Savitri Era of those who adore, Om Sri Aurobindo and The Mother.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Occupational hazard if one has to stand up for truth and justice

Q&A: A priest has to stand up for truth and justice
It is unusual for a priest to take on a state government. Cedric Prakash, a Jesuit priest based in Ahmedabad, believes that his duty is not limited to saying prayers for the faithful but also to speak up against violence and injustice. The French government bestowed on him its highest civilian honour and the National Commission for Minorities recently gave him the Minority Rights Award 2006 in honour of his commitment to human rights. He spoke to Humra Quraishi about the dangers of communalism:

What prompted you to speak out against the Gujarat government after the 2002 pogrom?

I did — and continue to do so — what I thought was the fundamental duty of any citizen: To defend the victim and to stand up for those who are at the receiving end even if the perpetrators happen to be powerful. I have not done anything extra-ordinary, only what was expected of me. It has been difficult of course. There have been all kinds of allegations against me, several threats and I have been kept constantly under surveillance. But I call all this an occupational hazard if one has to stand up for truth and justice.

Has the situation of minorities in
Gujarat improved?

The victims of the
Gujarat carnage are still fighting for minimum compensation and, in most cases, they have not received any justice. There are people in other parts of India who are genuinely concerned about what is happening in Gujarat. But, somehow, this has not evolved into a civil movement which is absolutely necessary to prevent the communalisation of the country and the continued erosion of our constitutional values.

You are a priest. Your critics could say that a priest's job is to be busy with prayer sessions and not get involved in political issues.

Yes, I am a Jesuit priest and I am very clear that the responsibility I am mandated with is to take a stand for truth, justice, compassion and peace. Unfortunately, the role of a priest has been stereotyped and even to a great
degree, compromised. Many of my critics will be very happy to see me confined to the four walls of a church. That is not what Jesus came for, that is not what He preached, that is not what He died for.

How do you perceive the role of 'secular' parties in fighting communalism in

The way most leaders of the so-called secular parties are behaving, vis-a-vis the communal situation in
Gujarat, is tragic. Their mindset is that if one takes a stand against the communalisation of Gujarat, he will be alienating the majority community of the state. I think most citizens are much wiser and, in the end, will vote for a party that is honest. POSTED BY C-INFO AT FRIDAY, DECEMBER 22, 2006. Interview with Cedric Prakash - about the dangers of communalism (The Times of India, 23 Dec, 2006)

Immediately after the findings of the Sachar Committee, Union minister for minority affairs A.R. Antulay declared that he not only agreed with the PM to grant a “fair” share to the minorities but that he was “for including Dalit Muslims and Christians in the reserved SC/ST category. By just changing their faith, their status, social and economic backwardness and the burden of being downtrodden for centuries does not change overnight.”
Another Congress leader Veerappa Moily joined in the chorus. Not to be left behind, especially given the forthcoming elections in UP, Mulayam Singh too is advocating the case of Muslim reservations. With an almost inaudible whisper, he and others are heard uttering the unutterable word ‘dalit Christians’, an otherwise forbidden term in political circles. All this is like manna from heaven for dalit Christians who have been fighting an almost losing battle for several decades to be recognised as dalits.
The Constitution allows neither the government nor indeed the courts to play hide and seek with the fundamental rights of dalit Christians. Yet in 1950, then president Rajendra Prasad, by presidential order, denied granting amenities to the dalits of other religions except Hindus. In 1956, however, reservation privileges were granted to the Sikh dalits by an amendment in the presidential order of 1950 and in 1990 the same was approved for Buddhist dalits. Earlier reservation to tribal Christians was given on the basis of their geographical location and not religion; and while tribals continue to enjoy their rights after converting to Christianity, the ‘dalits’ do not.
A PIL filed in 2005 by the Centre for Public Interest Litigation and others, challenging the constitutional validity of 1950 presidential order, is pending in the Supreme Court. In 2005 Prime Minister Manmohan Singh constituted the National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities under retired chief justice of India, Justice Ranganath Mishra. The Commission will advise the government on the identification of the socially and economically backward sections among the minorities. It will also suggest the necessary changes in the Constitution. The Commission is expected to submit its report next April.
Vincent M. Concessao, archbishop of Delhi and the president of the National United Christian Forum, in a recent media statement, has registered a strong protest “against government’s apathy towards dalit Christians”. He observed, “As the feast of Christmas is around, it would be truly a Christmas gift if the government could positively respond to the repeated appeal of dalit Christians for what is their due.”

'Don't do to Goa what rest of India has suffered' Wendell Rodricks, IE, 20 Dec 2006 

I settled in Colvale, Goa, in 1993, after a successful debut in design; having lived in many cities: Muscat, Istanbul, Los Angeles, New York, Lisbon, Paris. I come to Colvale for peace, creative inspiration and to prove that it was possible to exist in mainstream India despite living in a remote village in Goa. While everything went according to plan, I have suffered many moments of anguish as to how my beloved village has been selectively and systematically destroyed.
The government of Goa acquired the Covale plateau for developing an industrial site in 1993. Though villagers could not buy land at Rs 250 a square metre, the land was offered and sold to Binani Fibre Glass for 10 per cent of the prevailing rate. When the factory opened, it attracted a manpower force that is 95 per cent non-Goans. All promises for local employment proved to be an eyewash. Colvale was forced from rural to urban status. Old people suddenly got electricity, water and telephone bills that were so high that some cut their telephone lines.
With Binani came pollution. Colvalkars were shocked when coconut trees, mangoes, bananas and their own skin got black patches. I have one on my back as well.
The National Highway opened in 2000 and cut a wound in the heart of the village. Each day some animal or human is harmed or killed. It is heart-wrenching to see a calf licking the head of its mother cow, killed by a speeding truck. A young boy ran into his mother’s arms after school but a truck stopped the embrace by a metre. Buses and trucks throw out cartons of soft drink and junk food packs. No one can clear this nondegradable garbage.
The government wants growth. So do we. But where is the infrastructure? People have no parks, no roads, no water, no electricity, no medical facilities.
Goa is at the crossroads of her very existence. Her soul; her identity and her beauty is being mercilessly sold off, all for the petty gains of a petty few, in the guise of the monstrous, evasive and sinister ‘Goa regional plan 2011’.
We are set to witness an unprecedented social disaster if mega 5-star projects, townships, condominiums, golf courses, resorts, etc take root in our precious land. The regional plan that will cut forests, destroy the entire coastline of Goa and permanently destruct the reason why Goa is a tourist state. Let Goa not go the way of other Indian states burdened with badly planned urbanisation.
We hope the regional plan is scrapped. We are saddened and angry, at how our beautiful village Colvale was destroyed. We do not want this to happen to any other Goan village. We have suffered and been guinea pigs of a so-called progress. Do not let the rest of Goa suffer what we have endured. For the future of Goa and as a testimony that we were not silent witnesses to an atrocity, we need to protest and combat the evil forces that have permeated India’s golden state. The writer, a fashion designer, is based in Goa

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