Goa, March 5, 2014: Christians account for nearly 30 percent of Goa’s 15 lakh plus population. Catholics and some political parties in Goa have opposed the Election Commission’s decision to hold the elections to the Lok Sabha seats from the state April 17, which clashes with Maundy Thursday, a day of religious significance.
Political parties as well as activists have already petitioned the Election Commission of India (ECI) to change the poll date announced Wednesday.
“In my petition, I have said that Maundy Thursday is a holy day for the Christian community,” lawyer-activist Aires Rodrigues told IANS. He said voters as well as government servants from the community deployed for election duty would find it tough to balance religious obligation and poll duty.
Banker Bruce Rodrigues said: “As a Catholic, Maundy Thursday holds significant importance in our lives as we come to the end of our Lenten season. And that’s in the middle of Holy Week too. It is not a good decision.”
Maundy Thursday is part of the Holy Week which follows the abstinence-marked period of Lent. The Holy Week signifies a spell of reflection and penance and includes Palm Sunday, which remembers Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, Maundy Thursday, which commemorates Jesus’ last supper with his disciples; Good Friday, which honours the day of his crucifixion; and Holy Saturday, which focuses on the transition between the crucifixion and resurrection.
Congress spokesperson Durgadas Kamat claimed that minority voting percentage would dip if the ECI went ahead with polling in the state April 17.
“It won’t be difficult to postpone Goa poll dates to after Good Friday. So that everyone can vote,” Kamat said, adding that the party’s Goa unit would petition the ECI to change the dates.
Christians account for nearly 30 percent of Goa’s 15 lakh plus population.
Armed forces were deployed at Pradhanpada village in Odisha’s Kandhamal district today as tension prevailed following damage to an under-construction prayer hall on Thursday. Two platoons of armed police (about 70 personnel) were deployed in the village as part of measures to prevent further trouble and to restore normalcy
A group of anti christian people had attacked the under-construction structure on Thursday. Two persons have been arrested in connection with the incident while a manhunt was on for others as efforts were on for amicable settlement to the issue, they said.
According to a complaint made by the christian leaders, the accused persons threatened 15 persons of eight families involved in the construction work of the prayer house.
All the 15 persons met the SP Kunor Bilash Singh yesterday and apprised him of the situation, who further gave directives for necessary action against those involved.
- business standard
Sri Lanka, March 06, 2014: The Sri Lankan Navy has restricted the entry of those journalists visiting Katchatheevu island to cover this year’s annual St.Antony’s Church festival who have ‘temporary visa.’
Unlike last year, when more than 30 journalists from the print and television media were taken along with other pilgrims, the Lankan navy made it clear this time that only those who had obtained ‘visa’ would be permitted to visit the island and cover the festival.
The festival is scheduled for March 15 and 16.
The Verkodu Parish in Rameswaram, which coordinated the pilgrimage, had appealed to the Lankan authorities through the High Commission of India in Colombo to relax the restriction, but the High Commission, after checking with the authorities, clarified that “these are common formalities and they should be adhered to,” said Fr. L. Sagayaraj, Verkodu Parish Priest.
The Lankan navy, in a communication to the Parish, had said “the media and journalists are welcome to the festival, but they should apply formally for appropriate visa and then attend the festival.”
Enquiries revealed that only a few media persons have applied for the visa.
Meanwhile, about 1,300 pilgrims from different parts of Tamil Nadu and a few from Karnataka and Kerala have registered for the pilgrimage till Tuesday as the last date for the registration, said Fr.Sagayaraj.
Last year, 2,831 pilgrims had visited Katchatheevu in 77 mechanised boats and 23 vallams (country boats) and this year, only mechanized boats would be allowed to carry the pilgrims for safety reasons, he said.
So far, 45 mechanized boats have registered for the trip and 30 pilgrims could travel in each boat, apart from five crew members, he said.
