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This page deals with the latest campaigns from The CSF …

CSF Protest on Demolition of Crosses 

Press Statement of Joseph Dias 09769555657 

Mumbai: Thousands of Catholics led by Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop and President, Catholic Bishops Conference of India prayed at Cross Maidan, today and then protested at a rally against the demolition of 3 Crosses, one believed to be in existence since 1936 in Byculla-Mazagaon area of the city. This despite the chief minister and the municipal commissioner giving Christians a 15 day time frame to produce documentation on the crosses.

Various state governments are demolishing religious structures, following a Supreme Court directive, which is giving a communal colour to the demolition drive, with Christians being selectively targetted. Hence, the prayer protest will call for a policy from the Union and State Governments, after seeking SC clarification.

Next Programme: An inter-religious rally at Azad Maidan – if the State Government does not act on the below:

The Catholic Secular Forum (CSF) Demands

1. Apology from the BMC Officers

2. Policy by the State Government

3. Written Instructions from The CM

4. Return and Reconstruction of the Crosses

5. State Affidavit to Supreme Court Expressing Inability

6. Suspend A Waghralkar, Asst Municipal Commissioner

7. State must appoint a committee, involving all communities

8. Place information on Religious Structures in Public Domain

The Catholic Secular Forum (CSF) asks

1. How many structures in Maharashtra?

2. What is the procedure to be adopted?

3. Different states following different criteria?

4. What is the communal map of the structures?

5. What are the parameters to determine illegality

6. Are Christians soft targets? Why begin with them?

7. Does’nt this amount to inciting communal passions?

8. Why were community leaders not taken in confidence?

9. Are BMC officers not behaving in a communal manner?

10. Is not the manner of execution amounting to desecration?

The Catholic Secular Forum (CSF) points out -

The 2009 SC directions are not final orders. Only Interim guidelines, pending settlement of the case. The SC is clear that only structures after this date were to be demolished. The SC states that for ones prior to it, the administrtation should go for a case to case study and then decide on regularising the structure, relocating it or demolishing it.

The SC order also clearly states that all those structures which are more than 30 years old can be be regularised. But instead of going through the process of regularising, relocating and demolishing, why is the government is keen on creating forcing a communal flashpoint?

The interim order imposing a blanket ban on fresh construction of religious places on roadsides or illegally on public land came from a Bench comprising Justices Dalveer Bhandari and M K Sharma. Has this been followed? Then why go after old constructions prior to the order?

The Supreme Court has only asked for a report on illegal structures and not on demolition. It called for demolition only of new structures that came up post 2009. The court asked state governments to review the status of each such illegal structure and take a decision expeditiously.

Quoting the September 19 letter of Union home secretary G K Pillai, the Bench said, “In respect of unauthorised construction of any religious nature existing as on date, the state shall review on case to case basis and take appropriate action as expeditiously as possible.”

The SC made district magistrates/collectors nodal officers. It asked them to submit reports to their respective state chief secretary, who in turn would file a status report. What does the status report in case of Maharashtra say? Tamil Nadu is leading the states, with 77,453 unauthorized religious structures, followed by Rajasthan – 58,253 and Madhya Pradesh – 51,624. Delhi has the least at 52. Sikkim, Mizoram and Nagaland had no such religious structures in public places.

West Bengal government has filed an affidavit that action to remove them may have adverse impact on law and order situation and hurt the religious sentiments of the people. No State government has given any time bound framework to manage the structures. From the affidavits, it appears that none of the state secretaries have taken solid measures to abide by the Supreme Court order.Only states of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Assam, Punjab, West Bengal, Gujarat and union territory of Chandigarh have filed their affidavits.

In view of the above, we would like to urge the Government to seek legal counsel and represent on behalf of all religions, to the SC and union government for a uniform policy on the issue. It is not an issue concerning a particular state or faith, hence, the Government needs to act.

Saving souls with SMS, MumbaiMirror.com, Tue, Mar 3, 2009

 

Global Pagoda – A Communal Hazard ?
Global Pagoda – A Communal Hazard?
Its time for us to brace ourselves for yet another attack on the final Christian bastion in Mumbai. The land of our forefathers – the sons of the soil is soon to be swarming with Vipassana followers. Most of us read with concern the article by Manoj R Nair in the Mumbai Mirror (4-1-09) of how Esselworld has managed to build the largest pagoda in South Asia, threatening the communal harmony in the area.
 
While the BMC demolishes houses & prevents construction in the Manori-Bhayendar belt, permissions have been given for the Pagoda, which call for a CBI enquiry.

Halt BMC Demolitions in Manori – Gorai

The Catholic Secular Forum (CSF), the community’s activist NGO calls upon the BMC to stop forthwith demolitions in the Manori-Gorai belt. Hundreds of families approached The CSF leading the NGO to undertake a fact-finding mission to the islands off the city mainland. The visiting team noted that while on one hand the villagers were being unjustly targeted by the BMC, a huge Global Pagoda was being constructed in the area, besides several unauthorized structures put up by Esselworld. It is an anomaly that while the original inhabitants of Mumbai and owners of the land were being targeted, new entrants to belt were allowed a free-hand. The CSF alleges that the Deputy Municipal Commissioner, Mr Milind Shambharkar is acting as an agent of Esselworld and has taken no action against Esselworld and the demolitions are aimed at clearing the ground for acquisition by Esselworld for the proposed SEZ in the belt.

According to The CSF, the area being marked as a No Development Zone has resulted in the locals being unable to develop their property, which is a necessity, in view of the increase in family members. On the other hand the authorities have turned a Nelson’s eye and allowed construction of a Global Pagoda, which is a drain on the belt’s natural resources and infrastructure. The NGO also calls for a full-fledged state government enquiry into the happenings in the Dharavi belt, as the rule of law is being flouted at the whims and fancies of Esselworld, aiming to bulldoze an SEZ, despite stiff opposition in the area.

