Budget: After UP debacle – No mood to woo Muslims *500 persons trained to work in overcrowded prisons

March 17, 2012 by  
Filed under Karnataka, National, newsletter-india, Uttar Pradesh

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Pranab MukherjeeNew Delhi, March 16, 2012: After the recent debacle in the UP elections, mainly because Muslim community, which constitute almost 18% of the state, didn’t vote for the Congress party which was almost maddeningly wooing the minority community before the elections, the Rahul Gandhi’s party didn’t appear in the mood to woo minorities (read Muslims) any longer, especially when it comes to taking concrete policy decisions for minorities in the Union Budget.

So the Ministry of Minority Affairs (MMA) had to be satisfied with just two new token schemes with meager allocation and a slight increase of 14% in the total budget of the ministry.

The MMA got Rs. 3,135 crore as its share in the Union General Budget 2012-13 presented by the union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee today. This is an increase of Rs. 385 crore over the budget for 2011-12, which stands at Rs. 2,750 crore.

Pranab Mukherjee allocated just Rs. 4.50 crore for a new scheme to provide free cycles to girl students of class IX with the objective of retention of minority girl students from class IX onwards.

Another new scheme: Skill Development Initiatives has been provided meager Rs. 18 crore in the Budget to allow urban and rural livelihoods to improve for inclusive growth by providing skill to the Minority communities who do not posses any, to allow them to gain employment.

It’s important to note here that a vast number of communities belonging to minorities specially Muslims are engaged in occupations embroidery, tailor, zari work, bangle, leather work, which come under the category of skill development programmes, for which only 18 crore has been allocated.

The Budget 2012-13 increases significantly the outlay for educational scholarship schemes being implemented by the Ministry for the students belonging to minorities.

The money for Pre-Matric Scholarship has been increased from Rs. 540 crore to Rs. 810 crore; Post-Matric scholarship gets Rs. 450 crore – up from Rs. 405 crore; Merit-cum-means scholarship scheme gets Rs. 198 crore – as against Rs. 126 crore during 2011-12.

Provision for Maulana Azad National Fellowship for Minority students has been enhanced from Rs. 47 crore to Rs. 63 crore.

Rs. 45 crore each have been provided for i) Scheme for promotion of education in 100 Minority Concentration towns/cities; and ii) Village Development Programme for 1,000 villages not covered under Minority Concentration Blocks/ Minority Concentration Districts.

– tcn

500 trained to work in India’s overcrowded prisons

 

Prison MinistryKarnataka, March 16, 2012: Prison Ministry India, a national voluntary organisation for priests, nuns and lay people, is behind the initiative. Recognised by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, the ministry works to rehabilitate inmates and ex-convicts. India’s 1,393 prisons are overcrowded with an occupancy rate of 115.1 per cent. More than half of all inmates are awaiting trial.

Prison Ministry India, a national voluntary organisation recognised by the National Commission for Justice and Peace of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), is training 500 priests, nuns and lay people to be fulltime volunteers in the country’s prisons. Training will begin in May in Bangalore, Karnataka.

Set up in 1986 by a group of students for the purpose of helping inmates on their way to rehabilitation, the Prison Ministry now has 850 branches and 30 rehabilitation centres around the country for ex-convicts and children at risk. More than 6,000 volunteers work with 370,000 prisoners.

In 2011, it conducted 197 awareness programmes in parishes, colleges, schools and other institutions. “We have invited priests, nuns, brothers and lay people who can devote themselves fulltime to the prison ministry,” PMI national coordinator Fr Sebastian Vakumpadan told AsiaNews. “We give them a month-long intensive training in Bangalore and Kerala. Then we send them two at a time to the various states of India according to their language and choice,” where “they will be guided by a PMI coordinator for the following year.”

“There is a lot to do,” Fr Sebastian explained. “We must change the atmosphere in prisons and turn them into reformative structures to change people’s attitude and improve the reintegration of ex-inmates in society.” India had 1,393 prison facilities according to the 2010 report by the National Crime Record Bureau of India. Overcrowding is a major problem.

Existing prisons can hold up to 320,450 but they currently house 368,998 (115.1 per cent occupancy rate), with 240,098 (65.1 per cent) awaiting trial and 125,789 (34.1 per cent) already convicted. Men represent 95.9 per cent of the inmate population; women, 4.1 per cent.

The state of Uttar Pradesh has the highest number of prisoners (82,673), followed by Madhya Pradesh (31,318) and Bihar (29,700). Prisons in Chhattisgarh are the most overcrowded (237 per cent), followed by the Andaman and Nicobar Islands (227.7 per cent).

– asianews

Church asks new govt to protect Goa *National Consultation on Grass-Root Ecumenism

March 10, 2012 by  
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Manohar Parrikar, New Goa CMGoa, March 10, 2012: The Catholic Church in Goa has urged the state’s new government to protect environment, ban illegal mining and empower local civic bodies.

The government should make several steps to protect forest, paddy fields, mangroves, beaches and villages that are “part of an invaluable and truly irreplaceable heritage” of Goa, the Goa archdiocese’s Council for Social Justice and Peace (CSJP) said soon after Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar took the oath.

In the recent elections, Parrikar’s Bharatiya Janata Party won 24 seats in the 40-member state legislative assembly along with its ally, the Maharashtra Gomantak Party.

In a statement enumerating the Church’s expectations from the government, CSJP executive secretary Fr. Maverick Fernandes says firm steps are necessary for a small state such as Goa where fragile and limited land faces “inappropriate and indiscriminate developmental pressure.”

The council called for a five-year moratorium on sale and conversions of land to help review its carrying capacity and implement necessary development controls.

It also wants the government to ban on illegal mining and appoint an independent commission to review existing mining activity in the state.

The Church wants the government to empower local self-governing institutions in a time-bound manner. It urged the government to enact laws, policies, and programs to address corruption, alienation of traditional communities, right to ownership of resources, depleting natural resources, loss of people’s rights and identity, discrimination against minorities.

The Church council also urged that the government to reformulate the state’s Regional Plan 2021 with people’s participation and protect the Goan people’s traditional livelihoods and preserve their culture and environment.

Another demand is to set up of human rights and minority rights commissions for the state.

– timesofindia

National Consultation on Grass-Root Ecumenism

 

ecumenismTamil Nadu, March 09, 2012: Jointly organized by the National Council of Churches in India & Tamil Nadu Theological Seminary, Madurai

The Church as the ‘Body of Christ’, is called upon to accomplish the vision of Jesus Christ, expressed in his High Priestly prayer, “that they all may be one” (John 17:21). This refers to the journey towards “one flock and one shepherd” and also includes the integration of the whole creation. The efforts of ecumeism as church union movements have borne phenomenal fruits since the beginning of the 20th century through the Missionary Movement, Faith & order Movement and the Life & Work Movement. In India it has brought together the conflicting communities and traditions under the banner of Christ’s love. Further, similar ecumenical efforts have resulted in various organic, federal and conciliar church unions at the global and local levels.

STATEMENT

The Church as the ‘Body of Christ’, is called upon to accomplish the vision of Jesus Christ, as expressed in his High Priestly prayer, “that they all may be one” (John 17: 21). This refers to the journey towards “one flock and one shepherd”  and also includes the integration of the whole creation.

The efforts of ecumenism as church union movements have borne phenomenal fruits since the beginning of the 20th century through the Missionary Movement, Faith & Order Movement and the Life & Work Movement. In India it has brought together the conflicting communities and traditions under the banner of Christ’s love. Further, similar ecumenical efforts have resulted in various organic, federal and conciliar church unions at the global and local levels.

However, these ecumenical endeavours at the macro level seem to have bypassed the efforts and significance of ecumenism at the micro level. It is in this context that the National council of Churches in India along with the Tamil Nadu Theological Seminary has organized a national consultation on the theme “Grass-Root Ecumenism in India Today” at the Rural Theological Institute, Madurai during 26th – 29th February 2012.

As participants of this consultation, representing different Church traditions and Organizations, we

1. Affirm
a. That the twin objectives of Ecumenism are (i) Ecumenism for the divided Church and (ii) Ecumenism for the whole of Creation, and that the efforts in India till date toward this have contributed positively toward ‘OIKUMENE’, not as homogenization but harmonization.
b. That the Grass-Root communities shall be basic stake-holders of Ecumenism in efforts toward Unity not only of Christians but of the whole of Humanity and Creation.

2. Recognize
a. That there exist ecclesial, liturgical and doctrinal differences among various Church traditions, which often divide us.
b. That the way to move forward in the Ecumenical pilgrimage is to actualize here and now, the Kingdom values of unity and peace, by witnessing Christ through our acts of justice and righteousness.
c. That the Grass-Root Ecumenism ought to participate in the struggles for the  rights of people, including the marginalized, the widows, the aged, the otherwise-abled, the transgender, the People Living with HIV & AIDS, the Women, the Youth and the Children, considering them as the subjects and not as the objects.
d. That the grass root ecumenism ought to take seriously Eco-justice and engage in the struggles for Eco-justice.
e. That there are immense sources and resources to foster ecumenism within various church traditions and manifested in the ways of life and celebrations of grass-root which should be captured and documented to be preserved as well as shared.

