Police slow to register case after church burnt down by suspected Hindu extremists

June 17, 2018 by  
Filed under India, newsletter-india

Puducherry, June 15, 2018: A church in Puducherry in southern India was set ablaze recently, after upper-caste Hindu neighbours had objected to worship services in the area.

Puducherry, formerly Pondicherry, was a French colonial settlement until 1954.

A church in Puducherry in southern India was set ablaze recently, after upper-caste Hindu neighbours had objected to worship services in the area.

Puducherry, formerly Pondicherry, was a French colonial settlement until 1954.

Pastor David Santosham and members of the Bible Presbyterian church in Karaikal District left for home after concluding fasting prayers on 25 May.

At around ten past midnight, he received an anonymous call informing him that the church was on fire. “My rented flat is about five minutes away. I rushed immediately. The church was in flames,” Santosham told World Watch Monitor.

“My daughter called the fire brigade; she passed word to church members also.

“[Some who came] complained to the police of strong-smelling gases, suspecting that it could be the cause of the fire, urging them to investigate… My wife and I had taken care to switch off the lights and turn off the electricity supply before we left as usual.”

The church’s roof, made of tar sheets and bamboo supports, was reduced to ashes. Christian literature and musical instruments costing the equivalent of around $4,500 were also burned.

Santosham said that, after ten days of persistent visits to police in local Neravy, they finally lodged a First Investigation Report (FIR) on 6 June, citing section 436 of the Indian Penal Code against “unknown miscreants” for torching the church.

“I submitted my complaint on 26 May, but the police [at first] refused to register it,” the pastor said. “I was told if there has to be a FIR in this case, there will also be a counter FIR against me.”

‘No concrete evidence’

Asked why the delay, Station House Officer Jerome Jesmond told World Watch Monitor: “Even the fire department could not ascertain the cause of fire. We waited for their report to decide whether to register an FIR.

“As per the preliminary investigation, we suspect some unknown person, but the investigation is still in the initial stage… Pastor Santosham named some suspects, but there is no concrete evidence to prove his allegations.”

Over the past two weeks, the church has gathered in the open air under a tent.

“I met the district collector [in charge of local government administration], higher police officials and the chief minister also; they gave us verbal assurances,” the pastor said. “We left the burnt remains untouched, hoping there will be an investigation, but how can we gather in open-air in this monsoon season?”

His daughter, Evangeline, 18, told World Watch Monitor her father’s church had been attacked twice before – first in 2012, and then in 2016.

“On 30 September [2012], a mob of 80 RSS [a Hindu nationalist group] activists circled the main entrance of our church. My dad and I went to unlock the church gate. It was Sunday… But our neighbour and his counterparts would not allow us inside the church.

“A representation was made to the National Commission for Minorities, and we believed the problem had been solved … only to be attacked again in 2016, when we decided to repair the roof.

“We bought all the material for the repairs and were arranging the iron rods to stand as pillars. But our neighbour objected to it and the work was forcibly stopped.

“We could only put a tar sheet on as a roof and set some bamboo as supports. It was a very simple church.

“Some boys on their way to offer prayers at the mosque were the first ones to see the fire, and they knocked [on our neighbour’s] door, but he did not answer. The fire had spread a small way by then. But the neighbours living in the front lane came out; they told them.

“[The boys] got our number from those neighbours and phoned my dad.”

Hay in their neighbours’ compound, adjoining the church, was also in flames, but Evangeline said the neighbours “did not care”.

“They came out of their house only after fire brigade officers asked them,” she added. “It’s very expensive to rent a tent every week – 5,000 rupees [$75] for a day – and now that rains are here, even the tent will not be of any use. Our only hope is God.”

‘The situation is worsening’

Established in 2008, the Bible Presbyterian Church had been functioning with permission from district authorities. “The piece of land was also registered in the church’s name, and we received approval from officials to conduct worship services,” Evangeline said.

Religious freedom advocacy group ADF India’s records show that in May 2017, construction of a church in the Malagapudi Pattu area of Puducherry was forcefully brought to a halt by hard-line Hindus.

Nehemiah Christie, Director of Legislations and Regulations at the Synod of Pentecostal Churches, said: “The burning of the church in Puducherry is a call for Christians … to come together, leaving behind denominational differences.

