Category Archives: Human Rights

NHRC whitewashes Kandhamal

National-Human-Rights-CommissionNEW DELHI, (Anto Akkara) — The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), set up with the mandate to ensure ‘better protection of human rights’, was a beacon of hope to the victims of the post-Godhra carnage. However, it did not even issue a single press release on Kandhamal in five years.

Repeated efforts to get a response to this mysterious silence on the mayhem in Kandhamal evoked no response.  In fact, stunning was the ‘ENQUIRY REPORT’ submitted by the NHRC investigation team that made a clear attempt to whitewash the colossal human rights infringement in Kandhamal. The NHRC’s sweeping observation that “the relief camps have been well established” stood in stark contrast to the tell-tale reports of social action groups highlighting the deplorable state of affairs in the open-air refugee camps without even water supply and sanitation.

The NHRC investigation team seemed to have turned public relations agents for the beleaguered Odisha police. The insensitivity of the investigation team was reinforced in its reporting of the gang-rape and murder of a Hindu girl who had been burnt alive. “A twenty year-old late Rajani Majhi sacrificed her life to save the life of the children living in the orphanage …” remarked the NHRC investigators.  It is shocking that the NHRC failed to report or deliberately covered up the gang-rape and burning alive of a Hindu college girl – herself an orphan who looked after 22 young Hindu orphan boys at the Christian centre.

The white washing of the Kandhamal conflagration by the national human rights watchdog raises the question whose brief was it carrying out?

 Anto Akkara, Journalist author of ‘Kandhamal craves for Justice’

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Filed under anti-Christian attacks, Anto Akkara, Human Rights, IDP, Kandhamal, Kandhamal Craves for Justice, National Human Roghts Commission

Indian Priest to address UN council on human rights

VM at UN GenKOLKATA, (C.M. Paul) – Salesian provincial of Guwahati Fr V.M. Thomas (Vattathara), who heads India’s more than 130,000 Catholic Religious, will address the 23rd session of UN Human Rights Council now underway in Geneva.

The event is co-sponsored by the Holy See, France and Costa Rica, from the office of the High Commissioner and the Right to Education forum. During the Side Event Fr Thomas Vattathara (SDB)  and Sr. Molly Kaniampady (FMA) will present the best practice at the Don Bosco Institute (DBI) where the Salesians and the Salesian Sisters work for the vocational training of under privileged youth through many practical and job-oriented courses on tourism management and hospitality sector.

Fr. Thomas will present a paper on “Youth and Employment – Don Bosco Institute Kharguli” – at a parallel session held at the UN Headquarters in Geneva, 4 June. The institute which he founded caters to youth of northeast India.

“I will highlight the talented, intelligent, capable, and diverse youth who are second to none in the world… but unless taken care of will be a wasted potential,” writes Fr Thomas from Geneva giving a preview of his talk.

Fr Thomas says, “The DBI was a response to youth situation of Northeast India offering many vocational courses and leadership trainings to prepare them for the world of work, and wean them away from the malaise of militancy, insurgency and social deviant behaviours.”

“Empower them with knowledge, equip them with skills and positive attitudes to take on the world and lead,” says Fr Thomas explaining the strategy he uses to stimulate the environment created for hundreds of tribes to learn to live and work together.

Over the years some 8,000 youth were trained and employed by DBI; 1,500 Below Poverty Line youth were trained in driving, weaving, embroidery and animal husbandry; 45,000 youth trained in soft skills and leadership for democratic living and participation; 3,500 Government School teachers empowered to give quality education to rural youth as well as  1,000  Government School Principals were trained at Gov’s request.

The UNHRC council began its 23rd session on May 27 and will conclude on June 14.

The council will hear a wide range of human rights issues presented through more than 100 reports at the sessions. It will also study the human rights situations in more than 40 countries.

Fr Thomas, a graduate of Educational Administration, Planning and Social Policy from the Harvard University (USA), is the president of the Conference of Religious India, a national association of India’s nearly 600 religious congregations.

Since 1962, he has been working in northeastern India, a strife-torn region where security forces and secessionist groups have been accused of indulging in gross human rights violations.

The 62-year-old priest is known for innovative initiatives for human right promotion of children and young people. He has been involved with peace promotion in conflict areas such as Assam and Odisha state in eastern India.

