Gujarat, August 12, 2015: The government of Gujarat has withdrawn a book on BR Ambedkar, the father of the Indian Constitution, from all primary schools in the state because “anti-Hindu”. A “very unhappy,” move according to Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ – director of the Prashant Center for Human Rights, Justice and Peace – given that it was the same administration to decide to include the volume in the curriculum, as part of celebrations of the 125th anniversary of the man’s birth . In total, the authorities had had printed more than 400 thousand copies, most of which has already been distributed.
The government ordered the withdrawal of the book after discovering that the publisher included the “22 vows” that Ambedkar made during the mass conversion of 1956, in which thousands of his supporters left Hinduism to embrace Buddhism. According to the Department for Social Justice and Empowerment (which had decided to publish the text, ed), the original author did not include those passages.
Born into a family of Hindu Dalits (“untouchables”) all his life Ambedkar fought to assert political rights and social freedom of the “untouchables” like him. In his fight against the caste system dictated by Hinduism, he became interested in Buddhism, and decided to convert.
To do so, he organized a public ceremony in Nagpur October 15, 1956, which was also attended by 500 thousand supporters. In order to make the conversion, Ambedkar and his followers uttered the “22 vows”: with these, as well as giving up the worship of the Hindu gods, they established the equality of men and the commitment to create a society of equals.
“It is clear – Fr. Prakash tells AsiaNews – that, with this book, the government wanted to co-opt as many Dalits and Buddhists as possible. However, they realized that in highlight Ambedkar, they also had to address the honest but painful reality of what he thought of Hinduism “.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP, the Hindu nationalist, the government), adds the Jesuit, “find it difficult to digest all that Ambedkar had to say. But the citizens of India can not be fooled so easily. It was Dr. Ambedkar to have played a crucial role in the drafting of the Constitution of India and he is rightly regarded as the father of our Constituent Assembly. “
“The slogan of Ambedkar -he recalls – was ‘to educate, agitate, organize’. Many in Gujarat and India will think of these words today. ”
Mumbai, August 14, 2015: Mgr Thomas Dabre, archbishop of Pune, is calling for a nuclear-free world on the eve of the anniversary of India’s independence on 15 August 1947. Praising the Japanese who, on the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, expressed opposition to the re-militarisation of their country, the prelate noted that although India has atomic weapons, as homeland of the Mahatma Gandhi, Indians must be “for peace and non-violence.” Here are his thoughts:
On the anniversary of India’s Independence (15 August) and the anniversaries of Hiroshima (6 August) and Nagasaki bombings (9 August) 1945, we ask for a nuclear-free world. About 300,000 innocent people were killed. What mindless cruelty!
Over the years, world leaders have been busy discussing the issue of nuclear weapons. The main argument in favour of such weapons is effective deterrence and no first strike, but only preventive and for national defence. That has led to nuclear proliferation.
Today several countries possess nuclear weapons, including India and Pakistan. However, taking into account the cost of human lives and collateral damage, it looks more and more difficult, impossible to defend the use of nuclear weapons.
No nation will emerge victorious in a nuclear war, whose harmful effects will be felt for many long years. Those who are knowledgeable about the vast scale devastation caused by the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have heard the poignant accounts given by survivors. They cannot but come to the conclusion of no war again.
Therefore, during the observance of Hiroshima and Nagasaki people in Japan have been calling for a world without nuclear weapons. They are opposed to the revision of the Japanese national constitution, because some political leaders in Japan favour Japan’s militarisation and weaponisation.
You may know that following the two tragedies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki tragedies, Japan resolved to be a pacifist nation. Japan since then does not have a military of its own.* I am also told that Japanese police do not carry arms.
Unfortunately, some political leaders are now asking for a change in the constitution favouring weaponisation. However, what is to be appreciated and welcomed whole-heartedly is the growing opposition to the government’s plans to militarise Japan.
In particular, young people are saying no to Japan’s militarisation and weaponisation. This indeed is a sign of a brighter future.
