Despite the right to non-discrimination on the basis of race or caste enshrined in Article 15 of the Indian Constitution, discrimination against SCs and STs is pervasive. Markings of “SC” for scheduled caste, “ST” for scheduled tribe, “O” for OBC (other backward class) and “G” for General, of candidates for the post of constable on their chests in a bid to identify their castes during their medical examination in Dhar district of BJP ruled state, Madhya Pradesh, is not only a violation of human rights but also a criminal offence under the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act.
Colloquium on Reclaiming the Constitutional and Democratic Rights
Jointly organized by India Peace Center, Diocese of Chhattisgarh – CNI and NCCI- Dalit and Tribal/Adivasi Concerns
17th April 2018, Gass Memorial Hall, Raipur (Chhattisgarh)
The issue of rising communal unrest in the country and the steady penetration of the Right wing hindutva ideologies have paved an extremely narrow path for the minority groups and oppressed communities especially SC/ST’s in the country by withholding their fundamental rights in the recent times which created a great imbalance in the economic and social forms. The responsibility of the Christian communities and other faith communities is therefore to be united and to strive against the fascist forces and to rule out such ideologies which can disrupt and damage the peace and harmony of the country which is yet again a threat to the democratic values of any country and its people (citizens) as a whole.
To mark the 127th birth anniversary of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, on 17th April 2018, a Colloquium on Reclaiming the Constitutional and Democratic Rights was held at Gass Memorial Centre, Raipur, Chhattisgarh jointly organized by the India Peace Center, NCCI- Dalit and Tribal/Adivasi Concerns and Diocese of Chhattisgarh, CNI. The colloquium witnessed a participation of 50 delegates representing different Churches, Denominations and organizations as well as nine Resource Persons. The colloquium was meant to highlight the issue of reclaiming the Constitutional and Democratic Rights and also to address the growing fascism and communal activities spread by Hindutva and Right wing forces in India.
A series of sessions taken by the resource persons on the topic highlighted the various issues happening in the country and what could be the possibilities and approaches to be taken by the Christian communities in order to address them.
The introduction of the colloquium was given by Mr. Kasta Dip, Director of India Peace Centre (IPC) highlighting the various ways the present government and Right wing groups are trying to disrupt the peace and harmony of India by tampering the Indian Constitution and by bringing various changes to the laws and rights which the Dalit and the Tribal communities hold by downsizing their right to file the complaints about the atrocities done on them. Mr. Kasta Dip gave example of the murder of the late journalist Ms. Gauri Lankesh and emphasized that Christian communities should voice out the atrocities and violence committed on people from different faith groups and not only for their own Christian brethren.
Rt. Rev. Robert Ali, Bishop of Diocese of Chhattisgarh – CNI welcomed the august gathering on behalf of Diocese of Chhattisgarh and gave a short reflection from Bible and spoke on various ways how Bible highlights the different voices of the oppressed people and identify like Jesus Christ and following the path and his teachings.
The Keynote address was delivered by Prof. Dr. Yugal Rayulu, Professor at Dharampeth Science College, highlighted the present situation of the Indian judiciary and the attack on the Constitution. Dr. Rayalu also vehemently criticized the actions taken by the present government towards attacking the rights of the SC/ST communities and following and propagating a dictatorship ruled ideology against the democratic rule in the country.
Professor Dr. Vikas Jambulkar, Professor at Rashtriya Santh Tukdoji Maharaj Nagpur University (RTMNU), highlighted the various egalitarian qualities which Buddhism and Christianity professes. Dr. Jambulkar stressed on the democratic principle which the Indian Constitution holds and provides equal opportunities to both men and women. Dr. Jambulkar also highlighted the issues of moral policing done by the present government with regards to changing the eating habits and bringing pseudo-scientific discoveries in the colour of religious belief system.
