Headmaster gets life term for Kandhamal violence *TN Budget: Nothing much for Minorities

Headmaster gets life term for Kandhamal violence

Orissa, March 27, 2012: An Odisha (formerly Orissa) court has sentenced a school headmaster to life imprisonment for murdering a cook during the 2008 anti-Christian violence in Kandhamal district of the state.

Additional Sessions Judge Sobhan Kumar Das of a fast-track court in Phulbani in the district on March 24 also sentenced Kartik Parmanika for 5 more years for burning the deceased’s house and arson.

He was also slapped a fine of 5,000 rupees (US$100).

This verdict comes against the backdrop of UN Special Rapporteur’s visit to India to prepare a report on extrajudicial or summary killings.

Paramanika, a headmaster of a primary government school, led a mob of fanatics on August 25, 2008 in Petapanga village in the district, the epicenter of the 2008 anti-Christian violence that killed more than 100 community members and left thousands homeless.

He killed Ramesh Digal, a Christian while he was fleeing with his family after his house was set on fire.

The deceased used to work in Paramanika’s school as a cook.

Digal’s brother had lodged a complaint against 45 people for their involvement in the murder but police charge sheeted only 36, said Manas Ranjan Singh, an advocate affiliated to Human Rights Law Network (HRLN) who is handling the case told ucanews.com.

He said there are still 34 people awaiting trial. Another accused Abhinav Pradhan has been convicted for house burning and arson in the case.

It may be noted that trial in the case is taking place in a phased manner as most of the accused are absconding.

“This is first time a person from outside Kandhamal district and an upper caste person has been convicted for murder in the anti-Christian violence,” Singh added.

He said that this verdict gives hope for those awaiting justice in other 30 cases.

Fr. Dibyasingh Parichha, head of the legal cell of Catholic Church in Kandhamal said, “We do appreciate the efforts of HRLN for securing life sentence for the accused. This is a heinous act as the murderer and victim worked in the same school.”

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Gujarat High Court restored the marriage license of a Christian

Gujarat High Court restored the marriage license of a Christian

Gujarat, March 27, 2012: The Gujarat High Court, in a significant judgment, restored the marriage license of a Christian, which had been revoked by the Narendra Modi government after they had invoked the Freedom of Religion Act 2003 to enforce the same. Justice S.R. Brahmbhatt’s order in the case will have wide ranging ramifications and will also serve as a precedent.

Many Christian activists have complained that that the Gujarat government was using the Freedom of Religion Act to prevent conversions arising out of inter-religious marriages. The state chapter of the All India Christian Council (aicc) assisted the petitioner, Subashchandra Parmar of Nadiad, Kheda District, in his legal battle against the order of the State of Gujarat, through its law secretary. The aicc welcomes Justice Brahmbhatt’s order since it implies that Christians can get married with persons of their choice, without faith restrictions.

The petitioner, Mr. Subashchandra Parmar, was appointed as Marriage Registrar in 1999 by the government of Gujarat as a licensee under the Indian Christian Marriage (ICM) Act 1872. In discharge of his duty, in 2009 he performed the marriage ceremony between a Christian, Mr. Pinakin Macwan and Ms. Vishrutiben Shukla, in the presence of Kailashben Shukla, the girl’s mother who signed the registrar as witness. Ms. Vishruti was married to the Christian having not changed her faith nor having converted to Christianity, as is permitted under Section 4 of the ICM Act.

After more than a year of the marriage being solemnized, in October 2010, Anilkumar Sukhla, the girl’s father, under rather mysterious circumstances, approached the government to declare the marriage as null and void, as the girl had not converted. He claimed this was required under the infamous Freedom of Religion Act 2003, which seeks to “regulate” conversions. In 2011, the government not only cancelled Subashchandra Parmar’s license to conduct marriages, through M. J. Parashar, the deputy law secretary’s order, but also launched criminal proceedings against him.

