Catolic Bishops Conference of India and The Catholic-Christian Secular Forum against violence on Christians
* The UN Secretary General United Nations Organization
* Prime Minister of India South Block, New Delhi 11
* Heads of States, incl. India C/o Ambassadors, India & Abroad
* Human Rights Activists & International Civil Society
The Catholic-Christian Secular Forum (CSF) and thousands of others, representing civil society at large, wish to present this memorandum, with an SOS plea for action, before more lives and property is lost in the ethnic cleansing of Christians in India. I write this petition with tears in my eyes, knowing that our help will come from the LORD and those like you, whom He will use to get justice & freedom for HIS persecuted people. I promised the hundreds of victims babies, women, nuns-priests-pastors & innocent others - whom I personally met, that I would at least tell the world of their desperate situation and appeal to the international conscience to act by signing this petition.
The CSF is India's only ISO 9001:2000 certified NGO for "undertaking community development programs for human rights, social service, medical aid, education, charity & relief " of the laity, supported by the clergy. The certification is by the Joint Accreditation Service of Australia & New Zealand. I, Joseph Dias, as General Secretary of this Mumbai-based NGO have repeatedly visited the many states affected by communal violence, as part of various fact-finding missions and wish to urge all right-thinking persons to please join me and other concerned secular minded world citizens, in appealing to the above, to act before India flares up in communal frenzy, as has been in the past. Hundreds lives (as in Gujarat) can be lost and destruction worth millions of US$ wrought, if no action is taken.
Among those who have recently spoken out against the anti-Christian violence, include countries like Italy and EU nations, religious like the Pope, Swami Agnivesh, Cardinals & Bishops, besides heads of various NGOs, faiths & communities. These have been joined in by parliamentarians & prominent human rights crusaders, like Mahesh Bhatt, Teesta Setalvad, Javed Anand, Ram Punjani, Dr. John Dayal, Dr. Abraham Mathai, Dr. Azimuddin A number of former Judges of the various High Courts (S. Suresh, Kolse Patil, Michael Saldanha, etc.) and Director Generals of Police (R.B. Sreekumar of Gujarat and FTR Colaso of J&K, etc.) have also lent their voice to the cause on various platforms, supported by The CSF and others.
Here is what we find horrifying & reprehensible : 1) The attacks on Indian Christians, Minorities and innocent others have not been restricted only to a single state but nationally across at least 7 states since last Christmas, where it first erupted in Orissa. Other states affected include - Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhatisgarh, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Kerala and even New Delhi. The attacks are premeditated, carried out as a military-type operation, with clinical precision, not known to fail over the last 6 months and increasing by the day.
2) The attackers are the right-wing Hindu Saffron Brigade or its associates like Bajrang Dal RSS VHP, with the tacit approval of the state government and in most cases with BJP state governments or its sympathisers within the police and among officials, who abet & participate in the criminal destruction of life & property. The objective is to wipe out Christianity from India, marginalize Christians to the periphery of the mainstream, make Christians subservient to the majority, cripple the community economically, foist a Hindu party at the helm in the elections, perpetuate a caste-ridden Hindu society, convert tribals to Hinduism, re-convert minorities .. The union UPA government is dithering to act in view of incurring the wrath of Hindus, who comprise 80% of India's population.
3) The victims are thousands of low caste (Dalit) or tribal Christians in the rural areas and helpless clergy and laity in the urban areas, who are soft-targets. Most of these are denied their rights on conversion to Christianity by the Government of India. The Blessed Sacrament has been vandalized, cloistered nun-sisters attacked, crucifix & statues of saints desecrated, Bibles burnt & church-institutions torched with news being stifled, as media finds it "not news" if yet another Christian or Church is attacked. Our estimates are that at least a) Over 50 Killed & 4,000 Houses Destroyed. b) Dozens Of Nuns Raped & Priests Brutalized. c) Church Workers Burnt To Death or Buried Alive. d) Over 20,000 Dying in Slum-like Refugee Camps, etc. e) Over 50,000 in the Jungles, in Need of Food & Medicine f) Over 300 Churches, Cathedral, Tabernacles, Presbyteries, Schools, Shops Burnt.
