EFI calls upon India to observe international obligations on human rights

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Rev. Dr. Richard Howell, General Secretary, Evangelical Fellowship of India

Rev. Dr. Richard Howell

New Delhi, October 1, 2012: EFI calls upon India to observe international obligations on human rights; regrets India’s negative stance at UNHRC Universal Periodic review on Communal Violence Prevention legislation, Dalit Christians, and recalling so called “Freedom of Religion Acts” by States.

The Evangelical Fellowship of India welcomes the Indian Government’s assurances of its commitment to Human Rights and specially the Rights of Religious and other minorities, reiterated its Universal Periodic Review under the auspices of the United Nations Human Rights Council at its sessions from March to September 2012 at Geneva. The EFI however deeply regrets that the Government has deliberately ignored urgent international and entreaties for an early enactment of laws against communal and targetted violence, an abrogation of the so called Freedom of Religion legislation several states, and accepting the long-pending demand of Dalit Christians for their Constitutional rights.
The Indian and global human rights activists’ community has noted that the Government of India’s response to the 169 recommendations of the UNHRC reflected a pattern of only accepting recommendations that were generalized and broadly worded, lacking a targeted course of action directed to tackle discrimination and specific human rights challenges. Recommendations pertaining to specific as well as serious human rights issues were rejected, despite the Council’s expressed concern.
It is widely regretted that India has not accepted recommendations asking to create a comprehensive framework to deal effectively with the particular circumstances of communal or targeted violence. The government says communal violence is only a sporadic problem. We religious minorities contest this argument as we continue to be violently attacked in a number of states. As we have seen in Kandhamal and Karnataka specially, victims are also not able to access justice. And this situation, we fear, will continue to be repeated in future unless some immediate steps are taken by the government to prevent and pre-empt acts of communal violence.
The Evangelical Fellowship of India therefore most respectfully urges the government to bring forth the Bill on prevention of Communal and Targetted Violence, including issues of compensation rehabilitation, and reparation, at the earliest. We note that such a Bill was drafted by the National Advisory Council in 2011 and given to the government. This Bill should be taken out of cold storage, refined in consonance with principles of federalism, and enacted as law to effectively bring an end to communal strife which has ravaged this country in the last six decades.
The EFI also urges the Government to take necessary legislative and legal steps to recall the so called Freedom of Religion Acts promulgated in several states. These Acts are being used to harass and intimidate religious minorities, and in particular the Christian Community and their pastors, house churches and community gatherings.
Above all, the EFI calls upon the government to grant Scheduled Caste status to Dalit Christians as recommended by the Justice Rangnath Misra Commission, the National Commission of Minorities and the National Commission for Scheduled Castes. Not giving Dalit Christians this status amounts to discrimination on grounds of religion and denial of Freedom of religion to India’s Dalits.
Ending such discrimination and taking steps to pre-empt communal violence will go a long way in burnishing India’s image internationally as a secular democracy which is a haven for religious minorities, dreamt of by Nobel laureate Rabindra Nath Tagore, Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Baba Saheb Ambedkar.
– rev. dr. richard

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.

Sensational

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.

Speculation

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

Dalits demand reservation in promotions

May 22, 2012 by  
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New Delhi, May 22, 2012: They threatened to launch a massive protest if their demands are not met.

Dalit activists staged a demonstration here Monday in support of their demand for reservation for the community in promotions.

They threatened to launch a massive protest if their demands are not met.

The protest was organised by All India Confederation of Schedule Caste/Schedule Tribe Organisations at Jantar Mantar, Delhi’s Hyde Park.

A R Joshi, chief patron of the confederation, said they were sending a memorandum to President Pratibha Patil and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in this regard.

“If we do not get positive response from them, then we’ll intensify our struggle,” he said.

Acting chairman of the confederation and representative of the All India SC/ST Railway Employees Association, Ashok Kumar said they want reservation not only in promotions but elsewhere also where none exists.

The protesters also demanded that the reservation be provided in private sector, higher education and judiciary.

– outlookindia

Muslims need a Gujjar movement, not conferences and seminars

May 22, 2012 by  
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New Delhi, May 21, 2012: It seems conventions, conferences, symposium, seminar, debate and discussions have become a trademark of Muslim organizations. By passing long and high-voltage resolutions the leaders of these organizations think they have done their job well. This is happening since after the Independence. These resolutions have no impact on governments at all. The Milli leaders also know it well that no one will take their resolutions seriously and they are bound to fall on deaf ears.

