On the face of it, the report of the Wadhwa
Commission on the murder of the Australian missionary Graham Staines
and his two sons should have been very welcome to our secular
friends. Justice Wadhwa has concluded that the main person who
organised the attack was Rabindra Kumar Pal alias Dara Singh, and
that his motive in doing so was "misplaced fundamentalism", namely
his conviction that conversions by missionaries were threatening
Hinduism. He also records evidence to the effect that Dara Singh had
been involved in an activity which, in the eyes of secularists, is
as deplorable as an activity can get: protection of cows from
But no, the secularists are all in rage. "A stained
report," "A whitewash," "A politically tutored report" -- they have
been shouting. Justice Wadhwa has failed the litmus test: if only he
had included a sentence -- a single sentence! -- imputing --
howsoever obliquely -- that Dara Singh was in some way affiliated to
some organization that can be linked to the RSS or the BJP, what
applause would have greeted the Report!
But the Judge has stuck to evidence. Hence the
fury! For our friends, a Commission of Inquiry is credible only if
it is useful!
In fact, the Report is instructive on many counts.
Not to heed them is to condemn the country to further problems.
The first to draw a lesson should be the press. In
Chapter 10, Justice Wadhwa takes up "Other Proximate Incidents." The
first of these is the alleged rape of Sister Jacqueline Mary on 3
February, 1999. "Orissa nun raped in moving car," the headlines
declared, Justice Wadhwa records. "Orissa's second stain: nun
raped," shouted the Indian Express, "Nun gangraped by men in sari in
Orissa," hollered The Telegraph. The village "has become the
rallying point of Christians of the area," the papers proclaimed.
"The press, on the basis of some statement made by the pastor of the
Church highlighted the role of some Hindu fundamentalist
organizations," writes Justice Wadhwa. "....It was termed as a
planned attack on the Church. It was said that there was a role of
communal forces.... Electronic media was not far behind. It was
highlighted as an anti-Christian attack." "Do not treat this as an
isolated incident," the papers quoted teachers of a Christian
convent school saying, "A communal conspiracy is suspected to be
behind the rape."
There indeed was a conspiracy, and a communal one
at that. The whole thing was a concoction -- by those whose agenda
it is to paint Hindus as communalists on the rampage, and the RSS,
BJP etc. as organizations which are orchestrating a "pogrom".
"Investigations, however, revealed that what Sister Mary said in the
FIR was not true," records Justice Wadhwa. "It was a made up story.
Investigations found that there was in fact no rape of Sister
Mary.... B. B. Panda, D(irector) G(eneral) (of) P(olice) stated that
the 'rape of the nun' case was projected and highlighted all over
the world and was also projected as an attack on Christians when in
fact it was not true, and the case turned out to be false."
The second incident occurred on 7 February, 1999.
Two children, aged 10 and 19, were found murdered, a third had
sustained injuries. "This incident again attracted a great deal of
publicity in the media, including electronic media," writes Justice
Wadhwa. "Newspapers came up with the headings, 'Two Christians
killed, one injured in Orissa,' '2 tribal Christians done to death
in Kandhamal,' and 'Orissa hunts for Christians' killer'. Additional
D. G. P. John Nayak reportedly said that the communal angle to the
attempted rape and murder could not be ruled out...." "A certain
political party even blamed the State and Central Governments,"
Justice Wadhwa recalls, "and stated that the inaction of the State
Government in the Manoharpur missionary killing incident (the
killing of Staines and his sons) and the alleged rape of the nun in
Baripada encouraged miscreants to commit yet another crime in
Kandhamal." "In short," he concludes, "as per various reports that
appeared in the newspapers, the incident was taken as an attack on
And what turned out to be the truth? "Ultimately
investigation revealed that the crime was committed by a relative of
the victims who was also a Christian," the Commission notes.
