Friday, October 31, 2014

THE CULTURE OF DEATH by Fr Cedric Prakash sj


October 31st 1984 and the days that followed, will be forever be etched in my psyche and memory,
In the wake of the assassination of the Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on that fateful morning,we were witnesses to one of the most violent and bloodiest chapters in the history of modern India.

It was unthinkable and totally unacceptable that any human being could be so inhuman! The way innocent Sikhs were butchered; many were hounded out of their houses which  were then  looted and razed to the ground. Remembering all this make one -even thirty years later -hang our heads down in shame!

The total collapse of civil society and the inability of the then Government  to deal with the situation with a firm hand-has definitely left not merely several unanswered questions -but make them also complicit in the act.

Some of us were involved in a kind of a response: identifying bodies from the Tis Hazari morgue, helping to trace missing persons and even in  the running relief camps;besides , we were also engaged in fact-finding: trying to identify persons who were responsible for the actual  murderous violence.

Very tragically for India, the wheels of justice have hardly moved. The persons behind this genocide were protected and were never brought to justice

So when the Gujarat Genocide took place in 2002 -presided over by those who rule us today- the constant reference point has been Delhi 1984..So in more ways than, one the horrendous massacres that took place in Gujarat post -February 27th 2002 , seemed to draw a legitimacy from what took place in Delhi post- October 31st 1984!

Two wrongs have NEVER made a right!For years now we seem to permit violence and the culture of death to permeate the very core and fabric of our country. The "big guys" easily get away with murder;being elected to power or to an office DOES NOT cleanse one of guilt nor absolve one of the crime.History has many examples to demonstrate this.

We don't seem to have learnt either from the lessons of 1984 or 2002! It's already very late- but there is still the possibility for us to wake up - to ensure JUSTICE for the victim survivors of 1984 and 2002; and above all,to move from  the culture of death towards a culture of life!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

· We, activists of Gujarat oppose ‘Statue of Unity’ because it is in fact a ‘Statue for Tourism Industries’, a ‘Statue for Narendra Modi’s Name and Fame’ and ‘Statue for Criminal Waste of Public Money’. - Rohit Prajapati and Trupti Shah

Not a ‘Statue of Unity’ 
but a ‘Statue of Disunity’ 
that removes people from
 their land, forest and livelihood.

DATE: 30 October 2014
·         We, activists of Gujarat oppose Statue of Unity’ because it is in fact a Statue for Tourism IndustriesStatue for Narendra Modi’s Name and Fame and Statue for Criminal Waste of Public Money. - Rohit Prajapati and Trupti Shah
·         Not a ‘Statue of Unity’ but a ‘Statue of Disunity’ that removes people from their land, forest and livelihood.
We, Rohit Prajapati and Trupti Shah, activist of Gujarat oppose and condemn the construction of ‘Statue of Unity’; because it will be a statue that will divide and remove the tribal people form their land, forest and livelihood. It is a structure that will be 182 meters (392 feet) tall of Shri Sardar Patel planed near Sardar Sarovar Dam by Mr. Narendra Modi a man who is mastermind of ‘politics of hate’. The statue will be placed directly facing the Sardar Sarovar Dam at a distance of 3.2 km at the Sadhu Bet.
Surprisingly and shockingly, the Government of Gujarat had allocated Rs. 500 crores in the 2014-2015 budget and Government of India also had allocated Rs. 200 crores in the 2014-2015 budget for the ‘Statue of Unity Project’ by presuming that the ‘Statue of Unity Project’ does not requires environment clearance from the concerned authorities.
Now Government of Gujarat issued a work order of Rs. 2,979/- to L & T for the construction of the ‘Statue of Unity’. The Government of Gujarat website clearly state that “A monument, that will not just be a mute memorial like the rest, but a fully functional, purpose-serving tribute that will boost tourism and facilitate development in the surrounding tribal areas.”
Having not received any response from the authorities, we were forced to file RTI applications to find out from the Government of Gujarat about environment safeguards fulfilled for the ‘Statue of Unity Project’. The reply which was expected from the Gujarat Government instead came from the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited (SSNNL) to our RTI application dated 3 June 2014. Similar RTI application dated 3 June 2014 was sent to office of the Chief Minister of Gujarat and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Rashtriya Ekta Trust. The PIO of Chief Minister of Gujarat forwarded the application to SSNNL and till date there is no response from the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Rashtriya Ekta Trust.
Surprisingly, the office of the Chief Minister of Gujarat had no idea about the legality of the ‘Statue of Unity Project’. That is why they have not categorically responded to any of the issues raised in our letter dated 7 November 2013, instead they directed the Principal Secretary of Departments of Forest and Environment as well as the Additional Principal Secretary of Narmada, Water Resources, Water supply and Kalpsar Department of Government of Gujarat to reply to our queries. Having laid the foundation stone for this ambitious project, it was expected from the Chief Minister of Gujarat’s office to be abreast with all the details the ‘Statue of Unity Project’.
The Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Rashtriya Ekta Trust kept quite on the issue for the best reasons known to them and the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited which says that “Environment Clearance is not required.” The SSNNL had no idea about our RTI question number 6 (Copies of minutes of all the meetings in which the decision for the ‘Statue of Unity Project’ was taken.) & 7 (Copies of all the decisions, resolutions, notifications and letters issued for the ‘Statue of Unity Project’.) and that is why they might have forwarded RTI to the PIO and the Secretary (Narmada), Narmada, Water Resources, Water Supply & Kalpsar Department, 9th Block, 2nd Floor, Sachivalaya, Gandhinagar.
This adds more and more confusion about the ‘Statue of Unity Project’.
Our main objection to the ‘Statue of Unity Project’.