3. Confess
a. That the race for power, position and possession, divisions within the Church and our limited understanding of Ecumenism have often hindered the fostering of Ecumenism.
b. That we have often have joined hands with the socio-economic and religio-political structures and forces that systematically and systemically exploit and divide the grass-root communities like Dalits, Tribals/Adivasis and Fisher-folk. Further, in whatever efforts of Ecumenism that we were involved, we are  concerned more on what we would earn than what we could offer.

4. Call upon
a. The churches to transcend ecclesial, liturgical and doctrinal differences in order to engage meaningfully in the missio-dei.
b. The churches to move from the comfortable centers of power to the demanding and disturbed peripheries of human existence, to make ecumenism relevant. Further, the churches have to become channels of peace and abundant life, for which we need to practice ‘kenosis’ – self-emptying – and should have the courage to cross boundaries.
c. The Churches to engage in action oriented solidarity with people discriminated on the basis of Caste, Class, Region and Gender and for this to network with the civil societies and peoples’ movements.
d. The churches to condemn and not engage in any acts that promote religious fundamentalism, exclusivism and fanaticism, but rather to consider all as created in the image of God. Rather we need to foster the cultures of ‘listening’ ‘sharing’ and ‘agreeing to disagree’.
e. The churches to constantly build up a second line leadership who would uphold the spirit of ecumenism at the Grass-Root level.
f. The churches to initiate ‘Ecumenical Pilgrimages’ to other ‘denominations’ and traditions and also mutual exchange programmes including pulpit exchanges, in order to learn from each-other and worship together and value indigenous cultures
g. The churches to theologically equip the congregations and especially the children and youth, using various modes of communication, to respect and honour people belonging to sister traditions and faiths.

For the Statement Committee

Rt. Rev. Yakub Soreng                                                         Rev. Dr. G. D. V. Prasad
Convener, Statement Committee                                    Secretary, Statement Committee

Catholic vote gives BJP majority in Goa

March 8, 2012 by  
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goa_catholic_partiesGoa, March 8, 2012: Six Catholic candidates secure seats in Legislative Assembly elections.

The Bharatiya Janata Party, or Indian People’s Party, won a majority of seats in Goa state’s 40-member legistlative assembly for the first time, largely on the strength of Catholic voters, analysts have said.

BJP and its allies won 24 seats, while the ruling Congress Party took only nine. Five independents and two members of another regional party also secured seats.

BJP had contested 31 seats with six Catholic candidates, all of whom won. The house now has 14 Catholics.

Father Eremito Rebelo of Goa archdiocese said an exhortation by the Church for ethical voting in the election had an impact on the results.

“There is little doubt that the Church exhortations have helped the BJP victory,” he said.

He added that voters had rejected the BJP when it was in power five years ago, as its polices were perceived to run against Christian interests.

“This mandate is simply in favor of a non-communal BJP,” he said.

Fr Feroz Fernandes, who edits a Catholic weekly newspaper, said he hoped the BJP victory would ease tensions between Christians and the Hindu nationalist party.

However, social activist Soter D’Souza said the “unprecedented” Catholic support “is probably the result of their political immaturity” and that he was skeptical that Catholics in Goa had really gauged “the long-term political and social implications of their decision.”

He added that Goan Catholics were insensitive to the suffering of Christians in BJP-ruled states in the country.

– ucan

CSF joins train to Velankanni campaign *Jamaat-e-Islami opposes legalizing same sex

March 6, 2012 by  
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VelankanniTamil Nadu, March 05, 2012: The CSF has taken up a request by P Edward Jeni, secretary of the Kanyakumari District Railway User’s Association (KKDRUA) for a train to Velankanni for catering to pilgrims from southern Kerala and Tamil Nadu and bugeting for the same in the forthcoming Railway budget March- 2012-13. Velankanni is aptly known as the ‘Lourdes of the East’, like Lourdes in France, millions of pilgrims visit the Shrine throughout the year, praying to Our Lady for various needs and thanking her for the favors received through her intercession. It is one of the well known pilgrim center well known by all Christians, situated in the southern part of India in the state of Tamilnadu. As of now pilgrims are finding it extremely difficult to travel by road to Velankanni. Many families belonging to various dioceses/ parishes/ pastorates go to Velankanni regularly.

The Church also contributed for the Velankanni railway project. The project has completed before a year but So far there is no proper train facility to reach pilgrim. The contribution shows the nil result for the railway project. The KKDRUA has therefore urged the following facility to be implement in forthcoming budget.

1. Velankanni to Kochuveli daily overnight express train service (Via. Thanjavur, Trichy, Karaikkudi, Virudhunagar , Tirunelveli, Nagercoil and Trivandrum)

2. Extending Karaikal – Ernakulam (16865/16866) Upto Kollam via. Kottayam

The only daily Malayalam Mass is reportedly at 9:00 a.m. and hence the above trains from Kerala, the KKDRUA has requested should reach the station at 8.00 a.m.

Jamaat-e-Islami opposes legalizing same sex relations

 

Maulana Syed Jalaluddin UmariNew Delhi, March 04, 2012: Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JIH) has opposed any move to legalize same-sex relations calling it shameful and unnatural development which will destroy the family system. Syed Jalaluddin Umari, President of JIH has called upon people to oppose it.

“Legalizing such unnatural things will destroy the family system and will result in the disintegration of society,” Maulana Umri said while addressing media today in the national capital.

Terming the genocide of Muslims in 2002 by the Narendra Modi led BJP government as a “naked dance of communalism and fascism” Umri said that the entire country is ashamed of Modi government’s role in the Post-Godhra carnage.

The Jamaat chief demanded that the process of rendering justice to the victims and punishing the perpetrators should be immediately carried out. He demanded from the Union government to pass the Anti-Communal Violence Bill as soon as possible in order to make the administrative machinery accountable.

– tcn

A permanent abode for 127 families affected by flood in Raichur District

February 28, 2012 by  
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A permanent abode for 127 families affected by flood in Raichur DistrictKarnataka, February 24, 2012: One hundred and twenty  seven newly built houses for the flood victims of Manvi and Sindanoor talukas of Raichur dist. were inaugurated in a joyous function, in the presence of huge gathering, the local MLA, and other leaders of the area, in Pannur. These houses  built by The Centre for Non Formal & Continuing Education, an NGO run by the Jesuits of Karnataka, in Manvi, Raichur Dist, for the needy people irrespective of caste creed and religion.  The Jesuits  have been working  in the remote corner of the district for the past 10  years  and have been instrumental  to start a CBSE school  and a P U college, for Dalits, where more than  1500 students from 65 villages are being educated.

The  opening ceremony of  the houses took place in the presence of Mr. Hampayya Nayak, MLA of  Manvi, Mr. Bosraj ex MLA and  Secretary of KPCC, Mr. Basavan  Bagvat, ex MLA and President  of CADA, Mr. Gangadar Nayak, ex MLA, Fr. Terence Farias SJ, Superior of Pannur Mission, Fr. Maxim the Parish Priest of Jagir Pannur,  Fr. Eric Mathias SJ, Director of CNF&CE and  other civic authorities.

Mr. Hampayya Nayak, MLA of  Manvi, speaking  on the occasion reiterated his appreciation of the Jesuit Fathers commitment to the cause of the poor and  have shown to these people where God is really found. He said that God is experienced when  a person  brings hope  to  the hopeless, providing the homeless with a home and those without clothing with clothes to put on and  those who are illiterate  with the gift  of knowledge through education  and those longing for love with loving care. He appreciated the commitment of Pannur Jesuits for setting aside their CBSE School for Dalits, the untouchables, Deavadasi children and  a preferential option for the village girls.

Families affected by flood in RaichurMr. Bosraj the ex MLA was all in praise for the quality of the  new houses built with great care and love. He appreciated the quality of whatever is done for the poor.   He assured the Jesuits his  full support  in our ventures for  the betterment of  village people.

Mr. Basavan  Bagvat, ex MLA and President  of CADA, expressed  his  satisfaction at the newly built houses for 127 families.  He promised whatever help is needed for  any  project for the development of the people.

There were  more than a thousand people gathered for the programme from various villages.  Fr. Terence Farias the Superior of Pannur Jesuits welcomed the gathering and thanked all guests for the support   assured by them. The well planned, and neatly built houses were appreciated by all. The cultural programme given by the children  of the village was much appreciated  by the whole gathering.

The Jesuit Mission of Pannur, Karnataka  includes, a Health Centre,  effectively  run by the  St. Joseph’s of Tarbes Sisters of  Mysore Province,  a school and a college, and extensive  social work in  about 75 villages. Considering the recent  deaths of several little children on account of malnutrition  in  Raichur Dist, a nutrition programme for the children of 50 villages is  being worked out.