I'll come to the third incident in a moment, for it
concerns an institution other than the press. The fourth incident
occurred on 8 December, 1998. Tribals attacked the police station at
Udaygiri, stormed the jail, dragged two undertrial prisoners out,
and lynched them to death in front of the police station. After
that, they burnt houses belonging to members of a particular caste,
Pana. The incident too was projected as a Hindu-Christian encounter.
It was nothing of the kind. The tribals were being harassed by
criminals who happened to be from the Pana caste. The police had
been doing nothing. One day the criminals robbed tribals of all
their cash as they were proceeding to seek employment. That ignited
the flash. But a Hindu-Christian clash it became!
That is one lesson, and Justice Wadhwa draws
special attention to it: the press should not rush to conclusions
before it has investigated the facts. The facts he has recorded urge
that the caution be made specific: the press should be particularly
wary of going by allegations of communalism-mongers.
The second institution which comes out most poorly
is the Minorities Commission. For quite some time now, this
Commission has been putting out patently partisan reports, reports
so partisan as to appear to be designed to inflame. It is all too
the good, therefore, that in the course of his inquiries into the
incidents, Justice Wadhwa has given us a glimpse into the way it
goes about its work. The incident I postponed mentioning is typical.
In it, in mid-March, 1999, Hindus -- a minority in
the village -- were pictured as having sparked off Hindu-Christian
clashes in village Ranalai. Christians painted a large Cross on a
hillock. Some Hindus transfigured it into a Trishul. A peace
committee consisting of representatives from both communities
decided that there would be neither a Cross nor a Trishul. Next day,
Hindus went and erased the sign. Christians alleged that while
returning, Hindus shouted slogans proclaiming victory. Tension
mounted. While trying to control the situation, a Circle Inspector
of the police was manhandled by Christians. He registered an FIR
against three of them. Houses of Christians were said to have been
burned down. Cross-complaints were filed by Hindus and Christians --
each side accusing the other.
The Minorities Commission sent a team, and declared
that the genesis of the trouble lay in BJP men inflaming feelings of
the local Hindus and instructing them to convert the Cross into a
Trishul. As for the incidents and tension, it came to the conclusion
it always does: the Hindus had created the trouble.
Justice Wadhwa observes, "These findings are
without examining any person on oath or receiving evidence on
affidavits." The Minorities Commission had also stigmatized the
State Government for inaction. Justice Wadhwa writes, "When the
members of the Minorities Commission visited the village [within a
fortnight of the supposed incidents], normalcy prevailed. Cases had
already been registered against members of both the groups...."
Justice Wadhwa shows that the Minorities Commission proceeded in a
manner that is in manifest violation of its own statute.
And he quotes the account that The Economic Times
correspondent filed after visiting the village. The 22 March, 1999
issue of the paper reported, Justice Wadhwa writes, "that roots of
the Ranalai village incident in Gajapati district of Orissa in which
houses of Christian families were burnt down by Hindu tribals of
nearby villages lie in the economic disparities prevailing between
the two communities. The report further said that tension had been
building up since the night of February 9, when 23 houses of Hindu
families were burnt down by criminals belonging to the Christian
community of the nearby Jhami Gaon.... The report further stated
that 'The unfortunate incident was largely unreported and totally
ignored by national and international media'."
The constructions of the Minorities Commission on
the Staines' murder turn out to be designed to colour that crime in
the same hue. To take one example, Staines and his family were not
involved in preaching of Christianity for the previous 10 years
leading to conversion in Manoharpur, the Minorities Commission said
in the report it sent to Justice Wadhwa. In fact, associates of
Staines himself told the Wadhwa Commission that Staines used to
conduct "Bible classes" at "Jungle camps." One of his oldest
acquaintances told the Commission that Staines had been totally
secretive about both the "Jungle camps" and the accounts etc. of the
Leprosy House he ran. While some witnesses maintained that he never
even attended baptisms, some reported that he did, that he provided
vehicles for marriages and baptism functions. More telling is
something of an order altogether different from the oral testimony
It turns out that Staines and his wife, Gladys,
regularly filed despatches for a journal in Australia, Tidings. This
journal is run by the missionary organization in Australia which
financed Staines and his activities in Manoharpur. When the
Commission learned about the despatches, it requested the concerned
persons for copies of the journal. None were supplied! The
Commission had to obtain these from other sources. Justice Wadhwa
reproduces several extracts from the despatches.
