Victory for Religious Freedom in Challenge to Indian “Anti-Conversion” Law

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Victory for Religious Freedom in Challenge to Indian “Anti-Conversion” Law
The case will now go to the Indian Supreme Court

India, South and East Asia, September 24, 2012: An Indian state’s draconian “anti-conversion” law has been partially struck down in a legal challenge brought by Christians and celebrated as “a triumph for religious freedom” in the country.

The Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) took its case against the Himachal Pradesh Religion Act 2006 to the state’s high court, which ruled on 30 August that some provisions of the law were unconstitutional.

The court removed a section that required a person intending to convert from one religion to another to give 30 days’ notice to the district magistrate. Failure to do this was punishable with a fine.

Two rules regarding the implementation of the act were also struck down. One required the district magistrate to give notice of the conversion request to any affected party before granting approval, and the other required a police case to be registered if the conversion was thought to have taken place using force or inducement or without notice.

The EFI challenged the law because of the ways in which it was being used, especially by Hindu extremists, to stop people from converting to Christianity.

Those wanting to convert were listed in a public registry, which was checked by Hindu extremists, who then tracked down, persecuted, and even murdered new Christians. People wanting to become Hindus did not, however, need to give public notice.

Christians involved in evangelism have also faced false accusations of forcibly converting Hindus, for which they have been beaten and arrested.

Justices Deepak Gupta and Rajiv Sharma ruled that the state had no role to play if anyone converted to a different faith of their own will. The bench said:

Citizens not only have the rights of conscience and belief, and the freedom to change this belief, but also they have the right to keep their beliefs secret.

The World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission welcomed the verdict as “a triumph for religious freedom in India”.

The case will now go to the Indian Supreme Court where it is expected that extremist Hindu groups will exert pressure for the decision to be overturned.

Arguing in defense of the Religion Act, Subramanian Swami said that conversions are against Hindu philosophy and should not be permitted.

The EFI’s victory in this case is a step in the right direction for religious freedom in India, but there is still a long way to go. The rest of the Religion Act in Himachal Pradesh was upheld, and there are similar laws governing religious practice in other India states. These restrict the freedom of non-Hindus to share their faith.

– barnabas team

Reporters as police stenographers

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Reporters as police stenographersDelhi, September 27, 2012: As 16 terror cases end in acquittal the English press is guilty of giving in to the dubious claims of the infamous Special Cell. The writer wonders why reporters never question police claims.

Will the English press ever again report verbatim what the Delhi Police’s Special Cell tells them?

The Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association’s just-released report on 16 cases of terror filed by the Special Cell that ended in acquittal, is an indictment not just of the functioning of the Special Cell, but also of the English press. The report cites examples of reports in national newspapers such as The Times Of India, The Hindu, The Indian Express, and Hindustan Times, which carried verbatim, often without the use of the word “alleged”, the version given by the Special Cell at press conferences where often, the arrested innocents were produced as “hard core militants’.

Among the many paraded this way was 24-year-old Kashmiri Imran Kirmani, an aeronautical engineering graduate who had just landed a job in Delhi. His background came handy for the Special Cell to describe him as “part of an LeT module” planning to carry out a “9/11 plot”. “Prize catch” was the caption given by The Hindu to his picture on page one, surrounded by Special Cell plainclothesmen.

Four years later, the judge acquitted Kirmani. “And when I was released, there was no media, no cameras waiting to tell the world that I was innocent. It wasn’t a story,” Kirmani told the Kashmir correspondent of The Indian Express Muzammil Jaleel.

The JTSA report cites only the Express as having bothered to talk to Kirmani. But The Telegraph’s Muzaffar Raina did so too. The paper carried the story on page one.

Not that this in any way compensated for Kirmani’s trauma. “My dream (of becoming an aeronautical engineer) has died,” he said more than once to Jaleel. “Who will give me a job now?”

It wasn’t just Delhi’s Special Cell that ruined this blameless young man’s future. The English press also played a part.

This columnist has tried for years to find an answer to the question: why do reporters implicitly believe the police when they claim breakthroughs in “terror” cases? Because the police bear the authority of uniform? They are the ones who should know?

Even when the country’s first big terror strike took place on March 12, 1993 in Mumbai, there were doubts whether everyone picked up was part of the conspiracy. At that time, the lawyer of one of those arrested approached me with his client’s story. His client claimed that his only offence was that he had rented out a scooter, something he did everyday to strangers. How was he to know what it would be used for? (It was used to plant a bomb.) The TOI refused to publish the story, which was based entirely on the lawyer’s plea filed in court. The man was eventually discharged after spending three years in jail.

