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There are occasional rays of hope amid the gloom but at the moment, there is reason to be pessimistic The fate of the 70-year-old struggle of India’s converts from its erstwhile “untouchable” castes in the Hindu hierarchy may well be in the hands of a former chief justice of the Supreme Court. Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan while in office had asked Church leaders if they were willing to say on oath that they exercised caste discrimination in their congregations. There was silence in the courtroom. He was at that time hearing appeals against Article 341 Part 3 which assures affirmative action including scholarships, jobs and political representation to this group of citizens as long as they remain Hindu. If they convert to Christianity or Islam, they lose the benefits. The converts may also be jailed if the government discovers that they had studied in Church schools on scholarships given to Christian students. "Dalits who embraced other religions were denied the benefits of affirmative action by presidential order" Justice Balakrishnan was the first Dalit, as the former untouchable castes now call themselves, to become the chief justice of India. His elevation was the direct result of a question raised by former President K R Narayanan, the

NEW DELHI: Calling religious conversions by use of force or allurement a threat to national security, the Supreme Court on Monday sought a detailed affidavit from the government on steps being taken to curb this "dangerous trend." As solicitor general Tushar Mehta told the court that it is common knowledge that such conversions are rampant in tribal areas, the court asked what the Cenre and states have done to stop it. The Centre must step in and make its stand clear, the bench of Justices MR S hah and Hima Kohli said. Forced conversions a threat to national security, says SC Expressing grave concern over alleged religious conversions by use of force, allurement and deception, the Supreme Court on Monday warned that this posed "a very serious threat to the security of the country" and sought a detailed affidavit from the government on the steps being taken to curb this "dangerous trend". Hearing a PIL filed by advocate-petitioner Ashwini Upadhyay, a bench of Justices M R Shah and Hima Kohli told solicitor general Tushar Mehta that "everyone has the freedom of conscience to choose a religion. But religious conversions through force or any kind of temptation is a dangerous thing which must be stopped".

The church should have studied and discussed the judgment in detail before rushing to welcome it. India’s Supreme Court upholding the economic criteria for granting educational and job quotas to the privileged upper castes could be the final nail in the coffin for the country’s affirmative action program for historically disadvantaged groups such as the Dalits or former untouchables and the indigenous tribal people. The Eastern-rite Syro-Malabar Church deserves its share of the blame for missing the woods for the trees by welcoming the decision and expressing its readiness to ignore the historical injustices unleashed on the marginalized sections of Indians in the name of the caste system. For centuries, people in the lowest strata of Indian society were ostracized from public life. The idea of educational and job reservations for the ‘outcastes’ was to enable them to have a level playing field with the so-called upper castes. India’s constitution-makers, fully aware of the rampant poverty in the country, decided that the criteria for reservations should be the social poverty that a community faces, and not economic poverty. However, a 1950 presidential order limited the affirmative action program only to people from the Hindu religion on the grounds that casteism was practiced only by them.

New Delhi, Nov 3, 2022: Journalism now faces great challenges from inside the profession and outside, says veteran journalist John Dayal, after he was selected for a prestigious award by the national association of Catholic journalists in India. The Indian Catholic Press Association (ICPA) has also chosen a grassroots Jesuit activist and a Holy Spirit nun, besides Dayal, for its annual awards this year. The award was announced November 2 by the association’s president Ignatius Gonsalves and secretary Capuchin Father Suresh Mathew. John Dayal, who is also a writer and human rights activist, was selected for the Louis Careno Award for Excellence in Journalism for his bold, continuous and consistent writing against communalism and fundamentalism gaining ground globally. The award citation hails Dayal as “a prophet of our times” who is among India’s foremost voices against human rights violations, particularly on the persecution of religious minorities. “He has been a member of several government bodies, including the National Integration Council, and holds senior roles in numerous non-government organizations and networks, including as co-founder and secretary general of the All India Christian Council, 1999-2014, national president of the 1919-founded all India Catholic Union between 2004 and 2008, and a member of Justice and Peace Commission of

The narrative of Muslims and Christians being casteless is more significant to India’s handling of caste than we assume. After years of it remaining confined to academic discussions, the prospect of Scheduled Caste status for Dalit Muslims and Christians suddenly feels real. The last month has seen much activity on the question. The Union government’s appointment of a commission under KG Balakrishnan on October 8 has received much press coverage. However, it is not well known that the government did not set up the commission of its own accord but after the Supreme Court asked it to respond to an ongoing case. On August 30, the Supreme Court had listed the case of M Ejaz Ali vs Union of India, combining a batch of public interest litigations from Muslim and Christian groups demanding Scheduled Caste status. Some of these petitions go as far back as 2004. Denial and opposition While the anticipation of Scheduled Caste status brings hope for the most marginalised Muslim and Christian communities as it will allow them to access reservations in educational institutions and government jobs, it is also met with denials and opposition from several spheres. Predictably, groups the like All India Muslim Personal Law Board, who have claimed to represent

