Church schools in India among those that ‘should not exist

“In effect, they are asking to change the Indian constitution,” 

Hard-line Hindu group seeks shutdown of educational institutions belonging to religious minorities.




New Delhi: Muslim and Christian leaders in India see danger in a pro-Hindu group’s demand that the government revoke a policy allowing minority groups to own and manage educational institutions in the country.

A report released Oct. 10 by the Centre for Policy Analysis, a think tank of hard-line Hindu group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, stated that allowing religious minority groups to have institutions for their own people was tantamount to “compartmentalization” that works against the unity of India.

“There is no rationale for the existence of a separate wing for education of minorities such as [the] National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions in the Ministry of Human Resource Development. Aren’t such types of national level regulating bodies compartmentalizing education on religious lines and weakening the national mainstream?” asked the report.

The Centre for Policy Analysis wants the government to discontinue the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions, a legal body that advises the federal and state government on issues related to minority institutions.

Archbishop Thomas D’Souza of Calcutta, who chairs the Indian bishops’ office for education, said the demand goes against the provisions of the Indian constitution that allows religious minorities to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice to help advancement of their community members.

“In effect, they are asking to change the Indian constitution,” the archbishop told

Technically, the Hindu group has only asked to close down the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions. But by de facto the demand is to remove the provision to have minority institutions as the commission is the authority to grant minority status to an educational institution.

Established in 2004, the commission functions under the Ministry of Minority Affairs which this year has allocated 2.4 billion rupees (US$ 337 million) for educational reforms, including special grants and scholarships.

“All Indians, particularly religious minorities, should be afraid about such demands,” Archbishop D’Souza said.

Some 220 million people or 18.4 percent of 1.2 billion Indians are officially considered part of a religious minority. Some 140 million Muslims, the largest minority, constitute 13.4 percent of the population, while 27 million Christians (2.3 percent) are the second largest minority group. Other religious minorities are Sikhs (1.9 percent) Buddhists (0.8 percent) and Parsis (0.07 percent) of the country’s total population.

Molvi Javaid Ahmad, a Muslim cleric who runs a Madrassa in India’s northern state of Jammu and Kashmir, said educating and empowering people “isn’t an act of charity. It’s a governmental duty to ensure that communities are uplifted and allowed to prosper.”

Ahmad said official censuses have shown that Indian religious minorities are educationally poor. “In order to make India a developed nation, it has to facilitate the education of these disadvantaged communities,” he said.

The 2011 national census report showed that only 53 percent of Indian Muslims are literate, against the national average of 74 percent. The literacy rate is 68 percent among Sikhs, 72 among for Buddhists and 74 percent for Christians.

Christian leader Joseph Dias based in western Mumbai city told the think tank’s report is aimed at “polarizing people” on religious lines ahead of the national elections due in next May.

“Catholic institutions keep a high standard … And, a huge majority of students in them are non-Christians. So doing away with such institutions will hit the majority community more than minorities,” Dais said.

The country needs such skilled and professional educational institutions, he said. “Unless there is any parallel infrastructure of that level, it is futile to even discuss anything like this,” Dais added.

The Catholic Church in India runs some 50,000 educational institutions including 400 colleges, six universities and six medical schools.

Source: UCAN


Indian farmers to reap the pain of climate change

A UN report has warned of the dire consequences of lack of action, and the agriculture sector will suffer the most.

File photo.

New Delhi: India’s farmers will be hardest hit by global warming, with the effects of the climate crisis already being felt a generation ahead of predictions, experts have warned.

The dire warning comes after the Oct. 8 release of the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) report compiled by 91 climate experts from 40 countries.

The report warned that there were only a dozen years left for global warming to be kept to a maximum of 1.5 Celsius. After that, even a half a degree increase will significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and impoverish hundreds of millions of people.

The report said “urgent and unprecedented changes” were needed to reach the target, which they described as “affordable and feasible.”

But it also warned that even if the increase can be held at 1.5C, as outlined in the more ambitious targets of the 2016 Paris Agreement, it may still not be enough to avert a climate crisis.

Professor Arumar Ravi, who co-authored the IPCC report, said it should be of particular concern for India.

He said summer temperatures could increase by 3C and weather patterns change dramatically, resulting in severe floods washing away farm land, homes, roads and bridges. Other side effects would be poverty, food shortages and increased pollution.

