Posts Tagged ‘Christian community’


March 13, 2013

By Ghalib Sultan
Area 14/8

The picture on top says it all. A mob in the background and an exultant youth in the foreground with smoke, fire and burning homes all around. This was the scene in the heart of Lahore when Christian homes were set on fire because of alleged blasphemy by a Christian who had already been booked under the Blasphemy Law by the police on the complaint of a Muslim. The mob that went on the rampage looting and burning homes was apparently venting their rage. No one died and no injuries were reported but Pakistan’s image was destroyed beyond repair-collateral damage from the point of view of the bigoted and the intolerant but a mortal blow to Pakistan for those whose heads hung in shame.

Now that the smoke has blown away, compensatory payments made to those who lost everything, the rebuilding process begun and some arrests made a clearer picture is slowly emerging. The Police advised the people to run for their lives hours before the mob arrived and they ran-the men, the women, the aged and the children all ran for their lives in all directions away from their homes leaving everything behind. Why did the police do this-to facilitate looting and burning, to save lives or because they did not want or could not face down the mob to protect lives and property? If the Police had advance information did this information flow upwards and if it did was it ignored? And if it did not then why not?

There are credible reports that the mob came prepared for their grisly task—with sticks, stones, gasoline cans etc. If so then this was no spontaneous venting of rage. This was a well planned event for which a large number of people had been mustered and prepared. If this was planned then who was behind it?- those who wanted the land on which the colony was built?- or those who had political motives and wanted to undermine the political administration in Punjab or was it a combination of both?. The land mafia would have known the consequences of such an atrocity and it is unlikely that they actually believed that the land would fall in their lap after the pillage. The political motive is more plausible and is also borne out by the fact that after the attack on the Christians some apparently counter attacks were organized on the pride and joy of the Punjab government-the new Metrobus system.

The Punjab government moved quickly to limit the damage and to begin rehabilitation work. An inquiry has also been ordered and arrests made. No doubt that there has been political fall-out but on the positive side people have rallied in support of the Christian community and against the forces of bigotry and intolerance that exist in society. There have been many previous incidents of this kind but never has exemplary punishment been awarded to deter such behavior. In the final analysis the blame must also go to people who are ready to undertake such criminal and reprehensible behavior.


Betrayal of a mandate?

February 10, 2011


THE BURNING question that the Justice Somasekhara Commission was mandated to answer was “to identify persons and organisations” responsible for the attacks on churches in September 2008 and thereafter in Karnataka. On the question of who was behind the attacks, the report says “there is no basis to the apprehension of the Christian petitioners that politicians, Sangh Parivar, BJP and the state government are involved in the attacks, either directly or indirectly”.

However, the report also observes, “The plea of Christian memorialists for taking action against Mahendra Kumar, the then convenor of Bajrang Dal, who publicly sought to justify the attacks, is totally justified.” The report adds, “the plea that organisations like Bajrang Dal need identification and registration for legal control deserves acceptance”.

Further, Annexure XLVIII of the report, which lists 56 churches that were attacked, specifically names Hindutva fundamentalist organisations that were involved. In particular, Bajrang Dal has been named as being behind the attacks on nine churches, Hindu Jagran Vedike (HJV) on three churches, Sangh Parivar on one church and unnamed Hindu fundamentalists on two churches.

In view of the annexure, the question is whether Justice Somasekhara is justified in giving a clean chit to the Parivar. The only way he can do that is by concluding that neither the Bajrang Dal nor the HJV are part of the Parivar. However, the material before the commission, both in terms of written submissions made before it as well as the cross-examination of Mahendra Kumar, indicates the linkages between the Bajrang Dal, VHP and RSS. What emerges is that the Bajrang Dal does not act independently but is part of a larger Parivar that controls and directs its actions. During cross-examination, Mahendra Kumar states that the Bajrang Dal is the youth wing of the VHP.

This admission must be read in the context of the Liberhan report, which was also placed before the commission. It should be noted that when the Liberhan report was sought to be placed by the counsel for the Christian community, Justice Somasekhara objected, saying that the report was unnecessary as he was going to understand what happened in Karnataka as a sui generis event with no linkages or connections to past events. However, the counsel argued that one cannot see the attacks as a one-off event and it had to be seen as linked to Hindutva ideology and the RSS’ organisational structure.

The Liberhan report had concluded that the Parivar included the BJP, RSS, Bajrang Dal, VHP and many other “mutating and transforming organisations”. It argued that they are “collectively an immense and awesome entity with a shrewd brain, a wide encompassing sweep and the crushing strength of the mob”.

The material before the commission discloses the Parivar’s role in the attacks. Why then does Justice Somasekhara conclude that the Parivar had no role? What paralysed him from drawing the necessary conclusions?

Justice Somasekhara concedes that district officials failed, particularly in Davangere. Describing their actions as “unreasonably cruel and illegal,” he recommended initiation of action against police officers. However, the commission refuses to attribute any vicarious liability to the BJP-run state government.

As an exercise in public reasoning, Justice Somasekhara’s findings are riddled with inconsistencies and contradictions, and completely fails to persuade that indeed the Sangh Parivar had nothing to do with the church attacks or that the BJP administration is not criminally liable for allowing the attacks to happen.