“The situation is worsening because of the federal [BJP – also Hindu nationalist] government’s silence. Also the inaction of the authorities emboldens the extremists to attack Christians. It’s sad to see the spread of Hindutva [Hindu nationalist ideology] extremism from Tamil Nadu [the Indian state where most violent attacks against Christians have taken place] to Puducherry.

“No action has been taken by the authorities in the past against extremists who, in Tamil Nadu this year, have disrobed Christian women, attacked pastors, and burned Bibles. Police conveniently register the case ‘against unknown assailants’, despite clear evidence of video footage, including where the victim states the suspect’s name.

“It is sad that police complicity also exists in Puducherry, where the secular Congress government is in power. Filing an FIR ten days after receiving the complaint, without mentioning the suspect’s name, clearly shows who is linked with anti-Christian elements.”

– world watch monitor

Christian community members fear communalism under BJP rule will polarise 2019 Lok Sabha elections

June 17, 2018 by  
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New Delhi, Jun 12, 2018: With the 2019 general elections around the corner, several in the Christian community feel that another tenure for the current government will legitimise crimes against them and other religious minorities.

Recently, Open Doors, a Christian mission, enlisted 50 of the most unsafe countries for Christians, in which India was ranked 11th. The report published by Open Doors reads, “Because Hindu radicals view Christians as outsiders, they are experiencing increased persecution. These radicals are intent on cleansing the nation of both Islam and Christianity and employ violence to this end. Usually, converts to Christianity experience the worst persecution and are constantly under pressure to return to Hinduism.”

The report further says, “Campaigns known as Ghar Wapsi (or homecoming) are used to get Christians to denounce their newfound faith. These converts are often physically assaulted and sometimes killed for refusing to deny Christ. The government continues to look away when religious minorities are attacked, indicating that violence may continue to increase in the coming years.”

Issue more about caste than religion?

Tehmina Arora, who hails from Delhi and is an Indian representative of the Alliance Defending Freedom, says, “Christians are often blamed for trying to convert people by force or inducement, even though we form a minuscule population. Many new converts don’t share their new faith because they fear violence, either from their families, society or anti-social elements.”

“Many Christians, especially those who live in smaller towns and villages, are vulnerable,” she adds.

A study on violence against Christians by ADF — which recorded incidents of physical violence, threats/intimidation and restrictions on religious assembly received via the United Christian Forum helpline — shows that between January and April 2018 alone, there were 155 incidents. Last year, 242 incidents were recorded, and 216 were recorded in 2016. This is only a fraction of what the community is experiencing, she says, as many cases don’t get reported.

Responding to the question about the insecurities Christian community have, Father of Immanuel Marthoma Church (popularly known as ATS Green Church) Abraham Mathew says that hate crimes against Christians are increasing. “This has been a reality since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power. Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) or other fringe elements commit crimes, and feel safe under this government,” he says.

Adding to this, Father Mathew says that his community is in panic, and they are worried that the government won’t take care of them. “We have participated in India’s struggle for freedom, we were at the front during many agitations, take for example North East and Kerala. However, we are still seen as ‘anti-nationals’ — this is a serious problem,” he says.

Shibli Peter, who works with Dalit Christians through a platform called Centre for Social Studies and Culture, says, “Majority of the Christian population is Dalits and tribals, and they are being continuously threatened. Hindutva outfits are launching campaigns such as ghar wapsi to attack and threaten them and convert them to Hinduism against their will, since the basic agenda of the RSS is to go against conversion.” He further says, “Interestingly, the issue is political. If you look at caste structure, Dalits and tribals form the majority, and for the RSS, it’s important to retain them to continue their rule. I think this is more about caste than religion.”

Justy Alex, who is also from Delhi and is pursuing her Masters in social work, says, “The most affected are the Dalit Christians, who face double the discrimination.”

‘Deliberate attempt to demonise Christians’

Earlier in May, the archbishop of Delhi, Anil Cuotto, wrote a letter addressed to all the parishes and religious institutions under the Archdiocese of Delhi to pray for the country and its political leaders as the general elections inch closer. He wrote that the turbulent political atmosphere right now is threatening the principles of the Constitution as well as the secular fabric of the nation. This received a lot of backlash from the right wing, who called it religious interference.

Anil Barghese, a Christian resident of Kailash Colony, says, “The BJP and RSS wanted to create a fuss about the archbishop’s letter due to elections. They should know that in all churches in India, every Sunday, we pray for all our political leaders, it’s in our liturgy and written in our prayers. I think more bishops should come out with similar letters.” He adds, “People part of churches are also voters, and you cannot isolate them.”

