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national protest day in india
The following is one among the several messages sent to me for posting at
IPI. This message which comes closest to our policy debate is being
This message( assuming that the contents are verifiable) reiterates the
urgent need to
1) strengthen law enforcement;
2) minimise political intervention in policing;
3) keep religions away from politics and governance.
India cannot afford a religious polarisation at this juncture as it can
significantly dilute efforts to focus on the economy.
>From john dayal
Church releases data to show that anti Christian violence in India this
year has been the highest ever in the history of independent India
Indian Christians plan National Protest Day on 4th December to focus
national parliament's attention on continuing violations of the rights
of religious minorities, and acts of violence by right wing
The Church In India released data to the press Tuesday, 24th November
1998 proving that the violence in 1998 so far is more than the total
incidents of crime against the Christian community from 1964 to 1997.
The data was released at a press conference by the United Christian
Forum for Human Rights to announce the National Protest Day on 4th
December 1998 to focus attention on the continuing violence against the
Christian community. The press conference was addressed by Catholic
Archbishop Alan de Lastic, chairman of the Forum which has the
participation of the Catholic, Protest and Evangelical Church groups.
Others who addressed the media today were Church of North India's Bishop
of Delhi Karam Masih, Evangelical Fellowship of India general secretary
Dr Richard Howell and All India catholic Union national secretary John
Dayal, who is also the convenor of the Forum.
The leaders of the Christian community said the protest had the support
of all denominations, and had also been supported by several human
rights groups and leaders of India's other minorities, including
De Lastic, Masih, Howell and Dayal stressed that the Christian response
to the violence would be peaceful protest. The church and its
institutions would also continue with their humanitarian and educational
Christian educational and developmental organisations are victims of the
violence, together with priests and preachers. De Lastic said these
institutions were being targeted because they were sensitising the
empowering the people, particularly those who had been exploited and
The speakers said the propaganda by certain elements that the Church was
busy with converting India's Hindu population was being deliberately
created to divert attention from the fundamentalist programme of
foisting a mono cultural system on pluralistic India. "Everyone knows
who these forces are, every one knows what this conspiracy is," Karam
Masih said. De Lastic said while conversions by force or inducement were
against the Indian laws, faith and conversion from one religion to
another were a matter for an individual, a decision which he took of his
free will and which was his right under the Constitution of India.
The forum said a memorandum will be presented to India's parliament and
its prime minister urging the representatives to take urgent action to
stop the assault on India's traditions of democracy, pluralism and
The forum said the government had not taken the action it should have to
curb the increasing violence against all minorities, not just the
Christians. The forum also released the text of an Open Letter to the
people of India which identifies the conspiracy against the minorities,
and the inaction of the government.
The following is the text of the Press statement issued by the Forum.
The Christian community in India is observing 4th of December 1998 as a
National Protest Day to focus the attention of the Government and the
people of India on the spate of violence against Christians this year,
and continuing efforts by a some fanatical elements to demolish the
secular character of the state. Schools, colleges and other Christian
institutions run by various denominations and congregations will remain
closed for the day on 4th December 1998. Those working in Hospitals and
essential services will wear black badges. Christians in service are
being urged to take a day's leave to participate fully in the various
protest programmes planned at state headquarters, diocese and parishes
of all denominations of churches in India.
In Delhi, the protest includes a relay Prayer and fast at Raj Ghat, the
memorial to Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the nation, a Rally at
Parliament House (at Jantar Mantar) and a Memorandum to Parliament (to
the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, the Deputy chairperson of the Rajya Sabha
and the Prime Minister of India, the Leader of the House). A number of
Bishops and large numbers of Priests, Nuns, Lay leaders and Human rights
activists are expected to be part of the Rally.
At the national level, the protest is being coordinated by the national
organising committee of the United Christian Forum for Human Rights,
which was set up last month. The Forum has a presidium consisting of
all Bishops resident in Delhi, with the executive panel including heads
of churches and communities representing the member-churches of the
National Council of Churches in India, the Salvation Army, the Methodist
Church in India, the Baptist church and the Evangelical Fellowship of
India, CRI, All India Catholic Union, apart from Christian NGOs, the
YMCAs and YWCAs. Church of North India's Bishop Karam Masih of Delhi
and Catholic Bishop Vincent Concessao, are the coordinators, and Fr.
Devadhas, director of Chetnalaya the co-convenor with Convenor John
The Organising Committee of the Forum has received heart-warming
messages of solidarity and support by Human Rights activists belong to
various communities, NGOs and community leaders who share our deep
concern at the threat that fanatical fundamentalist and communal
elements pose to the unity and integrity of India, to its ancient
pluralistic culture, and to its democratic and secular polity.
The issues : This years has seen more violence against the Christian
community in India than ever before in the first Fifty years of
Independence. This has been admitted in Parliament by the Indian
Minister for Welfare, Mrs. Maneka Gandhi in July this year. Mrs. Maneka
Gandhi singled out Maharashtra and Gujarat for largest number of violent
incidents against the Christian Community. Since July, the violence has
escalated even more sharply, culminating the gang-rape of four nuns in
the Jhabua district of Madhya Pradesh. The violence has not ended.
Especially disturbing are the following aspects of the violence and the
pressure on the community :
1. The severity of violence
2. The geographic spread of the violence
3. The connivance of political elements and the backing of political
groups in power, and
4. The complicity of the state machinery, particularly that of the
police, in many cases.
In addition, the pressure on the community has taken other forms too in,
many of which it is a co-victim with the Muslim and other minority
communities. These include :
1. Dilution of special encouragement given to charitable work, by the
attempt made in taxation laws
2. Delay in extending Equal rights to Dalit Christians.
3. Delay in the formation of the Supreme Court bench to consider the
question of minorities.
