Monday, February 22, 2010

Churches in Punjab burnt over poster controversy

Email from Bishop Samantroy, CNI

Following the protests by Christians against display of Jesus Christ holding a cigarette and a beer can in Shillong , the Epiphany Church in Batala,  has been attacked by some religious fundamentalists.

It was one of the most beautiful historic churches built in Mughal style in 1893. The lock was broken open and the church was vandalized. The altar, pulpit and beautifully carved wooden furniture are burned down.

This is the first incident of such kind in the region of Punjab. 

Christian leaders are meeting to discuss the matter and to plan actions to be taken.

Christians in the whole region are extremely hurt and agitated over this incident.

Kindly pray for the leaders that right decisions can be made and that peace and solidarity may be restored.

jesus with ciggaratte

Objectionable Jesus poster sparks violence, curfew

An indefinite curfew is imposed in the Punjab town of Batala on Saturday after tension prevailed following the publication of a poster depicting Jesus Christ in an objectionable manner. Clashes also broke out as some members of the Christian community forced shopkeepers to down shutters.

The curfew was imposed after members of the Christian community came to know about the poster, depicting Jesus Christ holding a beer can in one hand and what appeared to be either a cigarette or a chicken leg in the other.

They started gathering in the town and forced the shopkeepers to close their shops, leading to clashes. The police intervened when they tried to burn a few buildings.

Batala, 40 km from Amritsar, has a sizeable Christian population and several leading schools and other institutions have been run by the community for the past several decades.

The curfew will continue till further orders, officials said here.

Punjab police chief P.S. Gill said a case had been registered against the printer of the objectionable poster.

"The printing press in which the controversial poster was printed had been sealed and a case has been registered against the accused at the police station in Jalandhar's Division No. 4.

"Additional forces have been sent to sensitive areas to restore the confidence of the people," Gill said in Chandigarh, 250 km from here.

Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, who is also the state home minister, condemned the act and said no one would be allowed to disturb the peace of the state.

Pictures of Jesus Christ holding a cigarette in one hand and a beer can in the other in a book for primary classes triggered a row in Meghalaya Friday. The objectionable pictures were found in the cursive writing exercise books at a school in Shillong.

The Catholic Church in India has banned in all its member schools New Delhi-based Skyline Publications for printing the pictures in class 1 cursive writing books.

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Dealt with Iron Hand

Reacting to the acts of violence in Batala over the publication of a “sacrilegious” poster of Jesus Christ, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today said the SAD-BJP government would not allow anyone in the state to disrespect any religion and take the law into their hands.

“Some forces are out to disturb communal harmony and peace in the state in a calculated manner. But the government is committed to maintaining peace at any cost,” said Badal, who was in the city for the foundation stone laying ceremony of Government College, Ghuddha. on Sunday. “Such forces will be dealt with an iron hand. The people of Punjab should also oppose such forces that emerge as a threat to peace in the state,” the CM added.

Badal said one person had been rounded up by the police in connection with the photo controversy and a probe is being conducted into whether the incident was a planned conspiracy. In his speech, Badal accused the Congress of engineering “such incidents which posed a threat to peace in the state”.

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Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Church attacks: Cop deposes, advocates spar

BANGALORE: After indicting the Sri Rama Sene and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad for the church attacks in the state in its interim report, the Justice BK Somasekhar Commission on Monday witnessed an exchange of heated arguments among the advocates as a police witness deposed.

Advocates appearing for the Hindu bodies objected to questions raised by HNM Prasad, the advocate appearing for Christian memorialists while cross-examining Raghukumar, sub-inspector of Arsikere police station, Davanagere.

Narayana Reddy, an advocate defending police and Madhusudhan Adiga, an advocate representing the Hindu organisations expressed displeasure towards the commission for not allowing them to intervene as Raghukumar was questioned.

During the questioning by Jagadeesh, an advocate representing a Christian organisation, Raghukumar admitted accepting complaints from members of the Hindu Jagaran Vedike against Pastor Rajshekar and Shanthamma, who were preaching Christianity at their homes in Uchangi Durga in Arsikere.

