Monday, November 05, 2012

Gang-rapes in Kandhamal, and the apathy of government agencies towards the young victims


The gang rape of two Christian girls in Kandhamal, both 13 years old, and the murder of one of them subsequently during the Dussehara festival has created not just panic in their villages, but a sense of disgust among activists for the obnoxious attitude of police and the State Child Right Commission.

It was possible to meet the surviving victim because she is now with her parents who now work as casual labour in Bhubaneswar.

The first one, a class VII student of Dadamaha, had gone to witness a 'yatra'(play) at nearby Simanbadi village on Thursday night when the youths sexually assaulted her. Sub-divisional police officer (SDPO), Baliguda, Arjun Barik said the girl apparently attempted to raise an alarm, she was tied to a tree and strangulated to death with her scarf. The body was found from the roadside near Masanipada village 26 October.

An autopsy was conducted on the body at Daringbadi public health centre and a case was registered on the basis of an FIR lodged by her father. There have been no arrests so far.

The second girl, a  resident of  Ritangia village in Tiangia block, was also 13-year old, and a student of class VIII in a local school. Her father is now a security guard in Bhubaneswar, and the girl lives with relatives to continue her studies. On 27th October, she went to see the Dussehara festivities, which attract a large crowd. On the way home, she was abducted by six men, taken the nearby forest, stripped naked and raped by all six of them. She collapsed.

She regained consciousness after one of the rapists sprinkled water on her face. One of them put a shirt on her and brought her close to the village. She was found in the marketplace in the morning, and taken to her aunt’s house.

Initially the local police did not help at all. She was brought to Bhubaneswar and taken to the offices of the State Commission for Child Rights. This is where she was subjected to mental torture by those designated to help children in distress. The  chairperson was rude and crude, said this was a police matter and that she could not do anything even if she believed the story of the girl.

In the all-woman Police Station set up for registering crimes against women in an environment friendly to the victims, the office on charge was absent. When Inspector Itti Das came to the office at last, she too was rude, and even more crude. According to the woman social worker who had accompanied the victim to the police station, the woman inspector said “you would not be alive if you had been gang-raped”. The implication was that  the girl was covering up, had gone with the rapists of her own accord.

The police filed a report at last, and referred the report to the Raikia police station in Kandhamal. The victim was finally given a medical examination on 3rd November, a full week after her  traumatic experience. The medical report  has not been given to the police yet.

Activists who ar now counseling the girl, who was still in a state of shock when we met her, are aghast at the manner in which the child right chief, a government appointee, and the woman police officer behaved with the girl, who is no more than a child, small and in distress.

Surprisingly, the local and state media have chosen not to investigate this story. The two gang rapes merited a passing couple of paragraphs.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Kandhamal riots probe Commission issues notice to former DGP's

Bhubaneswar: The Justice A S Naidu Commission probing the 2008 Kandhamal violence has issued fresh notices to 55 people including two former Odisha police chiefs and a former home Secretary asking them to appear before it.

Apart from former Directors General of Police Gopal Nanda and Manmohan Praharaj and the then home secretary T K Mishra, summons were also issued among others to former Rajya Sabha MP Radhakanta Nayak, commission sources said today.
Former Archbishop Raphael Cheenath, Christian leader John Dayal and former superintendent of police of sensitive Kandhamal district have also been issued notices for appearing before the one-man inquiry commission, they said.
Justice A S Naidu took over the judicial probe on October 1 into the killing of VHP leader Laxamanananda Saraswati and the riots that followed in the tribal-dominated Kandhamal district and some other places in 2008.
Justice Naidu, a retired Orissa High Court judge, was named by the state government as the one man judicial commission of the Kandhamal case after the demise of Justice Sarat Chandra Mohapatra four months ago.
The state government had set up the judicial commission on September 3, 2008 following the killing of Saraswati on August 23, 2008.
At least 38 people were killed in Kandhamal alone while the total death toll in the communal riots in the aftermath of Saraswati's death was 42 in the state.
About 4,000 houses besides some churches were burnt during the riot.
While a girl was burnt alive in Baragarh district during the riot, a nun was allegedly raped by mob at Baliguda in the district.
Of the 706 affidavits filed before the commission in connection with the riot, only 164 have so far been accepted while others were being examined.

Click here for source

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Kandhamal violence: SC seeks explanation from odisha govt

The Supreme Court on Friday asked the Odisha Government to explain the high rate of acquittals resulting from the numerous trials into the 2008 communal violence incidents reported at Kandhamal in Odisha.

The bench of Justices RM Lodha and AR Dave sought response of the state government in eight weeks on a PIL filed by NGO Initiative to Justice Peace and Human Rights and other private persons. The incident where the majority community in the state indulged in arson and killing of Christian dalits and vandalizing their places of worship, had so far resulted in only 64 convictions out of 185 criminal trials conducted till last year.  

Click here for source

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


[The following is the text of the Press statement issued by Dr John Dayal in Rome on 16 October 2012. Dr Dayal is a Member of the National Integration Council of the Government of India, is past National President of the 93 year old All India Catholic Union and secretary general of the ecumenical All India Christian Council. He lives in New Delhi, India and can be contacted at]




India has one of the most diverse cultural religious pallets in the world. According to Census 2001, Hindus constitute 80.5% (827,578,868), Muslims 13.4% (138, 188,240), Christians 2.3% (24,080,016), Sikhs 1.9% (19,215,730), Buddhists 0.8% (7,955,207), Jains 0.4% (4,225,053) and other religions & persuasions constitute 0.6% of 1,028,610,328 population in India. The population is now reported at 1.25 billion, but the data of the 2011 is yet to be published. The government routinely delays religious data, as it is perceived to be of a politically sensitive nature with the Hindu majority accusing the Muslims in particular of multiplying at an alarming rate, allegedly threatening to overwhelm the majority community and their faith, an accusation not supported by demographers and cultural sociologists. There is no official data for India’s many indigenous native religions that predate Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, because the government lumps them together with Hinduism. Adherents of such numerically small religions protest, but their voice is not heard.

