October 1999
Special Report

Crimes of Passion

What is shocking on a close perusal of the Wadhwa Commission report is how blatantly the Judge has chosen to ignore the evidence presented by senior policemen and the administration before it. The Judge ignored even his senior counsel’s advice

Crimes of passion, motivated by deep love often receive extenuating treatment by the law. But what 
of communal crimes borne out of deep hatreds? 

Justice D.P. Wadhwa, a sitting judge of the Supreme Court of India condemned Dara Singh, the criminal for burning Graham Staines and his two young sons alive but exonerated sanghi organisations like the Bajrang Dal, the RSS and the BJP for providing the intellectual motivation and sustenance for the crime to be cold-bloodedly carried out. 

In the early hours of January 23, 1999 the deed had been committed. Days before his ministry instituted the inquiry, India’s home minister, L.K. Advani undermined the independent inquiry by exonerating the organisations who had inspired Dara Singh. Two days after the brutal murder, on January 25, when asked by the media whether sangh parivar organisations like the Bajrang Dal, VHP and the RSS, should also be investigated in connection to the Staines’ murder, Advani replied, “I don’t think so. I have known these organisations. They have no criminal record.” (The TOI, January 26, 1999). A month later on the floor of the Rajya Sabha, Advani was forced to admit that there were a total of 116 attacks against Christians in 1998 (PTI, February 24, 1998).

Advani abused his position as home minister of the country by passing judgement on outfits clearly then suspected of direct involvement. Is that surprising, however? Advani is himself co-accused in the criminal case of the demolition of the Babri Masjid. The Liberhans Commission instituted to investigate the crime as well as another official commission to get to the bottom of the violence in the city of Ayodhya have been silenced by the BJP government in power.

The rath yatra led by him with the hate-ridden speeches and slogans raised in its wake have also been cited by Justice B.N. Srikrishna in his report as the broader provocation for the Bombay riots of December 1992-January 1993. He is therefore directly associated with exactly the crimes that the conspirator organisations in the Staines murder were accused of. Preparing a hate-driven climate that is conducive to inspiring the lunatic fringe into action.

By booking the criminal and letting off organisations that he was associated with for years, Justice Wadhwa, in his report submitted to the home ministry on June 21, 1999 and also re-enforced Advani’s convictions expressed to the media in which he exonerated the organisations of the sangh parivar. 

Despite the evidence supplied by senior police officers in the administration, presented before him on Dara Singh’s connections with not just the Bajrang Dal but also the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Judge chose to arrive at exactly the opposite conclusions. Justice Wadhwa’s report will not only stand out for its rank dishonesty in refusing to challenge the powers that be. Wadhwa’s judgement bears comparison to the legal conclusions drawn following the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, by Nathuram Godse. The RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha, despite the obvious connection of the assassin, Nathuram Godse with them, were formally exonerated.
Tushar Gandhi, great-grandson of the Mahatma in a piece written for The Statesman in August this year brings out this comparison admirably.  (see box)

What is really shocking on a close perusal of the Wadhwa Commission report is, how blatantly the Judge has chosen to ignore the evidence  presented by senior policemen and the administration before it.
Gopal Subramaniam was the senior counsel for the commission of inquiry. In his submissions based on the records submitted before it, he observes, “There is sufficient evidence to suggest that Dara Singh’s association with the RSS and the Bajrang Dal renders the matters open to further inquiry and investigation by the CBI “
The counsel with his three associates took the view that no organisation should be given a clean chit until further notice. He recommended in fact that a thorough investigation should be undertaken by the CBI. Instead of accepting this sound legal advice, Justice Wadhwa hurried through his investigation by exonerating them and submitting the report to the home ministry.

In his report and submissions, Subramaniam has also observed that based on the accounts of witnesses and the materials placed on record and police records, there was evidence to show that “Dara Singh was an active member of the Go Suraksha Samiti, a programme sponsored and implemented by the Bajrang Dal and the VHP that he had campaigned for the BJP in the parliamentary elections of 1998;

He attended RSS camps he held out himself as a Bajrang Dal activist
And that he believed in the strong propagation of Hindutva.” 
The counsel believes that one telling example in evidence of his association with the Sangh Parivar was the submission made by an official witness, Lalith Das, former superintendent of police of Keonjhar. (Manoharpur village where the crime was committed is located in this district.) “ Dara Singh’s association with the BJP was so well known that it was not necessary to inquire into his antecedents, “ said Das. The counsel’s report however also added that though “ Dara Singh is an active /supporter of the Bajrang Dal there was no documentary evidence to prove that he is a member or office bearer of the organisation”. 

The report also noted that any person in the age group of 15-45 can become a member of the Bajrang Dal with an annual fee of Rs 5 but no membership card is issued except for a receipt To give an idea of the extent to which the Judge has gone to ignore the evidence placed before him, it is worth listing examples of official witness accounts that link Dara Singh with both the Bajrang Dal and the BJP. These are contained in the Judge’s report just before he exonerates the involvement of these organisations.