“The days we predicted would happen in our children’s times are happening in our own times now,” Ravi said. “But, if we act fast dramatic differences can occur and we can still make our world a safer place to live in.”

India is responsible for six percent of global carbon emissions, behind China (28 percent), the United States (16 percent) and the European Union (10 percent).

India’s commitment is to reduce its 2015 emission levels by 33-35 percent by 2030 through non-fossil fuels and alternative energy use.

N. C. Saxena, an expert on climate change in India, said the farm sector, which depends on water, will be the hardest hit sector by changing weather patterns.

As an example, Saxena said farmers in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh could see their incomes plunge by as much as 20 percent.

He said un-seasonal rains could lower sugarcane production in Maharashtra by 25-30 percent and rice-paddy farming in eastern Odisha state by 12 percent.

According to a study by Jayant Sathaye, P. R. Shukla and N. H. Ravindranath from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, climate change is likely to impact natural ecosystems as well as socio-economic systems in India.

It noted that nearly two-thirds of India’s 1.2 billion people depend directly on climate-sensitive sectors such as agriculture, fisheries and forests. Climate changes are likely to affect food production, water supplies, biodiversity and livelihoods.

But according to Ravi development and action on climate change can co-exist. “Build buildings more efficiently, bring order in public transport; this gives a whole range of other benefits like improved health and less pollution,” he said.

Source: UCAN

Seven Christians languish in jail for 10 years

Oct. 4 marked 10th anniversary of the arrest of the three of the seven people accused of murdering Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati.

Kochi: The online campaign seeking release of seven Christians of Kandhamal, jailed for their alleged role in Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati’s murder, is gaining ground.

Journalsit-turned-social activist Anto Akkara, who launched the online drive, said that their illegal confinement in the jail, “is a blot on the judicial system of the country”.

According to Akkara, Oct 4 marks 10th anniversary of the arrest of the three persons, who were sentenced by the court.

“On this occasion, a programme was organized in Kochi, which was called off due to technical reasons,” Akkara said.

Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan had released a book — Who Killed Swami Laxmanananda? — written by Akkara’s in 2016, in which he exposes the Sangh Parivar conspiracy to frame seven innocent persons.

Despite producing evidence on the role of high-profile persons, the innocent Christians continue to languish in jail since 10 years, Akkara pointed out.

About travesty of justice in Kandhamal, Akkara said Durjo Sunamajhi, one of the accused, was on a Kerala-bound train to work in the canteen of Lissie Hospital in Ernakulam with his nephew on the day Swami Laxmanananda was murdered. Later, Durjo was convicted by the court, Akkara said.

Despite 71,600 persons signing the online petition, the innocents, including mentally challenged Munda Badamajhi, contimnue to languish in the jail, Akkara noted.

“It’s a shame for the nation that the appeal of the innocents challenging their questionable conviction of 2013 has been dragging on in the Odisha High Court for five years,” Akkara lamented.

Source: UCAN

UN chief’s India visits highlights abuses

“Christians have similarly been targeted, the letter said, adding that 2017 has been one of the most traumatic years for Indian Christians in a decade.

Guterres was told that anti-minority Hindu nationalist extremism has been on the rise under PM Modi.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres during a meeting, in New Delhi, on Oct 2, 2018. (Photo: IANS/MEA) New Delhi:

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres’s maiden visit to India opened up a Pandora’s box for a government accused of violating religious and ethnic minority rights.

During the Oct. 1-3 visit, U.N. collaboration to combat terrorism dominated the official agenda, but for many this aspect was overshadowed by the issue of communal strife.

Guterres met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the external affairs minister, Sushma Swaraj, and the speaker of the Indian parliament’s lower house, Sumitra Mahajan.

On Oct. 3, some 250 rights activists wrote to him stating that religious and political freedoms have been eroded since the government of prime minister Modi came to power four years ago, dominated by the pro-Hindu Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP).

Their joint open letter to Guterres highlighted abuses faced by the country’s Muslims, Christians and socially poor Dalit people, formerly known as untouchables.

Many of the nation’s constitutional freedoms, and democratic rights – along with a sense of social coexistence and a national consensus on the need to achieve greater equality – had been undermined, it said.

This was despite these things having been nurtured since the country’s independence in 1947, the activists complained.

