Friday, December 31, 2010


Dear ALL,

Christmas blessings of  PEACE,LOVE,JUSTICE,HOPE,GOODWILL and JOY be with you and your loved ones all through the NEW YEAR 2011!

The accompanying picture is rich with meaning:

The traditional nativity scene is ensconced on a PIPAL LEAF.This leaf and the tree on which it grows is sacred and special  to most  Indic religions and traditions;  impressions of it have also been found in the Indus Valley Civilization several centuries ago. It symbolises peace and enlightenment. Its medicinal properties are well-known. When  dried, the leaf  is transformed into a most intricate web-like design-radiating the wealth and beauty of nature.

Providing the backdrop is another exquisite piece: the stone trellis of a window from the Siddi Saiyyid Mosque in Ahmedabad. It symbolizes  the TREE OF LIFE - expressing how all of us are connected to one other. It was made almost five hundred years ago by a master craftsman. Today, as Ahmedabad celebrates 600 years of its existence, this masterpiece (a part of our heritage) could provide a meaningful lesson to all of us.

For those who have sent us greetings we warmly reciprocate them.
Thank you for accompanying us this past year...
Do continue to do so in the year to come.
Let us pray and hope that for all the year 2011 will be a GRACE-FILLED YEAR in which human rights, justice and peace will flourish.
Fr Cedric Prakash
- - - - - - -     - - - - - - - -    - - - - - - -   - - - - -
PRASHANT   (A Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace)
Street Address : Hill Nagar, Near Kamdhenu Hall, Drive-in Road, Ahmedabad - 380052, Gujarat, India
Postal Address : P B 4050, Navrangpura PO, Ahmedabad - 380 009, Gujarat, India
Phone : 91  79   27455913,  66522333
Fax : 91  79  27489018

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Please use this image widely --Send Cards/Telegrams/Greetings to Binayak for January 4, 2011

                                                             Created by Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), Mumbai


-  A Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace
Street Address : Hill Nagar, Near Kamdhenu Hall, Drive-in Road, Ahmedabad - 380052, Gujarat, India
Postal Address : P B 4050, Navrangpura PO, Ahmedabad - 380 009, Gujarat, India
Phone : 91  79   27455913,  66522333
Fax : 91  79  27489018

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

"GOODBYE JOE!!!!!"-A Tribute to Fr Joe Braganza sj (131210)



-Fr. Cedric Prakash sj*


I have just returned after saying a final "goodbye" to you, Joe, and I have done so with an extremely heavy heart!


We were told over and over again during the ceremony that we need to remember you with joy and gratitude and without sadness!  That is easier said than done; because, as I encountered the women of Gulbai Tekra outside the Church with tears welled up in their eyes, it goes without saying that there are many, many here on this earth, who are going to miss you – very much! 


My first 'real' encounter with you must have been in 1978 when we spent a month in Mt. Abu, in a programme, trying to understand the real meaning of people-centered development work.  You as a Professor of great repute from a well-known college, and me as a young "raw" scholastic.  We had one thing in common: both of us like several others, seemed to have been bonded by the faith-justice mandate that was given to us, by our recently concluded  32nd General Congregation.  You played a stellar role in the whole programme, literally dropping your guard and reaching out to all in a most humble manner.


It was simply amazing to see you take the part of a blind beggar and later that month  to see you dance away with Eddie Fonseca and me, to celebrate Fr. Espassa's Golden Jubilee.  No one expected the respected Professor Joe Braganza to be dancing a jig; but that was you Joe,... sheer vintage!


And then came those three memorable years when as a student of Theology, I was privileged to assist you in the Gulbai Tekra School.  It was here that I truly experienced the quintessential Joe - a person who oozed love and compassion without measure.  You gave of your all, without counting the cost.


The little children simply loved you; the youth would do anything for you; and the elders regarded you as one of their own.  Through your dogged determination you were able to throw open the doors of St. Xavier's College to the poor of the area. The Gulbai Tekra folk finally had something which they could call their own: a whole campus indeed!  There were many who were very amused when they used to ask the Gulbai Tekra children, where they study, to hear them say with puffed up pride,  "In St. Xavier's College!"  Yes Joe, in your own unassuming way, you gave them an identity and dignity!


That is why, I guess, that when I invited you to preach the homily at my first Mass, you emphasized the fact that a Priest must first be a true shepherd and a servant of the people.  In your own inimitable way, you personified that!


