Sunday, September 23, 2007

KTWV 08 Issue 33: Open letter to the Indian President

Posted on my Jacob's Blog, the Delhi Stephanian Kooler Talk Blog and the Mumbai Cathedralite Seventh Heaven Blog.

This just reached me. It is an is an open letter to the President of India submitted through the Governor of Karnataka. It is from Dr. Sajan George, who is the President of the Global Council of Indian Christians.

There are three major reasons that I am publishing this letter on my blogs.

First and foremost is that my grandfather held the post of First Member of the Privy Council of the Mysore Maharajah, a post given to a Christian by a Hindu who valued the individual and his capabilities rather than which ethnic minority the person hailed from.

My grandfather was a person from what is now known as Kerala and was not a Mysorean. But all through the State of Mysore, this Keralite and Christian was known as Mysore Matthan. Even 30 years after his death respect, when I was living in Maddur in Mandya District, was shown to me just because I was his grandson!

Many Matthan's have served the State, Mysore and Karnataka, selflessly and have yet practiced their faith without fear. After retirement they have considered Karnataka as their home. They are sons of the soil of Karnataka.

The second reason I am publishing this letter is that around the middle it draws attention to the controversial action by the Officiating Principal of my alma mater, St, Stephen's College, Delhi, about the admission policy that was introduced this year.

The third reason is that Prof. Ajeet Mathur, a fellow Cathedralite and Stephanian, was in Oulu a couple of weeks ago and gave an interesting talk. He holds the position of Director of the Institute of Applied Manpower Research of the Planning Commission of India. His Research Group is working on the 9% growth that is presently being seen in India and the rapid expansion of educational facilities to meet this need. 30 new Universities, 7 new Indian Institute of Technologies and many hundreds of thousands of educational institutions of every level requires a huge input of highly skilled and talented people of every level.

What message will such actions, as are described in the letter below, become knowledge of people who intend to come to work in India?

Here I am entertaining requests from many tens of Finns wanting to go and work in India and from Finnish companies wanting to find opportunities to establish their operations all over the Indian sub-continent.

What answer will I give them when they ask me about conditions prevailing in India for them to work safely in their jobs or to run their companies?

I shudder to think of the consequences to our National Policy if those who play for short term political gain are allowed to carry on regardless.

To Her Excellency The President of India,
Rashtrapathi Bhavan,
New Delhi

Through the Governor of Karnataka,
Raj Bhavan,

Your Excellency:

We offer our respectful greetings and humble salutations, on behalf of the Christians of India, especially those who have suffered greatly on account of their religious faith. In this regard, we submit the following for your kind and benevolent attention:

We are gravely concerned about the escalating violence being perpetrated against Christians in the state of Karnataka for the past 20 months, and we have evidence to clearly link the same to the change in the government at the state level. In other words, after the BJP came into the coalition, there has been a climate of impunity for any acts of violence that are committed in the name of Hindutva. To place the facts and relevant documentation on record, we herewith submit a detailed report on attacks against Christians in Karnataka between Jan 28th and July 29th 2007 wherein it is clear from the facts that unprovoked attacks by communal elements have occurred inside homes and the places of worship of Christians, as people are praying and worshipping within the privacy of their homes and churches. Later, the police are pressurized to file cases against the victims. The hardest blow to the victims however is the inaction and neglect of our just grievances by the law-and -order machinery and the State. In fact, the police officials in several cases have said that they have received orders from the Dy. Chief Minister and the local (usually BJP MLA)on how to act. Therefore, the widespread attitude (though not universal) is that of treating Christians as second class citizens. We have failed in numerous peaceful efforts to get justice, namely redressal of the violation of our Constitutional and Fundamental freedom of Religion and Conscience. We now approach your kind self in the hope that you who are well known for your secular outlook, will certainly take steps to ensure that justice and the right to constitutional remedies, hitherto denied to the majority of the Christian victims of persecution, will be made available to them in a speedy and time-bound manner.
The Christian Rights Rally in Bangalore held on 22nd June 07' was the largest gathering so far of victims of religious persecution by the communal forces in India, from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, Gujarat to Orissa. Christians in Karnataka are observing Awareness Day on 22nd September 2007 to raise the awareness of the public against Christians in general and in Karnataka in particular and are converging on Bangalore to make their voice heard against the injustice meted out to them and share their experiences and agony and express solidarity with other victims of the extreme distress faced by the Christian community in India. They are joined by a number of persons from all walks of life, various Christian churches and groups including those from other faiths who came together to express solidarity and share their grief and sorrow.

Your Excellency, the Christian community - which continues to be a tiny 2.04% of this nation's population according to the 2001 Census data - has been at the forefront of service to the massive numbers of poor and needy in our country. Our patriotism and commitment to the nation has been tangibly expressed in the form of committed service to the deprived and disadvantaged sections of society in the fields of education, healthcare, and training in vocational services far in excess to our share in the population. A large section of the Christian community, including the cream of our young men and women have dedicated their lives to socially productive activities full-time. Even though they can easily choose to migrate to any country and enjoy a very good quality of life due to their qualifications, they choose to work in Indian running schools, hospitals, orphanages, leprosy rehabilitation centres, nursing schools, counselling centres, colleges which are known for their excellence, etc. Christians are among the largest groups intervening with people living with HIV/AIDS. They work among the poorest of the poor in remotest regions of the country, facing life-threats from the so-called "patriotic" Indians for their work, starting schools, spreading literacy and offering primary health care where state interventions are totally neglected or absent. Their inspiration is the life of Jesus Christ, known for spending his brief and youthful life on this earth in healing the sick, and reaching out to the disabled, the untouchables and the downtrodden those rejected by mainstream society, in preaching the "good news to the poor". His personal example continues to inspire people all over the world and down the ages to express their faith through service to fellow-human beings through a life dedicated to God's will.

