Br Philip Noronha of the Holy Cross School, Whitefield was assaulted by a bunch of hooligans on Saturday, 23rd October 2010 by forcing him out from a public transport bus and taking him back to his school with a pre-planned programme. This act was also aimed at defaming the institution of the Holy Cross School where he now functions as the Vice-Principal and the Head of his religious community. What shocked the public was the manner in which Brother was assaulted on a fictitious charge in order to legitimize the unruly action of 300 people in front of the cameras and the press.
Brother Philip was a staff member of this college for three years – from June 2007 to May 2010 and functioned both as Registrar of the institution and the Warden of the Hostel. There were no allegations of the kind against him. While we do not desire to defend or denounce actions of any individual or group, in the case of Brother Philip if there were any allegations against his behavior, there are forums within the school and outside the institution in the state to complain and seek redress. Individuals and groups are not permitted to take the law into their own hands. That a group from the Public, several of whom have nothing to do with the school, make an allegation and take the law into their own hands to settle scores is against the rule of law. What stunned us was that the Police and the media, expected to be the protectors of the law colluded with the assaulters and desecrated the sanctity of the law.
That the incident was pre-planned needs no proof. How were the people mobilized and the TV cameras present there at the time of the assault then? Why did the media collude with the attackers? How did they agree to be there at the time of the incident? Is what happened to Brother Philip an isolated case or the normal practice of the media for gain and profit? The whole episode makes mockery of the role of the media meant to protect the democratic citizenship and the rule of law. They have connived with the breakers of law for serving vested interests. In the whole commentary in the more than three channels that the listeners heard, Brother Philip was made a culprit. No channel was prepared to unearth the truth. In a democracy the primary role of the media is to denounce anti-social forces to make democracy possible for ordinary and average citizens. Those with power and influence were allowed to be the accusers, Judges and implementers of that judgment.
The Police were no better. It was a horrible sight to watch that in the presence of the Police a person is assaulted, slapped and insulted and the police remain mere spectators or even join the attackers. What was more shocking was a police person slapping the Brother watched by citizens in the various TVs. Is there anything worse than this that can happen to an individual? When the protectors of the state law turn into violators of individual rights to please vested interests in society, what are the avenues left to individuals for justice? What we have witnessed is the worst form of cruelty that can happen to any individual in the state of Karnataka. That is why it is important that citizens do not remain as mere spectators to this kind of state violence. It can happen to any person in this state if we have to go by the recent attacks on individuals and groups.
We are witnessing a total disregard to the process of law. A person is intimidated, threatened, beaten up, defamed and made to feel a criminal in front of the whole society. What if he is totally innocent? Defamation of an individual and physical assault with a threat to kill is a criminal act. Why is the state not acting? As an educational institution that is premised on the rule of law and is committed to form students to follow that law, we denounce this action of anti-social forces on Brother Philip, a former colleague of ours and demand from the state immediate action. Those who have erred should be dealt with in accordance with law. If we replace democracy with mobocracy, society will be taken over by anti-social elements. As citizens and individuals committed to build a democratic state and society, we demand the hooligans who attacked Brother, the police officer and the others who slapped him in Public, those who forced him out from the bus and all others should be booked in order to save democratic society and guarantee safety to its citizens.
A week has gone by and that no arrests have been made on the case is frightening. On the other hand, the physically wounded, mentally tortured and psychologically humiliated and socially defamed victim has to go to the courts and police station for bail to defend himself on charges that are manufactured.
Should we constantly fear and face unthinking violence of the state on innocent people? Should we tolerate the gross travesty of law? Should be remain silent when violence is heaped on common folk like Br Philip? As citizens of the state and as former colleagues of Br. Philip, we demand that the state acts immediately to book the assaulters, charge them under the law with criminal offence and deliver justice as speedily as possible.
Dr. (Fr.) Ambrose Pinto SJ (Principal), Vice-Principal, Controller of Examination, Welfare Officers, Deans and Staff Coordinators of St. Joseph’s College.