Mr. Arun Panalal from United Christian Forum of Chhattisgarh, an activist based and working in the regions of Chhattisgarh especially in Raipur stressed on the importance of the Preamble and the Indian Constitution and raised the issue of knowing and be through with the fundamental rights which a Christian has. Mr. Panalal also encouraged the Christian leaders to give importance to the politics and its principles and to teach and incorporate at different levels in the churches as well as in Christian institutions especially among the youths and upcoming generations.
Advocate Rajendra Sail, highlighted the significance of the constitution and bringing people towards the understanding of becoming ‘Republic’ and “Re-peopled the De-peopled people.” Adv. Sail also stressed and talked about the minority rights and religious freedom which is been tampered and drastically changed by the influence of the Hindutva forces. Adv. Sail also spoke about the slow penetrating fascist and communal ideologies which are spreading in the country by the Right wing groups and Hindutva forces by the present government.
Mr. Akhilesh Edgar from ADF, spoke on the rising tide of the communal tension in the state of Chhattisgarh and different parts of the country. Mr. Akhilesh Edgar also in his session highlighted that there should be effective steps taken in order to preserve the Indian constitution and the rights of the SC/ST communities in the country from any kind of damage done on it and to claim the identity of the people as an integral part of country.
Mr. Pradip Bansrior, Executive Secretary – Dalit and Tribal/Adivasi Concerns from NCCI stressed on Supreme Court’s ruling on dilution of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and how the right wings in the country are making efforts and changes in manipulating and dismantling the historical accounts and bringing their own narratives in the historical accounts by tampering them. He also highlighted the articles 15, 16 and 17 of our Indian constitution
The concluding message was given by Rev. Dr. Atul Arthur, Secretary of Chhattisgarh Diocese, CNI. He encouraged the delegates to be united and strive to protect the Constitutional and Democratic Rights which in the contemporary times are at the risk of getting ruled out by the present invisible Right wing forces and Hindutva groups lead by the support of present government which aims to spread in the fascist ideology in the Indian masses which is a threat to an egalitarian based Constitution and Democratic society.
The colloquium highlighted the key points towards reclaiming the Constitutional and Democratic Rights in India.
- To encourage the Christian communities of the state of Chhattisgarh to rise against the ideologies of Fascism and Dictatorship rule.
- To encourage and teach the democratic values of Indian constitution in the Church and especially to the young people studying in the Christian institutions.
- To promote an egalitarian ideology in the church and community setup and to stand united instead of being divided in different denominational and doctrinal differences.
- To follow the path showed by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar towards making a democratic front and an egalitarian community.
The colloquium concluded with a vote of thanks offered by Mr. Kasta Dip followed by the closing prayer and benediction pronounced by Bishop, Rt. Rev. Robert Ali.
Mr. Saurabh Khobragade
Intern- DATA Concerns, NCCI
As we are all aware, members of vulnerable communities in India organized mass protests on 2nd April 2018 against a Supreme Court ruling, which activists say will likely dilute a stringent law that was enacted to address atrocities against scheduled castes and scheduled tribes.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data, the rate of crimes against Dalits, who number more than 200 million, has risen in recent years. Reuters News Agency reports that Government data shows that by the end of 2016, about 90 percent of roughly 145,000 cases involving Dalits were still awaiting trial. Government data also shows that less than a tenth of the cases brought by Dalits in 2016 were proven to be false. In a democracy the people, who are weak, are protected by the law; the courts work for them. Hence the concern and campaign of the vulnerable sections of society for justice that assures them of protection of their lives, land and livelihood.
Dalits who constitute 16.63 percent and Tribals who constitute 8.6 percent of the Indian population, are a social minority. Dalits and Tribals/Adivasis have realized that arrests under the ST/SC (Prevention of Atrocities) Act have worked as a great deterrent.
