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

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

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

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