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Hindu Savant Acharya Sushil Goswami Maharaj, Indore Shahr Qazi join Bishops in Memo to State Governor, CM

PRESS STATEMENT

BHOPAL, 20 FEBRUARY, 2018

 [The following press statement was issued at a press conference in the Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, by Mr. Lancy D Cunha, the National President of the All India Catholic Union, and Dr. John Dayal, Official Spokesman and former President. The 99-year-old AICU celebrates its 100 years in 2019. It held its Working Committee meeting in Indore this week, followed by an all-religion seminar on inter community peace and national harmony. The seminar was inaugurated by Acharya Sushil Goswami Maharaj, the noted scholar and ascetic, Indore Bishop Chacko Thottumarickal, and well known religious heads of the district. The all religion seminar was important in the context of the large number of incidents of violence against the Christian community in the country in 2017, and especially in the state of Madhya Pradesh. Acharya Sushil Goswami Maharaj, Bhopal Archbishop Leo Cornelio and Indore Bishop Chacko Thottumarickal, also addressed the Press Conference in Bhopal together with the AICU leaders in a rare gesture].

Alarmed at the very large number of incidents of violence against the Christian community in India in 2017, and especially in Madhya Pradesh, religious leaders of the Hindu, Muslim and other religions have come out strongly in support of the minority community, demanding that the government take strict and urgent action against the groups responsible for such mayhem.

 

Acharya Sushil Goswami and Indore Shahar Quazi Mohammad Ishrat Ali led a galaxy of religious leaders of Madhya Pradesh who spoke out against communal and extremist forces targeting the Christian and other minority groups. The occasion was a seminar organised by the 99-year-old All India Catholic Union in the city of Indore as part of its working committee meeting. Indore bishop Chacko Thottumarickal and Acharya Sushil later ratified a memorandum to be submitted to the State governor, chief minister and home minister, expressing concern that the state had seen 25 serious incidents of violence last year.

 

The memorandum listed the incidents which include detaining of young children in the pretext of curbing conversions, assault on individual and mall prayer meetings, the attack on a Carol singing group during the Christmas season, and the growing involvement of the police and officials at various levels in such actions.

 

The Catholic Union said while the state had not seen large scale mass violence, the assurances and promises of the Chief Minister, Mr. Shivraj Chouhan, had to be implemented at the grassroots with severe action. The black law called the Freedom of Religion Act was routinely misused as a shield to trouble the community. The law must be withdrawn for the state of Madhya Pradesh to lay claim that there is total freedom of religion in its region.

The Catholic Union has heard Central tourism minister Alphons Kannanatham saying that no Christian has been persecuted in the Modi regime. Ministers have their compulsions. He must answer his own conscience. The lynching of Muslims and Dalits in the name of the cow, are a shame for the nation. Religious minorities are being coerced, threatened and targeted by self-styled cultural-nationalists.

This does not augur well for the freedom of religion in India. The situation is aggravated by several recent steps taken by the government, including the enforcing of the NEET admission tests which deeply impact the future of minority students seeking admission in professional education institutions. The proposed National Education Policy continues as a threat with reports of rewriting curricula, and the corporatization of education.

The Catholic Union has consistently decried the growing misuse of religion, religious symbols and places in the political discourse.  Religious heads must educate their communities and the citizens large on strengthening the democratic traditions, including religious freedom and human rights, participation in the electoral. Religion must infuse Truth, Morality, Ethics, in the body politic, and not be divisive, incite violence or polarize people.

 

The Catholic union has also questioned the government on why Pope Francis was not invited to visit India during his south Asia tour in 2017.

As the largest and oldest movement of lay Christians in the country, the AICU is deeply concerned at the government’s failure to condemn and contain the threats to freedom of expression in the country. The ugly controversy over films and the open threats to kill the artistes and director of the period drama film Padmawati, writer Prof KanchaIailiah, and social media threats to activists Kavita Krishnan, Kavita Srivastava and others, reflect a speedy breakdown in the rule of law. We are shocked that elements of the ruling party are also issuing such threats.

The Catholic Union has been in the forefront of the rights of Dalits and Tribals, specially those professing the Christian faith. AICU has filed a Writ Petition in the Supreme court together with others demanding Scheduled Case rights for Dalits professing the Christian Faith. We hope the courts will take a decision at an early date as this impacts the civic and human rights of a large number of people in the community.

 

Released to the Media by the official Spokesman, Dr. John Dayal. He may be contact at

+91 9811021072 and john.dayal@gmail.com