Thursday, July 24, 2014

Update of the situation in Chhattisgarh

The collector Mr. Ankit Anand called a meeting of various Christian leaders on July 23, 2014 on the recent issue of resolutions being taken by Gram Sabhas in Bastar and Jagdalpur districts outlawing non-Hindu religions from villages in these districts.

While the media reports that more than 50 villages have passed these resolutions, Anand admitted to only three gram panchayats passing these resolutions while speaking to Times of India earlier. The resolutions have been backed by VHP and Mr. Suresh Yadav the local VHP leader has openly acknowledged this.

Mr. Anand reportedly told the Christians that while he cannot challenge the resolutions he is initiating peace committees in which Christians will be included to resolve the issue in an amicable manner. He had earlier told the media, "any resolution by village council banning people from any particular religion or community from the village is legally null and void." But now Mr. Anand seems to be following the well-designed VHP strategy of creating a conflict and then thriving on it.

Peace committees are needed when there are two or more opposing parties of equal or comparable strengthen and when both have worked towards creation of a conflict. The issue in this case is not this.

Christians and other non-Hindu religions have been banned using an existing provision of legislature which has been misinterpreted and the tribal identity has been reduced to that of a Hindu according to the narrow definition of the Hindutva brigade, ignoring the rich religious and cultural history of Tribals. This has been achieved thanks to the nefarious designs of the VHP supported ably by the BJP and others. Christians mainly are the one non-Hindu group that have suffered exclusion and violence as a result of VHP works intensifying in the area.

It is a classic case of aggression by one party and then making the situation to look like both parties have been aggressive on similar scale. Christians are victims; they do not need peace committees but protection. They are not aggressors quite unlike the VHP that need pacifying via peace committees. Christians are already committed to peace in an area where peace if threatened by the VHP and the official machinery propelled by the BJP.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Another village in Chhattisgarh outlaws ‘Non-Hindu’ religions

Despite the outcry by Christian organizations over the misuse of the Chhattisgarh Panchayati Raj Act section 129 (G) and despite assurances from the administration that these resolutions that are basically against the spirit of the constitution, will be revoked, the Gram Sabha of Parapur yesterday passed a resolution under the same section to outlaw any non-Hindu presence or worship from the village. Parapur lies in the Lohandiguda block of Bastar District.

What is notable that in all these meetings where these resolutions are passed people from the Vishawa Hindu Parishad, the Bajrang Dal and the BJP are also present who then make the usual allegations of conversions against Christians. So it is not hard to see who is behind these community resolutions.

Suresh Yadav of the VHP has been quoted in the past as well that he and his organization are behind this exercise in order to counter Christian missionaries.

However last Sunday i.e. 13th July 2014 people from the VHP had visited Christians in Parapur and Gadiya village and had threatened the Christian families living in these villages to leave the village i.e. make it Christian free, by 20th July 2014 or face the consequences.

Because this matter was taken up by some Christian organizations with the administration, the Churches in Gadiya and Parapur received police protection on Sunday the 20th July 2014. Suresh Yadav of the VHP called this protection of Churches unnecessary and raised questions on the security forces provided for by the administration.

So far more than 60 Gram Sabhas have taken this decision and the state government has not moved to intervene in the matter in a major way.

Christian organizations like EFI and Chhattisgarh Christian Forum have said that they will approach the court if need be.

What is also worthy of mention is that the VHP itself has taken a huge conversion project and are busy converting the Tribals to Hinduism. The tribals are not Hindus but animists originally worshipping ancestors (bada dev and budha dev) but the huge flow of money along with administrative support to the VHP and Bajrang Dal has resulted in many old tribal worship places being deserted and the coming up of hanuman, ram and durga temples. Tribals are being given money to celebrate Ganesh Utsav and other functions. Historically there is no record of tribals celebrating either these festivals or identifying themselves as Hindus.

