You are on page 1of 7

Somshekara Commission Report : The Betrayal of a Mandate ?

The Final Report of the Somshekara Commission does not do justice to the terms of reference of the Commission. When the Commission was constituted to go into a matter of public importance, the key question on the minds of the public was the answer to the questions of why the attacks happened, who was behind it as well as the question of the responsibility of the state government for the attacks. It is deeply disappointing that a Commission after working for two years has no strong conclusions on these points. What ever points the Report makes seem to be self contradictory and point to no clear conclusions. The highlights of the Somshekar Report will be analysed with respect to three areas: To identify persons and organizations responsible for the above incidents; On the fundamental question of who was behind the attacks, the Commission finds that, 'there is no basis to the apprehension of Christian Petitioners that the politicians,BJP, mainstream Sangh Parivar and State Govt., directly or indirectly, are involved in the attacks.' However later on the Report observes, 'the plea of many Christian memorialists for taking action as per law against Mr. Mahendra Kumar, the then Convenor of Bajrangdal who publicly sought to justify the attacks on Churches is totally justified.' The Report then goes on to note that,'the plea that the organizations like Bajrang Dal needs identification and registration for legal control deserves acceptance' One is unable to reconcile the categorical finding of the lack of involvement of 'mainstream Sangh Parivar' in the attacks with the finding of the responsibility of both Bajrang Dal and Mahendra Kumar. Further the Annexure XLVII of the Report which lists 56 churches which were attacked, specifically names Hindu fundamentalist organisations which were involved in the attacks on the churches: 1 Christian Believers Prayer Hall Chikmanglur Bajrang Dal 2 3 4 5 6 7 Jagadeshawara Church Mudigere Adoration Monastery, Mandyantar Mandir Mahima Chikmanglur Mangalore Prartana Belthangadi Permanur Nittuvali, Davangere Bajrang Dal Bajrang Dal Bajrang Dal Bajrang Dal Bajrang Dal Hindu Vedike Jagran Carmel Mathe Devalaya,Kudremukh Chikmanglur

St Sebastian Church DHM Pratana mandira

8 9

Eternal Life Church Full Gospel Assembly

Nittuvali, Davanagere Harapanahalli, Davangere Davanagere Udupi Shiroor, Udupi Mangalore Davangere Bada Davangere

Hindu Vedike

Jagran

Sangh Parivar Hindu Vedike Bajrang Dal Bajrang Dal Bajrang Dal Fundamentalist miscreants Hindu fundamentalists Jagran

10 Jesus Prayer Hall 11 New Life Fellowship 12 Life and Light Ministries 13 Kapitanio High School 14 Anagodu Church 15 Jesu Krupalaya

It is clear that the Bajrang Dal and the Hindu Jagran Vedike are specifically named as being behind the attacks on 12 churches with the responsibility being cast on the Sangh Parivar in the matter of the attack on one other church. In the face of this Annexure of his own Report, the question to ask is whether Justice Somshekar is at all justified in giving a clean chit to the Sangh Parivar ? The only way, Justice Somshekar can do that is by concluding that neither the Bajrang Dal nor the Hindu Jagran Vedike are members of the Sangh Parivar. However the material before the Commission itself both in terms of submissions made before it as well as the cross examination of Mahendra Kumar indicates the linkages between the Bajrang Dal and the VHP and the link to the RSS. What emerges clearly in the material before the Commission is that the Bajrang Dal does not act independently but is really a part of a larger parivar or family which controls and directs their actions. In the cross by Learned Advocate Ibrahim of CW139, Mahendra Kumar on Page 12 CW-139 states that the Bajrang Dal's central office is in Bangalore and it is in the compound of the VHP. There is a relationship between the Dal and the VHP as evident from this evidence of Mahendra Kumar at page 20 of his deposition as follows “ಭಜರಂಗದಳ ವಿಶ್ವಹಂದೂ ಪರಿಷತ್ತಿನ ಒಂದು ಭಾಗವಾಗಿದೆ. ಆಂದರೆ ಭಜರಂಗದಳ ವಿಶ್ವ ಹಂದೂ ಪರಿಷತ್ತಿನ ಯುವಕರ ಒಂದು ವಿಭಾಗ. This admission by Mahendra Kumar ( CW 139) one of the key witnesses before the Commission, of the relationship between the Bajrang Dal and the VHP must be read in the context of the conclusions of the Liberhan Commission which were also placed

