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Thousands Protest Against Somshekar Commission Report

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altMANGALORE, FEB 20 []: Thousands of Catholics from various churches coming under the Catholic Diocese of Mangalore and other churches and various other Christian organizations and likeminded secular organizations participated in the mammoth silent protest rally organized in Mangalore today, February 20, 2011.

The protest rally was organized under the aegis of Catholic Diocese of Mangalore to oppose and reject the report of Justice Somshekar Commission and also to demand handing over the investigation to the CBI. The participants of the rally tied black ribbons across the mouth, carried black flags and most of them wore black clothes as a symbol of protest against the report submitted to the government recently by Justice Somshekara.


Thousands of protesters who participated in the silent protest rally that began from from Jyothi circle at 3 pm congregated at Nehru Maidan grounds where leaders like Mariamma Thomas, Brother Walter J Maben and Bishop of Mangalore Rt Rev Dr Aloysius Paul D Souza addressed the massive and enthusiastic gathering and demanded handing over the case to the CBI and also the withdrawal of cases filed against Christians.


In her speech Mariamma Thomas thanked Ronald Colaco and the Bishops for their efforts in convincing the Home Minister of Karnataka R Ashok who has now promised to withdraw the cases filed against the catholic youth soon.We have to thank our Chief Minister and Home Minister because when Ronald Colaco and the Bishops met the Chief Minister and Home Minister they assured that the cases will be withdrawn. On behalf of all the people assembled here I thank Ronald Colaco and the Bishops for their extraordinary efforts in this regards”, Mariamma Thomas said.


In his presidential address Bishop Dr Aloysius Paul D Souza who likened the gathering to the crowd that had assembled to listen to Jesus at the sermon on the mountain stated “we have assembled in thousands in this ground in the centre of this city asking for justice. We have gathered here to protest against injustice done to us and to demand justice”. The Bishop pointed out that the Somshekara Commission report has pained the sentiments of Christians, in the process pushing the tiny minority community further to the corner. He demanded the investigation of the attack on churches and the events that followed should be handed over to the CBI to ensure justice to the Christians. The Bishop also demanded that the State Government should withdraw all the registered cases against Christians filed in the connection with the church attacks.


Pointing out that Christians, though form a miniscule minority cannot be subdued he said “If anyone thinks that minorities can be subdued by attacks or be taken for a ride by giving false reports, we would like to tell such people that they are mistaken. The culprits might have attacked the churches, broken the crucifix and desecrated the Holy Communion but they cannot destroy our faith in Jesus. We are pained by the attacks but not threatened”.


The Bishop also stated that Christians are peace loving people who don’t trouble others. “When we don’t indulge in unlawful activities I don’t understand why we are attacked and why we are targeted? We put forth these questions before the society because the Somshekara Commission has failed to find answer to our woes in this regard. Somshekar Commission was constituted to investigate these events and to tell us as to who carried out all these attacks. The Commission repeatedly says who has not done but fails to identify the people and the organizations responsible for these attacks. Hence we reject this report”, the Bishop stated.


In his address Walter Maben, Chairman of Karnataka Missions Network stated that the Somshekar Commission has disappointed thousands of Christians who were seeking justice. “It is incorrect to say the attacks on places of worship were spontaneous. They were preplanned and premeditated acts as such massive attacks in different places simultaneously could not have been carried out without prior planning. It could have been done only with the support and active participation of an organization and not an individual”, he pointed out.


Holding the state government fully responsible for the attacks, which could have been prevented, Walter Maben said “either the intelligence department of the state was extremely inefficient or they desisted from providing this knowledge to their superiors or the government might have deliberately ignored such prior information knowing fully well its implications”, he argued.


Walter Maben pointed out that after specifically naming the attackers in the interim report and also castigating the police for their role in shielding the attackers, he has completely changed tracks and has glossed over important aspects while giving the final report.


Terming the Commission report as an eye wash Maben said “the commission is fully aware who the attackers are and have full knowledge about the misdeed of the police. But it deliberately chose to ignore the truth. We reject this report because it tries to exonerate the attackers and their sympathizers in the government”.


Mariamma Thomas, human right activist and catholic leader who first addressed the gathering termed 14th September 2008 as the black day. She started her speech with the slogan “Beke beku nyaya Beku” and the crowd responded with equal ardor. Taking a dig at Justice Somshekar she said that Justice Somshekar completely negated his own findings which he had mentioned in the interim report, may be out of fear of losing his post. He had asked some manipulative questions during the inquiry, but we cooperated thinking that he would give justice to us, she stated.


Commenting on the issue of conversion raised by the commission she asserted “yes, we will do conversions, but not the conversions which Justice Somshekara has mentioned. We will convert uneducated into educated one, the sick into healthy individuals, convert poor into rich and convert those who are sad into happy people. This is the message we learnt from Christ and we will do it”.


Fr Onil D Souza, Director of Canara Organizations for Development and Peace (CODP) read out the reasons for rejecting the report and also the demands put forth in the memorandum to be handed over to the Chief Minister. He said the report is rejected on the grounds that the report recommends special census of religious institutions, it has failed to identify persons who have attacked the church, it has given a clean chit to the police and the officials and that the report fails to give a total picture of the attack in the entire state.


The memorandum submitted to the government demands withdrawal of all pending cases, handing over the inquiry to the CBI, identifying the culprits and taking necessary legal actions against them, adequate compensation to individuals and institutions affected during the attack, create conducive atmosphere for minorities to live peacefully and not to initiate additional laws aimed at curtailing the fundamental rights of the citizens. The Bishop Aloysius Paul D Souza then handed over the Memorandum to Dy Commissioner of Police R Ramesh.


The attendance of thousands of Christians in the grounds was nothing but a show of solidarity. The peaceful nature of the protest rally demonstrated the peace loving nature of Catholics who dispersed as silently as they had congregated.

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