However, when Madhusudhan Adiga questioned him, Raghukumar denied the complainant Deepak Karnade belonging to Hindu Jagaran Vedike. Meanwhile, TS Vasanth Kumar Bhawani, president of Sri Rama Sene, Bangalore had filed the application before the commission seeking an interim report as it had implicated the organisation in the church attacks.

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Monday, February 08, 2010

Christian arrested in Karnataka on false charges

A Christian was arrested on alleged charges of forced conversion in Puttur Taluka, Karnataka.

Harish, 35 years from Mardala Village, Puttur, Karnataka was reportedly returning home from a friend’s house after prayer on February, 7, 2010 at about 4:30 pm, when he was arrested. His wife Lakhsmi, 28 years, and their 2 month old child was also detained by the police for 5 hours on the pretext of investigation.

Harish has been charged undersections 149, 295, and 295A of the Indian Penal Code. He was produced before the Puttur Magistrate on the same night and was sent to Mangalore jail.

The complainant has been identified as one Sekhar, who is said to be the local Bajrang Dal leader.

BJP leaders question EU team visit to Kandhamal

Bhubaneshwar, Feb. 7 (ANI): Elders and leaders of various tribes in Orissa's Kandhamal District have voiced suspicious about a European Union (EU) delegation visiting their region saying it would hamper peace and re-ignite violence.

The 11-member EU delegation visited Kandhamal region on Wednesday.

The delegation held discussions with Orissa Government officials Christian leaders and human rights activists in Bhubaneswar.
Addressing the media here, the tribal leaders recalled that Kandhamal was rocked by communal violence in mid-2008, sparked off by the murder of a senior Hindu leader.
Consequently, the area witnessed large-scale killings. Hundreds of families were forced to flee to safer locations.
On this score, the tribal leaders alleged that the EU team's one-day stay at Kandhamal has started creating ripples.
"They have met a particular community and interacted with them. They also conducted a secret meeting. By doing this, we are predicting that Kandhamal will again become volatile. They have already sown the seeds of conflict between different faiths in the area," claimed Karendra Majhi, a tribal leader and BJP MLA.
The EU delegation was supposed to visit the area to assess socio-economic cultural development after riots.
However, elders in Kandhamal contend that the delegation met people of only one community behind closed doors which raised many eyebrows.
"EUs delegation from eleven countries came to review the socio-economic development of the society after the riots. But from their programme it seems that their visit is communal. They are trying to influence the authorities, police department and judiciary,"noted Laxmikanta Das, General Secretary, Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram.
"This is dangerous for the internal security of the region and we are completely against this. The state government has knowingly supported them, which is highly condemnable," he added. (ANI)

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Saturday, February 06, 2010

1 more church vandalized in Karnataka

UNI, Friday, 05 February 2010

Mandya : Miscreants attack on churches continue with one more church in Malavalli Taluk in the district desecrated in the early hours of today.
The incident was second in just 10 days after the attack on holy family church at Hinakal on the outskirts of Mysore City and came within days after Justice B K Somasekhar Commission submitted its interim report on attacks on churches or places of worship.
Police said a group of unidentified men gained entry into the 60-year-old St Mathias Church's and vandalised the holy Tabernacle where the church authorities preserve Eucharist (Body of Christ).
The miscreants also made away with precious Chalice and 10 silk sarees kept in two cupboards. However, the statue of St Mathias and the Holy Cross remained untouched.
Mr Jeevan Kumar Gaonkar, IGP (Southern Range), who visited the spot, told mediapersons that it was too early to comment whether it was an act of deliberate desecration or a burglary attempt was made.
''Taking into consideration the way miscreants have vandalised the property of church, it gives an impression of burglary.
''But police would investigate all angles. Especially, with controversies over church attacks being largely debated, it is possible the attackers might give it a colour of burglary to escape from larger crime of desecration.''

