Chennai, January 26, 2015: The Tamil Nadu government has directed one of its IAS officers not to go ahead with “preaching and propagating“ his faith as it is against service rules and could create communal disharmony.
C Umashankar, a crusader against corruption and an early advocate of the use of free software in e-governance, was born a Hindu dalit but said he changed his faith to Christianity during the stressful times he faced in his battles against politicians.
His open and public preaching of Christianity has raised the hackles of right-wing groups who are campaigning against him.
In a letter, TN chief secretary K Gnanadesikan told the commissioner for disciplinary proceedings, Umashankar: “It has been brought to the notice of government that you are going to take part in preaching and propagating activities in Tirunelveli, Thoothukudi and Kanyakumari districts from January 24 to January 26 which are likely to cause communal disharmony and disturbance to public order.
You are directed not to indulge in such activities which are unbecoming of a member of the service, failing which, necessary and appropriate action would be taken under relevant provisions of All India Services (conduct) Rules, 1968 read with the All India Services (Discipline & Appeal ) Rules, 1969.“
The chief secretary also referred to Umashankar’s previous visit to Kanyakumari district on January 16 in which “he indulged in activities which created disturbance to public order resulting in registration of two cases in Pudukadai police station in the district“.
Umashankar said “guided by God,“ he has cancelled seven prayer meetings scheduled in the next few days, but said he will move the high court against the government’s direction.
Gnanadesikan in his letter said civil service conduct rules say that “every member of the service shall at all times maintain absolute integrity and devotion to duty and shall do nothing which is unbecoming of a member of the service.“ A senior police official in South Tamil Nadu said since Kanyakumari is vulnerable to communal violence they are worried about Umashankar’s meetings.
Former chief election commissioner N Gopalaswami said since the direction of the state has mentioned a previous incident which reportedly created disturbance to public order, the order against Umashankar is justifiable.
Aga Khan & four spiritual leaders get Padmas. Ramdeo & Sri Sri were offered. What about Indian Christian Clergy or Institutions?
Swami Rambhadracharya, from Uttar Pradesh, was among the nine awarded India’s second highest civilian honour, the Padam Vibhushan.
Swami Satyamitranand Giri from Uttar Pradesh, and Shivakumara Swami from Karnataka were among the 20 recipients of the Padma Bhushan, a home ministry release said.
Jagat Guru Amrta Suryananda Maha Raja, who is based in Portugal, was among the 75 recipients of the Padma Shri award.
Patna, January 26, 2015: Commoner Shail Devi, who saved the lives of 10 Muslims during the communal clashes in Muzaffarpur district earlier this month, hoisted the national flag at the state Congress headquarter here Monday.
In the presence of Bihar Pradesh Congress president Ashok Choudhary and a number of senior party leaders, including former ministers and legislators, Shail Devi was invited to unfurl the tricolour at Sadaquat Ashram, the state Congress office.
“It was a matter of honour and pride for a poor woman like me that the Congress party has provided me this opportunity,” Shail Devi, clad in a new white cotton sari and a woollen shawl gifted by the Congress party, told IANS here.
Choudhary said the Congress decided to honour Shail Devi who, he said, was an example of communal harmony.
Shail Devi, a frail Hindu widow in her early 50s, risking her life gave shelter to her Muslim neighbours when a mob of more than 5,000 people attacked Azizpur Bahilwara village after a 20-year-old Hindu boy’s body was found Jan 18.
He was allegedly abducted and killed over his love affair with a Muslim girl.
After her action came to light, she became the most sought after woman.
“I provided shelter to my Muslim neighbours to save their lives because the mob would have killed them,” she had said then.
Telangana, January 16, 2015: Since Prime Minister Modi and his Hindu nationalist BJP took power in India in May 2014, attacks on Christians and their places of worship have skyrocketed. Among the victims of this new wave of persecution now stand the members of the only church in Tadur village located in the Mahabubnagar district of India’s Telangana state.
Approximately 70 members of the Parimala Beautiful Church used to meet in a temporary structure constructed of thatches, bamboo and tarps. This humble structure served as the only church in Tadur. On January 16, after the members of the church met for prayers from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., the church was torched by unknown assailants.
At about 8:30 p.m., a local bus driver was passing by the church and noticed smoke and flames were clearly visible coming from the building. Immediately, the bus driver informed the police and the locals about the fire at the church.
Church members, police and a fire engine rushed to the church, but by then more than half of the building had been reduced to ashes. Almost everything inside the church was destroyed by the fire including carpets, instruments, and church literature like songbooks and Bibles.
A First Information Report (FIR) was booked by the police and an investigation is now underway. Fortunately, the police responded quickly and both the Circle Inspector (CI) and the Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) visited the scene the next day.
Pastor D. Srinivas, of Parimala Beautiful Church, told ICC, “I have been serving as the pastor for the last six years in this village. We used to meet at church members’ houses, till last year we built a temporary structure.”
