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July

IT IS NO LONGER THAT WINGED HORSE MOVING HEAVENWARDS BUT A ROTTEN SPY WEAPON HURTLING THE NATION TO DOOM Pegasus is in the news! No, not the immortal winged horse from Greek mythology or the one whose soaring flight was interpreted in ancient times as an allegory of the soul’s immortality. Pegasus in its latest avatar is far from the mythical creature of old or even the symbol of poetic inspiration in modern times. It is dangerous Israeli spyware and has become a metaphor for all that is rotten and corrupt in a country like India; of a government that can stoop to abysmal depths to spy on its own citizens, especially the voices of dissent who uphold justice and truth. The first "Snoopgate" scandal came to the limelight in late 2019 when it was discovered that the Pegasus spyware was used to hack into the phones of roughly 1,400 users around the world, including 21 Indians. The latest sensational revelations are far more serious, with the Indian government reportedly snooping on at least 300 prominent citizens including journalists, human rights activists, political opponents and even current and former government officials. Of far more concern is the targeting of lawyers, activists and academics connected with the

HATE AND TARGETED VIOLENCE INCLUDING MURDERS AND ATTACKS ON CHURCHES ARE REPORTED IN THE FIRST HALF OF 2021 July 29, 2021. The Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI), an alliance of evangelical and Protestant Christians, says it has recorded 145 incidents of anti-Christian persecution in the country during the first half of 2021. The violence detailed in the half-yearly report published on July 23 was vicious, widespread and ranged from murder to attacks on churches, exposing police immunity and connivance and the now normalized social exclusion or boycott of Christians. The most bizarre incident was reported on March 19 from Jhansi, a northern city in Uttar Pradesh state. Four nuns were unjustifiably accused of religious conversion by a mob of extremists and arrested while traveling on a train from Delhi to Odisha. The terrified nuns were released by police only after intervention from advocacy groups. “Violence against Christians by non-state actors in India stems from an environment of targeted hate. The translation of the hate into violence is sparked by a sense of impunity generated in India’s administrative apparatus,” the EFI report said. The report documented three murders, attacks or desecration of 22 churches or places of worship, and 20 cases of social boycotts of families in

TAMIL NADU VICAR CLAIMS THAT A VIRAL VIDEO OF HIS SPEECH HAD BEEN DOCTORED July 27, 2021. A trial court in Tamil Nadu state has remanded a Catholic priest in judicial custody for 15 days for alleged hate speech among other charges after Hindu groups threatened to launch protests demanding his arrest. Father George Ponnaiah, a vicar of Kuzhithurai Diocese in the southern Indian state, was arrested on July 24 morning as he was heading for an undisclosed destination, apparently after police registered a criminal offense against him at Arumanai police station for alleged hate speech on July 18. A video of the priest that went viral reportedly contained objectionable statements about various religious communities, leaders of the state's ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam government and leaders of the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah. In a statement before his arrest, the priest denied the charges, saying someone had doctored the original video to trap him in a false case. He also apologized to religious people. “My speech has been edited and circulated on social media to show that I hurt the sentiments of Hindu brothers and sisters. None of us on the dais said anything hurting

SOCIAL ACTIVIST FATHER STAN SWAMY WAS ARRESTED ACCUSED OF SEDITION AND TERRORISM July 26, 2021. Bombay High Court has withdrawn its oral appreciation for Indian Jesuit Father Stan Swamy, who died under detention early this month, after strong opposition from a government pleader. The court’s withdrawal came on July 23 when it gathered to decide on the nature of investigation needed to find out the circumstances that led to the priest's death on July 5. He was 84.Government pleader Anil Singh, who appeared on behalf of the National Investigation Agency (NIA), which arrested Father Swamy on charges of sedition and terrorism, opposed the judges’ earlier appreciative comments. On July 19, Justices S.S. Shinde and N.J. Jamadar of the top court in Maharashtra state expressed admiration for the works of the Jesuit priest. They said they had “great respect” for his work while hearing his bail application, which was posthumously submitted to help decide on the course of investigation of the priest’s death in judicial custody. “He is such a wonderful person. The kind of service he has rendered to the society. We have great respect for his work. Legally, whatever is there against him is a different matter,” Justice Shinde said. “We don’t have time normally,

Denver Newsroom, Jul 28, 2021 / 14:01 pm - A Catholic priest in southern India who made political remarks, including criticism of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, has been arrested for alleged hate speech. The priest, Father George Ponnaiah, denies the charges, and has suggested that videos criticizing his remarks were deceptively edited. He apologized for any hurt he may have caused. “My speech has been edited and circulated on social media to show that I hurt the sentiments of Hindu brothers and sisters,” Father Ponnaiah said, according to UCA News. “None of us on the dais said anything hurting religious sentiments. If my speech hurt anyone, I apologize wholeheartedly.” Ponnaiah is a vicar of the Diocese of Kuzhithurai in the southern India state of Tamil Nadu. He was arrested July 24 and detained by a trial court for 15 days, as police filed criminal charges against him for his July 18 remarks. Some Hindu activists had threatened to stage protests on July 28 if the priest was not arrested. The diocese’s administrator rejected any form of disparaging comments, but also said the diocese would provide legal aid to Ponnaiah. His alleged controversial remarks came at a meeting in Arumani in Kanyakumari district, attended by