By. Fr. Terence Farias SJ

– fwd: eric mathias

The Cat Among The Pigeons

February 21, 2012 by  
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Rev Bismarque Dias, Goa PriestGoa, February 19, 2012: The decision of Rev Bismarque Dias to stand for elections from the Cumbharjua constituency of the Goa Assembly, albeit as an Independent candidate, has set the cat among the pigeons, triggering a heated debate. Those against the priest’s decision have based their arguments on Canon Law, and those for him have referred to the rampant political corruption in Goa.

Since Dias’ decision has widespread ramifications I have done some research before putting pen to paper. I shall address the issue from various angles: – 1. Contextual 2. Canonical 3. Scriptural 4. Historical 5. Ecclesiological 6. Social 7. Psychological 8. Moral. I have relied on public opinion, contemporary realities, sacred scripture, Church teachings as found in Canon Law and Vatican Council documents, and two respected writers, Rev Josef Neuner SJ, the doyen of Indian theologians, and eminent scripture scholar Rev J.N.M. Wijngaards MHM. Specific reference is to Neuner’s “The Prophetic Role of the Laity” (PRL) and Wijngaards’ “Christ’s Idea of Authority” (CIA).

The Context: Dias, a social activist in Goa, has apparently leapt into electoral politics because of the rampant corruption prevalent there. Ironically, Goa has the second highest literacy rate in the country, and an influential number of Catholics. Unfortunately, the most corrupt politicians allegedly involved in murder, rape, drugs, smuggling and money laundering are Catholics! They have a 400-year legacy of Christianity. One is constrained to ask if the “illiterate and backward” voters of Bihar, who opted for Nitish Kumar, are more enlightened and morally upright than the sanctimonious (novenas and rosaries) Catholics of Goa?

If so, has the Rome of the East failed to be a guiding light and moral force in its own backyard? Who is responsible for this pathetic situation? Sri Alan Nazareth, former Indian ambassador, states that the “foundations of religious and ethical values have been poorly laid”.

Rev P.J. Jacob, was an MLA from Kalghatgi in Karnataka from 1983 to 85. Writing in Indian Currents (30th January) he admits that “priesthood is no less corrupt” and “priesthood in every religion is identified with power, pelf and privilege”. That being so, what did he achieve by becoming an MLA, and what does Dias now hope for? Is it not a case of the pot calling the kettle black? Would Jacob and Dias not have achieved more by stemming the rot within the priesthood itself?

Canon Law: Conservatives point to Canon Law that forbids Catholic priests from entering electoral or party politics. Liberals would say that the Sabbath is made for man, and not vice-versa. Rev M.K. George SJ goes so far as to allege that the church made the canonical prohibitions with its own vested interests in mind, and they should be dispensed with! On the other hand Rev Dominic Emmanuel SVD has quoted Canon 285:3 that bars clerics from seeking public office or civil power.

Canon Law has infact drawn a Laxman Rekha for clerics in various spheres. It debars clerics from involvement in whatever is “unbecoming or foreign to their state” eventhough they are “not unseemly” (C 285). Among the forbidden fruit are not just civil power and public office (C 285:3), but also the practice of trade and commerce (C286), active role in political parties and in directing trade unions (C 287:2), and volunteering for the Armed Forces (C 289:1). This is not because they are per se “unseemly”, but because they are “unbecoming” for a cleric. Do these provisions sound unreasonable, vested or arbitrary?

There are laws for everything, including for married people and the laity. If clerics are going to flout Canon Law then what stops the laity from taking over the common assets of the church? We are opening up a Pandora’s Box. Laws may either curtail or confer a right. Speaking of the laity and lay organisations Canon Law avers that “they have the special obligation to permeate and perfect the temporal order of things” (C 225:2). The church exhorts us to “especially esteem those associations whose aim is to animate the temporal order” (C 327). However, even for the laity it is stated “Those who hold an office of direction in political parties are not to be moderators in public associations of the faithful” (C 317:4). Could this be termed discriminatory, restrictive and unjust, or mere jurisprudence? Nevertheless we cannot treat Canon Law in isolation, without also addressing the scriptural, historical and ecclesiological factors.

Sacred Scripture: The Word of God is a powerful, though not exhaustive, benchmark to test the waters. I believe that Jesus’ categorical statement to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s (cf Mat 23:21) is the foundation of secularism. In erstwhile Christendom this is seen as the separation of Church and State. Writing to the Romans St Paul also categorically states that even temporal authority is from God, and should be respected by the believers (cf Rom 13:1-4).

Rev Neuner elucidates that in the Old Testament the roles of Priest (who makes the rules), the King (who actually rules), and the Prophet (who interprets the rules in a given circumstance) are distinctly different. In a modern democratic society these same functions are assumed by the Legislature (law making), the Executive (rule of law), and the Judiciary (interpreting or adjudicating on a specific aspect of law). Separation and balance of powers without encroaching on the other’s domain, is critical for a healthy democracy.  What happened during the Emergency (1975-77), when Indira Gandhi assumed absolute power? Sure enough, it corrupted her absolutely. The same danger lurks when a priest (who being part of the hierarchy) actually lays down the rules, governs and adjudicates; and now seeks to add political power to it. It is an explosive mix. Neuner further states that Jesus “persistently refused to identify himself with any institution, be it political (the freedom fighters of Galilee) or religious (the Pharisees or the monks of Qumran)” (PRL Pg 24).

In like manner Wjngaards reminds us that Jesus’ authority was not that of the world (cf Mat 20:25-26, Lk 16:18). Jesus infact opposed worldly power (cf Jn 18:36, 6:15), and symbolically rode a lowly donkey (cf Mat 21:5). He states that “The instruments of secular authority are money, weapons and force. Jesus denies this to his disciples (cf Mat 10:9, 26:52). He abjures competition (cf Lk 18:14), party formation (cf Lk 6:32) and the struggle for rank (cf Mk 10:41)” (CIA Pg 4). Yet Rev Jacob would have us believe that “Jesus was a politician”! I would rather believe Jesus than Rev Jacob.

Lessons From History: Church history is replete with how the hierarchical church, and even the papacy, has often forgotten Jesus’ teachings, in their blind pursuit of power. Emperor Constantine, in the 4th Century, dealt the severest blow to Christianity when he made it the state religion of the Roman/ Byzantine Empire. Pristine Christianity did not purge the empire. The reverse happened. The Church absorbed all the trappings of temporal power, extant to this day, in the honorifics like Eminence, Lordship, and symbols like rings and a coat of arms.

Wijngaards says that during the Middle Ages, Christianity “flourished as a feudalistic society with three groups – nobility, craftsmen and dependents (slaves) – the clergy was considered part of or parallel to the nobility. Most vocations would come from this group, and becoming a priest was therefore not considered a loss” (CIA Pg 15).

I myself have always held that, be it the ancient churches of Kerala or Goa, or the nascent post-colonial churches in the rest of India, the Catholic hierarchy has always been part of the ruling class; be it the Syrian nobility in Kerala, the Brahmins in Goa, or the Gora Sahibs in the colonial era. This mindset has barely diminished. Scratch under the surface and you will find that the clergyman is the Master, not the Servant.

Wijngaards says that “Church history confirms the influence of secular kingship ideas on ruling in the church” (CIA Pg 2). Neuner adds that this resulted in a “process of secularisation that could not be stopped” (PRL Pg 12). “This resulted in the growing redundancy of the church as it gradually lost patronage and control over the secular realm” (PRL Pg 131). “This discomfort led to a revolt of the laity and the Reformation” (PRL Pg 11). To the Reformation I would add the French Revolution and the Bastille cry for “liberty, equality and fraternity’. It was as much directed against the corpulent monarchy as against the opulent hierarchy. The French apathy to the Church’s temporal power is even today manifest in its rigorous enforcement of the separation of Church and State.

Given India’s own penchant for subservience to the ruling elite or high castes, the Church in India should learn the lessons of European church history, and not repeat the same mistake of adding political power to the considerable economic, spiritual, institutional, pulpit and media clout that it already wields. Pope John XXIII was a simple and humble man. That is why he was open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and convened Vatican II in 1962, to correct the course of history.

Vatican II Ecclesiology: A deep anguish that I carry in my heart is that, 50 years after Vatican II, its teachings have neither been expounded nor implemented. We have only had some cosmetic changes in the liturgy or the dress of priests and nuns. The deeper attitudinal changes have fallen by the wayside. It is a vast subject, but I will here restrict myself to the case in point – priests entering into electoral politics. I will therefore dwell on relevant extracts from “The Dogmatic Constitution of the Church” (LG), “The Pastoral Constitution of the Church in the Modern World” (GS) and “The Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests” (PO).

The relevant ecclesiology of Vatican II is based on the following premises: – 1. The secular world is good, not profane as contrasted with the sacred 2. The Church respects the authority and autonomy of secular affairs, including politics 3. Temporal affairs, and more specifically politics, is the legitimate domain of the laity and lay organisations, which the Church respects and promotes 4. Clerics are different, the difference is of divine origin, and serves a unifying purpose 5. The specific role of clerics is clearly spelt out. This is what Vatican II says.