4. Abuse of official media to manipulate news, and denial of equal
media opportunity to minorities.
5. Lack of action on minority finance Development Corporation
6. Continued ignoring of the National Minority Commission and its
7. Continuing delays in central, state and municipal authorities on
issues such as new land and clearances for cemeteries, churches and
schools, clearing of encroachments and alienation of properties.
8. Attempted Hindutva-isation and brahmanisation of the national
education and youth programs which subverts the education system and
erodes the plural and democratic edifice of country.
Anatomy of Violence : The violence is aggressive and its scale,
magnitude and severity it is bestial. The forcible disrobing of Fr.
Christudas in Dumka, the murder of two priests in Bihar and the North
East assault on priests, nuns and preachers in Gujarat, Maharashtra,
Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Orissa and other states, inexorably culminates in
the rape of the nuns. The body of a Methodist old man, a Dalit, was
exhumed from its grave in Kapadwanj, Gujarat, by a group of fanatics.
Hundreds of bibles were burnt by hoodlums belonging to a particular
group who raided a hundred year old school run by the P. Mission in
Rajkot in the same State...In Gujarat again, a statue of the Blessed
Virgin was shattered. In Khatima, in UP a church was broken into, and
various statues of installed in the altar.
In Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Orissa, Punjab and Rajasthan
many prayer meetings have been violently disrupted and old and young,
men and women, priests and worshippers assaulted mercilessly. Scores of
people have been injured in these incidents so far, some of them
Many of these incidents have been investigated by the National
Commission for Minorities. Many others have been probed by unbiased
Human Rights groups, who have all confirmed the severity of violence.
They have identified the assailants and killers as belonging to a group
of organisations who believe in a communal philosophy. The Chairman of
the National Commission of Minorities have repeatedly called on the
National and State governments to act and bring the culprits to book and
to ensure there is an end to violence against the Christian
communities. The reports have also exposed the insidious and criminal
conspiracy of intolerance and hate. The directions of the Chairman of
the National Minorities Commission have fallen on deaf years.
The conspiracy begins by fanning hatred, creating a Mythology of Hate
through disinformation and by repeating falsehoods. The conspiracy is
to brand the Christian community, and in fact all minority communities,
as aliens. By propounding a thesis of "One People, One Nation, One
Culture," the effort of this group is to denounce the pluralistic
traditions of Indian culture, the richness of its diversity and the
spiritual contribution of its varied faiths. Anyone who is different is
branded as an enemy, and attacked, coerced, assaulted.
The intolerance and violence was exposed sharply by Justice Venugopal in
the 1982 Report of the Enquiry commission investigating the Kanykumari
riots against Christians. He said this group "adopts a militant
attitude sets itself up as the champion of what it considers to be the
rights of the Hindus against minorities. It has taken upon itself to
teach the minorities their place, and if they are not willing to learn
their place, then to teach them a lesson." (Report of the Justice
Venugopal Commission of Enquiry) Justice Sri Krishna who this year
submitted his report on the Mumbai riots has described in more graphic
terms the genesis of communal hatred and the strategy used by these
fanatical groups to subjugate the minority communities.
In the recent attacks on the Christian community, the dimensions of the
violence becomes chillingly clear.
Firstly, the attack is on the physical symbols of the church, specially
on personnel involved in grass roots empowerment, including priests,
nuns,. The attempt is to scare, coerce, limit. The second pressure is
on institutions, again with the apparent objective to ensure that
Christian social outreach is curtailed, its developmental contribution
to nation building is minimized. The final attack is on Christian
witness. It is designed not just to break our spirit, but to weaken our
This all is targeted against the minorities. And what happens when the
minority communities complain? In Gujarat, the chief minister gave a
commitment of peace to the Christian community. This commitment was
made to the national commission for minorities. Despite the chief
minister's personal pledges, attacks on Christians continue in major
Gujarat cities, including Ahmedabad, Gandhinagar and the industrial
capital Baroda. In Orissa, no one is punished. In Rajasthan, no one
has been brought for saying that Banswara will be cleansed of all
Christian presence by 2000 AD.
Several Memoranda have gone to the President of India, and the Prime
Minster. Our leaders met the Union Home Minister. He made polite
statements and promised to pull up those who were defending the rape of
the nuns. The government is yet to apologize for the incident. The
government is yet to condemn fundamentalism and communalism.
Jhabua Incident : Not only is there no attempt at applying balm to the
wounds, there is an attempt to shift blame. This is apparent in the
three stages of the official and political reaction on the shocking case
of the gang-rapes in Jhabua. First, the efforts was to try to prove
that no one was raped, and that it was 'ordinary' crime, a mere
molestation. Secondly, the endeavour was to try to say that it was not
a communal issue. And finally now, the seems to be to try to prove that
Christians were the rapists. The trauma of a the nuns is the final
violence in a long chain of violence. The total cases involving Gujarat,
Maharashtra, Rajasthan, MP, Bihar, UP, Punjab, Orissa, Tamil Nadu and
even Kerala, are now reaching a hundred.
What has happened to the Constitution of India, to Articles 19 to 30,
including the important Article 25, and to the very guiding principles,
the fundamental rights of guaranteed to each one of us as children of
this land? What has happened to Article 18 of the UN charter on Human
Rights, dealing with the Freedom of Faith, and the Special UN
Resolution on Minorities ?
The nation seeks an answer from the governments at the Centre and in the
states, and from the political leadership of the country.
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