TODAY -

Letter to Mr Salman Khurshid, Minister for Minority Affairs
- All India Christian Council -

4th October 2011:



Dr. John Dayal
Member, National Integration Council
Government of India
Member, MoMA Working Group
on Empowerment of Minorities in 12th Five year Plan

Secretary General, All India Christian Council
Imm. Past National President, All India Catholic Union

505 Link Apartments, 18 IP Extn. Delhi 1100092
Land 011 22722262
Email: john(dot)dayal(at)gmail(dot)com

4th October 2011

Mr Salman Khurshid
Hon’ble the Minister for Minority Affairs
Government of India


Dear Minister

Greetings from the All India Christian Council.

Thank you for this opportunity to interact with you on issues concerning the Christian community in India. There is need for more such occasions so that the Union government keeps abreast of developments, specially in the States. Several states continue to witness inexcusable persecution of Christians, police involvement with fanatical and communal groups in attacks, specially on house churches and Small Christian Communities, and government interference in the running of educational and other institutions. Kandhamal remains a matter of national shame in the denial of justice, rehabilitation and reparations. The threatened eviction of Christians and the possible demolition of three churches in the Naga River colony in Imphal by the government to build a five star hotel is an example of the insensitivity of governments and bureaucracy towards our community.

Statistical data made available thanks to the recent exercise in the formulation of the 12th Five year Plan also reveals lacunae in scholarships and development schemes. We await a genuine study to assess the socio-economic conditions of Christians, specially in Tribal areas of central and west India, the ‘Cheris’ and Dalit Bastis and villages of South India and Punjab, of the fishermen and boatmen along the coast. There are also major issues relating to the large number of Dalit Christians, landless peasantry, agriculture labour and others in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, tribal Rajasthan districts, and Orissa, among others.

Tribal areas across the country seem to be special targets of some state governments which are egged on by the Hindutva Parivar, and even a bigoted bureaucracy. While in Jharkhand and Chhatisgarh, Tribals who have embraced Christianity are listed just as Christians and not as tribals, their counterparts in Orissa are harassed in other ways. In Rajasthan, the administration is more brutal, and Tribals are told they are no longer eligible for Scheduled Tribe benefits because they have embraced Christianity. This is being done in writing as official orders. We submit evidence for your consideration.

DEMANDS AND SUGGESTIONS:

In the light of the ground reality and our experiences, we present to you the following points and demands for your attention and urgent intervention. They include suggested inclusions in the 12th Plan, the urgent needs of the Kandhamal victims of the anti Christian pogrom of 2008, and issues concerning Dalits and Tribals.

1. COMMUNITY SURVEY AT THE HIGHEST LEVEL: Need for a Justice Rajindar Sachhar type committee to assess the socio economic situation of Christians in general and Dalit Christians in particular. This will also identify pockets of want and deprivation in tribal areas, the sea coast and among landless peasantry and agriculture labour.

2. SCHEDULED TRIBE CHRISTIANS: Inclusive policy for Tribals which takes care of thier heritage and inheritance, and forest and land issues, and Scheduled Tribes benefits irrespective of religion. [Annexure III shows Rajasthan government rejecting Land documents of Tribal Christians]

3. DALIT CHRISTIANS: The issue of restoration of Scheduled Caste rights to Dalit Christians – on the pattern of Dalit Buddhists and Sikhs – has been pending in the Supreme Court for want of affirmative response by the Union Government. We regret that the attitude of the Government, possibly under political pressure, has been very negative as it has been passing the buck from one National Commission to another despite a massive support from the National Commissions, most State governmetns and all political parties excluding the BJP. The Dalit Christians must be restored their rights as the Presidential Order of 1950 through its part three affectively denies freedom of faith to Dalits in general and persecutes those of Christians faith in particular. Without their Constitutional rights being restored, the Dalit Christians, who constitute perhaps more than 60 per cent of our community, are left out of the development net.

3. EQUAL OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION: As recommended in the Sachchar Committee report, there is urgent need for an Equal Opportunity Commission to give a sense of justice to all people and ensure their participation in all spheres of life, specially in matters of employment.