The CSF enquiries have revealed large-scale destruction of nature for the Global Pagoda, with grave environmental damage, with no monitoring or impact assessment done. Esselworld has not contributed in any way to the development of the area, but is instead a drain on its natural resources, like water and destruction of the mangroves. The CSF also has photographic evidence of the rapid progress being made on the construction of the Global Pagoda and urges that demolitions be halted in the belt, pending results of the enquiry and the locals be involved in the decision-making process to boost infrastructure in the area. The CSF will not allow opening of the Global Pagoda and demonstrate outside the Esselworld office, if no action is taken by the BMC and the authorities. A memorandum on the issue would also be given to the CM, Dy CM and Chief Secretary, seeking redressal of the related issues.

Gorai - illegal Pagoda   Gorai - illegal Construction

 

NB: Info on Global Pagoda – without comment:

The Global Pagoda, as envisioned by Shri S.N.Goenka, will preserve the Vipassana (meditation) technique, also known as the way out of suffering. The most significant part of this structure is that it will be more than twice as large as the presently largest dome structure in the world, namely the Gol Gumbaz at Bijapur in India. The stones will be skillfully placed to form a load bearing dome, without pillars. In external appearance, it will resemble the ShweDagon Pagoda of Myanmar (Burma). Following the last instructions of the Enlightened One, the genuine Buddha relics will be enshrined at the centre of a large central hall in the pagoda where over 8000 Vipassana students can sit and meditate together, getting advantage of the powerful vibrations emanating from the relics.

The height and diameter of the Global Pagoda would be 100 mts approx. The carpet area is 6272.00 mts and a circumbulating path (23 mt wide) would accommodate 10,000 + pedestrian visitors. The basement would have parking at the lowest level and an exhibition at ground level, with stores and other facilities on the first floor. The structure would also have a rain water harvesting tank in basement for about 1,725,000 litres. Four smaller pagodas are planned near-by, one of which is almost complete. The height and diameter of the smaller pagodas is 25 mts, approx.

An international appeal is made to fund the project by offering each Vipassana meditator an opportunity to earn merits by participating in constructing this historic structure. One can now choose to make online donations for any number of stones, with suggestions that every meditator in the family feel joyful of donating to the great monument. Stones are priced differently such as Serration (Rs.5000 / US$100 each), Dome (Rs.3500 / US$70 each), Column (Rs.1000 / US$20 each), Support (Rs.100 / US$2 each), etc.


 

The CSF demands …

The CSF Demands …

1) Dalit & Backward Christian, as per Mandal Commission & court rulings be given OBC benefits in all states of India.

2) The UPA Government Grant Dalit Muslims & Dalit Christians, the SC status, in the light of Status Report to National Minorities Commission

* Backward Christians Must be Entitled to OBC Benefits in All States.
* Dalit Muslims & Dalit Christians SC Reservations Demand Gets Support.
 

 

* Status Report for National Minorities Commission Presents a Strong Case for SC Status.
* Dalit Christian and Christian Backward, as per Mandal Commission, Must Get OBC Benefits.
The CSF, the Mumbai-based national community NGO calls upon the UPA government to immediately address the issue of granting Schedule Caste (SC) reservations to Dalit Muslims and Christians. This becomes an imperative in view of the recently published ‘Status Report on the Current Social Scientific Knowledge of Dalits in Muslim and Christian Communities’ which makes it amply clear that there is no justification to deny these minorities their due, even as they share the same plight, as their Hindu, Sikh and Buddhists counterparts. The Status Report on Dalit Muslims and Christians has been prepared for the National Commission for Minorities by Sociology experts of the Delhi University (Satish Deshpande and Geetika Bapna), making out a strong case for inclusion as SCs – an almost 60 year old demand. According The CSF, the Dalit Christians are the worse of the lot, as in many states, they are not even given Other Backward Castes (OBC) benefits, as per the recommendations of the Mandal Commission and other judicial pronouncements. The government of India NSSO report has further emphasized that the plight of the Christian community is next only to that of the Muslims, in the socio-economic sphere. On the political spectrum, Christians are the last to be provided sops, because they lack political clout, are taken for granted by political parties and are not as voiceferous, when compared to other religious communities, albeit being first when it comes to social services.

The CSF is of the opinion that the UPA government despite it being within reach, is compelling the Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians to take the judicial route, which tends to pit the judiciary against the legislature and the executive. The existing law is nothing short of unconstitutional discrimination by the government on the grounds of religion and the minorities could appeal to the courts to find it SC system followed as unconstitutional. But given the special circumstances that have shaped the history of this question, the political route may be a more desirable one. All previous amendments to the Presidential Order of 1950 have been achieved through that route. The earlier legislative initiatives have also not been explicitly and publicly justified, in terms of the kind of evidence that the courts are demanding now, in cases seeking inclusion of Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians. In effect, different standards are being applied to different religious groups situated similarly on the same question.

On the basis of the Status Report, in additions to volumes of evidence, The CSF calls for including Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians in the Scheduled Caste category. We also feel that there are compelling arguments in favour of such an inclusion being based on the Constitution, besides universal principles of natural justice and fairness. According due statutory recognition to Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians would not only right a wrong, it would also remove an indefensible anomaly in our politico-legal system that can legitimately be construed as discriminatory. Such discrimination surely weighs on the conscience of every fair-minded Indian.

The CSF, which is against reservations per se, but as long as reservations continue, it will work with all concerned NGOs to ensure that Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians are given their due, which is a basis human right, enjoyed by Dalits of other religions – Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists.

Further, Dr. Peter Rodrigues of Reservations Cell Chief, informs that a major highlight of the NSSO report is – Christians are among the poorest of all religious communities in India, the highest rural unemployment figures of 4.4% among Christians, 2.3% among Muslims and 1.5% among Hindus. In Urban areas, the unemployment rate of Christians was 8.6% higher than other religious groups, which was 4.4% for Hindus and 4.1% for Muslims. Also, unemployment was highest 14% among Urban Christian women. The Report was an extensive study, covering 1, 24,680 sample households, 79,306 of them in 7,999 villages and the rest in 4,602, urban areas. The CSF points out that although the report is over a year old, no action, and reservations have been given to the Christian community. Nothing has been done to improve the lot of Indian Christians & the UPA Government should stop this discrimination and immediately grant benefits to Christians or the NSSO report will prove to be an exercise in futility. The CSF calls for an Action Taken Report from the Union Government on the NSSO report and also from the National Minorities Commission, as to what it proposes to do with the Dalit Muslim & Dalit Christian Status Report presented to it.