Uttar Pradesh state has seen a rise in persecution against Christians after the anti-conversion law was enacted last year Christians in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh have sought action against pro-Hindu groups misusing the state’s recently enacted anti-conversion law to harass and persecute minority communities. A group of 125 people, who called themselves Khrist Bhakts (devotees of Christ) called on the chief of police and administration in Varanasi, a prominent Hindu pilgrimage center on the banks of the Hindu holy river Ganges, to ensure Christians’ freedom of faith. A memorandum they submitted to the police commissioner and district collector highlighted false cases registered against Christians and those who follow Christ but have not yet converted to Christianity. The clauses of the anti-conversion law are misused to fabricate cases against Christians, they said. The state government, run by the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), criminalized religious conversion done through allurement, force, or coercion among other means in February 2021. Christian leaders say any Christian charity activity can be misinterpreted as allurement, force, or coercion carried out for conversion. In the latest case of alleged misuse of the law, eight members of a socially poor Dalit community, including three women, from a slum area in Mangatpuram were

Police said that the arrested 12 persons were making arrangements for a mass religious conversion of Hindu tribals in the region. According to police, after gathering specific inputs, a team of its personnel conducted raids and made the arrests. Police said that the arrested 12 persons were making arrangements for a mass religious conversion of Hindu tribals in the region. The arrested persons were being grilled by the police. Preliminary investigations revealed that many people belonging to Chikkamuduwadi Tandya were kept in a house in Kanakapura town. Sources stated the police will investigate the matter further. More details are yet to emerge regarding the case. Hindu activists for a long time have been alleging forceful conversions in the region by Christian missionaries. Earlier, attempts to build the tallest statue of Jesus in the world in Kapalabetta in Kanakapura taluk were made. The Hindu activists then alleged that state Congress President D K Shivakumar was supporting the building of the tallest statue of Jesus Christ to impress former AICC President Sonia Gandhi in his constituency. Bajrang Dal, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), and other Hindu organisations had announced agitation against the building of Jesus Christ's statue at Kapalabetta. The Karnataka High Court later gave a stay order on the construction work

Trio was attending a faith healing, prayer program in northeastern Assam state while on tourist visas India deports 3 Swedes for preaching Christianity A television screengrab of the Swedish nationals deported by Indian authorities for conducting Christian religious activities while on a tourist visa. (Source: Indian authorities arrested and deported three Swedish nationals for participating in Christian religious activities while visiting the northeastern state of Assam on a tourist visa. Hannah Mikaela Bloom, Marcus Arne Henrik Bloom and Susanna Elisabeth Hakannson were sent back to Sweden on Oct 28 after being arrested by police in Dibrugarh city on suspicion of being involved in religious conversions, according to police officials. The trio was attending an Oct 25-27 faith healing and prayer program in Naharkatia in Dibrugarh district organized by the United Churches Fellowship and the Bless Assam Mission Network. “The allegation of religious conversions is baseless. There is no truth in it as the organizers had obtained prior permission from the district administration and local police officials and the program was attended by only Christians, so where is the question of converting anyone,” Allen Brooks, the spokesman of the Assam Christian Forum, told UCA News. "We had no hidden program" However, the Swedish nationals were fined US$500 (41,500

Vishwa Hindu Parishad says benefits of affirmative action must be denied to those who become Christians The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) or World Hindu Council has urged the Indian government to withdraw the benefits of its affirmative action program to Hindus who convert to Christianity. Vijay Shankar Tiwari, the national VHP spokesman while addressing a press conference in Jaipur city in northwestern Rajasthan state on Oct. 19, alleged those converting to Christianity continue to use their Hindu names and credentials in official documents and draw benefits from the government’s reservation policy for Dalits and tribal people. “The central government should make a plan and do a survey to ensure that those people who are from the SC [Scheduled Caste, the official name for Dalits] and ST [Scheduled Tribes] communities and adopted Christianity don’t get the reservation benefits,” he demanded. Tiwari further accused Christian missionaries and Muslim clerics of acting as pressure groups to pass on the benefits of education and employment reservations in government institutions under India’s affirmative action program to those converted to their religions. “Since these religious groups claim their religions do not have any caste system and that every individual is equal, they do not come under the reservation schemes,” said Tiwari. He

RSS body demands action against Global Hunger Index surveyors for ‘defaming India’ The Swadeshi Jagran Manch urged the Centre to take steps against a German NGO which ranked India 107th among 121 countries on the index. The Swadeshi Jagran Manch, an affiliate body of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh on Sunday urged the Union government to take action against German non-governmental organisation Welt Hunger Hilfe which last week ranked India 107th among 121 countries in the Global Hunger Index, PTI reported. The index has been prepared in an irresponsible manner to defame India, the Swadeshi Jagran Manch claimed in a statement. Ashwani Mahajan, the co-convenor of the body said that India was self-sufficient in food grains and a net exporter country. In the Global Hunger Index released on Friday, India fared worse than its neighbours Pakistan (99th), Nepal (81st) and Bangladesh (84th) for the second successive year. In 2021, India was ranked 101st out of 116 countries on the index that calculates the hunger levels and malnutrition across the world. This year, India had the highest child wasting rate in the world of 19.3%. Child wasting rate – one of the four indicators of the index – refers to the share of children under the age

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