REPORT OF THE PEOPLE’S TRIBUNAL ENQUIRY
Writer: Justice M. F. Saldanha
PEOPLE’S TRIBUNAL ENQUIRY
Conducted at the instance of the
People’s Union for Civil Liberties,
South Kanara, And
The Catholic Association of South Kanara
Transparency International, Karnataka Chapter
By Justice M. F. Saldanha
Retired Judge, Karnataka High Court.
President, The Catholic Association of South Kanara.
Chairman, Transparency International , Karnataka Chapter.
ATTACK AROUND THE MILAGRES CHURCH
On the morning of Sunday, 14th September 2008, as indicated in Chapter-I, an unprovoked attack took place on the Adoration Monastery which is situated hardly 200 mtrs. away from the Milagres Church, which in turn is located right in the centre of Mangalore city. Both the Church and the Monastery are located on the main Falnir road which is a broad main road, the well known Moti Mahal Hotel being located in the same vicinity. It is also necessary for me to record that opposite the Monastery there is a relatively large area occupied by the Milagres hall which is a considerably big new building housing two auditoriums. What is important is that this property, like the hotel, the shops and the other buildings on that road is surrounded by a fully paved area and it is of significance to record that there is not a single stone, large or small anywhere around the entire area. Between the Milagres hall and the church is a large cemetery which in turn is fully enclosed by a relatively high compound wall. The only gate to this cemetery is located on the right side of the main church which is a considerable distance away from the main road and about one kilometer away from the Monastery gate. I need to record this because a series of incidents of immense seriousness took place on that day on the road in front of the Monastery which involved violent stone throwing where-in granite “rock-pebbles” were used There are no stones of any type to be found on
the Falnir road or anywhere in the vicinity. There is no access from the main road to the cemetery. However, I personally checked the whole cemetery in order to reassure myself that there were no stones, more so “granite-rock pebbles” anywhere in the whole of the cemetery. It is a very old cemetery with hundreds of graves neatly laid out in lines with monuments over most of them and paved pathways leading to the graves. There are a number of trees in the cemetery but one will not find even a single stone even if one looks for it. I have taken the special care to inspect the entire area because all the stones used in the afternoon’s incident were MEDIUM SIZED GRANITE ROCKS WHICH ARE TOTALLY FOREIGN TO THIS AREA. WHERE DID THEY COME FROM AND WHO BROUGHT THEM THERE?
As indicated in Chapter-I, the incident wherein the Monastery was attacked and the chapel and the holy objects therein were desecrated took place in the earlier part of the day around 10 to 11 a.m. As soon as this happened, the news of the attack spread rapidly in the whole city and particularly in the Milagres Parish and many people rushed there. THE LOCAL TV CHANNELS CARRIED THE NEWS LIVE. THE INCIDENT SO SHOCKED THE WORLD CONSCIENCE THAT ALL THE WORLD CHANNELS CARRIED IT- I SAW IT ON BBC AND CNN IN LONDON. Being a Sunday, and since it was a hot sunny afternoon, many of the men folk were probably resting at home because my consistent investigations show that the majority of people who gathered there fell into three categories; women, nuns and priests. They were all in the age group of
around 40 to 60 years. Most of them were Christians who were distressed and alarmed at what had taken place. I say this because it is of importance to point out that their reaction was one of shock and perhaps a level of disappointment coupled with horror over an attack on a religious place. They had gathered in the lane or small narrow road leading to the Monastery and the rest of them were on the main road. Being a Sunday and around noon time, the traffic was relatively light and the group of about 300 to 400 people who were assembled as time went on and as the news spread, never got to more than about 500 persons at the very highest because very few continued to remain there- the TV channels were covering the incident live and the videos are quite clear. The local representatives of the International media channels also came there and took videos of the incidents as also of the people gathered at the spot and the Press also took a relatively large number of photographs between noon and about 5.00 p.m. I had requested these agencies to show me the videos and the copies of the photographs because all of this is contemporaneous unimpeachable evidence from which the following significant aspects emerge:
(a) that all those persons who had assembled there were essentially devout Christians who were deeply offended by the incident and basically came there with the idea of praying in order to make reparation for the attack on the chapel. They had come there at short notice for a devout purpose and they hailed from a respectable background. None of them had any weapons with them. THEY
WERE A PEACFUL GROUP OF SENIOR CITIZENS
GATHERED IN PRAYER.