Surveys show that religious minorities are economically poorer and socially discriminated. This has been pointed out by human rights and civil liberties activists in their submission to the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review which was held from March through September 2012 in Geneva. Only 6.5% have access to institutional finance, 40% [by habitation]do not have health facilities, 35% do not have education facilities and 65.02% live in huts or temporary shelter.

This press statement is based on the Report to the UPR and independent studies by the author and by the All India Christian Council.

The Constitution of India defines it as a secular state; the laws discriminate on the grounds of religion and caste. Scheduled Castes, formerly known as untouchable castes, who are given reservation in education, employment and politics, lose these if they chose to profess Christianity or Islam. The legality of the Presidential Order 1950 on which this denial rests, has been contested in the Supreme Court of India in 2004, is still in force as the government delays its response.

Religious minorities have been victims of targeted violence since India’s independence on 15th August 1947. Minister of State for Home Mr Ajay Maken told Indian Parliament there were over 6,000 cases of such violence in the first decade of the 21st century. On a lower scale, attacks take place on a regular basis in various parts of the country. In such attacks, violence against women is not incidental. Gender-based violence has played a fundamental role as an engine for mobilizing hatred and destruction against religious minorities. Violence has reached barbaric dimensions since 1992 when the historic Babri Mosque was destroyed by Hindu right wing activists in 1992. In 2002, thousands of Muslims were killed and many more thousand displaced in Gujarat. 24th August 2008 marked the beginning of gruesome violence against Dalit and Adivasi Christians in and around the Kandhamal district of Orissa.

The Kandhamal violence is the worst such recorded in the last three centuries against the Christian community. The purported trigger for the August 2008 violence against Christians in Kandhamal was the killing of Lakshmanananda, a Hindu religious leader, and four of his disciples, on 23 August 2008, by attackers unknown at the time. According to government figures, more than 600 villages were ransacked, 5,600 houses were looted and burnt, 56,000 people were left homeless and 38 people were murdered. Human rights groups estimate that over 100 people were killed, including disabled and elderly persons, children and women during the violence from August to December 2008, in Kandhamal district alone. Large number of people suffered severe physical injuries and mental trauma. Women were sexually assaulted, but many more such victims are believed to have been intimidated into silence. 295 churches and places of worship were destroyed. 13 schools and colleges or offices were damaged. Over 2,000 people were forced to renounce their Christian faith. More than 10,000 children had their education severely disrupted.

Christian organisations are reporting as many as 1,000 cases of hate crimes against the community, including violence against pastors and “home churches” in states such as Karnataka, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

A major area of concern is the complicity of state and public officials through culpable actions and failure to act.

Regretfully, relief and rehabilitation have been tardy and grossly inadequate. Worse is the issue of justice. In the 30 cases of murders, there has been only one conviction. All the rest of the accused have been set free. Witnesses have been coerced and there are serious allegations of religious bigotry against civil, police and judicial officers.

There is severe structural violence as several provincial governments have criminalised conversion to Christianity. Change of religion has been a part of Indian reality. In Manipur, entire communities became Vaishnav Hindus when their King changed his faith. In Punjab and other States, many changed their faith from Hinduism to Sikhism in the early Twentieth century. The Shuddhi or purification movement, started by Swami Dayanand Saraswati, aimed to “reconvert” those who had left the folds of Hinduism. The Arya Samaj continued this trend, and now the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) has sharpened it into a “Ghar Vapasi” [home coming] political campaign specially among indigenous groups who are primarily animists.

The so-called anti-conversion laws enacted by seven states including Orissa, ironically titled the Freedom of Religion Act, violate freedom of religion guaranteed by the Indian Constitution. These laws are being used to harass and intimidate those who voluntarily change their faith from Hinduism. But the same laws do not address forcible conversions to Hinduism. A general prohibition of conversion by a State necessarily enters into conflict with applicable international standards. These Acts prohibit persons from converting or attempting to convert any person from one religion to another through force, fraud or inducement. They prescribe imprisonment and fine for violations (and harsher penalties for conversion of children, women and persons belonging to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes), and some of them prescribe a procedure for permission from state authorities prior to the intended conversion.

The religion-based matrimonial laws in India contain many provisions that adversely impact a person’s exercise of freedom of religion. Under Hindu law, if the husband gets converted into Non-Hindu faith wife is entitled to live separately without forfeiting her right of maintenance but if she herself also ceases to be Hindu, she loses her claim of maintenance. A Hindu wife will lose her right to maintenance if she converts to Islam and Christianity. Conversion also constitutes a ground for divorce.

Though provisions of the Indian Penal Code exist to tackle individual and group violence, conspiracy and creating enmity between groups, there is no legislation to deal with the particular circumstances in which violence is perpetrated against religious minorities. The National Advisory Council of the Government of India has recently evolved a draft law, provisionally called the Targeted Violence [Prevention, Control and Reparations] Bill 2011 which addresses issues of hate speech, impunity and rehabilitation, resettlement and reparations. The government has not taken necessary steps to introduce this Bill in the Parliament. The Bill however has been put in cold storage.

