Thursday, February 24, 2011

Archbishop Concessao backs Justice Saldanha report

New Delhi 24/02/2011

Welcoming the report released by Justice Saldanha in response to Justice Somasekhara report about the attacks on Christians in 2008 in Karnataka, Archbishop Vincent M. Concessao has asked the government of Karantaka, not to close its eyes to the atrocities on Christians based on the biased Somasekhera Commission report.

Noting that the B.K. Somasekhara report giving a clean chit to the BJP and the Sangh Parivar was eyewash, Archbishop Concessao expressed his total disappointment with the report which smacks of communal underpinnings and only adds insult to injury to the already battered Christian Community in the country.

Retired Judge of the Karnataka High Court Justice Michael Saldanha while calling the Somasekhara Committee report a sham pointed out that the interim report of the same Commission had earlier indicted the Karnataka government. He held that he had enough evidence to prove that the state police had colluded with the right wing Hindu fundamentalist attackers.

In solidarity with the Archbishop of Bangalore and 18 other bishops of the region as well as sharing the pain of the whole Christian community of Karnataka, Archbishop Concessao is also appealing to the Karnataka government to immediately release the innocent Christian youth arrested on the false charges of being involved in communal violence. “We must all have the courage to accept the truth rather than find excuses to cover up our mistakes. This kind of report only emboldens the perpetrators of violence on minority communities”, said Archbishop Concessao.

--Issued by:

Rev. Fr. Dominic Emmanuel

Spokesperson Delhi Catholic Archdiocese

New Delhi -110001

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Next Sangh ‘Kumbh’ in Chhattisgarh

After Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh it will be the turn of Chhattisgarh, another BJP-ruled state, to hold the next ‘Kumbh’. The announcement was made on the occasion of the three-day Ma Narmada Samajik Kumbh that concluded on the banks of the Narmada on Saturday. Chief Minister Raman Singh was handed over the mantle for the next event that will be organised keeping in mind the tribal population of Orissa, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh.

The Sangh Parivar has already declared that the first event held in the Dangs district of Gujarat was a huge success, as the pace of reconversion of Christians to Hinduism gathered momentum after 2006.

At the Mandla meet, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat said that the Sangh Parivar did not have enough penetration in Orissa where Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati was murdered in 2008 and alleged that conversions to Christianity had increased since then.

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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Shabri Kumbh was a success: RSS

The RSS on Friday claimed the Shabri Kumbh held in the Dangs district of Gujarat was a success because the pace of reconversion of Christians to Hinduism had gathered momentum in the area over the last four years.

Besides thousands of ordinary converts who came back to the Hindu fold since 2006, as many as 70 pastors embraced Hinduism and are now busy wooing back those who they had converted to Christianity, Sharad Dhole, the West-South India chief of the Dharma Jagaran wing of the RSS, said.

Dhole said Dangs had been chosen for the first Kumbh because it was the only district in the country to show “an abnormal 200 per cent growth” of the Christian community. He said the former pastors hold the reconversion ceremony every December 25.

The main focus of religious gatherings like these, he said, was to increase awareness and religiosity among people. Lack of religiosity was the main reason for conversion, and not backwardness, he claimed.

To shore up his argument, Dhole cited the examples of two engineers from Maharashtra who had allegedly converted to Christianity in the hope of getting the Green Card because the US government had become very strict after 9/11.

The Sangh is operating more than 10,000 Dharm Jagaran Samitis, Dhole said, adding every village in Mandla, where the three-day Ma Narmada Samajik Kumbh began on February 10, would have such religious committees. The Sangh claimed that about 15,000 Christians had reconverted to Hinduism in the tiny southern district of Gujarat. The Sangh has identified 55 districts in the country where the growth of Christianity and Islam had shown an ‘abnormal’ increase in the 2001 census.

