Logos Bhawan, Secundarabad
PRESS STATEMENT 29th May 2000
Machilipatnam bomb blast at Christian meeting was handiwork of fundamentalists Andhra Chief minister told of report of fact-finding team
The following statement was issued today by Dr Joseph de Souza, President of the All India Christian Council, and John Dayal, national spokesman:
A fact finding team of the All India Christian Council has said that the bomb blast at a prayer meeting in the Women's club at Machhilipatnam in Andhra Pradesh on 24 May was the handiwork of communal elements, and not the result of an internal strife in the community as the police had said.
The report of the fact finding committee has been given to Andhra chief minister Chandrababu Naidu, who is reported to have directed the police to review the investigations. Over thirty of 6,000 worshippers, many of them women, were injured in the explosion of an unknown device which went off near the stage at around 9.30 p.m.
In their haste to dismiss the incident -- which comes in the wake of a series of anti Christian elements in Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Orissa and Maharashtra -- and instead of investigating the anti-Christian propaganda going on in the town since January this year, the state police director general, within hours of the incident, had said the bomb blast was the result of rivalry between two local pastors, Emmanuel and Sungan Kumar both of whom have developed a lot of popularity. The fact-finding team discovered this was not true, and even the local police said the senior officers had given their statement in haste.
The fact-finding team found disturbing evidence of a deliberate hate campaign by the Sangh Parivar. Provocative statements and signs have been painted on walls in this coastal town, where several Christian meetings have been held since the Jubilee year began in January. Christian Institutions at Machilipatnam were being threatened through anonymous letters and telephone calls asking them to stop any Christian prayers in the Schools or else face dire consequences.
After detailed interviews with Christians belonging to both groups, as also of relatives of a man who was murdered in 1998, the enquiry team came to the conclusion that relations between the two Christian groups were not as had been painted by the authorities. `Going by the facts, evidence and circumstances, in our opinion the cause of the blast is a handiwork of fundamentalists who conspired and executed a meticulous precision blast without leaving any evidence at the site. The bomb is used is not an ordinary (crude) one but it appears to be either a time Bomb or a remote controlled bomb,' the report said. The impact of the bomb was very much, and the intention was to kill some of them who were attending the meeting . `Had these injuries been inflicted on the head or temple there could have been deaths,' the team said. The meeting had been organised by Rev. K. Emmanuel for Dr. Yesupadam of United Gospel Association.
The fact finding team consisted of Bhaskar Benny, Advocate, Albert Lael, and Rev. Satyam Yellasiri, Pastor. The team reached Machilipatnam at on the morning of 24th May 2000. and interviewed the pastors, the injured persons as also relatives of those involved in a 1998 murder. The team also met the district authorities.
The blast occurred at the Women's Recreational Club, in the central area of the town and at a stone's throw distance from the busy Andhra Pradesh Road Transport Corporation Bus Stop. The Club has a compound wall. It has only one opening through a gate facing Northern Side. The stage was erected on the South/West facing North/East Direction. The meeting was attended by over 6,000 people. About 4,000 were women and Children. They were sitting on the North East side facing the stage. And the meeting place was fully illuminated with flood lights.
According to eyewitnesses, a stranger walked into the meeting place at about 9.00 pm with a bag in his hand and sat on the empty chair at the back of the meeting, nearer to the club building steps. After squatting on the chair the stranger asked the person sitting beside him, who is identified as Mr. Vasantha Rao (Pastor) (from Jinjeru village which is about 20 kms from Machilipatnam) for some water. Mr. Vasantha Rao requested him to enquire for the same from the volunteers of the meeting. But the Stranger left the place leaving behind a note book on the chair and his bag, giving an impression that he would come back. And after about 20 minutes or so at about 9.25 pm just before the message is over and the prayer would commence, the video recording was put off, then the Bomb blasted from the bag that the stranger left, with a deafening sound. The sound could be heard even up to a distance of 2 kms we were told.
Vasantha Rao, who was referred in the media and the prime witness, was the direct victim of the Bomb blast as the stranger had put the bag beside him and enquired about drinking some water at about 9.00 pm and left the place leaving behind the bag and a note book there as if in search of water. Rao told the team the man was well built fair complexioned person in the age group of 30-35 years and was clad in white pant and a white T-Shirt. He spoke Telugu in Telangana accent (different from the local people). Vasantha Rao said there was no enmity against him in the village. There were 40 Christians in his village.
The local police authorities accepted that the C.M. and the D.G. P. came to a hasty conclusion in making public statement that due to the faction rivalry among two groups of Christians the Bomb was blasted to settle their scores between them. The local police authorities were of the opinion that this could not be the reason as there doesn't seem to be any thing that is pointing in that direction.
Issued by John Dayal for favour of publication.