Monday, July 07, 2014

Revoke Ban on Non-Hindu Missionaries in Bastar: Delhi Archbishop

Demanding a withdrawal of the reported ban on "entry of and propaganda by non-Hindu missionaries" in Chhattisgarh's Bastar district, the Catholic Archdiocese of Delhi said it had implications for the "secular ethos of India" and damaged its international reputation.
According to media reports, more than 50 gram panchayats in Bastar have passed orders under Section Section 129(G) of the Chhattisgarh Panchayati Raj Act, banning "all non-Hindu relegious propoganda, prayers and speeches in villages", Delhi Archbishop Anil J T Couto said in a statement.
"This move is in violation of Constitutional rights and guarantees to citizens of India, such as the freedom of faith and the freedom of movement, expression and association," he said.
"It is a grave assault on the fundamental rights of individuals and peoples' groups," he said, adding that the move has serious implications for democratic functioning in such areas.
"It will also encourage fundamentalist and extremist religious organisations to indulge in hate campaigns against the Christian community," the Archbishop said.
Couto called for an immediate reversal of the ban and the intervention of the state government in the matter.

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Another village bans non-Hindu religious activities, govt sits idle

RAIPUR: Amid controversy over right wing groups motivating gram sabhas or village councils to adopt resolutions banning non-Hindu religious activities in villages in tribal Bastar, Chhattisgarh government seem to be adopting wait and watch policy on how to deal with the situation.
Yet another village, Belar in Lohandiguda block of Bastar district, convened its gram sabha on Sunday and passed a resolution banning all non-Hindu religious activities. On May 10, gram sabha at village Sirisguda in Tongpal block convened under the provisions of 129 (G) of Chhattisgarh Panchayati Raj Act, adopted a similar resolution banning non-Hindu missionaries. The resolution stated that "To stop the forced conversion by some outsider religious campaigners and to prevent them from using derogatory language against Hindu deities and customs, the Sirisguda Gram Sabha bans religious activities such as prayers, meetings and propaganda of all non-Hindu religions."
Bastar's district Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) president Suresh Yadav claimed that village councils of more than 50 gram panchayats has already adopted such resolutions to ban outsider missionaries from their respective villages.
However, Bastar district collector Ankit Anand told TOI, "To our knowledge, only three gram panchayats have passed such a resolution but it is not being enforced anywhere." "Initially, it was brought to our notice that some outsiders were trying to attend gram sabha meeting. Gram sabha is a body of locals and outsiders cannot attend it," he pointed out, admitting that "any resolution by village council banning people from any particular religion or community from the village is legally null and void." He maintained that there was no tension in any of the villages.
Chhattisgarh Christian Forum president Arun Pannalal said it's the latest strategy of right wing groups to use the influential gram sabhas to adopt such controversial resolutions to mislead the locals to believe that banning non-Hindus is well within the law. Pointing out that panchayat bodies cannot override Article 25 of the constitution that guarantees freedom of religion to all, Pannalal said the state government was silent on the issue for the last three months even as right wing groups were trying to influence gram panchayats in other districts to adopt similar resolution.
Veteran Communist Party of India (CPI) leader Chhiaranjan Bakshi told TOI that the matter has been brought up with the Adivasi Mahasabha, a body of local tribals in Bastar, which has registered its strong protest against adopting such resolutions. "CPI national leadership has been apprised about the development and we will do something more against such tactics by right wing groups," he said it's an attempt divide the tribals on religious lines and create trouble.

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Christians see iron ore mafia behind ban on non-Hindu missionaries in Bastar villages

Christians in Chhattisgarh have accused iron ore mafia behind the recent ban on non-Hindu missionaries in the five tribal villages of Bastar.

Recently, gram sabhas of the villages passed orders under the Panchayat Act prohibiting non-Hindus from practising religious activities and prayers in their villages. While various Christian bodies have condemned the act, local Christians claimed that it is a systematic ploy by mining barons to clear the area, muffle the dissent and hand it over to the miners.

“The real reason behind the ban is iron ore. This region is rich in iron ore, and some local mafias want to evict people who are aware of the issue and can stall the mining,” Arun Pannalal, president Chhattisgarh Christian Forum told The Indian Express.