The last time I met you was on November usual, your memory was as sharp as ever, as you asked me about my work and former colleagues.  You condoled with me on the death of my mother; and when I told you that she died at the age of 87, there was that mischievous grin on your face as you retorted, "Well, she was quite old then!"  Guess you knew that a fortnight later you would be joining her in the choir of saints! 


There are hundreds of other thoughts that race through my mind at this moment.  I feel good that I have been able to put down at least a few of them, as a tribute to you, Joe!  You were a multi-faceted human being but at the core, you were a man with a very big heart: with a special place for the poor, the rejected and the unloved. 


Thank you, Joe for all this and more!  Goodbye Joe!


(A personal tribute to Fr. Joe Braganza, a Jesuit of the Gujarat Province who died at the age of  90 years on December 11th, 2010. He was a founding member of St. Xavier's College, Ahmedabad, and a former Vice-Principal who later reached out to the slum-dwellers of Gulbai Tekra through a variety of initiatives.)


(* Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ is the Director of PRASHANT, the Ahmedabad based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace.)


13th December, 2010

Address: PRASHANT, Hill Nagar, Near Kamdhenu Hall, Drive-in Road, Ahmedabad – 380 052

Phone: 79 27455913, 66522333
Fax:  79 27489018










Thursday, December 09, 2010

" PROTECT HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS!" by Fr Cedric Prakash sj..(10th December, 2010)




-Fr. Cedric Prakash sj*


On December 10th, 1948, the world opened a new chapter in its quest for justice, liberty, equality and fraternity as it gave itself the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. India is a signatory to this Declaration and the fact is that when we gave ourselves the Constitution on 26th November, 1949, the UDHR greatly helped in defining the rights of Indian citizens. 


As we usher in another Human Rights Day, its time to take stock of what is happening in various parts of the country.  Human rights violations are on the increase instead of decreasing and this is the painful reality we need to come to grips with.  Thousands of tribals are still denied access to the forests, lands, and water which they once owned. Wanton industrialization through mega-projects has resulted in displacement of thousands and with great harm to the environment.  The dalits are still children of "a lesser God" in most parts of the country. Women and children, being the most vulnerable, are also easy targets to all types of violations.  Fundamentalist forces blatantly continue their attacks on the minorities all over.


To top it all, the consistent exposés of rampant corruption in society speaks volumes of the fact that as one small section stands to gain through illegal and unethical profiteering, there is another section who is at the receiving end and most often, it is the poor and marginalized.  The mining and the building lobbies are classical examples where "the bosses" are able to maximize their profits by exploiting others. They carry on with impunity and with apparent immunity.


What seems to becoming more and more accepted is the ability of powerful and vested interest to deny free speech, to silence and even to kill those who try to expose the rot in our system and to defend the rights of victims.


It is fitting therefore, that the theme for Human Rights Day this year is highlighting the role played by human rights defenders in protecting the rights of others and in order to end discrimination.

Human rights defenders speak out against abuse and violations including discrimination, exclusion, oppression and violence. They advocate justice and seek to protect the victims of human rights violations. They demand accountability for perpetrators and transparency in government action. In so doing, they are often putting at risk their own safety, and that of their families.


Here in Gujarat we see some who have relentlessly and conscientiously tried to bring justice for the victims of the Gujarat Carnage of 2002.  Unfortunately, they too end up on the receiving end as some victims and associates are either bought up or are compromised by the other side.  Even an appeal to the UN Commissioner for Human Rights invites contempt, scorn and ridicule; but the irony of it is that those who do the latter have absolutely no problem if multi-nationals are invited to loot the State, provide unjust wages and do not even meet established environmental safeguards. A feeling of embarrassment blinds one to a more serious reality.


It is therefore imperative that Human Rights Day 2010 highlights and promotes the achievements of human rights defenders and emphasize the primary role Governments must play in enabling and protecting their role. The Day is also intended to inspire a new generation of defenders to speak up and take action to end discrimination in all of its forms whenever and wherever it is manifested.

The story does not end after 10 December 2010. The focus on the work of human rights defenders will continue through all of 2011.


(*Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ is the Director of PRASHANT, the Ahmedabad based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace.)

                                                                                                                                                                                  December 10th , 2010

Address: PRASHANT, Hill Nagar, Near Kamdhenu Hall, Drive-in Road, Ahmedabad - 380052

Phone: 79 27455913, 66522333
Fax:  79 27489018


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Listen to the cries of the children of India! by Fr Cedric Prakash sj(Cover story of THE NEW LEADER,Chennai,Nov 15th 2010)


Listening to the cries of the children of India


By Cedric Prakash, SJ


 'In a shocking incident, a father sacrificed his newborn girl child to keep his promise to his family deity 'Kitotarmata.' The man, Narottam Mana Devipujak, threw his child in a drain near his house in Sundarpuri, a busy slum area of Gandhidham, Gujarat.

