Foul suspected in convent school food poisoning *India’s first transgender pastor

February 10, 2012 by  
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Students outside the hospital ward

Students outside the hospital ward

Karnataka, February 10, 2012: Nearly 50 students of a Catholic school were admitted to hospital after the midday meal. A church official has suspected foul play in the food poisoning of some 50 students of a Catholic school in Mangalore.

The students of the St Joseph’s Higher Primary school developed nauseating symptoms after they consumed government-sponsored midday meal served to them.

Father William Menezes, public relations officer of the Mangalore diocese, said that within no time thousands of people gathered to blame the school for the incident.

“There could be some foul play to divert the attention of the public from recent government scandals,” he said.

Sister Sharal Santhumayor, principal of the school, said that out of 240 students of the school, nearly 50 students were rushed to the nearby Father Muller Hospital for food poisoning after they consumed the government-sponsored lunch yesterday.

She said that 15 students are admitted in the hospital for observation, while the rest have returned home healthy.

“They were admitted for observation as they had shown nauseating symptoms. Condition of all the children is stable and they are able to take food now,” said Poppy Chadda, a doctor in the hospital who is administering the children.

Chadda said that the food sample has been sent for testing.

According to the school sources, Vithaliya Monteiro, a Catholic, cooks food for children of 27 schools, including this one, but nothing happened to the students of other schools.

Sister Shuba Moras, the correspondent of the school, said, “as the news of stomach pain of one or two students came out, more than thousand people gathered near the school with ambulances and almost forcibly carried children into the hospitals.”

“Mostly poor students are taught in this school. I could not understand how so many people could gather within no time,” she added.

P. Appi, whose child was admitted in the hospital, said she was frightened when she got the news but “now my child is fine and has taken food.”

The incident has happened at a time when the Mangalore diocese is all set to celebrate the post centenary jubilee of its establishment on February 11-12 after a whole year of celebrations.

“This is shocking news to us when all is set to celebrate the grand post centenary jubilee of the establishment of the diocese,” said Father Menezes.

He said that the school authorities have informed the police.

– francis rodrigues

India’s first transgender pastor


BharathiTamil Nadu, February 08, 2012: Bharathi conducts services in Tamil and English every Sunday. At a young age, Bharathi got attracted to the Bible. She went on to complete her Bachelor’s in Theology and achieve the distinction of becoming India’s first transgender pastor.

For the past eight months, Bharathi has been preaching at the Evangelical Church of India in Chengalpattu in Tamil Nadu.

She conducts services in Tamil and English every Sunday, besides training another transgender to become a pastor.

“I have conducted two baby showers for families and even named a child. Though I do not have a licence to conduct a wedding, a parishioner printed my name on his wedding invitation,” she said.

Traumatized and shunned as a youngster, Bharathi said societal acceptance was once just a dream for her just as it is for members of her ilk across the country.

She said she had formed a team to work among transgenders in Chengalpattu, to bring them into the church and thus into the mainstream.

Recalling her harrowing past, Bharathi said her family assumed she was a boy at birth.

“I was very feminine and my classmates and neighbors would make fun of me. I became a loner and could not even complete class 12,” she said.

Bharathi said that when she was 10, an “angel” entered their home.

“A nun near our home took pity on me and took me in,” she said.

The church soon became Bharathi’s home and she decided to embrace Christianity at the age of twelve.

“I started reading the Bible and praying in church every day. I converted when I was 12 and was baptized a few years later in 2000,” she added.

Bharathi, who left home more than seven years ago, visited her family two months ago.

“I had resolved to return to my family only after reaching a position of repute. When I returned, my parents were proud of me,” she said.

The pathbreaking move by the ECI, which has more than 100,000 followers across India, coincides with evangelical denominations in other countries, like the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, deciding to allow transgenders as pastors.

– times of India

Protest against the closure of Zakia Jafri / CJP Case by SIT

February 10, 2012 by  
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Justice SH Kapadia
Hon. Chief Justice of India
Supreme Court of India
New Delhi

Respected Sir,

Subject : Gujarat’s people protest against the closure of Zakia Jafri / CJP Case by SIT in Gujarat.

