To organize and bring together all Indian American Christians living in the US and Canada to have a collective voice in Washington and elsewhere.
To gather and disseminate information and news items that are relevant to the interest of Indian Christian churches, community organizations and individuals.
To provide support network and guidance to Indian Christian organizations of all denominations
To provide liaison between Churches in India and in North America
To foster alliances with like minded organizations in the USA, Canada, and elsewhere to help fulfill the Mission of FIACONA
To represent the interests of member organizations of the Federation before relevant national and international agencies both governmental and civil.
To provide guidance and counselling to students of the Indian American Christian communities for Washington internships and courier opportunities.
To help safeguard the religious freedom of fellow Christians in India by coming to the aid of a persecuted church.
Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, they will pour into your lap. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.
Published on 04 Sep, 2015
Written by - Brinda Karat
It is a matter of shame and sorrow that the Christian community in Kandhamal is subdued not because of its lack of courage but on account of the failure of the Centre and the State, the investigative agencies and the criminal justice system, including courts, to ensure it justice
It is seven years since the horrific communal violence against the Christian community engulfed the district of Kandhamal in Odisha, in August 2008. Recently, thousands of survivors gathered at the panchayat headquarter town of Raikia under the banner of the Kandhamal Peace and Solidarity Committee. It was not to relive the past. Survivors of communal violence rarely want to experience the trauma and the pain which rises to the surface of their hearts and minds with every retelling of those dark and terror-filled days.
The demand was straight and simple — that they be allowed a future.
On the surface, things look better. In the 2014 Odisha Assembly election, the Hindutva forces suffered a resounding defeat in this district, losing in all the three Scheduled Tribe reserved Assembly segments. In the previous elections in 2009, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had put up Manoj Kumar Pradhan, a man accused in two cases of murder of Christians and another 10 cases of arson and violence. He won from G. Udaygiri despite being in jail.
The BJP reaped the harvest of the blood of innocents. Pradhan came out of jail within weeks of his election and it was an open secret that he used his clout to sabotage the processes of justice — by intimidating witnesses and instructing the police to go slow in the cases. But this changed in 2014, when the Congress and the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) emerged victorious. The Kandhamal Lok Sabha seat, which was won by the BJD candidate, comprises the Phulbani, G.Udaygiri and Baliguda Assembly segments in the district. The BJP candidate was relegated to third place. In the Assembly elections, the Baliguda seat was won by the BJD candidate. In G.Udaygiri, the Congress candidate won, while in Phulbani, the BJD emerged victorious.
To read the full article please go to - http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/justice-continues-to-elude-kandhamal/article7612329.ece?homepage=true
Published on 13 April, 2015
Written by - Shiv Visvanathan
Sometimes when you get up in the morning and reach for the newspaper wondering what the world has in store, you occasionally savour a moment which is more heart-warming than having a cup of coffee. I just read a report about Maryam Asif Siddiqui, a 12-year-old school student in Mumbai, having stood first in the “Gita Champions League” contest, where the participants were tested on their knowledge and understanding of the Bhagavad Gita. It was not the fact that she is a Muslim but her reverence for all religions and the wisdom of religions that warmed one’s heart.
Such news is a perfect counter to the vitriol of Giriraj Singh, a Union Minister, who was in the limelight recently for his controversial and racist remarks on Congress president Sonia Gandhi. The contrast between Singh and Siddiqui is deep. One celebrates difference while the other seeks to subjugate it. One throbs with intelligence while the other breathes mediocrity.
Today, Christians are being targeted but if anyone is stereotyping Hinduism, it is the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Their Hindutva is a sign of envy, of a mediocrity that wants to imitate the West.
People like Mr. Singh create and leave behind a trail of anxiety where the minorities feel pressure on themselves to realise their identity. This became especially poignant in two instances; the first, in an essay/article by former police officer and diplomat Julio Ribeiro, and the second, in an interview of Indian political psychologist, social theorist, and critic Ashis Nandy. Both are Christians but what is interesting is that both are true Indians, not in a nationalist sense, but as a part of the culture. Ribeiro is proud of being a Christian and Indian and his career as an officer. It is his Christianity that has made him a part of India and made him aware that Christianity in India is older than it is in the West. But now he claims, “communities were being targeted, a sense of siege affects a peaceful people”.
Both Ribeiro and Nandy express the confidence of a community which does not see itself as a minority. It feels it is a part of India’s pluralistic culture, where identities are many, and affiliations open-ended. Ribeiro wonders what his Indianness means when his Christianity is being threatened. Earlier, being Christian and Indian was never contradictory to each other.
To read the full article please go to - http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/indian-minorities-are-selfconfident-cultures/article7095727.ece?homepage=true#comments
Published on 25 March, 2015
To read the full article please go to - http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/debating-religious-conversions/article7028789.ece?utm_source=vuukle&utm_medium=referral#vuukle_div
The operative word in ‘freedom of religion’ is ‘freedom’, and not ‘religion’. Religious conversion is thus a matter of individual choice guaranteed as a fundamental right under the Constitution, and not a collective right of any religious community to proselytise. What matters is not whether such conversions are necessary but whether the individual is allowed the freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of a religion of his or her choice provided under Article 25. Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh in calling for a debate on religious conversion, framed his argument poorly: “Is conversion necessary? Can social service not be performed in India without resorting to conversion?” Conversion may not be necessary for anyone but the person converting, but that is no reasoning at all against religious conversion. And, of course, social service can be performed without resorting to conversion.
Christian missionaries have combined propagation of religion with social service but unless cases of force or fraud are proven, there can be no objection to such a combination of religious and social work. True, as Mr. Singh said, it should be possible for members of all religions to prosper in India without promoting conversions. But this is not to say that promotion of religious conversions is in itself wrong. That there is no socio-economic need for religious conversion cannot be used to push through any restrictive anti-conversion laws. Existing laws are more than adequate to prevent forcible or fraudulent conversions.
Curiously, Mr. Singh used the possible changes in demographic profile and character of India that religious conversions would entail as an argument against religious conversion. Any restriction on religious conversion, whether on ground of social tension or changing demographics or national character, will amount to a serious violation of the fundamental right to freedom of religion.
What is important is that India survives as a secular nation, and not that it remains a country with an unchanged religious mix. As a senior Minister in the government, Mr. Singh should not have called upon the religious minorities to debate anti-conversion laws in the context he set out. Anti-conversion laws cannot be a means to protect religious communities, whether they are a minority or they constitute the majority. It is people who need legal protection and not religions. The threat to the idea of India is less from changes in demographic profile than from attempts to impose a rigid, unifying ‘national’ culture.
Published on 24 March, 2015
To read the full article please go to - http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/is-conversion-necessary-for-social-work-asks-rajnath/article7025206.ece?homepage=true
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Monday asked: “Is conversion necessary? Can social service not be performed in India without resorting to conversion?”. He was delivering the inaugural address at the Annual Conference of State Minorities Commissions here.
“Why is it not possible for all religions to prosper without promoting conversions in India? How can a country like India allow changes in its demographic profile and character?” he asked.
Mr. Singh spoke about conversion and ‘ghar vapsi,’ pointing out that in other countries it was the minorities who demand ‘anti-conversion laws’ for their protection and urged all minority communities to debate this issue openly.
Terming Mr. Singh’s comments on conversion as a veiled message to minorities to confine themselves to their respective faiths and not interact with society, Prabha Joseph, member of the Andhra Pradesh Minorities Commission, said: “If the conversion propaganda against Christians was true then the community would have been larger than two per cent of the population as till very recently we ran a large number of private schools and hospitals in the country. Several BJP leaders studied in our schools; were they converted?’’
Apart from prising open the conversion debate — partially capped since Prime Minister Narendra Modi last month said “everyone has the undeniable right to retain or adopt the religion of his or her choice without coercion or undue influence” — Mr. Singh sought to assure the gathering at the Annual Conference of State Minorities Commissions here that the government would do everything to protect the minorities and allay the sense of fear gripping them.
In an oblique reference to some Sangh Parivar outfits questioning the patriotism of the minorities, he said: “I believe the minorities of our country are patriots and their patriotism should not be questioned.”
Published on 16 March, 2015
Written by - Julio Ribeiro
To read the full article please go to - http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/i-feel-i-am-on-a-hit-list/
Delhi Church Attacks
WB Nuns Raped
Haryana Church Attacks
Lahore Church Killings
There was a time, not very long ago — one year short of 30, to be precise — when only a Christian was chosen to go to Punjab to fight what then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi termed “the nation’s battle” against separatists. I had accepted a “demotion” from secretary in the Union home ministry to DGP of the state of Punjab at the personal request of the prime minister.
Then home secretary, Ram Pradhan, and my dear friend, B.G. Deshmukh, then chief secretary to the government of Maharashtra, were flabbergasted. “Why did you accept this assignment?” they asked. The same question was put to me over the phone by then President Zail Singh. But Arjun Singh, the cabinet minister who personally escorted me by special aircraft from Delhi to Chandigarh, remarked that when my appointment was announced the next morning, the Hindus of Punjab would breathe more freely and rejoice. I presume Hindus would include RSS cadres who had been pinned into a corner by the separatists.
When 25 RSS men on parade were shot dead in cold blood one morning, then Punjab Governor S.S. Ray and I rushed to the spot to console the stricken families. The governor visited 12 homes, I visited the rest. The governor’s experience was different from mine. He was heckled and abused. I was welcomed.
Today, in my 86th year, I feel threatened, not wanted, reduced to a stranger in my own country. The same category of citizens who had put their trust in me to rescue them from a force they could not comprehend have now come out of the woodwork to condemn me for practising a religion that is different from theirs. I am not an Indian anymore, at least in the eyes of the proponents of the Hindu Rashtra.
Is it coincidence or a well-thought-out plan that the systematic targeting of a small and peaceful community should begin only after the BJP government of Narendra Modi came to power last May? “Ghar wapsi”, the declaration of Christmas as “Good Governance Day”, the attack on Christian churches and schools in Delhi, all added to a sense of siege that now afflicts these peaceful people.
Christians have consistently punched above their weight — not as much as the tiny Parsi community, but just as noticeably. Education, in particular, has been their forte. Many schools, colleges, related establishments that teach skills for jobs have been set up and run by Christians. They are much in demand. Even diehard Hindus have sought admission in such centres of learning and benefited from the commitment and sincerity of Christian teachers. Incidentally, no one seems to have been converted to Christianity, though many, many have imbibed Christian values and turned “pseudo-secularist”.
Hospitals, nursing homes, hospices for dying cancer patients needing palliative care — many of these are run by Christian religious orders or Christian laymen devoted to the service of humanity. Should they desist from doing such humanitarian work for fear of being so admired and loved that a stray beneficiary converts of his or her own accord? Should only Hindus be permitted to do work that could sway the sentiments of stricken people in need of human love and care? The Indian army was headed by a Christian general, the navy more than once, and same with the air force. The country’s defence forces have countless men and women in uniform who are Christians. How can they be declared non-Indians by Parivar hotheads out to create a pure Hindu Rashtra?
