Guwahati, July 16, 2015: The membership of BJP has increased at least three times in the Christian dominated state of Meghalaya, Nagaland and Mizoram despite campaigns to portray the party as anti-Christian, says its spokesperson Nalin Kohli.
In Meghalaya the party has increased from 23,000 to 65,000. In Arunachal Pradesh party followers surged from 30,000 to 100,000. Mizoram has now has 78,000 followers and Nagaland has 100,000. The increase happened in recent years from the few thousands, said Nalin Kohli who was in Guwahati on Tuesday.
Opposition parties to campaign against BJP projecting it as anti Christian particularly in the wake of attacks on churches, talks of banning beef and hoisting international Yoga day on a Sunday.
Many churches in Northeast India opposed the Government program of International Yoga day on Sunday and asked its members to refrain from it.
But BJP is not against any religion, Kohli said pointing that the deputy chief minister of Goa, where BJP is in power, is a Christian.
Kohli argued that in recently held Autonomous district council polls in Tripura BJP emerged as number two party.
BJP president Amit Shah reviewed the progress of membership drive and the progress of the Maha Sampark Abhiyan (mass contact program) with the state in charge of Northeastern units of party.
M. Chuba Ao Nagaland unit president of BJP said party’s opponents “always try to brand BJP as Hindu political party. They want to say that BJP is opposed to Church and Christians.”
Despite such campaign, “persistent effort is now paying off we are able to make people understand the BJP is not opposed to any religion rather it respects all religion and diverse culture of different lands,” Ao said.
- economic times
School authorities suspect the July 15 killings could be the latest in a string of sectarian attacks on the Christian community.
The bodies of Sunil Kumar, 36, and Anil Kumar, 32, who were brothers, were discovered tied up in a building of the United Christian Senior Secondary school in the early hours of July 15 with multiple head injuries.
A cupboard in the school principal’s office was broken into and over 20,000 rupees (US$315) were missing, school officials said.
Another security guard who arrived for the morning shift discovered the bodies and alerted police and the school authorities.
“The two men were brutally murdered. A small time criminal would not carry out such gruesome killings,” Satish Sharma, assistant commissioner of police investigating the case, told ucanews.com.
He said the brothers were likely attacked while they were sleeping, as there were no signs of a struggle at the crime scene.
The said the crime was probably committed by more than three people.
School authorities suspect the murders and robbery had a sectarian motive and was aimed at instilling fear in the Christian community.
“It raises serious security concerns for us. I don’t rule out a communal angle to the incident,” Darwin Prashad, the school principal, told ucanews.com.
He said the attack was the fifth on a Christian institution in the area in the last two years.
Two other nearby Christian schools and a church were attacked during this period, he added.
The United Christian Senior Secondary school has 900 students and is run jointly by the Baptist Union of North India and Church of North India.
Meanwhile, the murdered brothers’ family has called for the immediate arrest of the killers.
“They were very peace loving. They studied at the same school they were killed,” Pushpa Devi, the murdered men’s aunt told ucanews.
“Only God knows why they were killed so brutally and what the motive of the killers was,” she added.
Mumbai, July 14, 2015: “It is dishonest to turn an issue that is purely administrative into a problem of a religious nature”, Fr. Victor Edwin SJ, theologian and expert on Muslim-Christian relations comments to AsiaNews following a dispute that involves a Catholic school in Mumbai.
Parents of some Muslim students at St. Agnes High School in Byculla staged a protest yesterday against the institution, guilty of “forcing” their daughters to break the Ramadan fast. They were joined by some politicians of the All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen, who have threatened “legal retaliation.”
The adults were angered that three girls out of 40 have had to drink water after remaining more than seven hours in the sun. The principal, Sister Louisa D’Mello, admitted that she was not aware that students were waiting outside the building, but has refused to take responsibility for breaking of the fast.
The incident took place on Friday, July 10. Two days before, the parents say “we had the prayers of Lailatul Qadr and we stayed awake all night. For this reason, the next day [Thursday, ed] our daughters did not go to school. On Friday they went to the principle with the justification, but were not received. ” “One of the teachers – said the father of one of the three who was unwell – even said that, if we met with similar problems, then we had to send our daughters to a Muslim school.”
The 40 girls – most of them ethnic Bohra Muslim – remained outside waiting from 8:30 am to 15:30. The principal explained the error that sparked the controversy. “According to the disciplinary rules of the institute – she said – those who are absent must obtain the signature of the principal on the school register to mark their presence and enter the classroom. That Friday many students were missing and not all could fit all in the hallway in front of my office. Thus, by their own choice, they decided to wait outside the building. “
On the other hand, adds the Jesuit, “it is regrettable that a teacher told the Muslim students to leave and find an Islamic school. His attitude is typical of a prejudice that must be countered. The service offered by Christians to other religions, in particular Islam, in the fields of education and health is a fact. Muslims should recognize the dedication with which the service is provided”.
