‘Gujarat-like situation might prevail in BJP-ruled Rajasthan’

RSS infiltration in administration alleged

By Pervez Bari, TwoCircles.net

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Bhopal: A national-level Fact Finding Team of several human rights organizations has expressed concern at the penetration of the Rajasthan administrative and justice delivery systems by active workers of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh, (RSS). This has delayed a thorough investigation of the attack on local independent Pastor Walter Massey on April 29 in his house in a crowded city area.

According to a Press release circulated today through e-mail by Madhu Chandra, Regional Secretary, All India Christian Council, the main assailant, Veerendra Singh, is an employee of the state government, and a member of the Sangh Parivar, police have admitted. He has since been suspended from government service. Veerendra Singh and several other assailants, whose faces were seen in TV Today coverage of the attack, have so far evaded the police. Five persons arrested on suspicion of their involvement have been denied bail by a city magistrate who noted that two dozen lawyers loyal to the Sangh refused to allow the defense lawyer to argue, and instead intimidated the public prosecutor and a human rights lawyer.

The chaotic scenes in the court were also witnessed by the Fact Finding Team. The team later interviewed the Human Rights lawyer Ajai K Jain and his colleagues Ratnu and Advocate Kamlesh Kumbhakar. They also met A S Gill, Director General of the Rajasthan Police, Superintendent of Police Anil Panilwal, relatives of Pastor Massey, and functionaries of the People's Union for Civil Liberties led by Ms Kavita Srivastava, the release said.

The Press release said that a delegation of the State Human Rights and Christian groups will go to New Delhi soon to impress upon the Union Government the breakdown in the rule of law in Rajasthan and the highly communal situation which threatens to break out in a Gujarat-like situation. The dates of the "Save Rajasthan from the Rise of Fascism" protest rally will be announced nest week.

The Fact Finding Team, organized by the All India Christian Council (AICC) and Rajasthan's Sadbhav Morcha (Brotherhood Front), consisted of: Dr. John Dayal, Member of National Integration Council, General Secretary of the All India Christian Council and President of the All India Catholic Union; Dr. Abraham Mathai, Vice Chairman of Maharashtra Minority Commission and General Secretary of Maharashtra AICC; Ms. Teesta Setalvad, General Secretary of Citizens for Justice and Peace; Rev. Madhu Chandra, Regional Secretary of AICC; Sr. Mary Scaria, Supreme Court lawyer; Mrs. Tehmina Arora, General Secretary of the Christian Legal Association (CLA); Ms. Lanshinglui Rongmei, Joint Secretary of CLA. Manoj George of CLA accompanied the team as its counsel. Local PUCL general Secretary Ms Kavita Srivastava and several prominent activists assisted the Fact Finding Team in its work.

The Fact Finding Team is expected to publish its report by Monday. It will submit copies to the Prime Minister, the State Chief Minister, and the Union Minister for Minority Affairs and the Chairman of the National Commission for Minorities.

Preliminary findings of the act Fact Finding Team point to major lapses in the manner in which the nationally televised assault on the Pastor in his rented house was formally registered by the Jaipur Police in its First Information Report. It took the news of the Fact Finding Team coming to Jaipur and the agitation by the local community before police added to the FIR additional criminal charges for spreading hatred between communities and desecrating the Holy Bible.

Even later, policemen sought to pin the blame on the Pastor Massey, repeatedly asking the injured man about his alleged foreign funding. Director General of Police A. S. Gill admitted to the Fact Finding Team that there are reports of increasing number of attacks on Christians in the state, though he denied any lapses on the part of the police. He assured the team that steps have been taken to arrest all the culprits behind the attack.

Meanwhile, at a press conference later at the city Press Club, Ms. Setalvad, Dr. Dayal, Dr. Mathai and Sr. Scaria told the media that Pastor Walter Massey, his wife Joyce, and seven-year-old daughter are in physical and psychological trauma from the attack. Dr Dayal called for a proper Medical examination of Pastor Walter Massey, his wife and daughter.

While Pastor Massey has visible swelling on his limbs and face, his wife and daughter still shudder when asked about the reutilization of the Pastor which they witnessed. The Pastor and his family must also be given financial compensation by the State on the pattern of compensation given to the injured of communal violence in Gujarat and other parts of the country.

Dr Dayal said in the report: "The pattern of violence indicates a design. The anti-Christian violence is not the sort of communal violence recorded between other communities. A tiny minority is the target and it never retaliates. There is enough evidence available in many places for the police to take suo moto action against the VHP, Bajrang Dal and Vanvasi Kalyan Parishad but no action is being taken."

He said the community was "disappointed that the Chief Minister or any senior Minister did not visit the victim's family, nor did anyone condemn the attack."

Dr Dayal said he feared there could be more violence once the Rajasthan Freedom of Religion Bill 2006 becomes law. The Bill has been returned to the State Government by the Governor who refused to sign the document last year after listening to appeals by Christian groups, including the AICC.

Ms. Setalvad said, "If the Hindutva forces come on the streets in the manner they acted in the Jaipur court today, that is of great concern for the legal system in the state."

Dr. Mathai said, "I condemn the Rajasthan Minority Commission for failing to ensure safety and protection of Christians in the state. I believe Christian members should be listed under the coverage of SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act, 1989 and 1995." At a public meeting organized by Sadbhav Morcha, Human Rights groups served an ultimatum on the BJP Government to arrest all the identified assailants by Monday, failing which an agitation will be launched in Jaipur.

Rajasthan's tribal districts in the Jaipur, Udaipur and Ajmer divisions have seen scores of incidents of violence against Christians. Most of the incidents have gone unreported though the police, including Gill, admit they are aware of the rising trend of hatred towards Christians sponsored by certain political elements.

Rajasthan has contributed its share to the over 80 cases of anti-Christian violence reported from various parts of India since January this year, the release added.