Special Correspondent

Congress leaders said to have addressed the gathering

MANGALORE: An assistant sub-inspector of police (ASI) on Thursday told the Somasekhara Commission of Inquiry that political leaders such All India Congress Committee general secretary Oscar Fernandes addressed Christians before violence broke out near the Milagres church on September 14, 2008.

Ananth Murudeshwar, ASI, told the Bajrang Dal advocate during cross-examination that Mr. Fernandes and vice-president of the Dakshina Kannada unit of the Congress Ivan D'Souza had addressed Christians who had gathered after the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration Monastery was attacked earlier in the day.

The Bajrang Dal had then claimed responsibility for the attack.

The ASI, who was working with the Bunder police station then, told the commission that the people became restive only after Mr. Fernandes and Mr. D'Souza addressed them. They resorted to a road blockade. He agreed with advocate Jagadish Shenava's suggestion that they had even looted a few shops and the crowd of over 2,000 created an atmosphere of fear there.

He said police then resorted to “light lathi-charge” to disperse the mob. Mr. Murudeshwar denied the suggestion made by B. Ibrahim, advocate for the minorities, that there was no proper ground for the police to resort to lathi-charge.

Mr. Murudeshwar denied that 20 to 30 people were arrested the same day and taken to the police station and cases filed against them in connection with the violence. He also denied Mr. Ibrahim's suggestion that he was aware of the claim of Bajrang Dal leader Mahendra Kumar the same day that the attack on the monastery was carried out by the Bajrang Dal members. He was informed of it only after the situation in the city had eased.