Because you paid for my ticket from Bombay to Bangalore!

June 26, 2013 by  
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Sudha Murty, chairperson, Infosys Foundation and author, is known for her ability to glean interesting stories from the lives of ordinary people and weave these narratives into a unique blend of anecdote and fable.

Her latest collection of stories, ‘The Day I Stopped Drinking Milk’, features a fascinating cast of characters, each of whom made an indelible impression on the author. Extracted here is a nugget from ‘Bombay (Now, Mumbai) to Bangalore (Now, Bengaluru)’, one of the most heartwarming stories in this collection:

Gulbarga railway stationIt was the beginning of summer. I was boarding Udyan Express at Gulbarga railway station. My destination was Bangalore. As I boarded the train, I saw that the second-class reserved compartment was jam-packed with people. I sat down and was pushed to the corner of the berth. Though it was meant for three people, there were already six of us sitting on it…

The ticket collector came in and started checking people’s tickets and reservations.. Suddenly, he looked in my direction and asked, ‘What about your ticket?’ ‘I have already shown my ticket to you,’ I said.

‘Not you, madam, the girl hiding below your berth. Hey, come out, where is your ticket?’ I realized that someone was sitting below my berth. When the collector yelled at her, the girl came out of hiding.

She was thin, dark, scared and looked like she had been crying profusely. She must have been about thirteen or fourteen years old.She had uncombed hair and was dressed in a torn skirt and blouse. She was trembling and folded both her hands.. The collector started forcibly pulling her out from the compartment. Suddenly, I had a strange feeling. I stood up and called out to the collector. ‘Sir, I will pay for her ticket,’ I said. Then he looked at me and said, ‘Madam, if you give her ten rupees, she will be much happier with that than with the ticket.’

Udyan ExpressI did not listen to him. I told the collector to give me a ticket to the last destination, Bangalore, so that the girl could get down wherever she wanted.

Slowly, she started talking. She told me that her name was Chitra. She lived in a village near Bidar. Her father was a coolie and she had lost her mother at birth. Her father had remarried and had two sons with her stepmother. But a few months ago, her father had died. Her stepmother started beating her often and did not give her food. She was tired of that life. She did not have anybody to support her so she left home in search of something better.

By this time, the train had reached Bangalore. I said goodbye to Chitra and got down from the train. My driver came and picked up my bags. I felt someone watching me. When I turned back, Chitra was standing there and looking at me with sad eyes. But there was nothing more that I could do. I had paid her ticket out of compassion but I had never thought that she was going to be my responsibility!… One day, when I was in Delhi, I got a call from Chitra. She was very happy. ‘Akka, my company is sending me to USA! I wanted to meet you and take your blessings but you are not here in Bangalore.’.

San FranciscoYears passed. Occasionally, I received an e-mail from Chitra. She was doing very well in her career. She was posted across several cities in USA and was enjoying life. I silently prayed that she should always be happy wherever she was.

Years later, I was invited to deliver a lecture in San Francisco for Kannada Koota, an organization where families who speak Kannada meet and organize events. The lecture was in a convention hall of a hotel and I decided to stay at the same hotel. After the lecture, I was planning to leave for the airport. When I checked out of the hotel room and went to the reception counter to pay the bill, the receptionist said, ‘Ma’am, you don’t need to pay us anything. The lady over there has already settled your bill. She must know you pretty well.’ I turned around and found Chitra there.

I told her to get into my car. My driver looked at the girl curiously. I told him to take us to my friend Ram’s place. Ram ran separate shelter homes for boys and girls. We at the Infosys Foundation supported him financially. I thought Chitra could stay there for some time and we could talk about her future after I came back from my tours.

I was not sure if Chitra would even be there. But to my surprise, I saw Chitra looking much happier than before. Ram suggested that Chitra could go to a high school nearby. I immediately agreed and said that I would sponsor her expenses as long as she continued to study. I left the shelter knowing that Chitra had found a home and a new direction in her life.