The work on a project that proposes to build the world’s highest statue in the form of ‘Statue of Unity’ near Sardar Sarovar Dam in the river downstream from the dam, just 3.2 km from the Shoolpaneshwar Sanctuary, in eco-sensitive zone and involving massive infrastructure has started work without legally mandatory environment clearance, environment and social impact assessment or any public consultation process.
This is clearly illegal, in violation of the Environment Protection Act, 1986 and EIA notification of September 2006 and a number of NGT and Court orders about such massive kind of construction on the riverbed. On 31 October 2013, the foundation stone was laid for the project amidst huge fanfare and media attention. Worked order to L &T is given for the construction. Even the work for the Garudeshwar weir, proposed about 12 km downstream of the Sardar Sarovar Dam, began without any social or environmental impact assessment, public consultation and environmental clearance from the Environmental Sub Group (ESG) of Narmada Control Authority’s (NCA).
The website clearly state the purpose of tourism and involvement of the ‘Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Rashtriya Ekta Trust’ (SVPRET) to build ‘Statue of Unity’,  3.2 km downstream of the Sardar Sarovar Dam  inside the Narmada River on an islet called Sadhu Bet.
“A 13 km. long water body (pond) will create an excellent tourist spot with available infrastructure on both the banks.
The Statue of Unity is planned to be erected in the river bed on downstream of the main dam in the Garudeshwar Weir pond. A permanent standing water pool in and around the Statue of Unity will be created by Garudeshwar Weir, which will enable boating activity around the statue.” (Emphasis added.)
The Government of Gujarat website ( clearly state that “A monument, that will not just be a mute memorial like the rest, but a fully functional, purpose-serving tribute that will boost tourism and facilitate development in the surrounding tribal areas.” and will involve huge infrastructure as described on the official website.
The key issues that beg immediate scrutiny are as follows:
(1)   The project clearly needs environment clearance under the EIA notification of September 2006, but has not applied for or obtained the clearance at any stage.
(2)   The Shoolpaneshwar Sanctuary boundary is touching the Sardar Sarovar Reservoir (as a part of the Environmental Protection measures of the Sardar Sarovar Project, the earlier Dhumkal Sloth Bear Sanctuary was extended to meet the reservoir boundaries and is called Shoolpaneshwar Sanctuary.) Since the statute is only 3.2 kms from the Sardar Sarovar Dam, it is certainly near by Shoolpaneshwar Sanctuary.
(3)   The Project involves construction on the river bed and inside the proposed reservoir, close to sanctuary in eco-sensitive zone, and hence will have serious impacts on the ecology and environment. Hence, and EIA and EC is crucial.
(4)   The project will affect the downstream river, its biodiversity, people and livelihoods and other related aspects.
(5)   A comprehensive assessment of the environmental and social impacts of the ‘Statue of Unity’ and its contribution to the cumulative impact of all the projects and activities in the area has not been done.
(6)   The project also needs public consultation, but none has happened so far.
(7)   During the construction of the Sardar Sarovar dam due to hard rock digging, the seismic area already carries the burden of artificial activity in the bed rock and added load in what is deemed geologically fault line area. Public reports on geotechnical and geological studies on the proposed site have raised issues of structural stability as well as safety. This cannot be taken casually by authorities. The seismic hazard analysis claimed to have been done by the Gujarat Government’s in-house “Institute of Seismological Research” ( or the Geological and Geotechnical investigation commissioned to another government institute WAPCOS cannot be considered credible unless peer reviewed and put in public domain.
We demand that:
1.      The Government of Gujarat should submit application for environment clearance to the concerned authorities and till that is obtained, not to do any work related to the project.
2.      The Government of Gujarat should immediately stop planned project called ‘Statue of Unity’ and stop all other activities related to the ‘Statue of Unity’.
3.      The action of the foundation stone installation on 31 October 2013 for the project called ‘Statue of Unity’ by Mr. Narendra Modi the then Chief Minister of Gujarat is illegal, in violation of the EIA notification of September 2006 and the Environment Protection Act, 1986.
Rohit Prajapati
Trupti Shah
Activist of Gujarat

