8 May 2023 5:36 AM GMT
The petitioners who have filed a petition in the Supreme Court alleging widespread attacks against Christians in the country have urged the Court to appoint a monitoring agency to effectively supervise the criminal investigations taking place in "troubled spots" in the country.The petition has been filed by Rev. Dr. Peter Machado, Archbishop of Bangalore Diocese along with the National...
The petitioners who have filed a petition in the Supreme Court alleging widespread attacks against Christians in the country have urged the Court to appoint a monitoring agency to effectively supervise the criminal investigations taking place in "troubled spots" in the country.
The petition has been filed by Rev. Dr. Peter Machado, Archbishop of Bangalore Diocese along with the National Solidarity Forum and the Evangelical Fellowship of India. The request for a monitoring agency has been made by the petitioners in their rejoinder filed to the Union Government's counter affidavit.
Refuting the claims of the petitioners, the Union Government has filed a counter-affidavit denying that there is any persecution against Christians in the country and alleged that the petition has placed reliance on baseless and unverified reports. The Union further said that the petitioners have presented certain personal disputes as communal crimes.
Disputing the Union's affidavit, the petitioners stated in the rejoinder that "there is a failure by State machinery in taking immediate and necessary stringent actions against groups that have caused widespread violence and hate speech against the Christian community including attacks at their places of worship and disruption of prayer meetings".
The petitioners further say :
"the Compliance Affidavit filed by the Union of India discloses that political groups linked to the Union were themselves involved in the communal crimes. The Union of India therefore cannot be relied upon or trusted with monitoring or reporting to this Hon’ble Court".
Expressing lack of confidence with the Union, the petitioners have requested that a retired judge of the Supreme Court be appointed to be the monitoring agency of all hate crimes, with a mandate to appoint distinguished police officers who can effectively supervise the investigation in these cases.
It is said in the rejoinder that the attacks against the Christian community started becoming widespread from 2021 onwards in several states, and these attacks coincided with the enactment/amendments of anti-conversion laws passed in states such as Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Haryana etc. The petitioners allege that the attacks are not spontaneous or unconnected but rather part of the overall well-planned strategy.
The rejoinder further states that the Union's affidavit "has inadvertently disclosed the identity of the assailants right across India". The FIRs filed against Christian community and the related news reports disclose the names of organizations who are behind the FIRs against Christians. The rejoinder then mentions the names of “Hindu Sangathan", "Hindu Vadi Sanghatan", "Hindu Jagran Manch", members of RSS, Bajrang Dal, VHP.
Attacks accelerated after Supreme Court order
The petitioners further say that the attacks against Christians accelerated after the Supreme Court's order passed on September 1, 2022, whereby the States were asked to file compliance reports.
It is said that in 2021, there were 505 instances of assault; in 2022, there were 598 instances and in 2023 January and February, 123 instances.
Modus of attacks
The petitioners say that 90% of the cases follow a similar modus operandi. If a prayer meeting is taking place in a private residence or a church, a large group of people suddenly assemble there, as if on a cue, and forcefully enter the premises, disrupt the meeting, assault the members, drag the pastor away and register FIR alleging illegal conversion.
Even in the cases where the FIRs are registered against assailants, there will be counter-FIRs against the community. While the members of the community and the priests are forced to long time in jail without bail, there is no single instance of the assailants having to spend any time under detentions. The petitioners further allege that there are several instances of police forcing the community members to not lodge FIRs.
The petitioners further complain that there is no compliance of the guidelines issued by the Supreme Court in the Tehseen Poonawalla case regarding the appointment of nodal officers to prevent mob crimes.
"in not a single one of the incidents 1000 instances set out in this petition has the nodal officer intervened to assist the victim or to register an FIR or to provide legal aid. The nodal officers have been totally absent in all these 1000 instances of hate crimes", the affidavit states.