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Wednesday, February 09, 2011

CM Chouhan assures protection to Christians during Narmada Samajik Kumbh

New Delhi, 9th February, 2011: The Archbishop of Delhi Catholic Archdiocese, Vincent M. Concessao has welcomed the decision of Madhya Pradesh High Court directing government to provide security to Christians in Mandala, on the eve of the Narmada Samajik Kumbh which begins tomorrow. On a petition filed by Fr. Anand Muttungal in the light of the looming forceful ‘re-conversion’ of Christian tribals in the state by Sangh Parivar, the court has passed the instruction.

A fact finding team which toured the Narmada Valley areas in Mandla district in Madhya Pradesh has found that the Christian community of the entire region encompassing Madhya Pradesh and neighbouring state of Chattisgarh, have strong reasons to fear an outbreak of violence against them during or after the event from cadres of the Sangh Parivar.

The Sangh Parivar has left no one in any doubt that the main reason for organizing the Kumbh, at which they expect two million people is to purge the region of “Christian Missionaries”, whom they accuse of carrying on large scale conversions of tribals, mostly Gonds.

The church leadership in turn had sent urgent representations to the Governor and Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh apprising them of the sinister developments and calling on the State to ensure that they are not persecuted and that there is no outbreak of violence. Sources from Jabalpur area reveal that there will be a major “ghar wapsi” (or re-conversion) to Hinduism of local Christians.

The Christian community, being a minority in the state and country, urged the administration to take timely action of preventing places of worship, institutions and religious personnel. “The administration would be entirely and wholly responsible in case of any undesirable eventuality”, said a memorandum signed by priests, representatives of the Christian community to the State Governor, with copies to the Chief Minister, the divisional and district authorities.

After discussions with office bearers of Isai Mahasangh, the Catholic Bishop of Jabalpur, Rt. Rev. Gerald Almeida was assured by the Government of Madhya Pradesh that no conversion will take place and full security would be given to Christians in Narmada Samajik Kumbh Mela, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan conveyed through National Integration Council Vice-chairman.


Issued By:

Fr. Dominic Emmanuel

Spokesperson Delhi Catholic Archdiocese

Protests as taxpayer money is diverted for RSS ‘reconversion’ programme in M.P.

Minority communities and representatives of tribal people see it as a religious conversion event

The Bharatiya Janata Party government in Madhya Pradesh has diverted massive public resources to spruce up physical infrastructure ahead of a major Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) programme in the State this weekend.

The three-day ‘Maa Narmada Saamaajik Kumbh' is being organised by the Dharm Jagaran Vibhag (Religious Revival Department) of the RSS from February 10 to 12. The RSS hopes to mobilise tribals in large numbers from all over the country.

According to Home Department officials who spoke to The Hindu on condition of anonymity, the State government has allotted a whopping Rs.250 crore to the Mandla district administration for developing new roads, repairing existing ones, and ensuring uninterrupted drinking water, electricity and health services during the kumbh in this backward tribal-dominated region.

Though he disputed this figure, Mandla Collector K.K. Khare acknowledged that the State administration was pitching in to ensure that the RSS event went off smoothly. The total funds allotted to various departments in the context of the kumbh were Rs.38 crore, he told The Hindu.

The RSS programme has raised concerns among minority communities and representatives of tribal people, who see it as a religious conversion event. And some in the administration are also worried. Reconversion events such as the ghar vapsi (return to the home-religion) were “certain to be held during the three-day kumbh” and might cause tensions, an official said.

The RSS itself will be spending Rs.6 crore on food, Rs.2 crore on tents, and about Rs.1.5 crore on stationery and promotional items such as religious lockets for distribution among the Adivasis.

Police sources said the RSS had made arrangements for 3,000 buses to bring in tribals and Hindu devotees from all over the country to Mandla.

The tribal Gondwana Ganatantra Party (GGP) and Christian religious leaders have expressed concern over the event and have approached the State government for security arrangements.

