On arrival, he first met various delegations in the Government Circuit House in Ahwa who apprised him of the situation there. The delegation of the United Christian Forum for Human Rights was led by Bishop Godfrey de Rozario sj, the Catholic Bishop of the Baroda diocese and included Sr. Carmen Borges, the Principal of Deep Darshan High School, Ahwa and Fr. Cedric Prakash sj, the Coordinator of the United Christian Forum for Human Rights (Gujarat). In responding to the Memorandum presented by this team, Shri Vajpayee (in the glare of the media present) expressed his dismay at what had happened and assured the delegation of full protection and security. He later met a CNI delegation led by Bishop Malaviya and also several other Hindu delegations.
The Prime Minister's first site visit was to the Deep Darshan Adivasi Boys Hostel which was the scene of vicious attacks by followers of the Hindu Jagran Manch on Christmas day. He was literally shocked seeing the violence that had taken place. He also visited the High School of Deep Darshan where he freely mingled with the tribal children. He next paid a visit to the CNI church at Mulchand (about six Kms. from Ahwa), where he also expressed his shock at the fact that a Chrisitan Church could be so brutally attacked and vandalised by fundamentalist. A "high point" in the PM's visit was to Patil Pada in Ahwa where a Hanuman temple was apparently damaged by miscreants (police records are still to identify who did this and what was the exact nature of this vandalism). He next visited the Navjyot High School in Subir which was again the scene of a terrible attack on Christmas night. Here he saw the Adivasi Boys Hostel and school which was set aflame and also the jeep and the motorcycle which was totally burnt. Fr. Anthony and Fr. Osborne narrated to the Prime Minister all that they had experienced that Christmas night. The Prime Minister again expressed his unhappiness at what had taken place. When asked by one of the Fathers of Subir whether he would come again to visit them, his immediate retort was "definitely.but not under such circumstances..!"
With the right words uttered by the Prime Minister, the Christians of the area had every right to feel satisfied with his visit..After all, the very fact of his visit highlighted the seriousness of the situation.
However, these feelings were shattered at the press conference which the Prime Minister addressed just before he left Ahwa that afternoon. The Prime Minister basically dwelt on three points :
By doing so, the Prime Minister :
The violence still continues : churches are still burnt, Christians are attacked, inflammatory propaganda is distributed, press statements (in the vernacular) are made attacking the Christians.
After all, Janubhai Pawar, the leader of the Hindu Jagran Manch (who was responsible for several of the attacks on the Christians and also arrested earlier for this) accompanied the motorcade of the Prime Minster all over the Dangs and the Home Minister of Gujarat, Mr. Haren Pandya successfully managed to stop the PM's motorcade at Subir to receive an anti-Christian memorandum from some fundamentalists, inspite of it not being on the PM's protocol..!
What can one then make of the PM's visit to the Dangs ?!
Date : 13th January, '99 Fr. Cedric Prakash sj
FOR THE UNITED CHRISTIAN FORUM FOR HUMAN RIGHTS