This was just after the 92-93 Mumbai riots, wherein the Mumbai police had shown just how aligned its men were with the Shiv Sena. The Times’ reportage of the riots had exposed some of this and earned it the abuse “Times of Pakistan” from the RSS. But riots were one thing, simultaneous bomb blasts across the city, killing random innocents, were a different kettle of fish. Would publishing that story have made the Times look like it was supporting the terrorists? Is that what stops newspapers from expressing doubts about police claims?

April 2006 should have been a turning point for investigations into bomb blasts. That was when the Nanded blasts took place and the RSS hand in the bomb blasts became clear. But even after Nanded, the police stuck to its only-Muslims-are-terrorists theory. Given the well-known anti-Muslim prejudice of the police, that was understandable. But what prevented the press from questioning this theory after April 2006?

Indeed, what prevents the press till today from picking holes in theories put out by our investigative agencies when it comes to crimes allegedly committed by Muslims? Why do reporters become “police stenographers” as the JTSA report calls them?

After the 2006 serial train blasts in Mumbai all newspapers faithfully reported the theory given out by the ATS. The seven bombs were assembled in a tiny room in a Govandi slum, open to all passersby. Then, from the north-east of Mumbai, they were carried to the north-west, to Bandra. They were kept in pressure cookers. These pressure cookers were kept in train compartments. Whatever you say, sirs. Never mind if the final charge sheet in the 2006 serial train blasts case has no mention of pressure cookers. Pakistan was involved, said headlines. Never mind that when it came to actually presenting evidence to Pakistan, the ATS developed cold feet.

The most bizarre aspect of the 2006 train blasts is that another branch of the Mumbai police, the Crime Branch, discovered in 2008 that quite a different set of persons were behind these blasts. The ATS had laid the blame on SIMI’s door. But an alleged Indian Mujaheedin member arrested for a series of blasts in 2008, reportedly “confessed” to the Crime Branch, headed by the legendary Rakesh Maria, that it was the IM that was behind the train blasts. Both police units stuck to their respective claims. In 2009, this man who “confessed”, Sadiq Shaikh, was discharged by the court on an application filed by the ATS which said he had no role in the train blasts, a crime to which he had reportedly “confessed”!

And these are the agencies we blindly trust. Among them is the Delhi Police Special Cell, as high profile as Maharashtra’s ATS, and, as the JTSA report shows, as dearly beloved of the Delhi press.


On September 23, 2007, The Times of India carried a news item titled: “Indian Intelligence informer spills the beans”. The report was sensational. It quoted a letter from Tihar Jail by an ex-IB informer detailing how IB, working with the Delhi Police’s Special Cell, plants its own “jehadi maulvis” to lure Muslim youth to commit terrorist acts. The CBI, directed by the Delhi High Court to investigate the case in which this informer was arrested by the Special Cell as an Al Badr terrorist, had corroborated the most important accusations made by the informer, said the report.

In November 2008, the CBI filed a closure report in the case, gave the two accused a clean chit and recommended legal action against three sub-inspectors of the Special Cell: Ravinder Tyagi, Vinay Tyagi, and Subhash Vats, for “fabricating and planting evidence to implicate” the accused “for an oblique motive.” In its closure report, the CBI revealed that the mobile phone records of one of the accused showed that he was in constant touch with IB officers.

Despite the Times following this story, these sensational findings were not widely reported in the English press. Even the Times did not do any larger article based on this “mind-numbing” report. (This phrase was used by the Times to describe one of the many so-called terror conspiracies solved by the Special Cell.) However, subsequent developments in the case were reported, including a complaint by CBI officer Santosh Kumar that one of the indicted Special Cell men had threatened him. So it can be safely said that the entire English press was aware of the CBI’s findings against the Special Cell.

In February 2011, Additional Sessions Judge Virender Bhat, acquitting seven alleged Kashmiri terrorists, ordered an FIR to be registered against the Delhi Police Special cell’s Sub Inspector Ravinder Tyagi and three other sub-inspectors for framing the accused. He also ordered the Delhi Police Commissioner to
Hold an inquiry against the four policemen, who he said, had “brought shame and disrepute to the entire Delhi police force”.

