The inclusion of caste in its anti-discrimination policy by the California State Universities is as a major triumph for activists. “Saale cha*** tumhari kismat bahut tez hai, tum America pahunch gaye. Translated, this means, ‘you cha*** – a slur used by ‘upper’ caste members – you’re in luck to have made it to America.’ The casual, casteist insult was one of many Neha Singh grew accustomed to on campus, as a student at California State University a decade ago, where she pursued Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. At the time, she had no idea whom to complain to, as she wasn’t sure the American university system would understand the Indian caste system. So she held her tongue, avoided revealing she was Dalit, and dropped out of South Asian dance groups on campus after repeatedly being asked what her last name was. The many instances of casteism she recalls on campus include an Indian student talking of how Christianity was not an Indian religion, so all Indian Christians were low-caste converts. “This shocked me,” she says. She is delighted that California State University (CSU) added caste to its anti-discrimination policy earlier this month. CSU is America’s largest four-year public university, spanning 23 campuses with over 480,000 students.

Catholics in India’s southern state of Tamil Nadu breathed a sigh of relief after police arrested two suspects for vandalizing a statue of St. Sebastian three days after the incident. The incident was reported on Jan. 23 at a shrine close to Holy Trinity Cathedral Church in Ramanathapuram. “We don’t have any history of hostility with anyone and we are surprised at this development,” said assistant parish priest Father Bastin Joseph. He said the vandals had broken open the glass case and destroyed the statue. Catholics staged a peaceful protest in front of the cathedral demanding action against the culprits. “We are happy that police arrested two persons and identified two others behind this attack,” the priest said. Police said that prima facie the incident appeared to be an act of revenge in response to the suicide of a minor girl in Thanjavur district, which falls under Kumbakonam Diocese. The girl had consumed poison on Jan. 9 and died on Jan. 19 while undergoing treatment. Some Hindu groups had alleged that the girl, who stayed in a hostel managed by nuns and studied in a church school, took the extreme step after she was harassed for refusing to convert to Christianity. In her confidential statement to a magistrate,

Intense opposition to Christianity grew in an area of northern India in the past month as a Hindu mob invited news media to record them reviling a house church gathering, and another pastor and his family were driven from their home, sources said. Intending to stir public sentiment against Christians, members of the Hindu extremist Bajrang Dal in Jammu and Kashmir state’s Kathua District brought local news reporters to record them intruding into a house church worship service in the district’s Ward No. 4 colony on Jan. 5. “Suddenly, the mob forcefully entered our church member’s house where we gathered with my family to pray together,” pastor Pawan Kumar told Morning Star News. “They started abusing us in extremely foul language. Soon the media and cameramen started recording the exchange.” “But they did not pay heed to our requests – they said that we are brainwashing the minds of Hindus to attract them to Christianity,” he said. “I told them, ‘Nowhere is it written in the Bible that we should brainwash others to attract them to Christianity. You have totally misunderstood our faith. We are asked to love everyone irrespective of their religion, caste or sect.’” The home, located in a secured, upscale neighborhood, is

(Opinion by M.G. Devasahayam - Retd Army and Indian Administrative Service Officer) A healthy nation reinforces democracy by removing bigotry, arbitrariness, injustice, hate and intolerance, which exist within the country and threaten the unity of people. The slug-fest between the Centre and States over the tableau displays during the Republic Day Parade is back again in full fury. Following the parade’s theme this year—India@75—Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Kerala submitted their respective tableaux to the Ministry of Defence (MoD), the controlling authority for the parade held on 26 January every year. The Tamil Nadu tableau proposed sketches that depict the contribution of renowned freedom fighters from the state, including VO Chidambaram, Subramania Bharathi, popularly known as Mahakavi Bharathiyar, Rani Velu Nachiyar and other women soldiers. The West Bengal tableau sought to feature Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and his Indian National Army, whose 125th birth anniversary falls on 23 January. The tableau would have carried portraits of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, Rabindranath Tagore, Swami Vivekananda, Chittaranjan Das, Sri Aurobindo, Matangini Hazra, Birsa Munda and Nazrul Islam. Kerala’s tableau was of the social reformer Sree Narayana Guru and the Jatayu Park monument, the world’s biggest bird sculpture in a national park covering 65 acres over four

A state court has ordered forensic testing of old video footage about an alleged attempt to convert a minor girl who recently committed suicide in southern India’s Tamil Nadu state. Sister Sahaya Mary, a 62-year-old member of the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, also known as Pondicherry Blue Sisters, has been arrested and sent to judicial custody after the death of the 17-year-old girl studying in class 12 at Sacred Heart Higher Secondary School in Michaelpatti in Thanjavur district falling under Kumbakonam Diocese. The nun was the warden of the school hostel where the girl resided and reportedly consumed poison on Jan. 9. She was rushed to a hospital but died on Jan. 19 while undergoing treatment. In her statement to police, the girl alleged that she took the extreme step after the hostel warden made her clean the rooms. Meanwhile, an older video surfaced on social media of the girl alleging that a nun, whom she does not name, had asked her parents’ permission to convert her to Christianity. A male voice in the background of the 47-second video asks her if her parents’ refusal was the reason behind her harassment by the warden and she replies: “It may be.” Though the