Resolutions won’t solve problem
Jamiat Ulema-I-Hind organized its 31st General Session on 19th May 2012 at the sprawling Ramlila Maidan in New Delhi. It is said around 50 thousand people attended the conference. Speaking on terrorism and illegal detention of Muslim youths, Jamiat’s national president Maulana Qari Syed Mohammad Usman Mansoorpuri condemned terrorism of all forms and demanded the government to stop harassing Muslim youths in the name of investigation. Jamiat leader also demanded:1) Transparency in investigation be maintained rising above religion and caste; 2) A fast-track court be set up immediately, which should look at all cases of falsely accused at one designated place in a time-bound manner at daily basis; and 3)All Muslim youths found innocent must be adequately compensated, Character certificate, government job should be provided and the money be collected from the salary of official responsible for destruction of their life. Besides, Jamiat also demanded Muslim reservation, amendment in Article 341 of the Constitution, communal violence bill, end to injustice to Kashmiri people, citizenship rights in Assam etc.

No doubt the resolutions passed by the 31st General Session of Jamiat are the voice and the concern of the community but what impact it will make is also a known fact. Forget about conferences, symposiums and seminars, the last two months witnessed many protest marches and rallies against the illegal detentions of Muslim youths. To utter surprise when these marches and rallies were being held, Maharashtra police was scripting encounter of Muslim youths in Aurangabad and Karnataka police was planning to arrests more Muslim youths from Bihar.

Interestingly, while addressing the Jamiat conference the chief minister of Delhi called upon the massive gathering of Muslims to come forward to push for their demands and to take their rights.

Will Muslim leaders come out of their comforts?
But the Muslim community doesn’t know when these Ulama will come forward and fight for their rights. It has been observed that generally these Ulema and their organizations come forward to impress political parties when the Parliament is in session just to make sure a Rajya Sabha seat for their leader or settle their score by organizing a conference against the conference organized by the rival group. These Ulama who proclaim Nanotwi, practically they have shunned the way of struggling hard like their themselves to be inheritors of Maulana Mahmoodul Hasan and Qasim forefathers and have made themselves confined in conference grounds and seminar rooms. They rarely come out to protest on roads against the injustice. Can’t they learn a lesson from Jaats and Gujjars? Leaders of these castes braved scorching sun and heavy rain and police actions, they laid themselves on the railway tracks and ultimately they got success. How many of our Milli leaders are ready to come out of their comforts, AC rooms and AC cars?

In the past when the whole Urdu media was crying over the series of bomb blasts and speaking loudly and clearly that these could not be the acts of Muslim community and some others are involved in these acts of terror, the same Jamiat was organizing a series of conferences to teach the Muslim youths the lessons of tolerance and declaring that Islam is nothing to do with terror. For them brainwashed Muslims were behind those acts of terror. But when saffron brigades were found involved behind those terrorist attacks the same Jamiat Ulama is now organizing conferences to demand the government to stop illegal arrest of Muslim youths.

No doubt these organizations were assets in the past and had played a significant role for the community but now these assets seem to have become liabilities.

No doubt Jamiat’s (Arshad Madni Group) role in fighting some cases in which Muslim youths are implicated and illegally detained is a laudable act and is an example for other Milli organizations to follow.

Why no joint strategy even on consensus issues?
Other major issue is the lack of unity among Muslim organizations even though they have same views on specific issues. For example, Muslim reservation, communal violence bill or terror arrest of innocents – these are the three major issues today and fortunately all Muslim organizations have same view on them, but unfortunately they are not chalking out joint and united strategy for these issues.

Last month Milli Council organized a convention on the topic of “Muslim Youth Protection” in Delhi. Recently Jamaat-e-Islami Hind declared to launch a campaign against the illegal arrests of Muslim youths. And now two days ago, Jamiat Ulema raised the same issue at its Ramlila Maidan conference. But the fact is that no government will heed to their demand and take these organizations seriously unless they get united on common issues and come out from seminar and symposium rooms and take their demands to the street.

Act before it gets too late
They will have to act before it gets too late. In fact conspirators are out to create a war-like situation in our country. They want to create frustration among Muslim youths. They want to provoke Muslims. They want to instigate Muslim youths. The time has come for the Muslim leaders to come forward and control the situation from getting worse.