It is tragic that these extremists have been emboldened beyond permissible limits by an atmosphere of hate and distrust. The Christian population, a mere 2 per cent of the total populace, has been subjected to a series of well-directed body blows. If these extremists later turn their attention to Muslims, which seems to be their goal, they will invite consequences that this writer dreads to imagine.
I was somewhat relieved when our prime minister finally spoke up at a Christian function in Delhi a few days ago. But the outburst of Mohan Bhagwat against Mother Teresa, an acknowledged saint — acknowledged by all communities and peoples — has put me back on the hit list. Even more so because BJP leaders, even ministers like Meenakshi Lekhi, chose to justify their chief’s remarks.
What should I do? What can I do to restore my confidence? I was born in this country. So were my ancestors, some 5,000 or more years ago. If my DNA is tested, it will not differ markedly from Bhagwat’s. It will certainly be the same as the country’s defence minister’s as our ancestors arrived in Goa with the sage Parshuram at the same time. Perhaps we share a common ancestor somewhere down the line. It is an accident of history that my forefathers converted and his did not. I do not and never shall know the circumstances that made it so.
What does reassure me in these twilight years, though, is that there are those of the predominant Hindu faith who still remember my small contribution to the welfare of the country of our birth. During a recent trip to Rajgurunagar in the Khed taluka of Pune district to visit schools that my NGO, The Bombay Mothers and Children Welfare Society, had adopted, I stopped at Lonavla for idli and tea. A group of middle-aged Maharashtrians sitting on the next table recognised me and stopped to greet and talk. A Brahmin couple returning from Kuwait (as I later learnt) also came up to inquire if I was who I was and then took a photograph with me.
It warmed the cockles of my heart that ordinary Hindus, not known to me, still thought well of me and would like to be friends 25 years after my retirement, when I could not directly serve them. It makes me hope that ordinary Hindu men and women will not be swayed by an ideology that seeks to spread distrust and hate with consequences that must be avoided at all cost.
The writer,a retired IPS officer,was Mumbai police commissioner,DGP Gujarat and DGP Punjab,and is a former Indian ambassador to Romania
Published on 02 Feb, 2015
To read the full article please go to - http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/03/world/asia/catholics-fear-campaign-of-church-attacks-in-india.html?_r=2
NEW DELHI — A series of episodes at churches over the last two months has prompted Roman Catholics here to worry about a deliberate campaign of violence, and to call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to speak out against religious intimidation.
At least five Catholic churches in and around Delhi have reported various attacks, including suspected arson, burglary, vandalism and stone-throwing. The latest was discovered on Monday morning at St. Alphonsa’s Church in New Delhi, where a parish employee found the church’s front door broken open, ceremonial vessels missing, and communion wafers strewn about.
The episodes have caught the attention of human rights advocates, who have been alert to any new pressure on religious freedom in India since Mr. Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party swept to power in elections last May. But church leaders say that the authorities have not taken the attacks seriously enough.
“There has been no attempt from the prime minister’s side to condemn the attacks,” said the Rev. Mathew Koyickal, the chancellor of the Delhi archdiocese and a former parish priest at St. Alphonsa’s. If Mr. Modi would speak out, he said, “we would be comforted, we would know we have a prime minister who cares about us.” Catholics and other Christians make up about 2 percent of India’s population.
President Obama called for religious tolerance in the country during his visit in late January. “India will succeed so long as it is not splintered along the lines of religious faith — so long as it’s not splintered along any lines, and is unified as one nation,” he said in a speech on Jan. 27.
Mr. Modi’s political opponents have also taken up the issue. In December, when a right-wing offshoot of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, or R.S.S., a Hindu nationalist organization, promoted conversions of Christians to Hinduism, opposition leaders called on Mr. Modi to explicitly condemn the drive.
Church leaders have speculated that the Hindu far right might also be behind the church attacks, but the Delhi chapter of the R.S.S. denied involvement. “We do not believe in any kind of violence,” said Rajiv Tuli, a chapter spokesman, adding that he believed the “unsubstantiated allegations” were meant to defame the governing party.
At St. Alphonsa’s on Monday, the police said they believed the break-in was a burglary, and noted that a DVD player was taken with the two ceremonial vessels, a monstrance and a ciborium.
But parishioners said they were sure the real motive was intimidation, noting that collection boxes had been left untouched.
“It’s just so sad,” Vivien Ashima Kaul, a retired history professor, said, adding that the church episodes were being incited by “fringe fundamentalists.”
The most serious was a fire early on Dec. 1 at St. Sebastian’s Church in East Delhi that badly damaged the altar, nave and sacristy. The Rev. Anthony Francis, who became pastor of the church in July, said the church smelled strongly of kerosene afterward, and parishioners saw what appeared to be oil floating in the puddles of water left by firefighters who put out the fire.
“We firmly believe that it is not accidental, but a deliberately conducted act of arson,” Father Francis said.
N. S. Minhas, a neighborhood police officer, said that because the fire was a “sensitive issue and a religious matter,” the case had been handed over to an investigative branch of the Delhi police. Saying he saw no apparent motive for arson, Mr. Minhas raised the possibility that the fire had been an accident involving fuel from the church’s generator.
Anil Couto, the archbishop of Delhi, said he was not satisfied with the police explanation of an incident at a church in West Delhi in January, when a glass display case containing a statue of the Virgin Mary was smashed. The police said in a news conference that three drunken men had broken it as an “act of bravado” for which they were “remorseful.”
Published on 23 Dec, 2014
Published By - SUHRITH PARTHASARATHY
To read the full article please go to - http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/conversion-and-freedom-of-religion/article6716638.ece?homepage=true
One of the oft-repeated theories in the wake of the general election this past May was that Prime Minister Narendra Modi assumed power by presenting a single-minded commitment to developing India’s economy. In truth, campaigns, in many parts of the country, were intensely divisive affairs. Many of those who canvassed for votes, and who have since been accorded important positions in the ruling party, often trod treacherously beyond communal boundaries. This dissonance, which was inherent in the attitude of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) towards the election, has now grown further, and it increasingly appears that the government is incapable of deviating from what is quite plausibly its real agenda.
As much as Mr. Modi would like us to believe that it is his plank of a developmental model that continues to hold the primary sway in his policies, his stark reticence in dealing with the acrimonious practices of the BJP’s allied groups seems to paint a different picture. The state, under the BJP, is slowly progressing towards more pervasive involvement in matters of ethical choice such as religion. And, the Sangh Parivar has only been emboldened by the attitude of the new regime. Week after week, its agenda of Hindutva has seen the imposition of new and stridently discordant measures. The latest salvo involves the organisation of programmes of “Ghar Vapsi,” for the conversion (or “reconversion” as the Hindu Right would have it) of Muslims and Christians to Hinduism.
The right wing and conversion
The Dharam Jagaran Samiti (DJS) — an offshoot of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Bajrang Dal — only recently announced that it aims to meet a target of converting one lakh Muslims and Christians into Hinduism every year. Earlier this month in Agra, the DJS reportedly converted some 200-odd Muslims to Hinduism. The event came to light after the supposed converts, many of who are among the most impoverished sections of the society, alleged that they had been misled into believing that they would be offered Below Poverty Line cards by consenting to the conversion. In spite of these contentions, the Sangh Parivar remains unmoved in its agenda. According to a report on the website Scroll.in, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) has already made plans to mark the 50th anniversary of the group’s founding on February 6 with a Ghar Vapsi in Faizabad next year. Making matters worse, the VHP has claimed, as The Hindu reported, that those Muslims or Christians who reconvert to Hinduism in such programmes would be allowed to choose a caste for themselves once the VHP has investigated the tradition, faith, and culture of the convert’s ancestors.
The Ghar Vapsi programmes organised as they are by the Sangh Parivar are an attempted show of strength. They seek the state’s connivance in administering a terrifying form of majoritarianism. But, when we respond to these organised events of conversion, it is crucially important that we view them in the right light. The programmes no doubt carry enormous potential to incite violence and hatred between communities; they are immoral, wicked and capable of producing dire consequences. To that end, we must certainly impose responsibility on the state to curb the creation of an even more fractured society. But we must not see the enforcement of a national anti-conversion law, as some have, as the panacea. Such legislation can produce even greater damage; it would render nugatory our rights to freedom of conscience and religion, and in the process, it would scuttle any genuine attempts at achieving a peaceful, democratic society.
Indeed, the BJP has already been quick to take advantage of the clamour for an anti-conversion legislation. In reacting to rhetorical pressure from the Opposition in both Houses of Parliament, the Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister, M. Venkaiah Naidu, suggested precisely such a law as a solution for the present unrest. Yogi Adityanath, the BJP member of the Lok Sabha for the Gorakhpur constituency, who is a star attraction for the Hindu Right in Ghar Vapsi events, has already fuelled the fire. “This (Ghar Vapsi) has been happening for ages. It is an ongoing process and it will continue to happen,” he told reporters after the recent event in Agra. “If the Uttar Pradesh Government feels the reconversion programme is wrong then the way the State governments of Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat have a law ... a similar legislation should be made in U.P.” He further sought to place the Opposition in an exacting conundrum. If parties feel there should be a law against conversion, he said, “why don’t they support the move of having such a law?”
Intuitively, Mr. Adityanath’s comments — sans the divisiveness — even appear logical. A law banning the use of coercion in seeking religious conversion seems to be in consonance with general principles of a democratic society. However, our experience with such legislation — as can be gathered from the impact of such statutes in Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat — shows us that these laws would inevitably be fraught with interpretive maladies that often strike at the root of our right to religious freedom. What’s more, a legislation of such a nature would be simply unenforceable without applying a duplicitous standard of statutory construal. The better choice, in these circumstances, is to prosecute illegitimate acts of force and coercion, which evoke genuine sentiments of communal hate, through the general operation of the penal law aimed at maintaining public order, while leaving conversions largely unmonitored.
Restricting religious liberty
The illiberal trappings of an anti-conversion law, however, do contain a rare appeal. In fact, the Supreme Court of India has taken a kind viewing towards such laws. In 1977, in Rev. Stainislaus v. State of Madhya Pradesh, (AIR 1977 SC 908), a five-judge bench of the court delivered a verdict on the constitutional validity of two of the earliest pieces of anti-conversion legislation in India: the Madhya Pradesh Dharma Swatantraya Adhiniyam, 1968, and the Orissa Freedom of Religion Act, 1967, both of which, with no small dash of irony, restrict, as opposed to promote, religious liberty.
The two statutes are akin in that they both envisage intimation to the District Magistrate every time a conversion takes place, and in that they both prohibit — and impose criminal liability on — conversion or attempt to conversion by the use of force or by inducement (allurement, in the case of the Madhya Pradesh law) or by any other fraudulent means. The definitions prescribed for these terms however are decidedly vague, capricious, and prone to causing substantial harm. The Orissa law, for example, defines force, inclusively, to mean “a show of force or a threat for injury of any kind including threat of divine displeasure or social excommunication.” And inducement is defined even wider, to include “the offer of any gift or gratification, either in cash or in kind,” including “the grant of any benefit, either pecuniary or otherwise.”