Defending Archbishop Anil’s letter, Father Mathew says that it was a personal one, and people should be vigilant enough to see what is happening in India. “A believer in democracy will see how it’s unnecessary to say that churches are against the BJP. Why it is so that a temple priest can become a politician, but a Christian priest cannot have an opinion?” he questions.

Justy expresses her concern over the upcoming elections. She says, “Next year is a crucial one, especially when it comes to India’s much-celebrated secularism, which is at stake in the hands of the current government. Since 2014, there has been an evident rise in the crimes against religious minorities. From vandalizing churches to mob lynching — we have seen it all in the past four years. Another tenure for the current government will further legitimize atrocities against minorities.”

Shibi says it’s a deliberate attempt by the RSS and BJP to demonise Christians and present them as outsiders and enemies. “This is being done to polarise the majority for the 2019 elections. Wherever Christians are in significant numbers, they are being made into enemies,” he concludes.

– firstpost

Faith leaders pledge zero tolerance of child marriages

June 17, 2018 by  
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Secunderabad, June 15, 2018: Leaders from various religions in Telangana have pledge to do all in their might to prevent child marriages after listening to severity of the social problem at a conclave.

“Around 15 million girl children are married off every year worldwide. This works out to a child marriage every two seconds,” said Montfort Brother Varghese Theckanath, president of Interfaith Forum for Social Change (IFSC) that joined other NGOs to organize a state level interfaith conclave at Secunderabad.

The June 13 conclave focused on coordinated efforts of religious communities to prevent child marriage and promotion of secondary education.

“It is time religious leaders left their religious spaces to play their transformative role in society as changemakers to help humanity attain their fullness of life,” Brother Theckanath said while asserting that the leaders of faith communities must step in to change traditions and customs that come in the way of preventing child marriages.

The Brother promised that the Interfaith Forum will play an active role to bring together religious leaders of all hues to attain the goal of eradicating child marriages.

The conclave was the joint effort of Mahita and Plan India along with the IFSC under the aegis of Girls Advocacy Alliance.

Mahita is a team of individuals who formed a group in 1995 to initiate development interventions in the urban slums of Hyderabad. Plan India is a nationally registered not for profit organisation striving to advance children’s rights and equality for girls, thus creating a lasting impact in the lives of vulnerable and excluded children and their communities.

Speaking on the occasion Yerrola Srinivas Garu, chairperson of the Telangana State SC/ST Commission, asserted that the prevention of child marriage is responsibility of every individual.

“We should, individually and collectively as community, fight against this evil. Education is the best means to do it,” he said. He highlighted steps taken by the state government to prevent child marriages through schemes such as Kalyana Lakshmi and Shaadi Mubarak that supports young girls from socially backward and minority communities to the tune of 100,000 rupees if they are married after attaining the legal age of 18 years.

Speaking on the occasion, Ramesh Sekhar Reddy, director of Mahita, stated that Girls Advocacy Alliance, an NGO Collective has been working in the different districts of Telangana with religious leaders to sensitize their communities on the issues of child marriages and education for girls.

But an event of such dimension at the state level is a first of its kind. He said society at large counts on the Interfaith Forum for Social Change to take the campaign forward so that before long the Telangana state will record zero level of child marriages.

The religious leaders who attended the conclave are: Harikishan ji of the Arya Samaj, Sister Anjali, head of the Brahma Kumaris, Ashish Barua, a prominent Buddhist leader, Brother K M Joseph, former assistant general of the Montfort Brothers, Moulana Syed Nasir Hussain Hyder Aga, senior Shia Muslim leader, Maneck Daruwala, leader of the Secunderabad Fire Temple, Raminder Kaur (religious preacher from the Sikh community), Jain Ratan K M Jhabak, chief priest of the Jain Temple, Bishop Pushpa Lalitha, first woman prelate of the Church of South India, and Sri Sri Seetharamacharyulu of the Shaivaite Community.

They promised their “total and unreserved commitment” to prevent child marriages in Telangana.

A poster on prevention of child marriages by faith leaders was released on the occasion.

– matters india

Two lynched over cattle ‘theft’ in Jharkhand

June 14, 2018 by  
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Jharkhand, June 13, 2018: Two Muslims were beaten to death by villagers in Jharkhand’s Godda district on Wednesday after being accused of cattle theft, police said. Four people have been arrested.

