the Church with the full support of discredited parties like the Congress, Janata Dal (S) and others to destabilize the only BJP government in South India. Not a single life has been lost and thus unfortunately no martyrs for the Church!

All the incidents should have been localised and contained. But, they have been blown out of proportion and internationalized by the media and the self-styled leaders and spokesmen of the Christian community - classic examples of vested interests making mountains out of molehills and spreading distress and divisions among neighbours of different faiths and provoking religious sentiments and fanning the flames of hatred.

No civil society can condone violence. But mere condemnation is not a method to avert the repetition of violence. We have to find out if the violence is deliberate and unprovoked, or due to provocation. If it is the former, then there is one set of solutions, which mostly involve applying the law and severely punishing the perpetrators of the violence. However, if there is provocation, then we have to study the issue in greater detail. We have to understand why there has been a provocation for the violence, and who are the persons or organisations behind the provocation.

Chairman and Coordinator
Bangalore Initiative for Religious Dialogue (BIRD), e-mail:
Member, Karnataka State Minorities Commission
& Bangalore-based Freelance Journalist

Thoughts on Independence Day 2011



AT the stroke of midnight, August 14-15, 1947, a cry of freedom such as the world had never heard rose up from the teeming millions of India. The Indian Empire was no more. Gone forever were the pomp and magnificence of Kipling’s British Raj. “Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive/But to be young was heaven!”

How did it all happen? Long before that historic midnight, Mohamed Iqbal had filled every patriotic Indian with a sense of pride and glory with his “Sare jahamse acha, Hindusthan Hamara”. Of our India and its people he sang: “It is our rose garden, we are its nightingales.” That was how we rang in the twentieth century.

Down South, Subramanya Bharati recited to his ode to freedom, equality and brotherhood – Viduthale, Viduthale, Viduthale. Acham illai, acham illai, acham enbathu illaye, uchi meethu vaan idindhu veezhugindra podilum, acham illai, acham illai, acham enbathu illaye…(“There is no fear, there is no fear, even when the sky falls, there is no fear”, he sang.)

The sweet melody of Rabindra sangeet did not lull us to sleep but awakened us to our duties and responsibilities. Gurudev filled us with lofty ideals through Gitanjali: minds without fear, free knowledge, undivided by narrow domestic wall, clear stream of reason; that was how we were exhorted to enter the haven of freedom. How elated Indians used feel those days when young revolutionary heroes mounted the gallows singing Rabindranath Tagore’s memorable lines – “Blessed is my life that I am born in this land”. It was the same spirit, which could neither be suppressed by the bullet and the bullying of the Raj nor by the incessant ideological refrain of the White man’s superiority.

We joined the struggle for independence. An idealist led us - a “ half-naked fakir”, staff in hand, clad in loincloth, bespectacled, a cleft in the row of front teeth when he laughed or smiled (which he always did). He led us from behind, for he said, “I follow the people, because I am their leader”. He showed that empires were made of salt. With a spinning wheel he worked magic.

He spoke of his dreams: swadeshi, swaraj, panchayati raj, Harijan, Raghupathi-Eshwar-Allah, Ramrajya. He said: “The swaraj of my dreams is the poor man’s swaraj. The necessities of life should be enjoyed by you in common with those enjoyed by the princes and moneyed men…I have not the slightest doubt that swaraj is not purna swaraj until these amenities are guaranteed to you under it.”

When Independence was ushered in, Jawaharlal Nehru summed up the purpose of the “incessant striving” and ‘service of India” that lay ahead: “The service of India means…the ending of poverty and ignorance and disease and inequality of opportunity. The ambition of the greatest man of our generation has been to wipe every tear from every eye. That may be beyond us, but as long as there are tears and suffering, so, long our work will not be over”. What was promised was the ensuring of “justice and fullness of life to every man and woman”. A social structure that denied the common man the opportunity to rise to a decent standard of living “stands self-condemned and must be changed”.

Minutes before that historic midnight Dr. Radhakrishnan remarked that men like Washington and Lenin, Napoleon and Cromwell, Hitler and Mussolini, had used blood and steel to secure power. “We have opposed patience to fury, quietness of spirit to bureaucratic tyranny…History and legend will grow around this day. It marks a milestone in the march of our democracy. A significant date it is in the drama of the Indian people who are trying to rebuild and transform themselves…”

No nation was born in a more civilised way than India. But barbarity reigned on its borders. The civilised air in the Central Hall of Parliament against the barbarity on the bleeding borders reflected the state of the new nation – a backward country led by civilised men.