Sudha MurtyI got busier and my visits to the shelter reduced to once a year. But I always enquired about Chitra’s well-being over the phone. I knew that she was studying well and that her progress was good.. I offered to sponsor her college studies if she wanted to continue studying. But she said, ‘No, Akka. I have talked to my friends and made up my mind. I would like to do my diploma in computer science so that I can immediately get a job after three years.’ She wanted to become economically independent as soon as possible.. Chitra obtained her diploma with flying colours. She also got a job in a software company as an assistant testing engineer. When she got her first salary, she came to my office with a sari and a box of sweets.

She was standing with a young white man and wore a beautiful sari. She was looking very pretty with short hair. Her dark eyes were beaming with happiness and pride. As soon as she saw me, she gave me a brilliant smile, hugged me and touched my feet. I was overwhelmed with joy and did not know what to say. I was very happy to see the way things had turned out for Chitra. But I came back to my original question. ‘Chitra, why did you pay my hotel bill? That is not right.’ Suddenly sobbing, she hugged me and said, ‘Because you paid for my ticket from Bombay to Bangalore!’

Excerpted from Sudha Murty’s  book – The Day I Stopped Drinking Milk: Life Stories From Here and There – Penguin India

– fwd: allen johannes

A letter from God

June 25, 2013 by  
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From: GOD
To: All those who believe in me
Date: Today and Everyday

Subject: Life’s problems

God

I am God. Today I will be handling all of your problems. Please remember that I do not need your help. If the devil happens to deliver a situation to you that you cannot handle, do not attempt to resolve it. Kindly put it in the SFJTD (something for Jesus to do) box. It will be addressed in MY TIME,not yours. Once the matter is placed into the box, do not hold on to it or remove it.

Holding on or removal will delay the resolution of your problem. If it is a situation that you think you are capable of handling, please consult me in prayer to be sure that it is the proper resolution.

Because I do not sleep nor do I slumber, there is no need for you to lose any sleep. Rest my child. If you need to contact me, I am only a prayer away.

 

– fwd: aruna castelino

God SpeaksBelieve

 

Malankara Bishop calls to shut down illegal quarries

June 25, 2013 by  
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The existence of natural streams mainly depended on the existence of hills from where they originated.

Bishop calls to shut down illegal quarriesKerala, June 23, 2013: Bishop Gabriel Mar Gregorios, Metropolitan of the Thiruvananthapuram diocese of the Malankara Orthodox Church, opened a protest of the people demanding to shut down illegal quarries in Kerala.

The Environment Protection Solidarity Council (EPSC), which organized the prtest, wanted the State government to take effective steps to close down all illegal granite quarries and crusher units functioning in Kalanjoor panchayat without any further delay.

The solidarity council, in association with the People’s Acton Council (PAC) at Kalanjoor, staged a dharna in front of the Mini Civil Station here on Saturday, protesting against the recent police action against the PAC workers who had staged a non-violent agitation on June 15 against the move to sanction more granite quarries by the Kalanjoor grama panchayat.

Bishop Gabriel Mar Gregorios said popular agitation played a key role in environment protection and arresting the protesters for staging a non-violent agitation could never be justified.

The existence of natural streams mainly depended on the existence of hills from where they originated. Protection of hills and wetlands was, therefore, a prime responsibility of the society and the human world as a whole, he said.

– hindu

Malegaon blasts: RSS Pracharak used code names

June 25, 2013 by  
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Malegaon blastsMumbai, June 23, 2013: Rajendra Chaudhary, a bomb planter in the 2006 Malegaon serial blasts, said that all the youths who attended a terror training camp in Madhya Pradesh in January 2006 were given code names by mastermind Sunil Joshi to hide their identities.