(b) a careful scrutiny of the material available establishes that there were no unruly or anti-social elements in or around the area as this was not a planned assembly nor was there any occasion for such elements to reach that place. This is also established from my personal enquiries with well placed persons in society who included Senior Doctors, Chartered Accountants, Businessmen, retired people and members of the clergy.
(c ) The set of taxi drivers who normally park their cars in that area and who are all non Christians and totally independent persons and the Security staff of Moti Mahal Hotel who also belonged to the same category, as also the staff of another hotel located next door, who are again totally independent persons, and lastly, the residents of a high rise building located opposite the cemetery who are also eye witnesses, all confirmed that it was a peaceful devout group of respectable citizens all of whom were either standing in silence or praying and that there was no slogan shouting violence or any incident that could be construed as a law and order problem or disturbance of public peace. For a full FOUR HOURS i.e. till about 5 p.m., for some strange reason, the police did not appear on the scene; the obvious reason being that after their collusion with the Chapel attackers in the morning, they had probably realized that they may be
answerable for what had happened. MORE IMPORTANTLY, THIS
FULLY CONFIRMS THE FACT THAT THE SITUATION WAS TOTALLY PEACFUL.
Sometime around 5.00 p.m, the SP of the area along with about 20 officers of different ranks, all in uniform, with helmets and riot-control gear arrived at the scene armed with lathis. They had come in a number of jeeps and police vans. The police constables were also armed with lathis and other equipment that is normally carried by the police while dealing with a violent mob. The records also indicate that apart from the SP and other police officers, the then DC was also present. The strange part of the operation was that these vehicles came from the City Centre and since there were a relatively large number of them, the majority of them were parked on the main road adjoining the Church, while about one third of the vehicles drove through the persons assembled there and stopped on the road beyond the assembled group opposite the Moti Mahal Hotel. Why the persons assembled there were blocked-off from both ends was not apparent at that time, but as I shall presently indicate, it was part of the Police master-plan to trap and surround them which subsequently became apparent.
Now comes the most significant part of the incident. The police had brought with them two blue coloured tempos which were private vehicles (not Police vehicles) bearing yellow coloured number plates. One of these was brought to the front of the Police vehicles on each of the two sides, with all the
assembled persons sandwiched between the vehicles. What is very significant is the fact that each of these tempos was carrying about 20 young men per vehicle, ALL IN PLAIN CLOTHES. Each of these persons was armed with lathis or sticks. The Videos clearly show a fellow sitting above the driver’s cabin of each Tempo carrying a TRISHUL! I have done considerable research in trying to ascertain the identity of these persons. I have written to the SP asking him for an explanation with regard to the presence of these tempos and the occupants of these vehicles. Neither this man nor his subordinates have tendered any explanation nor have they
remained present on any of the eleven occasions when asked to do so. The occupants of these tempos had nothing to do with the police department. The victims in this and in all the other incidents where the same modus operandi was followed, have clearly identified these armed miscreants who occupied the two tempos as local Bajrang Dal activists. From the day the BJP Government came to power in the State which coincided with Dr. B. V. Acharya assuming the portfolio of Home Minister, militant activity of all the saffron brigades took an ugly turn. Open war was declared on the Christians and the Muslims. The Saffron brigades took charge of all the Police Stations in the District and dictated terms to the officers and staff, most of whom willingly fell in line. What was the immediate fall-out?