– tcn

26 from Maulana Mujaddidi’s Institute clear IAS *WB Budget: Rs 570 Cr for minorities

March 28, 2012 by  
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Maulana Mohammed Fazlur Rahim Mujaddidi

Madhya Pradesh, March 24, 2012: Twenty-six students of the Jaipur-based Crescent Academy have successfully cleared the Mains Exam of the IAS Examination, 2011, the results of which were declared on 1st March 2012.

These aspirants who have passed the examination are now a step away from their cherished goal of becoming topmost bureaucrats of the country if they are lucky enough to overcome the hurdle of the final stage of Interview. The personality test/interview has started from 19th March 2012.

Till date the Crescent Academy, in spite of limited infrastructure and resources, has been able to produce more than 62 IAS, IPS, IFS, IRS, Judges and State Civil Servants throughout the country. Out of this 41 were selected in the IAS cadre while 21 in the State Civil Services Examination.

In the IAS cadre in the year 2010 ten candidates were selected from the Crescent Academy of which one was a Muslim. In 2009 nine were selected of which three were Muslims. In 2008 nine Muslims out of ten were selected to be IAS officers. In 2007, 2006 and 2005 six (four Muslims), three (two Muslims) & three (two Muslims) were selected.

Meanwhile, in the State Civil Services Examination out of 21 selected candidates so there have been 15 Muslims.

It may be mentioned here that Crescent Academy is run by an educational welfare trust registered under the Society Registration Act of 1860. Crescent Academy is a division of M. A. R. Educational Trust, established with a vision of providing proper guidance and training to the Civil Services aspirants with special emphasis on creating a sound academic environment. It was started, over a decade ago, by Maulana Mohammed Fazlur Rahim Mujaddidi, a great spiritual personality, academician and social activist of north India.

According to Maulana Mujaddidi, who is also a member of the Consultative Group for Empowerment of Minorities, Planning Commission of India, the new aspirants who want to appear in the examination of the elite services can visit the Crescent Academy’s website www.cacademy.org for details.

It may be pointed out here that Prof. Ziaul Hasan, retired Principle of Aligarh Muslim University Polytechnic, Aligarh and Mr. Mohammad Iqbal Khan, Director of Crescent Academy, Delhi, are the pathfinders of establishing, guiding and training the aspirants of various competitive examinations countrywide. They have lent their long academic and administrative experience of producing various Civil and Judicial servants for the services of the nation, And, it is a matter of pride that the Academy has succeeded in achieving its objective in such a short span of time.

– tcn

West Bengal budget: Rs 570 Cr for minority welfare

 

West Bengal, March 24, 2012: “Before presenting the full budget of this new Government, I would like to express my appreciation, gratitude and salaam to all the Ma-Mati-Manush of West Bengal. With the blessings, best wishes and dua of the people of Bengal, I am about to present this full budget.” This opening line of West Bengal Finance Minister Dr. Amit Mitra while presenting the first full budget of Mamata Banerjee government on Friday had words to please Muslims, but what the community got at the end of the budget speech was far below the expectations.

Dr. Mitra on 23rd March presented the Rs 3,28,468 crore Budget for West Bengal for the financial year of 2012-13. The budget has a total Plan outlay of Rs 23,371.44 crore while the estimated total deficit has been put at Rs 9 crore.

In this 3 lakh-plus crore budget the Department of Minority Affairs and Madrasah Education, the nodal department of the state government for minority welfare schemes, will get Rs 570 crore. Though it is a 70% increase in the funds allocated to the department in the 2011-12 budget — last year the department had got Rs 330 crore – the amount of Rs 570 crore is not even 1% of the total budget amount. The Muslims constitute about 25% of the state population.

“The social and economic development of the weaker sections of society, the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes, Minorities and Women occupy the centre-stage in the proposed plan outlay of 2012-13,” said Dr. Mitra in his budget speech but did not make any announcement for actual schemes and plans for minorities.

The government has not announced any new scheme or fund for the community. Beyond the Rs 570 crore for minority department no other fund has been announced for any other scheme for minority. The minority community was hoping separate allocation for Alia University and share in the housing projects, but they have got disappointment.