Rohit Prajapati / Trupti Shah
37, Patrakar Colony, Tandalja Road,
Post-Akota, Vadodara - 390 020
Phone No. (O) + 91 - 265 - 2320399
Email No:

Eminent Citizens Write to Prime Minister Calling for Review and Discussion on Sardar Sarovar Dam in the National Interest

Eminent Citizens Write
Prime Minister
 Review and Discussion 
Sardar Sarovar Dam 
the National Interest

New Delhi, October 29 : Former National Advisory Council Members, retd bureaucrats, academics, artists, activists and others led by Justice (Retd.) Rajinder Sachar, in an open letter to Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi has urged him to call for a Review and Discussion on Sardar Sarovar Dam in the National Interest. Mr. Modi is scheduled to inaugurate the construction work at the Dam Site and Garudeshwar Weir on October 31, after the decision to raise the height of the dam was given on June 12th.
The letters says, “the decision to raise the height of the dam further, will affect 44 additional village communities and one whole township, upto 214 kms long area in the Narmada basin, with 45,000 families. This will be done in violation of the NWDT Award and SC Order, since the resettlement and rehabilitation of the people are not complete yet on the ground.” They further added that, “the fact that completion of this particular project has been priority for Mr. PM, however, as the Prime Minister of the nation, he is expected to look after the welfare of all the citizens, and ensure that the lakhs of oustees, especially in Madhya Pradesh, belonging to the farming, fishing and working classes do not face destitution.”
They urged that the former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had given assurance to the Supreme Court in 2006 that as per law, all the project affected people will be rehabilitated first and then only the dam will be completed. Mr. Modi is bound both by virtue of his good office and by law to keep up this promise. It is in this light that Prime Minister, should call for a discussion and review of the ground situation on resettlement and rehabilitation in the larger national interest.