before the Commission. It should be noted that when the Liberhan Report was relied upon by the Counsel for the Christian community, Justice Somshekar was strongly resistant to even looking into what was an official report indicting the role of the RSS in the demolition of the Babri Masjid in no uncertain terms. Justice Somshekar's repeated argument was that he was going to understand what happened in Karnataka as a sui generis event with no linkages or connections to any past events. However the Counsel for the Christian groups argued that one cannot understand the church attacks as a one off event and it had to be seen as linked to the ideology of Hindutva and the organisational structure of the RSS. The quotations from the Liberhan Commission cited below were placed before Justice Somshekar in the form of written arguments. The Liberhan Commisson noted that The RSS, Shiv Sena, Bajrang Dal, BJP etc and their inter se relationship have been subjected to a detailed study in my Report and their relationship with the de jure powers. These organisations are collectively an immense and awesome entity with a shrewd brain, a wide encompassing sweep and the crushing strength of the mob. The leadership provided by the RSS, BJP, VHP and the other mutating and constantly transforming organisations like the Hindu Mahasabha and the Jan Sangh, in furtherance of the suspect theories of the founders of these organisations was consistent and unabashed. The ends are all that matter to the core group of thinkers and the destruction of the disputed structure was only one victorious battle in their ongoing campaign against secularism and the multicultural society, clothed in the garb of religion etc... (160.10) In a specific chapter IX called, Organisations and their Inter Se links, J. Liberhan noted that: Throughout this report the term Sangh Parivar has the same connotation and has been used interchangeably with the phrases, founders or authors or leaders etc of the temple construction movement. Some of the organisations which form a prominent part of the Parivar are 109.1.1 RSS, 109.1.2 BJP, 109.1.3 Rashriya Sevika Samithi, 109.1.4 Vishwa Hindu Parishad, 109.1.5 Bajrang Dal. It is clear that the Hindu Jagran Vedike and Sri Rama Sene are also manifestations of the Sangh Parivar and espouse the same ideology and thinking as the parent organisation, the RSS. The family of the RSS is an ever evolving one with new organisations constantly evolving and the Hindu Jagran Vedike and the Sri Rama

Sene are manifestations of the same. What links the attacks across Karnataka is the thinking and control of the parent organisation, the RSS whose mandate is carried out by different organisations all of which owe allegiance to the RSS. The nature of crimes as offences against the basic structure of the Indian constitution as well as the motivations for these crimes can only be understood through understanding the role of the parent organisation, the RSS in many such crimes in the past. Based on the material placed before Justice Somshekar as well as the content of his own Report in the form of Annexure XLVII what is clear is the role of the Sangh Parivar in the attacks on churches. The question which puzzles is why even though there is material in his own report indicting the Sangh Parivar, why did he conclude that there is no basis for the apprehension of Christian petitioners that Sangh Parivar has any role in the attacks? It should be noted that in the interim report Justice Somshekar noted that 'a strong impression is created that members belonging to Bajrang Dal, Shree Rama Sene, VHP etc are mainly responsible in attacking the churches'. It is shocking that though there is material in the final report in particular Annexure XLVII of the Report, to convert the impressions into positive findings of the role of these organisations, Justice Somshekar has concluding the exact opposite ie. that they have no role to play in the church attacks. This is troubling because Justice Somshekar in the course of the proceedings repeatedly asserted that cannot draw conclusions unsupported by the evidence before him. However his conclusions belie the hope that claim that Justice Somshekara would have drawn reasonable inferences from evidence. One is forced to ask the question as to whether the material before the Honorable Justice shook his own deep seated ideologies and beliefs and paralysed him from drawing necessary conclusions ?

The question of the responsibility of the government of Karnataka for the church attacks
On the question of state responsibility once again the Report concludes that, 'the impression and allegation that the top police officers and the district administration had colluded with attackers in attacking the church or places of worship had no merit.' The Report also in the face of all evidence before it shockingly concludes that , 'the police action against the Christian protestors in several incidents were justified except at St Sebastian Church, Permanur , unexplainably excessive and unreasonable and is in violation of the expected norms prescribed. But the same cannot be generalised for all police actions at different locations.' However in the very next para the Report states, 'it was imprudent, unreasonable and inexperienced