Mr. Samson Christian, aicc national secretary said “The draconian anti-conversion law in Gujarat is even more persecuting, compared to the other six states, where such legislation curbing religious liberty, have been passed. Unlike in other states, in Gujarat, under the Freedom of Religion Act 2003, one has to give a month’s notice and seek permission to convert from one faith to another. Our experience has shown that the moment an application is made, Hindutva forces come down heavily on the person and the family concerned, forcing them to reconsider their decision or face the consequences.” He pointed out that in other states, mere intimation of conversion was sufficient, while in Gujarat, this was not so.

In the case where Mr. Subashchandra Parmar solemnized the marriage, it was under the ICM Act, where it is possible for one to get married without converting and hence the petition challenged the government order and demanded for the restoration of the marriage registrar’s license. Justice Brahmbhatt, in his order, noted that the government should have made proper investigations before cancelling the license. There was also no proof that Ms. Vishrutiben Shukla was converted against her will. Further, the judge noted that the show cause notice by the government was without jurisdiction and also without proper application of mind by the concerned authority. “The petitioner was unnecessarily compelled to come to the court, as cancelling his license is not justified at all,” Justice Brahmbhatt added.

Finally, in the judgment in favour of Mr. Subashchandra Parmar, the judge quashed the government order and set it aside; reviving the license and no cost to the petitioner was awarded. Mr. Samson Christian of the aicc said that the NGO would now move for quashing the FIR filed against the petitioner in the criminal case, which is now pending. The aicc would also work towards getting the month’s notice removed from the Freedom of Religion Act and is considering legal opinion in the matter.

Where’s The Vatican in Italy’s Economic Crisis?

Has the Italian Catholic Church’s historic get-out of taxes through loopholes played a role in Italy’s economic problems?

Australia’s ABC visited and found the Church massively avoiding property taxes. Not only was there a local ‘offshore,’ tax-free base to funnel funds through — the Vatican City micro-state — but they found properties claiming to be for humble nuns and priests, thus avoiding tax through the loophole, while actually accommodating paying guests.

One estimate puts just this property tax avoidance at €2.2 billion (US $2.9 billion) every year.

But Italian governments have been loathe to pursue lost tax with the Church for obvious reasons. Shortly after the Australian journalist interviewed a minister from the new technocratic government which replaced Berlusconi and asked about the Church, and got evasive answers, a PR minder rang them asking why Australia was even interested in the Church.

What’s possibly worse is that it is suggested that the well-known avoidance of tax by the ‘Papa’ Church has encouraged ordinary Italians to do it too.

Massive tax avoidance is cited as one of the reasons for economic problems in several European countries, particularly Greece and Italy.

Not only that, but Church-run business, such as those in tourism, one of Italy’s biggest earners, have an unfair advantage over other businesses. There are even non-tax paying tourist buses based in the Vatican but running tours around Rome.

Stefano Livadiotti spent 18 months trying to pierce the veil of Vatican secrecy. He listened to the journalist interview Italy’s senior priest, Cardinal Angelo Bagnaso, who denied the Church has been dodging taxes, and responded:

As often happens the President of the Bishop’s Conference isn’t telling the truth. He says there’s no problem with paying tax when there’s a commercial activity, as the law stipulates – but there is a problem, because according to estimates of the councils 95% of the taxes that should be paid by the Church and collected by the councils, are never actually paid.

In its defense, the Church points to its charity work, but the show points out that this is also funded by the state, who have “effectively outsourced its social welfare programs to the Church.”

But for all the Church does for the state, it gets a lot more back. Point eight per cent of all income tax collected goes to charity and ninety per cent of that ends up in the Catholic Church. So even in the midst of this economic crisis, Italian taxpayers are still giving the Church more than a billion Euros a year, more than enough to pay the wages of every priest and Church official in the country. So much for separation of Church and State.

Just after the show was broadcast, Italy’s government did announce that, after European Union pressure, it was closing loopholes.