According to police, Murtaza and his brother Chiraguddin were caught red-handed while stealing buffaloes at Bannkatti village of Godda, around 500 km from Ranchi, and villagers, who gathered at the spot, thrashed them brutally. Both died on the spot.

However, their father has claimed that they were cattle traders.

– ucan

Kandhamal tenth anniversary: Indian Church to pray for martyrs

June 14, 2018 by  
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Bhubaneswar, June 14, 2018: The Catholic Church in Odisha plans to invite all cardinals, archbishops and bishops of India to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the persecution of Christian in the Kandhamal district of the eastern Indian state.

The Church expects all prelates along with hundreds of priests and nuns from all over India at the solemn Mass on August 25 on the St Joseph’s School Ground in Bhubaneswar, the state capital.

“We are persecuted but not abandoned, knocked down but not crushed,” says a message from Archbishop John Barwa of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, the chief organizer of the program.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India will also collaborate with the program, says the prelate in the June issue of the archdiocesan official circular.

Archbishop Barwa says the Church has experienced God’s powerful presence and accompaniment during all hardships and persecutions down the centuries. Everything happens for a purpose, said the Divine Word prelate, who added, “Let’s pray for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the persecuted Christians of Kandhamal and for their continuous growth in faith.”

Kandhamal, a district in Odisha, witnessed the worst anti-Christian violence in modern Indian history. The community experienced violence during Christmas season in 2007 and again in the second half of 2008.

Around 100 people lost their lives and more 56,000 people were rendered homeless in the violence that began on August 25, 2008, and lasted for a few months. Thousands of houses and hundreds of churches and Church institutions were destroyed in the mayhem.

“Let us rise up from the ashes of 2008 Kandhamal riot. As we complete 10 years of the Kandhamal violence, we are planning to pray in the name of the Kandhamal Church,” Archbishop Barwa said.

The prelate said at the commemorative Mass on August 25 the Indian Church will pay homage to the Kandhamal martyrs, who inspire and encourage Christians in the country to witness their faith at all times.

The program, the prelate says, will help bring spiritual renewal for the Odisha Church and produce more devout Christians from Kandhamal. After the Kandhamal violence, hundreds of young people from the region have joined seminaries and convents to dedicate their lives to serve society and the Church.

“I also urge you to pray unceasingly for the cause of the martyrs of Kandhamal. May St. Thomas, the patron saint of the Archdiocese intercede for us to be healed of our wounds and live in harmony and peace as brothers and sisters, children of the One God,” Archbishop Barwa prayed.

– matters india

Verbal divorce continues in India despite court ban

June 14, 2018 by  
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Hyderabad, June 13, 2018: Eight months after India’s Supreme Court banned verbal divorce practiced by Muslims, the custom still continues in some states.

In August 2017, the Supreme Court called the practice of triple talaq “un-Islamic, arbitrary and unconstitutional.” Following the court direction, the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) introduced a bill to ban it that was passed in the lower house of parliament last December.

But it was stalled in the upper house after opposition parties were divided on several aspects of the legislation amid criticism that the government was targeting the Muslim community.

“The triple talaq issue is not about faith. It is about gender equality and justice,” Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told a function in Hyderabad city last week.

In several states, especially Uttar Pradesh and Telangala, the practice continues, the minister said as he called for support from opposition parties to help the bill become law.

The BJP, which initiated the bill, has accused opposition parties of opposing the bill for political reasons because they are afraid of losing votes from India’s 172 million Muslims.

The opposition has criticized the ruling party for not considering amendments to make the law milder in line with the sensitivities of Muslims.

Several local political parties have faced immense pressure from religious groups in their constituencies to turn down the bill, which stipulates a three-year jail term for offenders.

Reports say at least 22 Islamic countries have banned triple talaq, which was traditionally supposed to be done over a period of three to four months to allow married couples to attempt reconciliation.

However, it became common to complete the process in one go, saying the Arabic word talaq (divorce) three times to obtain an instant separation. Some people even used social media and email for such divorces.

Several Muslim groups, including the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, have challenged the government’s authority to criminalize a religious practice.

Some groups also view the proposed law as an intentional attack on the religious freedom of Muslims by the pro-Hindu BJP.

“The government move is wrong,” said Mateenuddin Quadari, a member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board in Telangana state.