Please find below brief info on the Status Report, which is a very important document on the issue.

Thanking you, with warm personal regards,

Yours cordially,

Sd/-

Ln. Joseph Dias, MA (Eco), Ex-Special Executive Magistrate / SEO, Govt of Maharashtra
General Secretary, The CSF
(+91) 9769 55 56 57 trinity.cmd@gmail.com

NB:

The Highlights – A Synopsis for the lay person

The objective was to produce a status report on the evidence available to answer the following questions:

1) What is the contemporary status of Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians in terms of their material well-being and social status?

2) How does their situation compare with that of: a) the non-Dalit segments of their own communities and b) the Dalit segments of other communities?

3) Do the disabilities suffered by these groups justify state intervention within the spirit of the Constitution as interpreted by the judiciary, and in keeping with evolving national norms?

Two main kinds of data were gathered to answer the first two questions, ethnographic and statistical. The Status Report relies heavily on the most recent and important Government of India, National Statistical Survey Organization (NSSO) report released in 2007 and an unprecedented number of empirical records, spanning almost 4 decades. The major parameters considered include, poverty, consumption, occupation and education. Some of the conclusions reached are –

1) With respect to proportions of population in poverty or affluence, Dalit Muslims are unquestionably the worst off among all Dalits, in both the rural and specially the urban sector. Dalit Muslims are completely absent in the affluent group for urban India. There is a small gap between Dalit Sikhs are better-off than Dalit Christians, who have a much higher proportion in poverty than Dalit Sikhs, especially in rural India, but roughly comparable populations in affluence.

2) Dalit Muslims are only slightly worse off than non-Dalit Muslims, specially the OBCs, because the Muslim community as a whole, tends to be very badly off compared to other religious communities. Even Dalit Sikhs are better-off compared to Dalit Christians, who have wide gap, when compared to non-Dalit Christians and especially the Christian upper castes, who are much better off, though few in number.

3) This analysis brings out clearly that, all other Dalits, (with the exception of rural Dalit Sikhs) are basically the same in economic terms. Whatever differences there are among Dalits of different religions only become visible in the top 25% of the distribution. In other words, 75% of all other Dalits are economically indistinguishable from each other, both in the urban and specially the rural areas. It also becomes clear that there are serious levels of poverty, among Muslims of all castes including Dalits, in urban areas.

4) With respect to comparisons of educational levels, Dalit Muslims are the worst off in rural India in terms of illiteracy. there are no major differences in the levels of education across Dalits in rural India, except for Buddhists, who seem to have comparatively high proportions with graduate or higher degrees. Dalit Christians come next to the Dalit Buddhists in the field of education. However, all Dalits except Muslims do much worse than their non-Dalit co-religionists, specially the upper castes. Dalit Sikhs are slightly better-off than Dalit Christians. Intra-community caste differentials, between the higher & lower castes in the same faith, are very high for all except the Muslims, so that Dalits in general are much worse off educationally than non-Dalits in the same community.

On the basis of this extensive study, it becomes amply clear that

A) There can be no doubt whatsoever that Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians are socially known and treated as distinct groups within their own religious communities. Nor is there any room for disputing the fact that they are invariably regarded as ‘socially inferior’ communities by their co-religionists. In short, in most social contexts, Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians are Dalits first and Muslims and Christians only second.

B) The manner in which social distance or superiority is asserted by non-Dalits (and specially the ‘upper’ castes) varies both across Dalit Muslims and Dalti Christians and also across regions and contexts. Such variation is present in all Dalit communities of all religions. ?Universally practiced forms of discrimination and exclusion include social and cultural segregation, expressed in various forms of refusal to have any social interaction; endogamy, expressed through the universal prohibitions on Dalit-non-Dalit marriages, and through severe social sanctions on both Dalits and non-Dalits who break this taboo. Social segregation extends to the sphere of worship and religious rituals, with separate churches and priests being almost the norm among Dalit Christians and not uncommon among Dalit Muslims. Forms common to both DMs and DCs include various modes of subordination in churches and mosques, as well as insistence on separate burial grounds. Occupational segregation and economic exploitation are also very common and usually related practices, though somewhat less widespread than segregation or marriage bans. Untouchability proper is sometimes practiced, but is not widespread, and its forms vary greatly.

The most recent national-level macro statistical data available from the 61st Round survey of the NSSO conducted in 2004-05, also suffers from limitations due to the ambiguous status of Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians, who are not officially recognized. Thus the numbers reflected in the NSSO survey are certain to be undercounts, specially for Dalit Christians who are believed to be the majority of the Christian population but are shown as having only a 10% share in this data.

The major judicial pronouncements and body of evidence when taken as a whole, is unambiguously clear on the fact that there is no compelling evidence to justify denying Scheduled Caste status to Dalit Mulsims and Dalit Christians. If no community had already been given SC status, and if the decision to accord SC status to some communities were to be taken today through some evidence-based approach, then it is hard to imagine how Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians could be excluded. Whether one looks at it positively (justifying inclusion) or negatively (justifying non-inclusion), the Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians are not so distinct from other Dalit groups that an argument for treating them differently could be sustained. The actual situation that exists today – denial of SC status to Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians, but according it to Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist Dalits – could not be rationally defended, if it did not already exist as a historical reality.