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EU delegation meets victims of Kandhamal violence

A European Union team was given a rousing welcome here on Thursday by those affected by anti-Christian violence in August 2008.

PTI Members of a Europian delegation listening to the grievances of riot victims at Nandagiri resettlement camp in Kandhamal district on Thursday.

The victims showered petals on the visiting delegates at the rehabilitation camp at Nandagiri in the G. Udaigiri area. Many in the camp danced to drumbeats and several shook hands with the11-member team.

The camp has 55 families living in tents. They did not want to return to their native village, Betikala, a few km away, for fear of attacks by the majority community.

The administration, in association with the Believers’ Church, is building homes for them.

Money provided by the Centre, the State government and the church as compensation was being used for the purpose.

Inmates happy

Interacting with the team members, the camp residents said they were happy with whatever the administration had done to rehabilitate them.

They, however, sought the intervention of the team to ensure work for them and livelihood support. Many of them demanded opening of a school and a prayer hall near the colony.

“We suffered for our religion. We should be provided a prayer house,” Sabita Nayak told the team in the presence of local people and journalists.

The church and houses in their village were damaged and burnt down in the violence that followed the killing of Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Swami Lakshmanananda on August 23, 2008.

There was no opposition to the EU team’s visit to the district by activists of any organisation.

A group of Bajrang Dal activists staged a protest when the team arrived at Bhubaneswar on Tuesday evening.

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Friday, February 05, 2010

Rehabilitation is nowhere near completion

Prafulla Das

KANDHAMAL: The administration, the Sal trees in the hills, vast stretches of barren fields and nondescript hamlets of this Orissa district give an impression that everything is alright with the people living here. But the reality on the ground is different.

A visit to some villages where Christian families were attacked in the aftermath of the killing of VHP leader Lakshmanananda Saraswati showed that rehabilitation of the riot-hit population was nowhere near completion.

“I am still not able to return to my village. I have filed a case against those who burnt down our house. Those from the Hindu community have put up an impossible condition for my return. They demand that I bring along with me the two youths who had been sentenced to five years’ imprisonment for their involvement in my case,” says Subas Digal.

Digal (32), who belongs to Padhanpada village, is now living in a rented house at Tengedapathar village near Tikabali, and maintains his family by working on daily wages.

“Of the eight Christian families in our village, only one family has returned so far. The others are living in different places or distant towns outside the district,” Digal says.

Although there has been no communal clash in the district in the recent past, except for a small conflict between the members of the two communities on the eve of the EU team’s visit, many affected families are still living in relief camps away from their villages.

The process of payment of compensation is still incomplete.

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BJP criticizes Somashekhara for going public

BANGALORE: State BJP president KS Eshwarappa on Thursday took strong objections to former Justice BK Somashekhara making his interim report on church attacks public.

No head of a commission in the past has committed such a mistake and Justice Somashekhara should publicly accept his mistake, Eshwarappa demanded, while asking political parties including Congress and JD(S), to condemn the act of Justice Somashekhara.

Eshwarappa also pointed out that the report had nowhere held any specific organisation responsible for the attacks as it was being reported in the media. He also accused the Congress and the JD(S) of using the report as a weapon against the government.

To a question, he said that maintaining communal harmony in the state had been the prime focus of the BJP government and it would remain so in the future also.

MLA apologises

Gulbarga South MLA Chandrashekhar Patil Revoor who had publicly raised his voice against Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa during a function in Gulbarga recently, apologised for his behaviour on Thursday.

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Wednesday, February 03, 2010

AICC press release on EU visit



Protest against hounding of G Udaigiri refugees as Kandhamal Administration cleans up district on eve of European Delegation Visit; government must give time frame for rehab, employment of all victims Kandhamal-Bhubaneswar, 3 February 2010.

All India Christian Council Secretary General Dr John Dayal, who is also a member of the National Integration Council, has expressed his deep distress and anguish at the hounding of and forcible evacuations of Christian refugees living in shanties in G Udaigiri in a cosmetic operation on the eve of the visit of the European delegation which will go to the district on 4th and 5th February 2010.

