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.

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

How Cartoonist Aseem Trivedi Turned National Hero Overnight

September 20, 2012 by  
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Cartoonist Aseem Trivedi

Cartoonist Aseem Trivedi

“First they ignore you …
then they laugh at you …
then they fight you …
and then you win”.

Mumbai, September 13, 2012: This quote of Mahatma Gandhi is the favourite quotation of Aseem Trivedi, 25, the cartoonist who has become a celebrity hero overnight following his recent arrest, if one goes through his profile on Facebook. This quote can be certainly attributed to him, as Trivedi has won hands down and must be having the last laugh having become a national hero, courtesy overreaction by the government sending him to jail on charges of sedition for uploading derogatory cartoons on his web portal.

Naturally, one is tempted to ask why the government acted so imprudently making a hero out of someone like Trivedi especially at a time when the issue of freedom of speech and reasonable restriction is going on in the Supreme Court. The votaries of freedom of free speech and expression have charged the government of resorting to witch-hunt to browbeat crusaders of corruption and sought his unconditional release. Needless to say Trivedi has walked out of Arthur Road Jail of Mumbai to a hero’s welcome, his head held high. Apparently, the government developed cold feet – following public outcry, condemnation by media & other political parties and by the strong stand taken by Trivedi himself – and released him.

Trivedi, an activist of India against Corruption (IAC) who was picked up by Mumbai Police last Saturday following a non-bailable warrant against him for sedition, was freed from jail on 12th September, but not before raising many unpalatable questions, including a debate on the call for repeal of IPC 124A relating to sedition and the motive of the government.

Mumbai police had arrested Trivedi last weekend after a city lawyer, who is said to be a member of Republic Party of India (also a law student), had filed a complaint in December 2011 and charged him with sedition for insulting national emblems and the constitution during the anti-corruption movement led by Anna Hazare. The complainant had made a specific mention about Trivedi’s cartoon depicting the national emblem with three wolves instead of lions and the words Bhrashtameva Jayate (corruption only triumphs) in place of Satyameva Jayate. One of his cartoons shows parliament building as a lavatory buzzing with flies.

Since a complaint was filed, the government could have filed a charge sheet and left the matter for the court to decide, instead of arresting and jailing him – a move which has severely backfired on the government. Though the constitution ensures freedom of speech and expression it has certainly laid down that every citizen must respect the national symbols. In the case of Trivedi it should have been left to the court to decide whether he insulted national symbols or not.

Following Trivedi’s arrest there is every reason to believe that the scandal-hit government was trying to muzzle the voices of anti-corruption activists involved in the crusade against corruption spearheaded by Anna Hazare. It also shows that the government has become intolerant towards criticism, which is an essential part of parliamentary democracy. It may be recalled here that Trivedi was closely involved with Anna Hazare’s crusade against corruption wherein many of his cartoons were displayed during the protests.

To make matters worse for the government Aseem Trivedi turned out to be a tough nut to crack. If the television images of a tousle-haired, bearded and slogan shouting Trivedi were an epitome of courage and conviction even as he was bundled into the patrol car, his intransigent and no-nonsense attitude to refuse the services of a lawyer and not to seek bail endeared him to those who thought him as a new youth icon who made the government bend backwards. In fact Aseem Trivedi was granted bail following a PIL filed by a lawyer and he agreed to come out of the jail only after Maharashtra Home Minister R.R. Patil assured him that sedition charges against him would be reviewed.

Aseem Trivedi’s arrest and subsequent release raises many questions especially with regard to the political intolerance exhibited by our politicians whose scandals speak louder than their actions both inside and outside the parliament. Trivedi is the new face of our fight against corruption and he has shown that government intolerance has no place in our democracy. He has also shown that the government’s efforts to smother dissenting voices will not be taken lying down.

Though the issue of offensive cartoons that rocked the parliament a few months ago, forcing the NCERT to purge them can be viewed as a victory of intolerance, Trivedi’s gumption that forced the government to release him from jail can be seen as a victory for all those who value freedom of speech and expression as a fundamental right.

