Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Michael Saldanha's Open Letter to Karnataka CM

In your capacity as Chief Minister and Head of the Government of Karnataka, you have officially stated that the Government will take stringent action according to Law against every individual and publication which is in anyway responsible for inciting communal disharmony and particularly in relation to the publication of articles that are inflammatory and which attack religious and communal sentiments. I am happy that you have said this, but it is equally essential for me to record the double standards that are in act practiced by the State Government which is directly responsible for the horrifying communal attacks that are continuing unabated and which are on the increase. Shimoga and Hassan are the latest examples.

The attacks against the Churches and more importantly, the atrocities committed against the members of the Christian community and their institutions after your Government assumed office erupted out of all proportions in September 2008 and globally shamed Karnataka. I have personally conducted a detailed investigation / enquiry into these incidents and have recorded the fact that they are Government supported, Government instigated and covered up for by the State Government. I am confining this letter to one such instance and after your official pronouncement made today, I am calling upon the State Government to proceed according to Law in this case.

The Vijaya Karnataka Newspaper through its Editor – Vishweshwar Bhat has been repeatedly publishing extremely inflammatory editorials and articles targeting the Christian community. That newspaper has been rewarded by your Government with publicity advertisements worth over Rs. 100.00 Crores in the course of the last two years. Incidentally, the financial position of the Government has been so precarious that Government employees particularly in the rural areas have not received their salaries for months together and many of them have been driven to suicide while the Government has enough of money to publish full page colour ads of the CM and his Colleagues everyday spending crores of public money in order to cover up for the total failures on the economic front.

The Vijaya Karnataka Newspaper published one extremely offensive article in the month of December 2008, which resulted in very strong reactions and huge public protest from all over the country by right thinking citizens belonging to all communities. I have seen the article which is one of the most vicious, offensive and venomous pieces of writing directed against the Christian community and is sufficient to invoke the maximum jail sentence against the Writer – Byrappa, the Editor - Vishweshwar Bhat, the Printer and the Publishers. This was published at a point of time when the police all over the State and particularly in the Karavali area were indiscriminately registering false cases against members of the minority community and against any secular publication that disapproved of religious and human rights atrocities. This misuse of power has invoked strictures from the High Court and Orders for Exemplary Damages.

In sharp contrast, when the Head of the Peoples Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) filed FIR 0343 at the Mangalore South Police Station on 27.12. 2008, the police refused to take cognizance on the grounds that they required to get clearance from your most trusted colleague Dr. V.S. Acharya, the Home Minister of the State. In the course of my hearings in Mangalore, I have questioned the Police Authorities as to how and under what circumstances they have refused to act in this case and the answer given was that the Head of the Home Department has instructed them not to proceed. Is there a Rule of Law in Karnataka?

Similarly, in respect of this very article and this very newspaper, another FIR No. 0002 was filed at the Bangalore North Police Station by an aggrieved member of the community on 02.01.2009 and again, under the Home Minister’s directions, no action has been taken. At the same time, this very Home Minister directed the Police to register nine false FIRs against the Editor of ‘Karavali Ale’ in different Police Stations spread over Mangalore and Udipi on absolutely false, imaginary and unsustainable allegations that he is inciting communal disharmony merely because that publication disapproved of the Government inspired violence against the members of the Christian community.

It is up to your Government to redeem the position in the light of your announcements made, and that will be proof as to whether the statements made by the Head of the Government are genuine or not.

- Justice Michael F Saldanha

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