Let us all pray for a world without nuclear weapons. I think Christians in the world should be in the forefront of the opposition to nuclear proliferation.
Those who believe in God should promote the campaign for peace in a world without nuclear weapons.
India is the land of religions and of Mahatma Gandhi, who followed the principle of ahimsa, i.e. non-violence. We in India should also be for peace and non-violence in solving international and border disputes.
Bhopal, August 17, 2015: A parish church in India’s Madhya Pradesh state has been robbed, prompting Church leaders to accuse state authorities of allowing criminals to commit crimes against Christians with impunity.
Thieves used the cover of darkness to break into St. Joseph Church in Ganj Basoda in Sagar diocese Aug. 13 and steal an unspecified amount of cash from the collection box, parish officials said.
“This is the third theft or attempted theft from this church” in less than a year, parish priest Nitish Jacob told ucanews.com on Aug. 16.
The first was on Dec. 3 when thieves entered the presbytery and stole about 100,000 rupees (US$1,500).
A second attempt took place on Feb. 15, but was foiled when people inside presbytery woke up, he said.
Bishop Anthony Chirayath of Sagar bemoaned what he said was a complete lack of police action in trying to stop attacks on Christians in the state, which encourages criminals to commit further acts.
“They [the police] are inactive, and don’t take any action when churches are attacked. They don’t take seriously our complaints. What can we do? It is the duty of the police to investigate and take action against the culprits,” he told ucanews.com.
Christians have faced a series of attacks since the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party came to power in the state in December 2003, Church leaders say.
Local police chief R K Bansaldenied denied accusations that the police were doing nothing. He told ucanews.com that his men were investigating the latest case with the help of CCTV footage.
The footage shows the suspect stayed on the premises for almost one hour, he said.
Although the images are unclear, police believe “the robber is a local person who is aware of the workings of the Church,” the officer said.
Bishop Chirayath and other Christian leaders say there have been at least 100 attacks on Christians since the BJP came to power 12 years ago, with more than 20 occurring in the last six months.
Not one prosecution has taken place, they say.
“The Church has been continuously denied justice even after proper complaints to the authorities about assaults, attacks and other illegal cases leveled against it and its members, but to date there isn’t a single example in which the administration has acted properly to boost the trust and confidence of the people,” State Bishops’ Council spokesperson Father Maria Stephen said.
“Since we believe in the rule of law, we are going to meet the district collector [the highest government authority in the district]. We will also approach the courts for protection and safety, if need be,” he said.
New Delhi, August 11, 2015: The Church of North India (CNI) is urging its young people to consider entering civil service in order to bring a Christian presence to the country’s government and have a positive influence on public policy.
CNI General Secretary Alwan Masih made the call in a message to the members of the church, following the announcement of results of civil service examinations for 2014.
Noting that young people in civil service play an all-important role in framing policy for the nation, including social programs and development projects, he said: “They are the pillars who are responsible for any change that the country experiences.”
Masih announced that a CNI member had qualified in the 2014 group, raising hopes that more young people prepared by the CNI would write preliminary examinations in August.
However, the General Secretary said that in comparison to the overall percentage of Christians in India’s population, Christians were unrepresented in the number of those who had passed preliminary examinations held by the country’s Union Public Service Commission.
Given the Church’s track record of providing high-quality education, it and its organizations “need to do some soul searching and try to find answers” to find out why candidates from the Christian community were not playing a corresponding role in civil service, he declared.
The CNI Executive Committee had taken an important first step with a resolution to begin a civil services examination preparatory program for its youth but much more needed to be done, the General Secretary said.
He observed that one reason for the low level of representation was a basic lack of awareness about the significance of civil service. Many of the youth simply were not interested.
Masih stated that the all Christian denominations in India needed to encourage and motivate their youth to “take up the challenge” of writing the civil service examinations.
“The Church supporting such an effort financially and emotionally will be a great service to the community as well as to the nation.”