Terming the ban as “a blatant misuse of the Panchayat Act that violates fundamental rights of freedom of religion”, Pannalal said they are planning to move the High Court against the gram sabha’s ban.

Christians have also alleged that the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) provoked people to pass the order and the state government is protecting them. According to Pannalal, around 52 Christians were attacked by VHP cadres in the recent days. “People are holding mahapanchayats in other parts of the state for the last six months. Several sarpanch have issued circulars against the missionaries,” he said.

Delhi Archbishop Anil J T Couto also expressed his deep concern over the ban on “non-Hindu missionaries at the behest of some fundamentalist groups”. “This seriously impacts the secular ethos of India and damages its international reputation,” Couto said.

Calling for an immediate reversal of the ban and intervention of the BJP-led government in the matter, Couto said: “In the past, largescale violence against the Christians has been preceded by such hate campaigns.”

Click here for source

Sunday, July 06, 2014

In Bastar, 50 villages ban non-Hindu missionaries

An aggressive campaign by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad had led to a ban on the entry of and propaganda by non-Hindu missionaries, especially Christians, in more than 50 villages of Chhattisgarh’s Bastar region in the last six months.

According to Suresh Yadav, Bastar district president of the VHP, over 50 gram panchayats in Bastar have passed orders under Section 129 (G) of the Chhattisgarh Panchayat Raj Act banning all “non-Hindu religious propaganda, prayers and speeches in the villages.”

The Sirisguda gram panchayat in the Tokapal block of Bastar passed the order at a special Gram Sabha organised on May 10.

The order, a copy of which is available with The Hindu, says, “To stop the forced conversion by some outsider religious campaigners and to prevent them from using derogatory language against Hindu deities and customs, the Sirisguda Gram Sabha bans religious activities such as prayers, meetings and propaganda of all non-Hindu religions.”

In Sirisguda, the dispute started when Christian families refused donations for an annual Hindu religious festival.

“They refused donations and used derogatory language against Hindu gods so the Gram Sabha banned them,” claimed Sirisguda sarpanch Jamuna Baghel.

PDS rations denied
In the recent past, some Christians were allegedly attacked in the village and have been denied ration on the orders of the village panchayat.

“It’s been over two months now that we have been denied ration in the village and 10 Christians were attacked when they went to collect ration,” claimed Sonuru Mandavi, whose family converted to Christianity in 2002.

“The villagers came to us with their problems. The VHP only told them about the law. Now that the gram panchayats have passed the orders, it is the responsibility of the district administration to implement it otherwise we will protest. We will also approach the CM and the Governor to get the ban imposed,” asserted Mr. Yadav.

The Chhattisgarh Christian Forum (CCF), however, has alleged that the ban is “illegal and unconstitutional”.

“It is similar to what khap panchayats do. How can you ask us to block our religious activities on the basis of a panchayat Act?” asked Arun Pannalal, CCF president. He said the Constitution guaranteed the freedom of religion to all.

To a question, Bastar Collector Ankit Anand said, “In Bastar, religious conversion is not such a big issue. We will ensure that distribution of ration to the villagers is not interrupted.”

From the archives:

Making inroads into the tribal belt

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

New report shows how Hindutva groups operate in US, send money to India

A report on Hindu Nationalism in the United States explores the financial links between the Sangh Parivar's various affiliates and the American counterparts that send them money.