According to Fr. Edwin “such matters should be addressed with sensitivity and responsibility. The parents and the school administration must discuss and find a solution to the problem. The parents marching on the institute with politicians was an irresponsible act on their part”.
India, July 10, 2015: It is 25 years since the Indian media reported what they then called the first rape case involving Catholic nuns in Independent India. No one has yet been punished for the crime.
Police did arrest four men in connection with the July 13, 1990 rape of two nuns in their convent in Gajraula, near Delhi. However, the trial proved farcical when it was determined they were in jail when the crime was committed.
The court rebuked the police and awarded the nuns compensation. The court also said the case could not be closed until the real culprits were arrested. But it is now a forgotten case. High-ranking Church officials told me this week they have no clue as to how the so-called investigation is progressing.
Media reports said the case was handed to India’s top investigation agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation. Theoretically, they are still investigating the case.
Between 1990 and 1995, New Delhi’s Theological Research and Communication Institute recorded 20 more cases of murder, rape and assault on Catholic clergy and nuns in India. Since then the number of incidents has grown with about 100 attacks being recorded in recent years.
In the last year the figure has doubled to more than 200, since Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party came to power, according to data supplied by Christian leaders.
Another nun was allegedly raped last month in Raipur, while a 71-year-old nun was raped in a convent near Kolkata. Police are investigating these crimes, but if the probes follow a similar pattern to other incidents, all involved, except the victim, will forget about the crime until another one happens.
In the rush to move forward, no one seems to be bothered about getting justice for the victims.
In nearly all cases the perpetrators get away with it.
Over the past 25 years, only one person has been convicted and jailed for raping a nun. This crime occurred in Odisha in 2008. Two others were handed prison terms for sexual assault in the same case but they are out on bail.
No one else has been convicted or punished for raping a Catholic nun in this country despite some cases reaching court. This kind of impunity encourages criminals to commit more heinous acts.
Christian leaders say these crimes are part of an orchestrated effort by Hindu hard-liners to harass and subjugate the religious minority.
Police see the offenses as being among thousands of routine crimes being committed across the country. Hindu leaders dismiss Christian allegations against them as baseless and politically motivated.
All have their points, but if the criminals in the first few cases were caught and punished appropriately, the situation today would have been different.
We are seeing a pattern. Crime repeated; words repeated; victims forgotten. The Church and state move forward with no sense of sin in their omissions.
One nun, who was raped some time ago, told me how she has become frustrated with the protracted court case and wishes to see it end, even if it means the culprits go unpunished.
Each time the case comes up she is forced to re-live the ordeal answering questions from lawyers and the media, she said.
Why is this happening?
In most cases, the rapes were not spur of the moment crimes committed while carrying out a robbery. In the Kolkata case, they specifically chose the 71-year old nun leaving younger nuns in the convent alone.
In the Raipur attack, the culprits deliberately chose the 47-year nun, taking care not to disturb two younger women sleeping next door. They also came prepared with drugs to give to the nun. It was evident they were making a statement against Christians with their crime.
Rape can mean a statement of subjugation in Indian society. It can mean: ‘We trample upon what you love, respect and revere… your sister, wife and mother. You live as a subject to us or get out.’
It remains a fact that not a single Hindu Brahmakumaris nun has been sexually attacked in all these years.
Often rapes of nuns are also connected to the land they own or property they live in. After the Gajraula case there were reports the rapes were engineered to scare the nuns away and acquire their land at a cheaper price. Similar reports were published after the Kolkata rape.
In 1991, a politician was accused of encroaching on convent land in Bangalore and threatened to do a “Gajraula” if the nuns made an issue of the incident.
Why does it continue?
Indian society and the Church are yet to act decisively against rape, despite seeing it as a social evil.
In a country where at least two women are raped every hour, police, administration officials and the public shrug them off as just another rape, even if the victim is a Catholic nun.
The Church lives immersed in that reality unable to see that every single rape is a dastardly act.
If the Church is serious about fighting rape, including attacks on nuns, a change of attitude and more concerted action is necessary, not knee jerk reactions.
A rape victim is invariably seen as bringing shame to her family and community. Unfortunately and surprisingly, most female religious congregations also consider a rape within their community as a matter of shame.
One victim told me she was asked to change her name by her congregation and now lives under a false identity.