- anglican news
New Delhi, August 11, 2015: About 100 protesters gathered in New Delhi to demand special rights for dalit Christians and Muslims, including quotas for places in educational institutions and government jobs, as enjoyed by their Hindu counterparts.
Marking what they call “Black Day,” the demonstrators, including Catholic priests and nuns, waved black flags and shouted slogans outside the Sacred Heart Cathedral in the capital Aug. 10, demanding the government immediately resolve the issue.
Black Day is observed by dalit Christians across India every Aug. 10 because of a 1950 presidential decree that day denying special rights to non-Hindus.
The Indian constitution guarantees a reservation of government jobs and places in educational institutions for dalits (former “untouchables”) and other underprivileged classes.
However, Christian and Muslim dalits are denied these benefits on the grounds that their religions do not recognize the caste system.
“There is no untouchability in any religion but it exists in the soil of India. Indian Christians live in a society where people are discriminated against on this basis,” John Dayal*, a member of the National Integration Council, told ucanews.com.
The council consists of senior politicians and leading figures and looks at addressing problems resulting from castes and sectarianism.
“A dalit cannot admit he or she is a Christian. If they do, they will lose their job, scholarship or place in the university they gained for being a dalit,” Dayal said.
At present, 12 state governments and union territories have recommended that the federal government grant special rights to dalit Christians and Muslims. Most national and regional political parties also support the move.
However, the ruling pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP, Indian people’s party) is opposed to granting special rights to dalit Christians and Muslims, saying it would encourage religious conversions.
Federal minister for social justice Thawar Chand Gehlot called the demand “unconstitutional” last October.
“They left the Hindu fold to escape the scourge of untouchability as it did not exist [in Islam and Christianity]. Their conversion solved the problems they faced as Hindus so they should not ask for caste status,” he said.
Protesters in Delhi said the government is sending out the wrong message by not agreeing to their demands.
“The government has ignored our demands. This is religion-based discrimination,” said Ali Anwar, a parliamentarian.
Fr Z. Devasagaya Raj, secretary of the office for dalits and lower classes of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India and one of the protest organizers, said the government is showing a lack of understanding about the needs of minority religions.
He added that the government is not presenting the right argument when it says only the Hindu religion has the caste system.
“They do not understand the social realities of dalit Christians. I hope that they will have some sense of justice,” he said.
He also pointed out that the government is wrong in thinking people will convert to Christianity and Islam if dalits from these communities are granted special rights.
“By saying this, they are undermining their own religion. People do not convert on a whim,” he said, adding that people don’t change religion unless they are convinced by the faith.
Christian leaders estimate that at least half of India’s 23 million Christians are of dalit origin.
* John Dayal is a member of ucanews.com’s board of directors and also an occasional op-ed contributor.
The arrested are members of the local branch of the Hindu right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), reported Vatican Radio. They were arrested on Friday.
The statue was attacked on Thursday, on the eve of its planned public installation as part of the worldwide celebration of the 200th birth anniversary of the founder of the Society of Don Bosco. It had been placed on a pedestal on the shore of Bharulu, a tributary of the Brahmaputra, to be unveiled Friday morning.
According to an eyewitness, hours before the ceremony, a group of more than 100 people began pelting stones and flower vases at the statue and then threw it into the river. As a result, the arm of the statue broke.
Days ahead of the incident, the BJP’s student wing, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, had protested against the installation of the monument.
Those oppose the installation of the statue allege that the Italian spiritual leader has not contributed anything to the Assamese society, and found it offensive to install his statue along with socio-political leaders of Assam at a public place.
They said the state’s ruling party, Congress, approved the installation of the statue to please their party president Sonia Gandhi, who is an Italian by birth.
State Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has “strongly condemned” the incident saying, “we must acknowledge the contribution made by John Bosco in the field of education and society at large.”
“This incident is unfortunate and some elements are responsible. Disagreement and dissent must be seen in a positive light, but to desecrate and then throw the statue into the river wounds our religious sentiment,” Gogoi added.
- vatican radio
New Delhi, August 3, 2015: The central government and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-IM on Monday signed a historic accord that promises to bring peace in a state which has been ravaged by violence for over six decades.