Interpreting Article 25
In upholding these laws, Chief Justice A.N. Ray, who delivered the judgment, adopted a muddled approach to interpreting Article 25 of the Constitution. Article 25 states that subject to public order, morality and health, and to the other fundamental rights guaranteed in the Constitution, all persons are equally entitled to “freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion.” Justice Ray interpreted the word “propagate,” to mean “to transmit or spread one’s religion by an exposition of its tenets,” but to not include the right to convert another person to one’s own religion. “It has to be remembered that Article 25(1) guarantees ‘freedom of conscience’ to every citizen, and not merely to the followers of one particular religion,” wrote Justice Ray, “and that, in turn, postulates that there is no fundamental right to convert another person to one’s own religion because if a person purposely undertakes the conversion of another person to his religion, as distinguished from his effort to transmit or spread the tenets of his religion, that would impinge on the ‘freedom of conscience’ guaranteed to all the citizens of the country alike.”
Justice Ray’s reasoning, however, clearly conflates the issue. If a person’s right to propagate his religion does not include a right to freedom of speech aimed at seeking conversions, would not such a right be purely illusory? As the constitutional law scholar, H.M. Seervai, observed, in response to the decision in Stainislaus, “to propagate religion is not to impart knowledge and to spread it more widely, but to produce intellectual and moral conviction leading to action, namely, the adoption of that religion. Successful propagation of religion would result in conversion.” Therefore, when a person converts to another religion, based on speech, which aims at producing such conversion, he or she is, in fact, exercising a general right to freedom of conscience.
In confusing a person’s liberty to exercise free conscience for another person’s right to propagate religion, Justice Ray’s verdict produced damaging results. A conclusion that propagation ought to be restricted only to the edification of religious tenets is a reasoning that gratifies the interests of the majority, and the majority alone. Or, as Mr. Seervai observed, “it is productive of the greatest public mischief.”
In the decades that have followed Stainislaus, the Madhya Pradesh and Orissa laws — and similar legislation enacted in Gujarat, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh — have been used by State governments to target conversions to minority religions, in particular, upsetting, thereby even the most basic commitment to secularism.
The decision in Stainislaus is however incorrect not merely due to its tangible consequences. The case relates to a fundamental, and more nuanced, issue of intervention by the state — and its courts — in religious affairs. Anti-conversion laws allow the state the authority to determine what constitutes an illegitimate inducement, and, in doing so, they create a slippery slope. They promote increased governmental involvement in matters that involve pure ethical choices, and they ingrain a deep and dangerous form of paternalism: the state is always watching you, and it has nothing but your best interests in mind. This ought to be a matter of grave concern.
(Suhrith Parthasarathy is an advocate in the Madras High Court.)
Published on 21 Dec, 2014
To read the full article please go to - http://www.businessinsider.com/narendra-modis-mentor-thought-gandhi-was-a-sissy-2014-12
In 1906, in a lodging house for Indian students in Highgate, a pleasant area of north London, a young lawyer called Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi dropped in on a law student called Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, who happened to be frying prawns at the time. Savarkar offered Gandhi some of his meal; Gandhi, a vegetarian, refused. Savarkar allegedly retorted that only a fool would attempt to resist the British without being fortified by animal protein.
The meeting is said to have begun hostilities between the two young Indian nationalists; whether or not the story is apocryphal, there were real reasons for antipathy.
The two men had very different approaches to the struggle against Britain. Gandhi, who became leader of the Indian National Congress (INC), was a pacifist with an inclusive attitude towards Muslims and Christians. Savarkar, who would lead the Hindu Mahasabha, was a right-wing majoritarian who spawned the idea of hindutva, or Hindu-ness--the belief that the Hindu identity is inseparable from the Indian identity. Congress eclipsed the Mahasabha and, since history belongs to the victors, the story of India's independence movement became one of non-violence. But the strand of thought that Savarkar represented was more important than is generally recognised, and is enjoying a revival.
A member of the Mahasabha broke away to form the paramilitary Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), or national volunteer organisation, in 1925, modelled, some say, on the British army. A social rather than explicitly political organisation, it presented itself as the world's largest non-governmental group, in which like-minded, khaki-uniformed men could gather for dawn calisthenics. It recruited boys at an impressionable age, as the Jesuits did, the better to inculcate them with discipline and with passion for the cause. One such was the eight-year-old Narendra Modi. The future prime minister attended training sessions with the RSS, was subsequently inducted as a cadet, and in 1985 was assigned by the RSS to its political wing, the Bharatiya Janata Party, which he rose to lead.
Mr Modi is India's strongest leader since Indira Gandhi, and its most controversial. The source of controversy is his failure in 2002, when chief minister of Gujarat, to avert a massacre of Muslims, which opponents attribute to a hostility to Muslims born of the ideology that Savarkar spawned. Mr Modi has never apologised for the massacre, though he said last year that he felt regret over them, as he would at seeing a puppy run over in the street. Nor has he made any attempt to distance himself from the RSS.
The RSS, meanwhile, is becoming more overtly political. Mohan Bhagwat, its current leader, is somewhat in the mould of Savarkar, paraphrasing his beliefs and promoting Hindutva. In August this year Mr Bhagwat directly echoed Savarkar by saying all who live in "Hindustan" are in fact Hindus, whatever Muslims, Christians or secular Hindus might say. More striking, the RSS leader has switched the organisation's methods. Now, far from eschewing party politics, the group has become an enthusiastic and effective actor within it. The RSS's millions of members and volunteers (no one knows just how many active ones there really are) played a big role in electing the BJP by a landslide in 2014. At least 19 ministers in government, including Mr Modi, have a background in the RSS. Its leaders are seconded to senior posts in the party too. So the ideas of the man who inspired the RSS matter more than ever before.
The naked jumper
The lawyer described by a British official in 1906 as "a small man with an intelligent face and a nervous manner" does not sound like the muscular hero that Indian nationalists crave, but Savarkar clearly had a certain dash. In 1910, while he was in London, he was charged with conspiring to wage war against the king and with providing weapons used to assassinate a Briton in the Indian civil service, sentenced to two life terms--50 years--in jail and sent back to India. While the steamship "Morea" was berthed in Marseille harbour, he slipped away from his guards, leapt, almost naked, into the sea and swam ashore. Unfortunately for the eulogists, he was promptly caught by French police and bundled back to the ship.
His daring did, however, win him fame, and also created legal history. France's government, annoyed that Britain had overseen an arrest on its territory, wanted Savarkar returned. Britain refused so the matter went to the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague. It ruled his arrest was indeed "irregular", but decided Savarkar might as well stay in India. The case was one of the earliest heard by the tribunal.
Savarkar's next stop was the Andaman Islands--a group of islands in the Bay of Bengal. This palm-fringed tropical paradise served as a penal colony for the British. Cellular Jail in the capital, Port Blair, is now a memorial for freedom campaigners. In a park opposite stands a row of statues of independence heroes. One is of a slender man with a pinched face behind round spectacles. A pen protrudes from his jacket pocket, one hand rests on a part-furled umbrella and the other wags a finger at the sky. You might mistake him for a prissy bank manager, but a plaque identifies him as Vinayak Damodar Savarkar. The park is named after him.
To read the full article please go to - http://www.businessinsider.com/narendra-modis-mentor-thought-gandhi-was-a-sissy-2014-12
Published on 21 Dec, 2014To read the full article please go to -
The National United Christian Forum comprising three leading churches of the country also cited the Navodaya circular as an "insult" to the importance of Christmas Day.
Opposed to a national ban on conversion, the National United Christian Forum (NUCF) – comprising three leading churches of the country – on Saturday said it would "fully support" the Government in taking appropriate action against anyone converting by force or inducement under the "already stringent existing laws" of the country.
In a statement, the NUCF said the Government’s call for a national ban on conversions "would amount to a direct attack on individual’s freedom of conscience to choose one’s faith and on the freedom to profess, practice and propagate the faith of one’s choice, enshrined in Article 25 of the Constitution".
Pointing out that the secular nature of the Indian Constitution with different freedoms was included after a lengthy debate on the issue by the founding fathers of modern India, the NUCF said the churches "forbid religious conversion by force or by fraudulent means". The three churches represented in NUCF are the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, National Council of Churches in India and Evangelical Fellowship of India.
The Forum urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to remind the people that no development can take place in the country if there are attempts to disrupt the communal harmony. Stating that the community has been in the "forefront of providing service to the nation", the NUCF sought to counter the allegation of Christians being anti-national and believing in a foreign religion. "Christianity has been on this land for nearly 2,000 years."
The NUCF listed a series of attacks on the community: Forcing a Catholic school in Bastar to install the statue of Goddess Saraswati, forbidding children to address the principal with the honorific `Father’, burning a church in Delhi, "provocative call by some fundamentalists" to convert 4,000 Christians to Hinduism in Agra, declaration of Good Governance Day on December 25 to "undermine the importance of Christmas" and calling Christians anti-national.
Pointing out that Christians constitute "just 2.33 per cent" of the population, the NUCF said Christmas is the only holiday that the community has in the entire year. Though the circulars asking educational institutions to organise events on December 25 have subsequently been withdrawn, the Forum cited the Navodaya circular as an "insult" to the importance of Christmas Day.
Published on July 06, 2014
To read the full article please go to - http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/in-bastar-50-villages-ban-nonhindu-missionaries/article6181685.ece
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.”
Published on June 30, 2014
By JOHN DAYAL
To read the full article please go to - http://johndayal.com/
Church work for the marginalised may suffer as Government cracks down on NGO activities on empowering people
The Church in India – Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical and Pentecostal – may in future confine itself to just worship and running Colleges, schools, hospitals and some charity activities, if current political trends play out their expected course. The church’s ‘preferential action for the poor,’ its track record in giving a voice to the voiceless and activities in the training and empowerment of Tribals, the Dalits and other marginalised groups, would invite close government scrutiny in the future. And in a worst case scenario, its resources could be cut off and its personnel find their activities restrained under the twin onslaught of a major move to take the infamous Foreign Contributions Regulation Act to new levels of strictness and harshness, and a fresh bout of police and political action – including by self styled ‘social-cultural’ groups such as the right wing Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh and its branches such as Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram which works in central India’s vast Chhotanagpur Tribal belt.
The Church will not be alone in being impacted in this doomsday scenario of something horribly gone wrong in India’s political discourse and its development landscape. Keeping it company will be major Non Governmental Organisations, NGOs, funded by international organisations involved in rights-based campaigns against the denudation of forests and ravaging of rivers, and supporting people’s protests and movements against genetically modified crops such as cotton and brinjal, the dangers of suspect nuclear power plans in the post Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan on 11 March 2011, or the resistance of Orissa Tribals to the attempts of Korean giant Posco to mine their sacred hills and forests.