4. ENACTING THE COMMUNAL AND TARGETTED VIOLENCE PREVENTION BILL DRAFTED BY THE NAC: With appropriate amendments to ensure there is no erosion of the federal structure and to allay fears of the State governmetns, such a Bill alone can bring the sense of security to persecuted minorities, end hate campaigns and ensure Justice. The provisions of the Bill will also ensure adequate rehabilitation and relief, reparations and long term development. The Kandhamal, Orissa, situation cries out for such a law.

5. TASK FORCE FOR KANDHAMAL: Kandhamal is a blot on the national conscience. Three years after the pogrom against Christians, justice remains a distant dream. Of the 21 murder cases tried in the Fast Track courts, there has not been a single conviction for murder. In one case, there has been a conviction – but for abduction. There is an urgent need for a Centre-State Task Force for Kandhamal, Orissa. State authorities even now seem to be acting as accomplices of the Sangh Parivar.

For instance, despite assurances by the Collector on churches tahsildar of G Udayagiri asked the pastor of resettlement village Nandigiri not to continue with construction of Church. Mr Krisant Mallick, the pastor told us "The tahsildar threatened to put me in jail if any work is done on the church building; he told me that all those who work will be taken away to jail and the church building will be demolished. So we are frightened to complete the work.” This is the administration which is supposed to protect churches. Nandigiri is a piece of land where residents of Batticola village and others were resettled because their home villages would not allow them entry till they converted to Hinduism.

The Union Government may recall the violence in Kandhamal. Following the killing of a VHP leader, Lakshmananda Saraswati by Maoists, over 5,600 houses were burnt down, together with 395 or more churches and institutions. About a hundred people were killed, several women, including a Nun, were raped. More than 56,000 people of over 415 villages were rendered homeless. They escaped death by hiding in the forests for days, and living in government refugee camps for months. Till today, a third of the houses remain un-built.

A fourth of the refugees are still not back home, living in slums or in other states out of fear. Rehabilitation, relief and reparations are grossly insufficient, and have not reached all victims. The matter was raised in the recent meeting of the National Integration Council. There should be a separate package for the recovery and restoration.
[A separate note on Kandhamal is attached herewith.]

With warm regards
Dr John Dayal
Encls:
1. Demands for the 12th Five Year Plan
2. Kandhamal Update
3. Udaipur

ANNEXURE I

12TH FIVE YEAR PLAN: We have raised important issues in the Working Group on the Empowerment of the Minorities in its many meetings in the last three months. They consist of matters of security and recognition of pockets of impoverishment and underdevelopment among the Christian micro minority in India. The important points for the 12th Five Year Plan are listed here:

1. Collection and collation of Data about Christians through a Prime Minister appointed special committee on the pattern of the Sachchar committee for Muslims

2. Ensuring that all affirmative action under the Plan and other schemes is pro rata so no micro minority feels it is being discriminated against by the Union or State governmetns.

3. Pro-rata scholarships across the board from primary to doctoral studies. All eligible applicants must get a scholarship. There should be no cap on the numbers as it will be cruel for those not getting the needed scholarship because of some lottery system in operation.

4. The scholarship schemes may also cover technical, medical, and para medical courses including nursing training.

5. Reduction in qualifying criteria to pass marks, as existing infrastructure and standards of government schools are such that getting 50 per cent marks is impossible in most of the country.

6. Assistance for constructing both school-connected hostels and independent hostels to cater to tribal, rural and dalit Christians.

7. Grants for opening more minority schools and land at concessional rates for minority schools in urban and rural areas.

8. Further grants to minorities to train students for central and states services examinations and for other competitive engineering and medical examinations.

9. Grants to create a generation of entrepreneurs and self employed persons amongst the Christian community --including small sector industries, shops and commercial institutions which will also open employment for others.

10. Grants for Bible schools and seminaries on the pattern of assistance given to Sanskrit schools and madrasas.

11. Ensure space in and urban and rural habitations for graveyards and churches at concessional rates, free for graveyards.

12. Loans for boatmen and fishermen to buy sea faring and river boats, nets at zero interest.

13. Assist the church and laity in setting up NGOs to monitor, mentor and assist students in applying for and receiving scholarships and other assistance from the government under various public and special schemes as delivery and monitoring systems do not exist for the community at present.