In its chargesheet, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) stated that the terror training camp was organized by RSS pracharak Sunil Joshi (murdered in 2007). “Joshi gave me a new name as Samundar. Another participant Kamal Chaowhan was given the coded name of Vijay, Lokesh Sharma was called Ajay, and Joshi himself was called Manoj. This was to hide our identity,” Chaudhary said in his statement. He, along with three others, is behind the bars for their involvement in the 2006 Malegaon blasts. “We would discuss the atrocities on Hindus by Pakistani Muslims and planned to target Muslims’ places of worship, their institutes, religious processions etc. We took pledge to take revenge,” Chaudhary added.

Dhan Singh—another arrested accused—said that they were shown a movie, Black Friday, based on 1993 Mumbai riots and blasts, as part of indoctrination process. “I used to attend my village’s RSS shakha since 2002 where I came in touch with Sunil Joshi. Our only motto was revenge and attack on Muslims,” Singh said.

Singh said that in 2008, on the instructions of wanted accused Ramchandra Kalsangara, he along with one Dinesh had taken a motorcycle to Sendhwa in MP. NIA suspects that the same bike was used in planting bombs in Malegaon in 2008. Their associate, Lokesh Sharma, has also been arrested for the 2008 Malegaon blast. Singh, Chaudhary and two other accused said that they continued their terror-related activities even after the 2006 Malegaon bombings, according to the chargesheet.

“Amit Hakla and our group shifted to Manvata Nagar in Indore in September 2007. Our activities like preparing bomb and chalking out plans to attack Muslims continued till October 2008,” Singh told NIA.

A witness told NIA that Sunil Joshi wanted to kill Justice U C Banerjee, chairman of Godhra Commission. Joshi, along with the witness, had even conducted reconnaissance of Banerjee’s house and adjoining areas in Kolkata on October 15, 2005. “After the recce, I learnt that Joshi wanted to kill Banerjee and I got separated from him,” the witness said.

– times of india

Kolkotta: Fr. Francis at SXC meet – Hierarchy V/s Laity?

June 25, 2013 by  
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Vatican Council IIThe talks on Vatican Council II at St Xavier’s College Auditorium on 15th & 16th June 2013, by Fr Francis Gonsalves SJ (noted violinist and guitarist) from Vidyajyoti Theology College, Delhi were quite peppy.  On 15th while speaking on Decree on the Church’s Missionary Activity (Ad Gentes), Fr Francis said that God’s kingdom was larger than the Church and that we should be like Salt of the earth and Light of the world to dissolve ourselves in the service of the needy.  He said God was a missionary, the Church was a missionary and that all of us were missionaries.  He explained the terminologies – Mass and Communion.  Mass he said means “Go out or you are sent” to be salt/leaven and the light.  Communion meant “Co-sharing of functions, duties and offices as co-partners / showing equal respect to all members of one’s community”.  He also said that the Family was the Domestic Church and the Church and its hierarchy would be zero without the Laity which was a sleeping giant.

On the 16th he spoke on the Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity.  He dwelt mainly on the Vocation to Apostolate of the lay faithful.   The Laity is restless he said. It is dying to do good things but not being given opportunity by parish priests and bishops who think they know all.  To them members of the Laity are “Bacchas”.  The reason for this attitude is that many parish priests suffer from inferiority complex and feel ill at ease with the Laity in open forums. He said that many priests forget they have been ordained to empty themselves and serve the flock.  They want to be served and are surrounded by “chamchas”.  He also said many parish priests unnecessarily fiddle with all parish activities like the Liturgy and the church choir.  These and many other parish activities should be left with the parishioners themselves.  He said that many priests think that all power vests in them because they were ordained by God and not by the Laity.  Therefore they are not accountable to the Laity.

According to him the Laity has endless potential.  In Gujarat and Delhi he has come across brilliant brains in all spheres of life – lawyers, engineers, scientists, etc.  He said the Archbishop of Delhi holds regular interactive sessions with the best brains of the Laity (not necessarily Catholics).  The input given by them is used to solve various issues not only of the Church but also of the neighbourhood too.