Lack of political will to prosecute perpetrators, inadequacy of laws and procedures to deal with mass crimes, lack of impartial investigation and prosecution and a lack of sensitivity to survivors’ experiences and needs have been among some of the major hurdles in victims’ and survivors’ access to justice and accountability The criminal justice system has failed to respond promptly and positively to targeted violence against religious minorities. One major concern is the complicity, connivance, participation in and support to the violence by public officials through acts of omission and commission. Deliberate sabotage by the police through a combination of refusal to register crimes, shoddy investigations, failure of the judiciary to appreciate the available evidence in the context of realities on the ground, and rampant intimidation of victims and witnesses makes justice for victims and survivors of religion-based targeted violence illusive.

Civil society and Christian organisations have consistently demanded a recall of the anti-conversion laws, the grant of full rights to Christians from the former “untouchable castes”, reforms in the marriage laws and enactment of a comprehensive law against communal and Targetted violence with a national code on relief, rehabilitation, reparation, witness protection and an end to impunity.



Adivasi: Literally means “original dwellers / inhabitants” and refers to indigenous peoples or Scheduled Tribes.

Dalit: The term means “oppressed people” and refers to persons belonging to a category at the

lower end of the caste system, who are considered “untouchables

Ghar Vapasi: Literally means “return home”; it refers to rituals conducted by Hindutva forces in relation to converting a person into the Hindu fold

Shuddhi movement: A movement for converting and re-converting persons into the Hindu fold

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Extremist Hindus rout Christians from rural Indian village

Hindus twice assaulted a Christian community in a rural India village early this month, beating believers, forcing them into Hindu worship rituals, and damaging their homes, according to Christian witnesses.
The Sunday worship meeting was underway Sept. 2 at the home of a new Christian, Daminbai Sahu, in Bhanpuri, a village in the Balod district of India’s state of Chhattisgarh. The witnesses said a group of villagers stormed into the house and beat several of the people attending the meeting, including a visiting pastor identified only as Dada, of the Philadelphia Fellowship.
The attackers accused Dada of forcefully converting Hindus to Christianity, the witnesses said, and dragged him out of the house. As hundreds gathered around the commotion, the extremists ordered Dada out of the village and threated to kill him if he returned, said Samuel Philip of the Church of God in Balod. They forced believers to renounce their faith in Christ late into the night, said Church of God Rev. Sandeep Claudius.
The following night, at 11 p.m., about 600 Hindu extremists stormed the houses of five Christian families belonging to the Philadelphia Fellowship, Claudius said. Led by four men he identified as Manish Sahu, Virendra Yadav, Vinod Gond, and Vinod Sahu, the mob called the Christians “pagans” and accused them of trying to forcefully convert Hindus to Christianity. They threatened dire consequences if they did not give up their faith. They broke doors, damaged the houses and household items, Christian witnesses said.
Claudius said the extremists forced the Christians to bow before Hindu idols and chant Hindu slogans.
“We will not forsake Christ even at the point of death because he has forgiven our sins and gave us new life,” one victim, Deherram Sahu, told Open Doors News.
The extremists forced Sahu and believers from three other families, Sarjuram Sahu, his wife Janakbai Sahu, and Ubhayram Sahu to leave the village at about 1 a.m., in the monsoon rain. The four reached a small town of Gurur, about 12 kilometers away, and informed the church leaders at Balod. Later they found shelter in Balod with local Christians.
Christians remaining in Bhanpuri, including children and elderly, were unable to come out of their houses.
“The Christians were banned from collecting drinking water from the village well,” Philip said. “It was raining and the Christians collect some water from the rain. However after realizing that the Christians have little water in their houses, the extremists went over to their houses and threw all their water away.”
Family members were rescued from the village after some days by area church leaders. They went to the Gurur police station, but were turned away. “He advised the believers to go back to the village and worship Hindu gods,” Philip said.
Church leaders eventually prevailed upon the police to accept the complaint, and statements from the four believers evicted from Bhanpuri have been registered. But police have not filed a first-information report detailing the assaults.
The small Christian community of Bhanpuri has faced ostracism since converting to Christianity in 2006.
“They were not allowed to sell and buy in the village, were not allowed to draw water from the well, and were treated as outcasts,” Philip said. “They were not allowed to walk on the main road because the extremists were frightened that it will get contaminated because of their faith in Christ.”
The Open Doors International World Watch List describes India as a nation where Christians generally are free, but “violence against pastors and church gatherings continues on a monthly basis, usually in rural areas.” The World Watch List documented more than 100 incidents of violence against Christians in 2011.
The Indian constitution guarantees religious freedom, but in five of India’s 28 states, including Chhattisgarh, the law also forbids forced conversion from one religion to another. Christians under pressure in those states frequently face accusations that they are actively recruiting Hindus away from their religion.
In August, the high court of India’s northern state of Himachal Pradesh reaffirmed the law’s prohibition of forced conversion. But it struck down a 2006 addition to the law, one which requires a person to give the government 30-day notice before conversion.
"A person not only has a right of conscience, the right of belief, the right to change his belief, but also has the right to keep his beliefs secret," the court ruled.

Click here for source

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Justice Naidu to be new head of Kandhamal Commission

Press Trust of India

Odisha government has appointed Justice A S Naidu, a retired High Court Judge, as the new head of the judicial commission probing the killing of VHP leader Laxmananda Saraswati and the subsequent communal violence in Kandhamal, official sources said today.

The functioning of the judicial commission had come to a standstill for four months due to the death of Justice Sarat Chandra Mohapatra, who had headed the panel.

The home department had already decided to install Justice Naidu to carry forward the probe and a formal official notification in this regard is expected to be issued soon, sources said.

Saraswati was killed on August 23, 2008 in Kandhamal along with four of his disciples. The entire district witnessed large-scale communal violence in which 38 people were killed and over 4,000 houses burnt.

