Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Interim report on Church attack out- Commission wants clarity and action

MANGALORE, February 1, 2010: Finally there is light at the end of the tunnel, the interim report on attacks on Church and Christian Community in Mangalore in 2008 which was released here today has made several recommendations that may pave the way to a better management of communal and religious milieu in the district in particular and the region in general. The report of Justice B.K. Somashekar committee inquiring into the attacks on Churches, monasteries, convents and other prayer houses in September 2008 has been released today in a simple function attended by the press and few officials from the home ministry, police and the Deputy commissioner of Dakshina Kannada.
The report which is as voluminous as 500 pages of hard text was handed over to the Additional Chief Secretary for the Home minister Mr. Abhijit Das Gupta by the Chairman of the Commission Justice B.K. Somashekar.  In the report Justice Somashkar has made 20 recommendations and many of them were directions given to the government to withdraw all criminal cases investigated or charge sheeted against all persons or institutions for attacks to give that healing touch to the episode.
The commission has directed the government to take definite action unscrupulous religious organizations that carries out campaigns against other religions. "They should be banned as per law existing, to be legislated with the serious consequences of forfeiting assets to the government free from all encumbrances" he has advised. The cut off date for such an action should be 31st December 2008.
Justice Somashekar has also recommended that "All materials in any form including the press and media using abusive or insulting expressions either direct or with innuendoes touching the religious interests should be banned."

The report has suggested stringent action against those who film, televise and play offending religious sentiments. The recommendations has also suggested that the "government should enlarge the scope of Chapter of 15, specially sections 295, 295-A and 298 of the Indian Penal Code with stringent sentences of minimum period of punishment, with no bail and no right of appeal in addition to disqualification to contest in any election or to hold any post or office in any status.
Mr. Somashekar has stressed on the constitution of Commission of Religions. He has stated that the fundamental rights enshrined in the constitution under the Article 25 should be the only criterion for this commission. This commission should represent all religions through their heads and a registrar of religions to execute the policies of the commission through the agencies of the government with its own regulations and decisions that binds the government.  He said "this measure will ensure protection and privileges to genuine members of a religious minority and eliminate fraudulent methods of misusing a religious tag for selfish purposes, detrimental to the religious interests of the country within the constitutional expectations. He also recommended that the government may conduct a census of religions and their institutions through the commission.
Other recommendations included, passing a legislation that will prevent atrocities on individuals on religious basis, religious harmony programmes to be conducted at village levels, claims of compensations to be cleared expeditiously by a competent authorities in the case of loss of life, property and material loss. The compensation should be cleared within one month of the reported loss. The report has also recommended "least policing or no policing." All religious matters has to be handled with care and compassion by taking the religious leaders or heads into confidence. In the course of the report Justice Somashekar has outlined various issues like the police excess, inadequate compensation, politicization of religions, using religious sentiments for political gains and has asked the government to constitute a "Commission of Religions" and a "Task Force" to take forward the recommendations of the commission.
According to the synopsis of the report there were no attacks in 13 districts including Bidar, Bijapur, Chamarajanagar, Gadag, Gulburga, Hassan, Haveri, Koppal, Mandya, Raichur, Ramanagaram, Tumkur and Uttara Kannada as per the report.

A total of 8 petitions have been filed from four districts- Balgakot, Chitradurga, Shimoga and Dharwad and according to the commission they did not conform to the reference of the commission.

In district like Bangalore rural, Belgaum, Kodagu, there were report of incidents but they were not cases of attack on the Churches or the places of worship. They were closed and compounded in Criminal cases as a private dispute. There were a total of 6 petitions in these districts.

There were a total of 55 petitions in Bangalore urban and Bangalore rural some of them were alleged attacks and some of them were true attacks these attacks have been categorized under minimum, substantial and grievous. Dakshina Kannada had maximum numbers of petitions with 554, followed by Davanagere 238, Udupi 100, Chikmagalur 27 petitions Chikkaballapur 7, Bellary 3, and Dharwad 2.

Christians want justice- Meet Commission Chairman

MANGALORE: The representatives of the Christian communities in the city have met Justice B.K. Somashekar and have appealed to him to protect them from the rabid Hindutva organisations who open attacks on the peace loving Christian community. They even gave a memorandum to him. Following is the text of the memorandum.

With great disillusionment we are making this representation regarding the treatment being meted out to the members of our community in our district and in spite of several representations and requests we are being repeatedly targeted and our religious places are vandalized by some hardcore fundamentalists without fear of any punishment, said the memorandum.

Sir, you are well aware about the preplanned and premeditated attacks on our churches on 14.09.2008 and 15.09.2008 and the backlash following the attacks. There afterwards it was but natural for the members of our community to be on the defensive and feel prejudiced. There after repeatedly our churches and institutions are being targeted on one pretext or the other. Though the government has been assuring that the miscreants will be taken to task and necessary actions will be taken against them, we are still waiting to get justice and we still are clutching to the hope that justice will be done.

Given the fact that our community members are still reeling from the aftermath of the unfortunate and undemocratic attacks on our churches in the District on 14.09.2008, such incidents only are rekindling the feeling of bitterness and anguish lying dormant in the heart of the members of our community. Further in view of the unfortunate incidents that followed the attacks and in view of the fact that there was great loss and damage to life and property following the attacks; it is but natural for us to become wary and defensive. That attacks have made us realize how vulnerable we are in our own land in the hands of few fundamentalists. You would definitely concede that if it were not for the restraint exercised by the members of our community following the attacks, story would be altogether different then. But we still stand by our policy of peace and brotherhood and take great pride and privilege of being citizens of our country. 

That recently when we came to know about the premeditated attacks being made to our churches and religious institutions in Mysore and Bhatkal solely with an intention to create communal discord by targeting the minority community we were constrained to seek protection to our lives and properties in the District by making representation to the Deputy commissioner and Commissioner of Police. This appeared even in the all the Newspapers.
We do not want any such incidents to occur since it will leave a trail of violence and destruction which we want to avoid at any costs. Our religious feelings have been trampled once again, we were made to feel like outsiders in our own land and we have not yet come out of its shock. We will not be able to withstand such humiliation and disgrace once more. Hence before any such incidents happen we need to be protected and proper precautionary and preventive measures needs to be taken to prevent any such attacks being carried out, they said in the memorandum.

Hence we kindly request you to direct the Government and the administration authorities and the police authorities to provide us with immediate proper protection for our various religious, charitable, medical and educational institutions and also to the entire Christian community at large and also to apprehend the people behind the attack for which we will be thankful to your good selves. Right to practice and propagate any religion is a fundamental right and state is duty bound to give protection in this regard as held by the Supreme Court. Therefore the Government and the District administrative authorities shall discharge their constitutional obligations and prevent such untoward incidents at least here afterwards. Kindly consider our humble request.

Justice Somashekar appealed them to exercise restraint and he will see to that the culprits are brought to book.

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