The key features of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2015, (http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=135764) are:
- New offences of atrocities like tonsuring of head, moustache, or similar acts which are derogatory to the dignity of members of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, garlanding with chappals, denying access to irrigation facilities or forest rights , dispose or carry human or animal carcasses, or to dig graves, using or permitting manual scavenging, dedicating a Scheduled Caste or a Scheduled Tribe women as devadasi, abusing in caste name, perpetrating witchcraft atrocities, imposing social or economic boycott, preventing Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes candidates from filing of nomination to contest elections, hurting a Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes woman by removing her garments, forcing a member of Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe to leave house , village or residence, defiling objects sacred to members of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribe, touching or using words, acts or gestures of a sexual nature against members of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribe.
- Addition of certain IPC offences like hurt, grievous hurt, intimidation, kidnapping etc., attracting less than ten years of imprisonment, committed against members of Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe, as offences punishable under the PoA Act. Presently, only those offences listed in IPC as attracting punishment of 10 years or more and committed on members of Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe are accepted as offences falling under the PoA Act.
- Establishment of Exclusive Special Courts and specification of Exclusive Special Public Prosecutors also, to exclusively try the offences under the PoA Act to enable speedy and expeditious disposal of cases.
- Power of Special Courts and Exclusive Special Courts, to take direct cognizance of offence and as far as possible, completion of trial of the case within two months, from the date of filing of the charge sheet.
- Addition of chapter on the ‘Rights of Victims and Witnesses’.
- Defining clearly the term ‘wilful negligence’ of public servants at all levels, starting from the registration of complaint, and covering aspects of dereliction of duty under this Act.
- Addition of presumption to the offences – If the accused was acquainted with the victim or his family, the court will presume that the accused was aware of the caste or tribal identity of the victim unless proved otherwise.
SC/ST people, who are most vulnerable on account of corruption, criminalization and communal grounds, are threatened, victimized and pressurized by unsocial elements. Therefore, the ruling of the Supreme Court on March 20, 2018 which does away with immediate arrests gives rise to the apprehensions of the vulnerable minorities that perpetrators of violence will get away without being immediately taken to task for their criminal acts.. Hence the importance and urgency of protection and immediate action against the perpetrators of atrocities on them.
The State with all its mechanisms and the Society have to ensure that vulnerable communities are granted due protection against atrocities and that the injustices of the caste system are rooted out.
|Rev. Dr. Roger Gaikwad
National Council of Churches in India.
|Mr. Pradip Bansrior
Dalit and Tribal / Adivasi Concerns, NCCI.
National Council of Churches in India – Dalit and Tribal/Adivasi Concerns
in Partnership with
EMW-Germany, Christian Service Agency and Leonard Theological College
Consultation on Ecumenical Formation and Capacity Building for
Young Dalit, Tribal/Adivasi Theologians
1-3 February 2018 | Mahatma Gandhi Hall, Leonard Theological College, Jabalpur
Ecumenism as mission of all churches involves building relationships, challenging the local styles of being church and leading to the sharing of resources by establishing solidarity and accepting the fact that every church is called by God to be a partner in mission, not be isolated. A clear theological self-understanding reflected on the concept of life and mission of the church must be proclaimed with bold options in support of the marginalized people around us. Ecumenism must motivate the church and society to develop a countervailing power in the midst of gloom and despair. Dialogue with people of other faiths and respect of the religious values of our neighbor should be our lifestyle. There is a need to bring an effective awareness among all the Christian communities across India to be united in bringing significant changeswith regards to addressing the evils of caste, creed, colour as well as socio-political, cultural and economic changes which our Indian society has been undergoing from ages and which has seen a rapid growth in the recent times. Therefore it is the need of the hour for the Indian churches and Christian institutions including the theological colleges to work together and work effectively on denominationalism and fundamentalism which can lead to or create differences among the Christian communities and societies.
