A cry for the plight of Aisa Bibi

Christians in India express concern over abuses of blasphemy law in Pakistan

New Delhi:Aisa Bibi Pkistan

Indian Human Rights and Freedom of Faith activist Dr. John Dayal, who met with Mr. Abdul Basit, High Commissioner of Pakistan in New Delhi, recently has urged the Paksitan government to release the ailing Aisa Bibi, facing a death sentence and in jail since 2009 under the notorious Blasphemy laws, and to allow her to come to India where local groups have volunteered to take care of her urgent medical condition.

In a letter to the High Commissioner, Dr. Dayal, also expressed the shock of the Christian community in India at the brutal torture and burning alive of a bonded labour couple, Shahzad and Shama Masih, near Lahore two weeks ago.


Christians in India express concern over abuses of blasphemy law in Pakistan
Dr. John Dayal is a member of the National Integration Council and Member, National Monitoring Committee for Minority Education, Government of India. Earlier he was also the National President: of All India Catholic Union, Secretary General, All India Christian Council, and President: United Christian Action, Delhi.

The following is the text of the letter given to the Pakistani High Commissioner for conveying the feelings of the Indian Christians to the Government of Pakistan and to the Honourable Prime Minister:

Thank you for your courtesy when I spoke to you about the twin issues of the burning alive of 28-year old Shahzad Masih and his five-month-pregnant wife Shama Masih, 24, in a brick kiln in Lahore’s Radha Kishan Kot recently, and the continuing incarceration since 2009 of Aisa Bibi [Aashiya Noreen] of Sheikhupura, arrested on trumped up charges, and sentenced to death under Pakistan’s infamous Blasphemy Law.

We understand that in over 300 cases under the Blasphemy laws in Pakistan, perhaps more than 250 are been filed against various Muslim sects, including Shias and Ahmedias, and others. This is little consolation to the victims, most of who are targetted under absolutely false charges to settle local scores, or to terrorize religious minorities, specially the tiny Christian community in the country.

These two cases have shocked the world, and have exercised the global Christian community. We in India are particularly concerned as we campaign for the full protection of religious minorities in India – specially Muslims – and their Constitutional and democratic rights. We also campaign against Capital punishment, and impunity.

Christian groups have offered to take care of Aisa Bibi, who is ill, and her family. We in India will be very happy to take care of her medical needs and of her family if she is allowed to come to India. We therefore appeal to you to impress on the Government if Pakistan to set Aisa Bibi free and to allow her and her family to travel to India.

Aisa Bibi’s is a test case of miscarriage of justice under political pressure. Fundamentalist groups have threatened the members of the court and her defence team. She was arrested on 19 June 2009 and sentenced to death by a lower court in November 2010. Since then, she has been in solitary confinement for security reasons, and has become a symbol of the struggle against the blasphemy law. Human rights groups have described her case as symptomatic of the deeply rooted problems of prejudice, inefficiency, corruption, and under-resourcing, which are amplified in blasphemy cases, specially for Christians and other religious minorities.

We join Human rights groups in Pakistan such as the Cecil Chaudhry & Iris Foundation (CICF), in praying Aisa Biwi will be vindicated at the Supreme Court. We too urge Chief Justice Nasirul Mulk to consider Asia Bibi’s case with the utmost urgency and to ensure her safety”.

The brutal torture and murder of Shahzad and Shama Masih in Kot Radha Kishan is a case not just of trumped up charges but also of impunity as it took place in the presence of policemen and on the orders of a local Panchayat comprising notables and clerics of the area. Well respected newspapers of Pakistan have reported how mobs were mobilized to collect at a brick kiln, and how the couple were beaten, tortured and then burnt to death. They were eliminated because they were trying to come out of their status as bonded labour.

We call upon the Government of Pakistan to make a test case out of this double murder so that all those guilty in the conspiracy and crime are punished, and a string message goes out to others that the government is determined to stop violence against religious minorities.

We once again repeat our call that the Blasphemy Laws, which have brought such tragedy and pain to innocent people of Pakistan, is repealed and the rights of religious minorities are guaranteed under your national as well as international statutes.

Thank you

Flashback on Forcible Sterilisations during the Emergency of 19975

Target Practice: The Human cost of meeting Planned Families and other “development” goals

John Dayal

[John Dayal is an Indian Journalist and Human Rights Activist based in New Delhi. John Dayal and Ajoy Bose’s ‘For Reasons of State – Delhi Under the Emergency’ published in the summer of 1977, has been called one of the most authentic accounts of life under the State of Emergency imposed by the then Prime Minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi on 25 June, 1975, and lifted on 21 March, 1977.]

In a country where targetted religious, state and terrorist violence, man-made and natural disasters seem to numb sensibilities and sensitivities, there can still be incidents of human deaths that shock the nation out of its stupor. And, for many of us with memories, serve as a reminder of times when the State went berserk in pursuit of political goals.

Dr. R. K. Gupta, on the staff of the Government of the State of Chhattisgarh, in the very centre of India, was arrested early this week and charged with the death of eight women who underwent tubectomies, “sterilisation” surgeries, to limit their families. More than two dozen other women are still fighting for their lives in hospital. The Chhattisgarh government on Republic Day, January 26, 2014 honoured the 59-year old surgeon for accomplishing a massive target on mass sterilisation in the state-run campaign. The doctor maintained he was made a scapegoat, and that “the women had died to the sub-standard drugs given to them after the surgery,” he claimed. Other reports said the medicines had been procured by the government from dubious drug companies, and that the surgical instruments were old and rusted. The women died of septic shock.

It is revealing that Dr. Gupta had operated upon 83 women in six hours on a Saturday at the Sakri health camp in Bilaspur, spending an average of two minutes operating on each woman.

It was not that the doctor was deliberately negligent, though that too is the subject of an enquiry by a peer group sent from New Delhi. The State government seems in no hurry to admit that it had set targets which doctors and their staff had to fulfill to meet the larger goals that several governments have set themselves to reduce the population, to raise the standards of living specially in rural and semi-urban areas. This in turn is part of the development goals of the government.

Chhattisgarh is not the only state to set such goals towards population control. Other provincial governments have done so in the past, and there have been deaths and other medical crises in “health camps” organised for various surgeries with ill-trained doctors, unsterilized instruments or spurious medicines.

A major cause is the stress on the medical staff and their assistants is in meeting the “targets” in the time given them. The penalties can be severe, and for staff, which is employed on a temporary or casual basis, failing to meet the numbers can mean unemployment. Exceeding the goals can get rewards, including national honours, as in the case of Dr. Gupta.

This is precisely the carrot-and-stick that was offered to government doctors and others almost 40 years ago, in what is called the Indian Emergency. The then Prime Minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi lost a court challenge to her election to Parliament, faced an upsurge of public anger, and promptly suspended constitutional rights, including freedoms of expression and assembly. Alleging a threat to the State and charging political adversaries of trying to goad the Armed forces against her, she jailed thousands of politicians, activists and journalists. From 25th June 1975 till she lifted the state of Emergency on 21 March 1977, and called for a general election, her younger son, Mr. Sanjay Gandhi, who became an extra-constitutional centre of political and administrative power, was arguably running the country. He was surrounded by a coterie of political cronies and a bunch of senior bureaucrats who quite willingly did his bidding. Ironically, Mr. Sanjay Gandhi’s wife, Mrs. Maneka Gandhi, is today the Union Minister for Women and Child Welfare, and his son, Mr. Varun Gandhi, is a Member of Parliament, a leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party which rules India.

The most high profile part of the work of this 1975 Sanjay-led group was to rid metropolitan cities, specially the national Capital Delhi, of the slums that scarred its aesthetic appeal. Hundreds of thousands of the poorest people in the city living in hundreds of shanty clusters next to the well planned housing developments of the rich and powerful. These shanty-dwelling men and women who worked as labourers, drivers and the domestic help for the rich, suddenly saw bulldozers raze their slum to the ground. The police herded the now homeless people in trucks and drove them to the outskirts of the city, where they were given 22-square meters of land marked out in chalk on the barren ground, and told to rebuild their lives. These so called “resettlement colonies” in later years, in another political irony, became a political vote mine that kept the Congress in power in the city for decades. These areas were repeatedly racked by sectarian violence, the most infamous was the killing of more than 350 Sikhs who were burnt alive in Trilokpuri in east Delhi in the three days following the assassination of Mrs. Indira Gandhi by her Sikhs bodyguards on 31 October 1984.

The second brainwave of Mr. Sanjay Gandhi and his team of advisers was to focus on India’s development by containing its population. An unspoken target was the Muslim community, which then, as now, was presumed to be multiplying at too rapid a rate and would disturb the demographic balance of the country where religious tensions are always close to the surface.

Population control had failed when it was left to the people as a voluntary measure. It was then that someone thought of pressing government employees, and workers in para-government organisations, to muster people and bring them over for sterilizations. These were supposed to be both vasectomies for men, and tubectomies for women. Camps were set up in all sorts of places. One was in Dujana House within sight of the historic Jama Masjid in Delhi. Others were in tents, school buildings and the compounds of hospitals. This reporter has in his archives a copy of the Emergency manual, which was hastily printed to train medical and paramedical staff on how to carry out a vasectomy, a Do-It-Yourself set of instructions as it were.

There was nothing polite in the coercion. Employees and officers could lose their jobs if they refused. However, the promised ‘gift’ of a tin of hydrogenated vegetable oil for cooking and a cash dole was not enough to persuade men to come forward for a vasectomy. Patriarchal society that India is, most anyway would send their wives. But if one was a lowly municipal employee who had two children, there was no escaping the scalpel. In some town near Delhi, people did protest, and faced police action. Many were killed when police opened fire on angry mobs There has never been a real accounting of such cases.

I have dug out from my Archives, documents that we had collected during the Emergency and kept safe, a few official orders and at least one official Press Statement. Like any artifact dug up by an anthropologist, they show the urgency, the political desperation and the subservience of government officials who were all too willing to obey the most bizarre of political commands, sometimes out of fear, and often for a share in the glory of power.

Such human stupidity is, unfortunately, still on display.

 

——-

Some samples of the orders of a Government gone berserk.

 

APPENDIX I

RAJ NIWAS DELHI

PRESS NOTE

 

The Lt. Governor, Shri Krishan Chand, has been laying a great deal of stress on Family Planning on December 26, 1975 he inaugurated a special camp in Kasturba Hospital. A note worthy feature of this camp is that the financial incentive was raised 5 times in the case of motivators. Hitherto, motivators were paid Rs. 2/- per case. On the special camp motivators were paid Rs. 10/-. In a special Camp held in September 1975 as many as 425 operations had been performed within a fortnight. This was considered a record. A second camp was organized in the same area from December 26, 1975. In a fortnight about 1000 operations were performed.

In addition to various campswhich are going on in different parts of the city including the Badarpur and Shahdara area, the Delhi Administration, under the Lt. Governor’s directions, has been processing several incentive and dis-incentive measure to lower the birth rate in the Union Territory of Delhi.

It has now been decided that incentives and dis-incentives will apply both to the general public and the employees of Delhi Administration. The measures which are likely to come into force almost immediately are as follow:-

For the General Public

  • Allotment of houses, flats, tenements, shops and plots in all groups i.e. Janta, Lower, Middle and other income groups will be made to only those who have limited their family to two children. And eligible couples will be open to hire purchase and installment basis facilities. Those couples that are not eligible would have to pay for all such houses etc on lumpsum basis. (An eligible couple for the provision of these facilities means a couple who has less than two children and has given the prescribed undertaking, or a couple having two or more children who get either spouse sterilized).
  • Non-eligible couples will not be eligible to houses, buildings loans. (As eligible couple for the provision of this facility means a couple who has less than two children and has given the prescribed undertaking, or a couple having two or more children who get either spouse sterilized).
  • Entrepreneurs having two children coming forward for establishment of a small scale industry will be entitled to loan only if they get themselves sterilized and produce a sterilization certificate from the authority prescribed. Those having more than two children will not be eligible at all. Those having no/one child they will be entitled to loan only on furnishing and undertaking that they will restrict their family to two children only. They will have, further, to furnish an yearly declaration about the number of children and will also be bound to inform the department of any addition in the family. Any breach of the undertaking will entail withdrawal of loan facilities, forfeiture of the payment already made and recovery of the balance as arrears of land revenue.
  • Only individuals who have been able to show by their ration cards that they have two or less than two children will be allowed free medical coverage in Government hospitals. Those having more than two children will receive this free coverage only after producing a sterilization certificate from the authority prescribed in respect of the husband. Those who have failed to obtain this sterilization certificate will have failed to obtain this sterilization certificate will have to pay a minimum of Rs.5/- per visit for the OPD, and Rs. 10/- for the indoor.