“The kumbh, which has no place in tribal cultures, is being used by the RSS to bring tribals under the fold of organised religion. Moreover, we have proof that part of it is being financed with money meant for tribal welfare,” GGP general secretary Amaan Singh Porte told The Hindu.

Two public interest litigations filed in the Madhya Pradesh High Court have alleged that massive public money has been diverted for the event by the ruling BJP government, and have requested the court to stop the kumbh from being held.

“In the name of a social event, RSS activists have been delivering hate speeches, distributing inflammatory pamphlets and calling for reconversion of tribals in the region,” said Father Anand Muthungal, spokesperson of the Madhya Pradesh Catholic Church.

However, Inspector-General (Balaghat range) C.B. Muniraju said tight security arrangements had been put in place and there was no need for worry.

“We are watching people and all sensitive areas, including minority areas, closely. A force of 4,000 constables, four SPs, eight Additional SPs, 30 DSPs, and 150 inspectors and sub-inspectors have been deployed as part of the security arrangements,” he said, adding: “There is no communal angle to this event and I am sure everything will go on smoothly.”

According to local news reports, propagandist pamphlets about the activities of missionaries and posters bearing pictures of Mother Teresa and B.R. Ambedkar with inflammatory messages were being distributed among tribals and Dalits by activists volunteering for the event.

The event is a follow-up of the Shabri Mahakumbh held in the tribal-dominated Dangs district of Gujarat in 2006 under the leadership of controversial religious leader Swami Aseemanand, who was recently connected to the Samjhauta Express blasts.

The meet forms part of a series of such “social congregations” planned to be held over the decade by the RSS along the tribal belt running from the West to the East, as was publicly stated during the Gujarat event.

Click here for source

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

MP Christians demand ban on objectionable literature in Mandla

Bhopal, Feb 8 (PTI) A Christian organisation here todaydemanded stopping distribution of pamphlets portraying thecommunity in poor light in Mandla where a three-day HinduSamajik Kumbh will begin on February 10.

"We fear that the distribution of pamphlets may triggeroff another Kandhamal like situation in the tribal-dominatedMandla," Madhya Pradesh Isai Mahasangh convenor, Father AnandMuttungal, told reporters here.

He also objected to the distribution of declarationforms ahead of the Kumbh among the tribals with the intentionto convert them to Hinduism which he said was against MadhyaPradesh Freedom of Religion Act.
"We welcome the Kumbh but want that anti-Christianliterature including that against Mother Teresa should bebanned and seized to ensure that no tension is caused amongthe two communities," he said.
Muttungal said that they wanted to put up a medicalhealth services camp at the Khumb adding the Christians haveorganised such camps in Hindu gatherings in the past inMadhya Pradesh.
In the prelude to the Kumbh, Muttungal said thatdeclaration forms were being distributed among the tribals toconvert them to Hinduism.
He contended that to change religion, one has to seekpermission from the Collector according to the Madhya Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act which was not being done.

Click here for source

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Kandhamal twin courts set the pace on fast track to justice

Kandhamal : In 2008, a mob led by Manoj Pradhan, the current BJP MLA from Kandhamal, chased down the family of Parikhita Digal, a Dalit Christian who was then 31, and butchered and burned him in front of his wife and two daughters.

A fast-track court in Kandhamal sentenced Pradhan to seven years in jail last year but he got bail from the Orissa High Court, before the Supreme Court last week cancelled the bail, questioning the “favourable treatment” given to the MLA.

For Digal’s wife Kanakrekha Nayak, 28, justice has come in under three years, a record of sorts considering the pace at which cases normally move in the country. “I am satisfied that my husband’s killers have been convicted. I wish others who were part of the mob too had been convicted,” she said.

For many other Dalit Christians scarred by the Kandhamal communal riots, justice has been as fast, with two special courts convicting 279 people, mostly Hindu tribals and non-tribals, in the last two-and-a-half years. Even the National Human Rights Commission has noted how the Kandhamal convictions have outnumbered decisions in all other riot cases in the last 10 years.