The Bodo areas of Assam had last year witnessed large scale violence between Bodo tribal people and Muslim settlers. Odisha’s Kandhamal was the scene of unprecedented anti-Christian violence nearly five years ago.

Fr. Thomas is a certified trainer in Human Resources Development from the American Society for Training and Development, and a visiting faculty member of Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration that trains India’s candidates for civil services.

The multifaceted personality is also a member of the Indian government’s National Resources Group for Education Guarantee Scheme and Innovative Education.

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Filed under DBI, Don Bosco, Human promotion and Empowerment, Human Rights, V.M. Thomas

Chief Minister Apologises to Cardinal for Mumbai Cross Demolitions

Cross demolished in Mumbai, 4 March 2011.

MUMBAI – Thousands of Catholics led by Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop and President, Catholic Bishops Conference of India prayed at Cross Maidan, 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.
Cardinal Gracias informed that the Chief Minister had called him and apologised for the acts of desecration, even as yet another Cross was demolished and since notices were pasted on the Crosses themselves. Cardinal said he was hurt, embarrassed and angry at the developments and would meet the state Chief Minister on the issue. He said that such disrespectful behaviour by the municipal corporation was shocking and had given the BMC a bad name internationally, as it was not expected from Mumbai.
Bishop Percival Fernandez said he shared the strong sentiments and concern of the Cardinal at the developments in the metropolis.
“Various state governments are demolishing religious structures, following a Supreme Court directive, which seems giving a communal colour to the demolition drive, with Christians being selectively targetted”, said Joseph Dias, general secretary, The CSF, which organised the protest. He added that there was no political will to deal with the issue and there was a strong possibility of it being a ploy to polarize votes on communal lines before the municipal polls due in a year. He also pointed out that the behaviour of the municipal and police officers, who did not spare women, children and senior citizens, gave the impression that communal Hindutva forces had infiltrated these administrative areas too, besides the bureaucracy.
Joseph Dias said that “the West Bengal government had 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 UP, MP, Assam, Punjab and Gujarat have filed their affidavits.
Further, Delhi had reported at 52 only reported the least of such objectionable religious structures. Sikkim, Mizoram and Nagaland had no such religious structures in public places.”
The CSF called for a policy from the Union and State Governments, after seeking SC clarifications and announced as part of their future plans, an inter-religious rally at Azad Maidan – if the State Government did not act on its demands.

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Filed under Catholic Church, Demolition of Crosses in Mumbai, Human Rights

US, UK, Canada Coalition Demand Binayak Sen’s Release


Binayak Sen with Mandela & SuKi

A broad coalition of 55 civil society groups from the U.S., U.K., and Canada are coming together to demand the immediate release of the jailed human rights activist, Dr. Binayak Sen, who was sentenced to life in prison by a sessions court in the Indian state of Chhattisgarh. The coalition demands the repeal of draconian laws which give arbitrary power to the state and infringe on the fundamental rights of free speech, as well as the disbanding of state-backed vigilante groups in Chhattisgarh. Public events will be held in 11 North American cities between 26-30 January 2011.
The coalition consists of civil rights groups such as the Asian Law Alliance, health rights groups such as the People’s Health Movement, anti-war groups such as the ANSWER Coalition and the Boston Mobilization, student groups from Harvard and Berkeley, women’s rights groups such as the Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom, local peace and justice groups from a number of cities, as well as a large number of South Asian immigrant groups based in U.S., U.K. and Canada.  (A complete listing of groups is available below). Over 10,000 signatures from individuals around the world have been collected on petitions asking for the release of Dr. Sen.
Dr Binayak Sen is a renowned pediatrician, public health specialist and the national Vice-President of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties in India. An activist with a lifelong commitment to community health and human rights, Dr. Sen was awarded the Jonathan Mann Award by Global Health Council in 2008.  Dr. Sen earned the ire of the government for opposing Salwa Judum, a private militia movement armed by the Government to combat ‘Maoist insurgency’. Salwa Judum has led to a spiraling increase in violence and has displaced over 100,000 indigenous people over the last 5 years. He was arrested in May 2007 on fabricated charges of sedition, joining dozens of other human rights activists in Indian jails who were also arrested under draconian laws. Even the flimsy evidence of a purported letter that Dr. Sen had allegedly helped carry, and on the basis of which he was convicted, is widely believed to have been planted by the police.
Internationally acclaimed intellectuals including Noam Chomsky, Amartya Sen, Arundhati Roy, and George Galloway have all joined in urging the Indian government to free Binayak Sen and to stop the harassment of human rights activists. Amnesty International slammed the verdict, calling it a ‘mockery of justice’. The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya, has publicly expressed concern over the situation and the shrinking space for civil society in India. “I am deeply concerned about the branding and stigmatization of human rights defenders, labeled as ‘naxalites (Maoists)’, ‘terrorists’, ‘militants’, ‘insurgents’, or ‘anti-nationalists” Ms. Sekaggya said.
January 30th is the anniversary of the assassination of Gandhi. Several groups across India, North America, and Europe will hold solidarity actions including public demonstrations, vigils, and panel discussions to voice their opposition to the brutal suppression of peaceful democratic dissent currently underway in India. Coordinated actions are planned in 12 cities including Washington DC, New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Houston, Austin, Dallas, Boston, Amherst, and Seattle in the US; Vancouver in Canada; and London in the UK. Details of individual events are available at