According to the details of the case, the incident took place on Janmashtami night. Narottam, who sells vegetables from a kiosk, had vowed that he would offer a male goat to the goddess if a son was born to him. But if a girl child was born, he had sworn that he would straightway offer the child to the deity.

When his wife gave birth to a baby girl a day before Janmashtami, he decided to give her as an offering to the goddess. When everyone was glued to the TV watching the birth of Lord Krishna, he slipped away with his baby and threw her in a gutter close to the temple of the deity. Then he returned home, pretending as if, nothing had happened.'

The above, quoted in the DNA newspaper (September 7, 2010) is not a one-off incident. It is in fact, the shocking reality of the children of India and particularly of the girl child.

Significantly, on the very day this incident was reported, the international NGO 'Save the Children' released its global report titled, 'A Fair Chance at Life'.

The report highlights the fact that of the 26 million children born in India every year, approximately 1.83 million die before their fifth birthday; and in this, children from the poorest section of society are three times more likely to die at this stage in comparison with those from higher income groups. 

With 40 percent of the Indian population below the age of 18 years, India has the largest child population in the world, with the number in this bracket exceeding 400 million.   Apart from the already sordid reality provided above, the picture is even more painful when one realizes that in India today:

- Less than half of the school-going children (between the age of 6 and 14) go to school.

- Nearly three percent of the child population is physically or mentally challenged.

- More than 50 percent of the children are malnourished.

- Among married woman, 75 percent were under-age at the time of their marriage.

One can reel out statistics to highlight the dismal state of India's children, but the real question we need to ask ourselves is, what should be done in order to bring about a qualitative change in the lives of India's children.

In order to do this, we need to address certain key sectors in which interventions must be done. These include:

1) Health

Sometime last year, the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh said that it was a 'national shame' that 6000 children die in India every single day and of these 3000 die due to malnutrition. India is second after Bangladesh, with the most number of malnourished children in the world. Several children die from preventable illnesses such as diarrhea, typhoid, malaria, pneumonia and measles.

India's performance on the health sector for children is a far cry from the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). What is needed is an all out effort to address maternal health and child mortality. While the government does earmark a sizeable amount of funds to address this issue, it is clear that very little actually reaches those who need it the most. What we now need is a political will to ensure that government programmes are not only fully implemented but create the desired impact to bring about a qualitative improvement in health of the children of India. The Church in India, and in particular the women religious, have done creditable work in the field of maternal and child health care but more needs to be done.

2) Education

On April 1, 2010 the Government made 'the right to free and compulsory education' for children between the ages of 6-14 years', a law. This is a welcome step even though it has come sixty years too late.  Needless to say, an all-out effort will have to be made at every level, in order to ensure that children are not only 'roll numbers' but are provided with quality education as envisaged in the Right to Education (RTE).

The RTE is certainly full of loopholes. There are sections of society (especially those who run elitist schools), who are very reluctant to accept it. Some feel that the guarantees given to minorities in India, will now be watered down. In the fitness of things, it is important that the country embraces the spirit of the law, so that education actually reaches every child of the country.

The All India Catholic Education Policy 2007, focuses on 'total commitment to build a new and inclusive society in India through the provision of an education of quality and relevance to the marginalized sections of society, namely the Dalits, tribals and minority ethnic groups and thus express our solidarity with them and our commitment to justice, equity and love for all'.

3) Child Labour

The RTE also seeks to address growing child labour in the country. For many poor families there is absolutely no choice but to send their children to earn some money in order to eke out an existence.

The Constitution of India (Article 24) asserts that, 'no child below the age of 14 years shall be employed to work in any factory or mine or employed in any hazardous employment.' The Child Labour Act (1986) also prohibits employing children. But across the country, in the cotton fields of Gujarat, in the zaari works of UP, in the firework factories of Tamil Nadu, in the coal mines of Meghalaya, in the carpet-making industry of Kashmir, millions of tiny hands work day and night and very often as bonded labour. That child labour exists often in nexus with the authorities, speaks volumes of the Government's lack of determination to tackle it. Civil society must come out and join the campaign against child labour.

4) The Girl Child

The incident referred to at the start of this article, highlights the pitiable condition of the girl child in India. One must admit that there have been some efforts to address this sensitive issue.