They maintained that at least 62 people were killed in 17 states in sectarian strife since 2014, mostly Muslims lynched by cow-protecting vigilante groups.

Media outlets reported cases of Hindu groups attacking Muslims accused of transporting cows for slaughtering or storing the meat of the animals, which are revered in orthodox Hinduism.

“Christians have similarly been targeted, the letter said, adding that 2017 has been one of the most traumatic years for Indian Christians in a decade.

There were 351 verified incidents of hate crimes against Christians recoded in the year, up from 147 in 2014, the letter added.

It also mentioned the killings of rationalists such as Govind Pansare and Narendra Dhabolkar, as well as journalist Gauri Lankesh, who were critical of Hindu fanaticism based on upper caste supremacy.

The activists wanted Antonio Guterres to raise such concerns with government representatives in order to help protect India’s democracy.

Separatists from the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir, who want to end Indian rule, also wrote to Guterres, accusing Indian security forces of violating the rights of Muslims in the state.

An amalgam of separatist organizations wrote to the UN chief seeking his intervention to find a solution to the seven decade-old India-Pakistan dispute over Kashmir, which both nation’s claim in full but now control only partially.

“We would like to urge you to advocate that New Delhi engage with us in Kashmir and with Pakistan, with whom India’s relations are also deteriorating by the day,” they said.

Sheikh Saqeeb, a political commentator based in the capital. New Delhi, told that the visit by Guterres to India, his first, seemed to have been counter-productive for the government.

Though the UN chief would not act immediately on issues raised with him, his presence had helped to expose government wrongdoing internationally, Saqeeb said.

Praeen Mishra, a Mumbai based rights activist, said the visit had drawn attention to India’s loss of rights and protections, including though a lack of concerted action against extremist vigilantes.

Source: UCAN

Bishop Mulakkal refused bail on rape charge

“The court finds no reason to conclude at this stage, at least prima facie, that the allegations levelled by the nun are false and frivolous,”

Bishop Franco Mulakkal, who denies raping nun, faces new charges of trying to bribe witnesses.

Bishop Franco Mulakkal (File photo)

Kochi:  A state court in southern India has denied bail to a Catholic bishop accused of raping a nun on grounds that his release from jail may hamper investigations as he could influence witnesses.

The High Court of Kerala on Oct. 3 said releasing Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jalandhar would not help the investigation or delivering justice in an “efficient, smooth and fair” manner.

“The court finds no reason to conclude at this stage, at least prima facie, that the allegations levelled by the nun are false and frivolous,” the court order said.

It also said that the accused could use his high-profile position to influence witnesses, who are mainly members of the nun’s congregation that functions under the bishop.

The Vatican removed Bishop Mulakkal from the administrative responsibilities of his diocese on Sept. 19.

Kerala police arrested him on Sept. 21 after the 48-year-old nun complained to police on July 28 that the bishop raped her 13 times between 2014 and 2016. The nun belongs to Missionaries of Jesus, a diocesan congregation.

Bishop Mulakkal has denied the charges. Soon after the police complaint was filed, he told that the case was fabricated to take revenge on him after he initiated disciplinary action against the nun for her violations of religious vows including obedience and chastity.

Lawyer Vijay Bhanu, who represented Bishop Mulakkal in court, told that the rejection of bail was a setback for the bishop. He claimed further detention of his client was not necessary as he had been questioned for several hours in the past month before and after his arrest.

Lawyers told the court that three new cases had been filed in connection with alleged attempts by the accused to buy witnesses’ silence.

The bishop is accused of offering land, buildings and money through the mediation of a Catholic priest. He is also charged with offering a bribe to the nun’s brother.

Family members of the nun said she had been disowned by the diocese and her congregation after filing the police complaint. They say she sought civil means to seek justice after church officials including the Vatican had ignored her complaint for almost a year.

“So far, no senior members of the church have visited the nun,” Father Sebastian Pallasserry, a brother of the nun and a priest in Jalandhar Diocese, told Her congregation has also abandoned her, he said.

Activists of Save our Sisters Action Council, which supported a street protest by five nuns demanding the arrest of the bishop, are calling for a speedy trial.

“We are closely monitoring the case to decide our future course of action,” said Shaju Jose, who participated in a protest that gained considerable public attention and led to the arrest of the bishop.

Source: UCAN

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