He clarified that he visited Goa in March at the invitation of the Catholic Council of Goa.
Jesuit priest and human rights activist Cedric Prakash has termed as “extremely mischievous” the allegations leveled against him by BJP leader Manohar Parrikar.
At a press conference two days ago Goa Chief Minister Parrikar accused the priest of trying to spread religious and social discontent based on “falsehoods” in Goa before the general election.
Parrikar said the Ahmadabad-based priest toured Goa with the support of the Catholic Church, accused BJP leader Narendra Modi of religious intolerance and attacked the Gujarat model of governance.
Parrikar also compared the Jesuit with fanatic Sri Rama Sene chief Pramod Muthalik.
The allegations “extremely mischievous and very unfortunate,” Prakash said in a statement yesterday and clarified that he visited Goa in March at the invitation of the Catholic Council of Goa.
The priest said Parrikar comparing him “with one of his ilk speaks volumes of his mindset and the fact that fascism is gaining more and more ground in the country.”
He said on April 9 he has already sent a response to Parrikar on “some of his earlier allegations. “There is nothing which I have said which is not true or which cannot be substantiated with concrete data,” the priest’s statement said.
Prakash said he always advocated communal harmony and peace “but I do so within the framework of justice and human rights for all. I have never attacked or said anything against another’s religious beliefs,” he said.
The focus of “all my talks was (and which will continue to be) the Constitution of India, the values enshrined in them and the fact that large sections of our people are deprived of their legitimate rights both in Gujarat and in other parts of India, the statement said.
It said the constitution gives him “the right of freedom of speech” and that the Freedom of Religion Law enacted by the Government of Gujarat in 2003 goes against constitution that guarantees “every single citizen the right to freely profess, practice and propagate one’s religion.” It also violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which gives one the right to freely change his religion or belief to another, he said.
The priest’s statement said he has “always questioned the Gujarat model of “development” which only caters to a section of society. There is sufficient research studies and statistical data to prove that what is being flaunted are half-truths and myths; social indicators of large sections of the poor and marginalized very strongly belie the development of Gujarat.”
He said it is common knowledge that Gujarat has always been a fairly industrialized State since the early seventies. “It is not a “miracle” that has happened in the last ten years or so.”
“I have never used or abused any religion to create any ‘discontent’. My closest associates and friends belong to all religions and particularly from the majority community,” the statement said.
His collaborators yesterday launched e-mail signature campaign condemning Parrikar’s statement and asserting that “as a free citizen of India” Prakash has “every right to critique and expound his views on Modi’s Gujarat model.”
The allegations are “a blatant attempt to intimidate human rights defenders like Father Prakash,” said the campaign letter began by right activists Hiren Gandhi of DARSHAN and Saroop Dhruv of INSAF.
Prakash is “a long-standing campaigner for human rights, justice and peace-and he has been consistently taking up the cause of those whose human rights have been violated -irrespective of their religious background,” it said.
Source: press statement