Dropping Mahatma Gandhi's favorite hymn is another move by Narendra Modi to bury India's past Until New Year’s Day, not many people other than Christians in India, Catholics among them, who attend the English Sunday services in their neighborhood church had known of the hymn Abide With Me. With Amazing Grace, it was a favorite of a select few, among them a man called Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. Today, most Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Buddhists with access to English-language media would know the hymn’s title, could have read the solemn verses and even hummed the tune. Narendra Modi, India’s hyper-nationalist and arguably xenophobic prime minister, has had an inadvertently big hand in spreading the hymn among tens of millions of its new admirers. He did this by banning it from the repertoire of the massed military bands whose brass and bagpipes played the tune with stunning impact at the Beating Retreat ceremony held down the Raisina hill at Rashtrapati Bhawan, the residence of the president of India. The Retreat ends the week-long state festivities that mark the birth of the Indian republic on Jan. 26, 1950, after a bloodstained partition and independence from Britain on Aug. 15, 1947. While Pakistan was hived off as a homeland of

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 24, 2020. Washington DC. India to remain a liberal democratic state is vital for the US interests and the US-India relationship. If India slips into a religious fundamentalist state as Pakistan or Turkey has, it will have far-reaching implications for the US interests not only across the Indian Ocean Corridor but even at home. What is taking place in India this week is a clear indication yet of where that country is headed. Prime Minister Modi removed the Hymn "Abide With Me" from India's annual Republic Day Parade this week. This hymn was part of the official annual parade for the last 73 years. It was first included in 1949 by the Indian Amry played by its band. It is considered to be Mahatma Gandhi's favorite hymn. Ever since, it has been a tradition for the army band to play it every year. It is not about whether or not a tune is removed or added in a lineup this year. It should be seen from a historical perspective. Mr. Modi's Hindu nationalist party has long been arguing that, for India to be truly independent, she should shed the remnants of colonial past and all that are associated with it - including the

By Nirmala Carvalho 62-year-old Sister Sahaya Mary, in charge of a student hostel linked to the Sacred Heart Higher Secondary School in Michaelpatti, was arrested. Behind the arrest was the death by poisoning of a 17-year-old student. Social media have amplified and distorted the story. The young girl had lost her mother eight years ago and was the victim of harassment by her stepmother, a BJP supporter. Delhi (AsiaNews) - Indian authorities have arrested a nun in charge of a hostel on charges of forced conversion, which culminated in the suicide of a minor student at the Sacred Heart Higher Secondary School in Michaelpatti, a village in the Thanjavur district (Kumbakonam diocese, Tamil Nadu). The 17-year-old girl was a guest at the centre, whose management falls under the school administration. She poisoned herself in her room on 9 January last, dying after 10 days, despite attempts at treatment. Because of the death, investigators detained 62-year-old Sister Sahaya Mary and charged her under sections 305 of the criminal code (aiding and abetting suicide of a minor), 511, 75 and 82 paragraph 1. However, in the First Information Report drawn up by police officers who managed to speak with the victim before her death, there is no

Christian leaders in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh have appealed to India’s top constitutional authorities for protection from pro-Hindu nationalist groups. The leaders belonging to different denominations, in a memorandum addressed to India’s President Ram Nath Kovind and Supreme Court Chief Justice N.V. Ramana among others, accused pro-Hindu organizations like Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP--world Hindu council) and its youth wing Bajrang Dal of infringing on their fundamental right to practice their faith. “They [pro-Hindu nationalist groups] make false allegations of religious conversion against the priests and pastors in the community, carry false social media propaganda against us and register false police complaints against us,” the memorandum stated. It further alleged the district and police authorities of siding with the nationalist groups to harass Christians while appealing to the constitutional authorities to step in to protect them and help lead their lives in peace as any other citizen of the country. “We are terrorized and living in fear. We are being falsely projected as religious converters,” said Father Rocky Shah, one of the signatories to the memorandum and public relations officer of Jhabua Diocese. He said Christians have served to educate and uplift the people of this country. They had also provided health care

The minority community which forms 41 percent of Manipur state's population says it's a day of rest and worship Christian leaders and student unions in the northeastern state of Manipur have urged India’s election commission to change the polling date for the upcoming provincial election as it falls on a Sunday. Assembly elections in five Indian states were announced by the commission on Jan. 8 with Manipur set to vote in two phases on Feb. 27 and March 3. The All Tribal Students’ Union Manipur (ATSUM) and Kuki Inpi Manipur (KIM) have urged the commission to reschedule the polling to any other convenient date other than a Sunday. ATSUM in a statement on Jan. 10 said the scheduling of the election date for Feb. 27, which is a Sunday, was a matter of concern for tribal people and the Christian community in the state. Khaiminlen Doungel, secretary of ATSUM, said that “the state predominantly consists of tribal Christians who account for 43 percent of the state’s population and Sunday is a holy and sacred day for them. It is also a day for rest and worship.” Doungel said the commission lacked “the ability to appreciate the spiritual values, beliefs and practices of the Christian community. Its

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