WE CALL FOR A BAN ON THE BAJRANG DAL AND RELATED MOB TERROR OUTFITS IMMEDIATELY for attacks that are unconstitutional, threatening the secular fabric of the country. The State of India has abdicated its responsibility and duty to protect Indian Christians, by not taking the state governments to task & failing to protect the life and personal liberty of Indian citizens. The Government of India has failed to ensure freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion the very rights enshrined in the Constitution of the country (Articles 21 & 25) and in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR Articles 18 & 27) to which the Government of India is a party.
We call for immediate provision of relief and adequate compensation to the victims as per ICCPR Article 2.3.1 to those Internally Displaced Persons, according to international conventions. There must also be independent fast track courts constituted to try the culprits and enforce rule of law immediately, besides, the following demands, which must be seriously considered :
1. Foreign funding to such Hindu NGOs needs to be stopped and travel advisories needs to be issued to tourists not to come to these states. 2. Order the CBI to investigate into all aspects of the anti Christian violence in various states & into internal business-houses funding the hate-campaign of the Saffron Brigade. 3. Immediately take into preventative custody the culprits, after suspending police & government officials for gross dereliction of duty & joining in the ethnic cleansing. 4. Hand over especially, Kandhamal district, Orissa to the Indian Army & release hundreds of Christians under illegal detention in Karnataka. 5. Trace the thousands of Christians and hundreds missing, (abducted, injured or feared dead) or believed to be hiding in the forests. 6. Grant Scheduled Status to Dalit Christians and reservations to Christians, as provided to Muslims, to get them economically uplifted from their poor state as per NSSO survey. 7. Grant compensation to the churches & residences of priests / house-churches, etc. for losses incurred, which the government is not presently doing, since it is not felt to be politically correct. 8. Improve state of relief camps and jails, where thousands of Christians are languishing & which have inhuman living conditions, resembling Nazi concentration camps. 9. Constitute an Enquiry under the Commission of Inquiry Act & expand the terms of reference of the state enquiries instituted to fix responsibility and culpability on government servants & also on guilty politicians. 10. Provide adequate security to Christian religious places and institutions, as attacks are expected in the run-up to the elections & the fires of communalism are to flare-up. Active Christian NGO leaders need to be included by the Government in discussions pertaining to the community.
We also appeal to you to write to the Indian government to act on the following recommendations we have made :
A) Communalism is to be treated as a crime against the state, like terrorism and made a non-bailable offence. Mob terror is equal, if not worse than bomb terror. B) Enactment of a legislation on the lines of Prevention of Atrocities on SC/ST Act, to protect minorities, from the brute force of the majority. C) Moving Law & Order from the State list to the Concurrent list, in order that the union government can intervene, without flimsy excuses. D) Permitting an Independent Enquiry by International Human Rights Organizations or an Independent Supreme Court Judge into the anti-Christian attacks, within a time-frame.
Urgently Yours in the name of all those suffering because of Christ & innocents of other faiths.
Joseph Dias, General Secretary, The CSF +91 9769 55 56 57 firstname.lastname@example.org Regd Office : 75, Vakola Village, Santacruz (East), Mumbai 400055 INDIA
National Commission for Justice, Peace and Development
CBCI Centre, 1, Ashok place, New Delhi 110001 Tel: +91-11-23366127, Mob: +91-9868511018 Email: email@example.com
Peace Building Initiative in India amidst Growing Human Rights Violations on Christians
The CBCI Commission for Justice, Peace and Development (JPD) together with SC/ST Commission made a four day visit to the state of Orissa where anti Christian Violence has killed around 40 persons, around 50 churches demolished and more than 4000 Christian homes burnt or destroyed. Fr. Nithiya, the secretary of the JPD Commission, Fr. Cosmon, the Secretary of SC/ST Commission and Mr. Antony of Hotline Delhi visited some parts of Orissa for four days, from 20-23 Sep. One week before, another team of Human Rights Activists went for Fact Finding Mission. Their findings (through the report of Mr. Vincent Manoharan, NCDHR) are also added in this report. Besides Orissa, violence against Christianity is spreading also in many other parts of the country this week. We present a short report of these Violations with special focus on Orissa.
