Hindu Vivek Kendra
A RESOURCE CENTER FOR THE PROMOTION OF HINDUTVA
   
The incident at Manoharpur
was an avoidable tragedy

            There are various reasons indicated below which lead to the conclusion that an efficient and responsive administration could have prevented this unfortunate incident.

1. Tension between Hindus and Christians in certain areas of Mayurbhanj and Keonjhar Districts:

            It is evident from the various issues of the news magazine Tidings which were produced by Gladys Staines that there was tension in the two districts and that jungle camps held by the Christians were facing resentment and hostility from the Hindus.  John Mathai speaks about the disturbance in the camp at Baliposi.  He further states that the officer in charge of Mahuldia Police Station had escorted the participants to safety saying that the police could not provide protection to the camp as general elections were around.  He further states that for the last seven years there has been tension between Christians and non-Christians.  He cites an instance of 1992, in which the Sunday worship at Basantpur Church (which is 4 kilometers from Thakurmunda) was disrupted.

            Lalit Das, the former Superintendent of Police of Keonjhar, cites an incident of July 1998 at Jogiabandha when the villagers objected to the presence of one Fr.  Vergese in their village.

            Nehemiah Tudu states that previously the relationship between Christians and non-Christians was cordial but in the last 4 years there have been disturbances.

            In Manoharpur itself there was some friction between Christians and non-Christians as non-Christians had objected to the playing a music cassette containing Christians songs during a Christian wedding.  In the November '97 issue of 'Tidings' Graham Staines writes that "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...." He further writes in the May '98 edition of the 'Tidings' that "six men came to Baripada to speak with officials in the Intelligence Department regarding tension in the Thakurmunda area.... He says in the July '98 edition of 'Tidings' that a militant Hindu groups plan to concentrate at Mayurbhanj and Keonjhar to win Christians back to Hinduism.

            The Investigating Team of the Commission cited several reasons for the generation of tension between the Christians and non-Christians.  It opines that tension is caused due to:
 

(i)    Christian villagers who were earlier contributing to the village festivals, not giving 'chanda' (contribution) after embracing the religion.'

(ii)    their non-participation in local religious festivals and tribal dance etc;
 

(iii)    their adoption of anti-tribal customary practice of ploughing land during Raja, Makar Sankranti and other festivals of local non-Christian tribals,

(iv)    since the converted Christian's stopped taking 'handia' (rice beer) and saved money by avoiding unnecessary expenditure on 'bali' (sacrifice) of hens and goats to appease spirits which the local tribals believed in, their savings were utilised for a better life.  Such conduct of the Christians was resented by the other villagers.  These issues gradually became causes of friction between Christian and non-Christian communities in the villages.

            Evidence before the Commission does not indicate any open serious division between the Hindus and the Christian communities.  However, evidence does indicate that there was underlying tension between them.  This was especially owing to the fact that the Christian tribals in certain areas used to plough the land during the Raja Festival (when according to tribal custom the land was to be kept fallow) and the non participation of the Christian tribals in village festivals.  This tension was more pronounced in the Thakurmunda area.  Evidence before the Commission also indicates that the police had little knowledge about the conduct of jungle camps in the Districts and did not take any serious note of the underlying tensions between Christians and Hindus.
 

2.  Laxity of the State and district administration :

            Though the question on conversions and re-conversions are being discussed separately it is necessary to point out here that the various officials of the police and Distt.  Administration knew very little about the activity of conversion taking place in the Districts.  They also did not take note of the fact that this was causing some tension between the Christian and Hindu communities in the villages.  Santosh Upadhyaya former S.P. of Mayurbhanj stated that there were no conversions there in his time.  J.K. Mahapatra feigned ignorance about jungle camps or conversions.  A.R. Khan did not know about the holding of jungle camps.  R. Balakrishnan, Distt.  Magistrate of Mayurbhanj stated that although there were conversions, they were not owing to force or inducement.  Saurab Garg, Distt.  Magistrate of Keonjhar did not know about any conversions in his District.  Both the District Magistrates and the Superintendent of Police also did not have a proper working knowledge of the Orissa Freedom of Religion Act and were not aware of the provisions of the Act and its rules.  M.K. Dwivedi who was the acting S.P. of Keonjhar at the relevant time stated that he was not aware of the jungle camps and that there was no complaint regarding conversions to Christianity during his tenure.

            It is therefore clear that the Police and Distt.  Administration had no clue as to what were the underlying tension between the communities in their area and what were the causes for the same.