(A) the members of the saffron brigade could commit any atrocities or crimes, they had total immunity from the law enforcement authorities.
(B) any member of the minority community who had been threatened, beaten up or looted and who went to complain at the Police Stations was assaulted and arrested under a host of NON-BAILABLE OFFENCES and put behind bars. It soon became evident that it was extremely dangerous to go to a Police Station or call the Police even in the most serious of cases. It is not surprising therefore that the police brought their partners in crime to that place in the two Tempos openly, brazenly and brandishing TRISHULS!
The DC and then the SP who had led the convoy had megaphones with them and they announced at around 5.00 p.m. that Section 144 Orders had been promulgated and that all those present there must disperse. Strangely enough, the unanimous evidence is that being peaceful law abiding persons, the crowd of about 400 to 500 persons decided to leave the place when asked to do so. Nobody argued with the officers nor did anybody put forward any resistance to the direction. THOUGH THE POLICE AND THE D.C. ASKED THE PERSONS TO DISPERSE, THEY HAD TAKEN THE PRECAUTION TO ENSURE THAT BOTH THE EXIT-ROUTES WERE BLOCKED SO THAT NOBODY COULD IN FACT LEAVE.
Without any provocation from any quarter, the persons assembled on the road were subjected to a violent attack of stones BY THE OCCUPANTS OF THE TWO BLUE TEMPOS from both sides i.e. the Church side and
the Moti Mahal side and the attackers were all the saffron activists who were in the two tempos that were stationed there. Almost every single person sustained injuries, some of them on vital parts of their bodies. As soon as the stone throwing started, the police who were stationed on virtually all the four sides of the persons assembled there were ordered by the SP and the Officers to lathi-charge those present and SIMULTANEOUSLY to use teargas shells. In the face of this attack, people tried to flee the area and they were chased and mercilessly beaten up.
There is a Church service i.e. a Sunday Evening Mass, which was at 5.00 p.m. in the main Milagres Church and about 500 people had come to the Church for the Mass. This incident wherein the police and their partners from the Bajrang Dal ran riot on the adjoining road took place around the time when the Mass was about to commence. In order to protect themselves, people started running off the road into the Church compound right up to the front verandah and the side verandahs of the Church and the Parish House which is adjoining. They were chased by the police and over 200 of them were mercilessly assaulted in the Church compound and in the precincts of the Church.
I have confirmed these facts from three sources which are as follows:
(a) Over 300 of the victims who have shown me the injuries sustained by them. EVERY ONE OF THE INJURIES IS ATTRIBUTABLE TO STONE-INJURIES AND LATHI-BLOWS. I had called a
public meeting requesting all persons who knew anything about the incident to come forward and give their evidence and I am satisfied from the status and the credibility of each of them, all of whose versions tally one hundred percent to the letter, that the attack by the police which was started by the Bajrang Dal Activists who had been brought by them and who commenced with the stone throwing, was totally unprovoked and unjustified. From the nature of the incident and the injuries sustained, what also emerges is the fact that the attack was savage, barbaric and brutal. The most serious aspect of the matter is that it was carefully planned by the SP and DC and those who had accompanied them and executed with a level of aggression and brutality that would categorize their action as serious criminal offences. This attack took place at a point of time when the Bajrang Dal activists had been attacking and terrorizing members of the minority communities all over the Karavali area for over three months. At two meetings called by me, what was pointed out was that there had been as many as 168 recorded attacks on members of these communities on roads, public places, residential areas and the main target was shops and hotels run by members of the Muslim and Christian community. Pursuant to the complaint that not even one offence had been registered against the miscreants anywhere in the District, I had called on the SP and the Heads of the Police Stations concerned to explain how and why this had happened. There was no response. I had also written to the Home Minister Dr. V.
S. ACHARYA BY NAME, to the Chief Secretary to the Govt. of Karnataka and to the D.G. Police recording these facts and asking for an explanation- nothing forthcoming, not even the customary paper denials! What is more incriminating is the fact that the Bajrang Dal Chief has gone on record twenty-eight times accepting responsibility for all the attacks and no action was ever taken against him.