act on the part of the police to enter into the premises of some churches in Dakshina Kannada without following legal requirements amounting to violation of religious interests and human rights protected under the Constitution of India.' The Report also states, 'the impression created incidentally that due to the alleged excesses of the police during the lathi charge etc in Dakhina Kannada incidents the innocent people like children, women were also victimised unjustifiably is true in a few instances noted in the report categorically.' It should also be noted that with respect to Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts, though a number of churches throughout the district were attacked simultaneously, the government refused to take any action till the Central government team visited Mangalore. This failure to take effective and immediate action and the dereliction in the duty of the state to protect the life, liberty and property of all its citizens, indicts the state administration. it should also be noted that a close attention to the incidents in Davangere indicates that the Pastors complained about the serious constitutional infringements to the District Administration with no action forthcoming. Then they complained to a range of Higher authorities including the Governor, The Chief Minister, the Home Minister and the State Minorities Commission and the State Human Rights Commission. It is pertinent to note that apart from the Governor and the State Minorities Commission and the State Human Rights Commission, no state authority including the Chief Minister and the Home Minister even responded to the desperate pleas and petitions coming from the pastors in Davangere. As noted above, the Pastors were not only complaining of the attacks by the Sangh Parivar but equally of the failure of the District Administration to act to rein in elements who were acting unconstitutionally. However there was no action forthcoming from the State administration. The failure to act began at the very top and percolated to all the layers of the administration. If the Commission can recognise even if in a half hearted fashion, the failures of the district administration as well as the police, one fails to see how the Commission gives a clean chit to the state government. Justice Somasekhara concedes that the district administration failed particularly in Davangere describing the actions of the district administration as 'unreasonably cruel and illegal' and recommended initiation of action against all top police officers above the rank of PSI with respect to Mangalore. Clearly the district administration and the police are arms of the state administration and the State government is vicariously responsible for any dereliction of duty. However, Justice Somshekara refuses to attribute any vicarious liability to the state government which is run by the BJP. In fact it should be noted that an application by Mr. Rupert Rosario to summon the Home Minister,V.S Acharya was just kept pending and not decided upon by Justice Somashekara. This indicates a deep rooted

resistance to even thinking about the responsibility of the BJP led administration for the church attacks.

The red herring of conversion
The Commission concluded that there were no instances of forcible or fraudulent conversion, however there were instances of conversion by inducements. The conclusion of the Commission seems to be that it is conversion by inducements which has resulted in the attacks. With respect to the reasons for the attacks, the argument pressed before the Commission by lawyers representing Hindutva interests were that the attack is because of the spontaneous anger of the Hindus against the conversion activities and the abuse of Hindu Gods. The question to be posed would be, was there material before the Commission to indicate that conversion was on such a large scale as to ignite spontaneous anger of Hindus to attack churches across the state on September 14 and September 15, 2008 ? If one sees the affidavits before the Commission, each incident of conversion is a purely local affair with no larger ramifications. Even the material before the Commission does not indicate that there was incidents of conversion with district level ramifications let along state level ramifications, leave along the ability to incite spontaneous anger across the state resulting in the church attacks. As such the issue of conversion was a red herring, which plays no role in explaining the planned and targetted church attacks. It must be noted that the red herring of conversion formed the staple of the Commission hearings for over two years with Pastors and priests who had suffered attacks being repeatedly and aggressively questioned as to their alleged conversion activities, almost making it seem that the attacks were justified. By contrast little attention was given to summoning or even examining those who were alleged to be behind the attacks with the sole exception of Mahendra Kumar. Justice Somshekra showed little inclination to examine the role of Hindutva ideology as well as the role of the RSS and its affiliates in the attack.

Conclusion
It should also be noted that the entire proceedings before Justice Somshekara were conducted in the manner of an intensive and rigorous cross examination of all those who had filed affidavits complaining of the hurt which the Christian community had suffered. All those who had suffered the desecration of their churches were rigorously cross examined as to the veracity of their claims. What was stunning was the complete failure to put on the stand even one person other than Mahendra Kumar who were behind the attacks. As such the Commission functioned as a glorified post office,merely accepting affidavits and pointlessly cross examining the victims as to

conversion thereby furthering the RSS agenda of tarnishing the Christian community. The Commission failed to do any investigative work and serve summons to those who were alleged to be behind the attacks and ensure that the 'truth' came out. As such one can only conclude that the way the Commission functioned belied the hope and trust that the 'truth' would be uncovered. As an exercise in public reasoning, the mediocre report produced by Justice Somasekhara riddled as it is with inconsistencies and contradictions completely fails to persuade that indeed the Sangh Parivar had nothing to do with the church attacks.