National Minority Commission assures NCCI delegation official enquiry

on Attacks on Churches in Batala, Punjab.

The National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) condemns the attack against Christians in Batala, Punjab State. Both the churches that were victims of the attack were member churches of the NCCI. The incident has severely hurt the member churches and the constituent members, making them wary over any recurring situations.

Both the churches, according to our trusted sources, were vandalised, looted and burnt in Batala on the 20th Feb 2010. Following the notice, R. Christopher Rajkumar, Secretary, Commission on Justice, Peace and Creation along with Rev. Dr. Solomon Rongpi, Secretary, Commission on Unity, Mission and Evangelism took a Solidarity Visit to the affected Churches between 27th Feb to 1st March 2010.  During our visit, which was facilitated by Bishop Samantaroy, we met the tormented victims, the public and District Administration of Batala.

The following disturbing facts came to our notice during our Solidarity Visit.

There was a riot after an ecumenical rally was taken by the local Churches opposing the derogatory depiction of Jesus with bear can and cigarette. The 150-year-old CNI Church named Epiphany was burnt and the Salvation Army Church was vandalised. Both damages cost approximately 25,00,000/- (Rupees Twenty Five Lakhs).

In this regard, the NCCI Delegation met the Hon’ble. Mohd. Shafi Qureshi, Chairperson of the National Commission for the Minorities in Delhi along with Mr. Arnold James, Member, Delhi Minority Commission. R. Christopher Rajkumar, Secretary, Commission on Justice, Peace and Creation narrated the incidents out of their learning and requested an official visit of the NCM delegation to Batala to review the situation.

Details of the memorandum as follows.

The NCCI...

1. Demands a probe to be ordered to study the linkage of all these issues

2. A genuine inter-faith peace committee to be installed in Batala

3. The role of intelligence wing of Govt. of Punjab also to be probed by an independent  judicial commission

4. We demand permanent measures to establish and maintain peace to be researched and adopted.

5. We demand both Central and State Governments to genuinely provide compensation to all the individuals, presbyters and the Churches which are affected and attacked during this riot.

6. We demand an assurance from the Govt. of Punjab that hereafter all the minority communities will be secure and live in peace

7. We urge the Govt. of Punjab to use all means at its disposal to protect all the places of worship so that they are sanctuaries of peace and safety.

8. We demand the law of the land to pursue the welfare of the Nation as enshrined in the Directive Principles of the Constitution, and not give in to the ideologies and philosophies of selective dominant communities.

9. We demand to develop a board such as a Censor board which will monitor all the publications with overtones of malice that hurt faiths and religious sentiments of the society.

10. We demand for an Enquiry Commission to view the publication and take appropriate action against the Skyline Publisher and recover the damages caused to property and individuals in the wake of the derogatory publication.

The NCCI is alarmed at the rising atrocities against Christians and seek assistance and assurance to see that Punjab does not become another Orissa, and that the Minorities in general and Christians in particular are not marginalized and suppressed.

(R. Christopher Rajkumar, Hon’ble. Mohd. Shafi Qureshi, Chairperson of the National Commission for the Minorities, Mr. Arnold James, Memebr, Delhi Minority Commission and Mr. S. Raju) 

Hon’ble. Mohd. Shafi Qureshi, Chairperson of the National Commission for the Minorities, expressed his apathy after the narration of the Batala incident. He has assured to send an official delegation to review the situation and has also promised protection to churches and worship places so such atrocities do not recur. Additionally, he also will look into the need for compensation for the damages caused.

- R. Christopher Rajkumar