|Press Note| Response to Somashekhar Commission Findings

People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Bangalore, wish to express their deepest disappointment with the principal findings of the Somashekhar Commission Report released recently, which absolves the state government and all the major right wing hindutva political parties and groups of all responsibility in the communal attacks on churches in Karnataka in 2008. The report oversteps the boundaries of its authority when it justifies the attacks on churches as caused by hurt sentiments of members of the majority religious community, due to the alleged practice of religious conversions. The red herring of conversions is thus used to justify the attacks, even though the Indian constitution explicitly upholds the right to profess and convert others to your faith. The report instead rationalizes and condones criminal behavior of fundamentalist intolerance and communal violence. The recent responsible expunging by Supreme Court (Jan 26, 2011) of two of its statements related to religious conversions serves as an important reminder on the ‘freedom of faith’ for all citizens.

The report does not deal with the climate of increasing intolerance towards minority religious groups in society ignored by the State. It is reprehensible that the commission seeking judicial enquiry into church attacks seeks instead regulation mechanisms to restrain faith conversions, far out side its purview. Similarly finding instances of police action against Christian protestors as ‘justified’ and the ‘lack of evidence’ of ‘any other force’ behind excessive use of police force cannot be acceptable as impartial. The implicit agenda of the Commission thus appears to be to protect the collusive role of the state government, especially the police, even while seemingly condemning specific officials.

Judicial reports have the potential for providing the necessary checks and restraints on elements that threaten the fabric of a tolerant and free society. Independence, integrity and impartiality of judicial reports, with a strict demand for responsibility, and punishment, are vital to preserve the sanctity of law and justice, especially in situations where the majority religious community’s action jeopardizes the constitutional guarantees for all Indian citizens.

– PUCL Bangalore

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