Panel clears BJP, Hindu groups of church attacks; opposition cries foul

Friday, January 28, 2011

BANGALORE - The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), its government in Karnataka and pro-Hindu outfits had no hand in the attacks on churches in the state in 2008, a judicial panel said Friday. The opposition Congress and Janata Dal-Secular, however, slammed the findings, saying “the government got what it sought.”

“There is no basis to the apprehension of Christian petitioners that the politicians, the BJP, mainstream Sangha Parivar and the state government directly or indirectly, are involved in the attacks,” the panel, headed by retired Karnataka High Court judge B.K. Somashekara, said in its findings.

“In fact, no politician or representative of any political party in the state, who politicised the incidents of attack for their benefits, immediately come before the commission with their affidavits or to give evidence or opinion in the matter,” the panel said in its final report submitted to Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa here Friday.

The commission said: “The true Hindus have no role to play in any attack directly or indirectly, but the attacks are indulged in by misguided fundamentalist miscreants of defined or undefined groups or organisations.”

It also absolved police of collusion.

While the BJP hailed the findings in the final report, the Congress and the JD-S demanded that the government should not accept it.

State BJP chief K.S. Eshwarappa told reporters in Gulbarga: “blaming the BJP and the Sangh Parivar for the attacks was aimed at destabilising our government. At least now, the Congress and the JD-S should learn a lesson.”

“The Somashekara panel report is like government getting what it wanted,” former chief minister and JD-S state president H.D. Kumarswamy told reporters in the temple town of Kollur, about 400 km west of Bangalore.

Congress spokesperson V.R. Sudharshan also criticised the findings and demanded the government not to accept it.

The Bangalore Archdiocese said the commission had let down the Christian community by not naming the people or groups behind the attacks.

“The commission has very badly let down the Christian community and the entire community is disappointed and feel the report is unfair,” vicar general Archdiocese S. Jagayanathan said in a statement in Bangalore.

The commission said “some incidents of attacks are true. If so why has the commission failed to name those responsible for them,” the statement asked.

“The impression and allegations that the top police officers and the district administration had colluded with attackers in attacking the churches or places of worship has no merit,” the report said.

It, however, was critical of police and civil administration for not treating sympathetically the Christians protesting the attacks.

The panel, though absolving Bajrang Dal of attacks, has held Mahendra Kumar, the then convenor of the group, guilty of justifying the attacks.

“The plea of many Christian memorialists for taking action as per law against Mahendra Kumar, the then convener of Bajrang Dal, who publicly sought to justify the attacks on Churches, is totally justified,” it said.

The commission, set up in October 2008 following vandalisation of churches in September that year, noted that several attacks were deliberate and well-planned.

“Not all attacks were spontaneous or accidental. Some were deliberate, well planned communal antagonism with fundamentalism brewing since several years.”

The panel did not find any evidence of the Roman Catholic Church’s involvement in conversions.

“There appears to be no conversions at all by the Roman Catholic Church or its members except for routine purposes like marriage or voluntary instances,” it said.

“But there are clear indications of conversions to Christianity in the districts of Bangalore, Kolar, Chikkaballapur, Bellary, Davanagere, Chikkamagalur, Udupi by a few organisations and self-styled or self-appointed pastors continuing…. using unaccounted local funds and funds of the foreign countries but not necessarily by compulsion or fraud or coercion but definitely by inducements.”

The panel had said in its interim report submitted in February last year that “strong impression is created that the members belonging to Bajarang Dal, Sri Rama Sene, and the VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad) etc. are mainly responsible for attacking churches or places of worship, mainly in Mangalore and South Canara (Dakshina Kannada) districts spreading to other districts and other parts of the state.”

Apparently anticipating criticism about the observations in the interim report and the final findings, the commission said: “This final report should be read as the continuation of the interim report since the materials stood then were treated as prima facie to record findings on several questions subject to the final report, which was clearly declared therein at each stage of drawing inferences.”

Filed under: Religion

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