However, one cannot deny the fact that there are innumerable and unrecorded numbers of girl children who are killed within hours of being born, while many others are killed in the womb itself.

Female feticide has definitely increased in the last 50 years in India. While in 1960, there were 976 girls per 1000 boys, there was a dramatic drop in 2001, when the ratio was 927 / 1000.

It is a known fact that one of every six girls does not live to see her fifteenth birthday and this is mainly due to the patriarchal mind-sets and the attitude of many who regard the girl as a 'burden'. Around 53 percent of girls in the age group of 5 to 9 years are illiterate.

Child marriages are rampant in India, and in most cases, it is the girl child who is married off. There are reported instances of girl children from Hyderabad married off by their parents to older men from the Middle East, in exchange for a hefty 'bride price' The girl child is also easy prey for sexual abuse and for the pornographic industry.

We need to bring about an attitudinal change in every section of society. Unless, this takes place on a priority, it will be a long time before India 'saves the girl child'. 

5) Child Abuse

It is estimated that there are approximately 2 million commercial sex workers between the ages of 5 to 15 years in India today, and an additional 3.5 million between the ages of 15 to 18 years. Child sex workers constitute around 40 percent of the commercial sex workers in India and the vast majority of these children are illiterate and come from very poor backgrounds.

There are several reports in the media of how children have been sexually abused by those who they trust the most, even within the sanctity and security of their own homes.

Child abuse has dominated the headlines of the world press for more than a year now because of some incidents where the accused are Catholic clergymen.

There have also been high profile cases in India where pedophiles have been arrested. Child pornography forms a huge chunk of the pornography market that is readily available everywhere both in the electronic and print form.

One of the issues related to child abuse, which the RTE tries to address, is that of corporal punishment for children in schools. It forbids any form of corporal punishment to school children

Another form of child abuse that takes place very subtly in society is when parents expect their children to perform in super human ways, be it in academics, sports or even on 'reality' shows.

Children no longer enjoy these activities but are goaded by obsessive parents.

Here again, a sincere effort by every section of society needs to be made to wipe out child abuse in the country.

6) Physically / Mentally Challenged Children

A fairly large section of the children of India are either physically or mentally challenged and a good percentage of these live in rural areas, which do not have the necessary infrastructure to cater to their needs. India woefully lacks specialized institutions which can provide support mechanisms to these children. Besides, the country as a whole has been rather insensitive to the plight of differently-abled people. Even the minimum easy access at public places and other conveniences are not provided to them. A greater sensitivity is needed to cater to such children but it will be awhile before society responds and becomes more inclusive.

7) Children affected by conflict

Millions of children throughout the country are today caught up in various types of conflicts. Several children are recruited by militant organizations and are indoctrinated with radical ideologies.

One regularly sees pictures of children wielding a weapon, be it a 'danda' or an 'AK-47'.

Communal violence too, has affected thousands of children in various states of India, especially in Gujarat and Orissa.

Many of them will carry the trauma all their lives having witnessed murder and other forms of brutality either on their parents or a loved member of their family.

There has not been any systematic approach to address this reality. Hopefully, when it actually becomes an Act, the Prevention of Communal Violence Bill will have a provision to deal with the plight of children who live in conflict areas of the country.

8) Children of migrant workers

Due to blatant industrialization and unplanned development, large numbers of poor, landless people are forced to migrate in search of employment. Besides, mega projects and even the mining industry have dispossessed many from the land which was rightfully theirs.

Children whose parents are migrant labourers are doubly affected in these situations. Even though the RTE refers to these children, no concrete mechanism is in place to address their reality.


The 'UN Convention on the Rights of the Child', provides India and the rest of the world with a blueprint on how we should address the reality of our children today. Unfortunately, many of the privileged of our country have not taken ownership of the issue, nor have successive Governments shown the political maturity to bring back the lost childhood of millions of children who live on the margins of society.

As we celebrate another 'Children's Day', it is imperative for all of us to listen to the cries of the children of India and pledge to ensure a happier childhood for them. We need to remind ourselves of the words of our Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore that, 'every child comes with a message that God is not yet discouraged of man.'



Fr Cedric Prakash, SJ, is the Director of PRASHANT, the Ahmedabad-based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace.