Zakia Jafri

Zakia Jafri

Gujarat, February 06, 2012: It is going to be 10 years of Gujarat Riot. Due to the absence of rule of law the justice is eluded the riot victims. Thanks to the steps taken by SC to reopen the cases. The appointment of Mr. Raghavan in SIT followed by the appointment of Mr. Raju Ramchandran as the Amicus Curiae, raised hope that justice will finally prevail in Gujarat

But the way SIT is functioning and probing the cases has made us apprehensive about it’s genuine interest to book the culprit. From the media we have come to know that the SIT is going to close the files of certain cases, particularly of Zakia Jafri. Being concerned we the citizens are drawing your attention

We have come to know that the Special Investigation Team (SIT) is planning to file a closure report. It appears that the SIT is performing a pre-determined task rather than working with a diligent and open mind. The failure of the SIT to identify the Perpetrators in the face of clinching evidence will send a dangerous signal—-that despite the highest level interventions, the Indian system allows the guilty to go unpunished. This will signal the end of hope. The SIT has first and foremost inexplicably delayed the filing of a charge sheet as directed by the Honorable Supreme Court in September 2011. (12.9.2011). SIT was reprimanded by the apex court in March 2011 for “ignoring inferences in the evidence “and when even after this reprimand, the SIT failed to measure up, the by an order dated 5.5.2011 was given a free hand to meet witnesses including policemen, bypassing the SIT. This meant that the SC asked for an independent assessment of the available evidence.

Now reliable sources as reported in the media say, that despite voluminous evidence and Recommendations by Amicus Curiae of the Supreme Court (Shri Raju Ramachandran) to prosecute the Chief Minister Modi and his collaborators (politicians and policemen) for the anti minority carnage 2002, the Special Investigation Team (SIT) is planning to file a closure report.

If despite the recommendations of the Amicus Curiae, the SIT today files a closure report, this would be first and foremost a blow to the mass indignity suffered by victims and would signal a grave threat to faith in the rule of law, democracy the relationships between communities. Faith in our system will be deeply eroded.

It is needless to mention here that A former Chief Justice who headed the National Human Rights Commission, Justice Verma, in 2002 had found the government complicit and recommended that critical cases be handed over to the CBI. A Citizens Tribunal (Crimes Against Humanity) headed by two former judges of the Supreme Court, Justices Krishna Iyer and PB Sawant found the state government and its head responsible for criminal complicity. Two Judges PB Sawant and Hosbet Suresh have even recorded their statements before the SIT.

So as citizens committed to the rule of law we need to raise the following issues:

1.. • Why the over four month delay in filing the charge sheet as directed by the SC on 12.9.11?

2.. • Why the reluctance by the SIT to thoroughly probe the issue of destruction and reappearance of critical documentary evidence by senior policemen including police control room records, station diary entries, mobile phone records? (These records have been analysed by complainants/petitioners and placed before the SIT and the Court and are available in the public domain)

3.. • Why the reluctance of the SIT, to bring on record the statements of available witnesses on meetings that reportedly took place at the chief minister’s residence?

4.. • Finally when the Amicus Curaie Raju Ramachandran has reportedly recommended the prosecution of the CM and his senior officers, where does the SIT find the impunity to exonerate criminals?

Let us not forget that the offences concerned include grave crimes against innocent citizens, in which policemen, administrators and politicians in positions of Constitutional posts, have not only violated their oath but callously allowed lives to be brutally taken, dignity denied. The failure of the SIT to identify the Perpetrators in the face of clinching evidence will send a dangerous signal—-that despite the highest level interventions, the Indian system allows the guilty to go unpunished. This will signal the end of hope.

As citizens of Gujarat we write to you concerned that a historic investigation under the supervision of the Supreme Court since 2008 is being subverted by vested interests inimical to the rule of law. This could prove disastrous for lasting and sustainable justice that has to be the prerequisite for peace and harmony.

Yours Faithfully

Chunibhai Vaidhya – Veteran Gandhian – President, Gujarat Lok Samiti
Suresh Mehta – Former – Chief Minister of Gujarat
Illaben Pathak – President, Ahmedabad Women’s Action Group (AWAG)
Father Cedric Prakash – Prashant – A Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace
Prakash N. Shah – Senior Journalist – Editor – Nirikshak
Dr. Vidhyut Joshi – Former – Vice Chancellor – Bhavnagar University
Gautam Thaker – General Secretary – PUCL (Gujarat)
Dwarikanath Rath – Convener – Movement for Secular Democracy
Swaroop Dhruv – Samvedan Sanskrutik Manch
Dr. Meherunissa Desai – President – Ahmedabad Muslim’s Women’s Association (AMWA)
Minakshi Joshi – All India Mahila Sanskrutik Sangathan
Shankarbhai Patel – President – Parents Association
Valjibhai Patel – Council for Social Justice
Dilip Chandulal – Convener – Lok Andolan Gujarat

UP Phase 1: 51% candidates millionaire & 38% have criminal cases

January 30, 2012 by  
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Uttar Pradesh ElectionUttar Pradesh, January 28, 2012: In the 2012 Assembly election in Uttar Pradesh, there is a clear rise in both the number of rich candidates and those with pending criminal cases across political parties. Compared to the 2007 assembly polls, in the Phase-1 poll due on 8th February, there are about 30% more millionaires and 10% more ‘criminals.’