            Failure of investigation agencies to nab Dara Singh after having known his activities is perplexing.  So lax have the agencies been that even an application for cancellation of bail in a case in which he was involved was moved only on 4th April, 1999 after the Manoharpur incident whereas he was released on bail on 27th November, 1997.  Purna Chandra Mahanta recalls an incident which took place one day before the Manoharpur incident wherein the police lifted up an intoxicated Dara Singh and put him on the side of a road even when he was a wanted criminal.  The evidence before the Commission also shows that almost all Police Stations received a photograph of Dara Singh only after the Manoharpur incident, although he was wanted 'in several other crimes.  The inability of the police to identify him in the videotape of his interview (Exhibit-A) also compounds their ineptitude.

            The police, in spite of not even having his photograph, claimed to have conducted 173 raids to arrest Dara Singh.  B.B. Panda who was the DGP at the relevant time candidly admits that the raids may not be genuine.  He says "There can be proper raids, fake raids or paper raids also."

            Not only has the Distt.  Administration shown that it is not ready and responsive to meet difficult situations, it has also come to light that the State Government by frequent transfers and non-filling of important vacancies, such as that of the Distt.  Superintendent of Police, are making matters worse.  Transfers of officers also seem frequent in the State.  Even while the Commission was holding its sittings, officers deposing before it were transferred twice In the course of two days.  The state of rural police is also dismal and to fulfill the norms laid down by the National police commission both the districts of Mayurbhanj and Keonjhar require 20 more police stations each.
 

3.  Failure of Intelligence :

            The functioning of the District Intelligence Bureau was far from satisfactory.  D.K.Mahapatra, the then Additional Director General of Police (Intelligence) (and now DGP) states that there was no regular Inspector incharge of the DIB at Keonjhar and that there was only an inspector holding charge.  In the written submission before the Commission, State of Orissa, admits that the present structure of the DIB is inadequate to discharge its functions effectively.  The grass root collection of intelligence at the village level is best done by the Police station concerned. The officer in charge has to have sources, and utilise Gram Rakhis for the purpose- This has not been done at all.

            The Intelligence Bureau operates under the Government of India's (Allocation of business) rules 1961.  These rules stipulate that the Director of the Intelligence Bureau is responsible for collecting. co-ordinating and supplying to the Central Government information relating to the security of India.  The IB collects information which effects National Security and is answerable to the Central Government.  The IB has its Head Quarters in New Delhi and has ancillary or operational units called Subsidiary Intelligence Bureau (SIB) In addition the Special Branch of the State Police in different States co-ordinates with the IB and intelligence is shared between the two.

            The IB keeps a watch on the activities of foreign missionaries and flow of foreign funds for missionary work.  Since conversions on the large scale can result in social tension and disruption of law and order, the IB keeps track of approximate conversions taking place in various parts of the country. In the case of Keonjhar district (in which Manoharpur is located), the Christian population which was 2595 in 1971 increased to 4112 in 1991. The growth was not considered alarming by the IB. Neither the State police/Special branch/local police or the IB was aware of any strong social tension due to conversions in the region.

            Though the IB has a nationwide spread, its strength on the ground is very thin compared to that of the State Police/intelligence/Special Branch.  The IB does not have a post at Manoharpur but only a post at Keonjhar which is the district head quarters and is located 145 Kms. from Manoharpur.  Even this post is manned only by three persons to look after district with the population of 15 lakh and an area of 8303 sq. kms.

            The primary focus of the IB is areas like counter intelligence, prevention of espionage activities of foreign powers, terrorism, insurgency, security of the VIPs, security of vital installations, immigration and taking an overall view of law and order.

            The IB's perception is that the incident at Manoharpur was a law and order problem and their role would be twofold for incidents of this nature.  Where information exists with the IB of the imminence of such a clash, the local police would be informed.  Where a deep-rooted State or National Level conspiracy has taken place, the IB would utilise its expertise for unravelling such a conspiracy.  As far as the Manoharpur incident, the IB did not have any prior information of Hindu-Christian tension and in its perception the incident was purely local and not the fall out of a high level conspiracy.

            There is, thus, total failure of intelligence both at State and Central levels.  There has also been failure at the State level in maintenance of law and order, it not being alive to the prevalent situation.

            In sum, therefore, a responsive and efficient administration which has its ear to the ground and which acts on intelligence information available with it and whose officers are given a reasonable tenure could have prevented the carnage at Manoharpur.


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