Anti Christian Violence in India
1.Karnataka: It is reported that 4 churches have been attacked and the destruction is spreading to other states. On Sep. 21st, the church of the Holy Name of Jesus in Bangalore was attacked by vandals. Rocks were hurled at a statue of the Virgin Mary. The day before, on September 20, also in Bangalore, the church of St. James was ransacked. The vandals desecrated the Eucharistic species and destroyed the furniture and pews. The windows were damaged at a church in Siddapura (district of Kodagu). Suspected Hindu radicals entered a church in Marianna Palya, in northeast Bangalore on 21st Sep. night and vandalized it. They break opened its backdoor. Another church in Rajarajeshwari Nagar a statue of Virgin Mary was damaged in stone throwing on Sunday 22nd Sept. morning.
2.Kerala: Two of the oldest churches in India were vandalized. on 21st, a statue of Christ in the church of Protasius and Gervasius (17th century) was broken and thrown down from its pedestal. The church belongs to the faithful of the Syro-Malabar rite. The nearby cathedral of the Jacobites, the Mar Sabore Afroth Church, was damaged: its windows were broken, and some relics of St. Paulos Mar Athanasius were destroyed. The church of the Jacobites was built in 825.
3.Uttar Pradesh: Catholic Priest Murdered in Dehra Dun Fr. Samuel Francis (55) popularly known as Sadhu Astya, a priest belonging to the diocese of Meerut and founder director of Samarpanalaya Ashram by unknown assassins. The body of Fr. Samuel with his hands and legs tied and face to the ground was found lying on the floor of the chapel of his ashram in Chota Rampur, 25 kilometers from Dehra Dun, Monday morning. The maid of the Ashram was also murdered in the kitchen of the Ashram.
4.Madhya Pradesh: Hindu Extremists set fire St. Peter and Paul Cathedral Church of the Jabalpur. The group named Dharm Raksha Sena alleged to have set fire the Cathedral Church of the Catholic Diocese of Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh. This incident took place 18th September 2008. This is following the burning of Church in Ratlam district and Indore districts have just happened in two weeks time. The police have falsely implicated Christians in both cases. The miscreants burnt the alter, sanctuary, Holy Bible, Holy Cross, Holy Statue of St. Peter and Paul and many other precious holy things in the Church.
5. Annihilation of the Christians from the state of Orissa!
In Orissa thousands of Christians have been attacked, rendered homeless, their homes ransacked and looted and burnt down, churches and even orphanages destroyed. The details about the destruction and killing in Orissa are more than the given number as many details are not available to us since we are unable to entering into these troubled areas.
Houses destroyed 4009
Churches and institutions demolished 96
Residences of Priests and nuns, Training centres 14
People Killed /burnt to death - 38
People displaced in refugee camps 22236
People displaced in forests and other places 40000+
The State Government has proclaimed that everything is under control. In fact not much is known about Orissa situation to the outsiders. This is due to a well planned strategy to boycott the On the contrary, Christians are targeted in every way. The Hindu outfits have planned to totally annihilate Christians from Orissa.
§ Hindu fundamental groups Vishwa Hindu Parishad ( VHP) and Bajrang Dal (BD) are forcing all Christians, especially those from Kandhmal district, to become Hindus. It is not just a political agenda but a determined strategy to wipe out Christians. They follow particular pattern for this.
§ The Christian Dalit and Tribals are forced to convert to Hinduism under threat. The fundamental group announces a date fixed for conversion in a selected village.
§ Those Christian members belonging to the houses of that village are told to inform their family people to return from the relief camps or anywhere on that date.