That sense of shame makes Church hide the crime. Church officials successfully covered up the Gajraula crime for 10 days until the national weekly Sunday Observer published it.
A nun at that convent told they pleaded with the Observer reporter not to publish the story.
That is good enough reason to believe that many more rapes of nuns must have gone unreported.
Even in the latest case in Raipur, the victim’s congregation refused to admit the nun was raped despite the victim making clear assertions that both suspects raped her.
Nuns who survive sex attacks continue to suffer because of the turn a blind eye attitude of those who lead Religious congregations.
The lack of a well-defined policy and established system to handle victims of sex crimes within religious communities also rubs salt into the victims’ wounds.
All too often the victim is hidden. She is suddenly whisked away after the crime and “asked” to live incommunicado temporarily, or in some cases indefinitely.
When sex crimes occur, “our system goes haywire. We’re in the dark. We do not know what to do, or how to go about things,” according to Father Ajay Kumar Singh, who works to get justice for victims of anti-Christian violence in Odisha state, including rape victims.
He said the affected people or the local diocese is left alone to do what best it can. Most often they give up halfway through a case when they run out of resources or patience with what is a painfully slow legal system in India.
Opponents of the Church in India also know that its leaders are uncomfortable in dealing with sex-related issues. Victims of sex crimes in the Church are often accused of being child abusers and sexual perverts.
That is enough to end an investigation, they believe. One example that stands out was the murder of two nuns in Mumbai in 1990.
Soon after the investigation began, reports appeared in newspapers saying that the nuns led immoral lives and that one of them had venereal disease. It sapped the energy from Church leaders to fight for the dead nuns.
Church leaders need to break their taboos and overcome their fear of sex and sex-related crimes as a first step if they want to fight sex crimes against nuns and other women in India.
Bengaluru: IT tycoon and Wipro’s chairman Azim Premji has committed to give around additional 18 % of his stake in Wipro for charity purposes, taking his total charity to 39 % of his company’s shares (worth Rs 53,284 crore) primarily for funding education.
The latest philanthropic initiative by Premji would pump in an additional Rs 530 crore by way of dividends into the Azim Premji Trust’s corpus this year.
“Over the past 15 years, I have tried to put this belief into action through my personal philanthropic work. Over these years, I have irrevocably transferred a significant part of the shareholding, amounting to 39 % of the shares of Wipro, to the Trust,” Premji wrote in a letter to all the shareholders.
Premji, 69, controls a 73.39 % stake in Wipro and also owns a private equity fund, PremjiInvest, which manages his $1 billion worth of personal portfolio.
Wipro is India’s third-largest exporter company of IT products and services. In Wipro’s annual report for the year ended March 2015, Premji said he has now allocated the equivalent of 39% of the company’s shares to a trust focused on philanthropic initiatives, mainly primary education. The additional 18% stake forms the latest tranche of shares Premji has allocated for charity.
Apart from the latest development, Premji is the first Indian to sign up for The Giving Pledge, a campaign led by Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, to encourage the wealthiest people to make a commitment to give most of their wealth to philanthropic causes. He is the third non-American after Richard Branson and David Sainsbury to join this philanthropy club.
In 2001, Premji had founded the Azim Premji Foundation, a non-profit organisation, with a vision to significantly contribute to achieving quality universal education that facilitates a just, equitable, humane and sustainable society. The Foundation works in the area of elementary education to pilot and develop ‘proofs of concept’ that have a potential for systemic change in India’s 1.3 million government-run schools.
Pertinently, Premji was considered the ‘Most Generous Indian of 2014’ in a survey by Hurun Research Institute.
“In the wake of improvement in security scenario, there is a need to review deployment of security forces in the region. At present the deployment is more than it was when the insurgency was at its peak,” he told a conference of North East Chief Ministers in Guwahati.
“I would urge all the Hon’ble Chief Ministers to conduct a realistic audit of deployment of Central Armed Police Forces in their states. However, I assure you of our endeavour to help you in the deployment of central forces when actually needed,” he said.
Singh, who was accompanied by his deputy Kiren Rijiju, also said that there had been substantial strengthening of state police forces in the past few years.
“Without compromising with security, we must plan to reduce deployment to make the environment easy and also to encourage positive thinking of outsiders about this region,” he said.
Singh congratulated all the chief ministers on their sustained efforts in improving the security scenario by focusing on development resulting in an “all-time low” level of insurgency in the region.
“Mizoram, Tripura, large parts of Assam and Meghalaya, and Arunachal Pradesh, except its three eastern districts, are almost free of insurgency. There is a strong popular desire for peace in Nagaland and Manipur too,” he said.