The talks came to a close with summing up by His Grace Archbishop Thomas D’Souza.

– isaac gomes

 

Kazakh pastor in custody despite appeal from “victim”

June 25, 2013 by  
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The Kazakh authorities are continuing to hold a pastor accused of “inflicting serious harm to health” despite the supposed victim calling for the case against him to be dropped.

KazakhstanKazakhstan, June 17, 2013: Bakhytzhan Kashkumbayev (66), who leads Grace Church in the capital, Astana, was arrested on 17 May following a complaint by a church member’s mother. She claimed that her daughter, Lyazzat Almenova, had suffered psychological harm after attending his church, an allegation strongly refuted by other members.

In September 2012 an expert assessment of Lyazzat stated that regular attendance at Grace Church had led her to develop paranoid schizophrenia.

But now, Lyazzat has written to the Astana Prosecutor’s Office to say that the assessment was conducted illegally and that she is psychiatrically healthy. She called for the case against Pastor Kashkumbayev to be dropped.

He is being held in pre-trial detention, and on 24 May a judge upheld an earlier decision to keep him in custody. The prosecutor argued that because the church leader is accused of a “serious crime”, it is right to hold him.

Pastor Kashkumbayev’s wife and other family members have not been permitted to see him in prison.

The charge of “Intentional inflicting of serious harm to health” carries a penalty of between three and seven years’ imprisonment or restrictions on freedom.

Meanwhile, Grace Church has been implicated in a separate case of inciting “religious hatred”. A criminal case was launched in March, but church members did not find out about it until 11 June.

It appears to relate, at least in part, to a book called Worthy Answers by two local Christians. Copies of the book were confiscated in raids on churches in October 2012 and, on 25 May, from an Almaty-based charity, United Mercy in Central Asia. Police allege that the book is banned and contains “extremist ideas”.

One member of Grace Church said, “They are moving against Evangelical Christians. It is no surprise that they have launched another criminal case.”

– barnabas team

Thousands return to Syrian town they were forced to flee

June 25, 2013 by  
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Thousands of Syrian Christians who were driven out of their homes in al-Qusair last year have returned after government forces recaptured the town in a fierce battle against the rebels.

Buildings in the centre of al-Qusair have been damaged or destroyedSyria, June 18, 2013: Following al-Qusair’s occupation by opposition troops, Christians reported hearing last June from the minarets, “Christians must leave al-Qusair within six days”, prompting them to flee.

They were among the first to return earlier this month after the Syrian government defeated the rebels following an intense three-week battle. Fighting had driven out most of the town’s 40,000 plus residents, of whom Christians comprise around ten per cent.

They had fled to surrounding villages and the capital, Damascus. Returning to a scene of almost total destruction, many of them have lost everything; their homes and churches are severely damaged or in ruins. The authorities have vowed to rebuild the town and restore services.

One church in the centre of al-Qusair had been defaced with anti-Christian graffiti, including chilling statements such as:

The religion of our master will be victorious against all tyrants.

Muslim and Christian residents of al-Qusair insisted that they had lived peaceably alongside one another before the war and blamed the rebels for sowing sectarian discord.

The battle for al-Qusair has been seen as a crucial one in terms of the balance of power between the government and the rebels. The town’s return to government control has been described by the Assad regime as a “turning point” in the civil war; it follows a number of battlefield victories for the government.
With the opposition appearing weakened, they were boosted on Friday (14 June) by an announcement by the US that it will, for the first time, give them direct military aid.

This comes despite warnings from United Nations investigators that the opposition to President Bashar al-Assad is becoming increasingly radicalised, with only a minority wanting a democratic state. It is now well known that al-Qaeda is operating among their ranks.

The brutal execution of a 14-year-old boy in Aleppo by rebel fighters from al-Qaeda front group the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has heightened such concerns.