Shri Narendra Modi,
The Prime Minister of India,

Date: October 28th, 2014
Subject : Calling for a Review and Discussion on Sardar Sarovar Dam in National Interest
Dear Mr. Prime Minister,
We are writing this letter with much agony and enormous concern regarding the formidable impact increase in height of the Sardar Sarovar Dam on river Narmada will have. It will adversely impact the lives of adivasi (tribal) & rural communities, submerge precious natural resources - land, water, tree cover, fish and kill the pure and pious river, Narmada. Narmada – home to the oldest of human civilizations with rare archeological monuments. We request your personal attention and intervention to to stop this wanton destruction.
We know and most of us have witnessed the fact that at the present height of the dam, 122 m, itself there are 35,000 and more families residing in the submergence area and hence yet to be rehabilitated. The decision to raise the height of the dam further, erecting 17 meters high gates, to the full reservoir level, i.e. 138.68 meters, will affect 44 additional village communities and one whole township, upto 214 kms long area in the Narmada basin, with 45,000 families. Submergence of highly fertile agricultural land, thousands of houses, wells, schools and other amenities, temples, mosques and at least a million trees, should not be imposed without full, fair and legal rehabilitation. The adivasis, dalits and others in the Valley should not be evicted, and their property should not be evicted without complying with the Supreme Court’s directive and NWDT Award. Moreover this human tragedy and man-made disaster cannot ever be acceptable.
We are further informed that immediately after the decision was announced by the NCA on 12th June, the oustees and their representatives met the concerned Ministers at Delhi and appraised them of all the facts, ongoing legal and judicial processes, pending litigation, inquiry into corruption and non-compliance of the orders of the Grievance Redressal Authorities; urging them to put the decision on hold. The Ministers were not fully aware of the project and the ground realities but assured review of the matter.
We realize that the decision is to keep the gates open for the time being, however, erecting the gates itself is akin to raising the height of the dam, which is to be unlawful. The backwater levels now shown to be reduced, after 30 years since the original surveys before 80’s, are not scientifically drawn and hence any construction beyond the present height cannot be pushed today as drowning and destruction of houses and fields in the large farming belt of Nimad, M.P. has also begun since last few years and will be worse.
We are not unmindful of the fact that completion of this particular project has been priority for you. However, as the Prime Minister of the nation, you are now expected to look after the welfare of all the citizens, and ensure that the lakhs of oustees, especially in Madhya Pradesh, belonging to the farming, fishing and working classes do not face destitution. You must be aware that your predecessor, former Prime Minister Shri. Manmohan Singh Ji, committed to the Hon’ble Supreme Court in 2006 that rehabilitation, as per law, would precede any further construction and your are certainly bound both by virtue of your good office and by law to keep up this promise.
Dear Prime Minister, we hope you are aware of the fact that Justice Jha Commission, appointed by the High Court of Madhya Pradesh is investigating thousands of land registries which are forged and fake, and also corruption in payment of grants to thousands, allotment of house plots and construction at the resettlement sites. Fraud in all these has been proved, and the final report is soon likely, that crores of rupees are wasted and rehabilitation is far from complete.
We are also informed that the Report by the expert committee appointed by the Ministry of Environment till 2012 clearly concluded that most of the conditions related to the severe impacts on the natural resources in the Narmada Valley and compensatory measures are not fulfilled. Those include impacts on the health, forest, fisheries, seismically risky region, the catchment and siltation as also the command area in Gujarat. Without compliance on these, the Dam cannot and should not be pushed ahead, as you will agree.
You are certainly aware that the waters in Sardar Sarovar are also being used for the industries and new projects, such as Coca Cola plant (30 lakh liters/day), the car industry in Sanand alone (60 lakh liters/per day) and many others. Also that a few lakh hectares of land in the command area is now being diverted and reserved as industrial areas. All this indicates the change in the original plan and that there is absolutely no urgency to raise the Dam at the cost of people and the nature. Let the people receive all entitlements and natural losses be prevented and mitigated and then the Dam can be raised to completion.
You may have also been informed that the oustees in the SSP-affected areas are now legal owners of the acquired lands and houses, as per Section 24(2) of the recently passed “Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act of 2013”; since they continue to remain in possession of the acquired properties, till date. It would thus be unlawful to continue with further construction that is bound to lead to submergence and interference with the property and human rights of the owners.
We, therefore, urge you Sir, to hold a multi stakeholder consultation at the earliest, involving the people in the Valley, struggling since decades who have made a difference to the struggle by the Project affected people for their rights, across India. We expect that you will take a new democratic initiative, to know the truth and respect law, democracy, human values and human rights.
We call upon you to withhold the decision to raise the height until such a review exercise is concluded, and not to carry out any construction at the dam site.
We hope you will take a just and fair decision and respond to this appeal at the earliest.
Thanking you,
Yours’ Sincerely,
  1. Justice (Retd.) Rajinder Sachar, Chief Justice of Delhi High Court
  2. Aruna Roy, Former National Advisory Council member
  3. Swami Agnivesh, Bandhu Mukti Morcha
  4. Admiral (Retd.) L Ramdas, Chief of Naval Staff
  5. Madhu Bhaduri, IFS (Retd.)
  6. Dr. B.D. Sharma, IAS (Retd), Fomer Commissioner SC/ST Commission
  7. Harsh Mander, IAS, former National Advisory Council Member
  8. Ramaswamy R. Iyer, IAS, Secretary, Government of India (Retd.)
  9. Pushpa Bhave, Feminist, Socialist, Maharashtra
  10. M. Illango, Chairperson, National Fishworkers Forum 
  11. Prof. K.B. Saxena, IAS (Retd.) Secretary to Government of India
  12. Sandeep Pandey, Asha parivaar, Magsaysay Awardee 
  13. Prof. Kamal Mitra Chenoy,  Jawahar Lal Nehru University
  14. Prof. Manoranjan Mohanty, Council for Social Development, New Delhi 
  15. Prof. Jean Dreze, former National Advisory Council Member
  16. Arundhati Dhuru, Uttar Pradesh State Advisor to Supreme Court Commisioner on Right to Food
  17. Sanjay Kak, Filmmaker, New Delhi
  18. Kumar Ketkar, Political Analyst
  19. Suhas Borkar, Working Group on Alternatives
  20. Sumit Chakravarty, Editor, Mainstream 
  21. Prafulla Samantara - Lok Shakti Abhiyan Odisha
  22. Prof. Rohan D'souza, Jawaharlal Nehru University 
  23. Dr. Sunilam, Kisan Sangharsh Samiti MP
  24.  Gautam Bandopadhyay – Nadi Ghati Morcha, Chhattisgarh
  25.  Geetha Ramakrishnan – Unorganised Sector Workers Federation
  26.  P ChennaiahAndhra Pradesh Vyavasaya Vruthidarula Union (APVVU)
  27.  Jatin Desai, Journalist, Mumbai 
  28. Sister Celia - Domestic Workers Union, Karnataka
  29. Vimal Bhai, Matu Jan Sangathan, Uttarakhand
  30. Suhas Kolhekar, Jan Swasthya Abhiyan
  31. Mahendra Yadav, Kosi Navnirman Manch
  32.  Ashish Ranjan and Kamayani Swami, Jan Jagran Shakti Sangathan (Bihar) 
  33. Rohit Prajapati and Anand Mazgaonkar, Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, Gujarat
  34. Swati Desai, Editor, Bhumiputra
  35. Jyoti Bhai Desai, Senior Gandhian
  36.  Vilas Bhongade - Gosikhurd Prakalpgrast Sangharsh Samiti, NAPM, Maharashtra;
  37. Gabriele Dietrich, Pennurium Iyakkum , Tamilnadu
  38. Sanjeev Kumar, Delhi Forum

