Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

On in-depth investigation the Indian People’s Tribunal (IPT) on Communalism in Orissa has found that the “majoritarian communalist group of organizations” have consolidated its power in twenty-five of thirty districts of the State, “using violence to target women, religious and sexual minorities, along with disenfranchised caste, class, ethnic and other social groups”. It has called upon the Central Bureau of Investigation “to investigate the activities of the Bajrang dal, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and RSS under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967”.

Founded on 5 June 1993 as a people’s investigator on Environment and Human Rights, IPT is led by Justice K.K.Usha (Chief Justice [Rtd] of Kerala High Court) with Dr. Angana P. Chatterji (Associate Professor of Social & Cultural Anthropology at California Institute of Integral Studies) and Mihir Desai (Human Rights lawyer practicing in Bombay High Court) as Joint Conveners. Mandated to look into spread of communalism in Orissa, it assumed the role of Indian People’s Tribunal on Communalism in Orissa (IPTCO) by taking in Mr. Sudhir Pattnaik (Scholar-activist from Orissa), Dr. Asha Hans ( Professor [Rtd], Political Science, Utkal University), Ms. Lalita Missal (National Alliance of Women-Orissa chapter), Dr. Shaheen Nilofer (Scholar-activist from Orissa) and Dr. Ram Puniyani (EKTA Committee for Communal Amity) as members.

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When the IPTCO was in the midst of its investigation and interacting with the general public at Bhubaneswar, on 14 June 2005, its members were subjected to furious attacks by the activists of the majoritarian communalists’ group that took pride in transgressing the limits of civilian decency by threatening to “rape” its women members if felt necessary to stop “intellectual conspiracy” against “Hindu Rastra”. They were so rampageous that as the media profusely published the dastard attack, Subas Cauhan, State Convener of Bajrang Dal asserted in a Press Conference in a elite hotel at Bhubaneswar in the evening of 16 June 2005 that if Dr. Angana Chatterji, who was to stay on for continuous investigation, does not quit Orissa immediately, it would be the duty of his organization to “strongly challenge and repress her”.

Braving all such odds, IPTCO has conducted its investigation and released its well documented Report at Bhubaneswar on 29 September 2006. The Report containing 80 fact-loaded pages was officially released by former Lok Sabha Speaker Rabi Ray in a Press Conference addressed also by Justice Usha and the two conveners. From amongst the members of the Tribunal, Sri Pattnaik also addressed the Press.

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“As elsewhere in India”, Justice Usha said, “these groups legitimize their actions against minorities by invoking specific and fabricated threats to Hindus from Muslims and Christians”. Indicating that the investigation on communalism in Orissa was legal, she said, “IPTCO understands its mandate to investigate communalism as being a constitutional one, delineated in Article 51A, Clause E which specifies the Fundamental responsibilities of citizens to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India transcending religious, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities and to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women”. This obligation, Justice Usha emphasized, “is reinforced by the Indian Penal Code, specifically in Sections 152A, 153B, 295-298 and 505 that prescribe criminal prosecution for persons promoting enmity on sectarian or economic grounds, thus, undermining national integration”. The Report, she said, “warns that if the communalization of Orissa is indicative of the failure of the nation, then the signs are truly ominous for India’s democratic future”.

“In Orissa”, Dr. Chatterji revealed, “the Sangh Parivar has successfully established centers at every level of civic life, ranging from villages to cities. The sangh Privar operates through thirty-five primary organizations, including ideological, service and charitable institutions, militant and educational groups, trade unions and student unions, political and women’s organizations”. Exposing their modus operandi, Dr. Chatterji said, “Forcible conversions to dominant Hinduism, social and economic boycotts, tonsuring, physical intimidation and violence, arson and even murder are the weapons that the Sangh Parivar cadre wields to intimidate and target disfranchised groups and religious minorities such as Adivasis, Dalits, Christians and Muslims”.

Revealing how the investigation consisted of meeting with persons and communities targeted by majoritarian communal groups and those who have suffered abuse in the context of majoritarian communalism such as public lynching, rape, tonsuring, economic boycotts, segregation and discrimination, Mr. Desai said, “In addition to documenting communalism’s reach in Orissa, IPTCO was lunched as an injunctive mechanism to help formulate remedial and preventive action for Human Rights abuse in future”.

The Report, elaborating the findings, has, besides the call to the CBI as noted supra, has stressed on the following needs to save Orissa from communalism and to defeat the conspiracy of Sangh Parivar against the country It has emphasized on:

1. Establishment of a Review Panel appointed by Govt. of Orissa in consultation with National Human Rights Commission, National Minority Commisson and other independent bodies such as the People’s Union for democratic Rights and the People’s Union or Civil Liberties, to identify and investigate the actions and finances of communal groups;
2. Investigation and monitoring, and when appropriate, requisite action to safeguard minorities against the actions of these groups and reparations retroactively to communities and individuals who have suffered as a consequence of the actions of these groups;
3. Government of Orissa and the Central Government making concerted efforts to investigate and eradicate Para-military hate camps operated by the communal groups;
4. Review on the charitable status and privileges of certain organizations such as the VHP and vanavasi Kalyan Ashram, which are registered as charities, given the nature of their activities;
5. Statutory prohibition on disparagement, deionization and vilification of any religion making it punishable under the IPC;
6. Repeal of the Orissa Freedom of Religion Act,1967, which has been used by communal groups to target and prohibit voluntary conversion within minority communities;
7. Official safeguarding the right of individuals who convert voluntarily to practice their religion;
8. State insistence on immediate and authoritative actions of Police and Courts to stop communalists from forcibly converting or reconverting individuals to Hinduism with instructions to Police to submit regular and public reports on their work;
9. Establishment of special desks in Police Stations for registering minority grievances and FIRs;
10. Appointment of special prosecutors by Government of Orissa to conduct cases involving grievances of minority communities or their members;
11. Categorization of Trisul (Trident) as a weapon and prohibition on its mass distribution under the Arms Act of 1959 and
12. Review of Orissa Prevention of Cow Slaughter Act,1960, which has been used against minorities and economically disenfranchised in the cattle trade.

Pictures of release of the Report are from Laxmi Prasad Pattanayak.

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