New Delhi, May 4, 2007. A National Level Fact Finding Team of several human rights organizations visited Pastor Walter Massey yesterday.
An assault on Massey by 20-25 VHP activists was recorded by TV cameras on 29 April 2007 in Jaipur, Rajasthan, and broadcast around India. The Fact Finding Team, organized by the All India Christian Council (aicc) and Satbhav Morch (Brotherhood Front) Jaipur, appealed to the Rajasthan Government to bring swift justice to the culprits and ensure the safety and protection of Christian minorities.
The Fact Finding Team consisted of: Dr. John Dayal, Member of National Integration Council, General Secretary of the All India Christian Council and President of the All India Catholic Union; Dr. Abraham Mathai, Vice Chairman of Maharashtra Minority Commission and Genera Secretary of Maharashtra aicc; Ms. Teesta Setelvad, General Secretary of Citizens for Justice and Peace; Ms. Kavita Srivastava, General Secretary of the Rajasthan PUCL; Rev. Madhu Chandra, Regional Secretary of aicc; Sister Mary Scaria, Supreme Court lawyer; Mrs. Tehmina Arora, General Secretary of the Christian Legal Association (CLA); Lanshinglui Rongmei, Joint Secretary of CLA; Manoj George of CLA. Also, Sawai Singh of the Sadbhavana Manch and Engineer Mohammed Saleem of the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind met Pastor Walter Massey and his family.
The five people arrested so far have appeared before Jaipur District Magistrate on April 4 and their plea for bail was rejected. The Fact Finding Team witnessed the reaction of pro-Sangh Parivar advocates to police and judges in the hearing.
Ms. Setelvad said, "If the Hindutva forces do on the street in the same manner they acted in the court, that is great concern for the legal system in the state."
The Fact Finding Team met Superintendent of Police Mr. Anil Panilwal and collected the latest information on the case. The First Information Report registered against the culprits was weak initially, but sections 153A, 153B, 295 and 505 of the Indian Panel Code were added after pressure from public and human rights groups.
Director General of Police Mr. A. S. Gill admitted to the Fact Finding Team that there are reports of attacks on Christians in the state. He assured the team that steps have been taken to arrest all the culprits behind the attack.
At a press conference co-sponsored by the All India Christian Council and the Brotherhood Front of Rajasthan at Jaipur, Ms. Setelvad, Dr. Dayal, Dr. Mathai and Sister Scaria told the media that Pastor Walter Massey, his wife Joyce, and 9 year old daughter are going through suffering and trauma from the attack.
Dr. Dayal said, "The pattern of violence indicates a design, and the attacks on Christians are never in the form of communal clashes because they are targeted against a micro minority in the state. There is enough evidence available in many places for the police to take suo motu action against the VHP, Bajrang Dal and Vanvasi Kalyan Parishad but no action is taken."
While condemning the communal violence of Hindutva forces, Ms. Setelvad said, "We are disappointed that the Chief Minister or any senior Minister did not visit the victim's family nor condemn the attack."
Dr. Mathai said, "I condemn the Rajasthan Minority Commission for failing to ensure safety and protection of Christians in the state. I believe Christian members should be listed under the coverage of SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act, 1989 and 1995."
At a public meeting organized by Satbhav Morch, the group resolved along with the All India Christian Council to take the following steps:
An ultimatum will be submitted to the BJP-ruled Rajasthan Government to arrest all the accused culprits, including Mr. Virendra Singh Ravana and two others whose identity has been clearly identified by police forces, at latest by Sunday. If this doesn't happen a larger agitation will be launched with the participation of all secular minded people and civil society groups.
The hate case in the beating of Pastor Massey must be followed up vigorously in court and any conspiracy uncovered.
A "Save Rajasthan from the Rise of Fascism" rally will be launched in national capital of Delhi in the near future.
Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje must condemn the incident and ensure the safety of all sections of society including minority communities.
Medical examination of Pastor Walter Massey, his wife, and 9 year old daughter must be provided to assess how they are suffering trauma from the Sunday attack.
Compensation for the pastor and his family as victims of communal violence must be given in same way that Gujarat, Kashmir, Punjab and Delhi has done.
A major pattern of anti-Christian violence in Rajasthan districts has been admitted by the Government but no police action is being taken. Christian members should be covered by Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989, Rules 1995.
There were over 80 cases of anti-Christian violence last year. More violence could spring up once the Rajasthan Freedom of Religion Bill 2006 becomes law. Therefore Satbhav Morch and the All India Christian Council appeal to the Rajasthan Governor not sign the bill.