"Graham and Gladys Staines, Mayurbhanj, 25 April,
1997: The first jungle camp in Ramchandrapur was a fruitful time
and the Spirit of God worked among the people. About 100 attended
and some were baptized at the camp. At present Misayel and some of
the Church leaders are touring a number of places where people are
asking for baptism. Five were baptized at Bigonbadi. Pray for the
Etani Trust in which the Mission properties are vested. One man
managed by underhand means to get parts of the property in his own
name and a number of nominal Christians of the Baripada Church are
also trying to get some of this valuable property for themselves.
The Trust is having to take legal action to rectify this."
"Graham and Gladys Staines, Mayurbhanj, 23 July,
1997: Praise God for answered prayer in the recent Jagannath car
festival at Baripada. A good team of preachers came from the
village churches and four OM workers helped in the second part of
the festival. There were record book sales, so a lot of literature
has gone into the people's hand...." (Incidentally, "OM" is a
carefully chosen acronym: the organization it signifies is
actually one of the largest publishers and distributors of
"Graham and Gladys Staines, Mayurbhanj, 19
September, 1997: Praise God we now have the Ho New Testament in
Oriya script and many copies are now in the hands of the Ho
people. Pray to God that it will be used of God to speak to many
as they read his word in their own language...."
"Graham and Gladys Staines, Mayurbhanj, 11
February, 1998: Jungle camp means four days of Bible teaching,
prayer and fellowship of Christians living together. It enables
believers from other churches to meet with local Christians to
discuss experiences and encourage one another.... The camp also
can create hunger in the hearts of those who come just to observe.
Each camp has a bookstall, which for many is the only chance to
buy Christian literature.... It was also encouraging to see so
many Ho people following the references in the Ho New Testament
during the messages at Sarat Jungle camp. We sold all the New
Testaments we took there...."
"Graham and Gladys Staines, Mayurbhanj, 20 March,
1998: "....Over the next two months there will be a programme of
baptism in nearby villages for those asking for them. These are
times for witness to non-Christians too...."
"Graham and Gladys Staines, Mayurbhanj, 19 May,
1998: There are many new believers in the Manoharpur Church and
the work is growing. The devil is now finding opportunity to
hinder the work of God. There is disagreement between the young
people and the older men of the Church. A problem arose about the
land on which the Church is built and the planned Vacation Bible
School had to be canceled. Last year more than 100 children
attended this programme. The translation of Daily Life into Oriya
"Graham and Gladys Staines, Mayurbhanj, 19 June,
1998: In many churches here Sunday schools have ceased to
function. I have been advocating these and at a recent Church
leaders meeting I heard that some have re-started this work....
The Vacation Bible School that was to be held at Manoharpur was
canceled because of problems in the Church there. Two hundred and
eight children registered for the one at Raika.... It was an
excellent time and some young people who teach in VBS are being
trained and encouraged for children's work and Sunday school."
"Graham and Gladys Staines, Mayurbhanj, 21
August, 1998: ....There are still divisions in the Church at
Manoharpur and the churches at Durakuntia and Burudi are very
weak. It is wonderful to see the little girls being cared for in
the Rairangpur hostel. They have a wonderful opportunity to learn
to read and learn of the Lord...."
"Graham and Gladys Staines, Mayurbhanj, 18
September, 1998: Four men visited Manoharpur Church to discuss the
problems there and much was sorted out. A man who wants to be the
head of the Church wants to bring in or join with two other groups
who do not teach and walk according to the scriptures...."