To begin with, it recognises the autonomy of earthly affairs (cf GS 36). It also acknowledges its submission to civil Govt. “She has no fiercer desire than that … she may be able to develop herself freely under any kind of Government which grants recognition to the demands of the common good” (GS 42). It does not even seek the undue privileges of the past when it says, “ The Church does not lodge her hope in privileges conferred by civil authority. Indeed she stands ready to renounce the exercise of certain legitimately acquired rights” (GS 76).

The Church exhorts the faithful to be involved in temporal affairs. It asserts that “The Christian who neglects his temporal duties neglects his duty towards his neighbour and even God and jeopardises his eternal salvation” (GS 43). ”The Church regards as worthy of praise and consideration the work of those who, as a service to others, dedicate themselves to the welfare of the state” (GS 75). Nevertheless the Church also cautions that “It is highly important … that a proper view exist of the relation between the political community and the Church” (GS76). Besides, “The Church must in no way be confused with the political community nor bound to any political system” (GS 76).

While on the one hand recognising the importance of political affairs, the Church simultaneously states that this is the specific role of the laity, as already referred to in Canon Law herein above. It says “The laity, by their very vocation seek the kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs” (LG 31). “The layman is closely involved in temporal affairs. It is therefore his special task to illumine and organise these affairs” (LG 31). “The laity are called in a special way to make the Church present and operative in those places and circumstances where only through them can she become the salt of the earth” (LG 33).

In contrast the Council advocates a different role for the clergy. It states that “Their ministry itself, by a special title, forbids them to be conformed to the world” (PO 3). It identifies three special functions for the priest – Proclamation of God’s Word (PO 4), Ministering of the Sacraments (PO 5) and Community Building (PO 6). Had the clergy of Goa fulfilled this three-fold task, I daresay that we would not have seen today’s pathetic scenario, where Catholic politicians are criminals and corrupt.

The Church has spoken through scripture, history, Canon Law and Vatican II. Neuner sums it up in these words, that the Council “in an irrevocable and universal decision opened the church to the modern world … This reality of our world is the realm of the laity” (PRL Pg 27). Is Dias listening?

The Social Aspect: No doctrine can exist in a void. It must be rooted in society. Hence, from the objective I now move to some subjective experiences. I have been actively involved in lay ministry and leadership roles for the last 43 years. As National President of the All India Catholic Union I have travelled all over India, and interacted with the President, Prime minister, CBCI, Papal Nuncio etc at one end, and dalits and tribals at the other end of the spectrum. I now state in unequivocal terms that the hierarchical church in India has not implemented the teachings of Vatican II vis-à-vis the laity, and its role in the modern world. It is loathe to appoint a layperson as a school principal, let alone assigning leadership roles in a parish or elsewhere.

Most of our Catholic politicians are there not because of the support of the church. Ironically, the three highest profile ones – Sonia Gandhi, George Fernandes and A.K. Antony, are not known to be churchgoers! We have had an array of distinguished Catholics as Governors, Chiefs of the Armed Forces, Ambassadors, Supreme Court Judges etc. They were there because of their individual brilliance or competence. Have any of them been proffered a leadership role in the hierarchical church? The answer is an emphatic “No”.

It is this fear of an enlightened and empowered laity that has robbed the church of its prophetic role, to be a game changer. Unfortunately, exceptions notwithstanding, the Catholic Church in India is status-quoist and pro-establishment. It seems happy teaching arithmetic, and geography, and dispensing medicines. Why does it suffer from a serious case of “layophobia”?

The Psychological Dimension: It is all in the mind. A phobia is more often imaginary, not real, playing on individual or collective insecurities. The hierarchical church is so well entrenched, cocooned, secure, that any exposure to lay influence will cause clerical influenza, with a severe bout of sneezing insecurity and coughing uncertainty. It suffers from shuttered doors and cluttered minds. It lacks the humility and simplicity of Pope John XXIII, who dared to open the doors to the world, science, other religions, and the laity. An insecure and uncertain hierarchical church has quickly reverted to clamming up and slamming the door shut on Vatican II ecclesiology.

After clamming, up another psychological factor is the “growing up” syndrome. Having taught the infant laity how to talk and walk, the “Father” now wants the “child” to shut up and sit down! In Transactional Analysis we call this the paradigm shift from the Parent-Child relationship to the Adult-Adult one. Being inured to being “Fathered” by everybody, a priest is unable to adapt from a paternalistic to a fraternal relationship.

Here is what Wijngaards says. “By habit we are accustomed to think of a priest as a father. The idea is so familiar to us that we stop to question its validity. Scripture gives very slender support” (CIA Pg 29). “No where did Christ claim to be the father, nor did he ever describe himself as father” (CIA Pg 30). Infact he expressly forbade anybody being called father (cf Mat 23:9), for he “was like his brothers in every way” (Heb 2:17).

Vatican II echoes a similar fraternal approach. “By divine condescension the laity have Christ for their brother … They also have for their brothers those in the sacred ministry” (LG 32). “They deal with other men as with brothers. This was the way that the Lord Jesus … willed to become like his brothers” (PO 3).

Powerful parish priests are used to dealing with dumb and subservient laity. Omniscient Principals interact with fawning teachers or frightened students. This has further entrenched the father image. But as the child grows up the parent must step down. I don’t see this happening in the church. Hence I strongly oppose any further attempt to foster the paternal role by adding political power to the priest’s existing armoury.

The Moral Force: All other considerations apart, is electoral politics the only way to combat corruption? We have a glittering array of influential and effective leaders who were not politicians, yet irrevocably altered the course of history. Pride of place goes to Mahatma Gandhi, followed by Martin Luther King, Abp Desmond Tutu, the Dalai Lama, Jayprakash Narayan, Baba Amte, Vinobha Bhave, Sunderlal Bahuguna, Medha Patkar, and the more recent Anna Hazare. Ironically, the last, lost his credibility and high moral ground the moment his movement became politicised. We have had effective CECs like T.N. Sheshan, James Lyngdoh and the incumbent soft-spoken Dr S.Y. Quraishi. We have had exemplary Chief Justices like P.N. Bhagwati, J.S. Verma and the incumbent H.S. Kapadia. We have had crusading journalists like N. Ram, Arun Shourie, Ramnath Goenka and Tarun Tejpal. There are courageous RTI activists who have exposed corruption, and have often laid down their lives for the cause. They were all catalysts and animators of change.

Conclusion: The conclusion that one arrives at is that electoral politics is certainly not the only option available to Rev (not Father) Bismarque Dias, if indeed he wants to fight corruption and cleanse Goan society. If he still feels so strongly about it, then he should have the courage and humility to renounce the priesthood, and join the ranks of the laity. We will welcome him with open arms. But he would be in for a rude shock outside the security and sanctity of the Catholic ministerial priesthood.

If Dias insists on setting the cat among the pigeons, nobody, other than the electorate, can stop him. I for one don’t like treacherously purring cats. I prefer barking watchdogs that are also faithful to their masters. I also don’t fancy pigeons that keep “dropping” things. I would rather be a dove, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, Sacred Scripture, the Church’s official teachings and the lessons of history. I would prefer to learn from Pope John XXIII, and keep it simple.

– chhotebhai

What the Amicus really told the Supreme Court: Prosecute Modi!

February 15, 2012 by  
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Amicus Curiae Raju RamachandranGujarat, February 11, 2012: Amicus Curiae Raju Ramachandran had recommended prosecuting Narendra Modi on several grounds. Ashish Khetan scoops his report

In the past week the media has been reporting that the SIT has filed a closure report that gives a “clean chit” to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi on the grounds that there is no prosecutable evidence against him.

However, Tehelka has now scooped amicus curiae Raju Ramachandran’s explosive confidential report that had told the Supreme Court that Modi should be chargesheeted and prosecuted for serious criminal offences like promoting religious enmity, doing acts prejudicial to national integration and maintenance of harmony and deliberately and wantonly disobeying the law with intent to cause injury. Ramachandran recommended criminal prosecution against Modi under different cognizable and non-cognizable offences with some of them carrying a maximum imprisonment for three years.

Importantly, Ramachandran, a senior Supreme Court lawyer who was appointed as Amicus Curiae by the three judge bench of the Supreme Court in November 2010, had made these recommendations based on the SIT’s own probe reports. It appears the only gap is in the conclusions that SIT Chairman RK Raghavan and the amicus curiae came to, based on what the SIT had found.

Raghavan had claimed in his concluding remarks that there was no “prosecutable evidence” to chargesheet Modi and direct him to stand trial. However, after carefully studying statements of witnesses and accused recorded by the SIT and other documentary evidence collected by the probe agency and also his own interactions with several key witnesses, Ramachandran came to a different conclusion and, in a hard-hitting report, told the Supreme Court and the SIT that Modi needed to be chargesheeted on several counts and to draw any other inference or legal action like dropping the charges altogether as proposed by the SIT was illogical and legally untenable. Ramachandran had placed his report before the court in May 2011 after over eight months of perusing several SIT reports which recommended that the case against Modi should be closed as there was no prosecutable evidence against him.