-  A Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace
Street Address : Hill Nagar, Near Kamdhenu Hall, Drive-in Road, Ahmedabad - 380052, Gujarat, India
Postal Address : P B 4050, Navrangpura PO, Ahmedabad - 380 009, Gujarat, India
Phone : 91  79   27455913,  66522333
Fax : 91  79  27489018

Thursday, November 04, 2010

A Prayer for Social Justice...from PAX CHRISTI

A Prayer for Social Justice
God, we pray that Your Spirit may rule over all things.
May Your Spirit rule over kings and presidents
over prime ministers and generals
over CEOs and party bosses
over the legislature and over the bureaucrats
over all citizens.
May Your Spirit guide us on the way of peace
on the way of honest dialogue
on the way of reconciliation between peoples
on the way of disarmament and justice
on the way of freedom and life for all.
May Your Spirit lead us on the journey of
blessings shared with all,
on the journey of educational opportunity for all our children
on the adventure of research and study that helps
all men and women
on the road to meaningful work for all people
on the path of solidarity and love between all our
brothers and sisters.
May Your Spirit help us
to speak up with courage
to share what we have and what we are
to challenge the powers that be
to offer a message of liberation and life.
We make this prayer through Christ, our Lord. Amen
                                                                                                                                                                                      -PAX CHRISTI
- - - - - - -     - - - - - - - -    - - - - - - -   - - - - - 
 PRASHANT   (A Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace)
Street Address : Hill Nagar, Near Kamdhenu Hall, Drive-in Road, Ahmedabad - 380052, Gujarat, India
Postal Address : P B 4050, Navrangpura PO, Ahmedabad - 380 009, Gujarat, India
Phone : 91  79   27455913,  66522333
Fax : 91  79  27489018



The Festival of Lights  

Enkindle in each of us

The Courage

To reach out to all

In Love, Hope, Justice & Peace

May we truly be a fire that kindles other fires.

Light a Lamp!            Say 'NO' to Firecrackers!

Happy Diwali !!!

                            Happy New Year !!!



Fr. Cedric Prakash & all at Prashant.                          


PRASHANT   (A Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace)
Hill Nagar, Near Kamdhenu Hall, Drive-in Road, Ahmedabad - 380052, Gujarat, India.

Phone : 91  79   27455913,  66522333
Fax : 91  79  27489018




Tuesday, November 02, 2010




-Fr. Cedric Prakash sj*

Dear Friends!


It is a great privilege to make this presentation at this workshop on 'The Earth Charter and Religion, Spirituality and Ethics' at this Conference. I thank the organisers for inviting me to do so.


·         Introduction:

Gujarat State, here in North-West India, is best known for Mahatma Gandhi!  He was born here and lived for fourteen long years on the banks of the river Sabarmati where he founded his ashram. From the hallowed grounds of the ashram, he gave India and the world, his twin doctrine of 'Ahimsa' (non-violence) and 'Satyagraha' (the force of truth).  From this city of Ahmedabad, Gandhi began his Dandi March, vowing never to return until he had gained for India her freedom.  India became a free country on August 15th, 1947; however, a few months later, on January 30th, 1948, Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated in Delhi.


We begin this sharing focused on Mahatma Gandhi for several reasons; but also because on October 2nd, 2001 (the birth anniversary of Gandhi which has now been designated as the International Day for Non-Violence), we inaugurated our centre PRASHANT in this city with a prime focus on human rights, justice and peace. Our initiative was (and continues to be) inspired by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Earth Charter with an overriding desire to ensure that the four key principles (justice, liberty, equality and fraternity) of the Constitution of India, becomes a reality for every single citizen of the country.


·         The Gujarat Carnage:

"Human Rights for all" is indeed a well-intentioned slogan but which has not changed the lives of millions of people all over the world. This is our experience as we encounter the reality of the poor and the marginalized and victims of every possible injustice and exploitation. These include women and the children, the dalits and the tribals, the slum dwellers and landless labourers, the displaced and the voiceless. The list is endless indeed!


As a Centre inspired by the Earth Charter and wanting to do our bit "to promote a culture of tolerance, non violence and peace" we were, in February 2002, thrown into one of the darkest chapters of the history of our country, generally referred to as the 'Gujarat Carnage'.


There are several reports and even films made, of the unfortunate happenings of 2002.  My intention is not to get into the gory details which many of us regard as a crime against humanity, but to briefly underline some facts in order to position our response.