Uttar Pradesh Election Watch on Saturday released a study report on the candidates of Phase-1 in Uttar Pradesh. The group studied affidavits of 284 candidates out of 867 in the Phase-1, and found that 109 out of 284 (38%) candidates have admitted criminal cases pending against them. In 2007, only 28% had pending criminal cases.

All main parties have fielded candidates with pending criminal cases but SP leads others.

Congress: 15 out of 54 (28%)
BSP: 24 out of 55 (44%)
BJP: 24 out of 55 (44%)
SP: 28 out of 55 (51%)
JDU: 5 out of 20 (25%)
Peace Party: 12 out of 42 (29%)
RLD: 1 out of 1 (100%)


According to the report, the Phase-1 is seeing more millionaire candidates compared to the 2007 polls.

Some 144 out of 284 (51%) candidates are crorepati. In 2007, only 22% crorepati were candidates. While only 6 candidates have declared assets worth less than Rs one lakh. In terms of average wealth per candidate, ruling BSP leads other parties.

Avg wealth per candidate in parties:
SP: 1.74 Cr
BSP: 3.83 Cr
BJP: 1.56 Cr
INC: 1.34 Cr
Peace Party: 1.01 Cr
JDU: 32.09 Lakh


Besides, 163 out of 284 candidates whose affidavits were studied are graduate or higher degrees.

Women candidates

While in debates on the floor of Parliament each party was trying to score more points over other by supporting the 33% women reservation in legislatures, when it comes to the ground, hardly any party has fielded more than 10% women candidates.

In the Phase-1 poll of UP, there are only 65 women candidates out of total 867 (7%).

BSP: 5 out of 55 (9%)
BJP: 6 out of 55 (11%)
INC: 4 out of 54 (7%)
SP: 4 out of 55 (7%)

Await more such info from states going to polls.

– tcn news

Religious heads urge government to ban made snana

January 23, 2012 by  
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Religious Heads Urge Government to Ban Made SnanaKarnataka, January 8, 2012: The demand for a total ban on Made Snana – the controversial ritual of people rolling on leftovers of food partaken by upper caste persons gained strength on Saturday, when 18 heads of religious institutions across the state came together to condemn the practice.

“If Made Snana can cure diseases effectively, the state government should close down all the medical colleges and hospitals, and set up Subramanya temples at every nook and corner of the State, where the patients can roll on the plantain leaves with food leftovers by the Brahmins,” said Panditaradhya Shivacharya Swami of Sanehalli, speaking at a conference organised by the Nidumamidi Mahasamsthana Mutt and Manava Dharma Peetha.

The programme, organised to create public opinion against the tradition, attracted a large gathering.

An age-old ritual at Kukke Subramanya Temple in Dakshina Kannada, Made Snana is performed by people with skin and other diseases who roll on the leftovers food on banana leaves, eaten by the Brahmins.

There was much public outrage at the controversial tradition, when newspaper carried pictures and TV channels footage of people performing the ritual, prompting calls for its ban.

Panditaradhya Shivacharya, the most vocal of the Made Snana opponents at the meeting, said the practice has been kept alive to suppress the dalits and to foster their sense of inferiority.

“Who else will roll on the leftovers of the Brahmins? It’s not Brahmins, nor any other higher castes but only Dalits. I tell you that people rolling on the plantain are prone to many dangerous diseases. This evil is not less than Sati tradition and child marriage and the government must act tough,” the Swamy said and criticised the head of the Pejawar mutt for equivocating on the issue.

Tontada Siddalinga Swami of the Tontadarya Mahasamsthana Mutt pointed out the irony of a medieval ritual practiced in Dakshina Kannada which has 90 per cent literacy rate. He also took a jibe at Higher Education Minister Dr V S Acharya for observing that the controversial ritual is a matter of faith.

“Made Snana is the biggest crime against humanity. This is not only sinful but illegal too. Those who roll and those who allow others to roll should be sent behind the bars,” said the Thontadarya seer.

Veerabhadra Channamalla Swami of Nidumamidi Mutt described the ritual as shameful. “We call for a change in society, wanting to retain this rotten tradition. The leaders should say whether they are for change or superstition,” he said. Chandrashekharanath Swami of Okkaligara Mahasamsthana Mutt said the ritual violated human dignity and urged the government to stop it immediately.

People from various sections of the society were present at the meeting to convey their opposition to the tradition.