Mario Staderini, the leader of the Italian Radicals party, said that public outcry had “managed to break down – a little bit – the wall protecting the Church.”

But a government study said that closing the loophole will bring in just €100m — nothing like the independent estimates — and the Church was quick to repeat that number.

What was the simple plea of two ordinary, middle-class, salaried Italians paying full-whack on tax to the ABC? “Give Caesar what belongs to Caesar and God the things that are God’s.”

“Arrest Ankit Garg, Release Soni Sori”

“Arrest Ankit Garg, Release Soni Sori”

“Attn: Ms. President, Mr. Prime Minister, Chattisgarh state, NHRC, Stop Torture of Soni Sori”

These were among the slogans from nearly 20 Karnataka based human rights organizations to the Government of India in support of Soni Sori, a 35 year old adivasi school teacher who has been incarcerated in Chattisgarh police custody since October 2011 despite medical evidence revealing their brutal custodial torture, electrocution, beating, and sexual assault on her, shoving stones into her private parts. Around 100 persons gathered at 6 pm on 24th March 2012 in front of Town Hall in Bangalore to appeal for the immediate transfer of Soni Sori out of Chhattisgarh police custody and her
speedy trial. Expressing solidarity with Soni Sori, the people also demanded the arrest of Ankit Garg, Superintendent of Police, Dantewada under whose supervision Soni Sori was subject to verbal and sexual assault in jail. They join people across the country in condemning the award of the Police Gallantry medal to Garg on Republic Day, 2012.

The protesters angrily burned an effigy of Ankit Garg, shouting slogans shaming him, and held a candlelight vigil for justice for Soni Sori. The brutality of police torture was also depicted by protesters masquerading as police and victims, while protesters held up signs condemning the functioning of the criminal justice system and asking for the freedom of adivasi journalists Lingaram Kodopi of Chhattisgarh and Vittala Malekudiya of Karnataka and many other political prisoners such as Manish Kunjam. Venkatesh of Dalit Bahujan Chaluvali, Manohar of SICHREM, and transgender political activists Charu of LesBiT and Veena of Praja Rajya Vedike spoke about the several ways in which the police system and false charges have been used to routinely detain and torture human rights activists and members of the adivasi, dalit, muslim and transgender communities in Karnataka. Comrade Balan of AITUC, Com. Nagaragere Ramesh of PDF, Com. Vishwa of New Socialist Alternative, Arati of PUCL and Pushpa of WSS stirred the crowd into thinking about whether the government today has prioritized the care and protection of its own citizens, or instead persecuted citizens for the benefit of exploitative private corporations. As the rousing songs of Dalitha Mattu Mahila Chaluvali questioned the freedom we have attained in more than 60 years of independence, members of the crowd signed a banner with messages to the President of India to ensure justice for Soni Sori.

Our Demands

– Immediately transfer Soni Sori out of the custody of Chhattisgarh police and ensure the provision of appropriate health care to Soni Sori without police interference.

– Set up an independent investigation into the conduct of Chhattisgarh law enforcement officials in the custodial sexual assault and torture of Soni Sori, and the immediate suspension of the responsible officers and prosecution under the PoA Act pending this inquiry

– Ensure the speedy completion of trial of Soni Sori, Lingaram Kodopi, Manish Kunjam and countless others so that they do not languish for years in custody when their guilt has not been proven.

– Show public proof of the good health and safety of Lingaram Kodopi and other prisoners in Chhattisgarh police custody.

– Set up a high-level independent investigation team to look at the condition of prisoners, especially women, including in the state of Chhattisgarh, to determine whether other women may have been subjected to torture and other ill-treatment, and investigate the reality of prisoners’ access to health care.

– Enact the Prevention of Torture Bill and remove the need for prior state authorization to initiate criminal action against the officials implicated in custodial torture. Ratify the Convention on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

– Ensure that the latest central government grants to states to set up police stations in Maoist areas include support for independent monitoring of detention facilities including station lockups and jails by human rights commissions and civil society groups. Consider requiring police to videotape interrogations, especially in police stations in Naxalite areas and train police on proper conduct toward women in custody.