(b) When this incident took place, the Mass service was disrupted and about 10% of the congregation ran out of the Church out of fear that the police would enter the Church. While the evidence indicates that the lathi charge and the teargas was used even in the Church compound and the verandahs and front porch of the Church, mercifully, the police did not resort to any violence inside the Church. The Priest who was conducting the service, requested those present not to react, all of them did. (It so happens that the neighbour to my mother’s house, who is a Senior and well respected professional remained in the Church and escaped injury- he is one of those who confirms the veracity of the incident as he had seen the Police taking up positions shortly earlier when he was on the way to the Church fir the evening Mass) Those who ran outside were eye-witnesses to the police violence and to the brutality and most of them sustained injuries. Over 100 eye witnesses have deposed to the fact that the persons in plain clothes created very interesting evidence by breaking a few glasses and damaging some of the Police vehicles in order to
support the allegation that the crowd had retaliated. I have carefully checked the possibility of this taking place, because if those present had been attacked, even the Law permits them to retaliate in self defence. This did not happen because none of those present had any weapons with them, most of them were in the age group of over 50, again, a majority of them being women and the possibility of returning the stone throwing was also eliminated by the fact that the attack from the police was so sudden that there was no chance for any of them to have even picked up a stone and hurled it back. I have considerable experience of the intelligence levels of the Dakshina Kannada Police particularly in their favorite area of ENCOUNTER KILLINGS- they are incapable of even lying intelligently! The Videos are eloquent on the point of who damaged the vehicles. As happened in the Gulf War where the Americans shot their own partners, the minor/insignificant injuries to a very small number of police-men were from their own associates, were VIRTUALLY SELF INFLICTED TO CREATE FALSE EVIDENCE.
(c ) One of the eye-witnesses is a senior Lawyer who had come for the Church service. He was not a member of the group that had been attacked. His son, also a Lawyer of some seniority was present along with his father. They had brought with them a family visiting from the US who had expressed the desire to see the Church. All these six persons who are independent and again persons of unimpeachable
credibility have stated that it is the police who indulged in the unprovoked and unjustified violence, that there was no resistance or counter attack and unfortunately, all the six of them had to leave the Church because of the after effects of the teargas. They were required to seek medical relief but none of them were hospitalized. They got
into their vehicle and drove towards the closest hospital which is the WENLOCK Hospital at the City Centre and it is their evidence as also the evidence of those who fled along that road that after the incident, the occupants of the two tempos were joined by several of their companions all waiting on motorcycles with saffron flags who ran wild on the City Centre and the adjoining roads and even looted and damaged some of the shops in the area. SO THOROUGH AND COMPLETE WAS THE PLANNING FOR THIS ASSAULT THAT THE WENLOCK HOSPITAL REFUSED TO TREAT OR ADMIT ANY OF THE INJURED PERSONS. THE HOSPITAL DOCTORS AND STAFF HAVE UNOFFICIALLY CONFIRMED THAT INSTRUCTIONS HAD COME FROM THE HIGHEST QUARTERS, i. e. THE HOME MINISTER AND HIS SON BOTH OF WHOM ARE DOCTORS. SO MUCH FOR SOME MEMBERS OF THE MEDICAL PROFESSION! THIS WAS THE UNIFORM PATTERN IN ALL THE ATTACKS. NO WONDER THAT DR. ACHARYA BOLDLY TOLD ME THAT NOBODY HAD BEEN INJURED IN THIS INCIDENT EXCEPT HIS POOR POLICEMEN!