In order to bridging gaps and helping the young dalit, tribal/ adivasi theologians to understand the gospel in totality, as a gospel that deals with humanity and all creation, helping people towards better life integrated with ecology, and which supports freedom, and stands for human rights and eco dignity, NCCI-Dalit and Tribal/Adivasi Concerns in partnership with EMW Germany, Leonard Theological College, Jabalpur and Christian Service Agency organized a three days Consultation on “Ecumenical Formation and Capacity Building for Young Dalit, Tribal/Adivasi Theologians” from 1st -3rd February 2018 at Mahatma Gandhi Assembly Hall, Leonard Theological College, Jabalpur. A total of 41 participants in which 30 Theological Students from twelve different theological colleges/seminaries from the Northern, Eastern and Central regions of India, affiliated to the Senate of Serampore Colleges and 11 Resource Persons participated in the consultation. The consultation started with a creative and participatory worship led by Mr. Pradip Bansrior, Executive Secretary-Dalit and Tribal Concerns-NCCI along with the team of theological students, the reflection was given by Mr. Jianthaolung Gonmei, Executive Secretary- Youth Concerns, NCCI and concluded with the benediction pronounced by Rev. Dr. Naveen Rao, Principal, Leonard Theological College. Following the inaugural worship, Mr. Pradip Bansrior welcomed the delegates and the resource persons and shared the purpose of the consultation and also extended his sincere thanks and gratitude to Rev. Anil Michael, Treasurer- LTC and the administrative body for hosting the consultation in the Leonard Theological College, Jabalpur.
Statement of the Consultation on Ecumenical Formation and Capacity Building for
Young Dalit and Tribal/Adivasi Theologians
1 – 3 February 2018 | Leonard Theological College, Jabalpur (MP)
We, 30 young theologians from 12 theological colleges across Northern, Eastern and Central India representing different social and cultural identities as well as churches from different parts of India, gathered at Leonard Theological College, Jabalpur from 1st to 3rd of February 2018 for a Consultation on Ecumenical Formation and Capacity Building for Young Dalit, Tribal/Adivasi Theologians organized by NCCI’s Dalit and Tribal/Adivasi Concerns. During our discussions and deliberations we dealt with many concerns such as trends and development of ecumenical movement from various contextual issues including struggles for Dalits Rights; Rights of indigenous people; Rights of women and children; Youth in the Cyber Age; Human Trafficking, Human Sexuality and Gender Diversities; Prophetic communication; Ecumenical formation; Inter-Religious harmony and Ecological justice.
We affirm that:
- God has created humankind in God’s own image. In the household of God, there is no discrimination on the basis of caste, gender, race, creed, or religion.
- Unity is the essence of Christianity and the Christian community can transcend differences and divisions by coming together to address social concerns and campaign against evil forces that undermine or violate people’s rights and dignity on the basis of their gender, generation, caste, tribe, ability or sexual orientation.
- Our God is the God of love, compassion and justice who always takes the side of the oppressed in their struggle for justice and liberates them from oppressive and unjust systems.
- The ecumenical spirit transcends ecclesial realms and facilitates visible unity and symbiotic living with all of God’s creation, peace and reconciliation with people of all faiths, and commitment to social causes.
- The Church has to take serious cognisance of the changing socio-political, cultural and technological context, and should engage with the same meaningfully, relevantly and effectively.
- The Church is called to remain committed particularly to the cause of Dalit and Tribal/Adivasi communities in her prophetic ministry.
We reject and condemn any discrimination and social injustice within and outside the church, denying the rights to the fullness of life of women, youth, children, Dalits, Tribals/Adivasis, sexual minorities and of nature.
We, therefore, make the following recommendations to the churches and theological institutions for effective ecumenism and social justice:
- To declare and accept social diversities in gender, caste, race or creed as designs of God.
- To widen the ecumenical movement beyond ecclesial relationships within and among the churches, and even beyond inter-religious relationships to inter-human relationships and integrity of all creation.
- To be more inclusive, and to be more sensitive towards sexual minorities and marginalised sections of the society.
- To incorporate teachings of peace and reconciliation not only in curricula, but also to practice the same in day to day lives.