– End the use of custodial torture, lengthy custodial holding on false charges, and constant police harassment as tools of repression against the adivasi and other residents of Chhattisgarh.

Participating Organizations/Networks

LesBiT, SICHREM, New Socialist Alternative (CWI-India), People’s Solidarity Concerns, Women against Sexual Violence and State Repression: WSS-Karnataka, PUCL-Bangalore, Peoples’ Democratic Forum, Dalitha Mattu Mahila Chaluvali, Concern (IISc), Maraa, Dalit Bahujana Chaluvali, Samanata Mahila Vedike, Vimochana, Sangama, Samara, Pedipics, Alternative Law Forum (ALF)

Forgotten Kashmiri Christians – Reverting to Islam?

Forgotten Kashmiri Christians – Reverting to Islam?

A big God Bless for your prayers for the Kashmiri Christians, which the LORD has heard and given them some respite. But, more than the relief from physical and mental torture, HE has given them fortitude to stand up for their faith and witness Christ, in spite of persecution. We have repeatedly told our local Christian sisters and brothers to move out of Kashmir, as there is little we can do in ground zero, but they believe that GOD has planted them in J & K, so they must be faithful and bear fruit in the vineyard there.

The good news is that not only is the LORD’s protection on them, but in HIS mercy and love, God is adding to their numbers. Just as HE did in the days of the Biblical Christians – Acts 2:38, Act 2:47, Acts 6:7, Acts 17:11Soon lets pray by using you and us as instruments, GOD will wipe every tear and rebuild the persecuted body of Christ in the state.

Dear Church, Christian Clergy & NGOs – the harsh reality is that at least 50 Kashmiri Christian families are impoverished. And in desperate need of help. What are we doing about it? The Word says –
Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for (the fruits) that may be credited to your (heavenly) account.
– Philippians 4:17

Each of us has an account up there beyond. Or is the Bible only for our churches, seminaries, prayer meetings, personal study… In our humble opinion, each Christian member of the body of Christ, must take it upon himself/herself to do something about the situation in Kashmir. The Word says – If one member suffers, every member (of Christ’s body) suffers.  If nothing else at least pray about it. Pray for us too, The CSF activists and collaborators, who are being targeted not only from outsiders, but even worse from some ‘Christians’ within the fold, who are playing into the hands of the enemy, by their inaction.

Kashmiri ChristiansWe have no option but to act, as commanded by our LORD, as Jesus in the Word, says –
 
The servant who knows what his master wants him to do, but does not get himself ready and do it, will be punished with a heavy whipping…. Much is required from the person to whom much is given; much more is required from the person to whom much more is given.
– Luke 12:47-48

Here is the case of another victim Christian family, in the words of the head of the house.

” We are recent converts and had to bear the brunt of severe persecution, but have refused to deny the LORD, who is everything to us. We had to lose one of our children too during while persecution has been on. Now my wife, two other children and myself are barely managing to remain alive, thanks to support from The CSF and other Kashmiri Christians, who are supporting us. The LORD has done much for us and we have experienced His love and power, in our life and so the persecution does make us afraid. Though, we sometimes cry, at the thought of our child dying during it.
 
After the video clip of Rev. Khanna baptizing Christians was put on YouTube, the family went through even torture and we had to leave our house, because the fanatics threatened my parents to get it burnt down, if we lived there. I have asked brother Joseph Dias to only disclose as much is necessary for you to know our plight. So he will not be able to give you details, as it will disclose our identities and we fear for our lives after that, as our property, we have already lost.
 
My wife and children became sick. One of them died and we could barely manage a burial. The fanatics heaped insults on us, saying that God was punishing me because, I had converted to Christianity and asked the family to revert. The pressure from police, maulvis and the fanatics became unbearable and I felt certain, we could be lynched to death. So again we had to flee, with only the LORD being with us all the way. We are appealing to the members of the body of Christ to help us in whatever way you can “.