A pragmatic consideration is also that of the numbers involved. Here the weight of the argument is in favour of rather than against inclusion. For both Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians taken together (NSSO estimates) appear to be under three million people, constituting about 1.25% of all rural Dalits, and about 2.25% of all urban Dalits. Though it is certain that the NSSO estimates are undercounts, the eventual numbers are highly unlikely to be such that they justify exclusion. Finally, SC status is a fait accompli for some religious groups and can hardly be undone. The historical legacy of such an unjustifiable anomaly can only be addressed by robust, evidence-backed reasoning followed up with a broad-based social movement to build popular support.

Pl. contact for PDF on complete Status Report presented to the National Comission for Minorities or find it at http://www.thecsf.org/pdfs/dalit_christians.pdf

For more info contact -

The Catholic-Christian Secular Forum (CSF)
Regd Office : 75, Vakola Village, Santacruz (E), Mumbai – 55. (+91) 9869481357 


 

CSF demands Reservations & Representations for Christians
 

The Catholic Secular Forum (CSF), the Mumbai-based activist community NGO demands -
Other Backward Castes/Class (OBC) reservations for Christians, who are either of Schedule Caste origin or All Christians Left Out, as per Mandal Commission.
Proportionate Representation in Government employment, educational opportunities & political nominations

 

Govt of India NSSO Report

The demand for OBC benefits for Christians stems from the Supreme Court rulings, Mandal Commission & NSSO Reports. The recent Government of India National Sample Service Organisation (NSSO) survey report, clearly brings out the fact that Christians are economically much more backward than their counterparts of other faiths. The NSSO report released in 2007 reveals that the unemployment rate among Christians is higher than that of Hindus and Muslims. For instance, in rural areas, the unemployment rate was 4.4% among Christians, 2.3% among Muslims and 1.5% among Hindus, which highlights the need for the government to take serious note. Similarly, it urban areas the unemployment rate of Christians was 8.6% and much higher than other religious groups – 4.4% for Hindus and 4.1% for Muslims. Even more alarming was that the unemployment among urban Christian women was the highest at 14% and is cause for concern, among the community. The NSSO report is the most extensive study of religious groups undertaken across the country, covering 1,24,680 sample households – 79,306 families in 7,999 villages and 45,374 families in 4,602 urban areas of India.

Mandal Commission Report

The Mandal Commission Report earlier too had categorically granted OBC reservation to Christians, including all Schedule Castes converted to Christianity and all those Christians, who performed the same backward occupations, as their backward Hindu counterparts. Some of these jobs according to the Mandal Commission Report, could be washermen, barbers, potters, blacksmiths, tailors, carpenters, marginal farmers, etc. and hence, Christians in these occupations should be entitled to OBC reservations. The Mandal Commission specifies that there are 43.7% Hindu OBCs and 8.4% non-Hindus, comprising Sikhs, Muslims and Christians.

Supreme Court Ruling

In November, 1992 the Supreme Court ratified OBC reservations to Christians, in its judgement, which said that non-Hindus, like Sikhs, Muslims and Christians, who are socially backward are entitled to reservations, under article 16 (4) of the Constitution. Christians have been excluded by the government at the center and in the states, because they do not enjoy political clout. Thus, the converts to Christianity face double discrimination and exclusion, even among the minorities. The Andhra Pradesh government has in fact granted a 4% reservation exclusively for the Muslims minority and could do well including Christians too. The union and other state governments need to follow suit.

According to Mr. Joseph Dias, general secretary, The CSF -

The recent attacks on Christians has not only exposed the vulnerability of the community, but also highlighted the need for the governments to consider its demand for OBC status, as well as proportionate representation. There is an eminent danger of Christians being reduced to the periphery of the national mainstream and with attacks on the rise, Christians in government postings, like the civil services or police, could prove useful. In the absence of reservations or representations, the poor Christians are unable to educate themselves or find employment. During the current rash of anti-Christian violence, should there have been a fair representation of community members in the police or government, the impact on Christians, would have been much lesser. In the light of police atrocities, where even women, children and clergy was targeted in the recent communal riots, The CSF calls for police to enter Christian places of worship or institutions, accompanied by community members.

Thanking you, with regards,

Yours Sincerely,

Dr. Peter Rodriques,
Chairman, Reservations Cell, The CSF
 

 

 


 

SpiceJet apologises to The CSF for promoting Jesus’ tomb in Kashmir
 

SpiceJet apologises to The CSF for promoting Jesus’ tomb in Kashmir

(Click for the letter of Apology)

Spicejet’s Religiously Offensive Promotion of ‘Jesus’ Tomb in Kashmir
Spicejet Hurts Christian Sentiments by Promoting Srinagar Flights to ‘Jesus’ Tomb
 

 

The Catholic Secular Forum (CSF) takes strong exception to the airline Spicejet promoting Srinagar in Kashmir, India as a place that houses, “the Rozabal tomb, believed to be the tomb of Jesus Christ”. This information is featured in its magazine, Spiceroute Destinations (page 70) and is based on the theory that Jesus Christ survived the crucifixion, ran away from the Romans & Jews, traveled eastwards to Kashmir, died and was buried there. His body is believed to be in the Rozabal tomb, situated in the Kanyar district of Srinagar, Kashmir, India.

It is shocking that an airline, as Spicejet is stooping to such a low to sell its tickets. Christianity is one of the world’s major religions and there is no evidence to prove that Jesus fled from Israel and in fact, the Garden Tomb near Calvary, where he died, has millions of tourists, compared to the unheard of tourist spot in Srinagar. This strikes at the basic fundamentals of the Christian faith, namely that Christ died and rose from the dead, ultimately to ascend into heaven, as in the Holy Bible.

The CSF has in a notice to Mr. Ajay Singh, director and others of Spicejet and its magazine Spiceroute, called for an immediate apology and urged the same be withdrawn, failing which the activist organisation would take legal action. Spiceroute is the monthly inflight magazine for SpiceJet, India’s second largest domestic low-fare carrier and twenty thousand copies, from Singapore, are distributed on all flights.