On February 27th, 2002 the car (S-6) of the Sabarmati Express train coming towards Ahmedabad from the temple town of Ayodhya (earlier on 6th December 1992, a mosque was demolished there, which caused plenty of conflict and bloodshed all over the country) caught fire.  Till today, no one has been able to pin-point the cause of the fire (though many believe that it was accidental) but the sad fact is that 59 persons were killed (many of them were Hindus who had gone to Ayodhya to help out in a project to build a temple on the place where the mosque was destroyed).  This tragedy was announced in Parliament and was also highlighted by all media throughout the country.  However, nothing untoward happened as an immediate consequence.  Sadly enough, more than twenty fours later, with the apparent connivance of the Gujarat Government, several mobs (armed with all kinds of weapons) began attacking Muslims in Ahmedabad and several parts of the State. Three months of violence and blood-shed, rape, arson and loot left about 2000 Muslims dead, and thousands of others homeless. What took place in Gujarat in those terrible months would make sensitive human beings bow their heads down in shame.  The facts of this tragedy have been carefully documented by several human rights and civil society groups in India and abroad, by the National Human Rights Commission and even by the Supreme Court of India. Several Governments across the world, particularly the United States and the European Union, have taken cognizance and have in some ways responded to this Carnage.  The annual Freedom of Religion Report of the United States, year after year, refers to the Gujarat reality and the fact that justice is still elusive for many of the victims. 


·         Our Response:

As a Centre, committed to peace through a frame-work of human rights and justice, we could obviously not remain silent in the face of such unprecedented violence and hate crimes.  We had to listen to the cries of our people. We had to translate in some small ways the lofty ideals of the Earth Charter into very tangible action; to ensure that the foundational relationship is the relationship between human beings where dignity, respect and acceptance of the other, is at the core.  As an organization inspired by the person and message of Jesus Christ, we are confronted over and over again by several Christian values and by questions like "who is my brother?" "How can you love God whom you cannot see when you are unable to love your brother whom you see?"  As we try to  promote inter-religious dialogue, we are aware that there is no religion worth its name that teaches prejudice, hate, divisiveness and violence.  In our search to respond to "why?" " why?" "why?", we have been endeavouring:


i)                    to stand up and speak up for human rights for all

in collaboration with several other women and men of goodwill, we have been trying our best "to awaken a new reverence for life… quicken the struggle for justice and peace and the joyful celebration of life". We are convinced that diversity is wealth which needs to be welcomed by all.  So what does one do if we know that Muslims cannot own a house or run a business in this western up-market part of the city?  Through a variety of ways (meetings, seminars, inter-faith prayer), we have been trying to welcome Muslims to our Centre and we have even been encouraging some of our Hindu friends to accept Muslims as their neighbour. All this though is easier said than done


ii)                  to help create an environment of truth and justice

true and sustainable peace, we believe, is a direct consequence of justice at every level.  Gandhi showed that truth is a non-negotiable and only when we speak truth to power, will we move towards creating an environment of justice. There are thousands of Muslims – victims of the Gujarat Carnage who still hope and pray for justice. We have been accompanying some of them in this journey in every possible way. The going indeed is hard and very often, because of our strong stands of issues, we ourselves become the target from those who control the reigns of power and those who live in a denial mode.


iii)                to help build bridges among people

we have been trying to build bridges between people of the different communities. We have made some efforts in healing and reconciliation; in some who show remorse and others who have the magnanimity to forgive. We bring people together to collaborate on other human right issues (the Rights of Women, the Right to Food, the Right to Education, a greater sensitivity to the environment); by praying together, celebrating festivals together, by looking at the commonalities that bind people across the religious divide.  Our Advocacy efforts have helped in some ways, to create a conducive atmosphere for sustainable justice and peace, where "we care for the community of life with understanding, compassion and love".



In essence, the Earth Charter encompasses the vision and ideals of Mahatma Gandhi and of all religions of the world.  Since 2001, in some small ways we have been trying to realise 'the way of proceeding' enshrined in the Earth Charter.  But, ours is just a drop in the ocean, a single step of a very long journey ahead.  We are confident. We are hopeful that with every small effort and with the intrinsic goodness in humankind, we will overcome some day.


This year, marks the 150th birth anniversary of another great Indian, our Noble Laureate Rabindranath Tagore. It is therefore, fitting to pray with him:


Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high,

Where knowledge is free,

Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls,

Where words come out from the depth of truth,

Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection,

Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sands of dead habit,

Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever widening thought and action,

Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, led my country awake!


And I say, let all human beings awake to the vision and the directives of the Earth Charter!