He said the practice is now rare because “only some uneducated people do that.” Problems such as these should be resolved within the community, Quadari said

Rights activist Jameela Nishat of Telangana capital Hyderabad said several women divorced by triple talaq have approached her to seek help. “But since there is no law, we are helpless,” she said.

The chief quazi or Muslim religious body that approves marriages and divorces in Hyderabad has stopped considering triple talaq as a valid form of divorce, Nishat said.

Muslim men have reportedly even used postcards, newspaper advertisements and text messages to say talaq three times to get a divorce, in most cases without even giving any notice to their wives.

Nishat said surveys show that more than 90 percent of women do not get any compensation in such divorces. Most women are also opposed to the practice.

– ucan

Modules to teach constitutional values released

June 12, 2018 by  
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New Delhi, June 12, 2018: The Office for Education and Culture under the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India on June 11 released a 9-page module to teach the Preamble of the Indian Constitution in Church-managed schools.

“The CBCI Office for Education and Culture in fact has been directing the educational institutions to teach Constitutional Values to students all the while to foster true patriotism, National Integration and love for the Country,” says Salesian Father Jose Manipadam, national secretary of the office, who has circulated the module among bishops and heads of the Church educational institutions in the country.

The move is part of the Church’s efforts to help teach young generations the constitutional values.

The module is circulated two days after an archbishop in Kerala stressed the need for Christian schools to teach the Constitution. “Everyone should actively work for ensuring the secular values promised by the Constitution,” said Archbishop Maria Calist Soosa Pakiam of Trivandrum, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Council.

The prelate termed as “highly dangerous” attempts by some vested interests to invoke hatred and fear among various groups as a shortcut to power. “Learned community and political leaders should come together against such practices,” Archbishop Pakiam added.

Father Manipadam says he felt encouraged to take the initiative after a number of bishops requested his office for help in inculcating the values of the Constitution in young people.

The Salesian’s circular is accompanied by the “lesson plans teaching the Indian Constitution” and a “My India Pledge.”

The priest suggests that the pledge be recited during assemblies in colleges and colleges to inculcate true patriotism.

The module on the Preamble was prepared by Father Sunny Jacob, secretary of the Jesuit Educational Association of South Asia, in 2016 to be taught in their schools in the first half of that academic year (July-November). It guides a detailed study of the 85-word Preamble in four stages.

In the first stage, the students are encouraged to memorize the preamble, use it in assembly for a month, recite in primary classes and prepare speeches with marks in the secondary classes.

The second stage stresses the significance of the preamble and suggests as activities group discussions, quiz contests, essay writing and poster competition.

The enacting words, “We the people of India,’ is the focus of the third stage. It wants students to stage skits and small dramas on celebrating unity in diversity through various examples. It wants to drill in the importance of “We feeling” or “ We Indians” to check divisiveness. In this stage, senior students are encourage to give to talk to juniors on the inclusivity.

In the fourth stage, the students familiarize with key words in the preamble: sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic and republic. The Constitution promises justice, liberty, equality and fraternity to all the citizens without discrimination. The module wants senior students to review how far has the country achieved these ideals and find out the roadblocks.

– matters india

We can change what we gave ourselves in 1950: Tripura Governor on Constitution

June 12, 2018 by  
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New Delhi, June 11, 2018: At a time when the opposition and several intellectuals have expressed fear that the BJP government is preparing to change the Constitution and make India a Hindu rashtra, Tripura Governor and former BJP-RSS insider, Tathagata Roy has said that what was accepted in 1950 can be changed.

“So far there have been 101 amendments to the Constitution, some of them under very questionable circumstances, as in the case of the 42nd amendment, when most opposition leaders were in jail (during the Emergency).

“So after scoring a century, what are those ‘intellectuals’, Left-Nehruvian establishment to me, afraid of,” asked Roy, appointed Tripura Governor in 2015.

He has authored a 450-page biography of Syama Prasad Mookerjee, the founder of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, which morphed into the BJP.

The Governor was responding to IANS questions in an email interview that sought his response on whether or not the fear of the opposition leaders and several intellectuals “holds ground” in the light of recent events.

“That said, what man has made, man can certainly change. France has had five republics since 1792. We the people of India can change what we gave ourselves in 1950 if we think it ought to be done,” he said.

Congress President Rahul Gandhi, writer-parliamentarian Shashi Tharoor, Salman Khurshid and historians such as Ramachandra Guha have repeatedly alleged that the real aim of the RSS and the BJP was to change the Constitution.