"Graham and Gladys Staines, Mayurbhanj, 19
December, 1998: It is encouraging to hear of some improvement in
the Church at Manoharpur and that they are preparing for the
jungle camp. Misayel, Paul and Nehemiah visited Patana in early
December but, as many were away rice harvesting, they could meet
only with a few. They were able to encourage a new believer who
had been a priest of the Sana Dhoram, an animist sect. The village
people pleaded with him not to become a Christian saying, 'How can
we continue our worship if you leave us?' 'You can do as you like,
but I am following Christ,' he said. Continue to pray. God is
The typical concerns of a typical missionary --
harvesting souls for the Church. The prejudices of a missionary --
Sanatana Dharma, an animist sect! While his wife and some others
denied this, one of his close associates spoke of his "hatred" for
other religions. This associate reported -- and even Gladys,
Staines' wife, acknowledged -- that, if he happened to be at any
non-Christian function, Graham Staines would never take prasad, as,
Mrs. Staines claimed, doing so is prohibited in the Bible....
After reviewing the evidence, the Wadhwa
Commission, therefore, concludes, "Besides his involvement with
Leprosy House, Staines was also involved in missionary work. The
missionary work of Staines has come to light from the various
despatches sent by him to Australia, which are published in the
newsletter, 'Tidings'. Staines also used to take part in baptism
ceremonies although he may not have necessarily carried out the
baptism himself. Paul Murmu says that Staines attended baptism
ceremonies and marriage ceremonies of Christian families whenever he
was available. However, it is the despatches sent by Staines to
Australia in the newsletter 'Tidings' that make it clear that
Staines was also involved in active propagation of his religion
apart from his social work. It is also clear from the said
despatches that conversions were taking place in jungle camps. The
missionary work of Staines obviously included organizing and
conducting jungle camps, translating the Bible in tribal languages,
preaching of Bible to the tribals. It is obvious, therefore, that
Staines was both a social worker engaged in the treatment and
eradication of leprosy amongst the poorest of the poor and also a
missionary driven by a deep commitment to his religion and the
belief that he should spread its tenets amongst the people in the
area. His missionary activities did lead to conversions of tribals
to his faith."
But as far as the Minorities Commission is
concerned, supresso veri, and pronounce! Even such
misrepresentations by bodies such as the Minorities Commission are
lessons in themselves. But, as we shall see, these are minor ones
compared to other lessons which the Wadhwa Commission's Report holds
Having asserted that Graham Staines had not been
involved in missionary work, the Minorities Commission asserted that
cordial relations existed between Hindus and Christians, that there
were no ill-feelings among them. The two assertions together set the
stage for the main theme the Commission pressed: the murders were
lightning out of the blue, they were the handiwork of Dara Singh,
and Dara Singh in turn was affiliated to the Bajrang Dal.
While a number of Christian witnesses as well as
some policemen told the Justice Wadhwa Commission that there was no
communal tension in the area, others testified to the contrary.
There had been tensions between the communities for seven years,
they told the Commission. And for one reason.
The Australian missionary organization which was
financing Staines had set up 20-25 churches in Mayurbhanj and
Keonjhar districts, a linguist working with the Indian Evangelical
Mission told the Commission. Jungle camps were used for baptizing
persons, witnesses told the Commission. B. B. Panda, who was
Director General of Police, Orissa from October, 1997 to March,
1999, stated in a report to the State Government that "Mr. Staines
was attending Jungle Mela in Manoharpur for the last more than 20
years. Majority of the local Adivasi Christians had been converted
to Christianity through his efforts." S. C. Bala, the Superintendent
of Police of the Crime Branch, who investigated the case, was asked
by the Wadhwa Commission about his assessment regarding the likely
motive for the murders. He told the Commission that the motive
"appeared to be that non-Christian people were aggrieved on the
ground that Christian fathers/missionaries are converting the people
to Christianity in a deceitful manner by giving allurements."