Though Trivedi was intensely involved in Anna Hazar’s crusade against corruption where cartoons were used during protests under the series “cartoons against corruption”, he remained a non-entity till now. Ironically it was his recent arrest that has catapulted him to national fame, signifying his involvement in the crusade against corruption.

Today, thanks to the government’s desperate bid to smother public opinion by way of arresting him, Trivedi, a not-so-known cartoonist has become a youth celebrity, a national hero, a symbol of free speech and a rallying point for all those who are leading a crusade against corruption. Just as his favourite quote says, Trivedi has won!

– daijiworld

Anti-nuke protesters suspend agitation to clean vandalized church

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Protesters in water near Koodankulam nuclear power plant

Protesters in water near Koodankulam nuclear power plant

Tamil Nadu, September 17, 2012: The anti-nuke protesters brought water from the sea and cleaned the church in Idinthakarai village in Tamil Nadu that was desecrated by the police.

The protesters suspended their agitation against the Koodankulam nuclear power plant for a day on Saturday.

They had launched a water protest by jumping into the sea, just 500 metres away from the nuclear facility, and forming a human chain to protest fueling of uranium in one of the reactors of the plant.

The protesters claimed that the police entered the St. Lourdes Church in the village and desecrated the church and the statue of Mother Mary.

After the cleaning was completed, special adoration was conducted in the church,

The protesters refused to accept the body of A. Sahayaraj, who died Friday after sustaining head injury during the ‘jal satyagraha’ (non-violent water protest).

Even as the police filed a case of suspicious death, the protesters alleged that the victim, scared by an Indian Coast Guard aircraft flying at low-level, fell on a granite boulder and died.

They demanded registration of a murder case against the pilot.

“We’ll not accept the body till a murder case is registered against the pilot,” they said.

– thehindu

Radical Hindu leader: vote for us, and we will give you back the Ayodhya temple

September 19, 2012 by  
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Ashok Singhal, historical leader of the extremist group Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP)

Ashok Singhal, historical leader of the extremist group Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP)

Mumbai, September 15, 2012: Ashok Singhal, historical leader of the extremist group Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), is trying to garner he nationalism of the Indians ahead of the general election in 2014. President of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC): “An attempt to build hysteria, but the majority of Hindus do not believe them.”

Vote for a Hindu Nationalist government in the elections of 2014, and they will we rebuild Ayodhya. There are still two years to the elections for the new prime minister of India, but for the radical Hindu Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) the campaign has already (or almost) begun. The recent public statements of Ashok Singhal, longtime leader of the VHP show as much.  He said: “Only a central government that is pro-Hindutva [ideology that theorizes the creation of a country inspired in all respects on the principles of Hinduism, ed] can pave the way for the construction of a temple in Ayodhya”.

Ayodhya in 1992 was the scene of one of the bloodiest attacks against the Muslim community of India. On 6 December of that year, about 150 thousand militants of the Hindu nationalist Sangh Parivar razed the ancient Babri Masjid mosque. The destruction of the place of worship was the culmination of a long campaign backed by Hindu radicals, which claimed ancient ownership to the land on which the Babri Masjid stood. The assault resulted in violent riots, which killed more than 2 thousand people, mostly Muslims. On 30 September 2010, the High Court of Allabad ruled that the area was to be divided into three parts among Hindus and Muslims litigants in an attempt to mitigate the long standing tensions surrounding the area.

– asianews

Cardinal Gracias: The desecration of Our Lady of Lourdes, a vulgar and shameful act

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Desecration of the church of Our Lady of Lourdes, Idinthakarai, Tamil Nadu

Desecration of the church of Our Lady of Lourdes, Idinthakarai, Tamil Nadu

Mumbai, September 12, 2012: The president of the Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) condemns the acts of vandalism committed by police in Idinthakarai which exploded after (peaceful) antinuclear protests in Kudankulam. Police agents destroyed two statues of the Madonna and have urinated on them.

The desecration of a church is a “vulgar, thoughtless and shameful” act “even more unacceptable” when carried out by law enforcement officers, says Card. Oswald Gracias, President of the Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI).  The cardinal condemns the acts of vandalism committed by police officers in the church of Our Lady of Lourdes in the village of Idinthakarai (Tamil Nadu), in violence that erupted during the protests against the Kudankulam nuclear power plant.