Rebel groups have set up their own justice systems, enforcing sharia-based rulings, in some areas under their control.Muhammad al-Qatta, a coffee seller, was shot dead in front of his parents on 9 June. Two rebels accused him of blasphemy after they demanded a free cup of coffee and he refused, saying, “Even Muhammad himself would have done the right thing and paid.”

A member of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria said that the teenager deserved to die. The incident has shocked both local and international observers.

A senior Christian leader in Aleppo said that the Islamist militias have taken over the mosques and use Friday sermons to stir up hatred, calling for the killing of anyone who does not follow Islam.

He added:

Christians are terrified by these militias and fear that in the event of their victory they would no longer be able to practise their religion and that they would be forced to leave the country.

– barnabas team

Oasis: a “shared grammar” for Islam and Christianity in the face of secularism

June 24, 2013 by  
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Secularisation is underway in the Islamic world that is not driven by Western anti-religious ideologies. In Iran, civil society, especially young people and women, is putting pressure on the ayatollahs for greater space and rights. In Morocco, the separation of state and religion is gaining ground even among Islamist parties. In Saudi Arabia, the alliance of Wahhabism and consumerism is society’s worst enemy. At the end, Card Scola sums up the meeting.

Oasis: a "shared grammar" for Islam and Christianity in the face of secularismMilan,  June 20, 2013: Despite the ayatollahs, the chador and violent sermons in mosques, “Iran is the most secular Islamic country”, thanks to women and young people (pictured); it is changing from within, undermining the way the West sees it, as a nation ruled by an Islamic theocracy.

This is one of the revelations that emerged on the second day of the annual meeting of the Scientific Committee of Oasis, the journal founded by Card Angelo Scola, archbishop of Milan. The topic of the Committee’s tenth gathering was ‘On a tightrope: Christians and Muslims between Secularism and Ideology’.

On Monday, the meeting was centred on historical and philosophical analyses of the end of secularism in the West. The next day, in Milan University’s Napoleonic Hall, various Muslim scholars looked at secularisation in their countries, with many surprises.

As mentioned, the first revelation was about Iran and its society, changing not as a result of the embargo and sanctions or the political self-restraint by the country’s ayatollahs, but out of a quest for rights and dignity by ordinary Iranians, first and foremost young people and women. And the latter include not only young men in jeans and women in pants, but also men with bears and women with covered heads, this according to Ramin Jahanbegloo, a Canadian-based Iranian scholar, who is associate professor of political science at York University in Toronto (Canada).

Those who are pushing for a secular vision of society are mostly young people (60 per cent of Iran’s population), often clashing with the Revolutionary Guards as they try to rekindle an Iranian identity that is not latched to the political Shiism espoused by Khomeinist theologians.

These young people are not however against religion (as Western secularists might think), but want to preserve the personal dimension of religion whilst getting Islamic totalitarianism to back off. The same is true for women, whether Islamic or secular, they want greater respect and space in society, working together and publicly debating their needs.

For Jahanbegloo, “Iranian actors in civil society no longer recognise themselves in a strong ideological secularism, but express instead critical views about anti-democratic and authoritarian aspects of Iran’s theocratic politics and traditions” without questioning the country’s religious roots. This entails a dialogue between religions and secularism in Iran, which is what Benedict XVI often proposed for the West, in Regensburg and elsewhere.

In Morocco too, we see a move towards secularisation that is not constrained by anti-religious ideological burdens, but is based on individual rights and local cultural traditions as the criteria to evaluate both a risky secularism and fundamentalist Islamism.

Prof Rachik Hassan, from Casablanca’s Hassan II University, outlined a shift towards the separation of state and religion in Morocco’s constitution, whereby the king’s role as ‘defender of the faithful’ is separated from that of head of state. Of equal importance is the emergence in 1990 of the Justice and Development Party, which retains a fundamentalist outlook, whilst accepting the country’s political institutions and the need to fight Islamic terrorism.

And there is more to the list of astonishing revelations that go against the grain to which Westerners are accustomed that equate secularism to freedom and Islam to obscurantism.