Over the last week, media reports have been speculating about Ramachandran’s recommendation, with some publications going to the extent of claiming that Ramachandran and SIT Chairman RK Raghvan had completely concurred on all the conclusions drawn by the SIT and had together recommended the closure of the case against Modi.

Now that Tehelka has got first hand access of Ramachandran’s report, it finds far from dropping the case, the amicus curiae had, in fact, recommended criminal prosecution against the Gujarat Chief Minister for his role in the 2002 Gujarat riots under sections 153A, 153B, 166 and 505 of Indian Penal Code. Conviction under these sections carry a jail term of between one and three years.

Ramachandran’s recommendations if followed would have had an unprecedented impact on the Indian criminal justice system which often sees the powerful being let off either because of sloppy investigation or dilatory legal proceedings. The amicus’s report demolished the core argument put forth by the SIT for not pressing charges against Modi, which is lack of prosecutable evidence. He first defined the relevant sections applicable to Modi, laid down their legal scope and then cited several Supreme Court case laws before emphatically concluding that Modi should be sent to trial.

Though there were also many points on which he concurred with SIT Chairman Raghavan the main point of concurrence was that, on the basis of material gathered by the SIT so far, there was not enough ground to charge Modi of conspiracy. However, he held that dropping all other criminal charges against Modi was legally untenable. His report demonstrates that the impediment in the course of justice for the riots of Gujarat 2002 is neither lack of evidence nor lack of law. If anything, the problem lies with a disturbingly selective application of law.

These are the sections under which Ramachandran recommended Modi should be chargesheeted and tried:

Section 505 IPC lays down the punishment for making statements which promote enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes and prescribes punishment which may extend to imprisonment of three years.

Section 166 IPC prescribes a maximum imprisonment of one year for those public servants who knowingly disobey any direction of law, as to the way in which he is to conduct himself s such public servant, intending to cause injury to any person. SIT itself has chronicled several instances where Modi’s conduct was divisive and prejudiced against the minorities and thus against his constitutional duty of protecting the life and property of every citizen of the state. SIT Chairman RK Raghavan had noted on page 13 of his report dated 13 May 2010 give to the SC that Modi’s statement “accusing some elements in Godhra and the neighbourhood as possessing a criminal tendency was sweeping and offensive coming as it did from a chief minister, that too at a critical time when Hindu-Muslim tempers were running high.

Section 153A IPC lays down maximum imprisonment of 3 years for promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, etc and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony. The SIT report had stated on page 69 that, “In spite of the fact that ghastly and violent attacks had taken place on Muslims at Gulberg Society and elsewhere, the reaction of the government was not the type that would have been expected by anyone. The chief minister had tried to water down the seriousness of the situation at Gulberg Society, Naroda Patiya and other places by saying that every action has an equal and opposite reaction.”

Similarly, Section 153B lays down a maximum imprisonment of three years for making imputations or assertions prejudicial to national integration.

He also underlined the fact that his conclusions were based on the material collected by the SIT and placed before him. Since he was merely an amicus he had no powers or authority to carry out any independent investigation into the charges against Modi and his officials. The maximum he could have done was to carefully study the material put together by SIT and draw just, reasonable and legally sound conclusions. The fact that a mere reasonable interpretation of the SIT’s own probe has thrown up evidence of Modi’s culpability shows that SIT’s repeated insistence of dropping the case against Modi is highly questionable and perhaps a matter of an investigation by itself.

Another important point of difference between the SIT and Ramachandran was with regard to two senior police officers who had fled from the Gulberg Society and had thus allowed the rioters to carry out carnage with impunity. Ramachandran has underlined the fact that the SIT itself had discovered that the two senior officers in question –PB Gondia and MK Tandon—had malevolently abandoned Meghani Nagar where Gulberg Society was situated and instead got bogus FIRs of communal violence registered in other areas which were otherwise free of any kind of trouble to justify their absence from Gulberg Society, and still the agency wanted to only recommend departmental action. The only logical action that could be taken against these officers is sending them for a criminal trial, Ramachandran has concluded.

The SIT found in its probe that Tandon, who was the joint commissioner of police of Sector 2, Ahmedabad, deliberately didn’t respond to distress calls from Gulberg Society and Naroda Gaon and Naroda Patiya, where some of the most gruesome massacres were underway. Instead, he got bogus cases registered in other parts of Ahmedabad to justify the presence of himself and his police force in those areas rather than Gulberg and Naroda. The SIT also found that Tandon was in telephonic contact with Jaideep Patel and Mayaben Kodnani — the architect of massacres at Naroda Gaon and Naroda Patiya.

PB Gondia, deputy to Tandon, was DCP Zone IV at the time. In his report, Malhotra had stated: “In my view Gondia virtually ran away from Naroda Patiya at 1420 hours when the situation was very serious and virtually uncontrollable and also did not reach Gulberg Society despite the distress calls.” The SIT also found that, like Tandon, Gondia was in regular telephonic contact with Kodnani and Jaideep Patel.

But despite Ramachandran’s recommendation of launching criminal prosecution against Tandon and Gondia, the SIT told the court that it was not keen on pressing the charges against the two. To buttress their claim, the probe team got a favourable legal opinion from a Mumbai based lawyer.

The custodial interrogation of these two officers could have led to a deeper insight into what was the real motive behind their deliberate dereliction of duty. Were they acting out of their own volition or was it the consequence of the alleged tacit signal sent by Modi in the meeting of 27th? Is it possible that two senior officers would enter into a conspiracy at their level without any intervention from the top? Is it possible that these two senior officers would not have kept the political leadership in the loop about the explosive situation at Gulberg and Naroda? These questions could only have been answered if the two were investigated and sent for criminal trial.

Ramachandran also wrote in his report that many points like those mentioned above need to be further investigated. He said that once the SIT submits its report along with the amicus’ report before the magistrate, the later could take cognizance of the suggestions made by amicus and order further investigation.

What is really baffling is the SIT’s decision not to apply the strict rule of thumb of criminal prosecution which is that at the investigation stage, the probe agency’s aim is to look for some credible evidence of criminal culpability. It is only at the trial stage that the accused gets the benefit of doubt, if any. However, the SIT seems to have given Modi the benefit of doubt at the investigation stage itself, given that, as Ramachandran has pointed out, if there is ‘some’ evidence of criminal culpability, the accused should be sent to trial. In Modi’s case Ramachandran has noted that there is enough evidence to warrant prosecution. It is only after all the relevant evidence is adduced in a court of law, witnesses are allowed to depose and be cross-examined by defence and relevant facts judicially examined that a conclusion of guilt or innocence could be drawn.

The SIT was constituted by the Supreme Court after a prolonged legal battle, spanning over 6 years, between the victims and civil society on one hand and the Gujarat state machinery on the other hand. The odds were staked against the victims from day one. It was a Herculean task for any agency to dig up evidence of an alleged criminal act which had occurred six years ago and was allegedly orchestrated by a chief minister who had been in power all along. The SIT itself has underlined the fact that all the senior bureaucrats who were privy to the events of Feb-march 2002 were given lucrative post-retirement assignments and were thus obliged to Modi. Still the SIT could find enough evidence of malfeasance to conclude that the State had acted in a communally partisan and prejudiced manner while appointing public prosecutors in riot cases, transferring and posting police officers on key positions and while conducting criminal investigation into major riot cases. There is enough evidence of negligence of constitutional duty to protect citizens and derailment of criminal justice system. The moot point before the SIT was whether enough material could be put together to show that there was a deliberate malice and criminal intent behind the negligence of duty, first to protect innocent lives and then miscarriage of justice.

“The judicial instrument has a public accountability. The cherished principles or golden thread of proof beyond reasonable doubt which runs through the web of our law should not be stretched morbidly to embrace every hunch, hesitancy and degree of doubt. The excessive solitude reflected in the attitude that a thousand guilty men may go but one innocent shall not suffer is a false dilemma. Only reasonable doubts belonged to the accused. Otherwise any practical system of justice will then break down and lose credibility with the community,” were Supreme Court’s words in the case of State of Rajasthan v.Yusuf. The story of Gujarat 2002 is not just about holding Modi responsible for his alleged criminal acts. There is something far more fundamental which is at stake here. It is the very idea of India founded on the principles of justice and equity. Those responsible for the 2002 carnage need to be brought to book, not merely for retributive justice, but for restoring the eroded embankments of our constitutional democracy.

Here, in detail, are the key Recommendations of the Raju Ramachandran’s Report:

 

1. The SIT probe against Modi and his government was ordered by the Supreme Court in 2009 while hearing a petition filed by Teesta Setalvad’s Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) and Zakia Jafri, widow of slain Congress leader, Ehsan Jafri, who along with dozens of other Muslims was hacked and burned to death during the riots. Zakia had made 32 specific allegations against Modi and other BJP functionaries, bureaucrats and police officers. The most serious allegation was that Modi had given instructions to the then DGP, chief secretary and other senior officials to allow Hindus to freely vent their anger at the Muslims for the Sabarmati carnage. This instruction was allegedly given at a meeting held at the chief minister’s bungalow in Gandhinagar on 27 February 2002 after Modi’s visit to Godhra.