On reaching the island around 3 p.m. on March 15, the pilgrims would attend the “way of the cross” procession followed by a holy mass and adoration conducted by a senior priest from Tamil Nadu, he said.
After attending the Feast mass and adoration, conducted by the Jaffna Parish Priest, the host on the morning of March 16, the pilgrims would return home, he added.
- the hindu
Mumbai, February 28, 2014: Deputy Chief Minister and Maharashtra Finance Minister Ajit Pawar recently presented an interim budget, a total outlay of Rs.5417.2 crore for the next four months aimed at satisfying voters across the state, ahead of general and state assembly elections to be held this year.
The Congress-NCP government, which had been promised skies to minorities, has again shown a thumb to them. The Maharashtra interim budget presented is the latest proof. In the Rs 5417.2 crore budget, only Rs.131 Crore has been allocated to Muslims. This fund will be allocated for basic development of madarsas, development of minority institutions and post metric scholarships. Whereas the budget allocates Rs. 2378 Crore for the upcoming Kumbh Mela in Nashik district. This fund will be utilized for the preparation of Kumbh Mela and for the development of the areas near Kumbh Mela.
Muslim organizations and ulema are feeling cheated by this allocation of mere Rs. 131 Crore in the budget. They say that the state government has many times agreed with the Sachar report but has failed to implement it.
Minority organizations’ dissatisfaction with the budget is also because the state government have on the one hand announced many schemes for the development of scheduled caste, scheduled tribes and OBC and have allocated thousands of fund for them but on the other hand have allocated only RS.131 Crore for the minorities. This allocation to minorities is not even half of the amount allocated to them in the last budget.
Abu Asim Azmi, Samajwadi Party MLA of Maharashtra has also expressed his discontent with the budget and said that the budget is not balanced and has not done justice with all the sections of the community and has appealed for increase in the fund for the minorities in the state.
State Minority Minister Muhammad Arif Naseem was dissatisfied with the allocation of less fund to minorities and in protest had not attended a meeting which was held by the state ministers before the announcement of budget. He has said that mere Rs.131 Crores are not sufficient for the development of minorities in the state and that he would request Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan to raise fund for the minorities.
The general secretary of Legal Aid Committee of Jamiat Ulema Maharashtra (Arshad Madni) said, “Even though minorities of the state are with Congress and NCP, the government has turned a blind eye on them. Non congress governments in Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal have done better than Congress where they allocated Rs. 20140 Crores and Rs.800 Crores respectively”.
Speakers at a meeting in the Houses of Parliament in the United Kingdom have discussed the role of Narendra Modi, the prime ministerial candidate for the far-right Bharatiya Janata Party in India’s forthcoming elections.
The Feb. 26 meet hosted by John McDonnell, MP for Hayes and Harlington, was supported by Jeremy Corbyn, MP for Islington North.
Most speakers referred to the anti-Muslim riot in Gujarat that took place twelve years ago, killing over 1,500 (including three British nationals), and displacing some 200,000 people.
At the meeting Suresh Grover of The Monitoring Group outlined key events during the ‘orgy of violence’ in 2002 and ‘Narendra Modi exposed: challenging the myths surrounding the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate’, an extensively researched report, was launched.
Professor Chetan Bhatt, Director of the Centre for the Study of Human Rights at the London School of Economics, spoke of Modi’s links with the ‘Hindutva’ movement, which uses the guise of religion for its extremist brand of politics, and its ‘deliberate attempt to suppress freedom of speech’ in this country.
Pragna Patel, of Southall Black Sisters, spoke on this movement’s disturbing attitude to and treatment of women, including sexual violence ‘unprecedented in nature’ in 2002.
Professor Gautam Appa, emeritus professor at the London School of Economics, exposed the inaccuracy of claims often made by BJP supporters that the Supreme Court has cleared Modi of responsibility and that Gujarat is a model of good governance and prosperity.
‘There is international consensus that Narendra Modi was responsible for the 2002 genocidal attacks in Gujarat,’ wrote Anish Kapoor.