(B)     Government Servants, Employees of Local Bodies, Government Undertakings etc.| Autonomous Institutions Under Delhi Administration.

(i)      Recruitment Stage: At the time of interview individuals having two or less than two children will get due weightage.

(ii)     Before appointment, unmarried/recently married/those having less than two children will have to give an undertaking that they will limit their family to two children. Breach of the undertaking will dis-entitle the employed member from confirmation.

(iii)    Such individuals who have more than two children, within two months of the issue of this order will have to get sterilized before they can be appointed and produce a sterilization certificate from the authority prescribed.

(iv)     Employment of daily wages/seasonal basis e.g. Malaria Workers will be only available to such individuals who have two or less than two children or who have obtained sterilization certificates from the authority prescribed.

In Service Personnel

(i)      Those having more than two children shall not be entitled to festival advance, housing loan, car/scooter advance, cooperative loan, allotment of scooter on priority basis till they get themselves sterilized or until they give the prescribed undertaking. In the case of such personnel already having more than two children, they will not be entitled to these facilities until they get sterilized and produce a sterilization certificate from the prescribed authority.

(ii)     Those having more than two children will not be entitled to government accommodation if they do not get sterilized or if they fail to give a written undertaking that they will limit their family to two children. Those in occupation of Government accommodation will become dis-entitled as soon as there is a child added to the family beyond two children. In the case of such employees who are already in occupation of Government accommodation and have already more than two children, they shall be entitled to retain the Government accommodation only after getting sterilized and producing a sterilization certificate from the authority prescribed.

(iii)    All freeships, provision of free book grants, children education allowance, uniform allowance, washing allowance and similar other allowances which the lower income group amongst the Government servants enjoy today, will be available only to the employed members from amongst eligible couples.

(iv)     Such Government servants who limit their families to one will be entitled to out of turn allotment of plots, houses, tenements from Delhi Development Authority. For this purpose a special quota will be reserved.

(C)     Community Incentives

(i)      Gaon Sabhas in the rural sector who produce the maximum number of sterilization cases in one financial year (minimum 100 cases) will be entitled to drinking water and irrigation water facilities on a priority basis.

(ii)     A metropolitan constituency which produced the maximum number of cases will be entitled to a certain community incentive like beautification, additional schools, health benefits and similar services. The elected representative of such a constituency will get an incentive of Rs. 20,000/- to be used for the betterment of his constituency.

(iii)    Such Government servants especially who are opinion leaders in their areas e.g. doctors, nurses, paramedical staff. Teacher who set 50 or more than 50 sterilisation done in a year will be entitled to a letter of commendation and an extra increment. A Government servant who tops in this performance (family workers excluded) will in addition receive an honorarium of Rs. 100/- per month the following year.

 

 

APPENDIX II

LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR’S SECT.

DELHI

PRESS RELEASE

DELHI, APRIL 19, 1976

The Lt. Governor, Shri Krishan Chand, has issued the following statement to the press:

“Certain reports are reaching the Administration that some interested persons are bent on creating conditions in which the work of family planning can not be carried in an orderly manner.

The facts are that as a results of the persistent efforts of the Motivational Committee on Family Planning headed by Smt. Vidyaben Shah, President, NDMC, and of Ruksana Sultana Saheba, 15,000 persons male and female have offered themselves voluntarily for measures which will check the reproduction of unwanted children permanently. The people are motivated because large families, particularly in the city areas, live in very trying conditions of housing, education and incomes generally.

There are certain vested interests who for their own reasons want to impede the process of this vital social programme. Family planning constitutes the core of national re-construction on which the nation has embarked. It is the duty of every citizen to give full co-operation in this stupendous task. By restricting the size of families, the living standards will go up. The economic gains conserved and a new era of prosperity ushered. I am confident that the small groups with vested interests will not be allowed to operate to the determent of the vest sections of our people.

I want to make it clear beyond doubt that if any obstruction is caused to the doctors, the nurses or the personnel and the workers engaged in promoting the family planning programme, very drastic action will be taken against the offending persons.

Today itself in Dujana House, where a family planning camp was opened only four days ago, over 300 cases have already been treated. I am certain that this momentum will gather in strength. We are at the beginning of the work and by no means it is the end of it. It is necessary to have the co-operative of all right thinking persons so that this stupendous programme can be successfully executed.

It is the duty of the Delhi Administration that all incentives disincentives are offered for carrying on the work successfully. Some of the measures already taken have been announced and the public will be kept fully informed of further measures and facilities to be provided from time to time.

 

APPENDIX III

MUNICIPAL CORPORATION OF DELHI

CENTRAL ESTABLISHMENT SECTION

No. 15/CES/HCIV                           Dated : 15.4.76

OFFICE ORDER

In continuation of this circular No. 14/CES (HCIV) dated 6.4.76 and the instructions issued by the Health Deptt. Vide their circular No. HD/MSCW/76-481, dated 1.4.1976, the following further/instructions are issued to all heads of the Deptts./ZACs/Drawing & disturbing officers for strict compliance to make the programme of family planning a real success :

(i)      No recruitment or promotion, efficiency bar, increments or confirmation of any staff member of any category be done till he/she produces sterilization certificate if he/she has more than two children.

(ii)     All muster roll employees and daily wages may be allowed to get six days leave with full pay after vasectomy operation and 14 days leave with pay after tubectomy operation.

(iii)    A municipal employee will be entitled to get municipal accommodation only if he/she produces sterilization certificate in case he/she has more than two children. Those already in possession of accommodation have either to produce the certificate within one month of issue of these instructions or penal rent will be charged from them.

(iv)     No loans or advances from provident fund etc. be sanctioned to any employee till sterilization certificate is produced if he/she has more than two children.

(V)     No earned leave or any other long leave be sanctioned to the employee except on medical grounds unless sterilization certificate is produced if he/she has more than two children.

(vi)     No reimbursement of the cost of medicines be allowed till sterilization certificate is produced if he/she has more than two children.

(Vii)   No maternity or abortion leave be granted to a female employee who already has two children.

(viii)   No fellowships in India or abroad will be granted to any official having more than two children unless he-she produced a certificate that he/she has undergone sterilization.

  1. All heads of the Deptts./RACs/ drawing & disbursing officers may please get information filed up in the enclosed proforma (A) within 4 days of the receipt of this order or by 30th April, 1976 whichever is earlier, in respect of each officer/working under them and ensure that aforesaid instructions are fully enforced in respect of officers/officials having more than two children and those having two children are made to give an undertaking in the following form:-

Undertaking

“I hereby declare that I have at present—-children only and I hereby undertake to restrict my family to two children only. In the event of breach of this undertaking, I understand that I get exposed to any penalty that may be prescribed by the competent authority”.

“I further undertake to furnish yearly declaration about the number of children and to immediately inform the administration about any addition to the family. “Failure to inform the Government in time would also mean breach of undertaking”.

  1. Unless the concerned officer/official furnishes the above information his salary be not released.
  2. In proforma ‘B’ of this circular is enclosed department wise targets of sterilization which have to be achieved by each Deptt. By 30th April, 1976. ZACs will make department wise break up for their respective zones so that the zonal target is achieved by them.

 

 

Sd/-

(V.K. CHANANA)

  1. COMMISSIONER(C )

 

To All Concerned

 

ANNEXURE ‘B’

Sterilisation Targets for April 14 to 30, 1976

Health Department                         1300

Engineering                                             1000

Education                                       1000

Garden                                           500

Water & Sewage                              1000

D.E.S.U.                                         1000

Assessment & Collection                       100

Terminal Tax                                   100

Urban Community Development      300

C.E.S.                                                    400

C.A.                                                100

Labour Welfare                               100

Licensing & Enforcement                       100

Law Office )                                    50

Vigilance   )

Fire                                                50

________

Total :         7100

________

N.B. :

ZACS to implement and see that the Zonal break up of the targets by various departments is achieved.

 

APPENDIX IV

MUNICIPAL CORPORATION OF DELHI

CIVIL LINE ZONE

 

 

No. 124/D/G/7/CIZ                       Dated : 26.4.76

 

It has been ordered by the Commissioner that all Muster Roll Employees as well as temporary employees eligible for sterilization

Should produce a certificate of sterilization by 30th April, 1976 or else they will loose their job in the corporation. This fact should be clearly made home to all the employees under you.

He has also directed that if other officers/officials of the Corporation eligible for sterilization get themselves sterilized before 30.4.76, they may be transferred to the place of their choice in addition to incentives already communicated to them earlier while those who although eligible but do not get themselves sterilized by 30.4.76 will have to be shifted to unimportant place of posting in addition to the disincentives already communicated to them earlier. In this way the employees on outdoor duties will be shifted to indoor duties.

I would again emphasize upon you all that the commissioner has desired in unequivocal terms that employees eligible for sterilization showing reluctance for sterilization will have to be dealt with very severely. It should also be noted that target date for oneself getting sterilized is 30.4.76. Please inform me by 9 A.M. tomorrow that the contents of this order have been communicated by you to each and every member of the staff working under you.

You will all be meeting me daily at 9 A.M. in my office in this connection with the figures of achievements.

 

Sd/-

Zonal Asstt. Commissioner (CLZ)

 

All Heads of Deptt. And Ward officers,

Civil Line Zone

Love Jihad and the roots of Hate,Bigotry and targetted violence in India

JD IC Love Jihad and the roots of Hate 17 Oct 2014

Love Jihad and the roots of hate

JOHN DAYAL

Three parallel strands of India’s cultural history have merged in recent times into a lethal phenomenon that has been termed “Love Jihad”, which has not only obtruded into the personal lives of young men and women of Hindu, Muslim, Sikh and Christian religious communities, but has put to grave risk individual security and community peace.

A attitude to Muslims that verges on Islamaphobia, a pathological hatred for conversions to Christianity – both seen as disturbing the demographic equation in India to overwhelm the Hindu majority take the traditional national culture of feudalism and patriarchy to a new and explosive level. The current crisis in the Middle east and on the borders with Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir provide the trigger, as it were, to the short fuse.

The Indo-Gangetic plans of North India are the main sites of this confrontation but its repercussions have been seen deep in the states of southern India, and the Indian and south Asian diaspora in the United Kingdom and the United states of America.

Political encouragement and patronage to lumpen and criminal moral vigilante groups, administrative and police impunity have led to targetted violence, a wave of hate campaigns, a polarized landscape, and deeply traumatised young couples who have dared, and sometimes married across religious borders. The media has taken sides, the Hindi language newspapers and television news channels exhibiting majoritarian bigotry. Civil society ahs found itself outnumbered.

The church, willy nilly, has found itself dragged into this unsavoury situation. Senior episcopal and lay leadership of both Catholic and protestant denominations have so far not been audible in the defence of what, at the end of the day, are issues of human rights guaranteed under the Indian Constitution and the Charter of the United Nations.

Leading the charge is the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh and its many interesting daughter organisations, whose numbers are increasing by the day. Deriving great political mileage out of this social confrontation is the Bharatiya Janata party led nationally by Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi, which is now consolidating its stranglehold on the administrative structure with victories in several important states legislatures after capturing power in New Delhi in May, this year when results of the federal general elections were announced.

The matter of the Church, first. The recent outpouring of support for the “development” agenda of Mr. Narendra Modi, by several leaders of the Catholic and Protestant churches may possibly stave off the immediate attention of the dreaded Intelligence Bureau and the Ministry of Home affairs, but it is not likely to reduce the deep and seemingly abiding distrust the Indian political and social system has of what is popularly called the “Missionaries”. Nor will it mitigate the hate that is now erupting in India against religious minorities.

Interestingly, those of us in civil society who have Christian names and some of us who profess the faith too, repeatedly have the Sangh acolytes remind us that it is the Church that began, with a little help from the Kerala High court, which raised the issue of Love Jihad in God’s Own Country. Professor Madhu Poornima Kishwar, a co-founder of feminist journalism in the country and self confessed fan and hagiographer of Mr. Narendra Modi, recently reminded us of this in a newspaper article.