Two days ago, a new peaceful demonstration to stop the construction of the plant turned into a nightmare for the local community. Police opened fire on the crowds to disperse them, killing a fisherman. A 6 year old girl lost her life, crushed by the fleeing crowd. Then, some agents raided Our Lady of Lourdes Church destroying two statues of the Virgin Mary, and urinating on them (see 11/09/2012, ” Police violence against antinuclear protesters: two dead and a church profaned “).

“The police – says Card. Gracias – has the duty to protect churches and places of worship, because all must be respected. Nothing can justify such an atrocious act.  It is a mark on the secular credentials of India, which challenge our national conscience. ”

The local community – mostly Catholic and devoted to fishing – have been opposed to the construction of Kudankulam plant for several years. According to the people, it is not safe, and will have an impact on the environment dangerous for the lives and livelihoods of the inhabitants. For the authorities of Tamil Nadu, however, the system is safe and is the best way to make up for the energy shortage in the area. In addition, according to the government “hidden” foreign and Catholic NGOs are behind the protests, funding anti-nuclear activists. For this reason, last February the state froze the bank accounts of four NGOs, including the two headed by Msgr. Yvon Ambroise, Bishop of Tuticurin (epicenter of the protest, ed.)

The President of the CBCI points out: “The Catholic Church has always expressed solidarity with our brothers and sisters in need all over India. We reaffirm our commitment to ensure economic and social justice for our fellow citizens.” According to the cardinal, “true development safeguards the dignity of the human being. It is our duty to accept responsibility for each other, and the growth of India as a whole. At the same time, we must create conditions of justice and peace in which individuals and communities can truly flourish”.

– asianews

Priest granted bail in beating case

September 17, 2012 by  
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West Bengal, September 15, 2012: The Salesian priest in West Bengal, who was arrested for beating and injuring students, has been granted bail.

Fr. Subir Mandal, former vice principal of Don Bosco School, Bandel, was released from the Hooghly prison after his court hearing Sept. 13.

School principal C.V. Matthew said the priest was no longer in his community since the Salesian Provincial Father Thomas Ellicherail removed him from his services after the incident.

The next hearing in the case is scheduled for Sept. 20.

The priest was arrested on Sept. 5 after a student’s parents lodged a complaint against him for voluntarily causing grievous hurt using dangerous weapons or means, wrongful confinement and criminal intimidation.

The incident happened when grade 4 students while decorating the room for teacher’s day turned disorderly and started spraying foam from cans.

The accused priest confiscated the foam cans and allegedly hit two of the students with a can.

The students were seriously injured and required 2 stitches each on their heads.

The priest had, however, after his arrest expressed repressed regret over the incident.

All schools in the state have banned all forms of corporal punishment of students after a high court order 2 years ago.

– ucan

‘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

‘Over 95 lakh Muslim students benefited through scholarships’. The CSF urges Christians to take benefit.

September 12, 2012 by  
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Sholarships

Sholarships

New Delhi, August 23, 2012: The CSF calls upon Christian educational institutions and students to take benefit of these scholarships by referring to the website http://momascholarship.gov.in/ or contact us in case of any difficulty.

New Delhi : More than 95 lakh Muslim children benefitted under the government’s pre-matric scholarship scheme till the end of March this year, the government said.
Minister of State for Minority Affairs Vincent H. Pala gave the information in the Lok Sabha in response to a question. The minister said, “More than 95 lakh Muslim children benefitted under the pre-matric scholarship scheme from inception of the scheme in 2008-09 till the end of the 11th Five Year Plan, i.e 31-03-2012”.

The allocation has been increased by 50 percent during the current year – “from Rs.600 crore in 2011-12 to Rs.900 crore in 2012-13 in order to cover more minority students under the scheme”. In response to another question, the minister said that there was no proposal to increase the number of scholarship schemes for students of minority communities.

He said the working group on the 12th Five Year Plan constituted by the Planning Commission has recommended to make the scholarship schemes “demand driven in order to cover all eligible minority students”. Students can apply online through the Online Scholarship Management System for merit-cum means based scholarship scheme.

– tcn

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