- To understand and interpret the Scripture in a holistic manner of inclusivity and ensure justice and equity for all creation.
- To strengthen prophetic communication with regard to issues of women, children, Dalits and Tribals/Adivasis, sexual minorities and nature.
- To publicly affirm the identity of Dalit and Tribal/Adivasi communities and promote their spirituality.
- To make use of Dalit/Tribal/Adivasi cultures and traditions in strengthening grassroots ecumenism.
‘Water for life’ –
Joint program of VCLC- National Council of Churches in India and the EWN-World Council of Churches
3rd November 2017 | NCCI Campus, Nagpur.
A one-day consultation on ‘Water for life’ was organized in the NCCI Campus on the 3rd of November 2017. It was a joint program of the Vidarbha Centre for Labour Concerns – National Council of Churches in India VCLC – NCCI) and Ecumenical Water Network – World Council of Churches (EWN – WCC). The 50 participants in the consultation were from the Church of North India, Mar Thoma Church, and the Orthodox Seminary, from faith-based organizations and also people (people of different faith traditions) from Butibori – MIDC and Totladoh who have been affected by developmental activities in the region. NCCI Secretaries and Interns also participated in this consultation.
The major focus of the program was on the International, National and Local issues of the Water Crisis as water is being commoditized and therefore this natural resource is made available unequally.
Respected Ecumenical Leaders,
Warm greetings from National Council of Churches in India!
Dalit Liberation Sunday has become an important feature in the calendar of Indian Churches and Ecumenical movements. Over the years, there has been a positive response in sensitizing the local congregations towards concerns of Dalits, for no longer caste issue is visualized as a sociological issue or an issue outside the purview of church but more seen as an issue challenging the core of our faith and gospel.
Dalit Liberation Sunday is a joint programme of National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) and Catholic Bishop’s Conference of India (CBCI), aiming at the empowerment of the local congregations for Dalit liberation. Dalit Liberation Sunday is observed by the member churches of NCCI and the churches under CBCI in their local congregations across India.
National Council of Churches in India -Dalit and Tribal/Adivasi Concerns along with many member churches, theological institutions and various organisations proactively participated in the observance of ‘Black Day’ on 10th August 2017. The infamous Presidential Order that was signed on 10th August 1950 by the then President of India stated, “No person who professes a religion other than Hinduism shall be deemed to be a member of the scheduled caste.” This Order was later amended to include Sikhs (1956) and Buddhists (1990) in the Scheduled Caste fold. It is ironical that the Government is turning deaf ears even when twelve state Governments along with union territories and political parties have endorsed the proposal to delete paragraph-3 of the Presidential Order 1950 in order to ensure equality and justice for Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims in India.
Therefore on 10th August 2017, people protested against the continual negligence of the government to the cry for the rights of Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims in the country. At different places protest rallies, meetings, demonstrations, candle vigils, special prayers, submission of memorandums and other appropriate programmes were organised to express solidarity with the oppressed Christians and Muslims of Scheduled Caste origin.
Observance of Black Day at Bishop’s College, Kolkata
“Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians are citizens of India! ” was one of the slogans heard on A.J.C. Bose Road in front of Bishop’s College, Kolkata. Black Day was observed by the theological students and faculty of Bishop’s College, Kolkata, in keeping with its tradition and conviction of being a voice for the voiceless. Rev. Dr. Sunil Caleb (Principal of the college) briefed the community about the significance of the observance of Black Day. He categorically emphasized the church’s participation in the struggles of the Dalits. He provided a historical overview of the infamous Presidential Order of 1950 that excludes Christian and Muslim Dalits from the Scheduled Castes list.
Celebration of Tribal and Adivasi Sunday has become an important feature in the calendar of Indian Churches and Ecumenical movements. Over the years Tribal and Adivasi Sunday has been celebrated in many parts of our country in sensitizing local congregations on Tribal and Adivasi Concerns. Thanks to the churches, dioceses, parishes and institutions for their encouraging partnership in celebrating this special day on the first and the following Sundays of August. The theme for this year’s Tribal and Adivasi Sunday was “Solidarity in Christ: Bearing One Another’s Burdens” (cf. Galatians 6:2). Few reports and pictures received from member churches and institutions are presented here.
