The Catolic Secular Forum

Mumbai: Our Lady of Valankanni Statue Vandalised.

The CSF and community groups have condemned the vandalisation of a statue of Our Our Lady of Valankanni at Nikamwadi in Dadar West, Mumbai. It seems to be an attempt to disturb the communal peace in the area and Catholics have therefore urged to maintain restraint. It is indeed surprising that the police have assumed that it was a case of attempt to rob and as a result, the statute fell down, as mentioned in the police report. One can expect more provocation of such kind in the run-up to the elections due next year. There seems to be a pattern to the madness, which could be to polarize the voters on majority-minority lines, making Christians the soft target.

According to the groups (MCYF, AOCC, CPF, etc.), if the police do not bring to book the culprits, who desecrated the statue, it will be a signal to fundamentalist forces that they could target the community with impunity. Joseph Dias said that the CSF would approach the home minister to increase police protection and surveillance around religious places.

According to Joseph Dias, “ what is even more shocking is that the vandalization occurred near the Anusaya co-operative housing society, which reportedly has only two Catholic families residing there. The police have filed a case under sections 379, 511, 295 and 427 of the IPC for offenses relating to hurting religious sentiments. The CSF also put out a hotline for community members to alert the NGO for preventing and dealing with such communal emergencies. The statue was handed over to the Our Lady of Salvation (Portuguese) Church authorities and we would keep you informed of developments in the case.

Read more

Catholic groups succeed in getting Shiv Sena banner off

That unity is strength was demonstrated yet again, when community groups took umbrage to reportedly a hoarding that was put up outside Holy Cross Church in Lower Parel, Mumbai warning of “Shiv Sena Style” tactics, if the pre-primary school admission policy was not changed. The hoarding condemned  the school for admitting students in accordance with the Right to Education (RTE) Act and the Shiv Sena urged preference to locals, in disregard to reservations, which the school was following. The hoarding continued to remain outside the church compound despite much media attention.

However, concerted insistence by community groups, which represented the case with the Additional and Deputy Commissioners of Police ensured the hoarding was taken off. This according to The CSF general secretary, Joseph Dias was necessary because the local police inspector took no action, despite repeated complaints. ‘ The hoarding was objectionable because it demanded that the school violate the provisions of the RTE Act and incited the public, if it did not do so. It also threatened the school of an agitation (andolan), if it failed to fall in line ‘, he said.

Judith Monteiro, an activist of the near-by parish, who assisted the school in the admission process said that since many complaints were given to the police, they ought to have acted promptly, but did not do so. Agnelo Fernandes of the Maharashtra Christian Youth Forum (MCYF) hit out against the Shiv Sena and said it was trying to target the school which was protected as minority institution and only doing its duty. Adv. Joe Sodderof the Catholics for the Preservation of the Faith (CPF) said that such threats and attacks on the community would not be taken lying down and the community needs to rise against it. Archie Sodder of the Association of Concerned Catholics (AOCC) urged the Shiv Sena to reserve a quota for the East Indian Christians and Kolis, who were sons of the soil in Mumbai and demonstrate the party’s concern.

The CSF aims to bring all Christian denominations together and deal with such emergencies, as more such provocations can be expected. Fr Constancio Noronha, manager of the school and Parish Priest of the Church which runs it thanked the community groups for their support. We will keep you informed of developments on this front and will seek your assistance, as the admission process continues. The groups have also urged the Archdiocesan Board of Education to consider collective action as a protest against such threats.

EARLIER REPORT: SHIV SENA THREATENS LOWER PAREL SCHOOL FOR FOLLOWING RTE RULES

Members of the Shiv Sena have put up a banner outside the Holy Cross School, Lower Parel, threatening to launch a ‘Sena-style’ protest.

Mumbai, February 14, 2013: The school, run by the local  has been following the Right to Education (RTE) rules that mandate a 25% quota for children from economically  weak families. Since the institution is run by a religious minority, the school is also entitled to reserve 50% of its seats for Catholics. However, the local Shiv Sena have objected to this, saying that first preference should be given to those students living in the neighbourhood, who have been unable to apply because of these quotas. The school, currently in the process of deciding admissions to its kindergarten section, has lodged a complaint with the NM Joshi police station.

Father Constancio Noronha, school manager, in a letter to the police, said, “This is to bring to your immediate and urgent notice that a banner with orange flags has been put up outside our church and school gate threatening us regarding our junior KG admission process. …The banner has caused fear among our children and people. There is also fear of damage to our school property. Could you kindly take necessary action and grant us the necessary protection so as to prevent loss to lives and property?”

The school has distributed 500 forms for 60 seats in the open category and 1,000 forms for 60 seats in the RTE category. It also has 120 seats reserved for minority students.

The Sena wants applications to be accepted uniformly. “Locals within a one-kilometer radius of the school should get first preference,” said Nana Ambole, a local Sena leader whose name appears on the banner.

Read more