Wrote Ms. Kishwar: But “Love-jihad” has very little to do with “love”.  It is more a trap than a romantic liaison.  That is why it is causing upset not just among Hindus but also among Sikhs and Christians. It’s causing angst not just in various states of India but also in other countries. For instance, the Commission for Social Harmony and Vigilance of the Kerala Catholics Bishops Conference also published a report highlighting the criminal conduct of love jihadists. It said, “There were 2868 female victims of “love jihad” in Kerala from 2006 to 2009.” The situation must have been grave enough if the then chief minister of Kerala, VS Achuthanandan, belonging to the Communist Party Marxist alleged conversion of non-Muslim girls to Islam under pretext of love marriage as part of an effort to make Kerala a Muslim majority state.  The Kerala state police inquiry into this phenomenon concluded that “there are reasons to suspect “concentrated attempts” to persuade girls to convert to Islam after they fall in love with Muslim boys. Since the demographic profile in certain districts of Kerala, Bengal etc has changed dramatically in recent decades, it lends credence to this charge.

“The matter went right up to the Kerala High Court.  On December 10, 2009, Justice Sankaran ruled that there were indications of forceful conversion under the garb of love in the state with the blessings of certain political outfits.  He asked the government to consider enacting a law to prohibit such “deceptive” acts.  There are similar, reports coming from certain districts of Bengal, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. This is happening on mass scale in a much more sinister form in Bangladesh and Pakistan where young Hindu and Sikh women are brazenly abducted with full support of the state authorities.  These forced conversions are an important reason why the population of Hindus has sunk dramatically in both these countries.

“The Akal Takht, the highest temporal seat of Sikhism, has taken a serious view of reports that Sikh girls in England and America are falling victim to ‘love jihad’ by Pakistani youth seducing non-Muslim girls for converting them to Islam and using them in jihadi activities. Some of these girls were later dumped by their husbands in Pakistan, where the in-laws have been using them as domestic slaves.”

No one, as far as I know, has asked the Kerala High court or the church if they have gathered statistics to estimate how many Malayalee Christian girls have married Hindus in the same period, or have committed suicide, important data for a scientific analysis of the situation. The same goes for the Sikh hierarchy, and the Hindu religious leaders. Data is the best weapon in the hands of Truth. Perhaps someone should file a Public Interest Litigation in the Kerala High court or the Supreme Curt of India to settle this matter one way or the other. The other option is for the Government of India to set up a judicial commission to investigate this so that the government can issue a White Paper and settle the matter once and for all. It could just be a fancy of some creative imagination, much like the slogan “We five, with our 25 progeny”, which was used so effectively in an earlier general elevation to allege that every Muslim man ahs four wives, and five children from every wife. Someone in a Chennai-based “Think Tank” wrote a massive book to propagate this these.

Returning to the Christians, Missionaries was a term once used in the Indian subcontinent to describe clergy, religious and social workers who came in various periods over three centuries from Italy, Spain, France, the United Kingdom and later from the United States. They set up schools and hospitals, and mission stations, in the hills, plains and deep forests of much of the Indian land mass.

But it will not be entirely correct to suggest that it is just the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh and its political face the Bharatiya Janata Party that oppose mission work on grounds of ideology and relgion. The larger Indian political leadership, both in the Congress and in other parties including those emerging from the socialist movement of Mr. Ram Manohar Lohia of North India have seen the community as an appendage of the British Raj. The leader of the Freedom struggle, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, already called a Mahatma and later formally named the Father of the Nation, had serious doubts about missionaries. E. Stanley Jones, Stanley Jones in is book The Christ of the Indian Road, records an encounter with Gandhi who he asked “though you quote the words of Christ often, why is it that you appear to so adamantly reject becoming his follower?” Gandhi’s reply was clear: “Oh, I don’t reject your Christ. I love your Christ. It is just that so many of you Christians are so unlike your Christ”. Gandhi’s statement molded the political discourse in Independent India.

As Frontline magazine paraphrased back in 1999, in 1954, the governments of Madhya Pradesh and Madhya Bharat (a region that was later incorporated into the former) appointed official committees to investigate the activities of Christian missionaries. The reports of both committees were published in 1956, although it was the first report that sparked a nationwide debate on minority rights under the framework of the Constitution, which had come into force in 1950. Called the Christian Missionaries Activities Inquiry Committee, it was headed by M. Bhawani Shankar Niyogi, a retired Chief Justice of the High Court of Judicature, Nagpur.

Restrictions had been imposed on the entry of missionaries by the erstwhile rulers of the feudal states of Raigarh, Udaipur, Jashpur and Surguja, with the support of the colonial Government. When the merger of these states into Madhya Pradesh did not bring the expected freedoms and the ban on missionary work continued, Christian organisations complained to the Government. Representations were made to the Government accusing missionaries of effecting conversions through fraud and inducements, and the complainants included several persons and organisations, such as the ex-rulers of the feudal states (the former Raja of Surguja was particularly active on this issue), local government officials, the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) and the Arya Samaj.

The committee’s findings included unsubstantiated assertions, such as conversions were made by material inducements and false promises. Another finding was that “missions are in some places used to serve extra-religious ends”. A later commentator pointed out that “extra-religious activities” included agricultural and village development projects. Some other statements in the report were that “as conversion muddles the convert’s sense of unity and solidarity with his society, there is a danger of his loyalty to his country and state being undermined”; the Christian had a supranational loyalty to Christ and the strategy of the missionaries was “to detach the Indian Christian from his nation”; and schools, hospitals and orphanages were used as means to facilitate conversions. The report noted that the actual project of the missionaries was to “revive Christendom for re-establishing Western supremacy”, and “…to create Christian minority pockets with a view to disrupting the solidarity of non-Christian societies.”

The coming of foreign, and almost entirely White, religious personnel stopped soon after World War II, but there was still a sizable number in the country at Independence. In 1993 there were just 1,923, and by 2001, it had come to just a little more than half of that, at 1,100 registered foreign missionaries in India. We have no official data for 2013-14, but estimates vary from 200 to 500, some of them Indian nationals. Most of them have lived in India for periods ranging from 20 years to 60 years.

This is far removed from the image that the Sangh Parivar, and the government, paints of a land teeming with western missionaries. But since the 1960s, it is impossible for any priest or Nun to get a “Religious Visa” to India, and many who come here on tourist visas have to sign papers at Indian consulates that they will not indulge in any religious activity in India. Only rarely is a visa given to Tele Evangelists for “Crusades” or mass prayers. This is the lasting fallout from the Justice Niyogi report.

The Constitution of India promulgated in 1950 nonetheless gave Christians the right not just to profess and practice their faith, but also to propagate it, with some law givers stressing that propagation of faith was integral to the relgion. But among the first acts of the government was to withdraw affirmative action from untouchable groups other than those professing the Hindu faith. The issue has agitated the community ever since.

The absolute ban on freedom of faith of this 16 to 20 per cent of the population was ostensibly to prevent their walking into Christianity, or rarely, into Islam.

The bane of the Christian community has been the anti-conversion laws, ironically called Freedom of Relgion Acts and thematically flowing from the Niyogi report, which brought the State firmly into a process that was otherwise between a person and his conscience. Six states have these laws on board, another has enacted but not yet implemented it. The BJP has said in its election campaign it intends to make this a national law. Governmental permissions and severe penalties are the cutting edge of these laws. Political parties, barring perhaps the Marxists, and even the Supreme Court of India tend to agree to the need to the anti conversion laws. The United nations Human Rights Council, European Union and international freedom of faith organisations have called them a grave violation of the UN Charter on fundamental human rights.

The premise that no one converts unless he is being lured, cheated or coerced into Christianity – or Islam – is now a major political slogan in the Bharatiya Janata party’s mission to control every regional government after coming to power in New Delhi in May 2014. And it is targetted as much against Muslims and it is against the Christian community.

The Muslim community has been the object of suspicion after the Partition of India in 1947, which saw unprecedented violence, that has left an unspoken but virulent Islamaphobia in Indian society. The recent acts of terror in India have deepened this chasm between the communities. It is easy in north India, which houses the large Hindu population that had to flee west Punjab and Sikh at partition, to remember the bloodshed at the hands of the Muslims in what is now Pakistan. No one wants to remember the almost equal number of Muslim men, women and children who were massacred in North India, other women raped, abducted, trafficked. Those are the racial memories of the survivors who are now Pakistanis.

This officially sanctioned suspicion, and from it the political hate, underpins the current campaigns by the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh and its subsidiaries which target both the Christian and the Muslim communities, specially in north and Central India. Love Jihad has been presented as a conspiracy to alter the demographic profile of “Hindu” India.

The hounding of young men, and the humiliation of young Hindu women in areas as distant from each as Meerut in Uttar Pradesh and Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh, is inevitable. In Madhya Pradesh, the district police chief “annulled” the marriage of a Christian man and a Hindu woman under pressure of a Hindutva mob.

The governments of the states, and more than that, the federal government in New Delhi headed by the Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi, have maintained an intriguing silence, with no official condemnation of this criminal intimidation of young couples in love. This has led civil society groups to believe that the hate campaign has the blessings of the ruling dispensation in the country. The inaction of the superior courts and the national Human Rights commissions in failing to take cognisance of these extra-judicial intrusions into the personal life of citizens compounds the crisis.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A STATUS REPORT ON FIRST THREE MONTHS OF THE NARENDRA MODI GOVERNMENT, THE SANGH PARIVAR AND THE IMPLICATIONS FOR RELIGIOUS MINORITIES IN INDIA

JOHN DAYAL

 

4 OCTOBER 2014

 

Prime Minister for the next five years. We respect the verdict of the people. As law-abiding citizens, we are honour-bound to contribute all tht we can to the growth of India, and the values of secularism and socialism, the interests of the common man, specially the marginalised.

 

But just a few days ago, 27th September 2014, the Christian Community with Civil Society and Muslim groups, organised a Public Meeting at Jantar Mantar, near Parliament House, to protest the sharp spike in the hate campaign and violence against Christians and Muslims in several states, a hateful description of religious minorities that was heard even in the Lok Sabha in the speech of BJP member and Hindu religious head Adityanath, MP. This was for the first time a speech full of such venom had been heard in the history of the Lok Sabha.

 

At the Public meeting, they released the Report on Minorities, which documents much of what has happened in the last three months, and the response of those in Civil Society who cherish the values of the Freedom Struggle, led by Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. This is called The Idea of India.

 

I will not narrate ever incident of violence, or every hate speech, every burning of a church and the beating up of a pastor. They are a matter of record, now.

 

India’s worst violence against Christians was in 2008, mostly against Dalits and Tribals, in the Kandhamal district of Orissa and in several other districts including the state capital of Bhubaneswar from 23rd August 2008 following the killing of Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati, reportedly by Maoist groups who have been operating in the state for some time. The violence later spread to some other states, specially Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka as also some other states.

 

More than 56,000 men, women and children were displaced in the violence that continued for several weeks. They first survived in the forests, and then in government refugee camps for almost one year. More than 5,600 houses and over 300 churches and Christian institutions were totally destroyed in Kandhamal alone. We have a list of more than 100 persons who were killed, though the government admits to fewer dead. There were several rapes, including the gang-rape of a Catholic Nun. Several Catholic priests and protestant pastors were injured and one Catholic Priest, Fr Bernard, then treasurer of the diocese, died later of injuries he suffered.

 

We have been extremely unhappy and dissatisfied with both the relief and the rehabilitation process of the government and the pace and quality of the criminal justice dispensation system, including the police investigations. The Christian Community has filed Public Interest Litigations in the Supreme Court demanding better relief and rehabilitation, and retrial of murder cases.

 

Structural violence is another cause of deep worry.

 

Dalit Christians, who have their origin in the former untouchable castes, have been denied the rights given to Hindu and Sikh and Buddhist converts. All governments have been deaf, ad the Supreme court has been listening to the case for ten years.

 

The second one is the issue of the so called Freedom of Religion laws, or anti-conversion laws, that exist in the States of Arunachal, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh. They have been internationally condemned as violating the human rights and freedom of faith of these people. It is feared these may become a national law.

 

Islamic violence in Syria and the near-elimination of Christians in Mosul by the Islamic State of Syria and the Levant, ISIS, has been in focus internationally.

 

But away from the view of the International media, South Asia’s increasing bigotry and religious intolerance has reached an unacceptable stage. Official impunity, extreme legislations and the complicity of state and non-state actors compound the issue.