 

Sakaal Times editor expresses regret to CSF
  


Priest-Principal Threatened

Priest-Principal Threatened
 
 

 

CSF Asks Uddhav Thackeray to Restrain His MinionsMemo to RR Patil Seeking Police ActionState Minorities Commission Intervenes 


 

In a communication to the executive president of the Shiv Sena, Mr. Uddhav Thackeray, the Catholic Secular Forum (CSF) called upon him to restrain his minions from adopting intimidatory or strong arm tactics against the peace loving Christian community, who are commanded by their faith not to retaliate. The CSF urged him and the Vikhroli Parksite police to take stringent action against Mr. Ramesh Korgaonkar, the local Shiv Sena corporator from Bhandup, who threatened Fr. Francis Carvalho, principal of St. Xavier’s School for refusing to grant admission to two students recommended by him. In a memorandum to the state home minister and Deputy Chief Minister, Mr. RR Patil, the activist community organisation urged that such threats be taken seriously and the police come down with a heavy hand on the culprits, no matter how highly placed they may be. Even more shocking is the fact that the Shiv Sena corporator, threatened to implicate the priest with a woman, if he did not accede to his demands for school admission. This showed the potential dangers priest-principals are exposed to, while rendering yeoman’s service.
 
The CSF appreciated the prompt intervention of State Minorities Commission, after Fr. Carvalho contacted Dr. Abraham Mathai, its vice-chairman, resulting in the police taking note. However, failing the police acting further, by way of warning the corporator, fear continues to prevail with the culprits also threatening to blacken the face of the principal. Mr. Joseph Dias, CSF general secretary drew the attention of Mr. RR Patil to the fact that there were about 500 Catholic-run educational institutions in the Archdiocese alone, catering to about 5 lakh students, almost 80% of whom are non-Catholic. If no action is taken promptly, it will only embolden such elements to continue blackmailing principals, as there have been stray such incidents in the past. It seems that the school was targeted, since it was kilometers away from the Most Holy Trinity Church, near IIT market in Powai, taking advantage of the fact that the principal would find it difficult to get help. The CSF hailed the Church directive, urging principals not to give in to political or any other pressure, while putting out a hotline (9324803279) for the clergy in far-off places to get in touch, in case of such emergencies.

 

 
 
 

 




The CSF Protests MTDC Move in Manori & Gorai: Govt Land Grab

Government & Church to Resolve Gorai SEZ Issue

 


Sakaal Times apology on front page
Catholics upset, Church protests, Pune tense….
Spoof on Last Supper featuring PM, Sonia, Shibu…
 

 

The Sakaal Times has regretted that it published a highly objectionable spoof on the Last Supper and as per an assurance given to The Catholic Secular Forum (CSF) and Church authorities, printed a note to this effect on the front-page (23-7-08) of its newpaper. Earlier, The CSF had strongly objected to the printing of the caricature – a take-off on the classical Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper and urged a forthwith expression of regret from Sakaal Times, which has featured the same in its Pune edition. The CSF general secretary, Mr. Joseph Dias took up the issue with the editor, Mr. Dhananjay Sardeshpande, who said it was an inadvertent slip-up and no malice was intended. Mr. Joseph Dias told the editor that even though it was possibly meant to be construed as an analogy, it should not have been done, particularly since religion was such a sensitive issue & Christians are a peaceful community.

Hundreds of calls flooded The CSF hotline to protest against it. The depiction shows the last supper painting with the orginal faces taken off and replaced with MPs in the light of the no confidence motion on in Parliament. For instance, Jesus’ face is replaced by that of prime minister, Manmohan Singh, while Sonia Gandhi’s face is featured in place of John, the apostle Jesus loved and whom Da Brown said was Mary Magdalene. Further, Shibu Soren’s face is seen in place of Judas, who betrayed Jesus, besides other objections.

Fr. Malcolm Sequeira Catholic Church PRO, speaking on behalf of Archbishop Valerian D’souza said that the picture of the Last Supper is sacred to Christians and using the picture in such a manner was in bad taste and had hurt the sentiments of the community. Earlier, hundreds of irate youth collected at the Sakaal Times newpaper office in Pune’s Shivaji Nagar to protest and dispersed only when the editor assured the gathering of correcting the error and after being calmed down by the Church authorities.

The CSF said it was against use of religious imagery in the media or in advertising, as there were many inherrent dangers to such use. It may be recalled that the community NGO had equally protested against the Dannish cartoons, seen to be anti-Islam and also MF Hussain’s paintings of Hindu goddesses. It had also succeeded in getting disclaimers included in Dan Browns’ Da Vinci Code and Elizabeth, which contained objectionable material against Christianity and the Church. In view of the expression of regret, The CSF will let the issue rest.

Sakaal Times editor expresses regret to CSF
 

 

Gen. Sec., The Catholic Secular Forum (The CSF)

 

 

Latest on Orissa

The CSF Protests MTDC Move in Manori & Gorai: Govt Land Grab – Enquiry Necessary

The CSF strongly protests the against the move of the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation, which has opened up four plots of land in the Manori-Gorai belt measuring a total of 45 lakh square metres in a bid to make the area one of the largest entertainment hubs in the country. The MTDC on 9th April, 2008 asked firms to come up with offers for a 30 year lease to develop top-end tourism projects on the plots. According to CSF sources the MTDC is proposing projects such as marina, Big Wheel, mangrove parks, spas, golf course, hotels and other entertainment-tourism related project. The CSF, now says that the tenders have been invited from industry, with the last date being 5th May, 2008 and it is the same SEZ proposal in yet another form. The plots are of size ad measuring 2,97,346 sq mt (Open Land Manori 1), 28,85,900 sq mt (Open Land Manori 2), 5,21,342 sq mt (Open Land Gorai 1) and 10,60,996 sq mt (Open Land Gorai 3), in the heart of the Manori-Gorai, a farming and fishing belt, off suburban Mumbai. Earlier, the MTDC had planned to undertake a joint-venture with Esselworld, to set up a similar Recreation & Tourism Development Zone (RTDZ) in the area, which was first fiercely opposed by The CSF and other organizations. The intervention of the various central & state government authorities has been sought on this issue, in a memorandums presented to several dignitaries to urgently look into the matter.