Both the Asian Age and The Indian Express reported this judgment, with the latter even interviewing the Kashmiris who were acquitted. But again, there was no follow-up on this indictment by the court against such high-profile policemen. By this time, Ravinder Tyagi had won a President’s medal; his name had also figured in the infamous Batla House encounter.

In January 2012, Amir Khan was acquitted after spending 14 years in jail for a total of 19 cases foisted on him. Almost every paper published the story of his frame-up by Delhi’s Special Cell and his acquittal in 17 of them.

Yet, despite being aware of all these indictments and irregularities, when the Delhi Police Special Cell arrested journalist Syed Kazmi in March this year for the bomb attack on the car carrying an Israeli diplomat’s wife in Delhi, all newspapers faithfully reproduced the police version with the word “alleged” featuring occasionally–the moped left in Kazmi’s house by the bomber; the $ 5000 first installment received by Kazmi from the bombers… The team in charge of the case included many familiar names whose earlier cases had ended in acquittal. But no scepticism was voiced.

Kazmi’s son’s version was of course reported a few days later.


Again, in December 2010, when two alleged Hizb-ul-Mujaheedin members were arrested from Dehradun, reports speculated whether the Indian Military Academy was the target. None of the reports bothered to mention that not even a year earlier, four youth arrested for allegedly planning a terror strike on the IMA had been honourably acquitted.

There appears to exist a marked sympathy towards the Special cell, which emerges in the frequent use of words such as “Special Cell dealt a blow” or “Special Cell resurrects with triple hit” (this from TOI). This report rejoiced at the return of ACP Sanjeev Yadav to the Cell. Yadav features in many of the cases documented by the JTSA report.

When courts and respected investigative agencies accuse the same police unit more than once of framing innocents, and the press, instead of highlighting these indictments, plays them down, how can the victims so framed get the publicity they deserve? Two cases cited in the JTSA report on the acquittal of Ayaz Ahmed shah, an alleged Kashmiri terrorist, are important here.

An acquittal does not mean that the accused is innocent. However, only after going through the judgment can you conclude whether the acquittal was based on technicalities or there was just no case against the accused. Quoting the judgment, the JTSA report shows that Ayaz Ahmed Shah was acquitted after the prosecution’s story was found riddled with holes. The depositions of Inspector Mohan Chand Sharma, the inspector gunned down in the Batla House encounter, and other members of the Special Cell team who arrested Shah, were found riddled with discrepancies and contradictions. Shah had been picked up on the basis of a tip off from an informer. But under cross-examination, the policemen admitted that the informer had neither revealed the suspect’s name nor description!

Yet, Midday reported on Shah’s acquittal with this headline: “Another terrorist goes free”, while The Telegraph described Shah as an “outlaw” who “slipped through”.

However, newspapers do follow-up on acquittals. Tehelka specially, does so regularly. Doing so is neither compensation nor a favour to those released. What is needed is simply news exposing the way our police have made it their dharma to frame innocent Muslims with terror charges.

Post Script:

The Delhi Police Special Cell in a rebuttal to the JTSA report claims that “six cases out of 16 referred to in the compilation have actually ended in conviction, while one case is still pending trial”.(Reported in The Hindu, September 20).

However, responding to this, the JTSA has listed out each of the 16 cases and pointed out that only in one of them were four out of the ten accused convicted of terror charges. The convictions that have been secured in other cases have been under the Arms Act or the Explosives Act, not on the charges of terrorist conspiracy or waging war against the State. “Courts have clearly held that there was nothing to prove that the accused were members or activists of terrorist organizations, or that they intended to carry out terror attacks,” says the rebuttal.

– tcn

Himachal HC rules in favour of EFI

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Himachal Pradesh, September 16, 2012: Although universal in nature, religious liberty is not universal in practice the world over. And a law designed to prevent conversions to Christianity in India is exhibit A for the truth that, in some countries, religion is but one more aspect of life controlled by government or ruthless factions that fear no government.

And this is why legal victories restoring or broadening religious liberty are so important, particularly when those victories unburden a people who theretofore had been required to alert local magistrates before changing religions. In Evangelical Fellowship of India v/s State of Himachal Pradesh, the High Court of the State of Himachal Pradesh ruled against just such a law.

