Police Complicity In Repression Of Tribals In Rajasthan Government Silent On Hindutva Threat To Make `Banswara District Free Of Christians' By 2000 AD

Rajasthan, a desert state in West India, is among the poorest in the country. Banswara district is among the poorest in the state, populated mainly by tribals who have been victims of social and economic exploitation for generations. The district now has the dubious distinction of being the only place in India which has been hand-picked by the Hindutva Parivar for an exercise in what can really be called ethnic cleansing. The Parivar's leaders have made repeated public statements that they will clear the district of all Christian presence by 2000 AD.

This statement violates every canon of the nation's law code. The governments of the state and of the Union of India are yet to take any action. There is in fact considerable evidence now that the police and civil authiorities in many cases have actually connived with the culprits. The state has been ruled for much of this decade by the Bharatiya Janata party, the political wing of the Hindutva parivar. For the record, Rajasthan's chief minister Mr Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, has been pilloried by India's feminist movements for his tacit condoning of some cases of the tradition of `Suttee', in which a widow immolates herself on the burning pyre of her husband. Suttee was outlawed in the early years of the British Raj at the insistence of Indian social reformer Raja Ram Mohan Roy and others. The chief minister, Mr Shekhawat, has also been under attack for not discouraging the tradition of child marriages. Every year, Indian newspapers carry photographs of ten to twelve year old boys marrying really young girls, some barely three or four years of age. The girl is sent to the husband's house soon after puberty despite the face that in India the age of consent is 18 years for girls.

The Indian Social Insitute recently sent a team of two independdent investigators, one of them a lawyer, to probe into allegations that Christians were under severe pressure in the district, and charges of atrocities on the tribals by the Hindutva parivar. The investigators came across evidence of brutal oression and violence. The following is the report submitted by Advocate P.L. Mimroth and M.P. Chaudhry):

"Short report on brutal repression of tribal Christians in Banswara Dist (Rajasthan) "On behalf of the Legal Department of Indian Social Institute, Lodi Road, New Delhi we two signatories mentioned at the end of this report visited the Banswara Distt in Rajasthan for two days between 31st March & 1st April 1998 in order to assess the situation arising out of continued excesses, torture and violations of basic human rights of tribal Christian in that troubled area. It may be mentioned here that Banswara Distt is a tribal predominate area where a good number of tribal Christians families are residing peacefully over the last many decades.

We are greatly assisted in our work by Mr Peter Masih and Siter Deepika, President and Secty of the WARD Christian Association, Village AGORIA Post Bangalore, Distt Banswara. We also got the assistance of several other members and also Siter Carol Advocate from SASVIKA Legal Cell Ajmer. We confined to our enquiries to comparatively recent incidents of atrocities and excesses committed on Tribal Christian, so that our report may reflect the present human rights situation in the area. Besides meeting a large number of people of the area we have directly interviewed the aggrieved persons and victims who described how they were harassed tortured and subjected to implicate in false police cases by police at the instance of able to gone through very minutely the various representations and complaints including FIR's relating to the grievances of the victims.