However, Roy said the roots of evolution of India’s intellectual class lie in “minority appeasement” and what “the so-called intellectual class calls ‘secularism’.”

He said that “there is no meeting ground” between these, and “it is no wonder that that class uses choice invectives against those who believe in the ideals of the RSS. Naturally, we believe we have been portrayed in the wrong light — but then, we are quite prepared to concede that one has a right to do all that.”

Roy said that as the Governor of a state he had nothing to do with the BJP but, at the same time, his basic beliefs had not evaporated and were merely kept on the backburner.

“It is indeed true that I share the ideologies of RSS and its Vividh Sangathanas and believe in the way they function,” he said.

Roy still finds Vinayak Damodar Savarkar’s definition of a Hindu — one who was born of Hindu parents and regarded India as his motherland as well as holy land — to be “unduly restrictive”.

“It is significant that the Supreme Court in 1995 defined Hindutva as a way of life rather than a religion, and declined to review its stand in 2017… As such, there is no difficulty in the Hindu mind to co-opt Allah or the Judeo-Christian God or Ahura-Mazda as part of the pantheon — in other words accept a Muslim, a Jew, a Christian or a Zoroastrian as an equal,” he said.

“But if someone says that there is no God but Allah, and if you don’t say so I’ll make you do it by force, then surely Hindutva will have an issue with that person. It is said that too much of anything is bad. This is expressed differently by saying that we must all be open-minded, but not so open-minded that our brains fall out,” said Roy, a civil engineer by training, who was employed by the Indian Railways and later taught at Jadavpur University in Kolkata.

Interestingly, Roy is full of praise for veteran BJP leader Lal Krishna Advani in the acknowledgement section of his book, though many veteran BJP politicians, including Advani, Yashwant Sinha and Shatrughan Sinha seem to have been sidelined by the new party high command.

“I don’t put Advani in the same bracket with Yashwant Sinha or Shatrughan Sinha. Advaniji had dedicated his whole life to the RSS and the party, and brought about a sea-change by increasing the strength of the party in the parliament from two to 88. The latest ups and downs have nothing to do with my respect for the man, which remains very, very high. Even today he is regarded as an elder statesman,” he said.

Asked of his evaluation of the new BJP high command, spearheaded by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party President Amit Shah, he said he would not like to respond to it while he is the Governor of a state but “shall be glad to answer” after May 2020 when he demits office.

According to Roy, Mookerjee’s politics had three principal features: Right-Wing, Indocentric and Constitutional.

“These were his personal beliefs. Of these, the right-wing nature and Indocentricity were or are very much in evidence in the BJS and BJP. As for being constitutional, in practical politics there are obvious difficulties in making a party in India adhere to totally constitutional methods, and this was not found entirely possible by the BJP or even the Jana Sangh. Still, by and large, the BJP remains a right-wing, Indocentric and constitutional party compared to all other political parties of India.”

Tathagata Roy joined the BJP in 1990 and rose to become the state president for West Bengal and a member of the BJP national executive.

– ians

India’s top Muslim cleric wants govt to change its ways

June 12, 2018 by  
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Srinagar, June 12, 2018: The chief cleric of India’s Muslims, who comprise more than 14 percent of the nation’s 1.2 billion people, has accused the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) national government of abusing practitioners of Islam.

Maulana Syed Ahmed Bukhari, popularly known as Shahi Imam, issued a public statement after a June 9 meeting with the federal minister for parliamentary affairs, Vijay Goel, held ahead of elections due next May.

Bukhari, who leads prayers at India’s largest mosque, New Delhi’s Jamia Masjid, had previously spoken out against the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who had a landslide election win in 2014.

BJP leaders are now trying to improve their image with Muslims in the majority-Hindu nation, but Bukhari underscored the challenge they face. While more positive treatment of India’s 172 million Muslims would be welcome, Bukhari stressed that the BJP had lost considerable support.

“They (BJP) leaders have come to us but Muslims are targeted and abused. There is one year left for election if they do something, it’s welcome but we have a lot of complaints,” Bukhari said in his statement.

Observers note that Bukhari’s renewed criticism of the government could, in itself, damage the BJP’s election prospects.

The BJP in 2014 won 282 of 543 seats in the national parliament, but Modi’s popularity has since waned.

A survey conducted by India Today television in May showed that only 34 percent of those polled expressed a preference for Modi as prime minister, a two percent drop.

