NEW DELHI: 1 January 2011 — The All India Christian Council (AICC) today expressed deep distress at the systematic targeting and persecution of human rights defenders by government agencies as well as by organised groups. Christian Council leaders said India’s future as a vibrant secular democracy requires an abiding commitment to the civil liberties and human dignity of its citizens.
In a New Year Statement to the Nation, the AICC President and leadership also listed erosion of freedom of faith and disregard of special rights for vulnerable sections such as Tribals and Dalits as major issues facing India — not just in the New Year 2011 — but the second decade of the 21st Century. The Christian Council wished all fellow citizens peace, security, and a share in the national prosperity.
“Freedom of faith and human rights were special victims in the last year and the last decade. We recall the anti-Muslim pogrom in Gujarat in 2002 and the pre-planned mass violence against Christians in Kandhamal and other districts of Orissa as well as Karnataka,” said Dr. Joseph D’souza, AICC President.
D’souza urged the Union government to proactively resolve the unprecedented prison term for humanist doctor Mr. Binayak Sen and bring to an end the harassment of brave activist Ms. Teesta Setalvad who is currently targeted by both state and rightwing fundamentalist organisations.
Dr. John Dayal, AICC Secretary General, said, “It is tragic that a great republic such as India doesn’t have a sufficiently strong civil society and civil liberty mass movements which are required to monitor fault lines and lacunae in the administration of justice. A few daring individuals — at great risk to their own lives — and a handful of human rights groups have kept alive the spirit of the Constitution and taken up the cause of the common man victimized by extremist groups or a power-crazed governance system.
People such as Binayak Sen and Teesta kept alive the pursuit of justice for the victims.” The Christian Council paid tributes to several activists who passed away last year – including Dr. Bhagwan Das of the Dalit movement, socialist leader Surendra Mohan, and Peoples Union for Civil Liberties Advocate Kannabiran.
Dr. Dayal said, “We call upon the government to ensure that a bill against communal violence is brought before Parliament which fully addresses the fears of micro-minorities such as the Christians in India. The Christian Council fully supports the demands of Dalit Christians and Muslims, and we hope the government and Supreme Court grant them justice in 2011.”
“It is high time that the government makes three structural changes to strengthen justice mechanisms in India. It should bring forth legislation establishing an Equal Opportunities Commission, set up a study group along the lines of the Sachar Commission to study the economic and social conditions of all strata of the Christian community in every part of the country, and strengthen the Nation Commission for Minorities. The 12th Five Year Plan must also reflect our needs, aspirations and hopes,” said Dr. Dayal.
The All India Christian Council plans to organise a series of seminars and consultations on these issues to educate the community and to keep the Union Government, Planning Commission, and state authorities abreast of issues crucial to the 26 million Christians in India.
The All India Christian Council (www.christiancouncil.in), birthed in 1998, exists to protect and serve the Christian community, minorities, and the oppressed castes. The AICC is a coalition of thousands of Indian denominations, organizations, and lay leaders.