This seemingly alarmist projection is born of the enthusiastic support of the new government in New Delhi led by Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party to a report by the Intelligence Bureau [IB], leaked to select media, on what it says is the loss to the national exchequer, and to the country’s development, by the work of organisations receiving foreign funding through the FCRA. The report, which hogged Television News headlines for days, specifically focused on a short list of NGOs and some of the country’s most well known rights activists. Highlighted were the activities of such organisations as Greenpeace, and such people as the late Fr Tom Kotcherry of the Fisherman’s movement, Vandana Shiva working on food and crop issues and S P Udaykumar of Tamil Nadu who was involved in the struggle of sea coast dwellers who were afraid the nuclear power plant being built by Russian assistance in Koodmakulam in Trinalvelli district of Tamil Nadu was not safe and would poison the coastal waters. The government had already blacklisted the European finding agency Cordaid. It went on to now put severe restrictions on the FCRA licence of Greenpeace, saying it would have to take prior permission before it could receive funding in future for its projects.
The Church of the region was in the past dragged into the controversy, and the FCRA of a Catholic diocese was impacted. Some of its clergy and religious were also subjected to police scrutiny, and action.
This reporter has an e-copy of the photocopy of the IB report, which was leaked on TV and is now going viral on the Internet. The document says the NGOs’ activities are “contributing to the negative impact on India's GDP growth assessed to be 2 - 3 % p.a. The IB did not indicate how it reached this conclusion or the data on which it was based. Circumstantial evidence suggests that this targetting of NGOs would benefit international companies such as Vedanta and Posco, and some of the Indian corporate giants whose projects have faced popular protest.
It is important to quote the TimesNow reportage on the IB report as it was the first news channel to which the intelligence agency gave its secret document.
On 12th June 2014, its prime time report said:
“NGOs use funds for fuelling protests: IB report to PMO -- An Intelligence Bureau report to the Prime Minister’s Office and other departments has noted that funding of several Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) is “cleverly disguised” as donations for issues like human rights and instead used for funding protests to stall
developmental projects. These funds were mostly used to fuel protests against developmental projects relating to coal, bauxite mining, oil exploration, nuclear plants and linking of rivers, resulting in stalling or slowing down of these projects, the report said. The report submitted to the PMO and other important ministries like Finance and Home also claims that laptop of one of the foreign activists of an NGO contained scanned map of India with 16 nuclear plants (existing and proposed) and five Uranium mine locations marked prominently.
“It [the IB report] said that some organisations in Western countries have also developed “deniability” by pursuing “transit-funding models” where by European donors and also governments are asked to fund some NGOs in India. ”These include the Netherlands and Danish governments and multiple state funded donors based in these countries, apart from some Scandinavian NGOs, which normally focus on the environmental impact of development,” the report, submitted also to National Security Adviser and Cabinet Secretariat, alleged. It said that in the last few years, the country has been facing problems from these organisations which have stepped up efforts to encourage growth retarding campaigns in India, focused on extractive industries including anti-coal, anti-uranium and anti-bauxite mining, oil exploration, Genetically modified organisms and foods, climate change and anti-nuclear issues.
“The report named two anti-nuclear organisations National Alliance of Anti Nuclear Movements (NAAM) and People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE)-- spearheaded by US-educated S P Udayakumar who allegedly received “unsolicited contract” from a US university. During effective monitoring, “Udaykumar’s contact in Germany—Sonntag Rainer Hermann—was deported from Chennai on 2012 and his laptop contained scanned map of India with 16 nuclear plants (existing and proposed) and five Uranium mine locations marked prominently,” the report said. The map also included contact details of “50 anti-nuclear activists hand written on small slips of paper along with Blackberry PIN graph and was sent through email to five prominent anti-nuclear activists including Udayakumar.” ”Sustained analysis revealed that the name slips on the map were hand-written in order to avoid possible detection by text search algorithms installed e-gateways,” it said.”
Udaykumar, and everyone else mentioned in the IB report denied every single charge, stressing the legitimacy of their work, and the transparency of their funding. Udaykumar specially maintained he was being framed and his remunerations as a researcher and writer published by respected international journals were being called clandestine funding.
Church organisations have not commented on the report. This silence has been noticed. Civil society has been vocal, even though activists have also noted the silence of several prominent voices that are perhaps afraid of the system, or anticipate action against them if they side with the protests.
Researcher and writer Pushpa Sundar who has written a book on the subject of NGOs and development, says; “What is disturbing about the report is that the room for legitimate dissent by civil society seems to be shrinking. It is only when governments refuse to listen to grievances that peaceful protests turn ugly and civil society organisations resort to action to hold up projects. The action initiated by NGOs is on behalf of the sections of society that have no voice in corridors of power. If the political representatives play their role well then civil society would not need to resort to agitation. Besides, it is not necessarily foreign money, which is used for agitations. The anti-corruption movement was genuinely a people’s movement, funded by small donations, and even those donations that were received were from Indians settled abroad. Even here foreign funding was used to discredit the movement.”
The FCRA and NGO data has been on the Internet ever since the coming into effect of the Right to Information Act – itself the successful product of a prolonged NGO movement which first began in Rajasthan.
• 22,702 of the estimated 20 lakh NGOs filed returns on funding in 2011-12
• 13,291 NGOs received foreign funds; 9,509 reported receiving no foreign contribution
• Rs 11,546.29 crore is the quantum of foreign funds received by NGOs in India
• Rs 7,000 crore received by NGOs in five states: Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka
• Rs 233.38 crore, the highest amount received, by World Vision of India, Chennai
• Rs 99.20 crore was the highest donation, from Compassion International, USA
• Rs 418.37 crore was the donation from the Netherlands
• 148 NGOs received foreign funds in excess of Rs 10 crore
• 178 NGOs received funds between Rs 5-10 crore; 1,702 between Rs 1-5 crore
• 39.73% was the highest year-on-year jump in foreign contribution to NGOs, in 2006-07
• Rs 2,253 crore of foreign contributions to NGOs goes towards ‘non-core’ activities
[Data from the Union Ministry of Home Affairs 2011-2012]
Among the definite purposes for which foreign contribution was received and utilized, the highest amount of foreign contribution was utilised for Establishment Expense, followed by Rural Development , Relief/Rehabilitation of victims of natural calamities, Welfare of Children and Construction and maintenance of schools/colleges.
Among the recipients have also been religious organisations, including some very prominent Hindu god-men and god-women.
The government does not release data on how much does the Indian corporate and business sector, the only other non-governmental group that can finance the NGOs, actually spends that money on social outreach. Most critics have slammed this sector’s much flaunted Corporate Social Responsibility as a sham, and an excuse to contribute to society just a minor percentage of the profits it makes from the people and by exploiting the country’s natural resources.
But neither the media nor the government want to highlight another major recipient of foreign money, the Sangh Parivar, and much of it is not even through the FCRA bank channels. Writers Pragya Singh and Abhijit Mazumdar in a recent article in Outlook magazine pointed out “The RSS itself is an unregistered body and submits neither income tax returns nor does it have a licence to receive money from abroad. But many of the NGOs affiliated to it are among the NGOs in India that received foreign money.
“The growth of the RSS provoked a group of US intellectuals in 2002 to ask around about its funding. They published a detailed account of how the American charity, India Development and Relief Fund (IDRF), donated much of its basket to the RSS, VHP and other Sangh-affiliated NGOs in India. Information in the public domain shows that between 1994 and 2000, most of IDRF’s $5 million fund poured into Sangh-affiliated NGOs. In those years, when a donor asked IDRF to pick an NGO on their behalf, 83 per cent of the donation wound up in a “Sangh-affiliated” one, the study discovered.. The campaign had explored the IDRF’s role in funding the ‘Vanvasi Kalyan Kendra’ which promotes “ghar wapasi” (conversion of Christian tribals to Hinduism) of tribals even at the cost of escalating violence and tensions. The IDRF annual report for 2012 shows that over $1.2 million (Rs 7.2 crore) was sent to India during the year. The following year, another million dollars (Rs 6 crore) found its way to NGOs, including Vanvasi Kalyan centres across India, especially in tribal regions like Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh.”
Needless to say, RSS-affiliated NGOs receive large sums also from governments of states ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies. No data, however, is officially available.
The rule of thumb seems to be that organisations and NGOs that have political patronage or deemed to be nationalistic and benign, where as those that work with the people in the areas that government and others do not want to enter.
But it must be said that the Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi, is following in the footsteps of his predecessors Mrs. Indira Gandhi, Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee and Dr. Manmohan Singh, is trying to stifle dissent by starving NGOs of foreign donations.
As I have pointed out in my writings in the past, the FCRA has an evil history – it was conceived in sin, so to speak, and nurtured in suspicion and hate. It was an illegitimate child of the State of Emergency” that was imposed by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1975. The law was brought about to curb foreign money coming to certain institutions associated, ironically with Jay Prakash Narain and some Gandhians, who, she feared, were hell bent on fomenting a coup against her.
Successive governments chose not to repeal the FCRA though they demolished several other measures she had installed during the Emergency. The 1977 elections that threw her out and brought the first Janata party into power, with Morarjee Desai as Prime minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee as foreign minister, George Fernandes as Industry minister and Lal Krishna Advani as Information and Broadcasting minister, retained it. Charan Singh and Rajiv Gandhi, in their premierships, also retained the law, as did Rajiv’s cabinet colleague turned foe, Vishwanath Pratap Singh, socialist “Young Turk” Chandrashekhar, “poor farmer” Deve Gowda mild mannered “punjabiyat” ambassador Inder Kumar Gujral when it came their turn to rule. Each found some reason to stick with the FCRA despite a sustained outcry by civil society and developmental NGOs who saw in it nothing but memories of a tyrannical and dictatorial period in India’s history.
The Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance government of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee was arguably the worst ever in its record of misusing the FCRA provisions to curb dissent and throttle the voices of civil society. Their home minister, “Iron man” Lal Krishna Advani added innuendo to the normal rhetoric, repeatedly insinuating that Christian organisations were receiving massive funds for conversions, and Muslims were getting money for setting up madrasas to teach terrorism. Ministers from Mr. Advani downwards hinted they had direct evidence of all this, but each one of the worthies has shied away from the open demand by human rights groups and Christian organisations that the government come up with the proof. Dr. Manmohan Singh in his time made the FCRA provisions even harsher.
If honest investigations were to be done, many things would be clear. Terrorists, Muslims, Sikhs, Maoists or Hindus, or other insurrectionist groups, do not get their money from banking channels that the FCRA imposes. They get their money through Hawala or the underground drug, gun-running and the human trafficking rackets use.
In fact, FCRA has hurt innocent NGOs and well-meaning social workers. It has led to the fattening of crooked chartered accountants and consultants who specialize in expediting FCRA clearances, obviously in league with corrupt officials and politicians. It has also led to corruption among some sectors of civil society.
Experts have pointed out that if government has any concerns that the there is inadequate compliance with reporting the cure lies in strengthening overseeing bodies like the charities commissioner and the registrars of societies rather than penalizing a whole sector and creating ever more procedures which will only burden these bodies more.