This seems to be yet another means conceived to bring in the powerful builders mafia and hotel lobby, as has happened elsewhere in the city. Each of the proposed projects are being opposed individually for defects of their own. The negative effects of such entertainment projects such as prostitution, which damages the cultural and moral fabric of the place and development, which in alien to the Hindus & Christians residing there. Development at whose cost ? is what the Mumbai-based activist organisation is asking. The CSF investigations reveal that there is a 30 year-old government notification which states that the lands around the fishing villages should be used for drying fish, making/repairing nets & other such allied activities. Further, MTDC itself was given the land on lease for 30 years in 1990, as thus, it has completed 17 years without completing the said RTDZ in the area. According to The CSF it is therefore not possible for MTDC to give this land away for another 30 years to corporates and call for tenders. A new Special Tourism Zones Act on the lines of the SEZ legislation seems also on the anvil in Parliament and it is the proposed to be again SEZ is another guise. The CSF will oppose the plans for development where the local inhabitants have no role to play, let aside their opinion not even being considered, when issues concerning their future is being discussed.

The CSF opposition to the MTDC undertaking the development of the largest entertainment hub is as follows:

The state of the villages in Mumbai, traditionally inhabited by the East Indians and Kolis is well known. Areas like Kotachiwadi are now out of the heritage list, while the state of other villages, like Mahim, Bandra, Khar, Vakola, Kalina, Sahar, Juhu, Vile Parle, etc. These are the last vestiges of the original inhabitants of Mumbai, sought to be destroyed. A cultural invasion on the lines of the Red Indians of USA or the aborigines elsewhere.
The fragile ecology in the area will be completely destroyed by the environmental degradation. There is already much damage done to the mangroves and litigation is pending in court. No impact assessment study has been done and the earlier SEZ in the coastal regulatory (CRZ) & no development (ND) zones was approved within 72 hours, though several government agencies had not given recommendations.
No Public Notice was published in the newspapers asking members of the public for reaction or objections against proposal. Earlier as per Government Gazette dated 30th November. 2006, an announcement was made for feedback within 60 days, even though it was to no avail, in spite of The CSF filing an affidavit of objections.
The view of the local representatives, elected or otherwise, associations, NGOs, Church, etc. were not taken into consideration. The opposition to the Gorai-Uttan SEZ is well-documented and contacts of the protesting organizations like The CSF or Medha Patkar’s National Alliance of Peoples Movement are well-known.
The locals would lose their traditional livelihoods and homes, which cannot be compensated for. To illustrate, how does one rehabilitate the fisher folk or farmers ? Will one buy the sea-coast or salt pans for them & what about the tribals, toddy-tappers or those tilling the land ?
The past experience has shown that development in the area has resulted in increased salinization of the fields, destruction of breeding grounds for marine life, depletion of the ground water table, etc.
The affected villages of Manori, Culvem and Gorai are predominantly Catholic, going-up to even over 95% and thus, it would imply an attempt by the government to indirectly target the community and render its religious places of worship or burial irrelevant. The MTDC is riding roughshod on the sentiments of this minority group.

The CSF to Agitate on No Cemetery for Lakhs of Christian

The Catholic Secular Forum (CSF), the Mumbai-based activist community NGO has taken up the issue of no Christian cemetery in the entire belt from Dahisar to Jogeshwari on the eastern side of the western railway. It may be mentioned that it has been over 3 years that the community has been taking up cudgels with the BMC and the government to get land allotted for burial, but to no avail. Christian representatives comprising various Catholic and Protestant churches, then formed themselves into the United Christian Forum and approached the authorities, who have turned a Nelson’s eye and deaf ear to their grievances. Finally, after much follow-up, about 19,000 sq mt land was allotted at Akurli in Kandivali East (Vadarpada), but used by other communities for their dead, since there was no demarcation or boundary wall constructed. After encroachments and usage by the other communities, the Christians who were to get 4325 sq mt for a cemetry are left with less than 30% of the land, most of which is unusable.

The community then approached The CSF, which raised the issue with the Maharashtra Minorities Commission, visiting the site, along with Dr. Abraham Mathai, vice-chairman, to conclude as below:

1) It is an inhuman violation of basic fundamental and constitutional rights & the blame lies solely with the BMC officials, who despite repeated reminders have done nothing.

2) Over 1 lakh Christians, as of now are affected, belonging to Catholic, Christian, Orthodox, Syrian, Methodists, Evangelical, Pentecostal and other denominations.

3) It has been almost 4 years that even the Hindu community has been using the cremation ground developed for them. Why then discriminate against Christians.

4) Christians now have to travel a distance of many kilometers either to Andheri or Dahisar for burial and face much expenses, hardship and inconveniences.

5) Repeated representations in writing to the authorities (Collectors, Commissioners…), copies of which are available, since 2005, no action has been taken.

6) Access to the small unencroached portion for Christians is denied or made difficult, as the gate is under the control of the Muslims community.

Some major Catholic churches affected include -

St. Jude, Malad East – Fr. Joe D’gama

St. Joseph, Goregaon East – Fr. Austin Norris

Our Lady of Nativity, Kandivili East – Fr. Clement Dlima

Syro Malabara Churches – St. Mary (Malad East) & Blessed Chavra (Kandivili East)

The CSF calls upon the authorities to erect a temporary fence and provide for a separate gate for access to the remaining portion and allot the balance alternative space for a Christian cemetery, failing which it will be compelled to lead an agitation, involving all communities concerned.


The CSF & Ms. Pooja Bhat condemn the brutal attack on Nuns, Women, Adivasis, Tribals & Christians in Alibaug

Mr. Joseph Dias, CSF General SecretaryCSF General Secretary on District Minorities Panel

The Government of Maharashtra has appointed The Catholic Secular Forum’s (CSF) General Secretary, Mr. Joseph Dias, on District Minorities Welfare Committee (DMWC), headed by the Collector. The government panel is constituted the instance of the Chief Minister and Mr. Dias name was recommended by the State Minorities Commission chairman, Mr. Nasim Siddiqui and Dr. Abraham Mathai, the Vice-Chairman.