– diajiworld

Of Laws, Cows and People’s Mutinies *Holy Cow ! who moved my meat

January 11, 2012 by  
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CowsKarnataka, January 08, 2012: Will the beef ban in BJP-ruled states fuel a new Mutiny? The Gau-Vansh Vadh Pratishedh (Sanshodhan) Vidheyak (Prohibition of slaughter of cow-progeny Bill) just passed in Madhya Pradesh empowers the government to prosecute any person found slaughtering a cow or even transporting the calf for the purpose of slaughter. Anyone found guilty of this act would face seven years of imprisonment and a minimum fine of Rs 5000.

In March 2010, the Karnataka assembly passed the The Karnataka Prevention of Cow Slaughter and Preservation of Cattle Bill 2010 by voice vote after uproarious scenes, and a four-hour acrimonious debate.  All sections of the opposition were against the bill, which caused much consternation  Karnataka. One of the largest popular mobilizations in recent years was held in the Tasker Town grounds in March 2010 by a broad cross-section of progressives, minority groups and farmer’s groups to protest the bill just as it was being discussed. It was passed by both houses but has not become law as the Governor has sent it for Presidential assent. According to the Deccan Herald, the bill prohibits slaughter of cattle, sale, usage and possession of beef, puts restriction on transport of cattle and also prohibits sale, purchase or disposal of cattle for slaughter.The offence is punishable with imprisonment not less than one year which may extend up to seven years or fined between Rs 25,000 to Rs 50,000 or both; second and subsequent offence would attract a fine of not less than Rs 50,000 up to Rs one lakh along with imprisonment penalty.

The bill was intended to replace the Karnataka Prevention of Cow Slaughter and Cattle Preservation Act, 1964, to prohibit the slaughter of cows and calves of she-buffaloes, bull, buffalo male or female. It is also aimed at preservation and improvement of the breeds of cattle and to endeavour to organise agriculture and animal husbandry in terms of Article 48 of the Constitution. The bill provides for stringent punishment for violation of the act, and also provides for powers to search and seizure of any premises including vessel or vehicle. V S Acharya, BJP leader,  said the bill was “in tune with the sentiments of the majority community”, and with the election manifesto of the BJP, and judgements of High courts and the Supreme Court.

The BJP governments in Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh may have brought these laws with the intention of putting pressure on the lifestyle and livelihoods of the minorities.  But are these bills acts of political bravado on the part of the BJP? According to the Economic Times, dt. 6th Jan 2012, (see article below), beef is the most popularly consumed meat in India – 26 lakh tons annually. In comparison, only 6lakh tons of mutton and 14 lakh tons of pork were consumed in India. The article quotes the US Food and Drug Administration, saying  India is in fact the third largest exporter of beef in the world, exporting as much as 1.28 million tons of it!

In MP, in particular, there is a large population of tribals  – 13 million – for whom beef constitutes a sple. In Karnataka as well, large sections of the state’s population will be affected directly once the bill passes into law, including farmers, milk producers, leather workers, most of whom are Dalits and Muslims, and of course the common man. 

The Economic Times report  quotes Dr Julukarao Srinivas Postdoctoral fellow, University of Hyderabad :”The constitution of India gives us the right to eat any kind of food; BJP is taking away people’s right to food through this law. They are not only targeting Muslims with this bill, but also the large tribal population of the state (of MP).”

One of the main reasons for the Karnataka bill, claimed C T Ravi of the Karnataka BJP, is the likelihood of shortage of milk due to the “current rate of cow slaughter in the state”.  This assertion is refuted strongly by Mustafa Beig, a researcher and political analyst, and Convener of the United Forum for Public Awareness: “There is a 2007 report of the cattle census in the Department of Animal Husbandry that has been kept unpublished because it will give the lie to this claim: the report says that between 2003 and 2007, the number of cattle in the state actually grew from 95 lakh to 1.49 crore”, he says.  “No one sells milch cattle which are worth over 15,000/- to be slaughtered, so the claim is totally specious”.    

It is a myth to think that this will only affect the minorities – mostly Muslims and Christians, as it is popularly and wrongly believed will be the most affected, as it is they who slaughter the cattle and use it as a means of livelihood and a source of low-cost protein.  These Bills have grave implications for the majority of the people of both states.  In actual fact, it is the livelihoods of large sections of the poorer sections : farmers; cattle traders, transporters, loaders, etc; milk producers, especially those who have taken loans to purchase milch cattle – who are mostly women in SGHs; the leather industry, the pharma industry, the meat producers and sellers who include a large section of the economically weaker section and most Dalits.