More telling are the despatches of Staines and his
wife in Tidings, the newsletter of the Australian missionary
organization. They themselves wrote about these tensions repeatedly.
"Graham and Gladys Staines, Mayurbhanj, 19
September, 1997: ....The Ho believers in Thakurmunda still face
persecution. From time to time the village people have beaten them
up, broken their bicycles and not allowed them to worship in their
own Church building. Three people came to Baripada to meet
district officials and petition for justice. Pray that action will
be taken to allow freedom to worship."
"Graham and Gladys Staines, Mayurbhanj, 22
February, 1998: We have just arrived home from the Baliposi camp a
day early. Some people from a Hindu militant group who are
persecuting the Christians came to the camp but were not able to
disturb the meetings. On the last day the police came and told us
to stop the meeting and leave, as they would not be able to
protect us...." -- election-related requirements left no men to
"Graham and Gladys Staines, Mayurbhanj, 20 March,
1998: Six men came to Baripada to speak with officials in the
intelligence department regarding the tension in the Thakurmunda
"Graham and Gladys Staines, Mayurbhanj, 19 May,
1998: ....We have been told that a militant Hindu group plans to
concentrate on Mayurbhanj and Keonjhar districts to turn
Christians back to Hinduism...."
In a word: conversions were taking place; this had
caused tensions; so much so that a Hindu group had decided to try
and get them back into Hinduism. But for our Minorities Commission,
all was peace and harmony!
The First Information Report on the Staines' murder
was filed by the pastor of the Manoharpur Church. He turns out to be
a good candidate for some of our secularist organizations. The
assailants shouted "Jai Bajrang Dal," he said in the FIR. Witness
after Christian witness testified that what the assailants shouted
was "Jai Bajrang Bali." The assailants set fire to the Church, he
said. The Church turned out to not have been harmed. On count after
count -- what he saw, what he heard, the persons he named as having
committed the crime -- the pastor's statements turned out to be
contradictory. On count after count he disowned them himself. After
narrating these somersaults, Justice Wadhwa remarks, "It is, thus,
clear that the FIR was drawn up only after the Chief Minister had
left Manoharpur. From all angles, it is a doctored FIR, a large part
of which has been disowned by the informant himself and also has
been shown to be false." But it is this FIR which became the basis
for imaginative journalism.
B. B. Panda, who was then Director General of
Police, Orissa, told the Commission that the New Indian Express --
that is, the southern editions of the Indian Express -- of 25
January, 1999, quoted him as saying, "over 50 people suspected to be
activists of the Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad were involved
in the incident, and so far 47 persons have been arrested." He told
the Commission that as he had not said this, he sent the paper a
contradiction. The paper did not publish the contradiction.
By that figure of 47-50 arrests hangs another
One result of the gruesome nature of the murders,
of the fact that even the little sons had been done to death, of the
fact that the State Government had to show to the Congress
leadership in Delhi that it was acting energetically, and also of
the glare the media had brought to bear on the case was that the
police felt it just had to show something. The consequence? "The
police went berserk," observes Justice Wadhwa. It picked up anyone
who in its imagination could somehow or the other be linked with the
Bajrang Dal. Fifty one persons were thrown into jail. The Crime
Branch found that there was absolutely no case against them. All of
them had to be released. Justice Wadhwa observes, "It would thus
appear that 51 persons underwent the agony of going into judicial
custody for two months or more. Though initially the State
Government took a great deal of pride that police arrested as many
as 51 accused showing the efficiency and promptness of the police,
but ultimately subsequent events showed that in the State of Orissa,
as far as these 51 persons are concerned, there was no rule of law.
Prakash Mehra (DIG) in his supervision note had stated that there
was no evidence in respect of all the five FIR named accused persons
or the 51 persons arrested by the local police."