The DMWC has been installed with a view to take the government initiatives concerning minorities to the grass-root level and ensure speedier justice for minorities, the terms of reference and scope of which are as follows:

Study the problems of minorities & make recommendations to the State Minorities Commission.
Consider the issues particularly of minority women and promote the schemes concerning them.
Look into matters concerning betterment of minorities and give necessary advice on the subject.
Work for the implementation of the PM’s 15 Point Programme for Minorities and related schemes.
Provide inputs for constitution of plans for the educational, economic and social development of minorities.
Help maintain communal harmony & attend to complaints by minorities, through follow-up with the authorities, etc.
Assist minorities in availing of loans & financial aid from banks or government schemes, and help rehabilitate victims in case of riots, etc.

 

For minority related matters you may contact Mr. Joseph Dias at:

Address : 75, Vakola Village, Santacruz (E), Mumbai – 55.
Cell : 9869481357, 9324803279
E-mail : trinity.cmd@gmail.com, csfpost@gmail.com
Website : http://www.thecsf.org

 


Government & Church to Resolve Gorai SEZ Issue

The Essel Group has voiced its openess to scrap the Gorai SEZ project, in view of mounting protests by the local Dharavi Beth Bachao Samiti, supported by the Church and the Mumbai-based activist community NGO, Catholic Secular Forum (CSF), besides groups like the Bombay East Indian Association, Bombay Catholic Sabha and secular others like the National Alliance of Peoples Movements. In a written communication to the State Minorities Commission vice-chairman, Dr. Abraham Mathai and CSF general secretary, Mr. Joseph Dias, the Essel management expressed the desire for a tripartite dialogue with the locals, under the auspices of the Church and the government. Mr. Nilesh Mistry, vice-president (SEZ and Corporate Affairs), in the letter also stated that the entire concept was misinterpreted and misrepresented by vested interests and if Christians were still not convinced, Essel would be happy to withdraw from the project.

In a meeting with the CSF, Mr. Nilesh Mistry told Mr. Joseph Dias, who is also member of the Government of Maharashtra’s District Minorities Welfare Committee, that Essel is sensitive to the apprehensions of the villagers and has now taken a clear position that if, after properly understanding Essel’s proposed SEZ plans, the villagers still think the project will infringe on of their rights; Essel is ready to drop the project. Commenting on the recent agitation, Essel Chairman Subhash Chandra appreciated the concerns of Cardinal Oswald Gracias about preservation of local culture and displacement of ethnic groups. He wished to reassure the locals and the Church that the Gorai SEZ project conceived by Essel, is designed to showcase local culture – not harm it. He believes that sustained development without diluting the local culture and ethnic value systems are crucial to maintain the diversity of cultures in advancing economies such as ours. He said…”we recognize this need and hence want to preserve the Gorai region for future generations, otherwise it will be taken over by the builder lobby and unscrupulous anti-local elements”.

The Essel management also stated that the project will remain within the RTDZ regulations by using the wasteland and Essel land. It also said that there was no intent to displace any gaothans or heritage precincts in this region. As proposed by the CSF, the proposed development would showcase the gaothans, the heritage precincts, and the rich culture of the locals – as the main highlights of the region. Dr. Abraham Mathai of the State Minorities Commission said that a meeting would be called with representatives of the Church and locals, besides the concerned groups to resolve the issue to the satisfaction of all. Mr. Joseph Dias, CSF general secretary thanked the media and Cardinal Oswald Gracias, the parish priests and nuns, without whose intervention, the battle could not have been won.


Social Activists Awards – Shailesh Gandhi, Pooja Bhat & Dr. Abraham Mathai:

Social Activists of the Year Awards - Pooja Bhat & Shailesh GandhiThe Catholic Secular Forum (CSF) presented the Social Activists of the Year Awards to Mr. Shailesh Gandhi for his use of the Right to Information (RTI) Act; actor, Pooja Bhat for her support to various human rights causes and Dr. Abraham Mathai for his campaign against communalism in Orissa. Mr Shailesh Gandhi described how RTI evolved from Rajasthan through other states across India and finally to become legislation for the country. The importance of the RTI Act lay in the fact that it was cost-effective, time-bound, convenient and had borne results, where other means failed. He called upon the thousands who had gathered to spend a few rupees and about an hour in a month on issues that each felt strongly about and file an application from the comfort of one’s home. The greater the number of applications filed, the better will be accountability and responsibility of the power-that-be and the authorities. Mr. Gandhi also gave a few tips on how to frame questions under RTI and a format of the application for Maharashtra were distributed. He also illustrated with examples, how RTI was being used all over the India by activists and thanked the media for highlighting the issue.

Dr. Abraham Mathai, Vice-Chairman, Maharashtra Minorities Commission, who had returned from Orissa, which recently bore the brunt of a communal attack against Christians, later speaking to the media, referred to eye-witness accounts, describing the horror that the community faced over 4 days in Christmas season. He said that Orissa did not have forums such as a State Minorities Commission which can move fast to restore confidence. A State Minorities Commission, with statutory powers, must be set up promptly. Dr. Mathai also criticised the Naveen Patnaik government for not allowing aid and relief to reach the victims and called upon the Central Government to act immediately.

Mr. Joseph Dias, The CSF general secretary said the organisation had documented a report (http://www.thecsf.org/campaign.html#ori) on the happenings in Orissa, with pictures. He said, “this is the first time in history since Independence that may be 3,000 Christian men, women and children are forced to live in two refugee camps, eating boiled rice not fit for human consumption because of the quantity of sand and grit, and living in the biting cold with no toilets, precious little medical care and no woolens. The report says “Church buildings are broken, nuns manhandled, priests chased away, convent cows killed as their straw is set afire. These are heinous crimes. The ravishing of statues of Mary, grinding her face under foot till nothing remains but shreds, desecrating the Host which Catholics hold to be the Body of Christ, and vandalizing of ritual holy material before setting everything on fire speaks of a ideologically cultivated venom that has percolated deep and will need deep political and social activism to quell, defeat and eliminate”.