Every year, charitable organisations based in the US donate millions of dollars of funding to non-profit groups affiliated with the Sangh Parivar, either in India or overseas. A new report published by the South Asia Citizens Web reveals just how much, and to whom it is going.
The report, titled ‘Hindu Nationalism in the United States: A Report on Nonprofit Groups’, was released via sacw.net on July 1. It studies the rise within Indo-American Hindu communities, and in US universities, of various non-profit organisations affiliated with Sangh Parivar groups like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
Most of these American organisations are registered as tax-exempt charities. The report analyses official tax records to ascertain what they do with the funds they collect. It finds that these organisations spend several million dollars a year to fund numerous NGOs in India.
The foreign funding of NGOs has been a contentious issue in India for the past month, since a leaked Intelligence Bureau report addressed to various government offices claimed that non-profits such as Greenpeace, Amnesty and Action Aid, which receive funds from abroad, have lowered economic growth in India by 2% to 3%.
The report by South Asia Citizens Web focuses on the ways in which Hindu groups in the US fund Indian NGOs, but such community-based organisations affiliated to different political groups around the world are common in multicultural countries like the US.
The American Israel Public Affairs Council, for instance, is a Jewish group that lobbies for pro-Israel policies in the US, and has local organisations on many campuses. Similarly, there are Christian, Muslim and other advocacy groups.
Here are some of the significant points discussed in the SACW report:
The American counterparts of the RSS and VHP: The Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America, both tax-exempt organisations, were founded in 1989 and 1970 respectively. Both organisations operate youth and family camps and educational programmes for children to promote Hindu culture and identity.
From 2002 to 2012, the HSS spent $1.4 million towards its youth and family camps. The VHPA has spent more than $1 million on the same in that period.
The HSS holds weekly ‘Balgokulam’ classes for children, which involve yoga, values-education and sessions of praying to a saffron flag. These classes take place in 140 HSS ‘shakhas’ or chapters across the US:

The VHPA, meanwhile, has 19 chapters and calls its children’s classes Bal Vihar programmes.
The India Development and Relief Fund, based in Maryland, USA: According to a 2002 report by Sabrang Communications and South Asia Citizens Web, 50% of IDRF disbursements between 1994 and 2000 went to Sangh Parivar groups in India. From 2002 to 2012, the organisation has disbursed more than $17.3 million to hundreds of recipient organisations in India, most of them Sangh-affiliated development and relief groups such as the Akhil Bharatiya Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, the Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation of India, Param Shakti Peeth and Sewa International. A lot of the relief work involves development of adivasi communities.

Other funders: The report also studies the tax records of four other US-based development-related charities that have connections to Sangh leaders: the Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation of USA, Param Shakti Peeth, Sewa International and the VHPA. It finds that from 2001 to 2012 these five organisations together allocated more than $55 million to projects, most of them in India. The leadership of many of these organisations overlaps.

Besides this, the Hindu Charity Trust of Texas donated $7,000 each to Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation and to ‘RSS village schools’ in 2006, and $14,000 to ‘VHP schools’ in Gujarat in 2007.
The Vivek Welfare and Education Foundation allocated $10,000 to the VHP in 2006 for ‘education, medical aid and relief to the poor in India’.
The Hindu University of America: The educational wing of the VHPA, this tax-exempt university was launched in 1985. It offers courses and degrees in Hinduism, Hindu philosophy, yoga, meditation, Sanskrit and Vedic astrology, among others. The Vivek Welfare Educational Foundation, a Sangh-affiliate, donated $4.2 million to the university from 2002 to 2008.
The Bajrang Dal: Unlike most of the other organisations, there is no tax-exempt counterpart for the Sangh’s militant youth wing, the Bajrang Dal, which has been described as “extremist” by the US State Department’s annual reports on International Religious Freedom because of assaults on religious minorities.

Click here for source

Also click here to download the report

Friday, June 27, 2014

Christians demand reservations in Maharashtra

MUMBAI: Christian leaders have demanded reservations for Christian Dalits, most of whom are poor, as Muslim leaders welcomed 5% reservations for their community in education and jobs.

Abraham Mathai of the Indian Christian Voice said, "The government should give reservations to Christians too as most of them in the state are poor and tribals. Marginalized Christians should not be ignored as they are a small minority."

Dolphy D'Souza of Save Our Land (SOUL) complained that Christians have been ignored by successive governments as they "are not a big votebank". She said that the 1950 Presidential order excluded Christian Dalits and Muslim Dalits from the purview of quotas, as given to scheduled castes.

Muslim leaders demanded immediate implementation of the state cabinet's decision and said the government must strongly defend it if challenged in the Supreme Court.