But in real terms, there is no place for such a law in a democracy. Laws such as FEMA – the Foreign Exchange Management Act – for the corporate sector and other statutory provisions not only take care of all concerns but prevent the isolation and targetting of the apolitical social sector, of which the Christian church is such an important part. FCRA will always mean a knuckle-duster, if not a bludgeon, in the hands of a hostile and coercive regime, or a crooked official.
Published on June 5th, 2014
By George Abraham
To read the full article please go to - http://joychenputhukulam.com/newsMore.php?newsId=40376
‘Why I am asked about my caste when I go to the police? Am I not a citizen of India’? The father of one of the girls gang raped and brutally murdered asked the Samajawadi Party leader and Badaun member of Parliament Darmendra Yadav. It is time that this pertinent question needs to be answered not just by few politicians across the party lines but by the nation itself. What happened in Katra village in India’s northern state of Uttar Pradesh is a horrific crime of brutality against women.
Millions of Indians everywhere must be feeling the shame of India in the news on the continuing assaults on women. However, it is more than just isolated incident of criminal wrong doings but rather emanating from an entrenched caste-driven mindset of these mad men who feel that they have the god-given right to them and are a privileged sect who can therefore get away with murder.
According to press reports, in Badaun District, U.P, on the night of 28 May, two girls, cousins aged 14 and 15 years, stepped out of their house in Katra village to relieve themselves. When the father, a farm laborer went to police last week to report that his daughter and her cousin had gone missing, a constable slapped him in the face and sent him away. Hours later, he found the two girls hanging by their necks from a nearby mango tree. An autopsy revealed that they had been raped and strangled.
The reaction from Akhilesh Yadav, the Chief Minister of the state while questioned on the brutality of this Taliban type of execution was nothing but a cold, callous and insensitive one as he chided the woman journalist who asked the question — ‘you aren’t in any danger are you?’. It is reminiscent of his father and the Samajawadi honcho Mulayam Singh Yadav’s statement in the past that ‘boys make mistakes, should we hang them for it? What is in it with these political leaders who have taken the oaths to uphold the law? Are they plain incompetent or willfully negligent in carrying out the responsibilities as elected representatives? His inaction during and after the Muzaffarnagar riots is on record that has already left a huge question mark on his leadership credentials as well as his impartiality in dealing with these human tragedies.
This case has shocked the nation for a number of reasons; first and foremost, it once again shows the ugly truth about the age-old caste system which is not only thriving in India but exploited by various political parties. Mr. Shashi Tharoor, a former Congress Minister and Member of Parliament recently was quoted as saying ‘when India castes the votes in an election, it is voting the castes’. The family of the victims belongs to the Dalit community whereas the perpetrators of this heinous crime belonged to the higher caste Yadavs. If one looks at the history, the Dalits have been at the receiving end for centuries being discriminated against by the higher castes with impunity often being harassed and murdered without having a price to pay. Sadly, Uttar Pradesh is the epicenter of these crimes targeted at these helpless women who were taunted and raped at will, many times, just for the simple reason that they belong to the Dalit community.
The recent election of Modi appeared to have given a boost to the upper caste majoritarian sentiment as evidenced in the current makeup of the Cabinet that consists two-thirds of the Ministers belonging to the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Samaj), a powerful ultra-nationalist grassroots movement raising serious doubt that whether an egalitarian shift would take place under this new Administration. At a rally in Muzaffarpur in March, BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi had stood beside Dalit leader Ram Vilas Paswan of the Lok Janshakti Party, and declared that the coming decade would be a “decade of dalits” and weaker sections of the country. Back in Gujarat however, over the last decade nearly Rs 3,689 crore of funds for targeted programs to uplift Dalits and economically and socially backward classes, went unutilized, according to Dalit group Navsarjan.
The December 2012 gang rape in New Delhi, the country’s capital shook us all that prompted Congress-led UPA government to pass stricter laws. However, the rapes and abuse of women continue to occur unabated. Recent reports show that a rape is committed every 22 minutes though, the statistics and official records would never reveal the true picture as many of these cases go unreported. The social stigma attached to a rape often results in silencing the victim who might be ostracized or ridiculed publicly if they choose to go public. The law enforcement system is not geared to provide sympathetic ears, if anything, they impart fear.
On that fateful night, the route these two girls took is familiar for the women of the village. It is probably the only time in the day when they step out alone, unaccompanied by the men of the family, in the dark. “Men go out in the day, so women can go only early in the morning or late at night” said one of the neighbors. This is a familiar, every day routine in rural India where the acute shortage of basic toilet facilities forces women and girls to venture out to open fields that makes them obvious targets for sexual violence.
Nearly two months ago, four girls from Bhagna in Haryana who had stepped out to answer nature’s call were picked up from right outside their residence. They were raped and then dumped at the Bhatindia railway station in Punjab. It took the families an entire day to get the FIR registered and the medical examination took even longer. Five people were arrested in connection with that case, though the man alleged to be the main culprit, the village sarpanch continues to roam free. Most of that famly fled the village fearing for their lives and they have been holding a protest at Jantar Mantar, for nearly two months. To those observers, the horrific crimes in both Badaun and Bhangana display the power politics as well as the prevalent caste and gender discrimination and there is no relief in sight with caste oriented policies of those who are in power.
The National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights states that over one-sixth of India’s population, some 170 million people, live a precarious existence, shunned by much of Indian society because of their rank as “untouchables” or Dalits – literally meaning “broken” people – at the bottom pf India’s caste system. Dalits are discriminated against, denied access to land and basic resources, forced to work in degrading conditions, and routinely abused at the hands of police and dominant-caste groups that enjoy the state’s protection. Among the Dalit community and its supporters & sympathizers, Dr. Ambedkar’s statement resounds today more than ever; ‘My final words of advice to you are; educate, agitate and organize’ have faith in yourself. With justice on our side I do not see how we can lose our battle. The battle to me is a matter of joy. This battle is in the fullest sense spiritual. There is nothing material or social in it. For ours is a battle not for wealth or power. It is a battle for freedom. It is the battle of reclamation of human personality’.
Are the NRIs only ashamed of the News itself or this entrenched system of enslavement? Will we ever show the courage to join this ‘ battle for freedom’ as Ambedkar called it for the sake of India?
George Abraham, Chairman
Indian National Overseas Congress (I), USA
Published on May 3rd, 2014
By Tony Joseph
To read the full article please go to Quarts - http://qz.com/205367/the-real-reason-indian-intellectuals-are-flocking-to-modi/
Let there be no doubt—India’s intelligentsia has begun to embrace the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), headed by strongman Narendra Modi. Economists and editors, film stars and script-writers, athletes and authors are all rushing to beat the crowd that wants to join the BJP before election results are announced on May 16. And they are tweeting, status-updating, blogging, op-eding and TV-debating their way to prominence in the political vaudeville, managing to somehow multi-task between trans-continental flights, book signings, lecture tours, movie launches and soirees.
This is raising the question: Is the secular-democratic trajectory of India’s politics about to change?
On any random day in April, you could have observed the following: India’s leading rom-com novelist, Chetan Bhagat, tweeting a selfie taken with Modi; Vivek Dehejia, an economics professor and author from Ottawa, Canada, writing a valiantop-ed to assert that Modi posed no danger to India’s political freedoms; Lord Meghnad Desai, an Indian born economist and Labour politician, writing a letter to the Guardian to protest an article that he thought was unfair to Modi; M.J. Akbar, editor, author and now a BJP spokesperson, attending a meeting of the party’s Strategic Action Committee headed by former Harvard professor Subramanian Swamy who has advocated that Muslims be denied voting rights unless they own up to their Hindu ancestry; Arvind Virmani, former chief economic advisor to outgoing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, defending a BJP leader who used the word “revenge” while asking for votes; and professor Jagdish Bhagwati, the globally respected economist and long-standing Nobel prize hopeful telling David Pilling, the Asia editor of the Financial Times over lunch in London that he would not be optimistic about India unless Modi came to power. There is also the well-known “twitterati” with thousands of followers pushing forward the viewpoints of BJP and its ideological guardian, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a nationalistic volunteer force which focuses on instilling in Hindus pride in their culture, through thousands of branches and millions of adherents. This is even before counting India’s top industrialists, almost all of whom are supporting and funding Modi in the hope that he will take India’s GDP back above 8% annual growth rates.
All of this is new because until very recently, BJP had had a severe deficit of intellectual firepower. Apart from a few former and current editors such as Swapan Dasgupta, Chandan Mitra, and Arun Shourie, a few retired men from the defense services, and some self-appointed historians, the BJP had no one much to show for all the decades it had been in existence under one name or another. That was because until recently, movers and shakers in academia, journalism, literature and films had tended to steer clear of the bad odour that came with the aggressive, religious-identity based politics that the party championed, based on issues such as demolishing mosques that are believed to have been built on top of then-existing temples a few centuries ago by Muslim invaders. In the course of promoting these agendas, the BJP has often found itself at the receiving end of accusations that it stirred up violence and riots. The biggest of them happened in Gujarat in 2002, when Modi was the chief minister of the state. Those riots killed more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims. This helped polarize the state along communal lines, and Modi fought the central Election Commission to ensure elections were held as early as possible, before passions that the riots had stirred up cooled down. Modi went on to win the elections handsomely, even though his party had been losing all the by-elections in the period before the riots.
But all this is beginning to look like distant history. Modi, who has been the chief minister of Gujarat for the last 12 years, has rebranded himself as a go-getting, business-friendly free marketer who has delivered a consistent growth rate of about 10%. And the BJP is now so surfeit with newly imported talent that it is causing heartburn among long-established supporters of the party.
The turn of the tide in India is so strong that to see concerted action by intellectuals trying to stop the momentum of the resurgent BJP, one would have to go overseas. On April 21, the Independent carried a letter from 75 academicians, two-thirds of whom were people of Indian origin, with the headline: “The idea of Modi in power fills us with dread.” A few days earlier, the Guardian had carried a similar letter, headlined: “If Modi is elected, it will bode ill for India’s future.” This was signed by 27 artists, novelists, film directors, barristers, and economists, including author Salman Rushdie, sculptor Anish Kapoor, and filmmaker Deepa Mehta. They share the sentiments of Harvard economist and Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, who said last year that as an Indian citizen, he did not want Modi to be his prime minister because “he hasn’t done enough to make minorities feel safe.”
In India itself, there are still strong holdouts resistant to the attractions of the BJP, though some of those who had staunchly opposed the BJP in the past are now toning down their criticism. Shekhar Gupta, editor of the liberal Indian Express—one of numerous newspapers that excoriated Modi during the 2002 riots—wrote in a recent column mockingly titled “Secularism is dead!”: “This anti-Modi battle cry is lazy, illiberal and an affront to Muslims—and Hindus.” But he makes two strong points. One, the BJP-led alliance would get no more than a third of the popular vote at best, and though this may be enough for it to come to power under India’s first-past-the-post voting system, what is clear is that the vast majority of the Hindus, who form more than 80% of the population, have not given up on secularism. Two, even the 30% who might end up voting for Modi would be doing so not because they want to build temples or banish the Muslims to Pakistan, but because they want an alternative to “the weakest, most incompetent, uncommunicative and incoherent full-term government” in India’s history (the Congress).
