Civil Society Delegation led by noted Film Director Met the President of India and Submitted Memorandum, seeking the intervention to curb the ongoing Orissa Violence against Christians.
Delegation sought the legal action against VHP, RSS and Bajrang Dal
New Delhi, September 1, 2008.
The ongoing VHP sponsored violence against Christians in Orissa has entered 10th days and it spreads to other states. Orissa Government has failed to curb the situation while Centre Government still watches, a delegation of civil society led by noted Film Director Mahesh Bhatt met the President of India, Mrs. Pratibha Patil today and sought the intervention.
The delegation includes Dr. Abraham Mathai, President, the Indian Christian Voice and Vice Chairman of Maharastra Minorities Commission; Dr. John Dayal, Member of National Integration of India, Mr. Mehmood Madani, Hon’ble member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha); Joseph Dias, General Secretary, Catholic Secular Front; Rev. Madhu Chandra, Regional Secretary, All India Christian Council, and Mr. Jenis Francis, President, Federation of Catholic Associations, Delhi, Archbishop Raphael Cheenath, Archbishop of Cuttack/Bhubaneshwar; Archbishop Vincent Cancesso, Archbishop of Delhi; and Rev. Father Babu Joseph, Spokes Person of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India.
The delegation demanded also to take up the legal action on the organisations and their irresponsible leaders, who called the strike on August 25 in Orissa, which led the mayhem against Orissa. The text of memorandum follows:
Citizen’s Memorandum to the President of India
September 1, 2008
Shrimati Pratibha Patil
The President of India
You are aware of the still continuing carnage against the Christian community, mostly Dalits and Tribals, in the Kandhamal district of Orissa and in several other districts including the state capital of Bhubaneshwar since 23rd August 2003 following the killing of Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Swami Lakshmananada Saraswati, reportedly by Maoist groups who have been operating in the state for some time. The violence has now spread to some other states, specially Madhya Pradesh.
Nine months after attacks in Kandhamal District on Christians of Dalit, Hill peoples and Tribal ethnicity celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, we are deeply saddened by a repeat of the violence in the month of India’s Independence. The Christmas 2007 attacks claimed the lives of at least four Christians, and we verified the destruction of at least 105 churches and 730 Christian homes. The current spate of violence will exceed these totals as it continues to spread into other districts. Our estimate from Ground Zero is of close to two dozen people dead, one a Hindu girl burnt to death working for a Christian orphanage, a Nun has been gang raped, religious men and women personnel humiliated, beaten, tortured, some close to death, while policemen have looked on, or have been absent.
We appeal for the restoration of law and order. But the root cause must also be addressed.
We, the secular civil society community, perceive that the great nation of India is at a tipping point. The groups which favour a “Hindu Rashtra” have made Orissa their laboratory, as they earlier did Gujarat. The so-called saffronisation of the state has been the subject of well-documented academic and socio-political studies.
We entreat you, as President of the Republic, to enforce the rule of law upon Sangh Parivar organisations which blatantly flaunt their divisive agenda. Specifically, we call upon you to bring the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, and Bajrang Dal under the rule of law.
As Orissa authorities have repeatedly said there was ample circumstantial evidence of Maoist involvement in the killing of VHP leader Lakshmananada Saraswati and four others on August 23rd. Additionally, someone who identified himself as Azad, a leader of Maoist outfit, People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army claim responsibility for the killing as Times of India carries the news on August 30 referring to an interview with a leading Oriya daily on August 29.
Yet Praveen Togadia, VHP general secretary, told an international journalist on August 27, “It is clear that the church killed the Swami.” Gouri Prasad Rath, Orissa state VHP secretary, said, “This attack is the handiwork of the Christians.” Subhash Chavan, national co-convener of the Bajrang Dal, said, “The police are trying to hide the truth by blaming the Maoists.” An unnamed RSS spokesperson said, “This is an attack by the agents of Christian missionaries, whose attempts at forcible conversions the Swamiji countered.” RSS spokesperson Ram Madhav told CNN IBN on Tuesday night that Christians were behind the murders. Perhaps based on a media report, Madhav The final word lay with RSS supreme Kupahalli Sudershan who in a Press Statement faxed to the Media called the late VHP vice president a martyr for “stopping Christians from carrying on coversions.”
These types of irresponsible statements must be met with the full force of the law. They are all culpable for penal action under IPC 295A for the crime of creating enmity between communities and religions. This would benefit not only Orissa, but the nation.
We sincerely wish Swami Saraswati was not murdered and he still might be alive if the state government had followed the recommendations of the National Commission for Minorities. The NCM urged the authorities to examine the speeches of Swami Lakshmananada to determine whether they amount to incitement to violence. We are confident that, if this had been done, the swami would have been jailed and protected from coming to any harm.
Your Excellency, the violence in Orissa continues without adequate police forces to stop mobs which break curfew and harm innocent civilians, chasing our fellow countrymen and women like animals in the forests where they have taken refuge since August 24. Today the irresponsible leaders of hardliner Hindu nationalist groups are damaging our great democracy and secularism of the nation.
We request you to order the Union Government and the State Administration to take legal action against the irresponsible organisations which called the bundh on Monday, Aug. 25, 2008 and have passively watched their members wreak havoc. They must, of course, fully investigate the murder of the VHP vice president.
This is to request you to use your powers as President of India, and the tremendous force of your good offices, to impress on the Central Government to rush adequate Union forces, including contingents of the Armed Forces if required, to restore law and order and governance in the Kandhamal region.
The consequences of any further delay, we the secular civil society fear, may be catastrophic for the small Christian community in the State in particular, for peace in Orissa in general, and for the fair name of India as a secular country.
The All India Christian Council (www.aiccindia.org), birthed in 1998, exists to protect and serve the Christian community, minorities, and the oppressed castes. The aicc is a coalition of thousands of Indian denominations, organizations, and lay leaders.