The state government had set up a judicial commission headed by Justice Mohapatra to probe the matter from September 17, 2008. The commission has so far received nearly 700 affidavits.

Sixty-five government and 99 private witnesses have so far been examined by the commission. The examination of three witnesses were halfway through when justice Mohapatra passed away on May 12.

The crime branch is investigating the matter and it had arrested 10 persons and submitted charge sheets against 14 persons in connection with the incident.

Click here for source

Monday, July 30, 2012

The course that’s been changing lives in Mumbai

MUMBAI: Every evening, when St Xavier's College turns on its yellow lights, a thousand canteen boys, sweepers, hawkers, labourers, milk vendors, clerks and receptionists wrap up a tough day's work and rush in for their lectures. Once in, they are in a world where all they are expected to do is hold a pen and pay attention.

Few in the city know about the evening course at the college. Started 24 years ago, the commerce section is perhaps a little out of sync with the loud Malhar and the campus fashion a sharp contrast to what one sees in top colleges. Also, most students don't return to a home or comforting security each day. Principal Errol Fernandes said, "The morning section was started to provide excellent education. The criterion to admit students is merit. The evening classes were started to cater to the distressed section of society and give them hope of a better life."

The classes begin with a short prayer of silence. "Students are asked to take a deep breath so they can get rid of the grime and tiredness of the day," Fernandes explained.
As the section enters its silver jubilee year, it has turned autonomous. Unlike other colleges, the attendance here is high, probably because the reason to study is different. There are no free lectures, and very often extra classes for weaker students are held on the train, during the faculty's journey back home.

For long, excellent education has mostly been the privilege of the moneyed and the meritorious. The commerce section at St Xavier's was started with the aim of breaking away from that norm. "These students are the ones who really need the help," said economics professor Kamaji Bokare. "The rate of change of life you see here is really high."

Akshay Shetty, who used to run a roadside stall outside Old Custom's House, is today a senior executive at a mutual fund firm. "I went on to do my master's and am also a cost accountant. The biggest change has been the respect I get today," says a proud Shetty. Till about five years ago, Prabhakar Poojary was a canteen boy in BEST earning Rs 600 a month. Today, he heads the Singapore, Dubai and Mauritius markets of a private fund and takes home an enviable pay packet of Rs 30 lakh. "When tough life becomes a routine, the rest becomes easy," he says.

Teachers take pride in the fact that two ex-students have made the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad—one is the vice-president of a private bank—but most importantly, they speak of the values the course has instilled in their students. Ravi Gaba was always a bright student; he bagged several cash awards in his years at St Xavier's. "When he graduated, he gave us all the cash prizes (totaling Rs 18,000) that he had won and said he wanted to leave it back for another needy student," recalled accounts professor Rajesh Vora.

Going to college means different things to different people. For some, collegiate education rebuilds their lives, for some others it is the bridge to a better path. For many others, it's a plunge out of a dark a day that shines as bright as the lights on the campus they walk to each evening.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Karnataka : Christians Attacked

Hindu extremists attack a Christian family, beat them up including two women, damaged their house and accused them of forceful conversion in Vyasmallapura Thanda, Bellary District, Karnataka.

According to reports from EFI, the extremists shouting and beating a Tahndora (drum) on May 28 blocked the believers, stopped them from going to the church and threatened them that there will be a village panchayat on Monday to pass judgment on Devendra Naik and his family for their faith in Christ.

On the same day, Naik reported the matter to the area Sub Inspector, Girish Naik, but the Inspector ignored his call, reported our correspondent.

Subsequently on the next day, a mob of about 50 extremists led by Umesh Naik broke the house of Davendra Naik, beat him up and his mother, sister and father and forcefully brought them to Sevalal temple.

Area Christian leaders intervened and the police summoned the extremists to the station and questioned them. The entire conversation was documented.

The extremists accused Devendra Naik of forcible conversion and claimed that they are ready to go to jail as well stand before the court as witnesses that Naik is involved in forceful conversion.

Thereafter, the police threatened to arrest the Christian’s family on charges of forcible conversion. However, Naik told the police that he was not involved in any kind of forceful conversion, reported our correspondent.

Area Christians leaders submitted a letter to the police officials on behalf of Naik that he was not involved in forceful conversion.

The police thereafter arranged a peace talk between the two parties and reached a compromise. Protection was given to Naik and his family and a constable was posted in the area to see the development in this issue.

In Hadagali Taluk there are about 6 Churches with 450 believers.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Indian Christians forced into Hindu worship, driven from homes