According to SIT probe officer AK Malhotra, a retired CBI man, the meeting lasted for about half an hour. Sanjeev Bhatt, an IPS officer of 1988 batch, who was posted as DCP (Intelligence) at the time, told the SIT that he too was called to be present in the meeting. Bhatt told the SIT that Modi asked the assembled officers to adopt a partisan stand during the impending riots. “There is a lot of anger in the people. This time a balanced approach against Hindus and Muslims will not work. It is necessary that the anger of the people is allowed to be vented.” These, according to Bhatt, were the incendiary words Modi had spoken at the meeting. But SIT in its report had told the court that Bhatt’s presence in the meeting was not corroborated by other officials and hence subject to be discarded.

But Ramachandran in his report has disagreed with SIT’s conclusions and said that it was unreasonable on the part of the probe agency to disbelieve Bhatt. He said that contrary to SIT’s stance, facts were seemingly loaded in Bhatt’s favour. Ramachandran has said that Bhatt’s presence in the meeting gets probablised by various crucial facts, mainly:

a) Even before the 27th meeting, Bhatt was considered to be close to Modi. Bhatt told the SIT that he had had first interaction with Modi way back in 1997 when Modi was a senior BJP functionary stationed in Delhi. “In 1997 Shanker Singh Vaghela had become the CM and he was seeking election from Radhanpur constituency in Banaskantha. Vaghela had formed a new party named Rashtriya Janta Party and a faction of the BJP MLAs had defected and joined him. At that time the entire BJP machinery was working overtime to somehow defeat Vaghela. I has served as SP, Banaskantha in 1995 and had a good understanding of the constituency. In 1997 when Vaghela was contesting I was posted in State Intelligence Bureau. Modi rung me up and sought some information. Then in 2001 when Modi became the CM a meeting of all police officers (DCP and above) was called to meet the CM. When I got up to introduce myself Modi immediately recognized me and we started getting along quite well. At that time I was posted as DCP (Intelligence) in the IB. Before the riots I must have had several one-to-one meetings on many issues. One issue on which he sought my inputs was his own election from Rajkot. I had also been a DCP in Rajkot and I shared crucial inputs with Modi with regard to his election from Rajkot,” Bhatt has told the SIT. Ramachandran told the court that Bhatt’s proximity with Modi further probablises his presence in the crucial ‘law and order’ meeting of 27th February. The main objection of the SIT was that Bhatt was a relatively junior officer and could not have been probably present at a high-level meeting chaired by the CM himself.

b) On 27 February the chief of State Intelligence Bureau GC Raigar was on leave. It was only natural that after Raigar, the senior most officer from Intelligence Bureau, which happened to be Bhatt, would be expected to attend the meeting and brief the chief minister about the intelligence collected pertaining to the Godhra incident and the ensuing communal situation, Ramachandran has noted.

c) There is no evidence to contradict Bhatt’s presence in the meeting chaired by Modi. In other words there is no evidence to show that he was not present in the meeting and instead present somewhere else.

d) And the last but the most crucial fact that of Modi’s unsolicited rebuttal of Bhatt’s presence made by him during his examination by the SIT lends further weight to Bhatt’s assertions. On 25 March 2002 when Modi was questioned by Malhotra, he made a curious slip. He first admitted that he had called a law and order meeting at his residence on 27 February 2002, after his return from Godhra where he had gone to inspect the Sabarmati carnage. Malhotra then asked him about who was present in the meeting. In his reply, Modi named the seven officers, apart from himself. However, without further prompting from the inquiry officer, he went on to assert, “Sanjeev Bhatt, the then DC (Int.) did not attend, as this was a high-level meeting.” The inquiry officer had asked him about who was present, not about who was not. Also this was the stage when the inquiry was still on and Modi was not supposed to be aware of the witnesses who had been examined in this matter (Bhatt had already been examined before came to record his statement before the SIT). Clearly, somebody had alerted Modi about Bhatt’s statement and he had come prepared to contradict and discredit Bhatt’s version even when the question posed to him by the SIT officer had no reference of Bhatt. Ramachandran has underscored the slip made by Modi and concluded that Modi’s anxiety and puzzling keenness to discredit Bhatt further lends credibility to Bhatt’s testimony.

2. Evidence is weighed and not counted. Bhatt is a crucial witness and his statement is a direct piece of evidence and carries a lot of weight in the eye of law, said Ramachandran. The fact that other bureaucrats present in the meeting have not acknowledged his presence doesn’t reduce the legal value of Bhatt’s testimony. The veracity of Bhatt’s revelations could only be ascertained by conducting a criminal trial. To take any other stance at the pre-trial stage would amount to pre-judging the case.

3. According to the SIT, apart from Modi there were seven other confirmed participants in the meeting. If Bhatt is also presumed to be present the total number of attendees would be nine. The SIT also conceded in its report that none of the seven participants were willing to tell the truth because of one vested interest or the other and were thus unreliable. In a highly conflicting report, the SIT has used the same unreliable witnesses to disbelieve Bhatt’s testimony. The primary reason the SIT has not believed Bhatt is because his presence was not confirmed by other participants (whom the SIT has otherwise called interested parties and hence unreliable). According to Ramachandran this was a highly conflicting and illogical stand. If you add to this the fact that Modi without being asked about Bhatt asserted that Bhatt was not present further probablised the presence of Bhatt in the meeting.

4. Amicus has noted in his report that he was aware of the fact that Bhatt had revealed these facts after almost seven years of the incident and that is creating anxiety to the SIT. He also noted that he was conscious of probable limitations of Bhatt’s statement in view of this delay. But Bhatt’s explanation that he had never before been asked by any statutory body or an investigating agency about the incident and was thus under no legal obligation to reveal the truth is legally and logically tenable. Bhatt’s explanation gets further strengthened by the fact that in the first statement recorded as part of the preliminary enquiry by the SIT, he had not disclosed the full details of the meeting on the ground that since it was merely an enquiry and not an investigation under Criminal Procedure Code, he as an intelligence officer would not be able to reveal the details of the meeting.

5. Amicus has also noted that he is further conscious of the loose but unsubstantiated allegations that Bhatt was now having some kind of a truck with certain Congress leaders. However, these allegations have no bearing on Bhatt’s credibility as a witness because: a) they are unsubstantiated and b) even if found to be true they are related to post-event circumstances.

6. SIT’s assertion that there is ‘no’ prosecutable evidence to proceed against Modi is contrary to the facts. There may not be overwhelming evidence but there is ‘some’ evidence. The only logical step that an agency could take under these circumstances is to prosecute the accused on the basis of the evidence thrown up during the investigation.

– ashish khetan

Mangalore diocese hailed for its yeoman contributions to faith and society *Shining edifice of growing faith

February 13, 2012 by  
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Chief Minister D V Sadananda Gowda in Manglore dioceseKarnataka, February 13, 2012: Nearly 50,000 people, including 25 prelates and 300 priests, took part in the centenary silver jubilee celebrations of Mangalore diocese, known as the Vatican of the east.

Addressing a sea of humanity at the Nehru Maidan Sunday evening, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, president of Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI), lauded the efforts of the diocese for taking up many novel projects.

The cardinal, who is also the Archbishop of Bombay, said that the nation as well as the universe is proud of Mangalore diocese.

Presiding over the programme, Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio praised its efforts in starting medical and engineering colleges, educational institutions and other projects for welfare of the needy.

Earlier, Archbishop Savio Hon Tai-Fai, Secretary for Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, a special guest from the Vatican, said that he could testify that Jesus is amidst the huge crowd of people.

Terming the 125 years celebrations as a huge ‘success,’ he said “success is a journey and it’s not a destination.”

Chief Minister D V Sadananda Gowda said the state government would provide a sum of 500 million rupees for the welfare of the Christians and promised more later.

Paying rich tributes, Union Minister M Veerappa Moily said “Wherever I go, be it North India or South India, I find a priest working for the poor.”

Earlier, a concelebrated Mass was held.

Archbishop Hon Tai-Fai felicitated 24 bishops and archbishops who had come from different parts of the country to take part in the celebrations. They included Archbishop Vincent Concessao of Delhi who hails from Mangalore.

The diocese has produced 42 bishops and nearly 4,000 priests and religious since its institution.

‘Chaithanyodaya,’ a dance, drama was performed by 300 artistes which introduced the rich history of the diocese to mark the close of the centennial silver jubilee celebrations.

– deccan herald

Shining edifice of growing faith

 

The 125-year old Mangalore diocese is rich in history and faithKarnataka, February 11, 2012: The 125-year old Mangalore diocese is rich in history and faith 
 
From battling legendary emperor Tipu Sultan’s allegations of supporting British colonials in the 18th century to present-day proselytization charges, the Mangalore diocese has weathered many a storm in its 125 years of existence.