The riots had raised so many questions about Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s secular credentials that he severed ties in 2009 with the BJP, till then the Biju Janata Dal’s ally. But what may have gone a longer way in restoring those credentials is his decision, taken the previous year, to start the two fast-track courts for the 800-odd riot cases.

Of 828 FIRs lodged, 790 cases were found to be genuine; of these, 475 cases have had chargesheets filed, with 157 decided and the 279 convictions coming in 58 of these. There is time left to file the chargesheets in the other cases.

“The fast track courts have sped up justice in Kandhamal. Before the end of this year, chargesheets will be filed in the remaining cases,” says V Jayashree, director of public prosecution.

A comparison with the progress in cases elsewhere gives a measure of the pace in Kandmahal. In the Gujarat riots of 2002, the police filed 691 cases, of which 414 were “without merit”. There was just one conviction till 2009, before the trial finally started gathering momentum after the Supreme Court ordered that fast-track courts be set up for retrials in 14 significant cases.

In the November 1989 riots of Bhagalpur, where over 1,000 people were killed and 68 mosques destroyed, trial began only in 2001. Over 300 people have been convicted but 31 cases remain pending.

Police officials and prosecutors said that after the riots, a 50-member police team from the state CID with the help of local police took up the cases, most of them of arson.

“What stood out was the determination of the victims and the support of people who helped in collecting evidence. We were just facilitators,” said state CID chief Abhay. “Though initially people were unwilling to appear as witnesses, they gradually started coming.”

Two additional sessions judges started working from April 2009 and the first conviction came on July 1 that year. Chakradhara Kanhar Mallik, 58, was sentenced to jail for setting fire to the house of Loknath Digal. The convictions that followed included that of BJP MLA Pradhan in two murder cases. Of the 14 cases he was being tried for, four are now pending.

Several others who followed Pradhan’s orders, killing people and burning houses, are in jail. “With the convictions, fear has set in among the rioters,” says Hemant Nayak, a Dalit Christian leader of Raikia.

Some, however, feel the judgments have been coming too fast. Manguli Patra, an RSS leader and state coordinator of the Dharma Jagaran Sammukhya, alleged the same people have been accused in different FIRs at different places at the same time. “How can the same person be present at the same time at two different places which are 45 km apart? The judgments have been a little too fast and intentional,” said Patra, referring to the case of Narayan Mohanty, who has been accused in a nun’s rape as well as the murder of a Dalit Christian the same day.

Home department officials agree that in some cases, people have gone overboard and filed FIRs against people whose names they picked randomly from the voters’ list. Some of these FIRs have been quashed; others accused have been acquitted for lack of evidence.

Even Christian organisations say the real culprits have gone scot-free in some cases and some innocent people been convicted.

Click here for source

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Fast track court convicts 12 in Kandhamal riots case

PHULBANI (ORISSA): Two separate fast track courts here sentenced 12 people to rigorous imprisonment and penalty after convicting them in cases of house burning during the Kandhamal riot in 2008.

While disposing a case relating to house burning of minorities at Lengisuga village under Baliguda police station area during the riot, the fast track court judge C R Das pronounced four years RI and Rs 3,000 penalty to 10 persons of the same village and acquitted four others due to lack of proper evidence.

Similarly, the fast track court-I judge S K Das pronounced three years RI and Rs 3,000 penalty to two persons after finding them guilty in setting fire on the houses of minorities at Ghodabisa village under G Udaygiri police station area.

Both the house burning cases were reported on August 27, 2008, barely four days after killing of the VHP leader Swami Laxamananda Saraswati.

Above 4,000 houses were burnt and 38 people killed in the Kandhamal riot in the aftermath of Saraswati's killing.

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Justice B.K.Somasekhara Commission report

Click here to read the final report of the Justice B.K.Somasekhara Commission, which probed the attacks on churches across Karnataka.

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