National Alliance of People’s MovementsNational Office : 6/6, Jangpura B, Mathura Road, New Delhi 110014
Phone : 011 24374535 Mobile : 09818905316
Web : |
Twitter : @napmindia

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

For many Indians, ecological concerns mean nothing but an ATM machine not yet plundered

Search for archived stories here...

    SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend
    From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 9, Issue 30, Dated 28 July 2012
    For many Indians, ecological concerns mean nothing but an ATM machine not yet plundered
    The ongoing tussle over the Western Ghats points to a crippling blind spot.
    By Shoma Chaudhury
    BLIND SPOTS can be a crippling character defect in an individual. Scale that up to the character of a nation and you have an approximation of how disastrous it can be. “Ecological concerns” is one such major Indian blind spot.
    The Supreme Court has just issued notices to the Central and Jammu & Kashmir governments on the Amarnath Yatra. With a cavalier disregard we accept as a national trait, the Amarnath Board has been allowing more than seven times the permissible limit of pilgrims to visit the cave. This year, that means almost 5.5 lakh pilgrims have gone up the fragile mountain in 20 days. Apart from the life hazard this poses for the pilgrims, there have been umpteen reports about how the natural snow lingam — the original reason for the faith — no longer forms on its own and is shored up with artificial ice. Soon, neither shrine nor mountain will exist anymore, stamped out by the polluting debris of Indian zeal. But this seems to ring no alarm bells for the protagonists: for most Indians, a crisis round the corner is no crisis at all.
    It’s not just the Amarnath. Recently, TEHELKA has been carrying a series of reports on the impending death of the Ganga, the lifeline of almost all of northern India. None of the facts in those stories are unknown. The critical condition of the river — overloaded by dams, polluting industries, effluents, sewage, diverted tributaries, power projects, tunnels — is already visible, but clearly, neither religious fervour, civilisational memory, high nationalism, or even plain economic self-interest is enough to put some brakes in place. Why tighten the belt to make a meal last when the fattening is going well for the moment?
    The ongoing tussle over the Western Ghats, deemed one of the world’s eight top biodiversity hotspots, is another devastating example of this myopia. In 2010, then environment minister Jairam Ramesh had commissioned an ecological panel led by Madhav Gadgil to prepare a comprehensive report on the region, jeopardised by over-development. By the time the report was filed, Ramesh had been replaced; the mandate had shifted. Under Jayanthi Natarajan, the ministry once again became a mere alibi for “growth” without rules. After months of stasis, the report was made public in March this year with a caveat that it had not been adopted and was being put through further consultation.
    These prevarications are depressing. The report has advised zoning the Ghats into three categories. One in which no mining or disruptive development can be allowed; another where existing projects are allowed to function under the strictest environmental guidelines; and a third where development can continue. Predictably, this has triggered hard resistance from mining lobbies and their ventriloquists in power. So blind is this resistance, in July this year, when the Western Ghats was accorded UNESCO World Heritage Site status (a prestigious label that has helped protect scores of precious sites across the globe), Karnataka’s forest minister — mark the irony — went to the extent of decrying the tag because, according to him, it would bring only rules, no money. The terror of such attitudes becomes manifest if one stops for just a moment to think of what preserving the majestic Western Ghats means for India’s well-being and economic security. The Ghats are a key influencer in the monsoons; they are home to the famous Alphonso mango, the Nilgiri biosphere; hundreds of species of birds, animals, trees and forests older than the Himalayas, to name just a few of its priceless resources. Imagine an India without its monsoon, its lifelines of rivers, its coastlines of fish, its regenerative forests, its snowline sources of water and the ludicrousness of resisting conservation would become apparent.
    But unfortunately, for many Indians, especially those who hold the levers of power, ‘ecological concerns’ and ‘biodiversity’ still mean nothing but impediments to an ATM machine not yet plundered of its cache. We are driven by the idea that clocks can be turned back: that we can use discriminately now and pay later. But the environment is not only about a face-off between developed and developing countries and who should pay the global climate change bill: it is a dialogue with ourselves.
    Can we afford — economically — to use up our resources, then spend thousands of crores trying to resurrect them? Will it even be possible to resuscitate them? Take a dip stick: check where the Ganga Action Plan chaired by the prime minister has got so far.
    These warnings may seem mere irritant thorns now, but it’s probably not an exaggeration to say, by 2050, the loss of India’s ecological resources will end up being one of the country’s greatest threats to national security.
    Shoma Chaudhury is Managing Editor, Tehelka.

    SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend
    From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 9, Issue 30, Dated 28 July 2012

Within months of coming to power, the BJP government has started it’s attack on India’s poor: Brinda Karat


Press Release

Within months of coming to power, the BJP government has started it’s attack on India’s poor: Brinda Karat

Catch CPI-M’s only Woman Polit Bureau Member, Brinda Karat in conversation with Teesta Setalvad in this week’s Communalism Combat’s Special Interview, only on and HILLELE TV


Barely has this government caught its breath that it has started an unrelenting attack on India’s poor said Brinda Karat, CPI-M’s only woman Polit Bureau member in a special interview with Teesta Setalvad, Communalism Combat. The targeted attack on the previous government’s rural employment scheme, MGNREGA by cutting back on its budgetary outlay and the hasty removal of all protection for organised labour (as already demonstrated by the Modi-led NDA II government) will ensure that all protections today available to some sections of the working people, that protects them from contractual employment will disappear. These steps targeted against the vast majority of the Indian people will ensure the increasing relevance of the Left, never mind its current diminishing strength in the Lok Sabha, Karat said. Brinda Karat also spoke of the rampant triumphalism of majority communalism as displayed by the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and similar organizations) ever since the elections this May.

The interview, given to social activist and journalist, Teesta Setalvad, is one of a series of special interviews being run by Communalism Combat and HILLELE TV can be viewed at 

Defending the stand of the Left in remaining equi-distant from the RSS-backed Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Indian National Congress, Karat said that the Congress brand of secularism needed to be exposed. She faulted the UPA II of not pushing hard enough a Central law to prevent targeted communal violence to prevent another Gujarat, blamed it for succumbing to rightwing BJP pressure in not implementing the recommendations of the Rangannath Mishra Commission that would have stood to benefit, socio-economically 80 per cent of India’s minorities and worst of all not preventing the arrests of innocent Muslims in the name of combating terror. The road of the BJP to power is littered with the failures of the Congress Party, Karat stated scathingly while recognizing the difference between a government openly backed by the RSS and one run by the Congress. Besides, on the economic front, there was little to choose between the neo-liberal policies of the Congress and the VJP, she said.

Brinda Karat, the first woman member of the Polit Bureau of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) also speaks in this interview about the shocking play of money in India’s electoral politics,  most visible in the recently concluded Parliamentary polls leading to a situation where it was moneyed corporate houses who were now playing a deciding role on who and which party comes to power. The urgent need for electoral reform to ensure a level playing field to those with limited access to money was stressed by her as also the need for a shift to a system of proportional representation to ensure that regional and national players with as much as 20 per cent of votes are not left out in representation in assemblies and Parliament.

Speaking also on the issue of judicial accountability, Karat spoke on the critical issue of independence in judicial appointments. More specifically she was candid at the overt instances of judicial bias within the Courts, a bias that reflected in rulings against women, Dalits and even minorities. Often this has led to the left having to demonstrate and shame judgements and thereafter face contempt of court proceedings, she said. Please view the interview and and give coverage to the same.