In the case of milk producers, their profitability will be adversely affected as they will be forced to care for male cross-bred calves which are considered surplus and sold, because they are not suitable to be used in agriculture.  This will cause a rise in cost of milk to the consumer in the short term. As milk producers will be faced with caring for economically unproductive aged cows they will stop rearing cattle, in the medium term this will result in lowered milk production, thus adding to the higher cost of milk and milk products, directly affecting the general population. In fact, farmer’s groups have already raised a demand for government to grant a kind of subsidy for rearing aged and unproductive cattle. Add to this the fact that the price of milk has gone up by three rupees a litre  in early January 2012, in Karnataka.

To get a further idea of what this implies, let us look at the economic implications of the proposed blanket ban on cattle slaughter, in the state of Karnataka:

It is estimated that every day, all over the state, about 20,000 culled : that is, economically unproductive cattle – are slaughtered in about 10,000 shops, resulting in the production of about 2 lakh kgs of meat, worth about 2 crore. Other byproducts, including the Hides, Bones, Horns, hooves, sinews etc are also generated worth about 1 crore.  These byproducts are also the raw materials for the leather, pharma, and sugar industry which will be directly affected. The common man will feel the impact as a rise in the cost of products like iron and calcium supplements, shoes, handbags, and sugar.  

It is estimated that the production of meat from cattle directly and indirectly employs about 12 lakh persons, mostly from the poor and marginalised sections : landless and marginal rural individuals who buy, sell and transport cattle, producers and vendors of meat and byproducts, etc.

As farmers and cattle rearers will no longer be able to sell their culled cattle they will be forced to either look after them at thier own expense, with no hope of economic gain. This will discourage them from rearing cattle and will actually cause a decline in the cattle population. 

Culling of animals is a scientific and economically prudent method of managing livestock which is adopted worldwide. The ecological impact of keeping lakhs of economically unproductive cattle alive, fed and watered, daily increasing by 20,000 in Karnataka alone, has to be considered. Imagine the huge state of Madhya Pradesh dealing with this situation.

“ Where there is less and less arable soil and water, how and where does the state government plan to find the fodder and water to meet the needs of these unproductive cattle?” asks Mustafa Beig, adding that there is a present shortage of 150 lakh mt of grain for cattlefeed alone, not to speak of the huge demand-supply gap of both green and dry fodder  for the existing, economically productive cattle.

Further, what is the government’s plan for the disposal of the carcasses after the cattle die a natural death? will they bury or cremate them? Who will pay for the cost of these? What about the air, water and soil pollution that will be caused as a result?  

The government offers go rakshana shalas run by charitable trusts attached to religious mutts as an alternative means of “pensioning off” these cattle. But critics say that is is a creative means of transferring public lands and public resources to these religious institutions, with total lack of transparency. On the contrary, says Sardar Ahmed Quraishi, President of the Tippu Sultan United Front, it is a way to impoverish and criminalise the 12 lakh population of the poor and marginalised, mostly minority and Dalit population whose livelihoods are based on the economy around the slaughter of economically unproductive cattle. “After all, when the animal is old, no body is going to look after it. We are giving it “mukti”, he says.

James, a young Dalit Activist, is more graphic. “You (upper castes) take the best of the cow – its labour, its milk, its offspring, and sell it after you have no use for it. When we find ways to use this resource, you attack us and even kill us (referring to the killing of 5 Dalits in Jhajjar, Haryana, in 2008, who were skinning the carcass of a cow after purchasing it). You are taking our livelihoods from us, even though we make it out of the waste you discard. Is this justice?”

“This law will take away to food from the poor who cannot afford to buy chicken or mutton, says another Dalit activist. “The cost of mutton, already high, will go up to one thousand rupees”, said Siddaramaiah, leader of the Opposition, during  the Assembly debate. Thus you will be thrusting vegetarianism on the people. This is only possible in Hitler’s regime. Is yours a Hitler’s regime?”

Thus it behoves the BJP governments in Karnataka and MP to pause and rethink before they bring such ill-advised laws into force. The state government’s real agenda of using the law to ride rough-shod over the rights of the minorities is hardly hidden. But  it may become a case of cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face, as the bill will open a Pandora’s box.  The majority of the states’ populations will be directly affected, causing a daily loss of about minimum of 4 crores to a large section of the poor and marginalised population in Karnataka alone who are bound to become restive at the loss of thier livelihoods. This will have a long-term effect on the social and political climate in the state, and adverse effects on the politics in the states and even the nation. Laws on cattle products are a red rag in this country:  remember what led to the 1857 uprising in the Indian army.  Will these laws contribute to a new uprising of the poor in India?