§ They will be asked to convert to Hinduism. They are asked to sign a document that it is done freely. If they do not accept, they are tortured and killed.
§ If they become Hindus, they pay a fine of 1000 to 1500 Rupees.
§ As a sign of becoming Hindu, they will be asked to destroy Christian statues, break churches and even were asked to kill the Christians who were unwilling to become Hindus.
§ If they do not return, the Hindu neighbours are told that the houses, the lands belong to the Hindus. All their belongings are looted, burnt and destroyed.
§ Since the Christians do not want to become Hindus, they fled to forests and are remaining in Relief Camps. There are around 23000 people in 17 relief camps. NGOs and individuals are not allowed to enter inside these camps to do any help. Medical help alone is allowed and these people are watched closely.
§ The VHP and BD are specially hunting for priests, pastors and nuns and their families to be killed.
§ These groups use country guns, axe, swords, bows, arrows, crow bars etc. The bodies were chopped off and hewed, people were burnt alive, buried alive, women gang raped. Some dead bodies of Christians are found in the fields, on the roads etc.
§ Looting, arson and vandalization continue. The forces are mainly in the towns, main roads and are not moving to the interior. And hence crimes are freely committed by the miscreants with impunity.
Background to Orissa
Orissa is a state with 30 districts having a population of 40 million in which 17% are Dalits and 23% are Tribals. This state constitute around 9 lakh (0.9 Million) Christians mostly the from the Dalit and Tribal communities. In Kandhamal District Dalit and Tribal Christians constitute around 1.20 lakh. Panos and Khands are the major sub sects among Dalits and Tribals respectively Christianity claimed to have its presence for the last 200 years and this district has got the major percentage of Christians. Catholic Church and its institutions are more in number while protestants are very minimal. The Non Dalit Hindu Land owners do not get adequate labour force to work in their field and also to carry all the filthy jobs since many have turned into literates and economically empowered owing to the involvement of Christianity. Therefore, they started supported the Hindu Fundamentalist forces organizing the Hindus especially the Hindu Dalits and Tribals against the Christian Dalits and Tribals.
The VHP is said to have more than 1 lakh of its cadres who are trained with the ideology of RSS and its strategic designs. This state faced the cruel killing of Graham Staines, a Christian Missionary in 1999 and later Priest Aruldoss in 2005. The Christian Institutions were targeted and terrorized the Christian clergy, its workers and the Christian population. The Hindu Dalits and Tribals who are visibly far behind the Socio, economic empowerment of Christian Dalits and Tribals and therefore it was easy for the Brahmanical forces to drag them into the Hindu communal fold. It appears to be a Communal violence based on religious dimension, but the serious "under current" is a Caste conflict. The Hindu Non Dalits were not able to digest the socio, economic growth of Dalits and Adivasis, who may tilt the political overtures as well.
The clear lists were drawn for the attacks. Outsiders were also brought in to this district to inflict violence along with the local perpetrators. The Hindu Non Dalit business community supplied the Fuel Kerosene and Diesel and petrol for burning the properties. Local weapons were supplied to the mob. National VHP leadership was leading and monitoring the attack. Large scale looting was masterminded and all properties were either damaged or emptied by the mob Those we remained in the houses especially the women and children and the otherwise abled were the worst affected with physical violence. Those who objected to this violence were either killed or mutilated. There were instances that persons were cut into three pieces, lynched with heavy stones, and buried alive. The Priest and Nun were striped naked and humiliated with untold manners. They were beaten up and kerosene was sprinkled on them. The mob took the nun inside a hall in a nearby temple and it was reported that she was raped. Those who gave shelter to Christian Dalits and Tribals were also attacked by the mob. The police remained as spectators. When they were approached they told that they do not have any orders and persuaded them to run away for life. Losses
Many have run into forest to save their lives. The whole family was shattered as they do not know who runs where and which directions. The State Administration did not take any preliminary measure to safe guard the live and properties of Dalit and Tribal Christians. Even now after 4 weeks, no protection whatsoever is provided to the churches, and properties of the Dalit and Tribal Christians. They were allowed to be attacked by the Hindu Fundamentalist Forces. The Civil society organizations and NGOs who were active after the last Christmas (2007) violence were identified, their offices and the houses were damaged and burnt all documents, materials and articles were looted and ransacked. Many flee to forest to save their lives. Vehicles of all sorts 4 wheelers and two wheelers and cycles were burnt down. The statue of Jesus and other religious leaders were denigrated and broken into pieces. Bibles were burnt. Crosses broken. Not adequate arrests were made. And Police refused to receive the complaint from the local people who witness the violence. Either they were chased or threatened with false cases. The State Administration prevented the outsiders to enter in to this district with the excuse that tension is prevailed there. However, it allowed VHP National leaders to roam the district with full protection and escort.