The accord was signed in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi who described it as historic. The agreement is expected to end the oldest insurgency in the country.
“The Naga political issue had lingered for six decades, taking a huge toll on generations of our people,” said Modi.
He admitted that “unfortunately, the Naga problem has taken so long to resolve because we did not understand each other”.
Modi spoke of his vision for the transformation of the northeast region and expressed confidence that the agreement will open “a glorious new chapter for the Naga people to build a bright future for Nagaland”.
The Naga agreement was the second major initiative in the northeast — after the peace accord between the government and the Mizo National Front in 1986.
NSCN-IM general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah, who signed the accord on Monday at the ceremony held at the prime minister’s 7 Race Course Road home, hailed it as a “momentous occasion”.
He said all Naga people had great respect for Mahatma Gandhi who understood the problem of the Nagas and was in favour of their demands.
Muivah, 81, is a key leader of the NSCN-IM which has been in talks with the central government since 1997 after a ceasefire was signed.
NSCN-IM chairman Isak Chishi Swu, who had also signed the agreement, could not make it to the ceremony as he is unwell and undergoing treatment at Fortis hospital in Delhi. His son Pasheto was, however, present.
Apart from NSCN-IM, there are three more major factions involved in insurgency in the state. These are NSCN-K, NSCN-U and NSCN-KZ. They are unlikely to accept this peace accord.
The Naga peace accord took many by surprise, with the prime minister making a dramatic tweet: “I will be making a special announcement at 6:30 PM from RCR.”
The Naga People’s Movement for Human Rights (NPHMR) chairman N. Krome told IANS over phone: “We were all caught by surprise by the sudden announcement.”
He said they were aware that something was happening “but we did not realise that something like this would happen so soon”.
The accord comes almost two months after 18 army soldiers were killed in a major ambush carried out by Naga militants in Manipur’s Chandel district. Following this, India had carried out an operation in Myanmar.
Nagaland became India’s 16th state on Dec 1, 1963. The mostly mountainous state is spread over 16,579 sq km and is home to 16 major tribes, each with distinct customs, language and dress.
Christian-dominated Nagaland is home to around 20 million people. It’s official language is English.
NSCN-IM claims to speak for the Nagas and has also been demanding a separate Greater Nagaland for themselves by carving an area which includes parts of Nagaland, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh.
According to an official statement, government’s interlocutor for Naga peace talks, R.N. Ravi, signed the agreement on behalf of the government of India.
The entire top leadership of the NSCN-IM, including all members of the “collective leadership”, has fully endorsed the agreement and was present during the ceremony.
The statement said it will restore peace and pave the way for prosperity in the north east. It will advance a life of dignity, opportunity and equity for the Naga people, based on their genius and consistent with the uniqueness of the Naga people and their culture and traditions.
Attempts were made from time to time to resolve the issue through discussion with representatives of the Naga people. A fresh attempt for a comprehensive resolution was initiated with the NSCN in 1997.
The new government on assuming power in May 2014 accorded highest priority to this lingering problem.
Thiruvananthapuram, August 4, 2015: The Kerala state government is now open to discussions with the Catholic Church after a local archdiocese said it would oppose a multimillion-dollar port project because it would displace thousands of fishermen.
“We will continue our discussions and remove all their fears and grievances,” K. Babu, state minister for fisheries and ports, told ucanews.com after initial discussions with leaders of the Latin-rite Trivandrum archdiocese.
He said that the Kerala government is open to discuss issues raised by the Latin Catholic Church against implementing the Vizhinjam port project, which is expected to cost 7 billion rupees, or US$109.5 million.
The minister’s comments followed a pastoral letter issued by Latin-rite Archbishop Maria Calist Soosa Pakiam of Trivandrum against the proposed Vizhinjam port. The letter was read during all the August 2 Sunday Masses in his archdiocese.
In his letter, the archbishop warned the government that he could not condone the massive port project in its present form, as it would displace 32 fishing villages in his archdiocese and adversely affect some 50,000 families.