Congress MLA Amin Patel, who had demanded quotas for Muslims in the last monsoon session, said, "Reservations have been a long-standing demand of the community, as panels headed by Justice Rajinder Sachar, Ranganath Mishra and Mahmoodur Rahman had also recommended quotas to empower Muslims. This will help mainstream the community, which has felt alienated due to backwardness."

Signs of Muslims getting reservations were evident when, replying to Patel's questions, minister Fauzia Khan had said, "You will soon get good news."

But M A Khalid of the All-India Milli Council said the government should have announced it earlier, as it seems like a sop before the assembly elections.

Many said the state government should not flinch from defending the decision in the apex court, if challenged. Minority affairs minister Arif Naseem Khan said, "This is not the first time Muslims have been given reservations in India. Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh had provided reservations to economically poor Muslims, and Muslims in Maharashtra too needed it."
 Click here for source   

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Row as Bastar village body bars non-Hindus’ entry

A village body (gram sabha) in Chhattisgarh’s tribal-dominated Bastar district has allegedly adopted a resolution barring entry of non-Hindu people. The resolution, allegedly passed at a special meeting of Sirisguda gram sabha recently, apprehended that entry of other religions would undermine the tribal culture and religion. The village meeting alleged that people of a particular minority community were dissuading locals to resort to local religious practices posing a threat to tribal culture and traditions.

“We have learnt about the resolution from local media and are going to take up the matter with the chief minister Raman Singh for appropriate action,” local Church leader Bhupendra Khora said on Tuesday.

When contacted, additional superintendent of police (ASP) S.R. Salam said, “No such incident has come to our notice. We have only received reports of clashes among some people in the locality”.

Chhattisgarh Christian Forum general secretary Arun Pannanal however alleged that several gram sabhas in Bastar have taken a similar stand as was done by gram sabha of Sirisguda.

“There is no legal sanction for such decisions, but vested interests are trying to push their agenda by using gram sabha as a platform,” he added.

When contacted, a senior officer of Chhattisgarh government told this newspaper that the matter would be probed and appropriate action would be taken to ensure that social harmony is not disturbed in the village.

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Church Locked Up, Christians attacked in Bihar

Hindu extremists locked up a church on June 5 after they beat up a Christian family in Balwanazir, Kaliyanganj, Bihar.
According to our correspondent, Pastor A. Abraham, the extremists repeatedly beat up Sadanandan Singh and his family for their faith in Christ on May and June and finally locked up the church of the Indian Evangelical Team.
Singh and his family were dragged on the road and the entire family including two minor girls were beaten up mercilessly.
"The extremists have locked up the church and told Singh that he is not allowed to pray in the future in the village." area pastor Laxmi Prasad told EFI News.
Singh and his family were socially boycotted ever since they decided to follow Christ in 2010.
Police complaint was submitted. However no action has been taken at press time.

Source: EFI NEWS

Row as Bastar village body bars non-Hindus’ entry

A village body (gram sabha) in Chhattisgarh’s tribal-dominated Bastar district has allegedly adopted a resolution barring entry of non-Hindu people. The resolution, allegedly passed at a special meeting of Sirisguda gram sabha recently, apprehended that entry of other religions would undermine the tribal culture and religion. The village meeting alleged that people of a particular minority community were dissuading locals to resort to local religious practices posing a threat to tribal culture and traditions.
“We have learnt about the resolution from local media and are going to take up the matter with the chief minister Raman Singh for appropriate action,” local Church leader Bhupendra Khora said on Tuesday.
When contacted, additional superintendent of police (ASP) S.R. Salam said, “No such incident has come to our notice. We have only received reports of clashes among some people in the locality”.
Chhattisgarh Christian Forum general secretary Arun Pannanal however alleged that several gram sabhas in Bastar have taken a similar stand as was done by gram sabha of Sirisguda.
“There is no legal sanction for such decisions, but vested interests are trying to push their agenda by using gram sabha as a platform,” he added.
When contacted, a senior officer of Chhattisgarh government told this newspaper that the matter would be probed and appropriate action would be taken to ensure that social harmony is not disturbed in the village.

Click Here for source