(d) The police claim to have rounded up and arrested as many as 28 young men on the allegation that they had indulged in rioting and that they had damaged the police vehicles and attacked the police. The police also took away as many as 48 two wheelers from the Church compound on the allegation that these were involved in the offences. These were not returned for several weeks and the poor owners were blackmailed into paying large sums of money to the police to get their vehicles back. There is no record available with the police in respect of the seizure of the 48 vehicles obviously because it was wholly illegal. Also, the allegation that all those arrested were involved in the incident is fully established to be false because my investigation indicates that in order to create evidence against the Christian community, a few of the vehicles were damaged in keeping with the pre-conceived plan. Incidentally, in the course of investigation conducted into as many as seven encounters carried out by the police in Dakshina Kannada District in the previous one year, I found that the same pattern is followed whereby evidence of a so-called attack on the police and their vehicles was fabricated in order to justify the cold-blooded murder of so-called anti-social elements. In the case of eleven of the boys who had been arrested and who happened to be students, my investigations indicate that four of them were pulled out by the police from the Taj Mahal Hotel, two of them from the adjoining sweet stall and the other five from shops and restaurants located
more than one kilometer away from the incident. After running wild, in order to support themselves and their illegal activities on that evening, the police indiscriminately picked up persons from all over the place. NOT ONE OF THESE ARRESTS CAN BE JUSTIFIED OR DEFENDED.
THE CLEAN-UP OPERATION:
This incident did not last very long and I would put it down to about half an hour. What follows is something absolutely unprecedented. The police went around meticulously picking up all the stones that had been used and replaced them in the two tempos which then drove away WITH THE ROCK-PEBBLES. Initially, I was amazed and impressed at the unbelievable action of the Police to clean up the mess that they had made. What was more interesting was that they took the trouble to retrieve as many of the teargas
shells as they could find and these were also taken away. As I shall point out subsequently, this was 100% guilty conduct and the police did not want to leave this damaging evidence there. Unfortunately for them, a few of these stones and teargas shells were left behind and these were picked up by Journalists and some of the victims who produced them at the time when I held the public enquiry at the Milagres Hall and at several other places. The short reason for this was that the attack was pre-planned and if the stones were left there, the question would arise as to how they came there and who brought them, certainly not a group of elderly devout persons who
had come to pray over the attack on a place of worship; secondly, as I shall indicate later on, the teargas that was used was outdated by SIX YEARS, the gas that emerged was 100% toxic which could have proved fatal; this was not an accident and the Head of the Police Department i.e. the SP and the Officers who were accompanying him were fully aware of these facts and did not want to leave behind damaging evidence.
After a very careful assessment of the evidence of what happened on Falnir road on the afternoon of 14th September, my conclusions are:
(a) That there was zero justification for the promulgation of the so-called Section 144 Order by the DC as there was absolutely no indication of any breach of public peace, there was not even the slightest material to support the view that there would be resort to violence or that it would create a law and order problem and more importantly, that the persons had assembled for prayer and not for any unlawful purpose. WHETHER OR NOT AN ORDER WAS PROMULGATED OR THE AUTHORITIES WERE LYING IS IN SERIOUS DOUBT BECAUSE THE ORDER IS NOT FORTHCOMING DESPITE TWO WRITTEN NOTICES, THOUGH I CONCEDE THAT IT COULD EASILY HAVE BEEN FABRICATED LATER.
(b) That the attack on the congregation was pre-planned and executed by the State Machinery for which the culpability rests entirely with the State.
(c ) That over 400 persons including 80 members of the Clergy i.e. Priests and Nuns sustained injuries in the incident.
(d) That the violence used by the police in the Church compound and around the Church while the religious service was going on, was thoroughly unjustified.
(e) That further, the commencement of violence was also unjustified
because nobody had refused to leave the place, when asked to do the exit routes by stationing themselves on either side, so that, they could virtually beat up all those who were present.
