Catholic Union: states should not erode national secular ethos
Statement, All India Catholic Union
Milli Gazette Online
Following is a statement issued by the All India Catholic Union after the meeting of the Catholic Union Working committee in Hyderabad on 8 May 2006 which demanded security, economic development for Christians in India
Hyderabad: The All India Catholic Union has demanded that Central and State governments in India take urgent and effective steps to ensure the security of the Christian community, its churches and religious personnel, and to ensure full opportunities for its economic and social development, especially among the Dalit, rural and tribal areas.
The Catholic Union's working committee in its two day session in Hyderabad noted with great anxiety the rapid erosion in security of the community during 2005 and 2006, after a brief interval of peace and tranquility when the Congress-led UPA replaced the NDA government of the BJP in 2004.
Dr John Dayal, Catholic Union President and Member of the Government of India's National integration Council, presided over the Working committee meeting. The meeting was hosted by the Catholic Association of Hyderabad led by its president Mr. Martin and AICU State president Advocate James Sylvester.
In its final statement, the AICU working committee noted that the situation had reached alarming proportions in states ruled by the BJP and its allies, especially Rajasthan, Gujarat, Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. Even other states such as Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and even Andhra were not free of some violence.
In Rajasthan and Gujarat particularly, the Catholic Union told Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in a letter, it seemed that the state government was functioning on laws that had nothing to do with the Constitution of India. Even the police and the lower judiciary were playing to the tune of the BJP masters in Jaipur and Gandhinagar.
The Union said the Central government can, if it so wants, ensure that errant States do not enforce bigoted regulations or discriminate on grounds of religion as if they were not bound by the niceties of the country's historic secular ethos and its international commitments. A decline in the sense of confidence and security of weak religious and other minorities does take away from what an 8 or 10 per cent annual economic growth seeks to build.
The Catholic Union decided to join other Christian apex organisations in challenging in the courts the so called Freedom of Religion bill which had been passed in unholy haste by the Rajasthan government in a single-minded pursuit of a communal agenda. The banning of books by Rajasthan and the full participation of the police in prosecuting people on concocted charges seemed as the state now had a "religious police" on the lines of the religious totalitarian regimes.
The Union also noted with alarm the naked display of armed might by the RSS in Jhansi in Uttar Pradesh even as people in many parts were participating in democratic elections to State assemblies, has traumatised minorities far and away. The entire nation saw on live Television the private army of the RSS boastfully marches through the city with guns in their hands - many of them modern weapons and some muskets which exist in large numbers in both rural and urban India. The commanders of this private army left no one in any doubt why they had graduated from the wooden lathis or staves on to modern automatic weapons.
Equally bizarre and violent in impact, though differently, was the Gujarat government's annexation of the Leprosarium in Ahmadabad, the sacking of the half a dozen Catholic Religious Sisters, or Nuns, who were in charge, and their final ejection from the Ave Maria Convent in the institute which had been their home for Sixty years.
The Union urged the Prime Minister that "the time has come for a serious look at this pattern of hate against Christians. This is not the average communal riot or victimization which sporadically bursts out, and then dies out. This is a sustained terror campaign against our community, even if each incident is separated from the next in space and time."
The working committee made the following demands from the Union government, the government of Andhra Pradesh and some other state governments towards the security and welfare of the community
1. The Union Government must consider comprehensive political and administrative measures under the Constitution that send out the correct signals to the guilty, and extend assurances to the victims. The Supreme Court also has a role in it and can direct states to take appropriate action.
2. Government must help expedite the Justice Misra Commission report on Christians of SC origin so that the issue can be brought to a conclusion also in the Supreme Court. The case could not be taken up on the last due date of 5 April. The Union condemns attempts by the lobby of senior bureaucrats to delay the report.
3. The AICU urges the Planning Commission, the new ministry for Minority Affairs end other departments to ensure equitable devolution of funds and opportunities to Christians, specially to the youth for self employment, and for rural areas and in the Tribal belt in central and north east India
4. Taking note of local issues in Andhra, the AICU urged the state government to speedily allot land for the relocation of poor Catholics displaced from military areas in Secunderabad.
5. Similarly, the state was urged to allot appropriate land sites in major cities and towns for graveyards where the community was facing a peculiar situation for want of appropriate places to bury their dead. Many church institutions were also under threat from communal elements or the building mafia and needed state protection.
6. The AICU urged the government to give adequate representation to qualified men and women from the community in local bodies and other organisations. It was a matter of concern that Christian had never been made chairmen of Minority commissions, not had adequate funds been allotted to nurture entrepreneurship among them.
The AICU also reviewed relationship between the church hierarchy and the laity. It called on the Bishops and priests to allow a greater role for the lay men and women in the Church from the parish to the diocesan level in keeping with modern trends in the church. These had been enshrined in the documents of the Second Vatican council forty years ago and had been repeated not only by the late Pope John Paul II, but also by his successor Pope Benedict.
The working committee congratulated the newly elected office bearers of the Catholic Association of Hyderabad and hoped that soon the remaining eleven dioceses of the state would have their own associations elected in a democratic process to protect the social, economic and political rights of the community.
Released to the press for publication by Adv James Sylvester, State President for Andhra Pradesh, (Mobile 9866302017) All India Catholic Union in behalf of Dr John Dayal, National President (firstname.lastname@example.org).