"The question then arises in view of the
contradictions which make the FIR a false document, what was the
motivating force behind it?," asks Justice Wadhwa. "And why as many
as 51 innocent persons were arrested between 23rd to 28th January,
1999?" "Answers to these questions are not far to seek," he
concludes. "The State Government was rattled by the gravity of the
crime. To divert attention from its own failure to maintain law and
order and to protect the innocent and then show 'speedy and
decisive' action, a false picture is presented."
And as for the involvement of the Bajrang Dal etc.,
the Commission concludes, "The Commission has scrutinized the
evidence before it and especially the evidence of the associates of
Dara Singh who were involved in the carnage at Manoharpur. There is
no evidence to suggest that any of the persons involved in the crime
was in fact a member of either the Bajrang Dal or BJP or any
organization. There is nothing to suggest in the evidence before the
Commission, or in the investigation conducted by the Crime Branch
and the CBI thus far that there is involvement of any organization,
even that of Bajrang Dal, in the planning and the execution of the
Several witnesses testified to Dara Singh's
involvement in the crime -- in preparing for it, in executing it.
Justice Wadhwa is in doubt that Dara Singh was the prime mover. To
fly off in rage at Dara Singh, and feel that one has done one's duty
is to miss the point.
There are several important pointers. Several
witnesses testified that Dara Singh had been engaged in rescuing
cows that were being transported for slaughter. He had been trying
to get the State to enforce the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
laws. This activity was taken, even by the police, to be
"anti-Muslim" activity. Dara Singh was accordingly implicated in
cases filed by persons engaged in transporting and selling cows for
slaughter. That is as far as the consequences for Dara Singh under
the law are concerned. The effect on the people was the exact
opposite. Witness-29, who testified that he had been asked by Dara
Singh to accompany him to Manoharpur, told the Commission, "Dara
Singh is a very popular figure in the village as he forcibly frees
cows from the people who take them for selling. After freeing the
cows, Dara Singh distributes the cows among the villagers...."
Cows are revered by Hindus. The man trying to save
them becomes an outlaw in the eyes of the police, and a hero in the
eyes of the people. Two lessons in that.
On the other hand, Staines and his associates are
left free to go on converting Hindus to Christianity. There is no
evidence that Staines himself resorted to fraud, force or
allurement. Even so, tensions mount because of conversions. Staines'
own despatches testify to this. But our institutions -- the
Minorities Commission and the police being representative in this
regard -- even in retrospect assert the fiction that there was no
tension between Christians and non-Christians.
The second clue is provided by the evidence of a
key witness, one whose testimony contributes most to nailing the
involvement of Dara Singh. He is one Dipu Das. He was a close
associate of Dara Singh. He revealed to the Commission that "youth
from Gayalmunda and Bhalughera had approached Dara Singh sometime in
August 1998 to stop the Christians from converting Hindus to
That is the key lesson: if the State is going to
persist with double-standards in regard to the sentiments of Hindus
and non-Hindus on the one hand, and with a deliberate shutting of
eyes on the other, it is paving the way for such crimes.
That lesson is brought home most forcefully by
Justice Wadhwa's findings in regard to the Orissa law that bears on
conversions. As has been noted earlier, Orissa passed a law in 1967
to regulate conversions. It is known as the Orissa Freedom of
Religion Act. Its constitutionality -- as well as that of the allied
law in Madhya Pradesh -- has been upheld by a five judge
Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court in Rev. Stainislaus v. State
of Madhya Pradesh [AIR 1977 SC 908]. Among other things, the law
provides, "No person shall convert or attempt to convert, either
directly or otherwise, any person from one religious faith to
another by use of force or by inducement or by any fraudulent means,
nor shall any person abet such conversion." Anyone doing so, the Act
provides, shall be punished by imprisonment of up to one year and/or
a fine of Rs. 5,000. In case the offence relates to a minor, a woman
or a person belonging to the Scheduled Castes or Tribes, the
punishment shall be double.