‘India’ s long history of cultural and ethnic tolerance is gravely in peril with the rise of this politician whose association with the fascist right cannot any longer be hidden.
Modi is a serious danger to peace in India and beyond. I strongly support the campaign to expose the threat he and his supporters present.’
An Early Day Motion to the House of Commons was announced, and a delegation of MPs to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office asking that there should be no engagement with him until he has been held legally accountable for his role in the violence. The meeting also heard that action is underway for an international tribunal on genocide in Gujarat.
- press release
New Delhi, February 26, 2014: Father Leo D. Lefebure, of the Archdiocese of Chicago, is in India for a series of lectures . He talks about his mission, founded on relations with Muslims, Jews, Buddhists and Hindus. We can learn something from every belief if we give up our negative attitudes towards others.
“The greatest contribution that India can give to interreligious dialogue is to promote reconciliation with Pakistan and try to resolve the situation in Kashmir”. The speaker is Fr. Leo D. Lefebure, an American priest, who is touring the Asian country giving a series of lectures. A native of the Archdiocese of Chicago, Fr. Lefebure is engaged in inter-religious. He is a professor of theology at Georgetown University and is an emeritus member of the World Parliament of Religions. During his visit to India, the priest gave a lecture at Jamia Millia Islamia, the historic Islamic university in New Delhi. Here he spoke of Paul VI and the new spirit that the pope has brought to relations between Christians and Muslims. He spoke to AsiaNews about the meaning of his mission and what he has learned from dialogue with people of other religions.
Where does your passion for inter-religious dialogue come from?
My faith in Jesus Christ pushes me to pursue respectful and harmonious relations with the followers of other religious traditions. Unfortunately, many religious traditions are too often in conflict in many regions of the world today, and many Americans have negative attitudes towards other religions, particularly towards Islam. I draw my energy and my support from so many wonderful colleagues that I have met in various interfaith activities.
What would you see as India’s contribution to Christian-Muslim dialogue in a global context?
The biggest contribution that India can give is to promote reconciliation with Pakistan and try to resolve the situation in Kashmir. This would have a global impact and would be a wonderful model for dialogue and inspiration for others.
What have you learned from dialogue with people of other religions and people who do not profess any belief in particular?
For a long time I have been involved in Jewish-Christian dialogue, in which I learned a lot about the Jewish roots of the Christian faith, of the tragic history of Christian anti-Semitism, the need to change Christians’ attitudes towards the Jews and Judaism. Any changes in this relationship have important ramifications for all other forms of interreligious dialogue. I learned so much about meditation from Buddhism, which has greatly enriched my life as a Catholic. Right now I am involved in “Vaishnava – Christian” dialogue and I am learning more about this strand of the Hindu tradition. I have never been involved in a formal dialogue with people who do not belong to any specific religion, but I learned a lot from the writings of intellectuals who are non-believers.
Hyderabad, February 28, 2014: After years of political uncertainty Andhra Pradesh is now drifting towards a resolute fate but with that result the future of its significant Government Muslim institutions has engulfed in ambiguity.
The ongoing process for distribution of public institutions between new state of Telangana and residuary Andhra Pradesh saw special secretary for Minorities Welfare Syed Omer Jaleel calling in meeting of major departments of Wakf board, Haj House, Minorities Finance Corporation, Urdu Academy to guide on the division process.
In the meeting Mr. Omer Jaleel ordered head of institutions under his department to prepare list of files with every detail basing on the regions of Telangana and Seema Andhra. In the meeting it was reported that a proposition was also discussed to maintain status quo for some of the major institutions especially Wakf board and Haj committee for a period of 10 years for both Telangana and Seema Andhra.
When TCN contacted Minority Affairs minister Moahmmed Ahmedullah,he confirmed that Government is seriously viewing the idea of keeping some Government Muslim institutions intact for a period of 10 years until infrastructure gets developed in Seema Andhra or in the new capital of the residuary state.