Over the years, the diocese has also ushered in many generational changes. As an acknowledgment of its achievements, Vatican officials will be present during the concluding celebrations of its centennial jubilee on Feb 11-12.

The diocese boasts of having sent more than 4,000 laborers into the Lord’s vineyard.

“According to recent diocese survey, more than 4000 priests and nuns of Mangalorean origin serve various dioceses and religious congregations,” said Father Onil D’Souza, director of NGO Canara Organisation of Development and Peace.

Till now 42 of its prelates have served different dioceses in India and abroad.

Present nuncio of Ivory Coast, Archbishop Ambroze Madtha hails from Mangalore’s Belthangady village. Retired nuncio of Zimbabwe, Archbishop Peter Paul Prabhu Pinto as well as Archbishop Emeritus Lawrence Saldanha of Lahore-Pakistan hail from Mangalore.

“On September 1, 1886, Pope Leo XIII established the Indian Hierarchy by virtue of which Mangalore became an independent diocese with Italian Jesuit Maria Pagani being its first bishop,” said Bishop Aloysius Paul D’Souza of Mangalore Diocese.

“The new diocese brought in the feeling of ‘our own church’ amidst the Catholics giving openings to multilevel growth and opportunities. Priests and nuns established number of primary schools in remote villages,” he added.

In 1982, the diocese adopted Bidar missions near Hyderabad around 900 km from Mangalore. After 23 years , an independent diocese of Gulbarga was also set up.

“St Joseph’s Inter-diocesan Seminary of Mangalore established in 1879 has so far formed 1998 priests,” said Fr Joseph Martis, the Rector.

Four religious congregations for women were originated in Mangalore. The Apostolic Carmel (1870), the 125-year- old Ursuline Franciscan Sisters (UFS), Bethany Sisters (B.S.) (1921) and Helpers of Mount Rosary (1990).

According to Kranti Farias, a socio-historian, St Agnes College established by the AC nuns in 1921 was the first Catholic college exclusively for women.

The diocese of Mangalore runs 35 orphanages, houses for poor children, old age homes, leprosy asylums, dispensaries and the like.

The diocesan NGO has implemented watershed and water harvesting programs besides many others and has been playing the role of a social transforming agent since last 35 years, said Fr D’Souza.

To mark the centenial jubilee celebration, the diocese would sponsor education of poor Christian boys and girls up to the pre-university level, he said.

While the church of Mangalore has been attacked continuously by pro-Hindu fundamentalist groups since 2008, it has also experienced harassment at hands of Muslim emperor Tippu Sultan in 1784.

His soldiers on Ash Wednesday that year held Christians captive in Srirangapattanam, around 270 km from Mangalore.

“The available records point to the history of around 35,000 Christians being taken into captivity,” according to a researcher and historian Fr. Pius Fidelis Pinto.

“Our forefathers have passed through the challenge of captivity and lately we too faced anti-Christian violence. Over the years we have grown in our faith and religious practice. Now the lay people have become co-workers with the priests and the religious in many spheres,” said Sushil Noronha, a Catholic lay leader.

 – francis rodrigues

Karnataka Government Stoops to its Lowest

February 13, 2012 by  
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Meeting led by Freddy DsilvaKarnataka, February 13, 2012: The CSF protests communalising children, Jesuit priests being forced to tender apology and rise in communal attacks in coastal districts. For more info please read below write-ups that appeared in the Hindu newspaper on the subject.

Saffron slant in school textbooks

 

Karnataka, February 05, 2012: The new social studies textbooks of Standard 5 and Standard 8 — to be introduced in the next academic year — seem to present to children a version of history that has a strong saffron slant in several instances.

While the textbooks, the draft copy of which is available with The Hindu, present a few contestable historical facts, the bigger problem is one of omissions and commissions that lend the texts a slant typical of the Hindutva nationalist construction of Indian history.

For example, the book states in its fifth standard lesson, titled ‘Veda Kalada Bharata’, that cow slaughter was forbidden in the early Vedic period. The historical record, however, suggests otherwise. Historians such as D.N. Jha have shown how the Rigveda has references of beef being one of the most commonly consumed foods at the time. So indeed does K.T. Achaya in his scholarly dictionary of Indian food.

A chapter titled ‘Hosa Dharmagala Udaya’ (Birth of New Religions) in the Standard 8 textbook, has a highlighted box (Page 43) that makes a distinction between ‘dharma’ and ‘religion’. It makes the debatable claim that even Buddhism and Jainism, like Hinduism, cannot be categorised as religions, and that only Islam and Christianity in India fit into the category.

While presentation of such “facts” is one aspect, the overall tone of the textbooks, especially in the region-specific histories — introduced for the first time as separate textbooks for Bangalore, Mysore, Gulbarga and Belgaum divisions — needs closer examination.

For example, the rich syncretic traditions of the northern districts of Karnataka have been either glossed over or omitted altogether in the textbooks. Aspects of the pluralist culture of the region, like Bandenawaz Dargah, and poets like Shishunala Sharief, are dispensed with in brief and de-contextualised descriptions.

The Standard 5 textbook (page 106 of the draft copy) says that Bidar was originally called “Vidhura Nagara” and “Bidururu Pura”, a typical attempt to establish a Hindu past to cities and towns . The other popular explanation that Bidar has its roots in the Persian word meaning “Awakening” does not find a mention here. While the region is replete with evidence of the meeting of Sufi and Datta traditions — the shrine of Manikprabhu in Humnabad or the Savalagi Shivalingeshwara shrine near Gokak for example — these do not find a mention. The late Sham.Bha. Joshi and other scholars have established that their unique religious mix have given the Bombay-Karnataka and Hyderabad-Karnataka region a distinctly inclusive cultural character, simply not reflected in these textbooks, though they claim to present a flavour of every region to the children.

The delineation of the Hyderbad Liberation Movement in the Gulbarga division’s textbook is particularly striking for the manner in which it is constructed as a Hindu vs Muslim struggle. The role of the Andhra Maha Sabha in the movement, and its nationalist and anti-landlord content finds no mention. The same chapter describes the Vijayanagar kings as rulers who “protected, nurtured and upheld Hindu religion and culture” for over 200 years.

In its earlier draft, the Standard 5 textbook carried a map of “cultural India”, in the ‘Bharata, Namma Hemme’ (India, Our Pride) chapter, showing the country boundaries encompassing the Hindukush, parts of China, and large parts of south-east Asia — representing the nationalist Hindu notion of “Akhand Bharat”. This, it is learnt, was later dropped.

C.S. Dwarakanath, former chairperson of the Karnataka State Backward Classes Commission, described the draft copy as “a blatant attempt at filling children’s minds with ideological, religious and political biases at a tender age.”

Jesuit priests forced to apologise?

A group of Jesuit priests apologised at a peace committee meeting here on Thursday to those who allegedly attacked one of the priests on January 27.

The meeting was called by Anekal tahsildar S. Shive Gowda in connection with an incident on January 27 where ABVP activists allegedly barged into the St. Joseph’s Pre-University College in Bahadurpura and shut the institution down. They were agitated over the fact that the Jesuit priests who run the institution had not hoisted the national flag on Republic Day.

Television footage of the incident shows the activists manhandling and berating college principal Melwin Mendonca in the presence of the tahsildar and the police. Mr. Mendonca was then paraded in full public view and taken to the police station by the activists. This was not contested by the activists of various right wing groups who attended the meeting. When the priests tried to present this evidence to the tahsildar, one of the Hindutva leaders stood up and said, “Show all of this to your friends in America. Over here, we make the rules.”

Addressing the gathering, Mr. Shive Gowda said, “The Christians want to take out a rally and file a police case. I have called them here today to convince them that there is no need for anything like that. If they decide to withdraw their [proposed] protest and do not press charges, will you trouble them further?”

When the room, consisting largely of Hindutva ideologues, erupted in agreement, the tahsildar continued, “Then, let us end the matter here and leave the room as friends.”

He admonished the Jesuits for failing to hoist the national flag on Republic Day and advised them that they should do more to prove their allegiance to the flag and the nation.

Led by Freddy D’Silva, vice-president of the Karnataka Jesuit Educational Society, a group of priests tendered an unconditional apology at the meeting. “As citizens of India and as heads of educational institutions, we have made a mistake,” Mr. D’Silva told the gathering.

As he was leaving the meeting, Deputy Superintendent of Police A. Kumaraswamy told The Hindu, “The matter ends here. The ABVP activists have agreed to withdraw their complaint.” Asked about the “complaint” filed by the Jesuits, he said, “They have not filed anything. Anyway, there is no need for all that.”

However, Fr. Mendonca said that a complaint was filed with the police on February 4, but it was not accepted.

Later, Mr. D’Silva said, “The focus of the meeting should have been on the ‘illegal act’ where one of us was ‘harassed and detained’. I was pushed into a corner and I apologised. It is not illegal to not hoist the flag but it is illegal to attack and harass somebody.”

Fr. Mendonca has also written to the Karnataka State Human Rights Commission and the Governor seeking justice. “Our future course of action will be decided at the meeting of our governing council,” Mr. D’Silva said.