Regarding Alia University, Dr. Mitra said the government has created a large number of teaching and nonteaching posts for Madrasahs and Aliah University. “During 2012-13, this Government proposes to provide sufficient funds for early construction of Aliah University campus and Haj Tower-Complex at Rajarhat,” said Dr. Mitra but did not announce any fund.

The Mamata government has also proposed to start an Employment Bank with skill development programme under the Aliah University to impart vocational skills to the minority youth for facilitating their placement in public and private sectors. Dr. Mitra also announced to enhance pre-matric and postmatric scholarships so that around 10 lakh students studying in different schools and madrasahs are brought under the scheme.

While Muslims were demanding share in housing projects underway in large number in the state, Dr. Mitra said construction of houses for poor persons belonging to minority community under the Indira Awas Yojana (IAY) and Geetanjali Scheme have been undertaken.

In his speech, Dr. Mitra mentioned Sachar Report. “The neglect of the minority community of the State has best been described in the Sachar Committee Report. Therefore there is nothing new to add to it,” he said.

– tcn

Corruption and its impact on Dalits: An Indian panorama

January 26, 2012 by  
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Corruption and its Impact on dalitKerala, January 24, 2012: “A Society without Justice generates Corruption” says Bishop Thomas K. Oommen: “The Ocean of corruption that has engulfed human beings and especially the Indian society is the result of the absence of the value of justice in the society. Dalits are the ones who are affected severely by this phenomenon of blatant corruption in India. Only prophetic voices and effective programmers can change this scenario”, so said Rt. Rev. Thomas K. Oommen, the Bishop in CSI Madhya Kerala Diocese. He raised these important points while he was inaugurating the two- day long seminar on “Corruption and its Impact on Dalits: An Indian Panorama” held at the CSI Retreat Centre, Kottayam on 20th and 21st of January 2012. This Seminar was organised by the Commission on Dalits in NCCI in partnership with the Dalit Desk of the CSI Madhya Kerala Diocese. Kerala Council of Churches also extended its association with this seminar.

Rev. Dr. P. B. M. Basaiawmoit, the Vice President of the NCCI, who chaired the inaugural function, pointed out the fact that the discussion about corruption has been narrowed down to monetary corruption and thus fails to address the multifaceted issues related with it. He said that this seminar will aim at making the voices of the marginalised heard within the national discussion about corruption in India.

Advocate Suresh Koshy, the Treasurer of the NCCI, suggested that it is high time that certain strong steps are taken to combat corruption which ultimately adversely affects the Dalits in India. Prof. George Jacob, the Lay Secretary of CSI Madhya Kerala Diocese, looked forward to a stronger partnership of the diocese with the NCCI in this matter. Prof. Philip N. Thomas, the Secretary of the Kerala Council of Churches, highlighted the KCC’s engagement in the Chengara land struggle. He pointed out that unequal distribution of land is also a serious form of corruption. Earlier Rev. Sunil Raj Philip, the Executive Secretary of the Commission on Dalits, welcomed the gathering and drew attention to the concerns of the Seminar.

Mr. Madhu Chandra, an activist based in Delhi, presented a paper on “Corruption: An Inclusive Perspective”. In this presentation he raised questions like “Is monetary corruption the only challenge in India which Team Anna is concerned about? What about socio-religious corruption in relation to  caste? What about ensuring affirmative action for marginalised people in corporate establishments? What about the failure of the state to fight communalism against minorities, marginalised people, and the rise of fascism?”

Dr. Meera Velayudhan, a Policy Analyst with Centre for Environment & Social Concerns (CESC), Ahmedabad, presented her paper on “Ending Corruption: Thoughts on Way Forward”. She suggested that any discussion on evolving effective responses to addressing corruption needs to consider the complex set of issues: Dalits as the ones who are at the receiving end of the adverse effects of corruption; gender discrimination as corruption; and caste itself as corruption. It may involve wider and varied levels of debate but can only strengthen the initiative that this seminar has already set in motion.

Rev. Dr. P. B. M. Basaiawmoit suggested, in his presentation titled “The Church and Corruption: its Impact on Dalits and other Marginalised People”, that corruption poses a serious developmental challenge. The biblical prophets encourage us to be suspicious of concentration of wealth and power. Churches should have serious introspection whether they are becoming this kind of arena of concentration of wealth, which ultimately makes the marginalised people more marginalised and vulnerable.

