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Human Rights

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

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.

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

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

In an interview with Karan Thapar and the activist discuss the report’s findings that the Delhi police and government did precious little to stop the violence. In an interview to discuss the recently released Citizens Committee report on the 2020 Delhi riots which, sadly, has not got the attention it deserves from the media, human rights activists and the founder of Karwan-e-Mohabbat, Harsh Mander agrees the report is “a devastating critique of our country”. He says: “It’s a credible, convincing indictment of all that has gone wrong in our country. It should have led to nationwide outrage. The fact that it’s barely being discussed reflects even more deeply how far the rot has gone.” In a 30-minute interview with Karan Thapar for The Wire, Mander added: “The report underlines how dark a moment this is in India’s journey as a republic, how every institution is crumbling and with what consequences.” The interview first discusses in some detail the Citizens Committee report’s findings about the response, behaviour and alleged complicity of the Delhi Police. How they failed to act for three days even though they had received at least six internal alerts from the Special Branch. How the Committee has found a mass of information

Some Church leaders upset as all criminal cases under a scrapped provision of Information Technology Act are to be dropped Church officials in southern India have expressed concern over India’s Supreme Court asking to drop criminal cases filed under a controversial provision meant to ensure government control over social media. Human rights groups including a Catholic priest though say the move will stop the government machinery from unfairly targeting its critics and innocent citizens. The Supreme Court on Oct. 12 directed the federal and state governments to drop all cases initiated under the provision of section 66A of the Information Technology Act 2000, some seven years after it was scrapped. The provision criminalized online communication that was "grossly offensive, menacing,” or the sender knew to be false “to cause annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred or ill will.” A Bench led by Chief Justice of India U.U. Lalit directed “all Directors General of Police as well as Home Secretaries of the States and competent officers in Union Territories to instruct their entire police force in their respective States/Union Territories not to register any complaint of crime with respect to alleged violation of section 66A,” reported The Hindu newspaper. Father Jacob G Palakkappilly,

Shashi Tharoor is a former UN official currently in the race to become the president of the opposition Congress party The human rights of Indian Jesuit Father Stan Swamy, who died in judicial custody, were violated even though he fought for the rights of poor indigenous people, a senior opposition leader says. Shashi Tharoor, a Member of Parliament who is in the electoral race to become the next chief of the opposition Congress party, was speaking at the Father Stan Swamy Memorial Lecture on, ‘Are Human Rights Universal?’ in Mumbai city on Oct. 8. A former UN diplomat and former federal minister, Tharoor said that “the late activist priest’s death in judicial custody had brought the world’s attention to his work and commitment.” The 84-year-old Jesuit priest died as an undertrial while undergoing treatment in a Catholic-managed private hospital in Mumbai on July 5, 2021, after his arrest alleging involvement in the mob violence during the bicentenary celebrations of the Bhima-Koregaon battle victory near Pune city in western Maharashtra state on Jan. 1, 2018. Father Swamy was jailed on Oct. 9, 2020, a day after he was arrested at his home in Ranchi, the capital of Jharkhand state in eastern India. He was charged with

External Affairs Minister meets American counterpart Antony Blinken External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and his American counterpart, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, discussed human rights during their bilateral meeting on Tuesday. The two sides spoke of their commitment to further democracy, governance and human rights, Mr. Jaishankar said. He said each country approached these issues differently. “Each country approaches the set of issues from their history, tradition and societal context. Our yardstick for judgment are the integrity of the democratic processes, the respect and credibility that they command with the people, and the non-discriminatory delivery of public goods and services,” the Minister said at a joint press availability at the State Department. Questioned on F-16 assistance to Pakistan, U.S. says relationships with India, Pakistan distinct “India does not believe that the efficacy or indeed the quality of democracy should be decided by vote banks,” Mr Jaishankar said, adding that the two sides looked forward to a “healthy exchange” of views. Mr Jaishankar had told The Hindu in April this year at a press conference following the India-U.S. 2+2 Ministers meeting in Washington DC that people were entitled to have their views on India but that India was equally entitled to views on their views and the

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