– cynthia stephen

Holy Cow ! who moved my meat


India, January 06, 2012: Indians eat more beef than any other meat. Beef consumption in India is double the combined consumption of meat and chicken, India is also the third largest exporter of beef, but the BJP led Madhya Pradesh government is not happy about its people eating the most favourite meat.

The recent bill enacted by the MP government criminalises the consumption of beef. The Gau-Vansh Vadh Pratishedh (Sanshodhan) Vidheyak (Madhya Pradesh prohibition of slaughter of cow-progeny Bill) can prosecute any person found slaughtering a cow or even transporting the calf for the purpose of slaughter. Anyone found guilty of this act would face seven years of imprisonment and a minimum fine of Rs 5000. The Karnataka government in 2010 passed the ‘Prevention of Slaughter and Preservation of Cattle Bill’ and Gujarat this year passed the Animal Preservation (Amended) Act, both these bills criminalised cow slaughter. (The names of the bills benevolently say about banning the slaughter or protecting the cow, but in reality they ban the food habits and harass the entire community that eat the beef or involve in its production).

In the name of protecting ‘religious beliefs’, BJP many believe has encroached upon the fundamental rights of the people.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation UN (FAO) report titled Livestock Information, Sector Analysis and Policy Branch says the largest consumed meat in India is beef. The per capita consumption of beef in India is 26 lakh tonnes, as compared to 6 lakh tonnes of mutton and 14 lakh tonnes of pork. It is clearly the common choice of meat for the Indian population. In fact after meeting the local consumption, a United States Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) data says India exports 1.28 million tonnes of beef, making it the third largest exporter in the world.

“The constitution of India gives us the right to eat any kind of food; BJP is taking away people’s right to food through this law. They are not only targeting Muslims with this bill, but also the large tribal population of the state”, says Dr Julukarao Srinivas Postdoctoral fellow, University of Hyderabad.

For example the tribal population of Madhya Pradesh is 13 million, and beef always has been an important part of the tribal food culture. In Spite of the large section of the population consuming this meat, the bill received a Presidential nod.

Cow as the holy animal of Hindus has always been a disputed belief. D N Jha in his book ‘The Myth of the Holy Cow’ explains this misrepresentation of cow’s holiness. Rigveda has references of cow being one of the most commonly consumed food item among the Brahmins. The practise of cow slaughter was an integral part of the Aryan cult. Jha writes cow and bull meat was one of the favourite delicacies of the Hindu deity Indra.

“Most Indians eat beef, and Indians mostly eat beef. The principled non eaters of beef are a minority in India”, says ChittiBabu Padavala a Dalit Marxist scholar.

The BJP has tried to justify such bills in the name of animal rights, but if it indeed wants to protect the rights of the animal, why protect only cow. “If animal rights is the argument, why not take care of them at our respective homes, and why not also protect snakes, goats and other animals that need help”, says Ran Puniyani, Member of All India Secular Forum. “This law is inhuman, and denies the right of food to a large section of beef eating population,” says Puniyani. “This is yet another tactic to harass the Muslim and tribal population in MP, and saffronise the state”.

But what is appalling is secularists have remained silent over this issue. Padvala thinks that the lack of outrage over this ban is also because fight against Hindutva is led by individuals who are less likely to eat beef at their homes. He says the upper caste leadership never took the long standing suggestion by dalit activist Kancha Illaiah for organising beef eating by dalits and Muslims to combate Hindutva and assert their own distinctive culture.

“It is difficult to say which is more shocking, the barbaric law or the lack of outrage at it,” wonders Padavala.

– m.economictimes

Goans still hope to preserve identity

January 2, 2012 by  
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Goa StGoa, December 30, 2011: Recently marked 50 years since its liberation from Portuguese colonial rule and its merger with India.

At the time of its liberation, on December 19, 1961, India’s then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru promised to safeguard Goa’s identity – customs, practices and policies inherited from the Portuguese, who ruled the area from 1510.

Down the years, the people of Goa have begun to believe their identity was under threat, though their spirits were lifted when Sonia Gandhi, grand-daughter of Nehru and chairperson of the federal ruling coalition, promised to take up Goa’s demand for special status in India.

Gandhi addressed more than 50,000 people at an anniversary event in the state capital of Panaji.

Special status, Goans say, would restrict outsiders from buying land and property in Goa, the top tourist destination in the country.

For some time now, even Church circles have reverberated with the clamor for protection of Goa’s land and environment.

The principal cause for concern among Goans is the state’s land use plan for the next decade, known as the Goa Regional Plan 2021.

The draft plan was first made public in 2009 and its notification was finally published on October 21 this year.