Relief camps were established in 18 places to house more than 26,000 Dalit and Tribal Christian victims. Tents were pitched in close ranges and no proper sanitation arrangements were made. Due to rain, leakage and seepage takes place in all tents and the people were not able to even sit there. No blanket or spreads were provided to them. Medical team is insufficient and Malaria and Diarrhea broke out. Children and women are worst affected as no milk was supplied and the pregnant mothers do not get adequate attention. Drinking water was insufficient and it was kept in an unhygienic manner. Toilets are not properly set in and managed. Only rice and dhal were supplied all the time. People rush for getting food. People remain in long queue for food. Relief camps were protected by the Police who stay in School and terraced buildings but the people were asked to stay in tents which are pitched in the grounds.
Forced Conversion to Hinduism
People who went to see the situation in their villages were forced by the Hindu forces to reconvert themselves by applying tilak (dot) in their fore head and asked to drink the cow dung mixed water to purify themselves once they relinquish the foreign religion. They were then asked to demolish the same church in which they worshiped or to place the Hindu idols. Any rejection or denial is met with murder or severe attack. The same thing was meted out to those who came out from forests. Since the condition of the Relief camps are not conducive for a safe living, slowly people leave and try to go to the nearby towns or to the homes of their relatives. But government claims that people return to villages as normalcy returns. Government claims that from 26,000 inmates now it has been reduced to 17,000 in all the 18 camps. But the reality is that people do not go to the villages as they do not have their homes and also under threat by the mob. The perpetrators have a free movement to enter anywhere and loot anything. Media does not report their activities. Others are not allowed to enter. Hence there is neither record nor evidence of Human Rights Violations carried out by them.
School going children and college students both boys and girls are in desperation as they are in camps or in forests and their books were totally burnt. All documents like ration cards and other certificates that they received from the government were fully burnt.
Many are in trauma and they lost confidence and hope to talk to anyone. Some are still unable to overcome the shock of having seen people with guns, swords, knives, and killing in front of ones eyes etc. Tears gush from their eyes when they began to talk to us. They were bewildered to see that their own neighbors turned to be killers and abettors. The young girls and their parent live in full fear as at any point of time anything may happen to them. It was a pathetic sight to see them in despair. Media is fully biased and communalized. It does not play its genuine role to be secular, transparent and unbiased. Perpetrators were not properly booked, arrested and proceeded against. No compensation was given to those who lost their family members or their properties are damaged, burnt and looted. No rehabilitation package is announced to restore peace and to resume the normal life. Peace committees were said to have been formed but nothing is functioning. In many villages the Panchayat presidents have led the attack against their own people The Dalit and Tribal Christians. They did not protect the victims and give shelter to them, instead they became attackers.
Two types of Responses
In this moment of great loss of human lives, their dignity and their properties, two types of responses are essential. They are
1. Relief and welfare measures: Basic Rights of nutritious food, Rehabilitation and housing, clothing, special care for women and children, education and employment etc.