The law required those intending to change religions to provide a district magistrate with “prior notice of at least 30 days … of his intention to do so.” Failure to provide advance notice of conversion required a mandatory police investigation,

prosecution, and sanctions. And if notifying the local government magistrate of one’s new religion wasn’t invasive enough – all persons desiring to change their religion were listed in a public registry, scanned regularly by fundamentalist Hindu extremists that make it a daily routine to retaliate against, persecute, and even murder new Christian converts. And, of course, the public notice law did not apply to anyone changing their religion to Hinduism.

There is a mighty struggle occurring in India in which 300 million Dalits (formerly called “untouchables”) are suffering at the bottom rung on the Hindu caste system, enduring punishment in this life for what some Hindu faithful describe as sins committed in past lives. And millions are desperate to escape by seeking refuge in the Christian faith where all are created in God’s image and equal in the eyes of God.

Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys and allies represented Evangelical Fellowship of India are challenging the law because it was being used as a cudgel to stop – through intimidation and fear – a potential flood of conversions to Christianity.

Moreover, as all laws have symbolic importance, representing a society’s dividing line between acceptable and unacceptable behavior, the law and its operation communicated that conversion from Hinduism to Christianity was disapproved.

The law clearly violated the Indian constitution, which purports to guarantee freedom of religion, and served as a license for misconduct against new Christians whose names appeared on the public registry. So it shouldn’t pass unnoticed that Christians in India and especially Christian clergy are attacked, harassed, and beaten every single day. In fact, over 100 Christian Dalits were murdered just three short years ago in the state of Orissa by fundamentalist Hindu mobs that ran amuck for months with little or no government intervention.

The victory of Evangelical Fellowship of India was one step in a long and on-going struggle to win genuine religious freedom in India. The case will now go to the Indian Supreme Court where extreme pressure will be brought to bear by extremist Hindu organizations, doing everything in their power, to curtail the lowest Hindu caste from fleeing a life of religiously sanctioned poverty and degradation.

Every victory like this swings the pendulum closer to where all civilized people should want to be – a place where religious liberty is not only universal in nature, but in practice as well.

– christianpost

‘Rights in the Constitution is not the yardstick to asses democracy’

September 12, 2012 by  
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Dr. Faizan Mustafa, vice chancellor of National Academy of Legal Studies and Research (NALSAR)

Dr. Faizan Mustafa, vice chancellor of National Academy of Legal Studies and Research (NALSAR)

Hyderabad, September 11, 2012: “In a secular democracy it is important to see that how far the majority community takes care of the rights given to the minority communities. The rights available in the constitution of India for Minorities are not the yardstick to assess the functioning of democracy. The functioning of a sound democracy could be judged by the attitude of the majority community towards minorities that how far it volunteer in the implementation of the rights given to the minorities in the constitution.” These were the thoughts of Dr. Faizan Mustafa vice chancellor of National Academy of Legal Studies and Research (NALSAR).

Dr. Mustafa was speaking on the occasion of Justice Mohammed Rafiuddin Ahmed Ansari fifth annual Memorial Lecture organized by the Justice Mohammed Rafiuddin Ahmed Ansari Memorial Trust in the Administrative Staff College of India Hyderabad.

In his brief speech Dr. Faizan Mustafa said, “The guarantee of rights to the minorities has been ensured in the constitution of India. Article 29 and 30 provides protection of the certain rights of the minorities in India, however in the script of the constitution there is no separate article guaranteeing protection of the Rights of minorities. But in a general context it is given in the constitution of India that if there is any discrimination meted out to a citizen on the basis of language, religion, culture, caste, or race guarantee is given to protect his rights. So in this way, citizens including citizens from minority community cannot be deprived of their rights in any field on the basis of race, caste or language.”

“Implementation of individual rights is not enough because many individuals get their rights independently but as a member of their community they often do not get their rights. There is a need to give equal rights to a group which have been guaranteed in the constitution.” Dr. Mustafa observed.

The topic of the memorial lecture was ‘Minorities and National integration’. The lecture was presided over by Justice V. Eshwarayya, Judge of A.P. High Court; the key speech in the memorial lecture was given by Justice M.N. Rao, Chairman of National Commission of Backward classes and former Chief Justice of Himachal Pradesh High Court.

Ms. Fareeda Hussain secretary of the Justice M. R. A. Ansari Memorial Trust welcomed the speakers, guest speaker and the audience. Speaking on the communal riots and particularly on Gujarat pogrom of Muslims Dr. Faizan Mustafa said, “Political motives are the major factors behind all the communal riots which occur in this country,”

He termed Gujarat riots as unique compare to the other communal riots in India, “Gujarat riot is unique because introspection is being done and intention to provide justice can be seen as the culprits are being punished. A former minister has been put behind the bars, and all those who are fighting this legal battle to get justice for the Muslims are the people mainly from majority community. This communal riot, the subsequent events and providing due justice to the victims highlights the secular character of this country.”

