The wrong arm of the law
The wrong arm of the law
The statewide targeting of Christians in BJP-ruled Karnataka in 2008

Hindutva’s evil genius

The sangh parivar is not just a sick organisation suffering from a blind and incurable hatred of Muslims and Christians. It is far worse than that. There is a method in the murder and mayhem that it promotes and perpetrates, which clearly points to an evil genius at work. Forget the average Indian, most secular activists outside Karnataka will probably remember the year 2008 in India’s communal calendar as the one in which the Bajrang Dal and other outfits of the sangh parivar chose to hound Adivasi Christians in Orissa’s Kandhamal district. They will most likely only recall that Christians were also targeted in BJP-ruled Karnataka as a subtext of the Orissa story. Advantage Hindutva.

For this very reason, the report of an independent inquiry into the violence against Christians, churches and prayer halls in Dakshina Kannada, Udupi and Bangalore in 2008 must be compulsory reading for every Indian concerned about the continuing threats to national unity and communal amity. The inquiry was conducted by Justice Michael F. Saldanha (a retired judge of the Karnataka high court) at the instance of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), South Kanara, and Transparency International India, Karnataka chapter, and its report was released in February.

In the October 2008 issue of Communalism Combat we had recorded how, as always and everywhere else, in Karnataka too, meticulous planning and build-up was an essential ingredient, a prelude to the outburst of manipulated rage. From July 2007 onwards a malicious campaign was launched, charging Christians with forcible conversions. It was a hate campaign in which everyone – the media, the police and the administration – cooperated through various acts of commission and omission. The CC issue had also published a ‘Calendar of horrors’ detailing incidents of violence month after month.

Fast-forward to the Justice Saldanha report. The first thing that strikes you is that, as in the case of Gujarat 2002 under the BJP’s Narendra Modi, here is yet another example of Hindutva on the rampage, sponsored by a state administration under their control. If there is a striking similarity at one level, there is a big difference at another level: active proof of the evil genius’s capacity to innovate. The genocidal killings in Gujarat had evoked far too much national and international outrage. Besides, unlike in 2002 when the BJP-led National Democratic(!) Alliance was in power, in 2007-2008 it was the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance which ruled at the centre. So a repeat of 2002 would not do; the same agenda had to be differently executed.

Bear this in mind when you read Justice Saldanha’s report which for reasons of space we only reproduce excerpts of in this issue:

“The attacks that took place on September 14, 2008 were well planned, premeditated and executed with precision, as I found out to my distress when I conducted this inquiry. What was very significant was the fact that wherever this took place, the police protection was zero vis-ŕ-vis the victims though they were providing leadership and cover to the attackers, shocking as it may appear; but in the immediate aftermath, it was the police who were the main assailants, aided and abetted by the saffron political activists…

“Then comes the nicest part of the operation. The home department had instructed the police to get hold of the local shopkeepers and workmen to immediately restore all the damage that had taken place… The speed at which this counter-operation was undertaken was absolutely amazing. To my mind, this was a brilliant move on the part of the state government because on the one hand, the congregation was beaten up, they were terrorised and in every single instance, items such as mangalsutras, gold chains and other valuables, including ladies’ handbags, watches and men’s purses, were physically looted, the place was vandalised, and after all of this, a pious impression was projected by the police on behalf of the government that the authorities were very concerned over the incident and had decided to make good all the damage. By following such a brilliant procedure the government was able to officially state that not a single incident of this type had taken place and that the allegations with regard to these incidents are not only false but are motivated.”

Isn’t that smart? The crime never took place because the evidence does not exist. The evidence does not exist because it was wilfully destroyed by the government’s law and order machinery. And if this were not shocking enough, we have the subsequent conduct of the BJP government which, after appointing the Justice BK Somasekhara Commission of Inquiry to probe the attacks, bulldozed it into giving not only the BJP government and party but also its various organisational affiliates a clean chit.

In the Gujarat context too, there is a desperate attempt to somehow get Modi a “clean chit” while simultaneously maligning the secretary, Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) and co-editor, Communalism Combat, Teesta Setalvad. We applaud Tehelka magazine for scooping the report of the Special Investigation Team to establish that reports planted in the media about the SIT’s clean chit to Modi are a lie. And several human rights defenders have issued statements condemning the Modi government’s attempts to embroil Teesta Setalvad in false charges.