Talking about militancy, the home minister said several small residual insurgent groups were operating from their safe havens across the border and are engaged in kidnapping for ransom, which had almost doubled in Assam and Meghalaya.
He said in Garo Hill district of Meghalaya, some new splinter groups were kidnapping people for ransom or looting businessmen at gunpoint.
“I would like to make it absolutely clear that the central government would not talk to such criminal elements. Such criminal activities must be dealt with firmly… I would like to reiterate and emphasize that we have zero-tolerance policy on insurgency,” Singh said.
He also said most of the youths in insurgent groups were misled and they had now realised their mistakes. “They are welcome to the mainstream. However, those who have committed heinous crimes and acts of terror will have to face the law and meet the justice,” Singh said.
Referring to the ongoing peace talks with different groups, Singh said it was on the right track and the government hoped to bring them to logical conclusions soon.
- indian express
New Delhi, July 01, 2015 : The central government on Wednesday questioned the Delhi Police move to provide safety to churches only and asked Delhi High Court that efforts should be made to protect other religious places also.
A division bench of Chief Justice G. Rohini and Justice Jayant Nath was informed by advocate Anil Soni, appearing for the Centre, and churches and minority-run institutions, that police should ensure safety of other religious places like temples, mosques and gurdwaras.
“They (police) have done a commendable job by providing safety to churches. But efforts should be made to protect other religious places also,” Soni argued.
He said through the Centre’s affidavit that there were 106 incidents of trespass, theft, vandalism or destruction at temples, two cases in mosques and 10 in gurdwaras, whereas there were only six attacks on churches in the same period.
The court was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking protection of all religious places, particularly churches.
The bench asked Delhi Police to file a status report in four weeks on the steps taken to protect other religious places.
The court would hear the matter next on September 2.
“Steps have been taken for the security and safety of the churches and minority-run institutions through wide publicity including media with an aim to reach the masses,” the police affidavit said.
The PIL, filed by advocate Reegan S. Bell, asked authorities to compensate the places of worship that were attacked and to ensure they were restored to their original form.
The plea said that since December 2014, six churches in Delhi were vandalised but no one has been arrested.
Saying that the government failed to prevent the attacks, the PIL urged the court to seek an action-taken report from the central and Delhi governments and Delhi Police regarding the attacks and efforts made by them to secure these places.
The court had earlier also observed that there “should not be any attack on any kind of religious places” in the country.
New Delhi, July 1, 2015: Christians in the western Indian state of Chhattisgarh and the capital Delhi staged protests Tuesday against what they called the lax attitude of police, who have yet to name any suspects in the rape of a nun late last month.
“We are investigating all kinds of suspects but we cannot say we are any closer to solving the case,” Neeraj Chandrakkar, additional superintendent of police who is handling the investigation, told ucanews.com Wednesday.
Chandrakkar said 15 teams are working on the case and “we have till now interrogated 150-200 people in connection with the crime”.
“We have also taken some 30-40 people to the victim for identification,” he said, adding that the victim is satisfied with the efforts the police are making.
The nun, who belongs to the Salesian Missionaries of Mary Immaculate, was raped when two masked men broke into her room, drugged and tied her up in the early hours of June 20 in Raipur, the capital of Chhattisgarh state.
Christians across the state staged silent marches to protest the slow progress in the investigation. Demonstrators wore white clothes and black badges during the protests.
All private schools in Raipur were closed Tuesday “expressing solidarity with the cause,” said Father Sebastian Poomattam, vicar-general of Raipur diocese.
He expressed hope that the demand for action would prompt police into arresting the culprits soon.
In Delhi, Some 200 Christians, including nuns from different congregations, gathered in front of the Sacred Heart Cathedral Tuesday to demand swift action in the case.
“We will take to the streets if nothing happens. We are just waiting for the state government’s response. If no action is taken against the culprits, we will launch a nationwide call for justice for the victim,” Tessy Antony, secretary of the women’s commission in Delhi Archdiocese, told ucanews.com at the rally.
Antony said the rape and all recent attacks on the Christian community are a way of threatening those who carry out missionary work.
“We will not be intimidated. We are born to serve the poor and we will not stop it,” she said, adding that nuns are vulnerable targets.
“They don’t have the security of a family. They work in remote, difficult conditions and become easy targets for such heinous crimes,” she said.
The protesters accused the police of “intentionally” not making any arrests in the rape case and “trying to shield the culprits.”
Holding placards and expressing words of solidarity with the nun, they demanded the immediate arrest of the culprits and protection for India’s Christian community.
