Yesterday the BJP overturned its decision on inducting the contreversial Paramod Muthali and today it was the turn of the Congress. Dinker Shetty an accused in the Mangalore pub attack case in which women were beaten up joined the Congress and barely few hours later his induction was put on hold and membwrship cancelled.
Shetty a legal advisor of the Ram Sena of which Muthalik is the chief was taken into the Congress in the presence of senior leaders Janardhan Poojary and Oscar Fernandes.
However shoetly after his induction there were protests within the Congress and even the BJP questioned the double standards of the party. Fernandes was quick to react and overturned the decision immediately. Fernandes while over turning the decision said that he was unaware of Shetty’s background.
The Karnataka Congress chief, Parameshwar said that he was unaware of his induction and corrective steps had been taken immediately. He also said that such decisions cannot be taken by individuals and needs the party’s approval for the same.
Yesterday Muthalik was inducted into the BJP and following an uproar his membership was cancelled.
Karnataka was shaken up a year and a half back when 37 Churches in the state were attacked. This attracted the attention of the people from across the country and there was a hue and cry over this issue. The events leading up to this too were interesting, with the first BJP government in south India coming under fire for not protecting the interests of the Christian minority in Karnataka.
A commission of Inquiry headed by Justice Somashekhara was set up and in his report recently, he gave a clean chit to the BJP government, the Bajrang Dal and the Ram Sena stating that there was nothing to indicate that they were behind these attacks. The Christians were obviously not amused and they set up a parallel fact finding commission headed by Justice Micheal F Saldanha who was a former judge of the Karnataka High Court. In his report he blames the government entirely for this fiasco. In this interview with rediff.com, Justice M F Saldanha says that there is not a single incident of conversion that has taken place in the state. He further goes on to add that Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa holds a public office and cannot continue to behave like an RSS pracharak.
Can you tell us a bit about your report?
I have basically held the government responsible for this fiasco. There are about 37 incidents that have been report and 7 have been on a very high level. In these 7 incidents there was a lot of violence and the police are the ones who added to this. It was the police who turned violent in these incidents and hence I blame the state machinery for this.
The police were only doing their job and were controlling the mob. Do you agree?
No I do not agree with this. An operation of this magnitude cannot be undertaken unless there is a backing from the state government and I have pointed this out in my report.
There are various attempts to link the Chief Minister and the then Home Minister to the persons who carried out the attack- the Bajrang Dal and the RSS.
Why don’t you look at the background of the Chief Minister and the then Home Minister. They are RSS pracharaks. When they hold official positions, they cannot subscribe to the views of the RSS. This is just not done. These people had gone to Mangalore following the attack. Not a word of sympathy was expressed. The Home Minister had camped at Mangalore, Udupi and Kalladka for a long time during that period. A very powerful person in the RSS resides at Kalladka and it is common knowledge that the CM and the HM go and prostrate before him over there.
How strong was the role of the Bajrang Dal in that incident?
Very strong, I would say. The Bajrang Dal openly has admitted to this incident and now the head of the outfit Mahendra Kumar says that he had been asked to do it. The CM has a responsibility and he should have ensured that the people of the state were protected.
Now coming to the Justice Somashekhar report. What do you think of it?
When there are 37 incidents of attacks, how could he have given such a report? The report is not yet out in the open in full and some people who have glanced through this report say that all the material has been produced before the commission despite which such a report has been put out.
If you recollect, he had said in the interim stage that he blamed the saffron groups for this incident. Then what changed at the end of it?
In the interim stage he has blamed the government and the saffron groups. When he came out with the interim report, the CM had held a press conference and said that such a report ought not to have been given out. He also goes on to say that the judge shared it with the media before he could with the government. Justice Somashekhara then said that there was no harm in him doing so. The Chief Minister then goes on to say that this was a commission set up by them and they did not expect the report to go against them. Further he also says that he would wind up the commission. When the CM resorted to this arm twisting, Justice Somashekhara was shaken up and he wrote to the CM asking for time. The threat to wind up the commission did him in which forced him to give out such a report.
All these aspects aside Justice Saldanha, what do you have to say about the charges of conversions in Karnataka?
I have dealt with the conversion aspect in detail. I have asked the CM whether there have been any complaints of conversion prior to September 2008. Have any cases been registered or are they any cases which are under investigation? I also go on to ask if there have been any convictions. There have been none. However post 2008 a few cases were filed and we got to know later that all these were false. So basically these were cover up cases.
What about the issue of foreign funds being pumped in fund conversions?
We have checked this aspect as well. If foreign money had come in, it would have been under the purview of FERA and there is no such instance. Small sums have come in and these have not been misused. It has been used for the betterment of hospitals and educational institutions.
Would you suggest a ban on Bajrang Dal and RSS?
No, I would not. That is not the solution. Regulating them would be the solution. The BJP can do it. It is a credible national party and the heads of the state have to exercise the power to control communal activity.
Do you think that the minorities are insecure with this BJP government in the state?
Minorities have never been as insecure as they are today. The Muslims are very heavily targeted in coastal belt. Muslim community is being singled out. This has never happened in the past. Communal sentiment is out of control. The Chief Minister goes to temples and other mutts and announces large donations. Till date he has donated Rs 3000 crore. Public money cannot be used like this. Why has he not donated it to other religious institutions?
Are you trying to say that there has not been a single case of conversion in Karnataka?
In this day and age no one does things like this. Religion is a personal choice and people are too busy to do things like this. If there is a charge then the onus is on them to prove it. Taking the law into their hands is not the solution.
What do you propose doing with your report?
The Home Minister’s office never gives me time. They always say he is busy. I intend giving it to the governor who I hope will pass it on to the Chief Minster. Let us what happens then.