To prevent misuse, the Act provides that the
offence shall not be investigated by an officer below the rank of an
Inspector of Police, and that no prosecution shall be instituted
without the sanction of the Magistrate of the District or an
The Act was passed in 1967. Rules under it were not
framed till November, 1989, Justice Wadhwa notes. The Rules are
salutary, and will repay a moment's attention:
"3(i) Each District Magistrate shall maintain a
list of religious institutions or organizations propagating
religious faith in his district and that of persons directly or
indirectly engaged for propagation of religious faith in the
"(ii) The District Magistrate, if he thinks fit,
may call for a list of persons with the religious faith, receiving
benefits either in cash or in kind from the religious
organizations or institutions or from any person connected
"4. Any person intending to convert his religion
shall give a declaration before a Magistrate, 1st Class, having
jurisdiction prior to such conversion that he intends to convert
his religion on his own will.
"5(i) The concerned religious priest shall
intimate the date, time and place of the ceremony in which
conversion shall be made along with the names and addresses of the
persons to be converted to the concerned District Magistrate
before fifteen days of the said ceremony.
"(ii) The intimation shall be in Form A and shall
be delivered either personally by the Priest to the concerned
District Magistrate or sent to him by registered post with
"6. The District Magistrate on receiving the
intimation from the priest shall sign thereon stating the date on
which and the hour at which the intimation has been delivered to
him or received by him, and shall forthwith acknowledge the
receipt thereof in Form B.
"7. The District Magistrate shall maintain a
register of conversion in Form C and shall cover therein
particulars of the intimation received by him.
"8. Any person who contravenes the provisions of
Rule 5 or 6 shall be liable to a fine of Rupees one thousand.
"9. The District Magistrate shall by the 10th of
each month send to the State Government a report of intimations
received by him during the preceding month in Form D."
That is the law. And what is the reality? Justice
"No one was aware of the Freedom of Religion Act
or the Rules framed thereunder in the State at least in the
districts of Mayurbhanj and Keonjhar. These provisions of law were
lying dormant and [had] never [been] put into operation for the
last many years. Admittedly, there were conversions to
Christianity in these two districts. No person intending to
convert his religion ever gave a declaration before a Magistrate
prior to such conversion of his intent to convert his religion on
his own will which was the requirement of Rule 4. Similarly also
the religious priest did not give intimation of such conversion as
per Form A under the Rules. District Magistrate did not maintain a
register of conversion as per Form prescribed. Since they did not
make any record of conversions, they did not send any report of
conversion to the State Government.
"Mr. Balakrishnan, District Magistrate,
Mayurbhanj and Mr. Saurabh Garg, District Magistrate, Keonjhar
were examined to know if any action [had been] taken under the
Freedom of Religion Act and the Rules framed thereunder. They
expressed ignorance of the provisions of the law relating to
conversion and said they had become aware of these only after the
incident at Manoharpur on the night of 22 / 23-1-1999. To me, it
appears that even now they do not understand the full scope and
intent of the provisions of the Orissa Freedom of Religion Act and
the Rules. These are salutary provisions and prohibit conversion
from one religion to another by the use of force, inducement or by
any fraudulent means. Even any abetment to such conversion has
been made an offence. If these provisions of law, in my view, are
strictly followed no one can have any grievance to contend that
gullible and innocent tribals are being converted."
The Commission asked the Advocate General for a
report on prosecutions under the Act. From 1967 to 1990, the
Advocate General informed the Commission, the Act was not enforced
as its constitutional vires had been challenged. Since then -- that
is, in nine years -- 10 cases had been registered. In one case the
accused had been discharged. In one case he had been acquitted. In
regard to two the Final Report had been submitted. And six were
The lesson -- a cruel one -- shouts at us: as this
is the attitude of the State machinery to law, the Dara Singhs will
continue to become heroes with the local