Among those present, Sami Angawi noted how Wahhabi Islam and Western consumerism are ruining many of his country’s traditional religious sites. An architect from the region of Hejaz (Saudi Arabia), Angawi has worked on the preservation of its architectural heritage. Sadly for him, in Saudi Arabia “the balance is broken”, especially in Makkah under the weight of the bulldozer and “pagan” (kafir) consumerism.

The Kaaba, the holy stone, is surrounded by the “worst of the heathen world”, like Starbucks, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Paris Hilton’s fashion houses, whilst bulldozers demolish fountains once deemed holy or the tomb of the fifth son of Muhammad, all in the name of economic development.

By way of summary, Card Scola concluded the meeting, noting that Eastern and Western thinkers were developing a “shared grammar”, one that transcended certain ideological schemata, in order to give religion a place other than the marginal one to which Western secularism and warmongering political Islam would condemn it.

For the founder of the Oasis journal, it is important for each of the two communities to keep its identity alive (not tarnished or relativised, as proposed in Europe), keeping in mind that ecumenical dialogue is also part of that identity.

To avoid exclusion from society, Christians and Muslims must rely first and foremost on their faith to meet the challenges of life, in the family or joblessness, which call for answers that are greater and more effective than ‘technical’ (or secular) ones. This way, there can be hope for the world and for people sharing life together.

– asianews

Bishops & Kerala laity to aid flood victims

June 23, 2013 by  
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Solidarity with Hindu pilgrims affected by floods

Hindu pilgrims affected by floodsNew Delhi, June 21, 2013: The Bishops’ Conference of India expresses “deep concern” over the devastation caused by floods and landslides that have hit many parts of the State of Uttarakhand and which has produced serious casualties. To date, the toll is about more than 150 people dead and tens of thousands of Hindus affected by torrential rains during a pilgrimage. The police have carried over 30 thousand people to safety, but 50 thousand other are still trapped by landslides.

“It is distressing to know that thousands of pilgrims and villagers are stranded – says Msgr. Albert D’Souza, Secretary General of CBCI, in an official message – and heavy damage is done to many shrines and holy places in Kedarnath and its vicinity. While the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India condoles the death of many victims, it wishes to express its sympathy and solidarity with those thousands of stranded pilgrims and the many people who have lost their houses, shelters and other establishments. ”
Through the diocesan Caritas and NGOs, the Indian Church supports government agencies to provide aid and assistance to victims of floods.

– asianews

Kerala bishops urge to aid flood victims

The bishops have urged the laity to come forward and help the people affected by the natural calamity.

Flood

Kerala, June 21, 2013: The Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council (KCBC) has asked Catholics across the state to reach out to the victims of flash floods in Uttarakhand with prayers and resources.

At least some 200 people are reported killed as rescue workers scramble to save tens of thousands of people left stranded by devastating flash floods that lashed the hilly state early this week.

Some 35,000 people have been rescued but another 55,000 people, many of them pilgrims who were visiting the holy places on the banks of river Ganges, remain stranded awaiting rescue teams of army even on Friday evening.

“We express our solidarity, love and deepest sympathy to the families mourning their near ones,” the bishops said in a statement issued on Friday as media reported army recovering 40 more bodies in the holy city of Haridwar.

The bishops also asked to offer special prayers on Sunday for the affected.

Triggered by unusually early and heavy monsoon rains, the floods have swept away buildings, roads and vehicles in the mountainous state.

Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna termed it “Himalayan tsunami” indicating the heavy loss of life and property.

“Very heavy casualties are feared and I cannot give the exact number without a proper survey,” he told media.

The Church leaders in Kerala urged for help. Catholics “should be able to reach out to the victims through our prayers and resources,” said the statement signed by Council president Archbishop Andrews Thazath, vice president Archbishop Francis Kallarackal and joint secretary Archbishop Thomas Mar Koorilos.

– ucan


Can having sex makes one husband?