(This presentation was made at the workshop on 'The Earth Charter and Religion, Spirituality and Ethics' during the International Conference on 'Ethical Framework for a Sustainable World' at Ahmedabad on November 2nd, 2010)


(*Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ is the Director of PRASHANT, the Ahmedabad based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace)

Address: PRASHANT, Hill Nagar, Near Kamdhenu Hall, Drive-in Road, Ahmedabad – 380052, Gujarat, India

Phone: (+91) 79 27455913,  66522333 Cell: 9824034536
Fax:  (+91) 79 27489018







Sunday, October 31, 2010



(Posted below is a statement issued by Arundhati Roy after a slogan
shouting mob turned up outside her house and tried to ransack her
residence on 31st October 2010 in the full glare of TV)

A mob of about a hundred people arrived at my house at 11 this morning
(Sunday October 31st 2010.) They broke through the gate and vandalized
property. They shouted slogans against me for my views on K…ashmir,
and threatened to teach me a lesson. The OB Vans of NDTV, Times Now
and News 24 were already in place ostensibly to cover the event live.
TV reports say that the mob consisted largely of members of the BJP's
Mahila Morcha (Women's wing). After they left, the police advised us
to let them know if in future we saw any OB vans hanging around the
neighborhood because they said that was an indication that a mob was
on its way. In June this year, after a false report in the papers by
Press Trust of India (PTI) two men on motorcycles tried to stone the
windows of my home. They too were accompanied by TV cameramen.

What is the nature of the agreement between these sections of the
media and mobs and criminals in search of spectacle? Does the media
which positions itself at the 'scene' in advance have a guarantee that
the attacks and demonstrations will be non-violent? What happens if
there is criminal trespass (as there was today) or even something
worse? Does the media then become accessory to the crime? This
question is important, given that some TV channels and newspapers are
in the process of brazenly inciting mob anger against me. In the race
for sensationalism the line between reporting news and manufacturing
news is becoming blurred. So what if a few people have to be
sacrificed at the altar of TRP ratings? The Government has indicated
that it does not intend to go ahead with the charges of sedition
against me and the other speakers at a recent seminar on Azadi for

So the task of punishing me for my views seems to have been taken on
by right wing storm troopers. The Bajrang Dal and the RSS have openly
announced that they are going to "fix" me with all the means at their
disposal including filing cases against me all over the country. The
whole country has seen what they are capable of doing, the extent to
which they are capable of going. So, while the Government is showing a
degree of maturity, are sections of the media and the infrastructure
of democracy being rented out to those who believe in mob justice? I
can understand that the BJP's Mahila Morcha is using me to distract
attention the from the senior RSS activist Indresh Kumar who has
recently been named in the CBI charge-sheet for the bomb blast in
Ajmer Sharif in which several people were killed and many injured. But
why are sections of the mainstream media doing the same? Is a writer
with unpopular views more dangerous than a suspect in a bomb blast? Or
is it a question of ideological alignment?

Arundhati Roy
 October 31st 2010

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Ayodhya Verdict: Whither Indian Constitution ISP I November 2010



Ayodhya Verdict 2010: Whither Indian Constitution!


Ram Puniyani


The verdict given by Lucknow bench of Allahabad high court (Sept 2010) has been a landmark of sorts. On one hand it is culmination of the process of demolition of Babri Masjid, now that illegal act of demolition has got a legal sanction. On the other this judgment is the one based on every other consideration than the legal one. It has no rooting in the values of Indian Constitution, no guidance from the directive principles of the Constitution and no grounding in the law of the land.


Despite this glaring fact a large section of the popular opinion went on to keep quiet about it, or criticize it in a muted way. The atmosphere has been created that it is a balanced judgment pleasing all; it has been the best option in the present circumstances etc. We do need to recall that there was heaviness in the atmosphere before the judgment. The Hindus were apprehensive that if by chance there is violence and they or their near and dear ones are caught in the melee, it will be a disaster. Muslim minority on the other hand feared the destruction of their properties or loss of their lives in case the violence breaks out. Fortunately those who orchestrate the violence, as shown by the inquiry committee reports time and over again, chose not to unleash 'celebratory violence', as they had done in the aftermath of Babri demolition on 6th December 1992. This time while probably the RSS combine and communalized sections of society felt more jubilant then before, still they had restrained themselves from creating a situation where the violence takes place.


Muslims on surface felt a bit relieved that they do not have to suffer another cycle of violence and its aftermath. But they also felt let down by the court. They did feel that this judgment is a symptom of Hindu Rashtra in the offing. While there is a spectrum of opinion amongst Muslim community, now there is a feeling that even the law cannot protect their just rights. Deep frustration, anger and dejection are the response from large section of the Muslims who dared to speak. The atmosphere created by communal propaganda has pushed them to the wall and 'we should move on' is the thinking of a section of Muslim community. The unevenness, the contrasting situations of 'two sides' of the dispute is very obvious, one side which is dominant got more than it could dream of and the other side feels betrayed once again..