The Church and village bodies that discussed the plan determined that it paved the way for unbridled construction activity in violation of environment regulations.

On December 16, thousands marched to the state capital to demand scrapping of the plan.

The archdiocesan Council of Social Justice and Peace (CSJP) noted that the plan did not specify forests, scrub vegetation or grazing lands as natural cover.

Such is the case also with areas lying below sea level, locally known as Khazan land that falls under the jurisdiction of Eco-Sensitive Zone 1. People want fields, ponds, creeks, sluice gates, fish farming and salt pans also to be classified under Zone1.

The CSJP opposed depicting cultivable fields in interior villages as settlement zones, a move it said would benefit land developers.

Father Maverick Fernandes, CSJP spokesperson, expressed outrage at the notified plan that he said was “a threat to ecology and the existence of the Goan people.”

The “vague, irrational and contradictory” plan aims to help realtors who can “eventually build structures at waterfronts, hilltops or at places overlooking green paddy fields,” the priest added.

Construction activity boomed in Goa after local people’s Lusitanian laid-back culture began to attract outsiders. Goa continues to draw some 2.4 million tourists every year.

The outflow of Catholics overseas for better prospects has also eroded Goa’s uniqueness and diluted its Iberian environment, a vital component of its tourism industry.

The influx of outsiders has altered Goa’s demographic picture. Its population increased from 637,591 in 1961 to 14.58 million today. At the same time Catholic presence dwindled from 37 percent in 1967 to 25 percent this year.

An unregulated mass influx has led to the wealthy occupying huge tracts of Goans’ land and homes, especially in the last decade.

Goa’s 3,702-square-kilometer territory includes 812 sqare kilometers of usable land, of which 450 of them have already been developed.

Matanhy Saldanha, chairperson for Goa’s Movement for Special Status, says his people feel “more unsafe” after 50 years.

“We fear the imminent loss of our identity” as unscrupulous people destroy Goa’s beauty and serenity in the name of development.

Echoing similar sentiments, Father Feroz Fernandes, who edits a local weekly, laments that Indian and overseas millionaires have made Goa a “devastated land.”

Evidently, with Goa attaining the reputation for being an international tourism hot spot, there’s an insatiable lust for owning property in Goa.

Many housing projects have sprung up in the last decade, some in eco-sensitive and fragile locations. Real estate magnates have cornered prime plots with the connivance of politicians.

More than 70 percent of beneficiaries of this acquired land are immigrants. Celebrities now vie with each other to own a permanent holiday abode in Goa. This has led to land prices increasing a thousand fold in the past six years.

J Rebelo, an official at the sub registrar’s office in Panaji, says rich people from New Delhi and Mumbai are on “a buying spree” in Goa. “We know the price of land is not worth [what is being paid],” he added.

Ironically most houses remain vacant during the year. Their owners just want to flaunt their status by offering them to friends visiting Goa.

The quest for real estate in Goa has put even apartments beyond the economic reach of local people, and migrants who work on construction sites have put pressure on basic amenities leading to social conflicts.

All this has marginalized and nearly displaced the native Goans.

They now pin their hopes on Sonia Gandhi’s promise of special status for Goa to regain its identity.

The author was less than a year old when Goa’s Liberation took place. At 51, and based at Porvorim, near Panjim, he has worked as a journalist for more than 25 years, having served as editor of the Panjim-based Gomantak Times

– ucan

PM: Schemes changing situation of minorities

December 31, 2011 by  
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DalitsNew Delhi, December 29, 2011: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Thursday said the central government has launched several schemes based on recommendations of the Sachar Committee and these were bringing a change in the situation of the minorities.

Speaking at the International Dalit and Minorities Conference here, the prime minister said that it was often said that the government had not implemented the recommendations of the committee, but that was not true.

“The government has launched several schemes based on the recommendations of the Sachar Committee and these were bringing change in the situation of the minorities. But I agree that we need to fasten the process,” he said.

The seven-member committee, headed by former chief justice of the Delhi High Court Rajinder Sachar, gave its report to the central government in 2006 on the social, economic and educational status of Muslims.

Listing out the schemes launched by the government for minorities and Dalits, the prime minister said that the government was committed to take steps for development of the minorities.

“We have brought the forest rights act which provides ownership of forest land to indigenous people. There has been an increase in the recruitment of minorities in government jobs, security forces and banking services,” he said.

– tcn

Anna Hazare in soup after anti-women remark

December 31, 2011 by  
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Anti-women RemarkNew Delhi, December 29, 2011: Anti-graft crusader Anna Hazare’s anti-women remark put him into trouble with women rights activists terming it as “insensitive and coarse.”