– tcn

Lawyers for change

May 4, 2012 by  
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New Delhi, May 2, 2012: To recognize the importance of safeguarding and extending the rights of the vulnerable.

A three-day meet brought together 80 young lawyers from across the country to recognize the importance of safeguarding and extending the rights of the vulnerable.

The Centre for Social Justice & National Dalit Movement for Justice, a socio-legal NGO, organized a National Meet of Social Justice Lawyers as part of its “Lawyers for Change” Fellowships programme at New Delhi from the 28-30 April, 2012 at Navinta, Okhla-New Delhi.

It comprised of sessions where eminent personalities shared experiences on use of law as a tool of social change, human rights interventions, court room practice and public interest litigations.

The opening speech was made by Mr. Gagan Sethi, Vice Chairperson of Centre for Social Justice, who spoke about the Centre’s journey of engaging with lawyers. The Lawyers for Change Program had been a dream of Gagan and is the first systematic effort of bringing young lawyers from across the country for social justice lawyering.

Ms. Farah Naqvi from the National Advisory Council, in her inaugural speech spoke powerfully about the need for an army of social justice lawyers both inside and outside the courtroom. She articulated the worry she faces in doing her work on changing public policy, because of the stream of new laws being passed by Parliament, but the abysmal lack of implementation its existing laws. She urged the young lawyers to challenge the system through their lawyering, and appealed to them to humanize the legal system, and dignify every victim who approaches them.

Professor Babu Matthew in his keynote address congratulated Mr. Gagan Sethi for creating a space for young law graduates to involve in social sector. Using the labour law sector as an example, Prof Matthew directed attention to the unique, old model of development existing in India, which was rights-based, and which was destroyed with the advent of neo-libralism. According to him, to advance in the field of social justice lawyering, is to return to the old model of development. He ended by emphasizing the importance of a community of Lawyers for Change in this journey.

Mr. Tridip Pais, advocate from New Delhi, speaking on the topic of “Sensitive Lawyering – Integrating response to human rights within mainstream practice” began by sharing how he devoted 75% of his time to mainstream cases and 25% to what he broadly categorized as “free cases” – social action litigation. In his opinion, a lawyer has a responsibility, in his free cases, to represent clients who don’t have the option of another lawyer.

Maneka Guruswamy, who practices in the Supreme Court echoed the importance to have access to a decent standard of living as well as do interesting work and simultaneously making a difference and bring craft and quality lawyering to the courtroom, as well as maintaining a level of professional detachment. She also voiced her concern about the extraordinary gap between the world of legal scholarship – reading, writing and critical thinking – and actual legal practice, and the need to bridge the same.

In the Post-lunch session Ms. Geeta Ramaseshan, Senior Lawyer, Madras High Court speaking on “Experiences from the Civil Liberty Movement.” shared her experiences from the 1980s. She spoke about the different kinds of strategies used on behalf of victims of oppression to get them justice. And stated how she found Public Interest Litigations to be very risky. This is because with the dismissal of the case, the court washes its hands off it, making the political process around it much more challenging. So use PILs cautiously and as a last resort. She also shared her misgivings about the use of media for litigation. And ended by asking the young lawyers present to rise to the occasion and practice social justice and build a constant repository of knowledge in the process.

Ms. Vrinda Grover, a Human Rights Advocate from New Delhi talked about the inextricable linkage of law with politics and her experiences regarding communal violence and Kashmir. She stressed on the need for every lawyer to work bottom-up, from the lower-most courts as those were the actual arenas of human rights work. However, lawyering in her opinion needs to be done both within the courtroom and outside it, and research and writing are as important an aspect of human rights lawyering as practice. Moving on to ethics, Ms. Grover expressed her problem with the second-rate lawyering done in free cases of public interest, and the express accountability of lawyers to each and every client they represent.

Mr. Prasad Sirivella and Mr. Paul Divakar from NCDHR took the last session on Dalit Rights. Mr. Sirivella presented a statistical analysis of atrocities taking place on Dalits across the country, and how they are affected not only by non-implementation of the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act but also by other social welfare legislations. Mr. Divakar, apart from caste-based violence, spoke about gender-based violence and drew parallels between the two. He concluded by speaking about the transformation taking place within the legal system, and the hope for better legislations and implementation in the future.