14. Treat the family as a unit in NREGA, Right to Food, midday day means in schools as it is immoral to take care of one individual in the family and ignore the rest of the family. It is also impracticable.

15. Constant consultation with the Community, which is too small to be a vote bank to be politically significant, but which ahs made a signal contribution in nation-building.

ANNEXURE II

AN UPDATE ON KANDHAMAL, ORISSA


The following is a snapshot of the Kandhamal situation on 1 October 2011, over three years after the violence that erupted on 24th August 2008:

i. Of the more than 5,600 houses destroyed, only 3100 or so are built with additional support of church and NGOs, while another 2500 yet to be built. The Survey List of the Orissa Government for compensation for homes damaged during the Communal Violence 2008 is not accurate. The independent survey conducted by the Church found, for instance, that the names of 246 families were not included in the Government List.

ii. HOUSING: The Orissa government gave Rs 50,000 for fully damaged and Rs 20,000 for partially damaged houses. It was barely 50 per cent of the requirement. Later, the Centre sanctioned Rs 20,000 and Rs 10,000 respectively for the two categories. The Church had to intervene from its own resources to help rebuild the houses. But its resources are limited. The State government should rebuild all houses immediately as many people have been without a roof for three years. It does not appropriately compensate for the loss of the household assets.

iii. CHURCHES: The total number of churches demolished is 395. The compensation granted by the State towards rebuilding 230 Churches and Prayer halls is grossly inadequate as per cost estimate made by Civil Engineer and Architects is made by site visit of each damaged Church and Prayer Halls. As many as 23 Churches are not included in the list for compensation.

iv. PUBLIC INSTITUTIONS & NGOs: As many as 11 Public Institutions and NGOs which were looted and destroyed during the Violence by the Mob are not considered for compensation by the State government despites of the fact that Criminal complaints were registered and reorientations submitted to the Administration for compensation.

v. WIDOWS: Many widows have not been given any assistance as the state government does not acknowledge their husbands’’ death as a result of the violence. Apart from the monetary relief, there has been no effort at rehabilitating the widows and their families.

vi. LOAN REPAYMENTS: During the Communal Violence, 101 shops were destroyed. These families being displaced and rendered destitute are unable to repay the loans taken against the shops under the PMRY Loan Schemes. Out of these 101 shop-owners, 11 of them are already served Notice of Recovery by the banks under PMRY Loan Scheme (Prime Minister’s Rozgar Yojna).

vii. RELIEF AND REHABILITATION PACKAGE: Not many have received the Relief & Rehabilitation package, assistance for bicycles damaged @ Rs 2 Lakhs. There is no provision for ex-gratia payment for damaged, lost or looted household articles/ belongings.

viii. FAMILIES STILL LIVING IN CAMPS: There are 146 families still living in make-shift tents in Non Government Camps in 4 Blocks namely G. Udayagiri, Nuagaon, Raikia, and Tikabali. These families continue to live in make shift tents due to various reasons being; non-payment of Ex-gratia, slow process of Rehabilitation, social and economic boycott, threat of forcible conversion to Hinduism, threat to life.

ix. FAMILIES STILL LIVING OUTSIDE THEIR RESPECTIVE VILLAGE: It is estimated that approximately 10,000 victims are still living outside their respective villages in other districts of Orissa and migrated to States like Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat etc. unable to return due to threat to lives, social and economic boycott, demand that they withdraw criminal complaints and convert to Hinduism and forcible conversion. The total number of people requires official verification. On the verge of starvation, two young women from Kandhamal were trafficked and sold in Uttar Pradesh for Rs 52,000, but were fortunately rescued while there are cases of young women being rescued from far of Delhi brothels.

x. EDUCATION OF CHILDREN: A survey conducted by child rights NGO HAQ revealed severe impact on Children’s education. All lost an academic year. Those in secondary school missed the Board Examination. Many dropped out. Some boys landed up in the hotels while the girls worked as housemaids in the small cities of in Orissa. Hundreds left Kandhamal for other States like Gujarat, Kerala, and Andhra Pradesh looking for work. Surely these issues have assumed a gravity where the Central Government has to act.




* This Press Release was sent by John Dayal (All India Christian Council)
The sender can be contacted at john(dot)dayal(at)gmail(dot)com
This PR was webcasted on October 04 2011 .


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