“Sonia Gandhi has directed us to do justice with both the regions. Government Muslim institutions have their base in Hyderabad so as the city will be joint capital for period of ten years we are looking into the possibility of keeping single Minorities Welfare Department for both Telangana and Seema Andhra.” Minority affairs minister said.
Ahmedullah, who hails from Kadappa district of Rayalseema region believes that by the time a new capital will be developed in residuary Andhra Pradesh than MWD can be established for residual state.
Ahmedullah also told TCN that Chief Secretary has ordered distribution of files on the basis of region in every Govt. department MWD is also in the same process. And a final decision will be taken only after discussion and deliberation with all the departments.
Syed Omer Jaleel special secretary Minorities Welfare speaking with TCN agreed that an idea of joint Govt. Muslim institutions for Telangana and Seema Andhra is under consideration but declined to confirm the final procedure for distribution. “I am just a Government secretary I will execute what Government orders. We have ordered all the departments to start preparing their list of files distributing them on regional lines as per chief secretary’s orders. It is up to the Govt. to decide on the distribution of institutions.”
Prof. S.A. Shukoor who in his capacity is handling three key MWD posts as director A.P. Minorities Finance Corporation, Director Urdu Academy, and special officer of Haj committee believes it’s early to predict the future of Minorities Welfare institutions in the state.
He told TCN that fate and character of MWD can be decided only after elections. “We have received the orders to update our records of all the regions which will take some time. Soon election notification is going to be issue. Election code will be enforced and many of the Govt. servants will be transfer on election duty, so there are lots of hindrances to take a prompt decision,” he said.
Prof. Shukoor like his boss Omer Jaleel reiterates that he is just an officer who will have to follow what politicians will decide.
He conceded that single Minorities Welfare institutions for two states will affect its functions but given that he didn’t rule out the possibility of its implementation. But he was quick enough to add, “I don’t think it will be for 10 years. A decade is too much of a time. They might keep them intact for few years till a new capital is developed in residuary Andhra Pradesh.”
India’s Supreme Court has declined to interfere with orders from religious courts, refusing to ban Islamic sharia courts from operating in the country.
It said on Tuesday that the country has systems to protect those who refuse to follow the decrees of such courts, stressing that no one can impose the ruling of a religious court.
However, critics say the Suprems Court’s refusal to impose a ban will increase obscurantism and religious fanaticism in the country.
“It simply shows the weakness of the Indian constitutional system and the moral poverty of the government,” Nava Yogendra Swami, a senior monk for the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.
“We are not yet secular. We need to revise the constitution,” he told ucanews.com.
The court’s observation came on a case challenging the fatwa of an Islamic court that forced a Muslim woman to desert her husband and marry her father-in-law, who allegedly raped her.
“We can protect people who are subjected to suffering due to this … If somebody forces them on you, then we can protect you,” the court reportedly said.
Ahmed Bukhari, head cleric of Jama Masjid mosque in Delhi, welcomed the court ruling and said sharia courts are “a religious necessity” for Muslims.
“[Sharia courts] are part of a right Muslim life according to the Qur’an, they do not interfere with secular values of the country and they do not impose the order on anyone,” Bukhari told ucanews.com.
The petitioner, lawyer Vishwa Lochan Madan, challenged the constitutional validity of the sharia courts, saying they represented a parallel judicial system.
Madan said sharia courts are active in some 60 of India’s 670 districts where Muslims are a majority. Poor villagers, who live away from the courts and police systems, cannot oppose the decrees and fatwa of these courts, which violate the basic rights of citizens, he argued.
The court countered that Madan was assuming that all fatwas are irrational.
“Some fatwas may be wise and may be for the general good. People in this country are wise enough,” the court said. “These are political and religious issues and we do not want to go into it.”
The All India Muslim Personal Law Board, a body established to apply and protect Muslim personal law in India, told the court that no fatwa is binding on people and their religious courts have no power of implementation.