June 23, 2013 by  
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MarriageKerala, June 21, 2013: An Indian state court ruled this week that having sex, not a religious ceremony, is what makes a marriage valid.
The ruling did not meet with universal agreement, with some saying it actually undermines marriage and religions.

The Madras High Court, the highest court in Tamil Nadu, said on Monday that if an unmarried man and woman of legal age have consensual sex, they become husband and wife, even if no formal marriage has taken place according to any religious ritual or civil registration.

The ruling “fails to understand the purpose of marriage and life,” commented Swami Sudarshan Das of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, a noted Hindu group that works around the world idealizing moral living.

According to Indian law the legal age at which a couple can marry is 21 years old for a man and 18 for a woman. In that case, if such a “couple chooses to consummate their sexual cravings, then the act becomes a total commitment with adherence to all consequences that may follow,” the court said.

Das questions this. If society has to accept a couple as being married just because they had sex, “then there will be chaos,” he said.

To him, the ruling demeans the value of marriage. “The purpose of marriage is not just sex; it is where a couple help each other for a better life in all aspects of life, until death. It is wrong to see sex as the basis of marriage,” Das said.

The High Court judgment this week overturned a lower court’s ruling made in April 2006.

In this case a woman went to court after her partner deserted her and their two children and the lower court ordered the man to pay monthly maintenance for the couple’s two children. It also ruled that the woman’s so-called wedding to the man had not been backed up by documentary evidence. Hence she was not entitled to maintenance.

During her appeal in the High Court the man’s lawyer argued that the children were born out of wedlock so his client was not her legally married husband.

But the High Court said the man had signed her medical records during the birth of their second child, and the consent form for caesarian surgery as her husband. Hence he accepted responsibility as a husband, the court said.

“Both led a marital life under the same roof and had two children. Therefore, the petitioner’s status has been elevated as the ‘wife’ of the respondent,” the court said.

The core of the judgment was that “one cannot enter into irresponsible sexual relations” and the sex life of the couple can be “construed to be legal status of marriage,” said Father Paul Thelakat, spokesperson of the socially powerful Syro-Malabar Church based in Kerala.

The judgment cannot be taken as “a rethinking of the whole concept of marriage and abolishing the religious and ritual nature of marriage,” he said.

However, he does not think “this judgment is one of such comprehensive nature and extension.”

All the same, one point is unclear to him. Can a casual sex act be construed as marriage?

Father Thelekat does not think so. “Marriage is also a social contract where there must be some social ritual” to ratify it as well as “having explicit and clear consent” given to it by parties getting married, he said.

One of India’s leading Muslim clerics also rejected the ruling. “This is not acceptable in Islam,” said Shahi Imam Ahmad Bukhari of Jama Masjid in New Delhi.

“Sexual relations in our religion are only acceptable after marriage, otherwise they are illegal,” he told ucanews.com.

He said the ruling would only increase “shameful and disgraceful acts in society” and will encourage young people to cohabit and have sex while claiming to be husband and wife.

“No parent would want their children to have such a relationship,” he said.

Whatever the views, the judgment should not be mixed with religions and rituals, said lawyer George K. Jose. The associate professor of law at Christ University in Bangalore said the court’s priority was only to provide justice for an aggrieved party, not target religion.

However, “it becomes a dangerous ruling when it equates sex with marriage.” Sex is only one aspect of marriage along with emotional bonds, children, co-habitation, financial sharing and so on,” said Jose, an expert in Indian family law.

In this case, the court could have said they were husband and wife because they had lived as such in all respects, except for registering their marriage through a ritual or civil court, he said.

“Besides, laws are not against consenting couples having sex outside of marriage, neither does society see all couples having sex as husband and wife,” he said.

Jose said the verdict is applicable only in this particular case and similar cases in Tamil Nadu but could be referred to if similar cases come up in other states.

This ruling, however, can be overturned on appeal by India’s Supreme Court, he added.

– ucan

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