 

Christians as minority religionists are the subject of persecution in each one of the seven South Asian countries — India, Pakistan, Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka [Maldives, the seventh, has almost no minorities in an entirely Islamic state] – but followers of every other major world religion are persecuted in one or the other of the sub-continent’s seven country.

 

Muslims and Christians are victims in India, Christians, Hindus and Buddhists in Bangladesh and Pakistan, which are Muslim-majority nations, and Christians and Muslims in the Buddhist countries of Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Nepal.

 

It complicates issues as the countries differ in their political structures and overlays of ethnic identities. Ironically, India’s anti conversion laws designed against the Christian church, and Pakistan’s anti Blasphemy laws, are sought to be replicated in the other countries to contain evangelisation, and assert the supremacy of the majority religion.

 

This complicates sharing of good practices – such as the proposed Communal and targetted violence prevention Bill which the National Advisory Council headed by Mrs. Sonia Gandhi evolved in 2011 in the face if sharpening religious divides in India in the wake of the 2002 anti Muslim violence of Gujarat and the 2008 pogrom against Christians in the Kandhamal district of Orissa state. I know this because I played s small part in the making of that Bill which was junked, and which the BJP government will never enact.

 

Recent dialogues between representatives of all religious groups from the south Asian countries have cautioned against a rise in extremism that could threaten peace in the region where India and Pakistan have huge nuclear arsenals.

 

While majoritarianism is a common factor, and the recent rise in Wahabi Islam in Pakistan and Bangladesh a major trigger, smaller nations such as Bhutan and Nepal are falling prey to extreme protectionism to keep “alien” faiths, and immigrants, from polluting “traditional culture”.

 

In politically chaotic Nepal this is done without legal provisions, as the country is no longer officially a Hindu nation. A draft bill banning conversions remains on the anvil. A cause of concern is the tentacles the extreme Hinduism ideology of India’s Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh is spreading in the Himalayan nation. The Catholic Church is perhaps sometimes tolerated because of its educational institutions, but a Damocles sword always hangs over about 25,000 Christian believers in house churches and Pentecostal Para churches. For all practical purposes, it remains almost an underground church.

 

It is even more underground in Bhutan with its archaic nationalism and culture policy designed to preserve the purity of its Buddhist tradition and ethnicity. Even Buddhist Nepalese feel the sting of being aliens. There are a mere 14,000 Christians in a Bhutanese population of 700,000. But the country’s first-ever democratic government is yet to clear a proposal to grant Christians the right to build churches and form organizations, although it has not been tardy in enacting a law against conversions. This means that officially the state does not acknowledge the presence of Christians in the country, although it has punished a few Christians in recent times.

 

In Sri Lanka after the end of the civil war with The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the victorious Sinhala-Buddhist government has started putting pressure on the Muslims, and the Christians. About 70 per cent of the population of Sri Lanka is Buddhist Sinhalese, 15 per cent Hindu Tamils, 8 per cent Christian, and 7 per cent Tamil speaking Muslim. Almost 80 per cent of the Christians are Roman Catholics, many of them Sinhala. The regime is particularly suspicious of Protestant groups, 40 per cent of who suffer from the double disability of being Tamils. Churches and individual Christians, who comprise approximately 7 per cent of the population, have been physically assaulted War crimes apart, the current triumphal Buddhist onslaught against Muslims, and the sustained pressure on Christians has caused deep concern in the international human rights community.

 

The plight of Christians in Pakistan – women raped, houses burnt and men arrested and threatened with execution on charges under the notorious anti blasphemy laws – is well known and has attracted international opprobrium and clemency campaigns.

 

But it is the wave of violence against Hindus and Christians in Bangladesh that is the immediate cause of deep concern, especially in India, which is the recipient of people fleeing for their lives from the febrile nation. India itself has a nuanced policy on people from coming from Bangladesh; the Hindus are absorbed and often given nationality as refugees, but the Muslims are deemed to be illegal infiltrators and are forever under the shadow of expulsion. The situation of Christians remains on a limbo. This year, Islamic fundamentalists protesting a trial of the war criminals of the 1971 struggle for Independence from Pakistan vent their anger specially on Hindus in an orgy of violence that has left thousand homeless. The Dhaka government is taking some timid steps to control the Islamists, but the minorities remain terrorized.

 

India, the big brother in the sub continent named after it, is in no moral position to point a finger at its neighbours. Official records show that in 2012, there reportedly were 560 communal riots, big and small, leading 89 dead and 1,846 injured. A majority of the victims were Muslims. There are no official records for the persecution of Christian pastors and believers.

 

In just three months after May this year, over 600 incidents of targetted violence violence against religious minorities have taken place from May to September 2014 in several parts of the country, specially which have seen, or will soon see, by-elections or elections to the Legislative Assemblies. In the first few weeks of the new government, by its own admission 113 communal incidents took place in various parts of the country during May-June in which 15 people were killed and 318 others were injured, Minister of State for Home Affairs, Mr. Kiren Rijiju told the Rajya Sabha.

 

We have recorded 36 recorded incidents against the tiny Christian community in various parts of the country. The Christian community, its pastors, congregations and churches, were targets of mob violence and State impunity in dozens of cases in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, particularly, as the Sangh Parivar declared a campaign of “Ghar Wapsi” and Shuddhikaran or conversions to Hinduism, and a war on all evangelical activity. Target dates, one of them coinciding with Christmas 2014, have been set to “cleanse” various areas of Muslim and Christian presence.

 

The state apparatus and specially the police often became a party arresting not the aggressors but the victims to satisfy the demands of the mob. There have attempts at religious profiling of Christian academic institutions and their students in the national capital, New Delhi.

 

The hate campaign, the violence, the open threats have stunned not just the religious minorities, but civil society, jurists and academics. Many of them articulated their concern not just at the violence but at the silence of the Government, State organisations charged with addressing issues of communal harmony and national integration, and the leadership of the BJP and Mr. Modi.

 

The well known Dalit-OBC political scientist recently wrote :“The highest in the government and the Sangh Parivar are in unison in sending across the message that Islam is un-Indian and Muslims by and large anti-national. We must take these signs seriously because the implications of linking up religion and nationalism are bound to be disastrous.”

 

The internationally respected Economic and Political Weekly recently noted “If communal polarisation of the electorate to build a Hindutva vote bank was a constant presence in the general election campaign, it has only seen a sharpening in the, supposedly important, “first 100 days” of the BJP-led government in office. An important way in which this has been done is the strategy of the Sangh Parivar to calibrate communal violence and hate campaigns in a way so as to keep it “under the radar”. One of the ways of accomplishing this is to shift the locus of violence and mobilisations from the urban centres to small towns and rural areas; another course is to keep the “dead-count” low and use variants of everyday, “routine” violence to spread tensions and create panic.

 

Eminent jurist Mr. Fali Nariman, a former Member of the Rajya Sabha and a Member of the National Integration Council traditionally chaired by the Prime Minister of India, expressed concern at the government’s “silence” on the hate speeches witnessed in parts of India and rued that Hinduism was “changing its benign face”. Recurrent instances of religious tension fanned by fanaticism and hate-speech has shown that the Hindu tradition of tolerance is showing signs of strain. And let me say this frankly – my apprehension is that Hinduism is somehow changing its benign face because, and only because it is believed and proudly proclaimed by a few (and not contradicted by those at the top): that it is because of their faith and belief that HINDUS have been now put in the driving seat of governance. Nariman praised Jawaharlal Nehru, saying he “never looked upon the diverse and varied peoples of India from the standpoint of Hinduism”. While dealing with minority rights, Indian courts had once conceptualised their role as that of an Opposition political party — until the BJP in the early 1990s characterized Congress policy as “appeasement of the minorities”. The label stuck; “minority” became an unpopular word, he said. “We have been hearing on television and reading in newspapers almost daily a tirade by one or more individuals or groups against one or another section of citizens (from) a religious minority. The criticism has been that the majority government at the Centre has done nothing to stop this tirade. I agree,” he said delivering the annual lecture organised by the National Commission for Minorities at the Constitution Club. It was titled “Minorities at crossroads: comments on judicial pronouncements”.

 

Human rights activist and former Administrator, Mr. Harsh Mander notes that the patterns are familiar. A multitude of ever-growing Hindu nationalist organisations – some mainstream, some fringe – deploy and refashion small local disputes to spur rage and suspicion against the Muslim people, each time reviving and fuelling old stereotypes. The manufactured flashpoints are also familiar: disputes over land for shrines and graveyards, an offending loudspeaker in a place of worship, charges of young Muslim men sexually harassing hapless Hindu women in a sinister campaign of ‘love jihad’, sometimes with the added twist of forced conversions, or cow slaughter, and conversion by Christians and Muslims.

 

According to me as an observer of the Sangh Parivar for close to 45 years, the BJP is unabashed about its links with the Sangh Parivar. Mr. Modi is himself a former RSS leader, as are several of his Cabinet colleagues. Some ranking RSS officials have in recent weeks been inducted as general secretaries of the BJP, leaving absolutely no one in any doubt of the seamless fusion of the political party and the Sangh which styles itself as a social and cultural organisations.

 

Mr. Seshadri Chari, former editor of RSS mouthpiece Organiser and member of the BJP national executive, who enjoys a deserved reputation as a sober and reflective commentator, is quoted in the Outlook Magazine saying says that Hindus have always been a majority in India but the manifestation of majoritarianism has been reflected in the cultural and social field. “Now it is reflected in the politics of the country. A large number of foot-soldiers in the RSS-BJP do believe that the political Hindu has arrived.”

 

THE HATE CAMPAIGN: RSS chief Mr. Mohan Bhagwat has asserted that everyone in India is Hindu, including Muslims and Christians, because this is the land of the Hindu people and civilisation. This refrain was picked up by the Deputy Chief Minister of Goa, and by big and small leaders across the country, going viral on social media and the national TV News channels in their English and Hindi debates. The Sangh ideologue MG Vaidya said on 19th May, three days after the election results, that they can now tackle issues such as the building of the Ram temple on the site of the Babri mosque they demolished in 1992 Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Mr. Ashok Singhal, said “if [Muslims] keep opposing Hindus, how long can they survive?”. Another leader said “Modi will restore Hindutva rule, like Prithviraj Chauhan (25th May 2014). The focus is now on Love Jihad.

 

RECENT ATTACKS ON THE CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY: Christians constitute 2.3 per cent of the national population, according to the 2011 census. They have been a focal target of the Sangh Parivar for a long time. Recent weeks have again seen a rash of well-planned and organized attacks on Churches, Christian schools and institutes. of religious symbols, burning of Bibles and Crosses to dishonour the religion have been intentionally carried out through the country. In August 2014, 72 Valmikis (a section of the Dalit or former Untouchable community) who had in the past converted to Christianity underwent a so-called “re-conversion” to Hinduism in Aligarh in the state of Uttar Pradesh, under the auspices of the ‘Dharam Jagran Vivad” (Religious Awakening Forum). This was a “Ghar Wapsi” (literally, a “return home”) ceremony through which the Sangh Parivar intervenes to claim non-Hindu members of the Dalit and Adivasi communities as Hindus.

 

The Constitution of India guarantees freedom of religion, allowing for the free exercise of individual choice over matters of faith. However, “Freedom of Religion” laws enacted in several states presume that individuals are incapable of making their own informed decisions regarding matters of faith, and can only be manipulated or coerced into conversion.

 

The language of the Gujarat anti-conversion law enacted in 2003 is telling in this respect. Conversion is viewed as an attempt “to make one person to renounce one religion and adopt another religion.” These laws empower district administrations to oversee and regulate religious conversions, in order to prevent what are referred to as conversions by “fraud” or “force.” Effectively, these laws target Christian and Muslim communities and provide opportunities for both local officials and Hindu supremacist organizations to harass and intimidate them.

 

The anti-conversion laws, passed by a number of states, do not apply to such ‘Ghar Vapsi’ ceremonies. The Sangh Parivar has a singular focus on curbing any conversions out of Hinduism, particularly by Dalits and Adivasis. In April 2013 BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu, now a Cabinet minister, had publicly announced his party’s intention to “bring an anti- conversion law to ban religious conversions in the country if it is voted to power in 2014 General Elections.” Highlighting the primary motivation underlying his party’s anxiety over conversions, he went on to add: “…The country will be safe and sound only when Hindus are in a majority.”