His Congress Party rival, Rahul Gandhi, improved his popularity by 10 percent to 26 percent as measured by those who want him to be the next prime minister.

During the 2014 elections, eight percent of Muslims voted for the BJP, nearly double the 2009 share, according to the Delhi-based Centre for the Study of Developing Societies.

However, this time would be different, stressed Iqbal Ahmad, a New Delhi based political commentator.

Muslims under BJP rule felt more vulnerable and insecure than ever before, he said.

“There are several cases of failed justice for crimes committed against Muslims and this has disheartened the community,” Ahmad added.

He cited the rape and murder of an 8-year-old Muslim girl from Jammu and Kashmir state by hard-line Hindus and allegedly open support for the accused by elements of the BJP.

“In April, an Indian court overturned the conviction of senior BJP member Maya Kodnani who was sentenced to 28 years in jail for her part in the murder of 97 people in 2002 in the state of Gujarat,” Ahmad said.

“These things are clear examples of the BJP’s vindictive mindset against Muslims.”

Babur Jan, a lawyer based in Jammu and Kashmir, accused the national government of openly patronizing anti-Muslim groups.

Jan said many people believed that political interference resulted in a court in April acquitting 11 people accused over a 2007 mosque explosion in the south-eastern city of Hyderabad that killed nine people.

He said this year BJP ruled Uttar Pradesh state began the process of withdrawing more than 130 communal violence-related prosecution cases, including against Hindu politicians allegedly involved in instigating 2013 clashes that cost the lives of 42 Muslims and 20 Hindus.

Ankita Das, a civil society activist based in New Delhi, told ucanews.com that Muslims had reason to feel they received “step-motherly treatment” from the BJP.

This had included numerous references to Muslims being foreigners who should leave India.

Such things would not be forgotten when Muslims vote, Das predicted.

– ucan

Honor killing in Kerala: Dalit Christian found dead

May 31, 2018 by  
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Kochi, May 29, 2018: Honor killings, unheard in Kerala, have made their way into the southern Indian state with the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) recording as many as five cases in since 2014.

Barely two months after the murder of a girl by her father, another gruesome case of honor killing has rattled the state. A newly wed youth, who was abducted by his wife’s family from Kottayam, was found dead further south in Kollam.

Kevin Joseph, a Dalit Christian, got married to a girl of an affluent Christian family on May 24. Kevin’s lower economic status reportedly came in the way of the love marriage. He was abducted by an armed group led by the girl’s brother Shanu Chacko on May 27 morning. Kevin’s body was found near a canal at Thenmala in Kollam district on May 28

The youth, who had gone to a relative’s home immediately after his marriage , was dragged out of the house early Sunday morning and taken away. Although Neenu and Kevin’s parents reached the Gandhi Nagar police station, Kottayam, pleading for quick action to trace him, the police refused to respond.

Neenu’s statement that the police had cited Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s impending public programme as an excuse not to trace her husband became a poll issue on Chengannur by-election day. The police attempted a fire-fighting operation by suspending Sub Inspector, Gandhi Nagar station, M.S. Shibu. They also removed V.M. Muhammad Rafik, District Police Chief of Kottayam.

Senior officials said the police appeared not to have pursued an active kidnapping case in which the complainant was the hostage’s wife.

They did not immediately register a case nor sound a Statewide alert for the vehicles carrying the abductors. Officials said it was not clear whether the Sub Inspector of Police had informed his superiors of the gravity of the case and its societal implications. The law required officers to give high priority to social crimes such as honour killings and dowry murders. However, the police appeared not to have followed the rule in the case of the hapless couple in Kottayam.

The incident has triggered massive protests against the police. The image of the Kerala police has taken yet another severe beating with the abduction and killing of Kevin. The incident has triggered massive protests against the police.

Earlier this month, the police lost face over the delay to prosecute a child abuse case in Edappal in Malappuram despite receiving visual evidence. Last month, a mistaken arrest in a armed trespass case at Varappuzha in Ernakulam resulted in the death of a blameless youth in police custody, with allegations that an illegally constituted special team of the Aluva Rural police had beaten up the youth. He breathed his last the following day due to fatal injuries to his intestines.

According to the NCRB records, there have been five honour killing cases — three murders and two cases of culpable homicide not amounting to murder — registered in Kerala between 2014 and 2016.

Psychiatrist C J John said these instances are also a warning sign of the communal divide existing in the socio-political scenario of the state.

– matters india

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