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Justice Saldanha Releases Explosive Report on Karnataka Anti-Christian Violence

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MUMBAIalt, FEB. 22: Justice Michael Saldanha, who conducted an independent Peoples Tribunal Enquiry into the anti Christian violence that rocked Karnataka made public his report, giving the first copy to Cardinal Oswald Gracias, the president of the community’s apex national body – The Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI) in Mumbai.

Cardinal Oswald Gracias criticized the official Justice BK Somasekhara report, instituted by the ruling BJP government as an aftermath of the riots, saying it did not serve its purpose i.e. "to identify persons and organizations" responsible for the attacks on churches and Christians.

The Somasekhara report also hurt religious sentiments by its uncalled for remarks and exoneration of the fundamentalist forces, who are clearly seen to be behind the communal unrest in yet another state, the Cardinal added.

Cardinal Gracias said that the Justice Saldanha Report needs to be taken seriously, as for any developed nation, an honest and sensitive judiciary was necessary. "It was more than a Christian issue, since it had raised a national debate on the credibility of such judicial commissions, which served obvious purposes. In the case of Karnataka, it seems apparent that a massive cover-up exercise was underway and this did not augur well for India, which hopes to take its rightful place at the top among developed nations. Thus, Michael Saldanha had done a great service not just for the minorities, but for the country", the prelate added.

Justice Michael Saldanha visited over 400 places and examined almost 3000 witnesses/victims, besides relying on forensic evidence and media reports/footage to draw his conclusions. He said it was amply clear that –
 
1) The Hindutva brigade was behind the violence, but even worse was the fact that the chief minister and the then home minister implicitly and explicitly abetted the Hindutva criminals.


2) The brute force of armed police, state administration and the lower judiciary was used against the hapless Christians & community institutions, who were soft targets in the attack.

 
3) The religious violence was pre-planned and executed with great precision for maximum impact which it did achieve and the persecution continues over the last almost 3 years.

 
4) There is flagrant disregard to rule of law and an atmosphere of anarchy prevails, with non-state & extra constitutional players running riot and the government doing nothing.

 
5) The Muslim community is also stereo-typed and profiled, subjected to attacks, with the connivance of the powers that be, leading to fear among the minorities in the state.

Dr. Abraham Mathai, president, Indian Christian Voice & vice-chairman, Maharashtra Minorities Commission called for the rejection of the Somasekhara Report and the Union Government to take note of the situation in Karnataka before it worsens. "There is a dangerous trend of sections in the judiciary, giving the impression that the conversion bogey can be used as an alibi to attack Christians, even though no evidence can be found to prove this allegation. The JMFSR is corroborated by none other than independent media coverage and other fact finding teams. Hence, the Karnataka government should consider this as a more credible report and act on it" he added. Dr. Mathai also said that the BJP government had only been talking of withdrawing the false cases against over 300 Christians, but did not do so. It is time that this happened and adequate compensation be paid to the victims affected.

Joseph Dias, general secretary of the Catholic Secular Forum (CSF), welcomed the Justice Michael Saldanha People's Enquiry Report since " it exposes the real persons and forces behind the anti-Christian Karnataka violence, which the Justice Somasekhara Commission shied away from, for obvious reasons. "Unlike the Supreme Court judges' comments in the Graham Staines murder case, which they later expunged, the Somasekhara probe does not even bother to be discrete about Hindutva and goes right ahead exonerating the culprits and even in a way gives the impression of legitimizing the attacks given its Hindutva-speak. It kind of justifies attacking not only those so-called 'involved' but even those unrelated and hapless onlookers caught in the cross-fire", Joseph Dias added.

 
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