The CSF would take the RTI campaign to a new level and join all those instrumental in making its implementation a success. Pooja Bhat said that she would continue to lend her name and presence to various human rights causes, as she was touched by them and would support The CSF in raising such issues as RTI and violation of civil liberties.


Press Conference Against Esselworld:

Protest Against EsselworldThe Catholic Secular Forum (CSF), the Mumbai-based community NGO gave further proof that it meant business when it protested against the government acquiring land, for an SEZ, Judicial Academy or airport expansion. Hundreds of kolis, adivasis, bhandaris, kunbis, agris, OBCs and victims affected by the government’s land-grab policy in the Manori-Gorai-Uttan belt addressed a press conference, organised by The CSF, which felt that highlighting the issue in the media would help the cause. A cross-section of those affected numbering over 200 women, representing the Dharavi Beth Bachao Samiti (DBBS), brought along bangles and sarees, which they said, have been reserved for those who come to acquire their land. The government officials or Esselworld’s henchmen would be forced to wear these and then paraded on the islands, in case they dared to acquire the land, said Lourdes D’souza, DBBS secretary. The CSF said that the government dithering on the issue was only making the situation worse and it now had all the makings of yet another Nandigram.

Mr Joseph Dias, CSF general secretary said that if the government did not resolve the issue soon, thousands of farmers, fisher-folk, salt-makers, adivasis and those affected would be brought to the city for an indefinite demonstration. The CSF would also gherao the Esselworld office at Worli, since the Subashchandra Goyal company, with its political slaves had made life miserable for the residents of the area. Mr Dias called on all schools to boycott Esselworld and said that it was draining the scarce resources of the belt, without contributing a bit to the area. Fr. Anselm D’souza and Fr. Barthol Machado speaking on behalf of the Church said that it would co-ordinate the struggle against the SEZ and land-grab, without any distinction and taking all political parties along. Sloganeering marred the meet, but was indicative of the rising tempers on the sensitive SEZ issue.

Press Conference Against EsselworldMr Joseph Dias, CSF general secretary, thanked Cardinal Oswald Gracias for his explicit support to the movement, as a result of which the clergy and laity stood side-by-side on the streets. He said also said it was good to see th Church exercising her preferential option for the poor and standing in solidarity alongside the underprivileged masses. He concluded that the agitation would continue on various fronts & was strengthened, now with the spiritual and moral support of the Church, besides other NGOs, who had joined hands in the cause. The Cardinal’s Official issued against the proposed SEZ in the Gorai-Uttan belt seems to have galvanized not just the Catholics, but also those of other faiths, particularly in the Dharavi island area. Thousands of locals, belonging to different religions, gathered praying for divine intervention, that wiser counsel will prevail. Fr. Barthol Machado highlighted the reasons for opposing SEZ, with particular reference to the Gorai – Uttan belt of 14,500 acres, comprising the villages of Gorai, Manori, Cuvelm, Uttan, Dongri, Morva, Rai, Murdha, Tarodi, Pali and Chowk, which would be affected.


Sahar Church Acquisition:

The CSF has also resolved to oppose tooth & nail the acquisition of any Church property, since there seem to be a trend emerging with the Christian community being made soft targets. Mr Joseph Dias said that even though there were other places of worship or burial, like those belonging to the Hindus or Muslims, only the Catholic Church had received a notice for survey. When SEEPZ came up at Andheri East, another heritage centuries old Church was taken over and left to disintegrate. It was only after the CSF, along with other Catholic organisations took the issue up that recently, prayer services were allowed – but only for one day. It seems the government is testing the waters and if there was no opposition, it was likely to bulldoze its way through. The CSF would not accept the Sahar Church take-over for reasons spelt out in a White Paper, such as:
 
A number of places of worship, religious and educational institutions and burial or cremation grounds come under the proposed expansion.
Mr. Joseph Dias with the Chief Minister
 
There is the 400 year old, Our Lady of Health Church, which was first served the notice, which gives rise to suspicion, since Christians are seen to be soft targets.
 
The culture & traditional heritage of the East Indian community, which is on the brink of extinction is threatened, and their plight similar to those in the Manori-Uttan belt, where The CSF is fighting an SEZ agitation, spearheaded by the Dharavi Beth Bachao Samiti.
 
The original inhabitants of the area (Vakola, Kalina, Vile Parle…) around the airport earlier became landless to a great extent, when the government acquired land for 10 paise and now the same is used for the airport, five star hotels, encroached by slums, etc.
 
The present model of development is lopsided as there are international airports that handle more traffic in lesser space and another airport at Vashi is on the cards. There is complete secrecy and no transparency in the expansion plan e.g. What does the government plan to do to the private land owners?
 
No rehabilitation plan has been proposed and proposals made by MIAL to house some of the settlers at Dahisar, even while large tracts of land are available in the vicinity. Why is it that those whose life is threatened by the proposed move are not even consulted or informed?
 
No objections have not been obtained from the necessary agencies, such as the Pollution Control Boards and a number of questions remain unanswered – How will water and construction material be obtained for the expansion or what about an environmental impact assessment?
 
What kind of compensation package is proposed for those affected by the project ? It is not clear as to the amount of funds allocated or spent on the expansion. Some estimates put it at Rs.92,000 crores ! Why is such information not furnished before undertaking a survey?
 
The Christian community is suspect of the motive behind targeting Church properties, as such is the case in the Manori-Uttan belt, where 9 Churches are threatened by the proposed SEZ by Esselworld. Christians have also had to lose the SEEPZ church to the MIDC, which is in a dire state and is not even handed over to the Archdiocese of Bombay.

 

In view of the above, The CSF has decided that if there is no action forthcoming, the organization would take up the issue with different churches and also the leaders of other community organizations, besides political parties.