2008 Attacks On Christians in Southern Karnataka - Investigations


An initial report by a committee, composed of some 17 human rights activists from Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Karnataka and Maharashtra, which formed to look into the violence in Mangalore, stated that the attacks were carried out by the Bajrang Dal and the Sri Ram Sena. They asserted that the event was a "pretext by the police to let loose a savage assault on the community and its sacred institutions", and that the police "conducted themselves as activists of the Bajrang Dal and not as officers of the law, under the benign gaze of the friendly state government." The police were reported to be "more interested in interrogating the nuns than in investigating the assaults." The National Commission for Minorities asked for a ban on the Bajrang Dal, after conducting reports into events in Orissa and Karnataka.

Retired Justice M. F. Saldanha, formerly of the Bombay High Court, was outspoken against the protests and published a report in 2011 investigating the attacks on Christian institutions and people, written up after he visited 413 locations, examined 673 witnesses and 2,114 victims of the attacks. He described the attacks as "state-sponsored terrorism", and concluded that "the attacks and incidents which took place were instigated and pre-planned. They were not only supported by the state, but were also covered up for by the state." The report also stated, “The responsibility for this devolves squarely on Home Minister V. S. Acharya and the Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa.” Saldanha believes that the "communal forces" at work attacking Christian institutions are also part of an anti-Islam movement on the coastal belt of India. This was later backed by Joseph Dias of the Catholic Secular Forum who said that the Karnataka riots were "part of a wider plan of radical Hindutva elements targeting the Christian community after the Muslim community", which had manifested in all of the BJP-ruled states of India. Saldanha further stated, "There is 100 per cent evidence of two things: the state machinery and the police had a role in attacks on churches. There is videographic and photographic evidence of police entering places of worship."

The official commission enquiring into the attacks on Christians, originally constituted on 19 September 2009 for a period of three months, had been extended ten times, causing dismay amongst local Christians. Yeddyurappa initially stated that a judicial inquiry into the attacks was unnecessary, as he believed that the state police were competent enough to investigate and bring the perpetrators to justice themselves. Jesuit priest Fr. M. K. George remarked that “The government does not seem to be serious about the early release of the commission report... the government is lacking the political will to act.” Revd. Manohar Chandra Prasad criticised the government for “soft pedaling” and believed that the extension was an indication of the government’s “step-motherly” attitude toward Christians. The official report of Justice B. K. Somasekhara, initiated by Yeddyurappa's BJP-led state government was eventually made public in January 2011, in which it stated that the attacks were suspected to have been initiated by the Bajrang Dal, denying any involvement of the state government and the police, "true Hindus", or any cover-up in the attacks after collecting 2,204 exhibits and 30 materials related to the attacks, 25 spot inspections and examining attacks on 57 churches in Karnataka. The report stated, "There is no basis to apprehension of Christian petitioners that politicians, BJP, mainstream Sangh Parivar and State Government directly or indirectly are involved in the attacks. No politicians or representative of any political party in the state who politicised the incidents of attack for their benefits immediately did not come before the commission with their affidavits or to give evidence or opinion in the matter." The report—which cost around 3 crores and took over 28 months, 300 sittings, and 800 pieces of recorded evidence to be realised—concluded that the district authorities and the police had, in most cases, taken the "appropriate steps regarding the Church and the people including the required protection." Somasekhara concluded that the attacks were "carried out by 'misguided elements' following circulation of literature insulting Hindu gods and reports of conversion activity by some Christian groups" and that "the Roman Catholic church and its leaders were not involved in conversion." In the case of Chikkamagaluru district, Somasekhara noted that "the Government may enquire and withdraw the privileges to every people who is indulging or getting converted in such illegal activities of conversions commercially." The report was widely criticised by the Christian community for being "biased" and activists belonging to the Religious Christian Minority Wing of the JDS burnt a copy of the Somasekhara report. Archbishop of Bangalore Archdiocese Bernard Moras rejected the Somasekhara report, stating, "It has failed to address the terms of reference of the Commission and has failed to do justice to the Christian community." He demanded that the state government launch a Central Bureau of Investigation probe into the attacks, also saying that "we will make a representation to the government putting forth our demand. We will make a representation to the chief minister, the governor, various organisations including the Human Rights and the Central government". Bajrang Dal State convener Suryanarayana also disputed the veracity of the Somasekhara report in its statements about the Bajrang Dal involvement and former Bajrang Dal state convener Mahendra Kumar. He issued a statement saying that "Bajrang Dal had no role to play in the incidents of attacks on churches and the statement given by Mr. Kumar during the attacks in 2008 were his personal views and the organisation had clarified this aspect then. However, Uday Kumar Shetty, the president of the district unit of the BJP, approved of the report, believing that the report was correct in its assertion that the Sangh Parivar were not involved in the attacks.

Read more about this topic:  2008 Attacks On Christians In Southern Karnataka