Shekhar Gupta is correct that Congress’s misrule over the last decade has caused deep anger, especially among the middle class, and Modi’s own speeches during this election have focused on issues such as corruption and development. However, the same cannot be said of his lieutenants. Amit Shah, Modi’s right-hand man who is in charge of the crucial Uttar Pradesh campaign, was recently pulled up by the Election Commission for asking Hindu voters in a riot-affected area to take their “revenge” through the ballot. Shah, a former home minister of Gujarat under Modi, is also an accused in many cases of “fake encounter deaths” where alleged terrorists were shot down by a police force under his supervision.
To an extent, the shift in tide among the intellectuals was only to be expected.With almost every opinion poll predicting an unprecedented drubbing for the hapless and corrupt Congress party and an equally unprecedented win for the resurgent BJP, there is a sense that a great power shift is occurring. If Modi gets to form the new government, he will be looking for people to fill hundreds of new advisory and other positions in key ministries and departments, and if you are the sort of person who finds these attractive, it makes sense to signal your availability and your affinity with the ideology of the BJP. Some of the intellectuals rushing to embrace Modi may not be new converts to the BJP ideology at all; they may just have decided that the time has now come for them to announce their allegiances publicly. Neither of these motivations are worth dwelling upon since opportunism knows no color, and one shouldn’t be surprised that a winning Modi is a more appealing Modi.
What is more important are other motivations that are making people like Gupta, or Shahid Siddiqui (owner and editor of an Urdu weekly that serves mostly Muslim readers) treat the Modi-led BJP with a softer touch than earlier. According to Siddiqui, the reason why one should not consider the BJP an implacable enemy is this: “Muslims always vote in a manner to defeat the BJP candidate and make a candidate of another party successful. But Muslims themselves did not get anything. They became fuel for such battles.” If Muslims want to be part of the “national mainstream,” writes Siddiqui, they will need to find another way to move forward. In other words, there seems to be a sense of both hope and helplessness in his message: hope that Modi’s BJP may indeed start considering Muslims as potential voters rather than a permanent enemy target; and helplessness in knowing that voting for other, more secular parties hasn’t helped the Muslims much anyway.
So the elephant in the room is the question: Can a Modi-led BJP rule the country in a democratic and non-divisive manner, without causing a gradual slide into societal strife? His track record in Gujarat is not reassuring. Though there have been no major riots there since 2002 under his watch, his government has victimised police officers and other critics who spoke up against it; refused to field a single Muslim candidate in state assembly elections though a tenth of the population is Muslim; and inducted into the cabinet a politician who was directly involved in the massacre of 96 people, and was later convicted. He has also sidelined all potential political rivals within his own party. In the words of Ramachandra Guha, well-known historian and author, Modi “is a bully and bigot… Unlike others, I don’t believe he will change, because at 62 you cannot have a personality transformation.”
But an even bigger worry is the RSS, the fountainhead of the Hindu nationalist ideology, which controls the levers of power in BJP and which has put its weight behind Modi to make him prime ministerial candidate. At the heart of the problem lies the RSS definition of who is a Hindu. According to M.S. Golwalkar, one of the founding fathers of RSS, a Hindu is one for whom India is both punya bhoomi and karma bhoomi (holy land, and the land where one lives and works). In the RSS version of nationalism, only those who belong to religions of the land—Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, etc.—can consider India a holy land. For others such as Muslims and Christians, the holy land is elsewhere, in Mecca or Jerusalem, it insists.
Having made this unilateral assertion, Golwalkar argues that all Indians who are not Hindus “must adopt Hindu culture and language, must learn and respect and hold in reverence the Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but of those of glorification of the Hindu race and culture. … In a word, they must cease to be foreigners, or may stay in the country wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment – not even citizen’s rights.” Not surprisingly, Golwalkar also admired Hitler’s ideas of racial purity and the way he went about ridding Germany of the Jews. The RSS has disowned these statements of Golwalkar (called Guruji by his disciples) and the book in which these appeared, as “neither representing the views of the grown Guruji nor the RSS.”
The trouble is, the RSS has never explicitly questioned Golwalkar’s division of Indians into two sides—those who regard India as their holy land and those who do not. Hence the deep disquiet over statements like that made by Indian politician and economist Subramanian Swamy, that it would be right to take away the voting rights of those Muslims who refused to acknowledge their Hindu ancestry. Sentiments of this kind drive a deep wedge between communities in everyday life. Just last week, the head of Vishwa Hindu Parishad, one of the many wings of the RSS, was caught on tape asking Hindus to use violence and intimidation to evict a Muslim businessman who had the temerity to buy a house in a Hindu locality.
The intellectuals who have flocked to Modi’s side say that these fears are alarmist. Dehejia describes them as “febrile fantasies of Modi’s most fervid detractors” and says that far from turning fascist, Modi will not even be able to repeat former prime minister Indira Gandhi’s feat of declaring Emergency between 1975 and 1977, because he would be hemmed in by coalition partners, recalcitrant senior leaders within his own party, and a civil society that is infinitely more vibrant than it was in 1975. Let’s call this the “Weak Modi” argument, because its premise is that he will not be able to act as his own man because of the various ways in which he will be constrained. The problem with this argument, however, is that it contradicts another claim being made on Modi’s behalf by his supporters. Economists like Dehejia and Bhagwati want Modi to come to power because they believe he will be a decisive prime minister, unlike incumbent Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who is more of a consensus seeker. In other words, Modi supporters expect a “Strong Modi” to be in charge of economic decision-making, and a “Weak Modi” to be in charge of social decision-making. That sounds like a fervent wish rather than a reasonable expectation.
The second argument that has been put forward is that there will be strong incentives for Modi not to go down the authoritarian and sectarian path, because that way lies loss of popularity and power. But this argument was proved wrong the day Modi was chosen the prime ministerial candidate of the BJP last year.
Explaining would require dredging up a bit of recent history. When BJP became the single largest party in the general elections of the late 1990s, BJP’s then-firebrand leader L.K. Advani knew that he would not be able to draw in coalition partners because of his hardline image. Other parties would hesitate to ally with him for fear of losing their own Muslim votes. He, therefore, put forward BJP’s far milder and acceptable face, Atal Behari Vajpayee, who indeed was able to draw in enough coalition partners and run a full-term government. It then became the accepted wisdom in the party that in Vajpayee’s way of moderation lay its path ahead. To become the natural party of governance, it had to soften its hard edges and draw in the liberal majority of the country. The party had maxed out its hardline vote bank, in other words.
The theory was so beguiling that the original hardliner Advani himself bought into it, and began to fashion himself after Vajpayee in preparation for the day when he would be taking over from him. But the Gujarat riots of 2002, the emphatic victory of Modi soon after the riots, and the iron hold he has been able to maintain over Gujarat politics ever since, have made it clear to the BJP and the RSS that there is, indeed, another way to expand its vote base, without necessarily giving up the hardline. The Modi path to expanding BJP’s vote base is not through moderation, but through offering something to the mainstream liberals that they cannot refuse: “Make me the prime minister and I will deliver growth; everything else about me, you forget.” Modi has so far refused to apologise for the riots and compared the pogrom to an accident in which a puppy is run over by a car. That is why the argument that there are strong incentives that will keep a Modi-led government from crossing its boundaries sounds unconvincing on closer inspection.
In terms of checks and balances, while India’s Election Commission is independent and does a great job of conducting fair and free elections, other institutions of democracy have serious weaknesses. While exhorting the Hindus in Bhavnagar, Gujarat, to evict the Muslim gentleman who had bought a house in a Hindu locality, the VHP leader reminded them that they didn’t have to worry about legal consequences because it would take decades before any judgement was passed. That comment got a big chuckle from the gathering because it hit home.
The supporters of Modi, however, are right to argue that it is meaningless to compare the risks that India faces today to risks that Germany faced in the 1920s and 1930s. A more reasonable way to assess the risks ahead would be to look at how sectarianism and intolerance have driven apart countries in South Asia with a similar cultural milieu—Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Sentiments as those expressed by Subramanian Swamy bring out this danger better than anything else. He wrote in 2011: “India that is Bharat that is Hindustan is a nation of Hindus and others whose ancestors are Hindus. Even Parsis and Jews in India have Hindu ancestors. Others, who refuse to so acknowledge or those foreigners who become Indian citizens by registration can remain in India, but should not have voting rights, which means they cannot be elected representatives.” Though Swamy wrote this during a period when he was not in BJP, its similarity to the views of Golwalkar raises the question, who will decide whether someone has acknowledged or not acknowledged his Hindu ancestry and what such power to decide implies.
What this means is that ultimately, the most important bulwark against forces that could tip India away from its secular democratic path is just one: public opinion, especially the voice of public intellectuals. That is precisely why the chorus of some of them denying that there is any danger at all is unsettling and, in fact, counter-productive. If they really want to calm the nerves, what they need to do is to admit that they are aware of the risks, and that they will do their best to minimise them. Pratap Bhanu Mehta, a widely-followed writer and president of the well-known think tank Centre for Policy Research, tried to do that in a recent article in the Indian Express: “We are on a wing and a prayer. But we need to show more intelligence than screaming the “F” word”. (“F” here standing in for Fascism)
The silver-lining in all of this is that Indian democracy is getting more participative very quickly. The voting percentages are going up sharply, and a middle class that has been apathetic to politics so far has become highly energized. It’s not just the BJP that is seeing an influx of intellectuals into its ranks. The newly-launched Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is also attracting them in equal measure. In fact, in a Time magazine vote for the most influential person of the year, followers of Arvind Kejriwal (a former revenue service official who first went into activism and then formed a party just last year) made sure that he defeated Modi. Online, it looks like Kejriwal is a rival to Modi, but on the ground, the new party is unlikely to win seats in numbers enough to make a difference to who rules in New Delhi. The more important point, however, is that this will be the deepest, most engaging election that India has ever seen, and that should count for something.
Published on Apr 26th, 2014
By George Abraham, Chairman, INOC (I), USA
Modi’s Public Relations campaign has been in high gear for several years trumpeting his economic agenda and Gujarat’s development stories as the Chief Minister was preparing for the 2014 Lok Sabha election. In the early part of the campaign, the Gujarat model of development portrayed Mr. Narendra Modi as someone who is so unique compared to his contemporary peers in politics when it comes to dynamism and visionary leadership. He would even go to places like Kerala, a state far ahead of Gujarat in its Human Development Index to advocate his so-called prescription to cure all ills,i.e.; the Modi’s model of development. The ‘fourth estate’, that is supposed to be objective in their reporting and analysis, faithfully repeated his every word and pretty much gave him a pass. However, something happened along the way as people began to take a serious look at the real picture of development and found Modi and BJP to be woefully short of their pronouncements.