Teesta Setalvad
'Nirant', Juhu Tara Road,
Juhu, Mumbai - 400 049

Monday, October 27, 2014


Inline images 1

-Fr. Cedric Prakash sj*

Dear Friends,

It is good to be here at this National Convention of the Indian Catholic Press Association (ICPA). I want to thank Fr. Alfonso Elengikal, the President of the ICPA, Mr. Jose Vincent, the Secretary of ICPA and all others concerned for inviting me to share with you some perspectives on the challenges facing the print media today. I will of course focus on the theme of this Convention, “PROPHETIC CHALLENGES BEFORE MEDIA TODAY”.

At the outset, I would like to emphasize two points:

i.               that the printed word  plays a significant and defining role in the Indian sub-continent today
ii.              that being engaged in the print media is no longer an option for us, but a mandate

Having said this let me focus on some of the challenges that the print media faces in the changing context of India today.

(In order to ensure an economy of words, I will in the remainder of this sharing use the very general term ‘media’ even though this Convention focuses on Catholics engaged in the print-media)

What then are some of the major challenges which the media in India faces today?

·      the corporatisation of the media
If there is one single major concern which the media in India faces today, it is the way it has been corporatised. A systematic study of all the big newspapers in the country will easily reveal that they belong to one or the other of the big corporate houses. Corporations (be they national or multi-nationals), we are all aware, have their own agenda. They are determined by the ideology of that particular corporation, by profit-making and in most instances, they would not want to disturb the ‘status quo’ or to rock the boat. When media is taken over by such houses, the end-game is blatantly clear: our minds, our thought-processes are determined in a particular way.

·      the commercialisation of the media
In our Centre ‘PRASHANT’, we focus on human rights, justice and peace and a key dimension of our work is the scanning and documenting from eighteen major daily newspapers in English, Gujarati and Hindi. It is simply unbelievable that these past few days, in several newspapers five and even seven pages are devoted to full-page advertisements.  The advertisements are varied: of major sales and discounts; the announcements of brand new products and of course, the propaganda of political parties (mainly the BJP). These advertisements certainly cost a pretty sum; when one gives importance to such crass commercialisation, then the newspaper loses its very heart and soul. Remember the big talk of “black money?”

·      the co-option of the media
Corporatisation and commercialisation of the media have plenty to do with its co-option.  So in a way, this becomes a logical outcome of the first two.  Co-option essentially means losing your ability to think for yourself; you have to toe a given line, you have to ensure the banner headlines (even if they are lies) are done to suit the wishes and the fancies of the bosses; you have to carefully avoid instances / events or news which might put those who control you, in poor light. We have hundreds of examples in and around us to exemplify how media gets so easily co-opted today. We are all familiar with the term “paid media!”

·      the compromising of the media
The word ‘compromise’ is a highly nuanced one; “a compromise is a situation in which people accept something slightly different from what they really want, because of circumstances or because they are considering the wishes of the other people”.  So a compromise essentially means that you have a possibility of making a decision but because of fear or / and favour, one would rather go with what( one thinks/knows), the big boss wants. 

In May 2014, after the General Elections, I was invited by the editor of ‘The New Leader’ to write the cover story for the fortnightly (June 1 – 15, 2014, Vol. 1 – 7, No 11).  I did do so, what I think is a fairly balanced but analytical article, which was well received (given the number of calls / mails I received after that). The editor (a lay man) of our Gujarati Catholic monthly ‘The DOOT’ (‘the Messenger’ which is managed and owned by the Jesuits of Gujarat) - congratulated me on the article and asked if it could be published in a forthcoming issue of DOOT. My response was naturally a very positive one and I immediately had the article translated in Gujarati and sent to him; but that article never appeared in the DOOT.  More than three months later, at a casual meeting, the editor informs me that the article was not published because a couple of people on the editorial board said it might have repercussions on the magazine (no comments needed!!!)

·      The communalisation of the media
In India, we are seeing this as never before. We need to glance through almost any daily newspaper to realize this.  On careful analysis of a news story, it is so blatantly obvious that a Dilip Shah who kills another is not referred as a ‘Hindu’ murderer; but if it is a Javed Sheikh, he is then very carefully painted as Muslim or someone belonging to the minority community! Look at the way “love Jihad” hogged the headlines for several weeks! There are very subtle and direct attacks on minorities. What is meticulously propagated is the well-being of the majority community.  Communalisation through the media is able to orchestrate the divide between the majority and minority communities of the country.

The above 5 C’s (Corporatisation, Commercialisation, Co-option, Compromising, Communalisation) are some of the major challenges that the media in India faces. How then do we respond to these challenges – as a backgrounder for this response, I invite all those present here to revisit ‘Inter Mirifica’ (the Decree on the means of Social Communications) which was a key document of the Second Vatican Council and whose Golden Jubilee we celebrated less than a year ago on December 4th, 2013.  Do we then have a perspective?