Hazare had on Tuesday said, “banjh kya jaane prasuti vedana (what would an infertile woman know about labor pain).”

He was talking in context of difficulties he is facing in his fight for a strong anti-corruption bill.

“Anna Hazare’s insensitive remark about infertile women indicates his lack of gender sensitivity,” said Virginia Saldanha, executive secretary of the Office of Laity of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences.

She warned that in this 21st century, women will not take such insensitivity lightly.

Women activist Ranjana Kumari said that the remark denigrated the status of women, who have unnecessarily been dragged into the issue.

Kumari appealed to Hazare and his team to refrain from making any such stereotype comments.

Jyotsana Chaterjee, who directs the Joint Women Program of the Protestant Church of North India, termed the remark “coarse.”

“This kind of a remark was not expected from a leader of his stature,” she said.

Chatterjee said that Hazare should have used some other comparison to explain the situation.

Sister Helen Saldanha, secretary of the Women office of Catholic Bishops Conference of India, said that the remarks have come from unconscious programming of the mind backed by a culture which is gender blind and insensitive.

“Banjh (infertile) is a derogatory word that is attributed only to women and one does not have similar word for a man who is impotent,” she added.

The sister said that “our language has to be sensitive and inclusive.”

– ritu sharma

Teachers demand action against MNS activists

December 20, 2011 by  
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Teachers demand action against MNS activistsMaharashtra, December 19, 2011: Two hundred schools in Maharashtra have urged the government to take action against the Shiv Sena and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) for harassing teachers and principals.

The activists of the two organisations are beating up the teachers and principals in Pune and Mumbai schools in the name of misconduct.

The MNS activists blackened the face of Jose Kurian, Pricipal of DAV Public School in Navi Mumbai for allegedly ferrying its students in unsafe buses without proper safety measures.

“I was almost crumbling because I knew what it means. This is very humiliating, hurting, shattering but at the same time I was trying to put up a brave face only for the students,” Kurian said.

Ganesh Prameswaran, Principal of Poddar International School in Navi Mumbai, said that these incidents are affecting students as well.

“In fact the incident might have given the impression that well if you have the numbers you can get up and go to any place and bash up people and get your things done. Such message shouldn’t be going to the students,” he said.

Asha Narayanan, Principal, St Mary’s high school, said “if the youth are resorting to such means to settle score either political or personal, I don’t know, the situation is very scary for the students who are in our charge.”

The schools have prepared a charter of demands, including enforcement of laws under the Right to Education Act and extending protection to the teaching community.

They also want the disruption by outsiders to be made a non-bailable offence, enforcement of trespassing laws and authorisation only to government officials and agencies to check on schools.

These demands have been prepared after a series of attacks.

In November this year, upset over the leak of a question paper, the student wing of the MNS attacked and blackened the face of a Mumbai University official at Kalina.

In 2008, Shiv Sena activists assaulted the principal of King George School in Bhandup following allegations that a teacher had been molesting students.

– ndtv

Goa Archbishop extends Liberation Day greetings

December 20, 2011 by  
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Golden Jubilee Year of GoasGoa, December 19, 2011: Archbishop-Patriarch Filipe Neri Ferrao has sent his greetings to the people of Goa on the occasion of Golden Jubilee Year of Goa’s Liberation.

“The Archdiocese of Goa and Daman rejoices with the rest of the population of our State, as we celebrate the Golden Jubilee of the annexation of Goa into the Indian Union. Freed from foreign rule and united to the Indian subcontinent, Goa has enjoyed, for the last fifty years, the fruits of democracy and self-determination, leading towards prosperity and progress.”

“Freedom is a value that needs to be cherished and capitalized upon. Real freedom is one that enables us to look beyond the entrapments of our present day. And one such entrapment seems to be a certain obsession with the past, which prevents some of us from looking forward and from truly enjoying freedom.”

“Such an obsession can either result in an iconoclastic hatred for whatever was, or in an idealisation of a past that will never return. Fifty years is perhaps long enough to enable us to look at our post-1961 existence dispassionately and to realise that we must give up our hatred as well as our fixations and look forward together to a future that will ensure our wholesome wellbeing and communal harmony.”

“Our 450-year-long encounter with a European country is a part of our history that cannot be changed and that has left an indelible mark on the Goan ethos. Through its chequered development and despite all its undesirable aspects, it has contributed to shape us into a unique people in this land.”

“May the Golden Jubilee celebrations help us to rejoice at this uniqueness and to make the most of it as we forge ahead as mature and responsible builders of our future. We appeal to all sections of our society to work to build a Goa that will truly become a pearl in the crown of Mother India.”

– herald

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