 

Inspired by the party’s rise to power, several Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders have launched so-called “re-conversion” drives targeting Christian communities. RSS Hindu activist, Rajeshwar Singh recently declared while converting a Christian family to Hinduism in Hasayan (140 km south of Delhi in the state of Uttar Pradesh), “We will cleanse our Hindu society. We will not let the conspiracy of church or mosque succeed in Bharat (India).” Rumors continue to circulate suggesting Christians were forcibly converted and the church has also been refashioned into a Shiva temple. These conversion efforts are directed primarily at Adivasis and Dalits, informed by a caste politics that drives Hindutva anxieties over conversion.

 

The basic claim that all Christians, like Muslims, are converts, empowers Hindutva groups to deny the religious legitimacy of Adivasi and Dalit Christians. Moreover the claim that conversion to Hinduism is merely “re-conversion” rests on the fallacious notion that all Adivasis are “Hindu” by default, denying the legitimacy of their own distinct and autonomous religious traditions. In BJP-ruled states like Chhattisgarh, draconian laws specifically target Christians, as in the recent case of the Bilaspur High Court banning “all non-Hindu religious propaganda, prayers and speeches in the villages” in Bastar district. The message is clearly that the only religious identity permissible is Hinduism.

 

The administration has remained silent on the growing atmosphere of repression threatening Christians in India. Just as an example of the wanton violence, on May 18, 2014 in Kundapur, Karnataka, the properties of two churches were damaged by unidentified miscreants. An ornamental pot at the entrance of the Holy Rosary church was broken and a signpost leading to St. Antony Church in Koteshwar also was uprooted. On June 24, 2014 in Bhilai, Durg, suspected Hindu extremists demolished an independent church. According to local sources, the church was completely destroyed. Another incident is that of courage at one of the Free Methodist Churches at Belar, 30 kms east of Jagadalpur, Chhattisgarh which was under attack. A frenzied mob of the Bajrang Dal stormed towards the church premises on June 3, 2014 with the intention of demolishing the building. But the villagers took their ground and frustrated the evil plan.

 

A church was burnt in Jobal, in Madhya Pradesh. Such attacks are pre planned and pre-meditated to cause maximum damage to property, resources, vehicles, and cause damages that are very hard to rebuild. Social Exclusion: 52 families were denied ration for two months in the Sirisguda Village which was an order enforced by the panchayat head. They approached the food inspector of the district and asked for an enquiry to be conducted. On Monday, June 16, 2014, when the two representatives were sent to appease the village leaders and the complainants, both of them were chased away from the village. Then some assailants filed a false complaint at the Badanji Police Station, Lakandi Taluk – District Bastar about the Christians beating the Hindus in the village. This was simultaneously followed up by a mob of 200 perpetrators who attacked 52 Christian families. Most families were stoned and chased away with sticks, while 8 men and 2 women were seriously injured and hospitalized.

 

This incident preceded the banning of non-Hindu missionaries in Bastar, Social exclusions are one of the primary tactics to victimize minorities denying basic human rights that are common to every citizen. These exclusion orders, often make Christians vulnerable to excessive violence and denial of social privileges like access to water, electricity and work. On July 28, 2014 a mob of over 300 persons from the Yadav community led by Swami Krishnadavananda threatened the Pastor and 30 families who were believers in the Church at Gallaragati, Holalkara in the Chitradurga District to convert to Hinduism. They along with the local Panchayat issued a one week deadline to decide on the same, which otherwise, would lead to the families being ostracized from the local village. Such exclusions force families into submission or are attacked for making a choice of being Christian.

 

Assaults on Church Leaders and Believers: Assaults on Church leaders and believers have augmented bizarrely. Profiling of Christians in villages and attacking them has been the most effective way of spreading terror among the minorities. A Christian along with his wife, mother-in-law and mother were beaten by Hindu fanatics at Parapur Village in Bastar, Chhattisgarh on July 26, 2014. The incident occurred when five Hindu fanatics took Shri Raguram (name changed) outside his house and started verbally abusing him. They alleged he had left their Gods and became a Christian to which he replied saying that he had become a Christian because he wanted to and no one had forced him to do so. On hearing this, they started slapping and kicking him. When they began to strangle him with the intention of killing, his mother and mother-in-law interfered and stopped the men from trying to kill him. They slapped and beat the elderly women and his wife. He was bleeding profusely and was later admitted to the Jagdalpur hospital. Raguram’s wife went to the Lohandiguda Police Station to file a complaint, but the police refused to do so.

 

Most of these incidents are not reported to the police due to fear and intimidation fromthe local thugs that operate for the RSS, VHP and the Bajrang Dal. Such attacks are unconstitutional and against the fundamental right to freedom on religion.

 

Police Inaction: However, the violence in itself fails to reveal the full picture. The impunity enjoyed by the violent mobs is a bigger cause for concern. Many victims of violence complain about the lack of police action, including hostility towards Christians. Police resist filing criminal complaints and have on several instances allegedly threatened to falsely incriminate the victims in some cases. On September 6, 2014, for instance, twelve pastors were beaten at a Police station in Greater Noida on the pretext of a mob of about 150 Hindu fundamentalists that had gathered outside and demanded such action. The police obliged and thrashed the pastors. No reports were filed. It was baffling to know that the police had thrashed the pastors. Such police atrocities have led to increase of impunity among perpetrators.

 

THE RISE OF THE RASHTRIYA SWAYAMSEWAK SANGH: The 89 year old Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is witnessing steady growth. Experts have noted that with more shakhas, online recruits, and mainstreaming of their agenda, the Sangh – ideological parent of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – is on the upswing. In July 2012, the Sangh had 34,761 shakhas; this number swelled to 37,125 shakhas the following year; and this year – by July 2014 – RSS was holding 39,396 daily shakhas.

 

There has also been a spurt in the number of volunteers registering on the Join RSS link on its website. If there were around 1000 such people every month in 2012, 2500 possible volunteers in 2013, this number has swelled to an average of around 7000 online recruits this year.

 

There was a time in the last decade when the number of shakhas were over 43,000. Sangh officials have said there had been a spike in numbers when they celebrated Guru Golwalkar’s Birth centenary in 2006-07.

 

The 2014 campaign during the extended 2014 General Elections saw the Sangh in full flow. Sangh was out there in full force backing the BJP. They visited homes, and this increased their interface with society. It has received greater, and appreciative media visibility.

 

On Dussehara day this year, Mr. Bhagwat’s speech at the RSS headquarters in Nagpur, Maharashtra, was televised live by the Doordarshan Television network, owned by the government of India, and reaching out to every nook and corner of the country. Private television channels in the past few months have done dedicated shows on the RSS head, Mr. Mohan Bhagwat’s birthday, on the life of founder Dr. Keshav Hedgewar, and discussions on Sangh’s work. There has also been more discussion on Hindutva related issues – be it the desirability of a Hindu Rashtra, the place of Muslims in India, whether there is anything called ‘Hindu terror’, or ‘love jehad’.

 

The Sangh has also reached out directly to students in colleges and universities and in fact there is currently a three day camp of Sangh affiliated students in Delhi underway in Sonepat, attended by Bhagwat himself. They also organise social functions for busy professionals in cities like Bangalore who cannot attend morning shakhas daily.

 

THE RSS AND THE NORTH-EAST: The North-Eastern States have been on the agenda of the RSS for a very long time, from the 1960s certainly in the hysteria following the war with China. It has been the argument of the Sangh that the presence of Christianity in Nagaland, Meghalaya and Manipur poses a threat to the unity and integrity of the political nation-state of India. Slogans such as “Nagaland for Christ” are picked up as illustrations of what the Sangh calls the traitorous and anti-national sentiments that Christianity has introduced in the people of the North-Eastern states.

 

Both the BJP and the RSS have been devising strategies to make an entry into this area, with their older presence in the states of Arunachal Pradesh and Assam, and among the large Hindu Meitei population in the state of Manipur. “Our presence in the north-east is not new. The Sangh has been active in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Manipur for a long time. We have had MLAs in Manipur who came from the Parivar. The BJP’s first State presence was in Meghalaya in the north-east. The presence of the Sangh is limited in Tripura and Mizoram is the only State, where the Sangh has no foothold. Expanding our work in these areas is part of the Sangh’s overall strengthening plan. It is not linked to the BJP’s victory,” a Sangh functionary has said.

 

Instilling a “nationalist pride” in the Northeast is now on top agenda for the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), according to its chief, Mr. Bhagwat, who says the Education wing of the RSS, which runs two schools in Nagaland, will carry forward the work in Northeast. He recently inaugurated a school and disclosed, “Five years ago, we started a Vidyabharti school in Nagaland. Today, the children are speaking in Hindi and we are glad that we have been able to spread the spirit of nationalism there. Tomorrow, they will be fearless and defend every inch of this country. Our vision is not restricted to just these areas. This is our country and we have to be concerned about what is happening here. The Vidyabharti claims “The tribal society is an integral part of the Hindu civilisation. The tribals are devotees of Hindu Gods and they are equal to any other Hindu. They are very straightforward and simple and many people are taking advantage of their lack of knowledge. Vidyabharti is educating tribals to make sure they are aware of what is happening around them. It is unfortunate that people see Vidyabharti as a violent organization. It is untrue. The aim is to educate through the tenets of Hindu way of life.”

 

In the recent general elections, RSS prepared the ground for the BJP’s spectacular performance. The BJP clinched half of the 14 Lok Sabha seats in Assam and opened its account in Arunachal winning one constituency. As much as 36.6% of voters chose the party in Assam, transforming it from being an outfit of Hindi speaking people to a mass-based party. RSS cadres have worked silently leading to a huge undercurrent among the voters. Around 1,000 RSS volunteers have been working to turn the tide in favour of the BJP. They took to community contact programmes in Assam and Arunachal. They also mobilised students in colleges and universities. While the work by the ideological parent helped the BJP build an organisational base, Narendra Modi’s outburst against illegal immigration from Bangladesh boosted its popularity among the locals. The BJP also brought community leaders to its fold, making the party acceptable among tea tribes and others. BJP’s national security cell convener P Chandrasekhar Rao said Modi’s statement that after May 16 illegal immigrants will have to leave India has created a sense of security among the Assamese people.

 

A LOOK INTO THE FUTURE: Not since Mrs. Indira Gandhi lost office and Mr. Morarji Desai assumed power at the head of the Janata Party has there been such a drastic change, even a reversal, of ideologies, policies, and a vision for the future. The factors that led to the defeat of Mrs. Gandhi in 1977 are now well known. She halted democracy in its tracks and gifted the country’s governance to her son Mr. Sanjay Gandhi, who emerged as the undisputed extra-constitutional center of power and authority. For all practical purposes, the Constitution was suspended, and an unofficial dictatorship came into being. I mention the Emergency [1975-1977] for two reasons. The first reason for the total recall is that the Emergency shattered the belief that the foundations of Indian democracy are so strong and rooted in the Freedom Struggle that they cannot be shaken even momentarily. The second is that a “popular” and “strong” leader with a mass following and little opposition — and perhaps assisted by extra-constitutional power centers — can if she or he wants to, do ` Mr. Morarji Desai, who became prime minister after Mrs. Gandhi’s defeat, had to make a clean break from the past. He was unequal to the task, but the Jan Sangh was a part of the government and made full use of the opportunity, penetrating the media and various wings of the government. This was of great help to the Bharatiya Janata Party, the new version of the Jan Sangh, when it came to power in 1998. Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi, does not face the issues that confronted Mr. Desai. Dr. Manmohan Singh, the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance prime minister, did not alter the democratic fabric. Mr. Modi’s speeches in Parliament and his intervention in the administrative structures give ample evidence that he sees himself as the sole repository of political and governance power, so endowed by the massive mandate he earned for himself in the 2014 general elections.

 

Many analysts have said that Mr. Modi rides two horses. One is the development and good governance agenda, which he has repeatedly articulated as his mantra in Gujarat and in New Delhi since he became prime minister. The other remains Hindutva, the right-wing, hyper-nationalist argument of supremacy that posits Hindus as the sole inheritors of the Indian civilization and culture.

 

If the development agenda fails, Mr. Modi will have to ride full gallop on the Hindutva horse, if he wants to win the next elections in 2019. That is the risk It will not be easy for a development agenda to succeed miraculously in the circumstances that the Indian economy finds itself in this globalized world?” is then the big question.