In September 2013, Pope Francis while addressing the Pontifical Council for Social Communications in Rome said “the Decree (Inter Mirifica) expresses the Church’s solicitude for communication in all its forms which are important tools in the work of evangelization”.  He went on further to say, “the world of Communications, more and more has become an ‘environment’ for many, one in which people communicate with one another expanding their possibilities for knowledge and relationship. I wish to underline these positive aspects notwithstanding the limits and the harmful factors that also exist and which we are all aware of.”

It is significant, therefore that ten years ago in January 2004, the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI) at their meeting in Trichur gave to the Church in India plenty of food for thought and action in their statement “Called to be a Communicating Church”. 

As ICPA and others involved in the media, we are challenged to reflect and act urgently on many critical dimensions of this all-pervasive ministry.  These include:

  • have we, as Church, taken Social Communications (sp. the print-media) seriously?
  • have we understood its power and potential in our works of evangelization?
  • do we have a Social Communications Commission in our diocese?  (the Commission should necessarily constitute persons from all walks of life and these should include lay professionals in communications) 
  • do we engage as Church vocally (writing) and visibly in confronting injustices that plague our society like discrimination, displacement, corruption, communalism, casteism? 
  • have we prophetically denounced the grave ills in our society in order to boldly proclaim the ‘good news’? 
  • do we engage in social media on important issues concerning Constitutional rights and freedoms of all?

These and several other concerns can be raised - all of them have been reflected in ‘Inter Mirifica’ and in the many pastoral messages written on Communications (for Communications Sunday) by the Holy Father every year. 

It is therefore not without reason that Pope Francis has chosen as theme for his first message on World Communications Day 2014 “Communication at the service of an authentic culture of encounter”. The Pontifical Council for Social Communications says that “this will explore the potential of communication especially in a networked and connected world, to bring people closer to each other and to cooperate in the task of building a more just world.” 

This theme in fact truly reflects all that ‘Inter Mirifica’ is about: “the proper exercise of this right (to information) demands that the content of the communication be true and – within the limits set by justice and charity – complete” (#5) and “all the members of the Church should make a concerted effort to ensure that the means of communication are put at the service of the multiple forms of the apostolate without delay and as energetically as possible, where and when they are needed. They should forestall projects likely to prove harmful, especially in those regions where moral and religious progress would require their intervention more urgently.” (#13)

In the light of the above and at this National Convention of the Indian Catholic Press Association, I would like therefore to propose a definite plan of action for all those engaged in the print media in India. The plan of action should include:

·      that one should never be compromised on Gospel values very particularly on truth, human rights and justice
·      that every effort should be made to enter mainstream print media (both vernacular and English) as journalists, writers, editors, whatever
·      Catholic youth should be trained in journalism / media to write letters to the editors, articles to important newspapers on social issues
·      that we need to reinvent our Church newspapers / magazines / bulletins - very few of them are worth the salt. The tragedy of Church media is that it highlights activities / events of Bishops, Priests and Nuns - they hardly educate, but in fact domesticate
·      that we need to encourage as many as possible to maintain their own blogs, to have a facebook page, to tweet and to use the social media. Social media is about communicating and we will not be able to communicate on social media if we do not write
·      that we need to network and collaborate with others in the mainstream media

The main idea of this presentation is just to set the tone for further deliberations and responses. The challenges we know are many. Like ostriches, we can no longer bury our heads in the sand and think that all is well.  The Indian Catholic Press Association will be true to its name only if it demonstrates unbridled courage to be visible and to be vocal (through the written word) given the context and challenges that India faces today.

At this juncture, we need to be reminded of the poem by Bertolt Brecht (1898 – 1956), the German Marxist poet, playwright and theatre director who took a stand against Hitler and Nazism and who very poignantly wrote:

“In the dark times
Will there also be singing?
Yes, there will also be singing.
About the dark times!

Thank you very much!

(This presentation was made at the National Convention of the ICPA held at Kanyakumari on October 24th, 2014)

(* Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ is the Director of PRASHANT, the Ahmedabad-based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace.  He is also the Secretary for Social Communications of the Western Regional Bishops’ Council. He is the recipient of several National and International awards for his work.)

Address: PRASHANT, Hill Nagar, Near Saffron Hotel, Drive-in Road, Ahmedabad - 380052
Phone: (079) 27455913, 66522333 Cell: 9824034536 Fax:  (079) 27489018
Email: /