“Prior to this incident, on number of occasions, right-wing activists have threatened me and warned me not to continue the church in this village,” Pastor Srinivas continued. “The Hindu radicals have snatched the Gospel literature from me and destroyed them a number of times in the past.”
Mahabubnagar district, where Tadur village is located, has seen over a dozen anti-Christian attacks in the past few months. This wave of persecution at the hands of Hindu hardliners has ranged from physicals attacks on Christians to setting fire to church building to booking false criminal charges against pastors. The Christian community of Mahabubnagar district is gripped with fear as the number of attacks continues to increase against the minority community.
Rev. Ronald John, State Chairman of the Telangana Christian Joint-Action-Committee, told ICC, “The attacks have increased since the BJP formed the government at the center last year. Christians here are living as second class citizens.”
Like the Christian community of Mahabubnagar district, Christians across India fear this new wave of persecution that is currently crashing over the country. In a report recently released by the Catholic Secular Forum (CSF), at least 7,000 Christian victims suffered persecution in 2014 alone. Without dramatic change, this number will only increase in 2015.
West Bengal, January 13, 2015: A mob beat up two Claretian priests in Sahanagar village in Asansol diocese accusing them of diverting toilet water to the village canal and polluting it. The villagers later apologized to the priests after they found dead dogs in the canal water.
On Jan. 8, two local Santal men met Fr. M. Thomas, house superior, to complain about the contamination of the canal water which was adjacent to the Claretian house. They accused the toilet water of the house was diverted to the canal.
Fr Thomas was ready to clean the canal though the allegation was baseless. The priests along with a few staff were preparing to clean the channel, when about 40 men and women surrounded them and began attacking Fr Thomas with hands, bamboos and bricks.
He was beaten and paraded along the canal. They demanded that the priest open the gate of the nearby St Claret school to allow the villagers to use the pond inside its compound.
They shouted that until their demand was met they would not cease beating him. As Fr. Thomas was almost collapsing, when Fr Peter Johnson, another priest went to assist him. The mob caught hold of him and tied the hands behind. He too was beaten up.
After a long ordeal the priests managed to escape and call the police to their residence while the crowd was still shouting in front of the house. After an hour, four constables reached but they could not control the crowd. By evening there were about 300 people. They were making anti Christian slogans and issuing death threats.
The Officer In-Charge of Memari, Rakesh Singh, came with additional force and met with representatives of the local people and priests. He assured fresh water for the village promising to clean up the canal with the help of the municipality next morning.
On the following day, while cleaning the municipality employees found carcasses of dogs inside the canal.
The police on Jan. 13 called a peace meeting and a delegation from the Church and locals attended. The villagers asked pardon for what happened to the priests.
- the herald
Himachal Pradesh, January 19, 2015: Suspected members of Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) on Sunday stopped a prayer meeting of Christians at Pulhara area of Solan district alleging conversions, media reports said.
The later police found the allegation baseless, according to a report in the Times of India.
Intrusion of VHP members into the prayer meeting had resulted in tension as those present there had resisted the move. But before the situation could turn violent someone had informed the police.
Organizers of the prayer meeting claimed that they had been meeting every Sunday for a long time and stopping them from doing so was against the law.?
On Monday VHP submitted a memorandum to Himachal Pradesh governor Urmila Sinngh on the issue of love jihad and conversions.
The memorandum said that till 15 years back there was not even a single instance of conversion or love jihad in Himachal Pradesh, but now the same is on the rise.
Reacting to the reports on ‘love jihad’, chief minister Virbhadra Singh said that till now not even a single case had come to his notice. “But if there had been any such case, it should be brought forward so that inquiry could be conducted,” he added.
Delhi, January 05, 2015: The police closed the case. The clergyman blames arson because CCTV videos show something being poured on the crèche. For Christian leader, this is “a serious violation of the secular credentials of the Indian Constitution.”
For India’s Christians, 2015 began with a bleak note. Last Saturday, a fire destroyed a crèche in a New Delhi Catholic church in the early hours of the morning.
After investigating the case, police said an electrical short circuit caused the fire, and closed the case. However, for the local parish priest Fr Cyril Patrick, who was the first on the scene, the fire was deliberate, set to damage the church.
“I do not want to blame anyone in particular,” the priest said, “but CCTV videos show something being poured [on the Nativity Scene] from the top.”
Speaking to AsiaNews, Sajan George, president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), said that what happened is “a serious violation of the secular credentials of the Indian Constitution.”
In addition to last year’s cases of re-conversion to Hinduism (Ghar Wapsi or ‘return home’), the fire “portends hard times for the Christian minority, which already feels vulnerable by a nation-wide anti-conversion law proposed by the Janata Bharatiya Party (BJP)”.
The BJP, a Hindu ultra-nationalist party with close ties to Sangh Parivar radical groups (responsible for attacks and violence against minorities), now controls the central government.
Uttar Pradesh, January 08, 2015: Arvind D’Souza was stopped by the police “for reasons of public order,” even though he had committed no crime. The incident occurred on 2 January in the district of Amethi, in Uttar Pradesh.