 

Economic and emotional depression brought on by crop failures due to the lack of rain in the forecast, along with attempts to generate mass employment through highway and bullet train construction that are bound to fail, do not bode well for the development agenda. Moreover, there will be 100 million young men and women looking for jobs, apart from those in the un-cleared backlog.

 

Cashing in the demographic dividend will not, therefore, be an easy task with the main markets in Europe and North America still not out of the doldrums, and little spare capital from abroad for the much wanted foreign direct investment (FDI) that is such a pet of Union finance minister. And this is not even hinting at the fact that much of this FDI is really Indian black money generated by the Indian corporate world.

 

The economy’s refusal to resurrect itself in a rapid manner and the failure to create jobs on a massive scale are dangerous portends. They may collectively pose a threat to the self-confidence of the government and frustrate Mr. Modi in his self-appointed role as the man who would deliver India from all its Ills and past failures.

 

Mr. Modi just cannot afford a failure. For if he does, he will have to adopt a Hindutva agenda full force, appealing to the Hindu masses and mobilizing the RSS and its cadres to polarize the people. That can mean big trouble for Christians and Muslims in India.

 

I would like to pray that this never happens. But We must be prepared for the worst case scenario even as we work for economic development of the people of India.

MOTHER TERESA CHAIR IN INDIAN UNIVERSITY IN JEOPARDY

INDIRA GANDHI OPEN UNIVERSITY DECISION TO CLOSE MOTHER TERESA CHAIR ON HEALTH, EDUCATION AND SOCIAL WORK CONDEMNED

 

New Delhi, 30th September, 2014

 

[The following is the Statement issued by Dr. John Dayal, Past President,  all India Catholic Union, Secretary General of the All India Christian Council, and Member, National Integration Council, Government of India.]

 

We condemn the reprehensible  and in-comprehensive decision of the New Delhi based and Indian Government sponsored Indira Gandhi National Open University, New Delhi to discontinue the  Mother Teresa Chair in  Health, Education and Social Work which was started  with much fanfare in the Christ Jubilee Year 2000

 

The Mother Teresa church, a prestigious institution, is ostensibly being closed down for want of funds, together with a Chair sponsored by the Indian Space organisation and some others. The University’s Board of Management “decided to continue with chairs that are sponsored by an outside agency and did not utilize the funds of the university,” M Aslam, vice-chancellor of IGNOU, is quoted today in the national media as saying. There was opposition to it with some of the academic staff calling it unilateral. Professors say the  guidelines for establishment of chair sets rule for setting up new chair, it does not say anything about discontinuing an existing chair.

 

The discontinuance of the Mother Teresa Chair comes at a time when there is a global Catholic campaign  urging Pope Francis to  fast track the canonization of  the Albanian-born Indian-national  Nobel Laureate.

Mother Teresa, founder  of the Missionaries of Charities order whose religious women and men  run orphanages and  relief shelters across the globe, is an icon of the age for her espousal of human compassion for the poorest of the poor, for children and for the terminally ill and dying. The blue-bordered sari that the ‘Saint of the Gutters’ wore, and which her mission Sisters wear, is a universally accepted symbol of these values.

 

The Chair was established in 2011. Earlier, in a Memorandum of understanding between the Catholics Bishops Conference of India and the university on February 29, 2000,  also agreed to a programme in the name of Mother Teresa to facilitate the initiatives of IGNOU for launching several socially relevant programmes of study. The revised MoU was signed on April 22, 2009 at St. John’s Medical College, Bangalore. Its objectives remain to  address the needs of disadvantaged sections of the society through educational programmes, extension activities and research and to develop and launch socially-relevant courses and programmes of study such as social work, HIV/AIDS, family life education, substance abuse, and Philosophy. It offers various diplomas and degrees in these subjects.

 

We call upon the Board of Management of the Indira Gandhi National Open University not to close down the Mother Teresa Chair, but to  add to its endowment  to further the cause of social work and research.

 

Signed

John Dayal

 

 

In response, the Pro Vice chancellor of the Indira Gandhi National Open University wrote to John Dayal:

 

 

Dear Dr. Dayal,

 

It was nice talking to you after a long time, though not on a pleasant note. I hope, you will make amends in your understanding of the issue after going through the details given below:-

 

 

While Mother Teresa chair is one of the ten chairs that the University has decided to shut down, due to lack of sponsorship, IGNOU currently has eight existing chairs in various departments. These among others include CBCI Chair in the School of Social Work.

“The University has a Catholic Bishops” Conference of India (CBCI) chair sponsored by the CBCI. It works in the area of HIV, care of destitute, social work, concerns of the disadvantaged sections of the society etc. Besides, it also organizes an annual Mother Teresa Memorial Lecture. This chair has been functioning since 2000 and continues till date.  The Mother Teresa chair was notified by the University in 2011, had no sponsors, did not become functional till 2012 and after discussions in two of the Board of Management meetings held in May and July 2012, it was decided that all the chairs including Mother Teresa, Indian Space Research Organisation chair, the CV Raman chair for science education, Tagore chair and Vishveswarya chair for work in education linkages – etc, where there is no sponsorship would be liquidated.’’ The Board of Management had observed that “Each chair should have a sponsor and no chair should be established with University funds”.

 

IGNOU, is a distance learning national university, set up to encourage, coordinate and set standards for distance and open education in the country. Funds for IGNOU come mostly from student fees and we have to ensure that we are able to give back the same responsibly to the students associated with the University.’’

 

As per University records, it was CBCI Chair which was launched/established in 2000 with sponsorship from CBCI for which MoU between IGNOU and CBCI was signed on February 29, 2000 and Prof. Gracious Thomas has been Coordinating the activities of the Chair.

 

I hope, you will understand our concern on the issue and help us work towards strengthening the position of the University, which tries hard to reach the un-reached as far as the higher education is concerned.

 

Look forward to your response and also your support.

 

With Warm Regards,

 

Prof. Sushma Yadava

Pro-Vice Chancellor

VC Block

Maidan Garhi,

New Delhi-110068

  1. 011-29534181, 011-29571808

E-mail: sushmayadav@ignou.ac.in

pvcsy@ignou.ac.in

 

 

The Catholic Bishops Conference of India said:

The Catholic bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) has clarified that the Mother Teresa Chair at Indira Gandhi National Open University, which the university has decided to close down because of lack of sponsorship, was an initiative of the government, not of the bishops.

 

The Mother Teresa Chair began in 2010, “at the intervention of the then Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, complying with the request from the Mother Teresa Global Foundation to establish a Chair in any of the Central Universities to mark the Birth Centenary Celebrations of Mother Teresa,” the CBCI said in a clarification issued to the press.

 

The media reports of about the closing down of Mother Teresa Chair in the School of Social Work of the IGNOU had factual errors and have “created confusion in the mind of many, especially the student community,” it said.

 

The CBCI Chair and the Mother Teresa Chair of the IGNOU are entirely two different entities. “As far as the management and administration of Mother Teresa Chair are concerned, the CBCI has no role to play, as it is entirely a Government of India sponsored Chair,” the clarification said.

 

The CBCI Chair at IGNOU was established in 2000, as a remembrance of the Yesu Krist Jayanti 2000 Celebrations. This Chair continues to carry out it activities, supported by the annual interest from the endowment fund provided by the CBCI and 10 percent of the income, collected by IGNOU through the CBCI Chair programs.

 

The IGNOU has decided to close down the Chair of Mother Teresa along with other nine Chairs for lack of resources and funds, and the CBCI is surprised at the decisions.

 

“It would be in the best interest of the public that the IGNOU authorities should seek the assistance of Government of India, before taking such a drastic action. It is hoped that the Government of India which has directed the establishment of Mother Teresa Chair, would also facilitate its smooth functioning,” said the clarification signed by CBCI spokesperson Father Joseph Chinnayyan.

 

The CBCI has already submitted a memorandum to the Union Minister for Human Resource Development, Smriti Irani, urging her to look into this matter to ensure the continuance of Mother Teresa Chair in IGNOU, he said.

 

Pope Francis Needs to Hear Voice of the Indian Family

Will the Family Synod Bishops understand the Asian situation?

JOHN DAYAL

At least one Indian Archbishop will speak at the Synod on the Family called by Pope Francis in Rome a fortnight from now. And though Lorenzo Cardinal Baldisseri is an old India hand, having served in New Delhi as the Apostolic Nuncio at a critical time in the country’s political history, would that be sufficient to have post Synod documents reflect the South Asian reality is a matter of conjecture, and hope.

The Family in India shares with its global counterparts many issues, specially those relating to the impact of globalisation, the intrusion of Information Technology and reproductive sciences, Internet pornography, the continuing crisis of alcoholism in the working class and urban areas, and the incidence of drugs among the youth. There are emerging challenges of pre-marital and extramarital sex, teen pregnancies, and the prevalence of contraception. The employment crisis, health issues and societal pressures have added to mental problems, stress, strain and tension in the marriage and the family, and its consequences when the individual cannot cope with the situation. Church personnel, including priests and women religious, lack both in numbers and in training to be effective counselors, and pastoral care therefore is minimal in most areas.

We have a few cases of pastoral care for the LGBT community, but same sex marriage is almost entirely unknown. Pedophilia exists, but is not at a crisis point, either in the Lay faithful, or in the clergy. Prostitution and trafficking in women is illegal, but has huge dimensions in India, and Catholic women are also victims in several States. Divorce rates remain low [the church has done no survey on this issue, however, and desegregated data from government surveys is not available to be able to quantify trends], but there is increasing demand by women for reforms in civil and church laws on inheritance, annulment [including civil divorce], custody of children, in the 19th century marriage laws.

But there are several issues of the family that are rooted in the peculiar situation in India with its population consisting of multiple ethnicities, racial groups, cultural identities, some of which are insulated from external influences. The prevalence of Caste has deep implications. The deep-rooted cultural patriarchy has its impact on the role and status of women, including Catholic women. From this flows the rampant, and growing, incident of Dowry, which has to be paid by the parents of a bride to the bridegroom. This has led to a great social and economic crisis in many areas, specially in south India, and particularly in the state of Kerala and nearby areas. In both Dowry and Caste, the role of the church has been controversial. Many Catholic human rights and gender activists have questioned the Church on its soft response to these disturbing facets of society.

The economic crisis, specially in the rural areas and the Tribal forest areas inhabited by various indigenous ethnicities with their own ancient cultures, has led to large scale displacement, migration to urban areas for employment irrespective of how low the remuneration is, and to human trafficking. A growing crisis now is of senior citizens, as couples or as widows who have no place to live in because of poverty and displacement, or the increase in nuclear families. This is particularly so for landless labour and the urban poor, but is also a crisis in the lower middle classes in cities and small towns. The church does not have the resources or presence in civil society to make any worthwhile impact on any of these issues.

Another critical issue peculiar to India flows from the fact that the Catholic community is a very small minority. Of India’s 1.25 billion people according to the 2011 census, Christians constitute just 2.3 per cent of the population. Of these 26 million or so Chrisians, Catholics are just 17 million. And these Catholics are divided in the Latin, Syro-Malabar and Syro Malankara Rites. While the Latin Rite is dominant, the two oriental rites have now Dioceses outside their home state of Kerala. Catholics live amidst an overwhelming Hindu population [and Muslims in some districts in Kerala, Bengal, Assam, and Kashmir]. Inevitably, there are increasing number of cases of Christians, especially women, marrying outside their denomination or Rite. There are also increasing number of cases, especially of women, marrying Hindu and, sometimes, Muslim men. The Church response that has come out of Kerala is most dissatisfying, and leans heavily on a punitive strategy.

The Church in India may have sent responses to the questionnaire from Rome on the eve of the Family Synod 2014, but there has been no genuine survey carried out down on the ground in a vast majority of Catholic dioceses. The few that may have been done have not ensured the scientific validity of the data. There is no verifiable data on divorce, bigamy, desertions, domestic violence, single parenthood, teen-age pregnancies, abortions and temporary or permanent contraception. No study has been done on the official and unofficial Government pressure for small families — other than the voluntary decision to have small families because of economic reasons — and its impact on the Catholic Lay Faithful.

Another critical issue impacting on the pastoral life and care of the family in India is a grossly insufficient and patchy effort at educating them in the social teachings of the Church – ranging from the documents of Vatican II and including Lumen Gentium, Aetatis Novae, the many documents of the Pontifical Council of the Family, issues of sexuality, the Social Teachings of the Church and so on.