Protest against communal attacks

Writer Shivasundar said on Friday that Karnataka was well-known across the country for its literature and harmony, but it in the last three years it had become known for being “Reddy Republic” (a term used by the former Lokayukta N. Santosh Hegde in his report on the mining scam in the State). He also took pot-shots at the RSS.

Addressing a gathering at a protest organised by various organisations against communal attacks in the coastal districts, Mr. Shivasundar said if a Pakistan flag was hoisted by Muslims in Sindgi, the police would have thrashed them black and blue. He said the RSS spread hatred about Muslims and Christians and tried to equate proponents of Hindutva with Hindus. Efforts were on to change textbooks and “poison young minds” against Muslims and Christians by stating that Muslims were “invaders”.

Walter Cyril Pinto of Catholic Sabha, General secretary of Karnataka Komu Souharda Vedike K.L. Ashok, and Abdul Hassan of the Popular Front of India spoke.

– the hindu

Mayawati responsible for plight of women in UP: Rahul *Being socially relevant in Kerala

Comments Off on Mayawati responsible for plight of women in UP: Rahul *Being socially relevant in Kerala

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister MayawatiUttar Pradesh, February 12, 2012: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi Sunday blamed Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati for the sorry plight of women in the state.

“Even though this state is ruled by a woman chief minister, there is no one to hear the voice of women,” Gandhi said, addressing a pubic rally in this Uttar Pradesh district where polling is due Feb 15 in the third phase of the seven-phase assembly election.

“With a view to ensuring participation of women right down to the grassroots level, the Congress made it a point to give reservation to women in panchayats, but that is not being implemented in the true spirit in this state,” he alleged.

Citing a examples of injustice to women in the state, Gandhi said: “I was told by an old woman how her agricultural land was forcibly acquired for some builders. When the builder demanded immediate vacation of the plot, the woman complained to the local police station but to no avail.

“Police not only refused to intervene but even went to the extent of setting fire to the standing crop on the poor woman’s land,” he alleged.

Stressing he was not here to make promises like other political parties, he said: “When one has clear intentions, he need not make promises. I have not come here to make promises but to take UP on the path for change and I am sure that we will win this battle.”

“Ask Mayawati and (Samajwadi Party chief) Mulayam Singh Yadav whether they cared to visit any village in the last five years, but when they go about addressing election rallies, they were busy making tall promises,” he said, adding he wondered why they had not done so when in power.

Flaying successive non-Congress governments in Uttar Pradish where Congress had been out of power for 22 years, Gandhi asserted he was committed to the cause of Uttar Pradesh’s development.

“And I will not budge from here. Let me tell you that when I choose to take up something, I do not leave it halfway,” he said.

“Even if only one person from UP stands by me, I will continue to fight for you because you have been duped for 22 years,” Gandhi said.

He blamed the BSP, the Samajwadi Party as well as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for neglecting the state for “not doing anything to build the future of the state’s youth”.

He also accused all the three parties for fuelling corruption in the state and pilfering funds sent by the central government for various development tasks.

Gandhi later addressed another meeting in Zafrabad town of Jaunpur, followed by one in Kaushambhi and two meetings in Allahabad.

– ians

Being socially relevant in Kerala

 

Being socially relevant in KeralaKerala, February 11, 2012: Recent actions by the communist party has caused fury among the clergy and the ruling Congress. Last week I met John Peter, a Catholic selling tender coconut on the streets of Kochi. His red-colored headgear indicated his leftist sympathies. As he waited for customers, I tried to have a conversation with him and started by mentioning the recent controversy over depictions of Christ as a communist and the Church’s subsequent condemnation of them.

“Nonsense,” the seller said.

Which part was the nonsense, I asked: the Church’s condemnation or the communists’ depictions?

What followed was an hour-long lecture on how people have grown tired of discussing the war of words between the leaders of the Church and communists, how self-acclaimed intellectuals bring to centre-stage issues irrelevant to people’s daily lives.

“These people are a waste, and discussing them we waste time. Do something useful,” he concluded.

I purchased a coconut drink and then left.

Whether Peter is right or not, the history of communists in Kerala has always been marked by the leftists’ tussles with the Church. Nothing has changed in this southern Indian state, where the communists are in the opposition but continue aiming for power. They might well succeed. After all, it is the first place in the world where communists came to power through elections, in 1957.

Their recent expressions of solidarity with Christ, enlisting him among their leaders along with Marx, Engels and Che Guevara, should be seen in the light of political ambition and their struggle to build up losing relevance and cadre support.

Recent actions by the party designed to lessen the gap between Christians and communists has caused fury among the clergy and the ruling Congress Party, and has inspired widespread condemnation.

First, a party leader equated Christianity with communism by saying the religion follows the same ideals that communists embrace. This revelation came from Communist Party of India (Marxist) Central Committee member E P Jayarajan on January 28, ahead of the party’s state meet that began February 6.

A major controversy broke out days before the state-level meeting opened. An exhibition the party organized included a picture of the crucified Christ among those of communist leaders, as if to assert that Christ was among their leaders who struggled for the oppressed.

CPM state secretary Pinarayi Vijayan justified the presence of the crucifix, saying Christ championed the cause of the oppressed just as communists are doing now.

Almost at the same time the party’s confederation of the labor unions sponsored a poster campaign in which they altered an image of Da Vinci’s The Last Supper. It replaced Christ with US President Barack Obama and put a motley group of Indian politicians with him at the table. It was subtitled in Malayalam: “The last supper of capitalism…hope only in Marxism.”

They went a step further by also depicting St Sebastian, a popular saint among Kerala Christians, as a martyr who died “fighting oppression” under the Roman emperor Diocletian. The youth wing of the party (DYFI) did it in a poster that greeted a parish celebrating the saint’s feast.

When Church leaders condemned these actions, Vijyan volunteered in a public meeting to explain why his party draws inspiration from Christ. To help Church leaders understand it better, he explained it in terms of Latin American liberation theology and quoted from the Bible.

Vijayan and his cadres are familiar with liberation theology, thanks to some Catholic priests who attempted to practice the Latin American liberation model among the fisher-people on Kerala’s southern coast in the 1980s. That experiment failed when the official Church began to explain it as the “sugar-coated poison” of communists and blacklisted priests who they suspected were communist sympathizers.

But that gave enormous courage to communists to quote the Bible and find similarities with the teachings of Christ and the theories of Marx, causing confusion among ordinary Catholics. A group of devout Catholic youth once told me they were convinced that being a good Christian would mean being a good communist because a Christian is called to struggle for equality and to fight oppression and exploitation. I knew of a Church-going septuagenarian who had Marx’s picture in his scapular. In some huts of fisher-people, I have seen pictures of Marx and Engels alongside the Sacred Heart and Mother of Perpetual Help.

This confused assertion is a worry for the Church, and this confusion is exactly what the communists want because at some stage, they know, it would mean votes for them.

And they know it is time for them to play on the confusion. The state will hold a by-election soon to fill the vacancy created by the death of sitting minister T M Jacob, who won in the Christian stronghold of Piravom. A communist win there would be crucial to pull down the Congress-led alliance government, as the communists already have 68 seats in the 140-seat house.

The communist party badly needs Christian support because its mass base among the “working class” of farm laborers and workers of coir and cashew processing industries in Kerala is almost nonexistent now because of advancements in education, shrinking farmlands and brighter job opportunities overseas. Those now “working” in Kerala are a different “class” that has experienced how communists have been trying to build heaven on earth since 1957, and that experience no longer excites the “working class” to vote en masse for the communists.

However, the electoral fortunes of the communist alliance could be on the rise, as the state has almost never returned the incumbent party to power. Historically, this has meant the communist party’s influence ebbing and flowing in definite intervals, and always giving the Church a reason to fight them.

The communists know the Kerala Church has a substantial following. They have known it since 1958, when Christians protested the communist move to take over educational institutions, which soon emerged as a statewide anti-communist movement and resulted in the federal government dismissing the elected communist government a year later. Since then, the communists have studied ways to make inroads into the Church and have succeeded even beyond their expectations.

Thousands of Communion-receiving Catholics are also now card-carrying members of the party, some publically and others clandestinely. Both the Church and the party tolerate them. The Church tolerates the successful Catholic-candidates of the party simply because of the political influence they bring to the Church. The party allows them to continue in the Church because they offer ways to attract more “faithful party members.”

And why are Catholics, who have received Confirmation, easily confused about the teachings of Christ and Marx? Are they too feeble in their faith? It is surely not the job of communists to teach catechism to Catholics. If someone in the Church takes that basic job seriously, the Church can escape from the perennial worry over Catholics being misled by communists’ posters and preaching.

When the Church teaches that Christ died for all human beings, communists included, there should be nothing wrong in communists getting inspired by him, even if the Church is not preaching him to them. But when they say they are getting inspired, why not verify and strengthen it by inviting them to the Church rather than condemning them?

And will the Church and communist leaders ever offer something relevant to people like Peter? Peter can offer them tender coconut – sweet and cool.

– christopher joseph

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