Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Attacks on churches were sponsored by State, says Saldanha report

The attacks on churches in Karnataka in September 2008 and the others that subsequently occurred were “pre-planned” and “State-sponsored” by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led Government, according to a report by Michael F. Saldanha, retired judge of Karnataka High Court. Mr. Saldanha released it here on Tuesday.
The report was the outcome of a public inquiry conducted at the instance of the People's Union for Civil Liberties and Transparency International India (TII), Karnataka Chapter.
Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Saldanha said that when Karnataka appointed Justice B.K. Somasekhara Commission to inquire into the attacks, Christian organisations had told Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa that his candidature “did not inspire confidence”.
“We, therefore, decided to have a people's inquiry which would be free, frank and unbiased,” Mr. Saldanha told a press conference. The incidents in Karnataka “are representative of the hidden agenda of the party in power, the BJP. Every one of the attacks and incidents were instigated and pre-planned. They were State-sponsored and not only supported by the State but were covered up by the State. The responsibility of this devolves on Home Minister V.S. Acharya and Mr. Yeddyurappa,” the findings conclude.
The report also indicts the State police force for “coercing” the perpetrators of violence and allegedly even guiding assault in some places. In one instance, “the police storm[ed] the church at Pemannur, obstruct[ed] and stopp[ed] the Mass, assault[ed] the celebrant priest, and standing on top of the altar, direct[ed] the assault,” the report alleges.
“As far as the saffron activists are concerned, the Bajrang Dal leader and the leader of the Sri Rama Sene have at all times boldly and openly admitted that it was their organisations which had undertaken all the attacks. The evidence clearly established that as far as Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts are concerned, the RSS [Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh] was involved,” the report states alleging “total collusion” between the BJP Government and these organisations.
Mr. Saldanha said that he visited 431 places and spoke to over a thousand witnesses, besides collecting material from journalists, and from press clippings and television footage.
Cardinal Oswald Gracias said the people of Karnataka had called for a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation. He said the guilty must be brought to book and compensation to victims must be given at the earliest.
“It is time for us to stand up for a cleaner society. The credibility of the country and inquiry commissions is at stake. Mistakes have to be rectified,” he said. Christian NGOs condemned the Somasekhara report for being “biased” against Christians and for being “a sham to whitewash the crimes of the BJP Government and protect the Hindutva brigade.” They demanded expunging the “false allegations” on conversion and misuse of funds against Christian organisations.
“The Karnataka riots are part of a wider plan of radical Hindutva elements targeting the Christian community after the Muslim community. You have seen this in all the BJP-ruled States,” Joseph Dias of The Catholic Secular Forum said.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Is Indresh RSS’s achilles heel?

NEW DELHI: RSS leader Indresh is the weak link in the outfit's claim of not being involved in saffron terror attacks traced to members of the extremist group Abhinav Bharat with investigators not prepared to rule out the possibility of making the RSS man an accused.

Indresh is under close scrutiny for links with saffron plots to seek "revenge" for jihadi bombings and the assessment of his role has changed from being someone with strong, even inflammatory views to a person clued in on what the Abhinav Bharat crew was planning. This might make Indresh a less benign figure.

The investigations into the Malegaon, Ajmer, Mecca Masjid and Samjhauta Express blasts established the saffron link and while evidence linking Indresh to a criminal or terror conspiracy is still being pursued, he could well be an "accessory to facts" he chose not to report to authorities.

Though RSS claims that only some peripheral figures could be involved, Indresh might prove a larger embarrassment. Revelations about his dabbling with saffron plotters certainly shook up the Sangh leading to a hasty internal stock-taking and a clear warning to its senior members to avoid such contacts.

The National Investigation Agency is looking out for Sandeep Dange and Ramji Kalsangsara, two key figures in the saffron plots who can clear up unanswered questions, including just how much did Indresh know about the Indore-based gang and its plans to claim vengeance against jihadi attacks on Hindu holy sites like the Sankat Mochan temple at Varanasi.

Official sources said the institutional involvement of the RSS had not come to light but there were good reasons to believe Indresh's contacts with saffron plotters, including some like Samir Kulkarni, Sadhvi Pragya and the late Sunil Joshi might mean he did get to know about the seriousness of their intent. Even if the plotters seemed amateurish to begin with, their menace could not be doubted after the 2007 Ajmer blast.

Investigators feel the Abhinav Bharat gang and some associated plotters were not a very large outfit and were largely "riff-raff" capable of violence but also spurred by exaggerated notions of their capacities. But contrary to opinion in some quarters, the Samjhauta blasts in 2007 is likely to be their work. An incendiary device less complex from bombs used elsewhere sparked a blaze on the train.

The agency is working hard to seal its case on the saffron plots seeking corroborative evidence that will allow it to present a good case in court. The confession of Swami Aseemanand definitely strengthens suspicions about saffron links to the bombings at Malegaon and elsewhere, but it needs more evidence.

Read more: Is Indresh RSS’s achilles heel? - The Times of India