Rahul Gandhi was compelled to make a sarcastic reference to the development in Gujarat calling it a ‘Tofee Model’ as it has benefited only one industrialist in the state, ignoring the interests of the farmers and the poor. “Land of Aurangabad’s size...45,000 acres...has been given for a mere Rs. 300 crore. This is toffee model not Gujarat model. For Rs. 1, you get a toffee here. There land was sold at Rs. 1 per meter...it was the land of the poor and the farmers,” Mr Gandhi said. Obviously, what is practiced in Gujarat under Modi is crony capitalism helping an Industrialist like Adani at the expense of the Dalits, minorities, women, children, small businesses, tribals and poor farmers. That explains how the Modi campaign coffers are loaded with funds from these crony capitalists to the tune of 10,000 crore. That is more than President Barack Obama spent on his entire Presidential campaign with one big difference, Mr. Obama had to declare every penny of it. India, under the UPA I and UPA II has tripled the Gross National product and created more wealth and value for business than anytime in history. However, Modi’s desire to favor one or two business houses and to practice crony capitalism truly makes a mockery of the industriousness of the people of Gujarat and might even be questioning their commercial business acumen.
Now that Modi’s Campaign has realized that the incumbent can no longer defend his record on the contested Gujarat model of development, Modi is resorting more to personal attacks on the Gandhi family or playing the communal cards through his surrogates. His constant reference to Rahul Gandhi as ‘shehzada’ is demeaning to the political discourse and shows the mindset of a man who is angry and abusive to the opposition. He has also embarked upon making a mockery of Sonia Gandhi’s campaigning for Rahul Gandhi to the amusement of his audience. Obviously, this election has lost an element of decorum that was prevalent among the political parties in the past. The authoritarian nature of the man and his attributes are on public display all throughout this campaign.
His strategy is becoming increasingly clear; he wants to divide the people of India along religious lines and to communalize them for his narrow political objectives. In a recent interview Rahul Gandhi remarked ‘The core philosophy of the BJP has always had a strong communal and centralizing tendency. It is an ideology that seeks to perpetuate status quo which makes it impossible for the poor and the disadvantaged to rise above their stations through hard work. Under the current BJP leadership, this ideology has acquired a particularly virulent character. It has shed any semblance of respect for the democratic, secular and inclusive fabric of our nation. It is a politics of hubris, anger, and divisiveness. The BJP manifesto and [the] recent statements of senior leaders of the BJP and the Sangh Parivar clearly suggest that this is indeed the direction they are taking. Tolerance and mutual respect appears to have little place in their thought process”.
Some of the recent outbursts of the BJP leaders and its affiliates manifest and reveal their true intentions very well. Pravin Togadia, President of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) ignited a firestorm with his statement that Muslims should be evicted from Hindu areas. On camera, at a gathering in a house in Bhavanagar, Gujarat, Pravin Togadia is seen offering advice on how to prevent Muslims from buying properties where Hindus are a majority. “We should have it in us to take the law in our own hands in an area where we are a majority and scare them”, Mr. Togadia says. The VHP is a key constituent of the Sangh Parivar, an umbrella of Hindu nationalist organizations that includes BJP. Togadia also told the gathering that another option was to occupy a Muslim’s property by force and knit the owner in a legal case that could take years to resolve.
At a rally in Mumbai on April 21st, just a few minutes before Mr. Modi arrived, Ramdas Kadam, a leader from Shiva Sena said to the large crowd, “Narendra Modi will destroy Pakistan within six months if he comes to power”. Mr. Kadam’s party, the Shiva Sena, is the oldest ally of the BJP which declared Modi as the Prime Ministerial candidate. After Mr. Modi arrived at the venue with sena Chief Uddhav Thackeray, Mr. Kadam continued with his inflammatory rhetoric “if 5 lakh Muslims can gather at the Azad Maidan, desecrate memorials, attack policemen and molest policewomen…Narendra Modi will teach them a lesson”.
Lok Sabha candidate Giriraj Singh in a campaign stop on April 18 at Bokaro and Deoghar in Jharkhand stated that those who oppose Narendra Modi ‘will only have place in Pakistan’. Mr. Singh is running on a BJP ticket from Nawada in Bihar. An FIR was filed against Mr. Singh by the election commission and issued the following statement; “the commission has particularly noted that part of his public utterance that voters who do not vote for Modi shall have to find their place in Pakistan, is totally violative of the principles of the Indian constitution…”
Mr. Amit Shah, the campaign manager for Modi in Western U.P. said the following “The elections in Uttar Pradesh, especially in western Uttar Pradesh, is an election for honour, for seeking revenge for the insult, and for teaching a lesson to those who committed injustice,” Mr Shah told a gathering of Jats
Modi on his part has never apologized for his inaction during the Gujarat riots. In an interview to Reuters, Modi refuted allegations that he had failed to do enough to stop hundreds of Muslims from being killed in his state in 2002, during his first term as chief minister. When asked if he regretted the violence, Mr Modi responded, “If someone else is driving a car and we’re sitting behind, even then if a puppy comes under the wheel, will it be painful or not? Of course it is.” If this is how a leader of the BJP who is a prime ministerial candidate feels and reacts to the suffering of people, what else can be expected from his cohorts!
This election is all about choices. It is extremely important for the voters to make the right choices. The question is whether the Non-Resident Indians would like to see a pluralistic India with an inclusive agenda or a majoritarian regime with a theocratic one? The BJP manifesto gives a glimpse of the Hindutva agenda such as the building of Ram temple; doing away with existing civil codes; Changing the status of Kashmir; banning cow slaughter; etc. These are camouflaged by the developmental agenda which is ironically almost an identical copy of the Congress manifesto.
Rahul Gandhi in a recent interview summarized the points very clearly “We are now faced with a contest between two competing ideas of India. The Congress’ idea of India is about inclusion, decentralization, empowering people and building partnerships for economic growth. The Opposition’s idea seeks to divide the country on communal lines, capture resources for a select few, and centralized decision-making by putting all power into the hands of one individual. Our opponents want an India, in which there is no place for the poor, no place for those with a different religion or ideology. This is a dangerous idea. It has been the proud legacy of the Congress party to fight and defeat this idea since the birth of our nation. We are committed to continuing this fight”.
For the NRIs who breathe and live by the fresh air of democracy and freedom and enjoy equal opportunities in the United States despite being a small minority, the choice is abundantly clear. They ought to hope for a vibrant and thriving democratic India that can be an equal partner with United States in a challenging global arena defending human rights, freedom and justice for all.http://www.joychenputhukulam.com/newsMore.php?newsId=39391
Published on Apr 23rd, 2014
By Stephan Byrd
LIGHTNING RELEASES 04/22/14 – New York. Cindy Locke. Vishwa Hindu Parishad leaders in USA are following Pravin Togadia’s and BJP Giriraj Singh’s, election speeches to garner the support of NRI’s in USA and Canada. VHP (USA) Nalin Shah also included the Sikh NRI’s, during the Vaisakhi celebrations, asking them to leave India and reside in Khalistan “if they are not supporting BJP and Narendra Modi as Prime Minister candidate of BJP”.
Recently in Bhavnagar, the SSP. M.S.Pawar has initiated an investigation into Togadia’s remarks “asking Hindus to not let Muslims buy real estate in areas where Hindus are in a majority”. Election Commission of India has barred Giriraj Singh to campaign, due to his statements of fear mongering “ordering Muslims to go to Pakistan, if they do not Vote for BJP or Modi”.
BJP’s Narendra Modi, tweeted this morning, asking his party leaders to refrain from making such comments, which threaten the fabric of secularism in India. NRI Hindus have gone a step forward, asking NRI Sikhs to leave India, go to Khalistan, if they do not support BJP. NRI Akali Leader Harry Sandhu, condemned Shah’s comments and wants SAD President Sukhbir Badal to speak to Modi “for statements against Sikh NRI’s, residing in USA, Canada, UK and Australia”.
Indian Overseas Congress General Secretary, Sunil Malhotra has sent the documented proof of VHP(USA), to Election Commission of India, for action against VHP Leaders, ” who are inciting racial wars”, outside India, said Malhotra. Leaders of Shiv Sena, had openly claimed expulsion within six months of BJP rule, of Muslims, in Mumbai, during an election rally, addressed by Narendra Modi. IOC President Vikram Bajwa, demands “BJP PM Candidate Narendra Modi, should apologize to NRI’s and expel such leaders, who claim his support and are contesting on BJP Tickets”.
Harbir Thind a NRI Lawyer, is of the opinion, since VHP (USA) is a social charitable Org., it should be demanded from IRS, to repeal its no-profit charitable status, in USA. and Canada.
Published on Apr 22rd, 2014
By ANUMEHA YADAV
Two months before polling began in Jharkhand, Ajay Tirkey began dividing his day between campaigning for the Bharatiya Janata Party in Ranchi and attending to his real estate business. Mr. Tirkey, who heads the Central Sarna Committee(CSC), with lakhs of animistic Sarna tribals as members in urban parts of Ranchi, Gumla and Hazaribagh, believes that the BJP’s Narendra Modi will get the community what it has been demanding for decades: the distinction of being a minority religion with all attendant benefits. “We submitted a memorandum to Modi in December to introduce a Sarna code in the census, and [the] BJP’s State leaders agreed,” he says.
Mr. Tirkey — tall, stout, dressed in white shirt and trousers and wearing a golden watch on one wrist and a vermillion thread on the other — speaks softly and smiles often, even while narrating the violence that has broken out following his organisation’s attempt to stop religious conversions in the last decade. The office of his company, Deoshila Development Private Limited, is sparsely furnished, with only a poster of Hanuman for decoration. Mr. Tirkey owns the commercial complex we are sitting in. “This is a century-old fight. I have not let the Christians get away with conversions since I became the head in 2000,” he says. “We broke the walls of a church in Tape in Ormanjhi while it was being constructed. There was a case of conversion of five families in Ghagrajala village in Ranchi; we re-converted three. Then a few families in Gaitalsud, Angada, of whom only one member escaped because he worked somewhere else. He has not come back since; he fears us,” he recounts, beaming.
Mr. Tirkey, the BJP’s mayoral candidate from Ranchi in 2013, describes the “re-conversion” ceremonies as being similar to the ghar-waapsi (homecoming) ceremonies conducted by BJP leader Dilip Singh Judeo in Chhattisgarh, in the mid-2000s. Mr. Judeo used to wash the feet of the converted person with holy water and declare the person Hindu again. Sarnas, Mr. Tirkey says, besides washing feet, made the converted person taste a drop of blood of a freshly sacrificed rooster and sprinkled water on them. A member of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh’s Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram (VKA) or Dharam Jagran usually accompanied CSC members for this ceremony, he says. Sitting by Mr. Tirkey’s side, Manoj Kumar, a member of the BJP’s Jharkhand Kisan Morcha Pradesh Samiti, nods in agreement.
In the last century, religious conversions in the Chotanagpur region have led to tensions. The first missionaries to arrive were the German Protestants in 1845, followed by the Catholics. The rift between Christian and non-Christian tribals was visible in 1947-48. Concerned with the growing influence of Christians, Sarna leaders formed a ‘Sudhar Sabha,’ notes academic Dr. Alex Ekka in an essay on the Jharkhand movement.