“We are scared to go out. I am a social worker and have to venture among different kinds of people. We wear ordinary clothes and avoid wearing our religious garb so as not to attract any attention,” said Bincy Mathew, a Salesian nun who took part in the protest.
Replying to the allegations of police inaction, Chandrakkar said people can say what they want but “we cannot disclose everything to the public as that will hinder our investigation”.
Vatican, June 25, 2015: In an oblique rebuke to the Islamic State and other militants, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran has wished Muslims a peaceful and joyful Ramadan and acknowledged the pain of those who have suffered or died because of violence.
“With Pope Francis, we wish you that the fruits of Ramadan and the joy of Eid al-Fitr may bring about peace and prosperity, enhancing your human and spiritual growth,” Cardinal Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, said in a June 12 letter to Muslims.
His remarks alluded to ongoing violence in the Middle East and elsewhere. He asked both Christians and Muslims to pray.
“Our prayer is much needed: for justice, for peace and security in the world; for those who have deviated from the true path of life and commit violence in the name of religion, so as to return to God and change life; for the poor and the sick,” said the French-born cardinal.
His comments follow the rise of militant groups in Iraq and Syria such as the Islamic State. Some Islamist militants accuse other Muslims of apostasy and target them for violence. While Christians and other religious minorities sometimes suffer disproportionately, millions of Muslims have suffered as well.
The cardinal’s Ramadan message spoke to these victims.
“For some of you and also for others from other religious communities, the joy of the feast is shadowed by the memory of the dear ones who lost their life or goods, or suffered physically, mentally and even spiritually because of violence,” he said.
The cardinal lamented the killings, enslavement, crimes against women, forced migration, and the destruction of religious and cultural heritage.
“We are all aware of the gravity of these crimes in themselves. However, what makes them even more heinous is the tentative of justifying them in the name of religion. It is a clear manifestation of instrumentalizing religion for gaining power and richness.”
“There is no life that is more precious than another one because it belongs to a specific race or religion. Therefore, no one can kill. No one can kill in the name of God; this would be a double crime: against God and the very person.”
Cardinal Tauran called on leaders in education, media, and religion to teach “the sacred character of life and the derived dignity of every person, regardless of his or her ethnicity, religion, culture, social position and political choice.”
He stressed the need for authorities to provide security and public order to protect people from “the blind violence of the terrorists.”
Ramadan is a Muslim month of fasting intended to commemorate the revelation of the Quran to Islam’s Prophet Muhammad. This year, it lasts from June 17-July 17. It ends with the holiday Eid al-Fitr, which breaks the fast.
Cardinal Tauran told Muslims he hoped and prayed that they may be enriched by the Ramadan practices of fasting, prayer, almsgiving, and visits to family members.
“Our feasts, among others, nourish in us hope for the present and the future,” he said. “It is with hope that we look at the future of humanity, especially when we do our best to make our legitimate dreams become a reality.”
Protesters under under Sanyukt Sangarsh Samiti supported by CPI(M) said that all education institutions will be kept shut on July 1 and that they would call for state bandh on July 8 following continuous protests across state.
Police is yet to arrest anyone for the June 19 sexual assault on the nun in her bed room in a small medical facility in Raipur.
Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Dharamraj Mahapatra told media in a briefingon Monday that attitude of state government and police has been extremely disappointing.
“After closure of schools on July 1, we would call for state-wide massive protest on July 4in each district. On July 13, the committee will call for state/ capital bandh if the accused aren’t arrested,” the committee member said.
Condemning the incident of rape, Sanyunkt Sangharsh Samiti was formed on June 24 by nearly 45 social organizations for justice for nun. In joint associations of All India Women Democratic Association, Communist Party of India (Marxist), Student Federation of India, Insurance Union of Working Women, Raipur division, Democratic Youth Federation Of India, state Christian Forum, United Trade Union Council of Raipur, Nadi Ghati Morcha, and advocates, people have come together to protest against atrocities on nuns and women.
“We have come to know that police were acting lenient in the case and their investigation as the spot of crime hasn’t been sealed yet, nor survivor’s belongings, which could give them clues, were seized by the police. Neither there is any record being maintained by the police of the materials seized nor the medical tests which was done on June 20 soon after the incident was conducted by expert doctors,” Mahapatra said.
“All religious places should be provided with security personnel to prevent untoward incidents and maintain a fearless atmosphere in city,” he added.
Talking to TOI, Raipur SP BN Mina said that more than 200 people under have been interrogated and the case was under investigation. “One forensic report will be out byTuesday. Another team had gone to the spot on Monday for more findings. We can’t act lenient in the case due to its seriousness.”