Hindu extremists forced 15 Christians to participate in Hindu worship rituals, then beat them up and rousted them from their village, according to an evangelical organization in India.
The Evangelical Fellowship of India said that on June 19, 150 Hindus rounded up 12 Christians in Jawanga, a village in the tropical Dakshin Bastar district of Chhattisgarh state, in eastern India.
The Christians were taken to the Pendevi Temple, where they were forced to worship tribal and Hindu deities, and to participate in Hindu rituals, Akhilesh Edgar of the Evangelical Fellowship of India told Open Doors News. He said the abductors then assaulted the Christians, though Edgar did not provide detail about the extent of any injuries they may have suffered.
Rather than let the Christians return home, the Hindus chased them out of the village. The Christians sought the help of John Nag, a pastor in Geelam about 5 kilometers from Jawanga, and Sonsingh Jhali, known locally as an advocate for Christians.
The Evangelical Fellowship of India said Nag and Asaram Bech, in whose house the Jawanga Christians sometimes held prayer meetings, approached the elected head of the village, who refused to permit the Christians’ return. The uprooted Jawanga villagers are staying with other Christians in Geelam, the organization said.
The evangelical group said the Christians did not file a complaint with the police, for fear of stirring religious tensions.
The June 19 episode is only the most recent example of harassment of Christians in Chhattisgarh. The Evangelical Fellowship of India reported in April that 300 residents of Belgal village disrupted the attempted burial of a man who had converted to Christianity. Ten people were injured, and the burial was completed after district authorities intervened.
At the national level, India is religiously pluralistic, encompassing the world’s third-largest Muslim population and about 25 million Christians, or about 1 of every 50 people in the country. Persecution of religious minorities generally intensifies at the regional and local levels, according to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
Chhattisgarh is one of five Indian states that has adopted a Freedom of Religion Act, which the commission says has had the opposite effect.
“While intended to reduce forced conversions and decrease communal violence, states with these laws have higher incidents of intimidation, harassment, and violence against religious minorities, particularly Christians,” the commission concluded in its 2012 annual report.
India is listed at No. 32 on the Open Doors World Watch list of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. “Persecution is largely due to the amazing growth of Christianity among the low castes and Dalits, which threatens Hindu leaders,” according to the World Watch List. “Violence against pastors and church gatherings continues on a monthly basis, usually in rural areas.”

Click here for source

Thursday, July 12, 2012

How to observe the fourth anniversary of Kandhamal

By  John Dayal

On 24th August this year, Kandhamal will complete four years of its
trial by fire, gun and axe. The violence, which lasted several weeks
and saw sporadic incidents even three months later, registered over
52,000 people hiding for their life in nearby Sal forests, almost 6,000 houses burnt to the ground, more than 300 places of worship and church-run institutions destroyed, and perhaps as many as 100 persons, some of them women, killed in the most horrendous manner.

Just one person has been convicted of murder, and in other cases, frightened witnesses, bad investigation and shoddy court cases have meant that ringleaders have escaped the law. Hundreds of families still have no house, and several hundred more have not completed reconstruction because, despite massive help from the church, the money ran out. Many remain unemployed, hundreds have lost out on education, and businesses are yet to be rebuilt. At a more human level, perhaps the entire Kandhamal needs sustained trauma counselling. In the words of a young priest or pastor, “I am still afraid when I try to go back to my area.”

Patently, there is a sort of a disjunct between the efforts of the Church, which can rightly point out it has spent crores during various facets of relief and rehabilitation – from money spent in feeding refugees in the first months of the violence, to finally upto Rs 30,000 or more given to each family to reconstruct their houses because the government grant of Rs 20,000 to Rs 50,000 was either not forthcoming or grossly insufficient to rebuild houses where the cost came from a minimum of Rs 70,000 to upward of Rs 100,000, depending on the location and the size of the house.

In most cases, the house that was destroyed was bigger than the house that was sought to be rebuilt in the given amount of money. And no one thought of how the family would furnish the  house, and buy other commodities that make a house into a home. No one is accusing anyone in the church of corruption, but perhaps each church, Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical and Pentecost, needs to make a discreet private audit of its resources committed to Kandhamal since 2007. Funding agencies and generous churches across the country and around the world would want to know, and hope, that their donations have made a lasting difference in the lives of the victims. And there has been no government assistance in rebuilding the places of worship.

So how do we observe the fourth anniversary of the worst violence
against the Christian community in India in recent centuries, other
than in prayer and protest?

The pursuit of Justice would be a good way, I think. Justice at all levels. And holding the State – not Orissa alone, but the Indian State – to account, learning our Constitutional lessons from developments in Gujarat which saw a near genocide against the Muslim community in 2002, and the violence against Sikhs in Delhi and other cities in 1984.

The Sikhs lawyers and retired judges, and the widows, have taught us the valuable lesson of persistence in the pursuit of justice. Decades later, they have not lost  an iota of their zeal. The intensity of their passion to see that justice is done, is remarkable, and is, in fact bearing fruit. They have  shown  that it is possible to demand, and get, appropriate reparation and relief. They have also networked effectively with civil society, got the highest in the land to apologise, and have held powerful politicians accountable for their actions.

The  Muslims community, too, has proved the relevance of networking with civil society and using all means, judicial, political, and civil to get justice to the victims. The Supreme Court of India in many  epochal judgements effectively ensured justice in Gujarat. The final word is till to be said, and there is hope that political bosses, police officers and even subordinate judiciary will pay for their crimes and their abetment to crime, or impunity, before long.

Public outcry in Kandhamal too, as a matter of fact, began when the then Archbishop, Raphael Cheenath, approached the Supreme court and successfully urged it to upturn the order of the Collector, Krishan
Kumar, who had banned Christian organisations from brining relief to
the ravaged district. Cheenath was again in court seeking appropriate relief and rehabilitation. Now a group of religious have approached the Supreme Court to order a fresh look into the cases of murder in the district during the violence.

We have been advocating that Church and the victims approach the Supreme Court for a fresh investigation and retrial into all cases of murder as the so-called Fast Track Courts have seine  veritable miscarriage of justice. It has also been our case that instead of a display of charity, what rebuilding in Kandhamal needed was concerted action to ensure that that the government, through the district administration  met the entire expense, rather than give a pro rata amount decided by some bureaucrats on their whim and fancy without even determining how much  was really needed to pay for the bricks, cement, steel, wood and asbestos or steel sheets needed to build, a house. It was the governments job, many felt, to ensure reemployment, rebuilding of businesses and local self help groups which were earlier flourishing in the turmeric and ginger trade. The church relief could then have gone into rebuilding lives.