For all practical purposes, the preparation, training and empowerment — after the early formation through catechism in Sunday schools — is perfunctory. Lay theologians and trainers are still rare. In urban areas, the Laity therefore does not take Teachings of the Church seriously, other than observing the pious rituals, coming for Mass, Novena and Feasts. There are exceptions in some areas on the west coast, and some tribal areas.

The study of Family Life among the Catholics, and among the Christian denominations, in India remains a very imperfect and inadequate science, and that must disturb the Church leadership. This prevents the evolution of an emphatic, even pragmatic, pastoral and social response. It also leads to an inadequate training and formation of clergy and men and women religious in this important area of work in the life of the Lay Faithful.

The Lay Faithful, and their families, are largely left to their own devices in handing their crises, and in relating to the society at large.

I hope, and I pray, that a visible change will take place after the Synods on the Family in Rome in 2014 and 2015.

 

Indian Government May give Christian Women more Rights in Succession Law

Law commission gives hope to bereaved Christian women

Government may amend Succession Act

JOHN DAYAL

Many years ago, there was a strong thrust in a southern state to make the Latin Catholic Canon Law as the personal law of the Christian community in India.

It was not religious zeal that engined this move, which was backed by powerful forces within the church community, and which tried to mobilise the highest political opinion in the country at that time.

The move failed, and one aspect of it is now the subject of a public interest litigation in the Supreme Court of India with various groups either supporting its contention, or vehemently opposing them as not only being against the provisions of the Constitution, but detrimental to the interests of the Christian community at large.

There was an interesting subtext of that effort to give civil legitimacy to religious regulations, as the Sharia Law had recognition and popular acceptability in the case of the Muslim community, in a Constitutionally secular and republic India where the Hindus were in a majority.

The subtext was to make it easy for Catholic men, specially those financially and otherwise powerful, to get out inconvenient marriages, and into new ones with younger, prettier or richer women, with the blessings if the church, and the possible connivance of some friendly parish priest. Several such cases of dissolution if marriages were brought to the attention of the senior Christian politicians who had been earlier approached to back the Canon law as personal law campaign. They immediately backed out. Women political leaders, in fact, had seen through the game earlier, and cautioned policy makers not to be taken in by the quasi-religious arguments.

The controversy once again focused later on the rights of Indian Christian women, both within the church, and in the civil personal laws devised by the British government in the Nineteenth century to govern man-woman relationships including marriage, divorce, adoption and inheritance. These laws were meant only for Indian Christians and were, experts pointed out, not applicable to British men and women in England, or those posted in India.

At the time of the issue of Canon Law and Personal law, a special focus was on the rights of women, this time of those at the most vulnerable stage of their life, to inherit the estates, bank balances or insurance in case their sons were to die before them. One case, if I recall correctly, concerned a couple, which was separated, and had an only son. The woman had brought up the child, given him an education and seen him go into the world to make a life for himself. The son, unfortunately, died. His father, who had had no hand in bringing him up and had never contributed a paisa for his education, appeared suddenly as his sole heir to claim a substantial insurance payout. The mother was left in the cold, penniless.

In the 1990s, Christian women, under the redoubtable leadership of the Joint Women’s Programme and its moving spirit, Dr. Jyotsana Chatterjee, launched a vigorous campaign for reforms in Christian Personal Laws as codified by the government in the 19th century and the early decades of the 20th century. The late Archbishop Alan Basil de Lastic of Delhi, who was the head of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India, put the weight of his mighty personality behind the movement of the Christian women, organised meetings of all denominational heads, and then campaigns with the National Democratic Alliance government of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and his successive Law ministers Arun Jaitely and Ram Jethmalani. The BJP government was apparently not very keen at that time, and the issue was allowed to go into cold storage as more pressing matters of the persecution of Christians by Hindutva elements came centre-stage.

The issues of inheritance and adoption were dealt piece meal in some court rulings, and could bring relief to Christian women, but a comprehensive review of the Christian personal laws is still to be taken up. The Sangh insistence on a Common Civil Code – politically articulated essentially against the Muslim community and its Sharia provision of the Triple talaq – also becomes a factor in not allowing focus to shift on Christian-centric issues

Matters of inheritance have now been dealt with in a comprehensively by the Law Commission of India. The government is not obliged to convert its recommendations into law enacted or amended by powerful, but the reports are potent instruments if change. There are indications that the government may adopt this report

The commission, headed by former Delhi High Court chief justice A P Shah, notes “the family law governing Christians in India is varied. Synergetic influences have led to cultural variations that have gained legal recognition either statutorily or judicially. This has led to multiplicity in application of laws whereas ambiguity most noticeable is in the laws of succession for Christians. It is this multiplicity and ambiguity that led to enactment of the Indian Succession Act, 1865 and finally the Indian Succession Act, 1925.”

The focus of its study was the issue of how Sections 41 to 48 (Sections 42 to 46 to be more specific) of the Indian Succession Act, 1925 “are unfair to the interest of Christian Women and what changes in this regard could be suggested.”

The commission noted Section 41 provides that rules of distribution where the intestate – the dead man — has left no lineal descendants shall be contained in Sections 42 to 48, “after deducting the widow’s share if he has left a widow.” A simple reading of provisions built in Sections 42 to 46 would reveal how the scheme envisioned therein is unfair and unjust, the commission said. According to Section 42, where deceased intestate father is living and there are no lineal descendants, father succeeds to property and mother gets no share. “Preferential approach is writ large.”

An important suggestions is that “the law envisioned under Sections 41 to 49 deserve change so as to protect interest of Christian women, especially in case of mother of deceased intestate. It is suggested that provisions of Section 42 which weaves an archaic principle of giving superior status to man in access and owning property needs to be revised. One of the recommendations is to amend provisions of Section 42 so as to ensure that deceased intestate (leaving apart the half for the deceased’s widow if living) succeed the property in equal. Such change would constitute a positive step in ensuring that the law is fair and just towards Christian women.”

The full report will have to be studied and discussed by jurists and by activists who have taken up these issues for more than two decades. Activists have welcomed the report. Church leaders are more careful. The National Council of Churches in India, a protestant umbrella organisation, suggests discussion with the community. The Catholic Bishops Conference of India and the Synods of the Oriental Churches are yet to make a formal comment on the report.

The Commission’s report is not an indictment of patriarchy. But it extends warm support to the cause of women, and in fact, to the family, which makes it very cotemporary in the context of the Bishops Synod on Family called in Rome this October by Pope Francis.

Justice Shah and the members of the commission say in the concluding paragraph of their report “the Institution of ‘succession’, no doubt is primarily connected with property, but it equally serves ‘a variety’ of values cherished by a free society. These include reinforcement of family ties and responsibilities economic and social pluralism. At a more fundamental level the institution of succession is a proper response of the society to elemental motives ranging from concerns for one’s immediate family to a desire to extend one’s personality far beyond death and established patterns of inheritance may be the least objectionable means of deciding the ownership of property on a person’s death. However, it be not overlooked that transfer of substantial wealth tend to conflict with basic social values, including equality of opportunity, dispersal of economic power and avoidance of rigid class distinctions. Tested on the last parameter, sections Indian Succession Act are archaic in nature and foster an approach that solidify distinctions based on gender and thus prejudicial and unfair to status of women and Christian mother of deceased intestate in present context. Changes suggested would make law more reflective of rising social awareness in Christian community and of needs of changing times.”

 

Kandhamal Day Interview of John Dayal

On 7th Anniversary of Kandhamal Violence:

‘The RSS has succeeded in penetrating in Odisha, particularly in its rural areas, causing hatred and dividing society, which lived for so long in peace’: John Dayal

Interview with Civil Rights Activist John Dayal by Md. Eisa, Abdul Raheem Umary and Abhay Kumar for Mainstream Magazine August 30, 2014

Seven years after the outbreak of anti-Christian violence in Kandhamal district of Odisha, killing more than a hundred Christians, mostly Dalits and Tribals, and displacing sixty thousand of them, justice remains denied to the victims and survivors. While the civil society is observing the anniversary of Kandhamal violence on August 25 all across the country, Md. Eisa, Abdul Raheem Umary and Abhay Kumar conversed with John Dayal, a well known civil rights activist who has been a leading voice of the justice for the Kandhamal victims, on Friday afternoon at New Delhi’s India International Centre. The 66-year old Dayal, who is also a member of the National Integration Council (NIC), secretary-general of the All India Christian Council, and former president of the All India Catholic Union, speaks about a whole range of issues including the continuing sufferings of the victims, the causes of the delay in justice, the ongoing discrimination against Christians in Odisha and the looming threat from Hindutva outfits etc. The excerpts are as follows:

On the seventh anniversary of Kandhamal violence, could you kindly tell us about the condition of the victims and survivors? What kinds of problems have they been facing?

Given the fact that Christians constitute a small population of India, the magnitude of the Kandhamal violence is terrible. This is the biggest attack in the history of Christianity of India in 300 years as 120 people, according to my calculation, were killed; as many as 6,000 houses were burnt; and around 60,000 others were displaced. People had to take shelter in forests to save their lives as threats were given to them that they could only be safe in their homes if they live as Hindus. So many lives, particularly youth, have been ruined. Many young eyes had a dream of becoming doctors and engineers but their dreams were all of a sudden shattered. There are still 10,000 victims of Kandhamal, who have not been able to go home due to fear. Another 10,000 are forced to work as labourers elsewhere in the country. Girls have been trafficked. This is happening because there has been an atmosphere of impunity—nobody fears the law. On top of this the minority Christians continue to face discrimination. We have documented that government schemes like NREGA was denied to Christian victims of violence, and now students and other government employees are haunted because they are suspected to have been using certificates as Scheduled castes though they have converted to Christianity.

The RSS has succeeded in penetrating Odisha, particularly in its rural and Tribal areas, causing hatred and dividing society, which lived for so long in peace. The activities of Sangh Parivar continue unabated and their hate campaign goes unchecked. With the BJP in power, at the Centre, the possibility of an eruption of violence, if not in Kandhamal then in any other Adivasi parts of Odisha cannot be ruled out. As for the question on relief, rehabilitation, and bringing of the perpetrators of the violence to book, there has not been much really done by the government. Most of the criminals, who were involved in anti-minority violence, are yet to be punished by the criminal legal system. The conviction rate, due to lack of evidence gathered by the police, is very low. As a result there have been just two convictions in 30 cases of murder. In most of cases judges have acquitted the perpetrators due to the want of witness and lack of evidence. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on record told the State Legislative Assembly that the members of the RSS were involved in the Kandhamal violence, yet nothing has been done to identify the aggressors and the groups which were responsible for the attacks. The state government has singularly failed to curb hate campaigns in Kandhamal and all the Adivasis belts. Even the government has refused to acknowledge the true figure of deaths so that it may not have to pay compensation. While the compensation to widows has not been enough, the compensation for the loss of goods has been non-existent, that is to say, zero. In other words, the state remains unwilling to assist victims rebuild their lives.

In your view, who is to blame for the delay in justice?

The state government and the police have shown gross incompetence, indifference and total lack of political will. I will also blame the criminal legal system which has shown the tendency of bigotry at the lower levels.

There is also a view that secular forces are not enthusiastic in taking up the issue of the victims of Kandhamal violence?

The civil society in India suffers from many constraints. It lacks numerical strength. It is also partially dependent on funds for its work. Unfortunately, there is also a section of people in civil society for whom the issue of human rights is not a mission but a project. But it is also true that there remains a significant section among civil society, whose only concern is the pursuit of justice. Another threat to the civil society has recently come from the new BJP government at the Centre, which has used an Intelligence Bureau report against it, alleging that the civil society has a foreign connection. I have written about this to stress the point that such coercive tactics of the Government is aimed at harassing vulnerable sections of society. Yet another worrying development is the increasingly tendency of civil society to remain sectarian and narrow in their approach. This is true of Christians, Muslims, Dalits, women and other movements etc. We must confront state and fight violence and communalism unitedly. As for political groups, we, barring the Left, have found very little support for these issues from the mainstream parties. Moreover, the trade Union movements have sharply declined since the beginning of liberalisation since the 1990s and the current government poses a great threat to labour forces. That is why there is a need to build a united front against communalism. But there is a note of caution–these moments cannot just be launched to get some electoral benefits but they should instead be directed at addressing the problems at the grass-root level so that the ideology of Sangh Parivar can be fought. Such united front must be formed to save this country from a looming and grave tragedy.

