Christian victims tell People’s Tribunal about arrests on false charges by highly communalized Karnataka police
Sangh Parivar hoodlums had free hand in assault on pastors, demolishing churches during 2012-2013: Uttara Canara worst impacted.
Benguluru, April 19, 2013
More than 70 Christian Pastors told a People’s Tribunal in Bengaluru city today how a highly communalized Karnataka police arrested many of them and kept them confined in police stations or jails on false charges in league with hoodlums of the Sangh Parivar. Women too were also not spared. The Women victims broke down as they narrated the violence against them.
The victims remained in confinement from overnight to several days, the distinguished jury consisting of eminent social activists heard in the Tribunal organized by the All India Christian Council to assess the victimization and persecution of Christian pastors and attacks on churches in the state. It was quite clear from the narrations that Uttara Canara was the foci of the anti-Christian violence, but incidents of persecution were reported from every one of the 30 districts of the state during 2012 and in the first three months of 2013.
The “People’s Hearing on Persecution of Christians in Karnataka” was held at the Institute of Agriculture Technologists in the city. The Jury consisted of Mrs Brinda Adige, the celebrated Founder member of Global Concerns India, Advocate Omkar KB, and Mr K L Ashok, general secretary of Komu Souhardha Vedhike [Communal Harmony Front].and Mr. Mohamed Rafi Ahmed,General Secretay Forum for Democracy and Communal Amity.
The Public Hearing comes in the wake of the statement by former Karnataka High court judge Michael Saldanha that Karnataka had witnessed 1,000 cases of persecution of Christians in three years between 2010 and 2012 – an average of more than 300 a year. This was the situation in 2012 also. Most of the victims remain in great fear. Of the 200 persons requested to come to the hearing, only 80 agreed to come. But all of them were afraid of what would happen to them if they spoke in public at the hearing. Many asked the Christian Council how they would be protected if anything happened to them after they gave their evidence.
From the statements of the victim, it is clear that the police have been heavily penetrated and politicized under the BJP rule of Mr. B S Yediyurappa and of his successors, while local thugs and Sangh activists across the state have been encouraged to take the law into their own hands. Many villages show a sharp increase in intolerance, encouraged by the inaction of police forces. Incidents of intolerance included Sangh Parivar members goading villages to stop the construction of churches, demolition of existing structures and stopping people from preaching or peacefully distributing literature. Witnesses identified their attackers as belonging to RSS, the Bajrang Dal and some local frontal organizations.
Justice was procured only after the victims approached the local and higher courts. The High Court had to intervene in one case to allow the construction of a religious structure.
The victims were, in essence, suffered four types of persecution – those who were imprisoned, those who had their churches destroyed, those who were physically assaulted and beaten up by mobs, and others who were stopped from praying or preaching.
Speaking on behalf of the jury, Advocate Omkar said it was clear the machinery of the state was used by the radical political elements to harass the Christian community and specially the pastors and religious leaders. There was a well-organized anti-Christian violence in 2008. It seems there is still a strong nexus between the police, the local village chiefs, tehsildhars against the community at the behest of the Sangh Parival. The state is also fully culpable. Advocate Omkar said the protectors had become the attackers.
Mr. K. Ashok called upon the community to make common cause with the civil society and progressive forces in asserting fundamental rights including freedom of faith. He also called for legal literacy in the community.
Mr. Mohamed Rafi Ahmed said it was heart rendering to hear the tales of horror and the many incidents of police complicity the Bajrang Dal and others. The Government must take notice of it. India has a secular Constitution and it is the right of every citizen to practice, profess and propagate his faith. He asked the victims to stand for firm and pursue justice with the perseverance
The All India Christian Council expressed its deep regret at the inaction of the State Government and the State Minority Commission in coming to the rescue of the persecuted Christians. The Council demanded that the Governor and Chief Minister send out categorical instructions to every police station to take notice of such incidents of violence and take stern action the aggressors.
The Council has also demanded a single-window redressal system by the State Director General of Police to listen to complaints because local police station are not recording the incidents, said Dr. John Dayal, Member, National Integration Council and Secretary General of All India Christian Council.
The testimonies have been recorded and are available for the press and the government. Copies will be sent to the concerned departments and a copy will be sent to the Chief Justice of Karnataka.
For further details, please contact,
Rev. Kumar Swamy, National Secretary for Public Affairs aicc, 09980917316
Rev Anand Kumar, State coordinator aicc 9739810548
and Dr John Dayal, Secretary General, aicc, 09811021072