Despite this track record of committed service to the Indian people, Christians are constantly referred to by their detractors as foreigners and as people having allegiance to forces outside the country. How long do we need to keep on proving our credentials as full citizens, peace-loving, law-abiding and committed to the advancement of the nation? When India was a nascent state, Christians showed their confidence in the Constitution and their trust in the mainstream by declining reservation in the seats in Parliament. This shows how well the Christian community consider themselves integrated into society. It is sad that the degeneration of the political climate has caused Christians in India to be isolated from the
mainstream by small, noisy, violent groups of communally divisive elements who attempt to damage the pluralism that has been the most abiding characteristic of Indian society for centuries, by bringing pressure on the police and the judicial system. These communal forces raise their voices and weapons against this tiny, dedicated, service-oriented and peace-loving community. They engineer increasingly violent and murderous attacks against not only the Christians themselves but also those whose hope for a better future is kindled by the compassionate service and love shown by these dedicated citizens of India: there are allegations that Christians "convert" those who they serve.

There are attempts to demonise the Christian community through allegations of force, fraud and inducement to convert - through offering services such as education or jobs. Laws aimed at "preventing conversion through force, fraud and inducement" have been passed in several states. But despite several decades of these laws existence, not a single case has ever been successfully prosecuted under these laws. What then is the reason for their existence except to serve as a threat to those who serve the poor? Some of the Christian service institutions in the country have been functioning for over a hundred years, but has the population in the surrounding areas converted enmasse? To the contrary, every year, 8 million students come out of the portals of Christian institutions. Can anyone prove that even 0.001 % of this group has "converted" as a result of indoctrination? Then what is the motivation for these false claims?

We assert that the real reason is that these vested interests and their children, community and class actually welcome and enjoy the services provided by the well-established and older Christian educational and health institutions located in cities and towns. But they do not want availability of these facilities to the poor and disadvantaged in rural and tribal areas. As long as some welfare and charity work is done there is no problem, but when hitherto voiceless and powerless sections of Indian society begin to get education and a socially empowered self-image there is a huge reaction. Witness the outcry against the management of St. Stephen's College, Delhi, for announcing reservations in seats to some of the disadvantaged sections of society, something well within their constitutional rights. The progress of the subaltern groups is not tolerated by those who have enjoyed the fruits of the economic, social and political marginalization of the subaltern groups in India. There is fear that if these groups, hitherto marginalised, become educated and aware, the access of the elites to power, their social and economic status will be eroded. Therefore, they mislead young and gullible sections from the subaltern groups to attack the defenceless Christians, while keeping themselves free of the taint of violence.

In the wake of the recent exposure of these manipulations a violence in the electronic media, who gave publicity to violence against Christian workers, these groups are attempting a damage control exercise. But the nation has now woken up to the grim reality of the extreme, brutal and widespread violence against the Christian community all over the country which has so far been successfully kept from the public by a mostly (though not entirely) complaisant media. Several Christian groups have attempted to highlight these attacks with very little response. However, we must mention that in some cases the National Human Rights Commission and the National Commission for Minorities have responded positively and taken steps to ensure that the matters were enquired into. Justice delivery, however has been slow if not totally absent in most cases.

Also complicit in the "invisibilisation" of these outrages are some lower-level functionaries in the police and judiciary who have often abused their positions to harass and deny Christians their constitutional rights, and support the anti-social and unconstitutional excesses of the Sangh Parivar activists. Even cases of murder of Christian pastors and workers have not been investigated. Due to their own ideological learning towards the communalists most cases the police refuses to file an FIR or take up the matter with any enthusiasm. It goes without saying that these officials would not get away with these actions if it were not for the patronage of politicians allied with the BJP and Sangh organizations.

In view of the above facts, we therefore humbly request your Excellency

  1. to call for an independent investigation into the atrocities against the Christian minorities in India, and especially in Karnataka in the recent past, by a specially empowered group in a speedy and time-bound manner. GCIC pledges its support to such an enquiry.

  2. To enquire into the reason for the blatant discrimination by the State law-and-order machinery and the judiciary in the matter of incidents against Christians, and their support to the unconstitutional activities and antisocial behavior of persons against the Christians.

  3. In cases where undue delay in investigations are established, to fix responsibility at the appropriate level and take punitive administrative and criminal action against those responsible.

  4. Baseless reports against the Christians and Christian institutions in the vernacular media have fuelled hate crimes against the Christians in several states, notably Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Orissa, Maharashtra, and Gujarat.

  5. Specifically, we want to bring to your notice that there has been a rape of an 8-year old girl, a daughter of an impoverished Dalit worker in Bidar for her religious identity. F.I.R 100/07 in Nenyara Police station Bidar District, Karnataka state, has been registered and we have brought the matter to the notice of the National Human Rights Commission and National Commission for Women.

  6. Finally, Your Excellency, we humbly call upon your kind self to exercise your Constitutional Authority and repeal the 1950 Presidential Ordinance which has denied the Constitutional Rights of Christians of Dalit Descent.

    Through this one action, you will create history by righting the historical wrongs against a deprived and oppressed section of Indian Society and earn the immense gratitude of millions.

We remain,

Yours faithfully,

Dr. Sajan George, President, Global Council Of Indian Christians

Let us be clear, it is not the common folk of Karnataka who are following this route, but, as usual, those who are lobbying for power.

I am grateful to John Dayal for drawing my attention to this letter and the issues that it highlights.

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