How do you respond to a firmly-rooted perception among a section of society that Christian missionaries are receiving funds from foreign countries and they are working hard to change demography of Odisha by converting the large chunk of Adivasis and Dalits to Christianity?

Everybody in organised sectors receives funds from non-Indian sources. The funds are received by Christians, Muslims, Buddhist, Sikhs and as well as by a large number of Hindus groups. As for the distribution of funds, Christian groups spend 90 per cent of the received funds on education, health, sanitation, environment, micro financial project as well as the empowerments of Dalits including “Hindu” Dalits. The remaining 10 per cent goes to the Church personnel. Let me stress the point that there is no foreign Christian missionary working in India as the Government of India does not give visa to Christians from the East or the West, who want to come to India as preachers or teachers. The Christians of India have as much democratic right to work in their own country as any other religious groups such as the propagators of the Ramakrishna Mission. On the propaganda of demographic change done by Christians, it is nothing but a myth. The Adivasis, who were not Hindus, have been converted to Hinduism. The VHP and its outfits have much greater resources including money and muscle power to work in Kandhamal and other parts of Odisha. If you go by the Census, you will find that the number of Hindus in Adivasi India has rapidly increased. The Hindu Right also propagates the lies that the Christians are using coercion to convert people. Christians have never resorted to coercion as it is both illegal and against the faith. Moreover, one should not forget that the police of this country are almost Hindus by faith, while politics, judiciary and rural areas are dominated by Hindus. How is it then possible for a small minority, Christians, to use force for converting Dalits and Adivasis? Are Dalits and Adivasis are fools? They are not. They know more botany than many scientists. Let me also reiterate the point that the Hindutva forces have resources thousands of times more than Christians could ever have.

Odisha has overwhelming population of Hindus (94%) while Christians (2.4%) constitute a very small minority. How have then the RSS and its outfits been able to have a large section of people believe Christianity as a threat? In other words, will you call Odisha as the RSS and its outfits’ laboratory against Christians as Gujarat is considered as the laboratory against Muslim?

This figure is incorrect because this assumes that every Adivasi is a Hindu, which is not correct.

But it is also true that in Odisha there is now a long history of hate crime and violence against Christian community. The Sangh Parivar has to invent an enemy to bring people close to the RSS organisations and their ideology. Hate and violence are part of RSS’ strategy to increase its presence. Please remember that Odisha has also seen violence against Muslims. Kerala High Court Justice Usha and scholar Angana Chatterjee documented the existence of communalism in Odisha long before the Kandhamal incident, which, in turn, invited the wrath of Hindutva forces, which disturbed their press conference in Bhubaneswar.

The RSS have instigated Adivasis Kandhas to attack Panas Dalit Christians. Why have the RSS been succeeding in pitting two subalterns, Adivasis and Dalits, against each other?

It is the RSS’ agenda to divide subalterns. The unity of subalterns is the only real threat that it perceive in its pursuit of unstinted control over Indian and its resources.This is my overarching argument. The RSS has been able to penetrate both Kandhas and Panasbut it is equally true that all Kandhas are not Hindus, nor are all Panas Christians. The deaths and loss have been inflicted on both Kandhas and Panas Christians. The 2008 Kandhamal incident, therefore, was violence against Christians. We need to challenge the Hindutva strategy to divide the subaltern groups and workers. We need to work towards forging a secular society of working classes, Adivasis, Dalits etc.

Are the strategies of the RSS to deal with Muslim and Christian “threat” different?

In some aspects, the RSS would differently perceive Muslims and Christians. The RSS feels a demographic threat from Islam, which accounts for its Islamophobia. RSS’ Islamophobia has largely succeeded here, infecting a large section of society, including a section of Buddhists, Sikhs and Christian communities. The source of RSS’ threat, flowing from Christianity, is not numbers or possibility of a demographic change but the values of Christianity, which pose Hindu social order a challenge. As Christian community works among the subalterns and work with them for social justice, they are perceived as a threat by Hindutva forces.

There has recently been a spurt of incidents of communal violence at many places, including western UP. Do you think that Indian state, despite being secular and democratic as per constitution, is completely callous to the issue of minorities?

Despite their election manifesto, we have seen over the last 40 years that the gap between major political groups has been decreasing when it comes to their political will to combat hate campaigns and communalism. This explains the failure of the Congress government to bring out Anti-Communal Violence Bill, despite being in power for 10 uninterrupted years.

Do you think that with Modi as the PM at the Centre with full majority of the BJP on its own, your campaign for justice has become more difficult?

The campaign for social justice has never been easy but it is true that it has becomes even more difficult when the BJP has come to power.But this will not dishearten us.Our struggle for harmonious and united peaceful society in India will continue. We will fight for upholding the very idea of India as enshrined in the Constitution and envisioned by Jawaharlal Nehru.

Md. Eisa (mdeisajnu@gmail.com), Abdul Raheem Umary (pzabdulraheemumary@gmail.com) and Abhay Kumar (debatingissues@gmail.com) are pursing PhD at Jawaharlal Nehru University.

“reconversions” in Uttar Pradesh, as promised

Raising the temperature in rural India

JOHN DAYAL

This is not a Minority Report the church in India was expecting on the first 100 days of the government of the Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi, who his ardent devotees in his Bharatiya Janata Party and its ideologue engine the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh expect to take the country in its golden age of development and global pre-eminence.

A recent rash of incidents against smaller church groups and believers in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, following the ban on Christian activity in several villages of the Bastar region of Chhattisgarh, have caught the church leadership by surprise. And has also stunned it into silence, at least for the moment. There has been no media statement by any senior religious leader, no demonstrations and protests, no memoranda to Mr. Modi.

The response has, in fact, come from civil society whose members, veterans of long years of challenge to the hyper-nationalist political religious groups, collectively called the Sangh Parivar, see the anti Christian violence as but a part of a larger conspiracy to polarize the polity further and consolidate the electorate gains of the recent general elections.

The Christians are targetted in what is called Ghar Wapsi, or Home-coming, which is a polite word for coercive conversion of the Indigenous people’s groups in Tribal India. The process against Dalits, the former untouchable castes who profess the Christian faith, is called Shuddhikaran, or purification, an ironic phrase, which holds “non-Indic” or Semitic religions to be polluting

The popular rage against Muslims, specially in rural areas and small towns, is built upon the myth of Love Jihad, an allegation that Islamic young men have been trained to seducing Hindu women to force a demographic change in India and reduce the Hindu population to a minority. Demographers, sociologists and gender activists have dismissed Love Jihad as a political humbug. Many of the scores of incidents of violence against Muslims in Uttar Pradesh this year have been triggered by such rumours.

Unlike Chhattisgarh which is ruled by the BJP, Uttar Pradesh is governed by the Samajwadi Party of Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav. The Samajwadi Party and the BJP are locked in a bitter struggle for political supremacy.

One of several cases of coercive action including physical violence from this region include the August 27, 2014 conversion of a large family of Dalits who were members of the Seventh Day Adventist church in Asroi village, some 30 km south of the university town of Aligarh in Hathras District. An aggressive group of activists of the Sangh Parivar brought with them a Hindu priest and a photograph of a deity and performed a “hawan” or fire-worship ceremony to “purify” the small church into a temple. The police arrested several of the miscreants. The one room church is locked up, and the village now has no Christian presence. The media in the region, which sides with the BJP, said the Dalits returned to Hinduism because they received no benefits from the church.

In the Greater Noida area also in western Uttar Pradesh, 10 pastors were thrashed by a mob led by a local political leader, and dragged to the police brought in for questioning to Surajpur Police station in Greater Noida on Saturday over allegations that they were “forcefully converting Hindus to Christianity”. The police also joined the group to beat the pastors. Days later, an enquiry by senior officers exonerated the pastors and said the politicians had made a false allegation to incite the mob and rouse religious passions in the villages.

These incidents have deeply disturbed the community. The situation in the rural areas is exacerbated to a situation where Christian pastors and persons who have been attacked are afraid to even file a complaint with the police as they feel totally isolated and surrounded.

The acts of violence also take away much from the reassurance that was sought to be given by some leaders of the larger denominations that Mr. Modi would control extremist Hindutva elements so that he could channelize national energies into development of infrastructure, social amenities and economic growth.

Civil society groups caution that the Christian community must not be lulled into a false sense of security presuming the focus of the Sangh Parivar is on neutralizing the political clout of the Muslim community which is seen as an ally of the Samajwadi party and other groups. The BJP has recently nominated the controversial religious leader Adityanath, who is also a member of Parliament, to lead its election campaign in Uttar Pradesh. Mr. Adityanath has taken up his new tsk with gusto, with a series of virulent verbal attacks on the Muslim community.

The well-known sociologist, Prof. Shiv Visvanathan recently wrote: “The new majority wants to capture history and politics and rewrite culture to align it with its subconscious. The tyranny of an exploding subconscious, where the majority literally launders its repressions, creates clouds of uncertainty. There is fear, doubt and suspicion. The regime stays silent as little obscenities are enacted.”

Civil Society, which had organised a national campaign to educate the people about the “Idea of India”, a secular, plural and inclusive country, is planning a national convention to sensitise the people on the need for the unity of the people to thwart any political conspiracy that threatens peace between religious communities and freedom of faith.

Religious minorities hope such efforts will bear fruit. In a country as large as India, with 600,000 villages and a police force grossly inadequate, ill-equipped and ill-trained, succor lies in the wisdom and tolerance of the common people.

Talking to Caesar

Church and the Narendra Modi Modi government

JOHN DAYAL

The popular idiom in international human rights discourse is that there can never be a “boycott” of any one, be it governments, non-state actors, political parties, institutions or individuals. There must be a constant engagement. There must always be scope to explore channels of communication, leading possibly to dialogue. And dialogue can be an end in itself in the short and medium term, even if there is little hope of success, or even understanding in the beginning.

It must hold true of the Indian church’s religious leadership seeking a dialogue with Mr. Narendra Modi, the prime minister of the country. The Prime Minister’s is a Constitutional position. And the Indian Government is a creation of the Constitution. So presumably even if it is the Bharatiya Janata Party which has won the popular mandate to govern this nation of 1.25 billion people, and there is need to engage with it. Many in the Church – most “major” denominations, certainly – had been eager to  be seen with Mr. Modi even when he was just the Chief Minister of the State of Gujarat, with the baggage of his image of the man who presided over a government which sat idle as the Muslim community in the state capital was being butchered in the most brutal manner by hordes of  the Sangh Parivar. “We have no orders to save you,” was the title of a contemporary investigative report, which quoted police officers. Years later, Mr. Modi was to famously tell an international broadcast media that he felt sad. “Would one not feel sad if a puppy came under our car?”

Mr. Modi still does not answer questions on the 2002 violence.  In his Independence Day speech after unfurling the national flag at the Red Fort in New Delhi, Mr. Modi called for “development and governance”, the slogans that brought him to power, and he called for toilets and gender security. And, then, he called for a “ten-year moratorium” on violence which had roots in caste, ethnic identities or religious confrontations. No one has so far asked him why he did not call for a zero tolerance policy on such violence, and action against the hate campaigns that lead to it. A ten-year moratorium would end in 2024, which presumes a ten-year reign for the BJP, assuming it wins the 2019 general elections. This is a calendar fraught with dangerous implications, as political pundits and human rights activists have pointed out.

Mr. Modi and the BJP are unabashed about their loyalty to the RSS and the expanding group of organisations it has spawned, collectively known as the Sangh Parivar. Mr. Modi is himself a former RSS leader, as are several of his Cabinet colleagues. Some ranking RSS officials have in recent weeks been inducted as general secretaries of the BJP, leaving absolutely no one in any doubt of the seamless fusion of the political party and the Sangh which styles itself as a social and cultural organisations.

RSS chief Mr. Mohan Bhagwat has repeated asserted that everyone in India is Hindu, including Muslims and Christians. Mr. Seshadri Chari, former editor of RSS mouthpiece Organiser and member of the BJP national executive, who enjoys a deserved reputation as a sober and reflective commentator, is quoted in the Outlook Magazine saying says that Hindus have always been a majority in India but the manifestation of majoritarianism has been reflected in the cultural and social field. “Now it is reflected in the politics of the country. A large number of foot-soldiers in the RSS-BJP do believe that the political Hindu has arrived.”  

That puts religious minorities on notice. It is for Mr. Modi to assure them that the Constitution, and the rule of law will prevail.  This cannot be done through moratoriums. This should be the backbone of the promise of good governance.