If the project is implemented, coastal villages along a 13-kilometer stretch will be wiped out, he said. Construction on the project is scheduled to start Aug. 17.
“The project has already been delayed for almost 24 years, but the government would initiate fresh rounds of talks with all aggrieved stakeholders,” James Varghese, principal secretary to the Ministry of Ports, told ucanews.com
The project area covers the majority of fishing settlements under the Latin-rite Trivandrum archdiocese.
“We are viewing this as a human rights issue. We are not against development. What we demand is the protection of the rights of a group that is going to suffer the most,” the archbishop said.
He added that he believes the government wants to ignore protests and go ahead with the project.
The environmental impact assessment report that justified the project “turned a blind eye to many important aspects, such as how the fishermen will be affected when the project is implemented,” the archbishop said.
T. Peter, national secretary of the National Fishworkers’ Forum, told ucanews that “things stated by the archbishop in his pastoral letter are factually correct.”
Kanam Rajendran, state secretary of the opposition Communist Party of India, told ucanews.com that the Vizhinjam project would endanger the livelihoods of fishermen.
The Catholic Church in Kerala state is home to three rites, namely the Syro-Malabar, Syro-Malankara and Latin rite. Two archdioceses belonging to the two different Syro-Malankara and Latin rites have the same Trivandrum name.
Mumbai, July 31, 2015: The Supreme Court of India granted a 14-year-old rape victim the right to abort her child, which was the result of rape. Under Indian law, abortion beyond 20 weeks is not allowed. The girl is said to be 25 weeks pregnant. Her rapist, Jatin Mehta, is a doctor and is already in prison.
After the High Court of Gujarat turned down an application for abortion, the girl’s parents turned to India’s highest court. The latter ruled that if there is a “serious threat” to her life in case the foetus is not aborted, then the surgeons and the clinical experts can together take a decision on termination of her pregnancy. While issuing its notice on the plea, the court also said that in case of abortion, a DNA test should be done on the foetus to help in the criminal trial against the rapist.
“Our hearts go out to this young teenager, who is a victim of the violence of an unjust aggressor,” Dr Pascoal Carvalho, a member of the Pontifical Academy for Life, told AsiaNews. However, “to take the life of an innocent unborn child is also an unjust aggression against the child.” In Ahmedabad, “the Sisters of Mother Teresa run a home called Nirmala Shishu Bhavan, where they could welcome the baby.”
Speaking to AsiaNews, Mgr Dominic Savio Fernandes, auxiliary bishop of Mumbai and president of the Episcopal Commission for the family in the Western Region, calls for careful consideration of the major issues at hand, namely rape and abortion. Here are his thoughts.
Rape is a sin against the Sixth Commandment. For a survivor of a rape attack, it is always a very traumatic, painful and a humiliating experience. There is a feeling of tremendous loathing and revulsion towards a rapist within the survivor because of being violated and desecrated by him.
This pain, humiliation and revulsion are heightened and prolonged in the survivor of a rape attack if this rape ends in pregnancy – it is like rubbing salt to injury.
Pregnancy would thus mean that part of the rapist as well as the memory of the rape incident would continue to remain with her for life. By aborting the child, the victim wants to wipe out the memory of the rapist and the rape incident system
A child is always a gift from God and a fruit of a mutual love relationship in marriage. In this case, the child born is definitely not the fruit of a mutual love relationship in marriage. Hence, one can easily understand and be sympathetic towards a rape survivor.
Nevertheless, abortion is a sin that goes against the Fifth Commandment and is a grave evil. The Catholic Church has always condemned direct abortion since it causes the death of a human being.
A child conceived by rape is innocent – he or she has not committed any crime or sin or done any harm to anyone.
The Catholic Church has always been pro-life, and although it sympathises with the victim of violence, it cannot and will not support, ever, a culture of death. The child should be allowed to be born, and then be entrusted to an orphanage.
Our Catholic orphanages are always open to take care of these children.
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