An important recent order of the Supreme Court relates to its refusing to stay a Gujarat High court order of 8 February 2012 asking the Gujarat government to pay compensation to over 500 shrines damaged during the infamous 2002 riots in the wake of Godhra train carnage. A bench of justices K S Radhakrishnan and Dipak Misra asked the state government to furnish details of the number of religious structures actually damaged and the financial cost of their reconstruction. The Gujarat government has been reluctant, saying public funds cannot be used for religious porpoises, forgetting the crores of rupees it has spent in such functions as Shabri Kumbhs in the Dangs some years ago.

High Court Acting Chief Justice Bhaskar Bhattacharya and Justice J B
Pardiwala had ordered compensation for over 500 places of worships in the state on a plea by Islamic Relief Committee of Gujarat (IRCG), an NGO. The court also ordered that principal judges of 26 districts of
the state will receive the applications for compensation of religious structures in their respective districts and decide on it. They have been asked to send their decisions to the high court within six months.

That is the way to go. Charity is easy. The pursuit of justice is not easy. It is time consuming, expensive, and needs a dedicated core team which will not accept defeat. Kandhamal needs such a pursuit of justice.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Kashmir Priest case stayed

The High Court of Jammu and Kashmir stayed further proceedings against Rev Chander Mani Khanna. After accusing him of promoting disharmony and religious animosity in Srinagar, the authorities filed a First Information Report against him following allegations by the state’s grand mufti that the Christian clergyman had carried out forced conversions. Despite the favourable sentence, “his life is in danger”, Global Council of Indian Christians President Sajan K George said.

In November 2011, an Islamic court had summoned the clergyman to answer charges that he had pushed seven young Muslims to convert to Christianity in exchange for money. A video posted on YouTube was presented as evidence. Rev Khanna and the converts rejected the allegations.

The clergyman was first arrested and then released a week later. In January, the Islamic court ordered his expulsion as well as that of Fr Jim Borst and other Christian missionaries.

Source: Asia News

SC stays Nun’s rape case

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday stayed the trial in the alleged rape of a nun during the 2008 communal violence in Odisha.

The victim alleged that Aug 25, 2008, at the height of the communal riots in Kandhamal district, she was attacked by a mob that molested, assaulted, stripped naked and raped her.

The apex court bench of Justice Altamas Kabir and Justice S.S. Nijjar stayed the trial on the petition by the victim seeking the recall of Sub-Divisional Judicial Magistrate Prasanta Kumar Das, who recorded her statement during the identification parade of the suspects.

She alleged that after the identification parade, Das recorded that the victim had identified accused Santosh Kumar Patnaik. She could not identify any other suspect. It further said that suspect gave "her a slap, pulled her saree" ... groped her "and did not commit any other overt act".

The victim contended that the part of the statement by Das that the culprits "did not commit any other overt act" was contrary to the prosecution case.

As the counsel for the suspects sought to oppose the plea saying that the victim was trying to delay the proceedings, Justice Kabir asked him "a women is raped, molested or something has happened to her. What is her interest in delaying the proceedings". The victim alleged that her plea for recall of Das, who is a witness in the case, was rejected by the trial court. She said she appealed before the session court and subsequently before the high court. The high court rejected her plea Jan 5.

The trial court by its May 16, 2011 order rejected her plea holding that complainant could not move an application for the recall of the witnesses.

The high court by its Jan 5 order held that "no private person has any role to play in the trial beyond the limit prescribed therein".

The apex court Monday issued notice to the Odisha government and other accused and stayed the trial in that case.

The case would next be heard March 22.

Click here for source

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Mangalore: Huge protest rally against the communal forces in the Twin Districts of DK and Udupi

Mangalore, 11 Febraury 2012: The Human Rights Federation of the twin districts of Udupi and Dakshina Kannada  organised a massive rally against the communal politics in the Karnataka State on Friday, February 10, 2012. The rally started from Ambedkar (Jyoti) Circle at 3 pm. The rally was inaugurated by Jason D’Costa, one of the victims of the attack on minorities at Suratkal  by beating the drum. The rally ended at the Deputy Commissioner’s Office  after covering 12 kilometers. Many minority organizations and general public participated in the rally in great numbers.

The rally was led by Justice MF Saldanha and many other leaders of various minority organizations. The rally was peaceful  largely peaceful as the marchers with various placards denouncing the communal attack on the minority communities and shouting slogans such as ‘down with Kalldka Prabhakar Bhat’ echoed throughout the rally. Besides there was also decrying of the three ministers who were found watching pornographic pictures on their mobiles during the Assembly session.

Click here for source

Saturday, February 04, 2012

State government failed to protect Christians

Working towards resolution of critical issues that affect minorities — such as extending reservation under the Scheduled Castes quota to Dalit Christians, concerns on the Right To Education Act “setting limits to the constitutional guarantees enjoyed by minority institutions” and the Communal Violence Bill — were among the key topics highlighted in the biennial report of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India (CBCI), presented here on Wednesday.

At the inaugural function of the eight-day 30th CBCI meet, being held at the St. John's Academy of Health Sciences, Albert D'Souza, secretary-general, CBCI, spoke about the socio-political situation in the country, particularly the anti-corruption mood and trust deficit in governance.

Criticising the Union Government, he said: “The Government is simply delaying replying to the Supreme Court on issues such as inclusion of Dalit Christians in caste reservations.”

The report by the National Commission on Minorities recommending that converted Dalits not be counted in the caste census was “yet another ploy of the Government to delay its response on the issue”, Fr. D'Souza said, reading from the report.

“While globally the community is being targeted — in China, Myanmar and Pakistan, for instance — in India too, we are seeing hate campaigns, even anti-conversion laws by States that are anti-constitutional,” he explained.