Dr. Simon John, the Vice-President of the KCC, presented a paper on “Corruption and Dehumanisation of Dalits as a Cultural Malady”. He highlighted the fact that the struggle against corruption should go on. The ways in which corruption adversely affects the Dalits should be opposed to prevent the dehumanising cultural hegemony of the corrupt upper caste people.

After each presentation, there was ample time allotted for discussion. On the second day, after the presentations were over, delegates were divided into three groups for further discussions. In the plenary session, group leaders presented their findings, which were added to the communiqué. Very relevant findings, such as the anti-Dalit Christian reservation moves are ‘constitutional corruption’, and the translations of the Bible into various vernacular languages in India knowingly or unknowingly support the caste system in India, came up from the group discussions.

In the afternoon of the final day, the Kerala Council of Churches honoured the delegates of the seminar, who came down to Kottayam from various states of India, by giving mementoes. The draft committee presented the communiqué. In the vote of thanks Rev. Sunil Raj Philip assured the participants that the Commission on Dalits in the National Council of Churches in India will publish the papers and the communiqué for wider awareness of, and commitment to the cause of the Dalits.

– rev. sunil raj philip

Dalit Visions of the Church

January 9, 2012 by  
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DeenabandhuIndia, January 08, 2012: Metropolitan Dr Geevarghese Mor Coorilos, Bishop of the Malankara Jacobite Orthodox Church in India rightly pointed out that “Churches that practice or remain silent on caste discrimination cannot ascribe themselves the status of holiness”, in the four days long International Seminar on “Dalit Visions of the Church” held at SCEPTRE Centre, Kolkata during December 13 to 17, 2011. The Seminar was organised by the Just and Inclusive Communities programme unit of WCC, NCCI Commission on Dalits, SCEPTRE and Bishop’s College, Kolkata.  “Communities of the discriminated excluded and silenced are the ones who formed the first Jesus community,” affirmed Rev. Dr Deenabandhu Manchala, WCC Programme Executive for Just and Inclusive Communities. “Their identities and experiences must continue to guide churches so that their preferences and actions remain authentic and credible.”
There was an interface of Indigenous Peoples’ Perspectives with Dalit Visions of the Church.  Dr. Wati Longchar, a prominent Asian indigenous theologian and a facilitator at the meeting highlighted the importance of dialogue in indigenous theology. He pointed out that “with both its own varied and variant expressions, and the whole variety of global and theological issues, indigenous peoples’ reflections are of particular significance”.
Rev. Philip Vinod Peacock, Dalit theologian and a facilitator of the consultation, called for the theological necessity of “dismantling dominant perspectives of ecclesiology”. He called attention to the fact that “such (dominant) perspectives need to be replaced with subaltern agency, as the church in India has historically been an emancipatory space for Dalit liberation.”
Theologians who participated in the consultation stressed the need to think of mission as transformative tool for the cultures of discrimination and exclusion. The seminar was attended by theologians from Myanmar, Taiwan, Norway, USA and India.

The sessions exclusively arranged for the discussion of “Dalit visions of India” was begun with the paper presented by Rev. Dr. Deenabandhu Manchala. He suggested that the Dalits should shrug off the fear about the power of casteism.
Mr. Bezwada Wilson presented a paper on the struggles of the manual scavengers in India, who are predominantly Dalits. The narration was  autobiographic in character and hence touched the audience.  Mrs. Asha Kowtal in her presentation highlighted the responsibility of the church in ‘handholding’ the Dalits and the necessity of reducing the gap between the church’s activities and the efforts of NGOs regarding the upliftment of the Dalits. Rev. Dr. Evangeline Rajkumar criticised the failure of the church even to perceive and understand the victimisation of people. Church should be ready to understand the language of the victimised. Rev Dr Daniel Premkumar spoke about the Diakonia ministry from the Dalit perspective. Ms. Angel Merlin and Rev Dr Prabhakar also presented papers.

The second and third days were kept apart for Group discussions. The three groups were assigned to discuss different aspects of the Dalit Visions of the church. The coordination of this group work was done by Rev. Philip Vinod Peacock.
There was a joint concluding session in which Metropolitan Dr Geevarghese Mor Coorilos delivered the main talk. A joint Communiqué, articulated by the Dalit and Indigenous theologians was presented in the concluding meeting.
The organisers are working on the ideas and papers presented in the seminar, which will eventually come out as a publication.