In letters to the EU delegation, as also to the State government and national human rights and minorities commissions, Dr Dayal narrated the plight of the 91 members of 21 families of 11 villages now being forced to live under plastic sheets along the road in the New Hatu-Pada [weekly marketplace] of G Udaigiri town, just outside the town.

The families are originally refugees from the villages of Killaka, Kutuluma, Rotingia-Porakia, Kiramaha, Dokadia, G-Mangia, Ratingia, Dhangarama, Lorangia, Dakapala, Rudiangia, in Raikia and other blocks. The group includes 11 married women, three widows, and an old man with fracture of the hips and thighs, and two infants who were born in the camp.

The families said they had to flee their villages in the first wave of violence on 25-26 August 2008, and were out up in the Habaika High school refugee camp run by the government. After some months, as the government arbitrarily started closing down the formal refugee camps, they were dispersed from Habaika and came to stay in the cemented platforms and structures of the New Hato Pada market just outside the G Udaigiri township. The men folk found casual work as labour in the shops and fields nearby as they were not being given any aid by the government, or indeed by any other official or voluntary agency. They had been abandoned to their fate.

They were constantly harassed by the market authorities, but allowed to stay on after their daily dose of threats and abuses. They could not go back to their villages where they had been threatened all these months with the village leaders insisting they would be allowed only if they converted to Hinduism.

Suddenly, when it was learnt that the EU delegation was coming, the Market Committee secretary, Jeevan Pattnaik, came with uniformed men, said he was going to lock up the pump of the bore well which provided them water, and told them to get out of the market. Barring the family of the man whose thighs are fractured and who cannot move at all, the other families fled the market and set up their shanties along the road, on the raised boundary, using plastic sheets as a roof to shield them from the winter.

Last night the Naib Tehsildar, the civil officer in charge of the G Udaigiri block, came to spot with a jeep of police accompanying him and asked the refugees to get out their shanties and move away. When they, and in particular the women, protested, he told them they could for the night come back to the market sheds, but to clear the road, as those were his orders. A blackout of the mobile phone system in Kandhamal which had lasted 48 hours prevented a faster implementation

of his orders as other officials had to be summoned from the Raikia town by sending a messenger. When I left the place at 10 pm, the refugees were still on the road in their shanties.

Dr Dayal said it was a matter of regret that a drive has been launched to ensure that visiting fact finding teams, and in particular the EU delegation, do not see the real magnitude of tragedy, and that it is continuing. Much worse, the inhuman trauma on the children, women and men who have been thrice displaced, has not even been taken into official consideration.

At this moment, there is no information if the authorities at all want to give land and rehabilitate this group of 91 human beings. The government has also not spoken of the rehabilitation of tens of thousands of refugees, or how it intends to see that the houses which were destroyed, are completed. Even with the help of the church, more than half of the 5,600 or so houses will still remain un-built, or incomplete. There is no information on employment of the victims and resuming the interrupted education of thousands of children. There are also over 270 families in Barakhama who were displaced in the December 2007 violence and are still to get land or house. The government must give a time frame for all this, Dr Dayal said.

The AICC has expressed the hope the authorities will take humanitarian action and settle the G. Udaigiri refugees. “We also hope the justice dispensation process will ensure just punishment for all those who are threatening this group with forcible conversion. The authorities must also take disciplinary action against the erring officials”, the press statement said.


John Dayal

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Interim report on Church attack out- Commission wants clarity and action

