On September 4th 2019, The Mumbai Mirror published a report headlined “Bajrang Dal workers barge into Christian Prayer meet at Worli School” which detailed how activists from Bajrang Dal ‘disrupted’ an ‘innocent prayer meet’ being held inside the school premises.
The Mumbai Mirror report
The report claimed that Bajrang Dal suspected that the prayer meeting was a front for religious conversion and after they barged in, they first video recorded the event and then, called the police.
However, the Mumbai Mirror report was less an endeavour in fact-finding and more on subtly furthering the agenda that the Christian prayer meet was disrupted due to hate.
In the report, Mumbai Mirror writes:
“Rather than book the activists for harassment or trespassing, the police acted on their complaint and issued a notice under Section 149 (unlawful assembly) of the IPC to Allen Salins, a pastor from Mangalore who was the chief guest at the program”.
The Mumbai Mirror report states, in no uncertain terms that the police should have booked the Bajrang Dal activists for harassment and trespassing, but instead, acted on their complaint and issued a notice under Section 149 to Allen Salins, the pastor heading the prayer meet.
The report states that the police told the New Life Fellowship Organisation that they should have taken permission from the police. In fact, the police had also warned the activists that they should have approached the police and not disrupted the event on their own.
The Mumbai Mirror report quotes Bajrang Dal Activist Dinesh Shrivastava as saying that such events promote superstition and religious conversion. However, in an attempt to tarnish and paint Dinesh as a religious, irrational nut, it also quotes his ‘WhatsApp status’.
“Incidentally, Shrivastav’s WhatsApp stats reads: Dharmyudha main nimantran nahi bheje jate. Jo veer hai woh khud ranbhumi main chale aate hain! Jai Shriram”.
Legal Rights Observatory (LRO) accuses Mumbai Mirror of bias and being economical with facts
Now, Legal Rights Observatory, an activist group and accused the publication of being economical with facts and running an agenda against the activists who merely wanted to ensure that peace is maintained and superstition is not used against the citizenry.
Hello @MumbaiMirror @alka_MIRROR we never expected balanced reporting from Ur paper but Worli incidence is serious matter n by any means it’s nt what U reported today. Come out of Ur cocoon to get 360 degree view! https://t.co/oENPRkDnlp
— Legal Rights Observatory- LRO (@LegalLro) September 4, 2019
Legal Rights Observatory, on 2nd September, had lodged a complaint with National Commission for Protection of Child’s Rights and raised an issue regarding the event being held in school premises.
Following was their complaint:
On September 1, 2019, The New Life Fellowship mission, an evangelist group has arranged a program at Mumbai Municipal School, Worli Mumbai.
The program caused tensions in the area triggering police intervention (Please see police notice in the attachment). With this letter, we want to request NCPCR to investigate the event on the following basis,
1) Whether that school forced/ requested students to attend this program on Sunday?
2) Whether school forced/ requested parents to attend this evangelist program?
3) Whether the New Life Fellowship mission earlier arranged the same type of program in a school on school days? And any such program violated Right to Education of school kids?
Also with this email letter, we want to request NCPCR to issue advisory citing this issue to,
1) Chief Education Officer of Mumbai Municipal Corporation,
2) Mayor- Mumbai Municipal Corporation,
3) Mumbai Police Commissioner,
4) Commissioner Mumbai Municipal Corporation, to take utmost precaution to avoid misuse of school infrastructure for programs like this; which are spreading superstitions and inculcating unscientific notions on the tender minds of school kids.
Legal Rights Observatory further said that the event that Mumbai Mirror reported comes under the ‘Black Magic Act’ and was not merely a prayer meeting as being portrayed in the report.
Hello @MumbaiMirror @alka_MIRROR prayer n spreading superstitions r very different things. Worli program which U reported today comes under “Black Magic Act” on which we hv already moved complaint to @CPMumbaiPolice. Plz keep spreading lies which makes Our task easy! https://t.co/Z74OcvqT3g
— Legal Rights Observatory- LRO (@LegalLro) September 4, 2019
Alka Dhupkar, who had filed the report in The Mumbai Mirror, however, said that Dinesh, the Bajrang Dal activist had issued a statement and in the statement itself, nothing about superstition or black magic was mentioned.
This is a statement of Dinesh Shrivastav, Bajrang Dal,Dadar district coordinator. He doesn’t say a word about ‘superstition’ or Black magic act in it. He was under impression that religious conversions were happening here which he couldn’t confirm to police. We hv reported facts. pic.twitter.com/6mysnB2Ulj
— Alka Dhupkar (@alka_MIRROR) September 4, 2019
What is intriguing, however, is in the report filed by Dhupkar itself, Dinesh is quoted as saying that such events promote superstition. Why then did Dhupkar not probe further is a mystery.
Legal Rights Observatory on its part says that they are in the possession of a video where it is clearly evident that this was no ordinary prayer meeting and that it was encouraging superstition. They say, “We have video of applying magic tactics on participants n we will submit it to police as follow up of our complaint. The case is very strong n police would definitely lodge FIR against organisers after going through it. Please report that angle too!”.