No doubt when we are celebrating the 64th anniversary of our independence we can look back with some satisfaction on our achievements, howsoever modest in global terms, since we became free on August 15, 1947. Compared to many of the developing countries, especially those that were under colonial rule for long years, these achievements have not been insignificant.

During the past 64 years India has striven to keep faith with the memory of the lean brown figure who led her famished millions to liberty. India was born a free nation; she sought to remain a free nation. She has tried to remain a free society respectful of the rights and dignity of its inhabitants, one in which the citizens would have the right to dissent, to protest, to express themselves freely and openly in a free press, to select their government in free, secret, honest elections.

India’s achievement in building a democratic nation is one of unsurpassed magnitude, worthy of the world’s respect, worthy above all, of the great leader who led her to the liberty that she has refused to cast away. O, sweet land of liberty/It is of thee I sing/Land where my forefathers died/Land of my pride/From east to west/north to south/let freedom ring…

The spirit of non-violence continued even while fighting a brief spell of tyranny. Perhaps nowhere else in the world was a tyranny voted out. The institutions of democratic governance, despite oft-voiced fears of erosion, have survived and gained strength. The so-called fall in Parliament’s debating standards could also reflect a pleasant reality. That, meeker mortals of the Indian earth have replaced the barristers with the right accent in the portals of Parliament. Democratic traditions have struck roots among even the unlettered millions of our country.

To record advance in different fields of economy, agriculture, industry, science and technology and developing a remarkably efficient technological manpower by world standards without in any way giving up our democratic way of life reflected in our pluralistic and multi-religious society, rich in its extraordinary diversity, has been striking to say the least. And yet a sense of deep depression grips one as one witnesses not only the all round poverty but the fact that in the last 64 years instead of markedly reducing poverty in real terms what we have done is to build islands of vulgar opulence and wealth in the vast sea of destitution and deprivation.

What is worse, the vocally influential segments of the wealthy fraction of our populace have increasingly become oblivious of the multitudes living on the fringe to eke out their pitiable existence. This has been markedly sharpened by the “market economy syndrome”. The net effect of such a phenomenon has been that we have allowed our younger generation to run after money and wealth forgetting their hapless poor neighbours barely able to survive. It has resulted in corruption and criminalisation of the polity growing leaps and bounds alongside proliferation of the black economy all around us, especially in the higher echelons of power.

That is precisely why we have to evolve a new strategy, a strategy that would aim at scaling down the mounting disparity in society, a strategy that would have to be accompanied by policies of social intervention to help ameliorate the conditions of those in the lower rungs of the socio-economic ladder. For that both decentralisation of the polity and empowerment of persons who have suffered persecution for centuries are as essential as ensuring genuine universal education and opening new avenues of productive employment so that our enormous manpower could be harnessed meaningfully in nation-building. Social, economic, educational upliftment of the people as a whole must constitute our priority task. And it is high time the rhetoric on this core is finally translated into practice. For the bulk of the populace has waited for too long. There is a limit to their patience which cannot be taxed beyond a point.

Only by such a strategy would the fullest mobilisation of our teeming multitudes be guaranteed to national reconciliation. Not only that, such a strategy would also help us to root out such vices as religious intolerance of both majority and minority communities that not only afflict the society but have also registered a sharp rise of late thereby undermining the basic values of the freedom struggle.

Building a nation-state is not a painless effort, but such pains of today are transient. Contrast them to the joys and sorrows of that historic midnight. True, the ambience, the flavour, the ethos of that midnight need the tribute not of sentimental nostalgia but of critical analysis.

Fifteenth of August continues to be a sacred day in the minds and hearts of the people of this great country. To celebrate the end of the long night of foreign rule and to breathe the air of freedom cannot but be a proud occasion even after sixtyfour long years. We should sing together today the famous American folksong: “Freedom, doesn’t come like a bird on the wings/ Doesn’t come down like summer rain. /Freedom, Freedom is a hard-won thing. /You’ve got to work for it. /Fight for it/ Day and night for it/And every generation’s/Got to win it again…”


Chairman & Coordinator
Bangalore Initiative for Religious Dialogue (BIRD
15th August 2011