The second day started with the Joint Registrar (Law) of the National Human Rights Commission Mr. A. K. Parashar. He spoke about role of lawyers in ensuring Human rights. He talked about NHRC, its role, powers and functions and its association with 40 young lawyers. He emphasized that all human rights are connected with dignity and as lawyers we have the responsibility to preserve them. He also shared some gross violations of Human Rights in different states and the interventions done by the NHRC. The NHRC provides platform to young lawyers in the form of internships, funding individual proposals for awareness programmes, sensitization programs etc. He also talked about having started the “Open hearing” concept which is going to take place at different states including Gujarat, Ahmedabad on the 14th May, 2012.

Ms. Sudha Bhardwaj from Raipur/Chhattisgarh talked about “The legal face of corporate land grab”. She shared her experiences of working with the trade Unions and fighting cases for them. She talked about the Janhit’s model which was providing legal aid to “Sangathan’s” and not individuals as we can reach out to a mass of people, which creates a snowball effect. She emphasized the importance of ground work and getting it linked with the court room lawyering. Ground and court work together as two legs. She said that as young lawyers it’s our responsibility to help people to go to the right forums with right legal sharpness to decide where and where to intervene for justice.

Ms. Shruti Pandey, Programme Officer, Ford Foundation, talked about Policy Formulation – Challenges and Learning. He spoke about using law as a tool for social justice and not the end in itself. Some major challenges in implementation are related to financial resources, human resources, knowledge, grip and lack of mechanisms of accountability. She advised that if we are Social Justice Lawyers, we have to understand policy from start to the end process with a political understanding.

Ms. Kajalbhardwaj, spoke on “Intellectual Property Regime and its impact on the vulnerable”. She suggested that as lawyers and advocates we can bring up HIV patients etc. into patents office, give legal training and empower them, approach courts on right to health, intervene in cases where companies sue government to remove health safeguards etc. and discussed some landmark cases.

Justice S. Murlidhar talked about “Practical Legal Strategies for Ensuring Human Rights”. He started with his journey of being a student of law. He urged the young lawyers not to start a special practice but be a generalized lawyer initially and see how courts function. He said, people see law as negative and a tool for oppression. It is our responsibility to change this perception. He highlighted the art of listening, honesty to the clients and lawyers towards each other, the importance of written communications, the quality and the importance of a good drafting, and last but not the least the importance of reading and hard work for a lawyer. He raised his concern over slum dwellers and suggested interventions by doing survey’s about the people there, their problem relating to health, education, work etc. and then argue for their rights, seeing an issue holistically. He ended up saying our efforts and advocacy should be such as to make the bench listen to you.

The first person of the 3rd day was Abusaleh Shariff, Executive Director, US India Policy Institute. He said in the actual practice the citizenship rights have not reached to all people and therefore as Lawyers you have to reach out and change the system and utilize the Constitutional rights to ensure justice to all the citizens of the country.

Ms Veena Gawda a practicing Feminist Advocate in the Bombay High Court spoke on the challenges in her experience of lawyering as feminist. She wants to ensure any rights for women whatever they are by use of law all through. To be a lawyer is a very challenging choice of profession in a cosmopolitan city in our Indian society today and so she urges the young lawyers to take up as the challenge for the cause of justice for the people especially women.

Mr. Amitabh Behar Executive Director, National Foundation for India said, it is very important for the advocates to understand and take part in the grassroot level right from the village gram sabhas to the district level and then bring impact to the approach paper in front of the planning commission of India. As in the process of decentralize planning it could of immense help.

Mr. Arvind Narrain, Founder of Alternative Law Forum spoke on the Rights of Sexual minorities and to fight for injustice in the communities as group of social lawyers for change. The provision of law needs political intervention. The notion of morality is constitutional morality.

Wajahat Habibullah Chairperson, National Commission for Minorities India said, “When the justice is denied to the vulnerable there is where lawyers are to be there and fight in groups as lawyers for justice.” The question whether the muslims in Gujarat enjoy the right to life? Many lives were taken away in the name of the religion. He asked, Can a country like India have within the whole community internal disparities? Kashmiri Pandits internally displaced, the Christians of Kandhamal did not get back to their homes deprived from schools, hospitals, and jobs etc.