Friends – Please tell us how to handle such cases? We need to have a colony of 50 Christian houses in Jammu, which is relatively safe. We also need to take care of the material needs of 50 families for a few months, till the bread earners start working or doing some small business. There would be at least 100 children, who educational needs have to be met. Is it too much to ask from the church in India? The church and the Christians, who have cared for thousands of non-Christians, who are victims of floods, droughts, famines, tsunamis, earthquakes, bomb blasts, gas tragedy, etc.

If there is a Youcef Nadarkhani in Iran or a Asia Bibi family in Pakistan, the world rushes to their rescue.

asia bibi and youcefAre the Kashmiri Christians any less human?

Are the Kashmiri Christians less Indian?

Are Kashmiri Christians less Christian?

Let us all repent and pray to God for our inaction towards the Kashmiri Christians – our refusing to move out of our comfort zones. We have let fellow-children of the same Our Father down, by committing sins of omission, not commission. And we need to make amends. The situation is grim.

Many have been arrested on false charges. Most hounded out of the region. Those who remain, cannot practise their religion, without fear. Many Christians are too afraid to even express themselves and are underground. The authorities do not seem to be secular. Why is it that we are suddenly hearing of Christians reverting to Islam? Or Muslims being forced or induced to become Christians?

In the name of protecting the faith, gross human rights violations are being reported. Maulvis committees and fanatical mobs are doing on re-conversion campaigns, targeting local Christians, forcing them to flee, a social boycott is in place, public announcements are made from mosques, families are abused and disgraced, victims are exposed to militants, Sharia court rules the roost, daughters/wives are not respected, threats and summons are issued…

One dreads to go to the government, authorities, judiciary, police, etc. What then does the Kashmiri Christian do?

Is it Christian to be silent spectators to such religious cleansing?

God And Many Gods – Khalil Gibran

God And Many Gods

In the city of Kilafis a sophist stood on the steps of the Temple and preached many gods. And the people said in their hearts, “We know all this. Do they not live with us and follow us wherever we go?”

Not long after, another man stood in the market place and spoke unto the people and said, “There is no god.” And many who heard him were glad of his tidings, for they were afraid of gods.

And upon another day there came a man of great eloquence, an he said, “There is but one God.” And now the people were dismayed for in their hearts they feared the judgment of one God more than that of many gods.

That same season there came yet another man, and he said to the people, “There are three gods, and they dwell upon the wind as one, and they have a vast and gracious mother who is also their mate and their sister.”

Then everyone was comforted, for they said in their secret, “three gods in one must needs disagree over our failings, and besides, their gracious mother will surely be an advocate for us poor weaklings.”

Yet even to this day there are those in the city of Kilafis who wrangle and argue with each other about many gods and no god, and one god and three gods in one, and a gracious mother of gods.

The Three Gifts – Kahalil Gibran

The Three Gifts

Once in the city of Becharre there lived a gracious prince who was loved and honored by all his subjects.

But there was one exceedingly poor man who was bitter against the prince, and who wagged continually a pestilent tongue in his dispraise.

The prince knew this, yet he was patient.

But at last he bethought him; and upon a wintry night there came to the door of the man a servant of the prince, bearing a sack of flour, a bag of soap and a cone of sugar.

And the servant said, “The prince sends you these gifts in token of remembrance.”

The man was elated, for he thought the gifts were an homage from the prince. And in his pride we went to the bishop and told him what the prince had done, saying, “Can you not see how the prince desires my goodwill?”

But the bishop said, “Oh, how wise a prince, and how little you understand. He speaks in symbols. The flour is for your empty stomach; the soap is for your dirty hide; and the sugar is to sweeten your bitter tongue.”

From that day forward the man became shy even of himself. His hatred of the prince was greater than ever, and even more he hated the bishop who had revealed the prince unto him.

But thereafter he kept silent.