The former captain of the Indian hockey team, Jaipal Singh Munda, is credited with getting equal rights including reservations for Christian tribals, as a member of the Constituent Assembly. A few Sarna leaders opposed this move then. Congress MP Kartik Oraon introduced a bill in Parliament in 1968 to de-schedule Christian tribals, albeit unsuccessfully.
The Jan Sangh and the RSS began making inroads in the Chotanagpur region in the 1960s, initiating developmental activities in forest villages to counter the growing reach of Christian missionaries. While the VKA already has a strong presence in the Gumla and Latehar districts of West Jharkhand, more recently it has focused on increasing its influence in Sahebganj and Pakur along the State’s border with West Bengal, close to Bangladesh. Both districts feature in a map of areas from Uttar Pradesh to the north-east as “Areas of high Muslim and Christian influence” in a publication by Sankat Mochan Ashram, New Delhi.
“The church was trying to proselytize in Pakur but slowed down after we increased our presence. We recently performed ghar-waapsi for 50 families there. Sarna groups are doing re-conversions themselves now; we prefer it this way. We explain to them that 2000 years ago, we worshipped trees. Sarnas are Hindu too,” says Prakash Kamat, the Bihar-Jharkhand zonal secretary of the VKA.
Tribals constitute 26.3 per cent of Jharkhand’s population. According to the 2001 Census, of the State’s population of 3.29 crore, 68.5 per cent are Hindus and 13.8 per cent are Muslims. Only four per cent follow Christianity. Though Sarnas, who worship their ancestors and nature, are not counted separately, they make up most of the ‘Other’ category, estimated at 11 to 13 per cent of the population. Sarna groups claim that the actual numbers may be higher, given the absence of a separate category for them. A common perception is that despite their small numbers, Christian tribals have better access to higher education and jobs. Whether due to economic disparities or the stoking of enmities by different religious groups, the chasm between Sarna and Christian tribals has widened.
A deep divide
The most stark instance of this was in 2013 when a spate of protests erupted in Ranchi soon after the Cardinal Telesphore Toppo unveiled the statue of a “tribal” Mary — a dark-skinned Mother Mary wearing a white and red saree and bangles, holding an infant Jesus in a sling, as is common among tribal women. Sarna dharamguru Bandhan Tigga, considered more moderate than Ajay Tirkey’s group, gave the Church three months to remove the statue, describing it as a conversion tactic. In August, over 3,000 Sarna tribals marched to the site, a small Catholic church in Singpur on Ranchi’s outskirts, threatening to bring it down. The police imposed Section 144 of the Indian Penal Code in the area to stop the protesters. Three days later, a FIR was registered against members of Sarna groups after they threatened families in Ormanjhi, 50 km from Singpur, who had converted to Protestantism several years ago, to re-convert to Sarna religion within a week, even breaking the gate of the house of one of the families.
Sources close to the Cardinal claim he had not known that the statue was that of a “tribal” Mary before he reached the parish for the inauguration, but have chosen to stay silent, fearing that a step back now may only weaken the church’s position. Before this, in 2008, the church was on the back foot when Sarna groups questioned the ‘Nemha Bible’ published by a Lutheran church in the tribal language, Kuduk, which they said contained portions offensive to animistic worship.
In Singpur, the residents still recount last year’s protests cautiously. “Thousands marched from Dhurva to the parish. While the march had been called by Sarna groups, several Bajrang Dal members wearing saffron bands marched with them. Even tribals from neighbouring Odisha, Chhattisgarh districts reached here,” recalled a member of the community. It was done by evoking Sarnas’ pride, say Dharam Jagran members.
Published : Dec 6, 2008
Wednesday, 3 December 2008, 10:58 (IST)
A Christian mission group is fearful that the recent terror attacks by Muslim militants will help a Hindu nationalist party gain control of the government. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Hindu nationalist and opposition party, has been flaming the anger against Muslim extremists responsible for the attacks and the inept Indian government for failing to prevent the bombings in hopes of increasing their support ahead of next year’s general elections. The Hindu fundamentalist group, who is frequently linked to anti-Christian campaigns, has promised tougher anti-terror laws. “This party (BJP) is anti-Muslim and anti-Christian, and it (terror attacks) could give them enough impetus to actually get control of the government of India as they did about ten years ago, and this would be very bad news for Christians,” said Dave Stravers of Mission India, according to Mission Network News. Mission India’s top leaders had a training conference in Mumbai about a mile from the initial attack site when the bombings started. None of the church leaders were harmed, but they were trapped in their building for a while when affected parts of the city were shut down. Stravers said the government’s mistakes are “giving a lot of political ammunition to the BJP.” It was revealed on Monday that U.S. intelligence had warned the Indian government twice about a potential attack against Mumbai at least a month ahead of the massacre, according to CNN. India security forces have confirmed that U.S. officials did warn them about a possible assault. Security measures were heightened for about a week, but then they were relaxed, Indian officials said. The Mumbai massacre last week killed nearly 180 people with bombings in 10 sites across India’s financial hub. Most of the deaths occurred at two of India’s top hotels, the Taj Mahal and the Oberoi, with many foreigners, including Americans, among the casualties. While the Indian government is rightly blamed for its lapse of security, a BJP-controlled government would be bad news for Christians in India. The BJP is blamed for supporting Hindu extremists in their attacks against Christians in Orissa state, where hundreds of believers’ homes, businesses, orphanages and churches have been burned. Some 50,000 Christians are displaced by the violence – the worst sectarian conflict in India’s 60 years of independence – and can only return to their home if they agree to convert to Hinduism. “We’re praying for Christians to be strong in their witness,” Stravers said. “The church is growing fast. This is the good news. Nevertheless, believers will perhaps be suffering in the meantime.”
Published : Dec 6, 2008
By Rick Santorum
Dealing with terrorism in India is being called President-elect Barack Obama's first foreign-policy test. As we saw last week in Mumbai, political and religious divisions in the world's largest democracy make our disagreements seem tame by comparison. So when Obama named economist Sonal Shah to his transition team, the unifier invited division. From India to the United States, Hindus, Muslims and Christians criticized her appointment, alleging that she has links to Hindu militants. News of Indian American groups' protests was the top story on the Times of India's Web site for days. A statement from Shah denying her critics' allegations, posted on the Web site of Asian Americans for Obama, and the blog postings that followed didn't do anything to quell the hostile response from within the Indian American community. Who is Sonal Shah? She is a former Goldman Sachs vice president and now leads the global development team of Google.org, the company's philanthropic arm. She has won awards as co-founder of Indicorps, a U.S.-based nonprofit that enables Indian Americans to work on development projects in India. However, following the 2001 earthquake in the Indian state of Gujarat, Shah was a relief coordinator for Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) America, according to reports in Indian newspapers. VHP in India is a Hindu extremist group that has been tied to violence against the country's Christian and Muslim minorities. The worst violence against India's Christians came in August, after a VHP leader was killed in the state of Orissa. Although Maoists immediately took credit for the killing, the VHP blamed Christians. Hindu mobs went door to door, killing Christian families, raping women, and burning homes and churches. The government reports that 54,000 Christians are still homeless, more than 10,000 are now living in refugee camps, and 118 are dead as a result. The headlines are heartbreaking: "Christian woman burnt to death by rampaging VHP mobs in Orissa;" "Hindu extremists burn one nun alive, rape another." Every day brought fresh reports of violence against Christians. The response from leaders of the VHP and the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP): Stop converting Hindus, and the violence will end. In Gujarat in 2002, a similar Hindu uprising targeted Muslims after a train carrying Hindus caught fire. In the end, more than 1,000 people were killed and 100,000 were displaced. The U.S. State Department reports that the BJP-led government did little to stop the violence. Other reports suggest that the BJP didn't stop it because the party engineered it. Sangh Parivar is a family of Hindu nationalist organizations united in favor of Hindu supremacy in India. It includes the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), of which VHP is an offshoot. The BJP is the political party of these groups. The University of Chicago's Martha Nussbaum has described the RSS as "possibly the most successful fascist movement in any contemporary democracy." Google RSS and its affiliates, and your jaw will drop. Everyone from Amnesty International to our State Department has warned about these outfits. Shah has tried to distance herself from VHP in India by saying VHP America is different. VHP America's Web site suggests otherwise: It clearly states that it shares the ideals of VHP India. Shah has said her politics have nothing in common with the views espoused by these groups. But she has spoken at youth conferences for groups outside India that support the RSS and VHP. And, according to several Indian newspapers, she has strong family ties to the RSS and didn't once denounce the violence against Christians and Muslims. Shah also claims to have done only charitable fund-raising to help earthquake victims in Gujarat through VHP America. But why did she choose VHP when the Red Cross and other relief agencies also were on the scene? Shah should condemn the VHP and its actions soon. If she doesn't, keeping her on - or, more ominously, giving her a post in the new administration - would send the message that the president-elect does not think the VHP is a radical organization. And this is a president-elect who is trying to "change" the image of the United States in the Islamic world with a foreign policy more sensitive to Muslim concerns. I doubt that this makeover should include condoning an organization that supports terrorism aimed at Muslims and Christians.
The Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations has its permanent office in Washington DC.
It is an interdenominational and a multi linguistic organization. Members are from all Christian denominations with their own ancestral root to different states in India.
The Federation is comprised of all Indian American Christian Church organizations or organizations of Indian Christian laity or individual Indian American Christians who opt to join the Federation.
FIACONA has a presence in every single state in the US and Canada through the presence of our active members. The Federation counts over 450,000 people among its members, living in every single states in the US and Canada.
FIACONA is a cultural and ethnic organization with a strong advocacy component. It is neither a spiritual nor a religious organization. It identifies itself as a “Christian” organization for the purpose of the socio- religious and cultural identity of its members who are of Christian faith as opposed to members of other faiths.
The Federation is also open to membership from individuals who may or may not belong to an organization that is exclusively formed for the cultural and spiritual benefit of Indian American Christians.
The Federation invites Christian organizations of non-Indian origin, who shares the Federation’s vision, its goals and its objectives, as its associate members.
The General Body of the organization meets once a year. All members of the organization are eligible to seek elected offices at the state level and at the national level offices of the organization.
Members and office bearers of the organization are unpaid volunteers.
Members are encouraged to contribute voluntarily towards the campaign and other costs of the organization. Contributions are tax deductible for the US tax payers.
If you are interested in underwriting any specific programs/campaigns/expenses, please contact the Treasurer or the President of the organization. Become a Registered Member:
FIACONA’s national office in Washington strongly encourages interested eligible candidates to work as interns in various congressional, judicial or executive offices of the Federal government. FIACONA will help facilitate and provide necessary guidance to interested students in obtaining such internships in Washington.
FIACONA will also help eligible students to get internships at the United Nations office in New York. If you are interested in applying for any such internships, please contact our national office via email with a brief message and contact information. One of our voluntary guidance counselors will call and help you to find an appropriate internship that would suite your interest and courier plans.