MANGALORE, February 1, 2010: Finally there is light at the end of the tunnel, the interim report on attacks on Church and Christian Community in Mangalore in 2008 which was released here today has made several recommendations that may pave the way to a better management of communal and religious milieu in the district in particular and the region in general. The report of Justice B.K. Somashekar committee inquiring into the attacks on Churches, monasteries, convents and other prayer houses in September 2008 has been released today in a simple function attended by the press and few officials from the home ministry, police and the Deputy commissioner of Dakshina Kannada.
The report which is as voluminous as 500 pages of hard text was handed over to the Additional Chief Secretary for the Home minister Mr. Abhijit Das Gupta by the Chairman of the Commission Justice B.K. Somashekar.  In the report Justice Somashkar has made 20 recommendations and many of them were directions given to the government to withdraw all criminal cases investigated or charge sheeted against all persons or institutions for attacks to give that healing touch to the episode.
The commission has directed the government to take definite action unscrupulous religious organizations that carries out campaigns against other religions. "They should be banned as per law existing, to be legislated with the serious consequences of forfeiting assets to the government free from all encumbrances" he has advised. The cut off date for such an action should be 31st December 2008.
Justice Somashekar has also recommended that "All materials in any form including the press and media using abusive or insulting expressions either direct or with innuendoes touching the religious interests should be banned."

The report has suggested stringent action against those who film, televise and play offending religious sentiments. The recommendations has also suggested that the "government should enlarge the scope of Chapter of 15, specially sections 295, 295-A and 298 of the Indian Penal Code with stringent sentences of minimum period of punishment, with no bail and no right of appeal in addition to disqualification to contest in any election or to hold any post or office in any status.
Mr. Somashekar has stressed on the constitution of Commission of Religions. He has stated that the fundamental rights enshrined in the constitution under the Article 25 should be the only criterion for this commission. This commission should represent all religions through their heads and a registrar of religions to execute the policies of the commission through the agencies of the government with its own regulations and decisions that binds the government.  He said "this measure will ensure protection and privileges to genuine members of a religious minority and eliminate fraudulent methods of misusing a religious tag for selfish purposes, detrimental to the religious interests of the country within the constitutional expectations. He also recommended that the government may conduct a census of religions and their institutions through the commission.
Other recommendations included, passing a legislation that will prevent atrocities on individuals on religious basis, religious harmony programmes to be conducted at village levels, claims of compensations to be cleared expeditiously by a competent authorities in the case of loss of life, property and material loss. The compensation should be cleared within one month of the reported loss. The report has also recommended "least policing or no policing." All religious matters has to be handled with care and compassion by taking the religious leaders or heads into confidence. In the course of the report Justice Somashekar has outlined various issues like the police excess, inadequate compensation, politicization of religions, using religious sentiments for political gains and has asked the government to constitute a "Commission of Religions" and a "Task Force" to take forward the recommendations of the commission.
According to the synopsis of the report there were no attacks in 13 districts including Bidar, Bijapur, Chamarajanagar, Gadag, Gulburga, Hassan, Haveri, Koppal, Mandya, Raichur, Ramanagaram, Tumkur and Uttara Kannada as per the report.

A total of 8 petitions have been filed from four districts- Balgakot, Chitradurga, Shimoga and Dharwad and according to the commission they did not conform to the reference of the commission.

In district like Bangalore rural, Belgaum, Kodagu, there were report of incidents but they were not cases of attack on the Churches or the places of worship. They were closed and compounded in Criminal cases as a private dispute. There were a total of 6 petitions in these districts.

There were a total of 55 petitions in Bangalore urban and Bangalore rural some of them were alleged attacks and some of them were true attacks these attacks have been categorized under minimum, substantial and grievous. Dakshina Kannada had maximum numbers of petitions with 554, followed by Davanagere 238, Udupi 100, Chikmagalur 27 petitions Chikkaballapur 7, Bellary 3, and Dharwad 2.

Christians want justice- Meet Commission Chairman

MANGALORE: The representatives of the Christian communities in the city have met Justice B.K. Somashekar and have appealed to him to protect them from the rabid Hindutva organisations who open attacks on the peace loving Christian community. They even gave a memorandum to him. Following is the text of the memorandum.

With great disillusionment we are making this representation regarding the treatment being meted out to the members of our community in our district and in spite of several representations and requests we are being repeatedly targeted and our religious places are vandalized by some hardcore fundamentalists without fear of any punishment, said the memorandum.