The 3 day meet closed with a fire in the hearts of young lawyers now ready to take up social justice lawyering.

– religiousindia

Men need to be partners for women’s empowerment

January 30, 2012 by  
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Men need to be partnersTamil Nadu, January 28, 2012: Recently the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) women’s wing held a conference in Chennai for a day and threw it open only for women. The concept of the conference was “Muslim women’s empowerment”. The decision to allow only women to attend the conference surprised me. I will explain the reasons for my surprise.

Women empowerment concept has a broader and deeper perspective. Those who are not aware of the real meaning of it think that education and employment would empower women. Muslims are ready to accept the need for education and but not yet ready for employment and economic independence of women for various reasons. They do not understand that education, employment and legal awareness are, only the tools of empowerment and will not guarantee empowerment per se. If these tools have to succeed in achieving the end i.e. the empowerment of women, several other qualities are to be acquired by women. Even after acquiring the required qualities they can not truly achieve empowerment without men’s support. Behind every successful woman there is a supportive father or husband and even sons. Empowerment of women is not possible without men’s solid support.

Several of the offences against the women are committed by men. If many unfortunate women suffer in silence, driven to frustration and depression, it is because of the strangulating acts of men. No women can achieve empowerment if the men in their life have very narrow vision about women’s role in the family. Behind the menace of dowry, delayed marriage of Muslim girls the greed of men is there. Behind domestic violence and non dignified treatment of women are men. If education and employment rights are denied to women, the men in their life are responsible. If women are treated as non entity and not allowed to participate in the decision making process regarding the family matters, it is again, the men who do not want to give due credit to women’s wisdom are responsible. Therefore it is the mind-set of men which has to change regarding women’s role in the family, the society and the nation.

With a supportive father or husband and sons women can blossom with radiance and live with dignity. That is why Allah has created a world with both men and women and wants them to live in harmony. He has not created two worlds one for men and another for women. Therefore, half the battle regarding Muslim women’s empowerment can be won with changing the mind set of men towards women’s basic requirements. Then, why men are not allowed to participate in such conferences? What is the use of creating awareness only among women about women empowerment issues and without making men understand them? What purpose can be served if the struggles and problems which stand in the way of empowerment of women are not conveyed to men? It is time for the Muslim leaders to rise above narrow vision in the name of Islam. It is not at all wise to conduct conferences on women matters by banning the participation of men in the discussion.

– dr. prof . rameeza. a. rasheed

Report on religious freedom violation submitted to European Union

January 28, 2012 by  
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OrissaNew Delhi, January 26, 2012: A delegation of Christians and human rights activists has submitted a report on violations of minority rights and religious freedom in India to the European Union.

The report entitled “Freedom of Religion in India: Joint Stakeholders Report for the Universal Periodic Review 2012″ was submitted yesterday during a meeting between the Indian delegation and the Delegation of the European Union in India in Delhi.

Every four years the human rights situation of a country is assessed by the United Nation’s human right’s council.

The report focuses on the state of religious freedom of the minorities especially of Christians and Muslims, said S Prasad, member, National Dalit Human Rights Campaign.

He said that despite being a secular country, very often “non-state actors in connivance with the state machinery snatch minority rights.”

In many states like Karnataka and Orissa, Christians are not allowed to freely practice their faith by Hindu fundamentalists.

“The report is the outcome of three national consultations held in New Delhi, Bangalore and Bhubaneswar”, said Dhirendra Panda, human right activist from Orissa and coordinator of National Solidarity Forum that coordinated the report.

John Dayal, All India Christian Council general secretary, said the Targeted Violence (Prevention, Control and Reparations) Bill 2011 should be brought into Parliament to safeguard the minorities from the fundamentalist attacks.”

He said the anti-conversion laws that take away the freedom of faith in contradiction to the fundamental right of a citizen should be repealed.

Phillip Oliver Gross, First Secretary, Political Affairs EU said, “We are quite keen to see that human rights are protected and freedom of faith respected and would draw the attention of our members towards the issue during the UPR process”.

Besides Dayal, Panda and Prasad, Fr. Charles Irudayam, Secretary, Office of Justice and Peace Commission of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India and Fr. Ajaya Kumar Singh, Orissa Forum for Social Action were the members of the delegation.

The report was prepared by six international NGOs, including Pax Romana (International Catholic Movement for Intellectual and Cultural Affairs and International Movement of Catholic Students), World Council of Churches and Dominicans for Justice and Peace (Order of Preachers), Geneva and 87 civil society groups in India.