Archbishop of Bangalore Bernard Moras also observed that the State Government had “failed to safeguard the Christian minority”.

Following attacks against Christians in 2008 and 2009, the Karnataka United Christian Forum for Human Rights had been actively engaging with the Government and making representations every time such incidents were reported from across the State.

Highlighting the diversity of the Indian church, Archbishop Salvatore Pinnachio, the Vatican Ambassador to India, said the Church must always “promote sound family values, encourage small Christian communities and befriend the poor and marginalised”.

He too emphasised on the struggle of the Dalit Christians in India to get their constitutional rights.

Click here for source

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

GCIC demands dropping of Farooq Abdullah

Urgent Press release- 25th January-2012

GCIC demands dropping of Farooq Abdullah

Dr. Manmohan Singh
Hon. Prime Minister
South Block, Raisina Hill, New Delhi-110001
Phone +91-11-23012312 Fax +91-11-23019545,
New Delhi- India

Sub: Distraught Christian community demands Janab Farooq Abdullah be immediately dropped from Council of Ministers for his anti-constitutional statement in support of Kashmir Shariat Court ‘s Recent Unilateral Decisions of Permanent Expulsion of 5 Respected and Innocent Christian Clergymen from Jammu and Kashmir

Dear and Honourable Sir,
A Federal Minister, who is obligated to uphold the Constitution of India, has drooped down to the lowest level to endorse the unconstitutional action of self-styled Sharia court of expulsion of Indian citizens from the sovereign democratic Republic of India. This is in violation of the constitution of India, which upholds the rights of every citizen including Pandits and Christians to live peacefully within the geographical boundaries of India.

Our genuine apprehensions are that there is every possibility that the statement of Janab Abdullah and unilateral decision by the Mufti Azam and his sharia court can lead to the by now universally known “Fatwa,” ultimately leading to a situation of not only strained relations but perhaps even to a law and order situation in Kashmir and perhaps in the whole of India. What could be the possible consequences, if the religious heads of different religions in a secular country like India begin to issue the orders in the days ahead like the one issued by the Muslim clergyman in Srinagar, to the members of other religions throughout the length and breadth of India, for all sorts of reasons based on their own religious laws? Indeed, it is beyond our comprehension! If the religious heads are permitted to pass such ‘”Fatwas’, what becomes of the Indian law, civil as well as the criminal law? What becomes of our very constitution?

The Christian community is pained at the widely reported statement of a responsible member of your Council of Ministers to publicly endorse such Fatwa. His anti-constitutional statement not only goes against the spirit of the constitution that he has sworn to uphold but also has brought shame to the whole government. His statement is an embarrassment and humiliation to the country. Instead of public condemnation of such Fatwa, he has glorified it. We will hold him personally responsible for any harm to Pastor Khanna, his family and community.

The community was already hurt by the Fatwa but is deeply anguished by this endorsement. Therefore we demand immediate removal of Mr Abdullah from the ministry. His continuance in the ministry will lend legitimacy to anti-constitutional, anti-secular and anti-national forces in India. How can a member of your ministry endorse the expulsion of an Indian citizen by religious court from one state of the country? Your inaction in this matter will be construed as tactical approval of Mr Abdullah’s statement and the judgement of the Shriat Court.

With Warm Regards

Dr. Sajan George, Dr. Bernard Malik
President Council of Refernces-GCIC

Minister from Kashmir speaks against conversions, does not mention ‘Kangaroo Court’ at all

Minister for renewable energy Farooq Abdullah on Tuesday slammed religious conversions as “anti-secular”, comments that come in the wake of an Islamic court’s indictment of Christian missionaries in Kashmir on charges of proselytisation. Abdullah’s views that conversions tend to “disturb the secular balance” could be potentially seen as his backing of “Shariah Supreme Court of Islamic Jurisprudence” ruling for four Christian evangelicals to be barred from the state.

Although it has no jurisdiction under the Indian Constitution, the Shariah court, a 200-year-old body, administers and advises the state government on applicability of Islamic laws in JK, a state that enjoys a special federal status.

“Those who aid conversions through allurement should be punished,” Abdullah, prominent Kashmiri, told HT.

There are concerns that the decree could stoke attacks on Christian institutions and missionaries in the Muslim-majority state, where native Hindus had faced strikes from Islamic insurgents in the late 80s.

Srinagar, the state’s summer capital, itself boasts of famous missionary schools, such as Burn Hall School, founded in 1956. Mufti Nasir-ul Islam, a top Shariah court official, told HT: “We respect Christianity. The trails were held under cordial circumstances and videotaped. The pastors were duly heard.”

Christian bodies, including the Catholic Bishop Conference of India (CBCI) and the All India Christian Council, have ruled out “allurement” of Muslims.

“There is no immediate threat but surely a great deal of insecurity,” CBCI spokesperson Joseph Babu said. Christian Council head and National Integration Council member John Dayal said its fact-finding team had found “absolutely no evidence of allurement”.

Click here for source

Sharia decree making Christians 'nervous' in Valley

The angry reaction to the issue of conversion of Muslims in Kashmir is scaring the Christian community no end. "It's making me nervous," says Carin Jodha Fischer, a German working in Kashmir's rural areas since 2006.

On January 19, the government-backed sharia court, headed by Mufti Bashiruddin, issued a decree banning the entry of four Christian pastors, finding them "guilty of luring Muslims of Kashmir, especially boys and girls, to Christianity by exploiting their financial conditions".

The names of the four pastors- CM Khanna, Gayour Massi, Chandre Kanta and Jim Brost- had come up in the course of an investigation done by the court. While Khanna, who is an Indian and is now in Jammu, the whereabouts of the other three are not known. The police do not know their nationalities either.

