A furore has been created in Karnataka and this time its once again regarding the Church attacks. Justice M F Saldanha, former judge of the Bombay and Karnataka High Court created a storm when he said that attacks on Churches should be treated as terrorist strikes. He went on to say that such acts are nothing but a manifestation of terrorism and there are many forms of terrorism and attacks on minorities is one of them.
The Karnataka state Government has claimed that the situation is under control where such attacks are concerned, but the fact remains that three more churches were attacked only last month. Justice Saldanha says that this is becoming a difficult situation and during his very recent visit to Britain and France there was utter dismay over the situation. He even said that the top leadership has expressed dismay over these attacks.
Justice Saldanha who had prepared a detailed paper on the Church attacks recently says in this interview with rediff.com that if religious fanatism in Afghanistan is being treated as an act of terror, then I do not see any reason why attacks on Churches should not come under the same purview.
Have the attacks on Churches in Karnataka stopped?
Absolutely not. It continues to be a threat and even last month three churches in the Mangalore belt were attacked by miscreants.
How do you the state government of today dealing with the issue. Pre and post Yeddyurappa?
I feel it is a better situation. I really would not blame B S Yeddyurappa for the entire episode. It was his then Home Minister, Dr V S Acharya who is to be blamed for this thanks to complete inaction. He being a pracharak was answerable to the RSS and this is what led to the situation turning worse in these areas. All that Yeddyurappa did was support Acharya.
Regarding your discussion of this issue with the international community. You have been asked whether you are an Ambassador of the country to discuss our country’s problems abroad. Your thoughts on this sir.
Yes this question has been asked to me several times. Let me tell you I was not in the UK and France to discuss this matter. I was there to deliver a lecture. If the people there come and express their concern, it is not my fault. You may remember that the report that I have prepared is treated as an authentic one and this is what people want to know about.
Speaking of the discussion abroad. What do they really think of the Church attacks?
They are obviously concerned and treat some areas as unsafe. The states which come to their mind are Gujarat, Karnataka and Orissa.
Do you also feel that these three states are the worst hit where safety of Christians are concerned?
As of today the problem is only in Karnataka. The other states have taken stock of the situation and such attacks have stopped. I have been told that the Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi has been doing an excellent job where the development of his state is concerned. Now when this is the reputation that every one has don’t you think a Church attack would only ruin it. Why should a prosperous state be known for negative incidents? Karnataka should also bear this in mind.
Is it even right on the part of the international community to sit in judgment about the issues over here?
They have expressed concern. Even we do express concern if there is violation of human rights in other nations. The fact is that the eyes of the world are on us and we cannot afford to set a bad precedent. Countries have been issuing advisories while travelling to India. If we portray to them that we are an intolerant state then such advisories would only increase and in the long run we would only lose in terms of revenue. Do we need this?
Now coming to your controversial statement about equating the Church attacks to terrorism. Could you explain that a bit to us?
These are not just incidents of communal violence. These are ways of terrorising a community and hence it should be treated as terrorism. Look at the manner in which the fanatics in Afghanistan behave. Has that not been treated as terrorism? Hence the same rule of law ought to be apply here as well.
Although repealed, are you trying to say that acts such as POTA or a TADA should be applied in such cases?
There are enough laws on hand to deal with terrorism. I feel the similar laws should be applied here as well. All I am saying is these cases should not be treated as cases of communal disharmony. The culprits tend to get away easily and the punishment should be such that it should act as a deterrent for further incidents.
Is there a change in the manner in which the Christians in Karnataka feel today after all these incidents?
That is my biggest worry. Do you really think the Christians will not fight back if they are terrorised this way every now and then. What do we gain at the end of it? Reaction and counter reaction. It will be absolute chaos and this is very bad in the larger interest of the state. Safety of a community being threatened is secondary, but the repurcussions is what we must worry about.
Has the Christian community started looking to the international community for help?
No they have not. Discussing the issue abroad does not mean we are looking for help. If the state government fails then we always have the union government to look up to.
Are you hopeful that the recommendations in your report will be acted upon?
Let us hope. But it has created an awareness.