– ajay kumar singh, ucan

Pope calls gay marriages a threat to humanity’s future

January 11, 2012 by  
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Gay Marriage Just MarriedVatican, January 10, 2012: Pope Benedict said Monday that gay marriage was one of several threats to the traditional family that undermined “the future of humanity itself.”

The pope made some of his strongest comments against gay marriage in a new year address to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Vatican in which he touched on some economic and social issues facing the world today.

He told diplomats from nearly 180 countries that the education of children needed proper “settings” and that “pride of place goes to the family, based on the marriage of a man and a woman.”

“This is not a simple social convention, but rather the fundamental cell of every society. Consequently, policies which undermine the family threaten human dignity and the future of humanity itself,” he said.

The Vatican and Catholic officials around the world have protested against moves to legalize gay marriage in Europe and other developed parts of the world.

One leading opponent of gay marriage in the United States is New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, whom the pope will elevate to cardinal next month.

Dolan fought against gay marriage before it became legal in New York state last June, and in September he sent a letter to President Barack Obama criticizing his administration’s decision not to support a federal ban on gay marriage.

– reuters

Mayawati’s message to students

November 12, 2011 by  
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MayavatiUttar Pradesh, November 11, 2011: After blocking Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s letter to school children, Uttar Pradesh government has decided that Chief Minister Mayawati’s letter will be read out in three lakh schools in the state today, the National Education Day.
The prime minister’s letter will be read out in schools across the country, marking the launch of the year-long Shiksha ka Adhikar campaign to spread awareness about the Right to Education Act among children and parents.
Mayawati, in her letter, has described how despite being born into a poor family, she went on to become the chief minister of the country’s most populous state four times, a task she credited to education.
“I want you to be regular in attending classes, seek solutions to your problems from your teachers so that you could develop as responsible citizens,” her missive reads.
“Despite braving hardships, I did better than my brothers in academics, finally getting a BA degree and a degree in law from Delhi University after which I became a teacher in a government school,” she said.
Her letter ends with a passionate appeal to children to use education as a tool for achieving great success in life.
– hindustan times

Pope highlights need to harmonize business and family life

October 20, 2011 by  
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Pope Benedict XVIVatican, October 17, 2011: Pope Benedict XVI called for new ways of doing business, in keeping with the dignity of workers and their families, during an October 15 address to promoters of Catholic social doctrine.

“Family and work are privileged places for the construction of the vocation of man, collaborating in the creative work of God today,” he told the “Fondazione Centesimus Annus – Pro Pontifice,” a Vatican-based lay organization that spreads the Church’s social teaching around the world.

Its members met in Rome for a two-day conference on the relationship between family and business.

In his speech to the foundation, the Pope recalled how the Second Vatican Council “spoke of the family in terms of the domestic church, an ‘untouchable sanctuary’ where the person matures in affection, solidarity and spirituality.”

“The economy with its laws must always consider the interests and the protection of this primary cell of society,” the Pope noted.

His comments coincide with important anniversaries in the history of Catholic social teaching. Pope Leo XIII published the first modern encyclical on the topic, “Rerum Novarum,” 120 years ago in 1891.

Meanwhile, 2011 also marks 30 years since Blessed John Paul II’s family-centered apostolic exhortation “Familiaris Consortio,” and two decades since he addressed economic questions in the encyclical “Centessimus Annus”

Pope Benedict said that although “great changes have taken place in the world” since the days of Leo XIII, the Church “always promotes the human person and the family, in their context in life, even in business.”

He stressed the economy’s need for good families, observing that “it is primarily in the family that we learn the right attitude for living in society,” including the “world of work, economics, business.”

In these fields, he said, values from family life help people to be “led by charity, the logic of generosity, solidarity and responsibility for one another.”

Pope Benedict recognized that the present economic crisis has hit families hard. He highlighted his 2009 encyclical “Caritas in Veritate” as a guide to building a more humane society and economy, based on “a new harmonious synthesis between family and work.”

“It is not the task of the Church to define the ways to tackle the crisis,” the Pope acknowledged.

But Christians, formed by the Church’s teaching, have a duty “to denounce evil, to testify and to keep alive the values that underpin human dignity and to promote those forms of solidarity that promote the common good,” helping humanity become “more and more the family of God.”

– cna / ewtn news