Monday, March 10, 2008


9th March 2008

Ms. Asma Jahangir
United Nations Special Rapporteur
     on Freedom of Religion or Belief
Camp :  Ahmedabd

Dear Ms. Jahangir,
Greetings  and welcome to Gujarat !
At the outset, we wish to place on record our esteem and  a word of appreciation of the  important post you hold on behalf of the United Nations.  We sincerely hope that  you will be able to exert the utmost influence among various sections of society (specially those in authority) in order to ensure that the rights of every single citizen (specially the minorities) are protected and respected.
"PRASHANT" is a Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace and ever since our inception in October 2001, we have been actively involved in defending the rights of vulnerable sections of society and in particular, the minorities of Gujarat (cfr. Appendix I).
Having said this, we would like to bring to your kind attention the following :
 The Gujarat Carnage of 2002, is one of the most painful periods of our history.  Even today, six years later, the condition of the victim-survivors is still very pathetic.  The  wheels of justice have moved ever so slowly whilst those responsible for these heinous crimes seem to have total immunity.    You are aware of all this.
 In Ahmedabad and in several parts of Gujarat, the Muslims are confined to ghettos.  Several of the housing societies very openly deny Muslims the possibility of buying houses / apartments in total contravention of  their own byelaws and rules
 In many public places of Ahmedabad and other parts of Gujarat, several hoardings have mushroomed calling the area a "Hindu Rashtra".  This is against the secular fabric of the country and it also hurts the sentiments of minorities and adds to their GROWING insecurity (cfr. Appendix II).
 In an examination conducted by the Gujarat Public Service Commission (on 6th August 2006),  some of the questions asked  were a direct attack on minorities (cfr. Appendix III - copy of original question paper enclosed together with translation of some of the key questions).   In the GPSC examination on February 24th 2008, there were very offensive terms used for the Dalit community (cfr. Appendix III-A)
 The Shabri Kumbh Mela (February 2006) in the Dangs, spewed vitriol and venom on the Christians (cfr. Appendix IV).  The whole Mela was apparently sponsored by the Government in a serious ploy to divide and rule among the tribals and to defocus from the real problems of the tribals namely identity, right to live in their forests,  quality education, primary health-care, access to clean drinking water, etc.
 On  September   19th 2006,    the Gujarat  State  Assembly  passed  the  amendments of the Freedom of  Religion Act  (which  was earlier passed on  March 26th, 2003).  This law is a  direct violation  of  the  fundamental  rights  guaranteed  in  the  Constitutions,  to  the  citizens  of   India (cfr. Appendix V - original Act, Amendments and a write-up on this particular Act which appeared in the "Indian Currents" of 1st October 2006).  Fortunately, this current Governor of Gujarat  refused to sign the Amendments; the Act in its original form was easily accepted by the previous Governor.
 On December 19th 2007, a group of right-wing Hindu elements brutally attacked a group of Christians (Priests, Nuns and students) in Kawant, Baroda District (cfr. Appendix VI).   Besides this, there are  several  instances of  the Christians  being harassed and intimidated in Gujarat (apparently with Government  sanction).  In quite a few places, officials  do everything they can to try and prove a "forced conversion" in order to justify their draconian law.  In all these years, there is not a single case of the so called "forced conversion" that has come to light, leave alone proved.
 From the posturings of the current Chief Minister of Gujarat (cfr. Appendix VII -  article dated March 7th 2008),  it is obvious  that the minorities are at the receiving end of a campaign  filled with prejudice and hate.
 Apart from some blatant acts, what is even more frightening is the subtle ostracization and alienation of the minorities of Gujarat, specially the Muslims and Christians.  The experience is that of a second class citizen, whether one has to apply for a telephone connection or when one seeks employment.   This ostracization seems to be becoming more and more institutionalized  and this  forebodes  ill  for  the days ahead.
 The Social Science Textbooks under the patronage of this current Government of Gujarat contain strong biases against the minorities.
What has been indicated above are just some dimensions of the way the minorities of this State are being treated.

Should you need any clarifications or any substantiation on any of the above, we will be happy to furnish you with the same.

Thank you once again for your presence here today. 

With warm wishes,

Yours sincerely,

Fr. Cedric Prakash sj
(A Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace)
Hillnagar, Nr. Kamdhenu Hall
Drive-in Road, Ahmedabad380 052, Gujarat, India
Tel: +91 79 27455913 / 66522333
Fax: +91 79 27489018



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