2. Social Advocacy, Peace Building and Empowement: We need to build hope for their future, help them to be prepared for any eventuality, training them for negotiations, dialogue and cooperation to live together (SC/ST networks, Interdenominational meetings, interreligious meetings, social awareness, social analysis, legal awareness etc)
While there are various groups involved in the relief and welfare measures, the JPD commission is focusing on social advocacy and Peace building concerns.
Activities so far undertaken by the JPD Commission on Orissa:
1. The JPD Commission has been contacting various partners in Orissa to collect the information about the Human Right Violations, loss of persons and properties. Since much of these news were not available from the media, these were regularly sent to all the Bishops and concerned national and international networks for immediate circulation.
2. A special Urgent appeal was formulated and sent to Hotline Asia network for signature campaign, fax and email messages to the President, Prime Minister, Chief Minister of Orissa and other concerned officials.
3. The Chairman of the Commission Bishop Yvon Ambroise sent a special letter to the Pontifical Commission for Justice and Peace asking the President Cardinal Martino, to send it to all the JP Commissions of Episcopal Conferences to send letters to the Indian heads as well as to the Indian Diplomatic Representative in their countries.
4. The Secretary Fr. Nithiya has taken up this issue and presented it to the Franciscans International in view of a statement ( presented by Fr. Francis OFM) at the United Nations Human Rights Council, Geneva on 17th September.
5. The JPD Commission secretary together with SC/ST Commission secretary, and Hotline Delhi official, has visited Orissa, and met groups and some victims of violence in Bhubaneshwar, Berhampur, Gopalpur on sea and few other places. They have also created an ad hoc committee of 12 persons to carry out the work of advocacy, communication and peace building.
Immediate need for Orissa
1. Assessment of losses and damages are to be taken up. For a possible CBI enquiry we must be prepared with facts and figures. This data collection and record of Human Rights Violations must be done from people in the Relief Camp and other places. This might be of use for CBI enquiry and the like.
2. We need to give trauma counselling at the earliest to people to return to normalcy. This must be done through professional Cousellors to a group of trainees from Orissa and they will in turn help the people in Relief Camps, rented homes etc. Fr. Nithiya is in touch with a team for this help.
3. A Crisis management committee must be formed to collect and disseminate information through various sources. This will also create a network with the local police, collector, home ministry, Minority Commission etc. (The JPD and SC/ST Commissions have prepared a committee of ten persons in Berhampur for this purpose.)
4. Orissa Youth Trainings in Human Rights, Social Awareness, legal awareness, use of Right to Information etc are to be given.
5. Peace building initiatives and conflicts transformation among SC and ST people of Orissa. The College Peace clubs should be begun in Orissa.
National Level trainings and activities (with immediate focus on Orissa, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh But this must be done for each Region.
1. There should be training in Man-made disaster preparedness, monitoring, socio analysis, periodical assessment of local situation etc
2. A training on Peace Building with special focus on those issues concerning India that bring in exploitation, injustice, discrimination and Human Rights Violations.
3. Formation of Regional and Local Peace Committees in each Region with the involvement of Youth, Lawyers, Interreligous leaders, Human Rights Activists, Government Officials like Police, RTI Commissioners etc.
4. Children peace club and children parliament should be initiated. The JPDC Initiatives in past to be spread in all states.
5. Create leadership among the youth, laity and the religious. Promote unity and entrepreneurship and train them in Peaceful negotiations, dialogue etc
§ The welfare measures and relief activities are undertaken in Orissa by the Caritas network and other organisations. However it must be noted that during the December 2007 riots many agencies came forward and lot of money has been spent on repairing and rebuilding the institutions and buildings. But during the August-September violence, once again these were destroyed.
§ We need to strengthen people through social awareness and social advocacy. This will also lead to building Unity and cooperation among various communities.
§ One of the reasons given by local people for so much of violence in Orissa is due to the fact that not much has been done on peace building and Human Rights. There is a great need for training in Peace building and social awareness among the youth.
§ The JPD Commission with its elaborate Region wise structure and its contacts with University Colleges all over the country is confident to give Trainings on Peace and Human Rights.