(f) That the arrests which took place were thoroughly unjustified as all those who were picked up were not even present when the incident took place. The tell-tale circumstance is that the stone throwing and the lathi charge was so violent THAT NOT A SINGLE ONE OF THOSE PRESENT ESCAPED INJURIES. None of the boys arrested had any injuries on them which is impossible if they were participants. The same applies to the vehicles seized as none of them were damaged (apart from being blackmailed for money, the owners reported to me that every one of these vehicles had been virtually stripped at the police station and the owners were told that they would be locked up if they complained).
(g) That the looting of the shops in the area was done at the instance of the very anti-social elements who had been brought by the police in the two tempos to start the trouble.
In totality, this incident was shameful and unpardonable and I hold the State Machinery 100% responsible for what had happened. There can be no extenuating circumstances pleaded. IT CAN ONLY BE CATEGORISED AS A 100% HATE CRIME REMINISCENT OF NAZI ATROCITIES-IN FACT THERE ARE VERY STRONG PARALLELS. At a subsequent point of time, the State Home Minister –Dr. V.S. Acharya tried to put forward the plea that he had some videos and photographs which were shown to me indicating so-called damage to police vehicles and his contention was that the incident was started by the Christians assembled there who turned violent and attacked the police. This is absolutely false. Interestingly enough, in every one of the attacks by the police, the Home Minister states that they were accompanied by persons who took videos and photographs which he seeks to rely on. This conclusively establishes my finding that the attack was preplanned even to the extent of taking photographers to record so-called evidence in support of the false plea that the police were the victims. In some of the subsequent incidents, the Home Minister claims that the police had sustained some minor injuries. My conclusion is that these were self inflicted in keeping with the beautiful but
CRUDE fabrication that is done by the police in all cases of false encounters.
Lastly, it is most regrettable for me to have to record that the conspiracy goes all the way up. The DC and the SP would never have dared to plan and execute the incidents of these proportions even if they were 100% in collusion with communal elements who had been attacking the minorities unless they had the full blessing and sanction of the State Government represented by the Home Minister and the Chief Minister. While, I find the role of the Home Minister totally incriminating what is unfortunate is that the Chief Minister who visited Mangalore immediately after the incident in every statement fully justified the Police atrocities and came out with allegations that there had been conversions taking place which had provoked the members of the VHP, RSS and Bajrang Dal and which in turn gave rise to the attacks. I find it inconceivable to connect this charge with the incident because there is no nexus between so called conversions and state violence against minorities. What is more important is that I had asked the Chief Minister and the Home Minister to justify their charge regarding the alleged conversions both in writing and personally on two occasions in public before the Media and on both occasions, they conceded the fact that there was zero evidence in support of this conversion charge.
The Constitution of India forbids State Machinery to be used against minorities that too for CRIMINAL PURPOSES. but this is precisely what
happened on the afternoon of 14th September 2008. The conduct of the DC and the SP on that afternoon is so very reprehensible that it is surprising that these men are still continued in service. Even if they were acting on instructions from communal elements supported by the Heads of Governments, their personal misconduct can never be condoned AS WAS HELD AT THE NUREMBURG TRIALS OF NAZI OFFICERS. An indication of the patronage is evident from the fact that despite over a 100 written representations, the Home Minister and the Chief Minister refused to shift these two Officers out of the District and fully and completely supported their actions which is conclusive evidence of collusion. This position gets reinforced by the fact that despite repeated pleas to these two Ministers though they preach goodwill and communal harmony from public platforms, THEY HAVE REFUSED TO WITHDRAW ANY OF THE OVER 800 FALSE CASES REGISTERED AGAINST THE SO CALLED CHRISTIAN RIOTERS IN THIS AND OTHER ATTACKS. THE VICTIMS WERE DETAINED IN CUSTODY FOR LONG PERIODS OF TIME BECAUSE THE SUBORDINATE JUDICIARY IN THE STATE IS FULLY SAFFRONISED AND ARE UNDERGOING UNENDING TORTURE.
For Copies Contact:
“Pauline” , Valencia
Mangalore-575002, Tel: 0824-4252170/ 9008820186