We give below, in very short as far as possible an account of places visited by us what we saw and heard there as well the substance of our discussions with some of the important persons interviewed by us. This is followed by the general conclusion reached by us on the grave violations of basic human rights of the tribal Christians in the area and the recommendations for seeking justice & fairdeal to them. During our two days stay in Bansawara Distt, we visited village AGORIA, BAGIDORA and other adjoining places and Banswara. On 1/4/98 the WARD Christian Association also organised a meeting at village AGORIA in which almost all the victims and aggrieved persons were present and submitted their written Complaints before us for perusal and scrutiny. The officials of the WARG Christian Association also informed us that earlier they have personally submitted a memorandum containing 13 incidents of excesses on local Christians to Dr James Massey Member of National Minorities Commission, New Delhi which was subsequently forwarded to the National Human Rights Commission, New Delhi on 27/11/97. On 6/12/97, the National Human Rights Commission issued a notice to the Chief Secty Govt of Rajasthan for conducting high level inquiry and sending report to the commission within three weeks. Accordingly, the Rajasthan Govt submitted the enquiry report in respect of all the 13 cases of excesses and atrocities before the National Human Rights Commission vide No P1 (194)HHR/97 dated 13/2/98, copy of the same was also forwarded to the WAGD Christian Association for comments. We has also studied the Report of the Govt of Rajasthan with reference to the original complaints and also in the light of personnel hearings of the victims. After a very close scrutiny of documentary evidences adduced by the victims of each & every case, we noticed large number of contradictions and factually incorrect position explained by the Rajasthan Govt in its aforesaid report. It was therefore, advised to the WAGD Christian Association to file a comprehensive and detailed Rejoinder to the said Report strongly controverting the official version of the Rajasthan Govt duly supported by documentary evidences. We have interviewed one Shri War Singh Bhagat a local Christian priest resident of village GOAPAD who was subjected to serious physical assault at the hands of miscreants and also by police people besides implicated false criminal cases. On 9/11/97 while he was waiting for bus stand at Talwara he was taken away in jungle and seriously beaten up at the instand of local police. Later on he was insulted, humiliated & harassed by police also on the mare ground that he belongs to Christian religion. The another Christian priest Gavji Bhai resident of village Bokhedi narrated his sad story of undue harassment at the hands of police staff of Thikriya police station who at the instance of RSS elements lodged a false FIR No 463/97 against Paster Govji. A large number of residents of village Borkhedi have also stated on oath that no such incident was ever took place on 3/11/97 as mentioned in the above said FIR and even the police have admitted the no conversion took place.

We also interviewed the other victims who too complained about the biased and partial attitude of the local police towards them. They further complained that local administration and police are aiding the RSS and VHP volunteers who said to be behind these incidents of excesses on tribal Christians to harass & humiliate them not as an organisers but as efficient executioners of attacks. It was the general complaint from the members who attended our meeting on 1/4/98 that local administration and police officials are condoing the criminal acts being committed by powerful religious & dominant social groups in the area especially on tribal Christian & poor people. We were shocked to learn from the victims that the police normally refuse to lodge the FIR of the tribal Christians and instead have registered numerous false criminal cases against them at the instance of RSS & VHP elements.

It was the general complaint from the members who attended our meeting on 1/4/98 that local adminstration and police officials are condoing the criminal acts being committed by powerful religious & dominant social groups in the area especially on tribal Christian & poor people. We were shocked to learn from the victims that the police normally refuse to lodge the FIR of the tribal Christians and instead have registered numerous false criminal cases against them at the instance of RSS & VHP elements.

Conclusion In retrospect, it seems that the object of the excesses on tribal Christians in Banswara area is to harass, and terrorise and compelling them to wind up their educational and health care institutions and stop their social welfare activities. This is probably the main reason of their harassment that Christian are peacefully pursuing the social development activities and in the area especially in tribals who are being subjected to grave social oppressions and intolerable economic exploitations.

We, therefore, squarly blame the hard core Hindu fundamental organisations for planning the present phase of virulent attacks on tribal Christians communities and their places on faith in Banswara district.

Recommendations

There should be a through enquiry and indepth investigation in to all the cases of excesses and harassment on tribal Christian in Banswara Distt and all false cases lodged against tribal Christian people of the area should be withdraw hereforth. The culprits, miscreants officials and police staff responsible for initiating false police cases against tribel Christians of the area should be indentified and punished in accordance with law of the land. Govt should contain the aggressive rise of fundamentalism of all hues and kind.

Effective steps be taken to ensure protection and safety to the Christian community of the area about basic rights of the equality, equal acess to the rule of law & the rights of humane treatment by local administration & police.

Urgent need to coordinate, support and promote secular and human right organisations to act as watchdog machinery in the area.

M.P. Chaudhry
Social Activist
General Secty.
Delhi Kamgar Dal
Newdelhi

P.L. Mimroth
Advocate
Hony. Genl. Secty.
Society of Depressed
People for SocialJustice,
New Delhi


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