While RSS combine is joyous that a path has been paved for the national sentiment of Bhavya (grand) Ram Temple, and has asked Muslims to contribute in the 'national' agenda. One knows that we are dealing with the contrasting notions of nationalism. The Nationalism RSS is talking is the anti thesis of secular democratic nation, the aspiration of freedom movement, the nation enshrined in the Indian Constitution. What else can one expect from this political outfit, RSS, which aims to transform our democratic polity into a Hindu nation, with all past political-social ideologies presented in newer language? RSS combine is already feeling that their agenda has gone one step up, as the illegal act of installation in 1949 and the criminal act of Babri demolition has been legitimized and has also 'quietly' become part of social common sense.


The reaction of Congress has been very pathetic. One knows that so far in the communal violence which has stalked the streets it has kept quiet, and many a times a section of its Chief Ministers and other top leaders have presided over the carnage. When communalists have been on their 'job' of massacring and maiming the innocent populace, the Congress has been looking the other way around. Congress reaction has been no different in the aftermath of this judgment. Congress is happy that 'peace' is prevailing; it is immaterial for them that this is not the peace of harmony but the peace based on injustice. In their electoral calculations to speak as per the Constitutional values and adherence to law has been dispensed with long ago. Sticking to principles does not suit Congress opportunistic communalism. There are still some voices of protest and introspection which are deeply disturbed by this judgment. This section does feel that the judgment is a big jolt to the values of pluralism, democratic law and all that the idea for which India stands.


The bureaucracy and the other arms of state apparatus are satisfied as what matters for them is the apparent calm. The preservation of the law of the land is not their deeper concern. As such a large part of this machine called Indian state has been heavily coated with the paint of divisive ideology and it has imbibed the propaganda of the Hindutva, masquerading itself as the representative of all Hindus. In the steel frame of Indian state a section swears by Hindu nation openly and still larger section is the quiet accomplice in the process of erosion of democratic norms due to multiple factors. These factors are the ceaseless communal propaganda, adverse effects of globalization and the accompanying cultural changes. So the question is, in this situation who is the guardian of Indian Constitution? If the political leadership is happy with the apparent clam and unconcerned about justice, the future of values of Indian Constitution and principles of justice seem to be threatened as never before.


The judgment and the reaction to it is a matter of serious and severe concern for all those who want to adhere to Indian Constitution and abhor the concept of Hindu nation. It is the communal common sense which is dominating the day. The legitimacy being conferred on bypassing of legal foundations of India is a matter of much more serious concern then the previous assaults on the Indian Republic, the murder of the Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi, the anti Sikh pogrom, the Babri demolition, the burning of Pastor Graham Stains, the Gujarat pogrom, and the Kandhamal violence. One sees barring in the anti Sikh program, the common link in all these attacks on the idea of secular democratic India, is the ideology of Hindu nation, the political agenda of RSS. In this phenomenon, assault on Indian Constitution by RSS combine, the Congress plays an opportunist role of an accomplice, letting the things take place. In that sense it plays a supporting role in the violation of all whatever the founding fathers of Indian nation stood for. One is reminded of an analogy from the world of cricket. In this analogy Indian Constitutional values are batsmen, RSS-Hindutva politics is the bowler, Congress the fielder, communalized social common sense is the Umpire raising his finger at every appeal by the bowler and the section of state apparatus is the one deliberately overlooking the mischief of those preparing the pitch suitable for this bowler.


It is also reminiscent of the Nazi Germany where the demonization of Jews, Communist, Trade unionists, the erosion of popular culture and its impact on all the wings of state got seeped by the fascist values, values of suppression of minorities and other weaker sections of society. One knows the painful fact that every episode of violence takes the communal politics one notch up. The disturbing point is not just that the judgment has by passed the law of the land, but also that this has got such a welcome reception from all those powers which matter.


The progressive forces and secular movement has a lot of thinking to do. If secularism is being attacked by RSS combine, if secularism is not being honestly protected by the party in power, Indian National Congress, then what is to be done to protect it? How will idea of India, Indian Constitution be saved and by whom? The progressive liberal and democratic forces have to wake up that. It is a 'do or die' situation for Indian democracy. The prevalent social common sense, the erosion of democratic norms, the bypassing of Indian law by the Courts, is a matter of serious concern.




Issues in Secular Politics

I November 2010

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