The latest observation of the court, in an election year, comes in contrast with its own 2011 order against khap, or community, courts. The court had deemed such courts “wholly illegal” and said persons behind them “deserve harsh punishment”.
One reason for the change is seen as the general elections due in May and the unwillingness of the ruling coalition to offend the voting bloc of 176 million Muslims, observers said.
Madhya Pradesh, February 23, 2014: Controversy swirled around Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Ashok Singhal’s remark, which said “Hindus must bear five children in order to revive community’s declining population in the country”.
While addressing a news conference in central Bhopal, Singhal said that the population of Hindus was fast declining and if it continued at this pace, they would become a minority in India. He added that it was important not to let Muslims and Christians outdo their numbers by converting Hindus and by marrying the religion’s girls. “Hindus should all have five children. I have been saying that going in every camp. And I feel this campaign will go on in the country,” he said.
Defending the leader’s remark, VHP spokesperson, Prakash Sharma, said that there was no problem with what the former said. “Is it only the burden of Hindus to take up the responsibility of family planning? One sect is producing as many children as possible without any restrictions and its population is increasing day in and day out. To stop it something has to be done and to make ourselves successful something has to be done so I don’t see any problem in the statement,” said Sharma.
Hindus make up around 80% of India’s 1.2 billion population, while Muslims account for 13%.
Meanwhile, a ruling Congress party leader, Rashid Alvi, said Singhal’s remark came from his worry about vote bank. “He doesn’t want five children of Hindus; he is rather worried about the votes. They have this misimpression that Muslims produce more children and he wants to do a split voting between Hindus and Muslims. Today he is talking about five children; I hope that in the future he doesn’t start talking about four wives,” said Alvi.
Delhi, February 26, 2014: Currently the Aam Aadmi Party’s nationwide campaign is in full swing. It is both an electoral campaign and a public relations campaign to reform the country’s political and governance system from the very grassroots. In December only about five AAP leaders (Arvind Kejriwal, Yongendra Yadav, Prashant Bhushan, Kumar Vishwas, Myanak Gandhi) could be recognized from their earlier public achievements.
But since then another dozen prominent Indians with records of upright service to the public and struggles in pursuit of public causes have joined AAP, and every week we hear of more prominent people joining this resurgent political party. Thus people like Medha Patkar, Rajmohan Gandhi, Meera Sanyal (former CEO – Royal Scottish Bank), V Balakrishnan of Infosys, Parveen Amanullah (minister, Bihar government) have joined AAP.
Yesterday I heard a video interview with Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, in which he praised AAP a lot. Maybe he may join AAP or become a member of its advisory board. While AAP’s short term objective is to make a good showing in the parliamentary election in May and be an influential payer at the Centre; it has a long term objective to gain public recognition as a viable and reform oriented political party that has a future in India. In the months and couple of years thereafter they plan to compete in the elections to various state Assemblies, hoping to form government in some states in addition to Delhi. That will help them in their quest to implement their impressive reform platform.
That brings us to the question that if AAP is gaining so much popularity among prominent Indian thinkers, in addition to among the masses, where are the recognizable Muslim-Indians in it? And if they are not there, what are they waiting for? To date Parveen Amanullah is the only prominent Muslim face to join AAP. As the election campaign heats up we will hear from her, at least in relation to Bihar, if not India as a whole. But where are the other prominent Muslim citizens? Let us hope that by end March when the election campaign heats up, another few prominent Muslim names will be found on the AAP platform.
Browsing the AAP Facebook page one finds that quite a few Muslims are participating in the discussion on AAP and its programs. Muslims’ participation in AAP, both masses and prominent citizens, should be in rough proportion to their population in the country. This is not to invoke any special demands of the Muslims, or to bring religion into politics, but to participate in the mainstream movement that AAP has now undoubtedly become. As AAP is successful in helping implement a justice based political system, it is hoped that some of the core grievances of the Muslim community like security, educational improvement, economic uplift will get serious consideration and implementation in due course of time.