Mr D’Souza, who is still in prison under preventive detention, the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) told AsiaNews, ran afoul of a group of Hindu radicals in the village of Maulvikhurd.
The latter filed a complaint with police against the Christian man for “spreading Christianity” and “forced conversion of women and children through the gift of Bibles.”
The local police, as Superintendent of Police to Amethi Hira Lal admitted, “found no evidence that D’Souza used force in converting anyone.”
“However, since the fact could undermine public order, they took him into custody in accordance with Article 151 of the Code of Criminal Procedure and placed him under preventive detention for 14 days.”
“This is a serious violation of human rights,” said GCIC president Sajan George. It is part of “a trend that is spreading more and more in India.”
“In Madhya Pradesh, families, including small children, have been arrested for forced conversions under the state’s anti-Conversion law,” George explained.
Sadly, such legislation is being used “as a political tool to terrorise and persecute the Christian minority.”
The Making of Mumbai
A history of the Metropolis and its Catholic Past
by Fr. Benny Aguiar
For six decades the Marathas whose capital was first Raigad, then Poona, ruled over the neighbouring islands of Salsette and Bassein till the British took them over from Raghoba by the treaty of Surat in Nov, 1775. Aurangzeb ruled from Delhi roughly over all of India, i.e., north of the Godavari, and Afghanistan, while Shivaji the Maratha ruler was building a kingdom for the Marathas in Maharashtra.
For over a thousand years Bombay was an insignificant island off the Western coast of India when places like Kalyan, Sopara and Thane were flourishing centres with their own kingdoms.
This book also brings out the Catholic past of Bombay. In the 1700’s a conflict within the Portuguese rulers of Bombay caused a deep division in the Catholic community. This arose between Padroadists and Propagandists. The book delves into the evolution of the Catholic community in Bombay. It explains when and where the first Churches were built or renovated, and how the transition from one period to another, Portuguese to English to Maratha, led to a decline and then to a revival and formation of a vibrant Catholic Community.
“The Making of Mumbai” makes an excellent coffee-table book enriching one with invaluable information about the past Mumbai when fashionable Colaba Causeway was only a sandy ridge, surfacing at low tide to enable access from Old Woman’s Island to the neighbouring island of Colio or Colaba. Pydhonie was a tidal creek where a weary traveller washed his feet and refreshed his animal before entering the main island.
Reay Road and Parel were stretches of low-lying salt water marshes dotted with toddy trees. There was such an abundance of game and food, that the crew of a ship landing in Bombay in 1529 called it the “Island of the Good Life”.
Since the book talks about Bombay, its history and growth, the Portuguese and British rule that has left behind religious, social, cultural and linguistic impact on the people one would say this is a must-read book for the citizen of Mumbai and for the students of History — a collector’s book for posterity.
According to Msgr. Benny Aguiar “The making of this book is the result of long research on a number of sources, and many have contributed to it”.
India, January 15, 2015: India’s Syro-Malabar Catholics will take over a historic church in Preston that was closed two months ago.St Ignatius’ Church will re-open after the Bishop of Lancaster offered it to Syro-Malabar Catholics.
St Ignatius’ Church, opened in 1836, was due to be merged with the nearby English Martyrs Church because of a shortage of priests. Parishioners said they were stunned by the decision.
But on New Year’s Eve, Bishop Michael Campbell received a letter from Cardinal George Alencherry requesting a church and presbytery for Syro-Malabar Catholics under the charge of Father Mathew Jacob Choorapoikayil.
Bishop Campbell said: “I readily welcomed this request from Cardinal Alencherry, Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church, as I believe that St Ignatius church and presbytery will be a wonderful and vibrant centre for the St Thomas (Syro-Malabar) Catholics in Preston.”
There are an estimated 17,000 Syro-Malabar Catholics in England, with four million worldwide. The Church traces its origins to the Apostle Thomas, who according to tradition travelled to Kerala in AD52. The Church has had a chaplaincy in Lancaster since 2004, and there are more than 100 Syro-Malabar families in Preston.
New parish priest Fr Mathew Jacob Choorapoikayil said, “We’re very pleased to have our first church in England.”
The community has grown out of the local hospital which employed migrants.
Fr Matthew added that Bishop Campbell and his predecessor Bishop Patrick O’Donoghue “have been very good to us, have welcomed us and given us our opportunity”. He also said that there would be an official opening Mass announced shortly.
Appealing to the Catholics of Preston, Bishop Campbell said: “I am hopeful that local Catholics will genuinely rejoice in what is both an imaginative – and surprising – decision and will be proactive in their support of our brother and sister Syro-Malabar Catholics going forward.”
St Ignatius is a Grade II listed building with an interior designed by Augustus Pugin. An estimated 140 people attended its last Mass in November. Parishioner Ralph Cooper had said the decision to close the church had come as a “bolt from the blue”.
- catholic herald