Celebration at All Saints Cathedral CNI, Nagpur
On the 6th August 2017, the All Saints Cathedral celebrated the Tribal and Adivasi Sunday. Rev. John George the Priest in charge led the service as per the order of worship provided by NCCI. The message was brought by Mr. Mathingmi Hongchui, Intern of Dalit and Tribal/Adivasi (DATA) Concerns, NCCI. The speaker drew attention to the problems faced by Tribal and Adivasi communities since antiquity. Prayer alone is not enough in today’s context; it is imperative to speak up for the voiceless and ensure justice for those who are poor and needy, which is the need of the hour. The message was concluded with a quote of John Stott, “To be a burden-bearer is a great ministry. It is something that every Christian should and can do. It is a natural consequence of walking by the Spirit. It fulfills the law of Christ.”
Bishop Johan Dang (Moderator, GEL Church), Bishop Dular Lakra (NWGEL Church), Rev. Dr. Roger Gaikwad (General Secretary, NCCI), Mr. Pradip Bansrior (Executive Secretary, Dalit & Tribal / Adivasi Concerns, NCCI), Mr. Joy Tudu (Secretary, Santalia Council of Churches), Rev. Arun Barwa (Secretary, Jharkhand Council of Churches), and Rev. Ashisan Bage (Women Representative).
These leaders submitted a memorandum to the Governor of Jharkhand to repeal the proposed religious freedom bill and the amendments to the land acquisition bill.
Text of the memorandum:
Shrimati Draupadi Murmu
Governor of Jharkhand
Raj Bhawan, Ranchi – 834001
Subject: An appeal to Repeal the Jharkhand Freedom of Religion Bill2017 and Jharkhand Right to Fair Compensationand Transparency in land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Ammendment) Bill 2017by the Jharkhand Vidhan Sabha on 12th August 2017.
Honorable Governor Shrimati Draupadi Murmu,
We, as citizens of India and on behalf of National Council of Churches in India, Jharkhand Council of Churches and Santalia Council of Churches bring our greetings of respect, love and joy to you. The Jharkhand assembly on 12th August 2017 passed the Jharkhand Freedom of Religion Bill2017 and Jharkhand Right to Fair Compensationand Transparency in land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Ammendment) Bill 2017 brought by the BJP-led government. During the debate on Religious Freedom Bill 2017in theassembly, a figure was presented by the BJP led government, which states that in 2011 there were 10,90,283 Christians in Jharkhand which rose to 14,18,783 in 2017 which means in the last five years an increase of 30 percent in the population of Christian religion. According to Indian government census report it was 4.1 percent of the population who accepted Christianity in 1951 in Jharkhand, which rose 4.3 percent in 2011, i.e. an increase of just 0.2 percent of the population of Christians in 70 years. Your Excellencyan increase of30 percents in just five years is just impossible; it is only a politically motivated inflated figure.In India, as per the government census the Christian population in the country was 2.33 per cent in 1951; 2.44 in 1961; 2.60 in 1971; 2.44 in 1981; 2.32 in 1991; 2.34 in 2001 and 2.30 in 2011. The growth rate is almost static. Jharkhand has the same kind of scenario too. Though the State was formed in 2000, yet for a larger picture the Christian population was 4.12 in 1951; 4.17 in 1961; 4.35 in 1971; 3.99 in 1981; 3.72 in 1991; 4.10 in 2001 and 4.30 in 2011. Here too the growth rate is stagnant. The census occurs once in every ten years. How could the Jharkhand government introduce its figure on Christian population percentage to the assembly? The BJP led government has misled the assembly by introducing fake figures. Is this not a travesty of democracy?
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