Sir, you are well aware about the preplanned and premeditated attacks on our churches on 14.09.2008 and 15.09.2008 and the backlash following the attacks. There afterwards it was but natural for the members of our community to be on the defensive and feel prejudiced. There after repeatedly our churches and institutions are being targeted on one pretext or the other. Though the government has been assuring that the miscreants will be taken to task and necessary actions will be taken against them, we are still waiting to get justice and we still are clutching to the hope that justice will be done.

Given the fact that our community members are still reeling from the aftermath of the unfortunate and undemocratic attacks on our churches in the District on 14.09.2008, such incidents only are rekindling the feeling of bitterness and anguish lying dormant in the heart of the members of our community. Further in view of the unfortunate incidents that followed the attacks and in view of the fact that there was great loss and damage to life and property following the attacks; it is but natural for us to become wary and defensive. That attacks have made us realize how vulnerable we are in our own land in the hands of few fundamentalists. You would definitely concede that if it were not for the restraint exercised by the members of our community following the attacks, story would be altogether different then. But we still stand by our policy of peace and brotherhood and take great pride and privilege of being citizens of our country. 

That recently when we came to know about the premeditated attacks being made to our churches and religious institutions in Mysore and Bhatkal solely with an intention to create communal discord by targeting the minority community we were constrained to seek protection to our lives and properties in the District by making representation to the Deputy commissioner and Commissioner of Police. This appeared even in the all the Newspapers.
We do not want any such incidents to occur since it will leave a trail of violence and destruction which we want to avoid at any costs. Our religious feelings have been trampled once again, we were made to feel like outsiders in our own land and we have not yet come out of its shock. We will not be able to withstand such humiliation and disgrace once more. Hence before any such incidents happen we need to be protected and proper precautionary and preventive measures needs to be taken to prevent any such attacks being carried out, they said in the memorandum.

Hence we kindly request you to direct the Government and the administration authorities and the police authorities to provide us with immediate proper protection for our various religious, charitable, medical and educational institutions and also to the entire Christian community at large and also to apprehend the people behind the attack for which we will be thankful to your good selves. Right to practice and propagate any religion is a fundamental right and state is duty bound to give protection in this regard as held by the Supreme Court. Therefore the Government and the District administrative authorities shall discharge their constitutional obligations and prevent such untoward incidents at least here afterwards. Kindly consider our humble request.

Justice Somashekar appealed them to exercise restraint and he will see to that the culprits are brought to book.

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Monday, February 01, 2010

VHP says EU delegation's visit to Orissa's Kandhamal would trigger fresh tension

Report by Orissadiary correspondent; Bhubaneswar: Viswa Hindu Parishad (VHP)  on Sunday said the tour of European Union delegation to Kandhamal district would trigger fresh tension in the district and demanding immediate withdrawal of permission to the diplomatic delegation from European Union to visit Kandhamal district.

VHP State General Secretary Gouri Prasad Brahma told here the media persons that the proposed visit of the European Union delegation should be cancelled by the state government and to withdraw the permission granted for the purpose .He expressed that peace had returned to the tribal dominated district after prolonged violence following the murder of Swami Laxmanananda Swaraswati.  The visit of European Union delegation would only spark off fresh tension . It  is the responsibility of our government to deal with the problem .There is no business of the Outsiders in the internal matter of the state.

It is to mention here that a 10-member Diplomatic delegation from the European Union is likely to visit Orissa on 2nd February, 2010. They will stay in Orissa up to 5th February. They will visit Kandhamal district to observe the present situation .They will discuss with the Chief Secretary and Home Secretary before their visit to Kandhamal district. They will also discuss with Ark Bishop Rafel Chinath and the leaders of Khristian Organisons . They are visiting Orissa under the leadership of Political Advisor of Delhi European Union Raphel Minat. The state government has allowed the diplomats to visit the communally fragile district .Besides meeting the people, the diplomats would hold discussions with the district administration. The district police would provide security to them. Though diplomats of five European countries had visited the state last November, they were not allowed by the state government to visit Kandhamal district.

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