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Filed under Binayak Sen, Human Rights, Mandela, Suu Kyi

AICC Mourns Punjab Governor Taseer’s Assassination – He was a rare voice of sanity in Pakistan

Punjab Governor Salman Taseer

NEW DELHI – The Christian community in India is shocked at the assassination of  Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, one of the few sane voices in Pakistan, by his crazed bodyguard. Mr. Taseer’s  life long opposition to the black laws of blasphemy in Pakistan, used largely to target vulnerable Christian and other religious minorities, stands out in the midst of the fundamentalist cacophony that has smitten human rights in that country. We mourn Mr Taseer’s death and convey our condolences to his family and to all Human Rights defenders in Pakistan.
The anti blasphemy laws must go. At present, a young mother, Asia Bibi is facing the death penalty. In the past, several young men have been similarly sentenced. The All India Christian Council has consistently raised its voice against the anti-blasphemy laws at various Asian and other international forums.  We urge the United States and other international friends of Pakistan and their civil societies to join Pakistan’s human rights defenders in creating a powerful advocacy movement against such laws.
Dr. John Dayal, Secretary General
All India Christian Council, New Delhi, India
5th January 2011

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Pope is correct on religious freedom, Indian activist says


Dr Lenini Raghuvanshi

ROME – “His Holiness the Pope is absolutely correct in stating that religious freedom is the path to peace”. Wherever this right is not respected, you have the bases of Fascism, said executive director of the Peoples’ Vigilance Committee on Human Rights Mr. Lenin Raghuvanshi, as he spoke about the need to respect religious freedom as the stepping stone to build just and peaceful coexistence.
He was commenting on Pope Benedict’s message for the World day of Peace celebrated on the first of January by the Catholic Church.
Dr Raghuvanshi won the 2010 Weimar Human Rights Award and the 2007 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights.
If a society wants sustainable peace, there should be religious freedom and freedom of conscience and the absence of religious freedom leads to intolerance, hostilities and tensions, he said. Religious freedom presupposes freedom from the state in the sphere of religion and freedom from state control over conscience. All democracies in the world must ensure and guarantee freedom of religion. The progress and development of a democracy will be the result of a peaceful and tolerant society. When everyone, including linguistic and ethnic minorities, has the freedom to practice their religion, rituals and religious expressions, society will be more harmonious and cohesive. This creates an enabling environment for the progress and prosperity of a nation.
Any society that does not guarantee religious freedom breeds and engenders communal Fascism. Political communalism is a preliminary to political Fascism.
Communal Fascism is the abuse of religious fundamentalist philosophy for political advantages and the usurpation of political power in order to establish supremacy in society. He stressed that it is most urgent that world leaders take seriously the message of His Holiness the Pope that religious freedom is the path to peace, if they want to foster sustainable peace in the world.
Forty year old Varanasi born Dr. Raghuvanshi is the symbol of resistance to millions of Dalits fighting for dignity in India. Lenin is credited with changing the discourse on  Dalit Politics in India and bringing into focus an innovative “people centric” approach to reclaim “human dignity” in a caste ridden Indian society. The gamut of Lenin’s activities reflects his personal and ideological span and provides credibility and a sense of completeness to the work he does. His care for details, meticulous planning, diligent patience, and sincere advocacy of the issue of the marginalized, has made millions of his supporters optimistic about a dignified future.


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Filed under Human Rights, Religious freedom