Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Demands of Christians in Karnataka

The Chairman
Karnataka State Minorities Commission

Dear Mr. Chairman,

Christians in Karnataka
An e-mail interaction

Immediately after the Nandi Hills meeting of the Commission, I rushed the following e-mail to a group of Christian leaders and laymen belonging to various Christian denominations and churches.

My mail to them said: “I need a little help from you urgently. I shall be thankful if you could please rush me a note on the Christian community in Karnataka, their fears, anxieties, agonies, aspirations and social conditions, children's educational needs - about everything that matters to them and what they expect from the present BJP government etc. Not forgetting the developmental programmes meant for them and also about the attacks on them and then, of course, the cow-slaughter bill.”

Those who participated in interaction included:

1. Bishop Samuel Mathew (Believers Church)
2. Fr. Faustine L. Lobo (Catholic Church, Bangalore)
3. Fr. Jayanathan (Catholic Church, Bangalore)

4. Emerson Samuel (Ecumenical)
5. Georgy C. George (Catholic)

6. Brig. (Retd) Chacko Abraham (Orthodox)
7. Mrs. Molly Varghese (Mar Thoma)
8. Rev. Dr. Thomas Ninan (CSI)
9. Siddartha, Fireflies Ashram (Catholic)
10. Suhas Jeede (Methodist)
11. Dr. Thomas George (Catholic)
12. Noel Noronha (Basel Mission)
13. Ram Sunder (Catholic)
14. Dr. C. Alex Alexander (Orthodox)

15. Mr. Philip Mathew (Mar Thoma)
16. Dr. K. C. Samuel (Mar Thoma)
17. Rev. Dr. Mathew Chandrankunnel
18. Dr. Thomas George (Catholic)

19. Mathews Philip (Orthodox)
20. Rev. C. S. Hoolgery, (CSI North Karnataka)
21. Rev. Daniel Honnayakar,
22. Rev. P. F. Gedeon, (CSI KND)
23. Pastor John Wesley Baptist Church North Karnataka
24. Pastor Moses Murugavel - Baptist Church in Northern Karnataka.

What emerged from the interactions is:

1) 83% of the population of Karnataka is Hindus, 11% are Muslims, 4% are Christians, 0.78% are Jains, 0.73% are Buddhists and with the remainder belonging to other religions.

2) As for the distribution of Christian population in Karnataka, Southern Karnataka has relatively more concentration with Bangalore City accounting for 5.9%.

3) Christians by and large live above Poverty Line in cities like Bangalore, Mangalore and Mysore. But, their condition elsewhere in Karnataka is miserable and pathetic.

4) Accordingly and justifiably, the participants in the discussion felt that at least 30% of the Rs.207 crores allocated in the 2010-2011 State budget for the Karnataka State Minority Development Corporation must be utilized for the developmental schemes meant for the Christian community.

5) Several participants expressed their disappointment that poor and needy Christians have not yet been able to avail themselves of any benefits worth mentioning from the various government schemes meant for the minorities in Karnataka. They have brought to my notice that almost the entire benefits of the schemes meant for minorities in Karnataka are being used by one single community - the majority community among minority communities. This anomaly needs to be corrected urgently.

6) For instance, during 2008-2009 the Government had allocated Rs. 167 crores for minority development. Out of which Rs. 37 crore had been earmarked for housing, Rs. 15 crores for shaadi mahals and Rs. 5 crore for a Haj bhavan. But, no money seems to have been spent on the Christian community. It is also observed that the announcements of the schemes are done in Urdu and no one else can understand them except the Muslims.

7) Christians complain that they are not invited to the so-called awareness building meetings. Even when invitations are extended, they do not reach them on time. The Christian leaders felt that the community leaders should be informed of these meetings well in advance so that their members could participate in them and bring their grievances to the notice of the Commission.

8) The Minorities Commission doesn’t seem to be aware of the need for a well-planned, well-informed and properly executed awareness building meeting, which will include the Christian community representatives. The itinerary of the commission should be fixed well in advance and be made known to all the minority communities in time so that they can participate at the meeting and present their demands. On the contrary, it is unfortunate that Christians are often blamed by the Commission for not attending the meetings.

9) There is no clarity about the schemes that benefit the Christian community. How do they apply for benefits from various government schemes? Whom to apply? There is urgent need for simplifying the procedures. What can the minorities Commission do about it? Can the Commission allow the representatives from the different minority communities to choose the eligible candidates and present to the Commission?

10) There is fear and anxiety in the minds of Christians because of the continuing violence against them in various parts of the State. They are concerned about the silence of the Minorities Commission in this regard. They are intrigued by the Commission’s inaction in not sending any fact-finding teams to the trouble spots and not taking any initiatives to defuse the tension. There is no representation to the Somashekar Commission by the Minorities Commission so far on behalf of the Christian Community.

11) Their question is “If there are alleged aggressive conversion activities by some Christian preachers or extremists in Christian community who denigrate Hindu gods and their rituals as barbaric, why should the innocent be punished? However, they feel that the State is duty-bound to prevent attacks on Christian community and bring the perpetrators to books. Why the State is allowing the groups to take law into their hands? Because of the government’s apathetic reaction Christians have lost trust in the present government. What can the Commission do about it?

12) It is also true that false cases have been filed against pastors who may not have been into conversion business but who organize worships and prayers for their people. Looks like the local police all over the State is waiting for anyone to rush to them with a complaint against a Christian priest or a pastor, so that they arrest them within no time, without even checking whether there is a prima facie case at all. How does it happen without the connivance of those who are in power? So, there is room for fears and anxiety among Christians.

13) The other issue is, of course, the cow slaughter. “It is the right to food that is at stake along with the right to livelihood of those who are involved in the meat, leather and cosmetics industry”, say Christian leaders. How can the food habit of one is to be questioned? As a matter of fact, it is the farmer who is protecting the cow and not the Govu Shaalas. If cow slaughter is banned the farmer will not rear cow at all because it is not economical for him to look after the unproductive cow and rear a milch cow.

14) A Christian representative(P.N.Benjamin) wanted to know why the Commission sent a letter to the PRO of the Bangalore Catholic Diocese, calling for details about the Church’s assets. It should be borne in mind that the PRO is not the custodian of the assets of the Catholic Church and that the Catholics are NOT the only Christian denomination in Karnataka. All Catholic churches or institutions do not come under the purview of the Bangalore Diocese.

15) The participants suggested that the Minorities Commission appoint an expert committee to study the socio-economic conditions of the Christian community in Karnataka because there is no authentic data available about them in any of the official documents.

16) They pointed out that the officials of the state Minorities’ Development Corporation and the Minorities Commission make the procedures for grants and scholarships difficult and arduous whenever Christians approach them for this purpose. This has led Christians getting frustrated and thus tend to abstain from approaching the Commission or Minorities Corporation,

17) The Christians have not been able to avail themselves of the Government’s Aradhane schemes that support construction of religious places.

18) The officials make it so difficult for Christians when they approach them and the officials even indicate that without a bribe grants are not sanctioned. It sounds so absurd that one has to pay a bribe to get what is rightfully theirs. Giving a bribe is against the spirit of Christian Faith.

19) Lastly, an important suggestion made by the Christian participants in the e-mail interaction is that the chairmanship of the Commission be rotated among the other minority communities also. All the persons who occupied this post in the past have been representatives of a particular minority community which is a gross injustice and disservice to the democratic fabric of the country.

20) Lastly, there are no Christian employees/officers in the Minorities Commission or Minorities Development Corporation as well as the Minoirites Department

Christian Member in the KSMC
20 May 2010

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