“Association with the Bajrang Dal:
A) Santosh Uphadhyaya the Superintendent of Police, Mayurbhanj from February 17, 1997 to December 25, 1998 says, “It was found that Dara Singh was a supporter of the Bajrang Dal”. He further states that “investigation of the Mahuldia case shows that Dara Singh was a member of the Bajrang Dal”. He also states that “I found Bajrang Dal activists were indulging in snatching cattle”. 

b) Jogendra Patnaik says ‘I had prior knowledge of Dara Singh’s association with the Bajrang Dal “. He further states “ I have seen records with the DIB about Dara Singh’s association with the Bajrang Dal”.

c) M K Dwivedi. He states in para 29 of his affidavit that Dara Singh and his associates have been associated with the Bajrang Dal / BJP. This contention is based on the evidence  in Patna Police station case  79/97, memorandum dated 27.10.97 and DIB reports (Ext.19/21-26 )

d) D K Mohapatra. Dara Singh appears to be a supporter or fellow traveler of the Bajrang Dal or even of the BJP but not a die-hard or card holder or activist of these organizations.

e) Pradeep Kakur.  States that the weekly confidential reports (of the police) dated December 14 and 15, 1998 do indicate that Dara Singh is a supporter of the Bajrang Dal. Report of January 3, 1999 indicates that Dara Singh is a worker of the Bajrang Dal.

f)  Sushil Mohanty.  When asked that the heading of his report  ( ex W 19/20 ) which refers to activities of Dara Singh, Rabindra Kumar Pal and the Bajrang Dal, whereas the report does not strictly mention the association of Dara Singh with the Bajrang Dal. He stated  “…..from records and case diaries (police) and information  received by him, he came to the conclusion that Dara Singh was  a member of Bajrang Dal. “

g) Pratap Sarangi : He is the State co-ordinator of the Bajrang Dal, he says in his affidavit before the Commission that Dara Singh was never associated  with the Bajrang Dal. The witness was not cross-examined by any of the counsel before the Commission on this question.

Association with the BJP:
a)M. K. Dwivedi 
He states that Dara Singh and his associates being associated with Bajrang Dal / BJP based on Patna  Police station case 79/97, memorandum dated October 27, and DIB reports 19/21-26. 

b) Lalith Das, former superintendent of police of Keonjhar. 
Dara Singh is a member of the Go-Suraksha Samithi  but I don’t know whether he was a member of the BJP when Patna  PS case 80/97 was registered. He further states that “It is well known that Dara Singh is a supporter of the BJP His association with the BJP is so well known that there is no need to inquire into his antecedents. “

c) Sushil Kumar Agarwal 
“ Dara Singh was a party worker of the BJP in the Patna PS area during the election campaign in 1990/91. 
The Judge ignoring all other evidence preferred to believe the Bajrang Dal, an organisation suspected of involvement already when it said that Dara Singh was not a member. Never mind the fact that no records of membership were maintained by this outfit. 

Teesta Setalvad 
Morally the sanghis are the murderers

The murder of Steins and his two sons and the events leading to  it are very similar to the plot that led to the killing of Mahatma  Gandhi. In both cases, more than the actual murderers it is the organisation behind them that are the real culprits.

After the murder of the Mahatma on January 30, 1948, although it was common knowledge that the murderers were known sanghis and Hindu Mahasabhaites, both the organisations were never proven guilty of their role in the killing of the Mahatma. The help that Godse and his gang got before and after the murder was only because the entire sangh machinery was geared up for action. Godse of Pune got his initial funds and weapons for the failed attack of January 20, 1948 from Mumbai and Aurangabad. He received funds and hospitality everywhere in the offices of the Hindu Mahasabha and the Sangh. Although there was supposedly bad blood between the two organisations, after the bomb attack of January 20, Godse was again sheltered by the sanghis and the Mahasabhaites. Known Mahasabha and sangh members assisted their unhindered return to Mumbai and their hunt for a suitable weapon. All this while Madanlal Pahwa, the bomber of January 20 was singing to the Delhi police and had revealed the identity of his co-conspirators. He had gone to the extent of warning them, “phir ayega”. The killer will come back.

Nathuram and Apte flew back to Delhi from Gwalior and carried out their deed on January 30, 1948. The Hindu Mahasabha and the RSS immediately arranged their defence. Apart from this at various places the sanghis and the Mahasabhaites distributed sweets to celebrate the killing of the Mahatma. Godse vented his spleen in court and tried to justify his act by painting himself as the protector of Hinduism and  an avenger of Bharatmata. Who put these ideas into his mind ? Was he born with the poison in his mind? If the final act, then, was due to the poisoned mind, then wouldn’t the poisoner also be guilty of the crime?

The Bajrang Dal and the other sanghi organisations may not have issued written or verbal orders to kills the Steins but the systematic hate campaign launched by the sanghi organisation was a pre-planned ploy to trigger of acts by lunatic fringe. That the two actions happened simultaneously but did not have any bearing on each other is unbelieveable; there was a definite nexus.

The other pointer to all the pogroms against the Christians was being orchestrated and premeditated is the fact that the minds of the common people were systematically desensitised. The gruesome murder of Graham Steins and particularly the two innocent children did not generate sufficient revulsion among the people on the street. The propagandist shouted down every protest under the new found slogan of Hindu Dharam Khatre mein hein.        

(An abstract from an article by Tushar Gandhi in The Statesman, August 17, 1999)

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