A pastor in northern India was forced to flee his village after police detained him, his wife and three children, one of whom is 2 years old, and tortured him for sharing the Gospel.Pastor Sanjay Kumar Bharati and his family moved more than 600 miles away from his village in Shyampur area of Uttarakhand state’s Haridwar district, Morning Star News reported, adding that police had unofficially ordered him to leave the village.Bharati and his family were detained on June 13 on a complaint of violating COVID-19 restrictions. But as they tortured him, police only interrogated him about his conversion to Christianity and his preaching of the Gospel.“As soon as I was taken inside the police station, a policeman slapped me three or four times on my face and punched me in my stomach,” the pastor was quoted as saying. “He hurled curses and accused me of alluring people and converting them.”Bharati recalled that he was then taken to an inner room where he was ordered to lie face down on a bed. An officer then beat him on his legs and feet with his belt.“Hell broke open on me as they mercilessly tortured me for 30 to 40 minutes. I

The law criminalises religious conversion, except in the case of "Ghar Wapsi", the reconversion to Hinduism. According to a report by International Christian Concern, 30 Christians were arrested in July, up from previous months.Police recently arrested nine Christians in Uttar Pradesh for allegedly violating the state’s controversial anti-conversion law, which criminalises religious conversion and denies bail to those accused.The case is cited in a study by International Christian Concern (ICC), a Christian advocacy group, which reports a recent rise in anti-Christian complaints.The document quotes one of the Christians, Sadhu Srinivas Gautham, who said that about 25 Hindu radicals stormed a prayer meeting last Sunday in Gangapur town, accusing those present of forcibly converting Hindus to Christianity.“They raged against me,” Gautham said. “It was as if they wanted to kill me on the spot. However, police arrived and escorted us to the police station” where he and six other Christians were charged with violating the anti-conversion law. “They told us we should renounce our Christian faith and go back to Hinduism."According to the anti-conversion law, approved last February, “Ghar Wapsi” (homecoming), the reconversion to Hinduism, is not forced conversion, even if it is often accompanied by threats and intimidation.According to the

Officers arrive with news reporter, reviling him and Christianity.A pastor in northern India was forced to leave his village and flee with his family more than 600 miles away after police last month tortured and threatened him, he said.Officers in Uttarakhand state on June 13 arrested pastor Sanjay Kumar Bharati, his wife, children and several members of his church in Shyampur, Haridwar District on a complaint of violating COVID-19 restrictions, but as police were beating him their questions and accusations concerned only conversion to Christianity, he said.Pastor Bharti said officers began beating him as soon as he entered the Shyampur police station. Reviling him and Christianity, they interrogated him as they continued to hit him, he said.“As soon as I was taken inside the police station, a policeman slapped me three or four times on my face and punched me in my stomach,” Pastor Bharati told Morning Star News. “He hurled curses and accused me of alluring people and converting them.”They then took him to an inner room, where they made him lie on a bed. One of the officers removed his leather belt and began to strike him on his legs and feet, he said.“Hell broke open on me

Bishop Lobo says alleged government snooping on citizens is 'completely unethical'Media reports claim that Israel-made spyware Pegasus was believed to have been used to track more than 300 Indian phone numbers including those of journalists, politicians, government officials and rights activists.The Israeli cyberweapon company NSO Group was also fined in 2019 for hacking phones of around 1,400 users around the world, including 121 Indians.“It is completely unethical as we have the fundamental right to privacy given by the constitution of India and spying on someone’s private life is a threat to the citizens of a democratic country,” Bishop Salvadore Lobo of Baruipur, chairman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India’s office of social communications, told UCA News.“We can understand when the government sometimes spies on some social elements when it thinks that they pose a threat to national security, but targeting only some particular group or person is unacceptable and the government should investigate the latest issue. Read More

Bombay High Court commends the late priest's work for society while hearing his bail application posthumouslyBombay High Court has expressed “great respect” for the work done by Indian Jesuit priest Stan Swamy, who died in custody on July 5.The 84-year-old, who suffered from Parkinson’s disease, hearing impairment and other age-related ailments, never recovered from the hardships of being confined in a jail without basic services.Justice S.S. Shinde and Justice N.J. Jamadar of the top court in the western state of Maharashtra were hearing the late priest’s bail appeal posthumously on July 19“We don’t have time normally, but I saw the funeral service [of Father Swamy]. It was very gracious,” Justice Shinde said.“He is such a wonderful person. The kind of service he has rendered to the society. We have great respect for his work. Legally, whatever is there against him is a different matter.”The judges also tried to counter criticism of the judicial system and the National Investigation Agency (NIA), a federal anti-terror body that arrested Father Swamy, for repeatedly denying the priest’s bail applications on medical grounds. Read More

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