– rev. sunil raj philip

MPs from across the Political Parties supported the demand of Dalit Christians & Dalit Muslims

December 5, 2011 by  
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Joint Action CommiNew Delhi, December 3, 2011: The Joint Action Committee for securing equal rights to Muslims and Christians of Scheduled caste origin conducted a dialogue between members of Parliament and the leaders of Christian and Muslim Communities on 30th November 2011 at the CNI Bhavan at 6.30pm. The Joint Action Committee consisted of representatives of the National Council of Churches in India (NCCI), the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, the National Council of Dalit Christians and Muslim organizations for Social Justice.

The leaders of the Muslim and Christian Communities expressed their deep anguish over the delay in justice to Christian and Muslim Dalit brothers and sisters who have been in struggle for the past 60 years. They have been urging the Government of India to delete the discriminatory paragraph 3 of the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order 1950 that precludes Dalits of the Christian and Muslim communities from availing the benefits of affirmative action. To push for this demand, they have organized various protest marches, hunger strikes, rallies and have written memorandums and met Ministers and Government Executives. However, the Government has not fulfilled its promise. Justice delayed is indeed justice denied.

The meeting of the Joint Action Committee also brought to the notice of the Parliamentarians the government’s non-cooperation on the Civil Writ Petition 180/2004 in the Supreme Court and told them that government is yet to give its reply to this writ to the Supreme Court.

The members of Parliament expressed their support and solidarity with the Joint Action Committees requests. They reaffirmed that this is a just demand of the minority communities. It is discrimination based on religion and is not acceptable. They promised to support this cause inside the Parliament and outside the Parliament.  They also suggested that the minorities should stay together in their demands for the rights of Dalits of their communities.

The following members of the Parliament attended the meeting with the Christian and Muslim leaders.: Shri. P.R. Natarajan, Communist Party of India (Marxist); Shri. Harsh Kumar, Prof. P.J. Kurien, Shri. Husain Dalwai, Shri. J. D. Seelam, Shri. C.L.Ruala, Shri. Dr. Charles Dias and Shri. Francisco Sardinha of the Indian National Congress; Shri. Syed Azeez Pasha, Shri.D.Raja, Shri.P.Lingam from the Communist Party of India; Shri. Ali Anwar Ansari from Janta Dal United; Shri. Asaduddin Owaisi from the All India Majlis-e-lttehadul Muslimeen; Shri. Thol.Thirumaavalavan from Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi;  Shri. Abdul Rahman from Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam; and Shri. Mohammed Shafi from the Jammu Kashmir National Congress.

The following Christian and Muslim leaders participated in the dialogue along with members of their communities: Ms. Sushma Ramswami, Vice President NCCI, Rev. Dr. Roger Gaikwad, General Secretary NCCI; Mr. Alwan Masih, General Secretary, Church of North India Synod; Ms.Leila Passah, General Secretary, YWCA; Mr. John Varughese, General Secretary, YMCA; Dr. Daniel Ezhilarasu, General Secretary AIACHE;  Mr. Eric Christopher, Habitat for Humanity;  Fr. Cosmon Arikara, Secretary of SC/ ST Commission of CBCI, Fr. Charles, CBCI, Fr. Bosco, NCDC, Mr. Franklin Caesar Thomas, NCDC, Fr. Selvaraj, ISI; Mr. Abdul Rashid, All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushwarat, Mr. Aaris Mohammed, Centre for Social Justice, Mohammad Ahmad, Secretary Jamaat-E-Islami Hind, Shri. P.C.Hamza, General Secretary Welfare Party of India.

There was the view expressed that only a strong united political action will bring a solution to the issue.

(1) It was proposed that the Christian and Muslim leaders draft a fresh memorandum in the light of the discussions that were held, and to make a single focused demand that Para 3 of the 1950 Presidential Order be deleted, and that Scheduled Caste Status be delinked from religion. A copy of this memorandum should be sent to the concerned Parliamentarians.

(2)  At the same time the Parliamentarians who have attended the meeting on 30th November 2011 suggested that they would get together along with other like-minded Parliamentarians and decide on the appropriate political strategy to be undertaken in the Parliament.

(3)  The Christian and Muslim organizations would need to work together to protect their rights of the Communities.

(4) Mobilize Christians and Muslims to vote in the 2014 General Elections for the party that would support the rights of Dalit Muslims and Christians.

– samuel jayakumar