OpIndia has seen the video in question when it got in touch with representatives of Legal Rights Observatory and it can be clearly seen that the pastor puts his hand on the heads of women (including juvenile participant) and they can be seen screaming as if being cleansed or exorcised. Such sights are not uncommon when it comes to certain Christian gatherings and one could easily argue that they come under superstition and black magic act. For legal reasons, LRO has at this time refused to make the video public so the juvenile participant who is allegedly being tortured is not pressurised by the pastor or organisers of the event.
Child Rights Commission takes cognisance under Article 28 (3) of the Indian Constitution
Further, on 3rd September 2019 itself, Child Rights Commission had issued a letter to the Commissioner of Police, Mumbai on the Worli incident.
The letter issued by NCPCR says that prima facie, it looks like the event violated Article 28 (3) of the Indian Constitution and hence, the police is requested to investigate the matter. The letter also mentions that a report must be given to the Commission within 7 working days and that the report should include statements from the students and parents who attended the said activity.
Article 28 (3) of the Indian Constitution states, “No person attending any educational institution recognised by the State or receiving aid out of State funds shall be required to take part in any religious instruction that may be imparted in such institution or to attend any religious worship that may be conducted in such institution or in any premises attached thereto unless such person or, if such person is a minor, his guardian has given his consent thereto Cultural and Educational Rights”.
Suspected torture of juvenile at Worli program
Today, LRO has filed a complaint in the matter. The complaint says:
Subject:- Complaint about the incidence of suspected torture of juvenile at Worli program arranged by The New Life Fellowship Mission.
We have earlier lodged a complaint with Mumbai Police Commissioner against program held at BMC school Worli on September 1, 2019, in which The New Life Fellowship Mission spread superstitions and black magic tactics.
Yesterday we have accessed a video in which a juvenile participating in the same program is screaming due to unknown reasons (Please find attached video). We suspect that the unknown juvenile present at the venue is either being exposed to inhuman torture or beating or sexual harassment which made her scream/ cry in deep pain for help.
So, with this complaint we request you,
1) To immediately order Mumbai Police Commissioner to constitute all-woman police team headed by a high ranking woman police officer as investigation officer (IO) to investigate actually what happened at that program with that screaming juvenile,
2) To immediately report the incidence to the National Commission for Woman- NCW if the victim is woman,
3) To fix the responsibility of incidence on a police officer under whose jurisdiction the program was conducted and summon him to Delhi to record his/her statement,
4) To seek a report from Home Secretary of Maharastra regarding other such programs conducted earlier by The New Life Fellowship Mission.
We hope NCPCR would act to investigate the matter with urgency.
Grave omission by Mumbai Mirror: No mention of alleged police high handedness
As mentioned earlier, the Mumbai Mirror report mentions categorically that the police did not ‘take action’ against the Bajrang Dal activists. In fact, it goes on to insinuate bias on the part of the police when it says that instead of booking the activists for harassment and trespassing, it issued a notice to the pastor. However, the allegations by LRO are diametrically different.
In an email complaint, Legal Rights Observatory has categorically charged the Mumbai Police within action against the evangelist program.
Request for action against Mumbai Police officer for inaction against evangelist program arranged by The New Life Fellowship Mission which spread superstitions.
Commissioner of Police,
Subject:- Request for action against a concerned police officer who let arrange program spreading superstitions at Worli BMC school and threatened those who objected the program.
On September 1, 2019, The New Life Fellowship Mission had arranged a program at Worli BMC School. That program was to spread Christianity by using superstitions.
Local responsible people visited the venue to object them on 11.00 am and called the police.
The police officer who visited spot spoiled the time from 11.00 am to 8.00 pm. Also the officer threatened those who objected the program with dire consequences and didn’t lodge FIR against The New Life Fellowship Mission under “Anti-Superstition and Black Magic Act”.
After much tensions, local police officer warned program organizers in a written letter (Please find attached letter) but that was just cosmetic action to pacify sentiments.
With this letter We request you to;
1) Investigate the officer who visited the spot for his behaviour,
2) To order concerned police officer to lodge FIR against The New Life Fellowship Mission and headmaster/ principal (Who let the program in their school building) under “Anti-Superstition and Black Magic Act” for actively/passively spreading superstitions.
If Mumbai Police failed to act swiftly then we would approach state home minister and home secretary to ensure action.
The complaint says that the Mumbai Police threatened the activists who raised alarm and even treated them with high-handedness. The complaint also alleges that the Mumbai Police refused to lodge an FIR against the program and its organisers under the Anti Superstition and Black Magic Act.
Questions that need answering
It is evident that the Mumbai Mirror report has glaring loopholes and ommissions, whether because the journalist did not get in touch with LRO, who has been filing the complaint or because of the inherent bias of the report herself.
- Why did the reporter feel compelled to introduce her bias in the report by mentioning the activist’s WhatsApp status etc? Was it necessary to the facts of the case?
- Why did the reporter not get in touch with LRO to get the full picture of the complaints being filed?
- Even after being informed of ommissions, why has the Mumbai Mirror report not been updated?
- With its skewed reportage, is Mumbai Mirror endorsing religious events and alleged superstition and torture inside government-run and funded schools?
- Why was this event being held at a government-run school and not the Church?