"They were promised help like passports and visas," said deputy grand mufti (priest) Nasir-ul-Islam in Srinagar.

The sharia decree came four months after a video clip allegedly showed Srinagar-based All Saints' Church pastor Khanna apparently baptising a few young persons here.

"They are all false and cooked-up stories. The matter is before court and will wait for its orders," Khanna told Hindustan Times on the phone from Jammu.

Khanna, who has been in the state for the past 24 years, was in police custody for 11 days for "forcible" conversions in Kashmir. He said he had no connection with the three others.

Brost was asked to leave Kashmir in July 2010.

"Legally, these conversions are not forcible. People have approached the church to become Christians," said Fischer, who works in Kashmir for community-based rural tourism. "If the conversion stories spread to rural areas, I won't be able to work then."

Muslim organisations including moderate Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq's Awami Action Committee have taken the issue seriously. The Mirwaiz also launched a website "to safeguard Islamic interests" after recent conversion reports.

Click here for source

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Rally against persecution in Karnataka

Several Christian, Muslim groups and human rights organizations will take out a rally on January 27 in Mangalore to protest the growing communal attacks in Karnataka.

The groups will emphasize on the “unending communal atrocities and partisan behavior of officials,” especially in Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts.

A public meeting in front of the Deputy Commissioner’s Office will be held after the rally.

They will also demand the suspension of “communalized law-enforcement officers and appointment of able, impartial and secular officers.”

Christian organizations, which will take part in the rally, include Karnataka United Churches Forum for Human Rights (a forum of the Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant churches), Karnataka Missions Network, Federation of Christian Churches, Bharatiya Chraista Okkoota and Catholic Sabha, Mangalore.

“Atrocities against minority communities and their places of worship have recently reached intolerable heights,” said the Federation of Human Rights Organizations in a statement.

It said that 2011 alone saw 66 incidents of attacks on Muslims and 15 against members of Christian communities.

“It won’t be an exaggeration to say that as a result of such persecution, a sense of terrible insecurity prevails among the members of the minority communitie,” the statement added.

According to the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI), the southern state of Karnataka recorded the most number of attacks against the Christian community in 2011.

The groups are also planning to demand implementation of Communal Violence (Prevention, Control and Rehabilitation) Bill with necessary amendments.

Source: Christian Today

Stop The Hate - Kashmir’s main political parties must act to prevent zealotry in the Valley

While media attention is riveted on the Salman Rushdie row, another controversy provoked by religious zealots in the Kashmir valley hasn't received its due share of critical scrutiny. For the past few weeks, a Christian priest and foreign NGOs have been targeted for seeking to persuade Muslim youth to give up their faith in return for liquor, women and money. One priest, Pastor Chander Mani Khanna, had to appear before a sharia court to defend himself against charges of proselytization. The evidence produced by the prosecutors to substantiate the charges was, to put it mildly, far-fetched.

But that did not deter the sharia court from asking for the pastor's expulsion from the state. Likewise, Juan Marcos Troia, an Argentine football coach widely hailed for his efforts to popularise the game in the Valley, has been hounded for allegedly promoting the cause of Christianity. Here again no evidence of such activity has come to light. The blunt fact is that the sharia court has no locus standi in the matter. Any aggrieved party should have turned to a proper court asking it to determine whether the pastor and the coach had infringed the law. No such case has been filed.

The vicious campaign conducted by the zealots does not come as a surprise. In the Valley, separatism and religious intolerance often work in tandem. The forced exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits is a case in point. What is galling, however, is the inaction of the National Conference-led government and the pointed discretion of the opposition PDP on the attacks against the Christian priests and foreign NGOs. The state government has remained on the sidelines when it should have ensured protection to the victims of the hate campaign. The PDP too should have thrown its weight behind them.

They did nothing of the sort and in the process acted against the letter and spirit of Article 25 of J&K's own Constitution. It says that it is the duty of the state to 'combat ignorance, superstition, fanaticism, racialism, cultural backwardness' and to 'foster brotherhood and equality among all communities under the aegis of a Secular State'. It is incumbent on the two major political formations in the Valley to stop the zealots and hate-mongers in their tracks.

Times of India

No action against Sri Ram Sene - BJP minister

Bangalore: Karnataka Home Minister R Ashoka said on Monday there was evidence on the involvement of right wing Srirama Sene in the recent hoisting of Pakistani flag in Bijapur district but ruled out any move to ban the outfit at this stage.

"There is evidence against Srirama Sene in the Sindagi incident", he told reporters here.

Asked if the government would ban the organisation, he said the probe was at a certain stage and the state would spell out its stand while filing chargesheet in the case.

He pointed out that a lot of formalities had to be gone through and "correct and confirmed evidence" needed for banning a organisation. At this stage, 'there is no need to ban Srirama Sene', the Minister said.

Ashoka said he would discuss the issue with Chief Minister DV Sadananda Gowda.

Six college students, who were members of the Srirama Sene, had been arrested for allegedly hoisting Pakistan's flag in the premises of the Tahsildar's office in Sindgi, 60 km from Bijapur, on January 1.

The Minister said the incidents of communal violence had come down during the three-and-half-year tenure of the BJP Government. From 28-30 such incidents every year (in the past), it had come down to 7-8 annually now.

Police are keeping a special vigil at places where incidents of communal violence took place in the past five years. An 80-member commando force is already functioning to deal with such incidents as well to fight naxal menace.

Another 80 personnel would join the force soon.

They would also be deployed in Mangalore, Hubli, Gulbarga and Belgaum, Ashoka added.