Friday, September 26, 2008

Hate and anger won't bring votes ... (an open letter from St Joseph's College, Bangalore)


An Open Letter to the Chief Minister of Karnataka from St.Joseph's College, Bangalore

Dear Sir, We write to you as members of the Staff of St.Joseph's College and as secular citizens of the state of Karnataka deeply distressed by the recent attacks on
educational institutions and churches in Mangalore and elsewhere in Karnataka.

We are a college of 126 years, the very first private college of the city with a rich legacy of educating generations of students of different faiths in the ideals of democracy and secularism. Thousands of citizens in the state owe their education into secularism to this college where students have lived and learned as members of one human family. We are also aware of your high esteem for the college. It is due to that high regard for the institution that you had admitted your son here and he had successfully passed out from the portals of the college.

Our contributions to the nation goes right back in time, to those dark and frightful years of British imperialism. We as an institution, perhaps the only one in the state, have participated in the freedom struggle of the country.

The college had protested against British colonialism, raising the National Tricolor as a banner of national revolt on our premises against the British Raj. Our students were hunted and jailed by British Police for participating in the Quit India movement.

The names of Ratnakar Rai and Kripakaran are synonymous with the early struggles while Deendayalu Naidu and P.S. Sundaram Reddy were with the Quit India movement. Several of our students were tortured and repressed in these jails for their struggles for the freedom of the country.

Fr. Ferroli, the Warden was, interned in the jail in Whitfield. and Fr. Boniface D'Souza, was the person who prevented the police from taking students into custody during the last phase of the freedom struggle. That spirit of secularism and nationalism still exists in this campus and we have not deviated from that. It is this love for the nation that prompts and urges us to write to you.

Over the years, we have educated a variety of students, pundits, scientists, activists, journalists, technocrats, bureaucrats, politicians, businessmen, sportspersons and women primarily from the state of Karnataka though there have been students from outside the state and the country. We have never imposed a world-view of our own on the students.

Instead we have encouraged critical thinking and learning.

Freedom of thought and expression has always characterized education in St. Joseph's. We can claim with tremendous pride that we have produced stimulating intellectuals, prominent change-makers at the grass root level and provided able administrators to the nation and particularly to the State of Karnataka.

M.P. Ghorpade, Kumara Bangarappa, M.P. Prakash, Bachche Gowda, Narayanaswamy, Allum Veerabhadarappa and a host of bureaucrats are all our former students. Many of our former students work in different fields of life as innovators and policy-framers. Moreover we have enhanced our services these many years to foster the needs and desires of the marginalized.

We continue to admit and provide educational opportunities to a wide community of educationally and socially backward classes, scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. We have thus produced sensitive and learned leaders among the Dalit and backward communities. We are extremely proud of students from subaltern communities who have turned into agents of radical social change. Our credentials as a secular and progressive institution concerned about the well-being of all is a truth well known to all.

St. Joseph's College belongs to no party. But we remain concerned with what is taking place in the state. Inculcating social awareness and increasing social concern is one of the main thrusts of the college. As an educational institution with high moral and ethical credentials, we are concerned about the divisive politics that polarizes people on the basis of religion.

Your party has come to power on the plank of development. You have also celebrated with great pride your hundred days in power claiming that nearly 90% of your development manifesto has been fulfilled. We may have different view of that but we will not debate that here. What disturbs us is the mean claim that your party and your cadres make that Christian institutions are involved in forced conversion just to defame and malign.

Every citizen in this country has been given the right to practice, profess and propagate one's religion by the Constitution. In fact, the college is administered on the principles of egalitarianism, concern for the weak and compassion to the suffering -- universal human doctrines which are Christian as well.

If you consider commitment to a set of values as conversion, we are quite proud. That has been our heritage. But when your affiliates attack us on the issue of conversion, we are fully aware that you are being frivolous. You do not believe in it. Nobody else believes in it. You are simply using the community as a tool for political purposes.

In the last 126 years, lakhs have passed out from the institution. The world famous scientist, Raja Ramana, former election commissioner of India Krishna Murthy, large number of cricketers and hockey players who have brought glory to the state have studied here. We also wish to mention here Sri Sri Ravi Shankar of the Art of Living fame and Veerendra Heggade of Dharamastala are our former students. There are some monks of Sri Ramakrishna Mission and Buddhist monastries educated here.

Even today we teach a number of the children of your party functionaries. Your cadres speak of conversion. Such divisive language to defame institutions and the community for political purposes is against the spirit of secularism and we do not appreciate that coming from the head of the government of Karnataka.

In writing to you, we want to make it clear that we have no personal interests. Our concern is the state of Karnataka and its people. This state does not need debates on conversion or terrorism. What the state needs is debate on development, inequalities, peace and harmony.

There has been in the last few days a campaign of hate that has been systematically carried out by your affiliates and sometimes your own cadres. They have victimized innocent citizens, harmed and destroyed people and their lives. They have violated the dignity of women including the cloistered religious nuns recently who spend time in prayer and are out of touch with the rest of the world. They have devastated
neighborhoods and the everyday harmony of human existence.

Is this truly development? How can we build development without peace and harmony? And how can we build peace and harmony without development?

Peace and harmony on the one hand and development and growth on the other are mutual and inter-dependent. We could debate this issue and other issues of marginalization of people, hunger and inequality instead of the trivial issue of conversion.

Instead of encouraging your cadres and your affiliates to burn and destroy churches and create disharmony, can you not encourage them to work for literacy, employment, food, shelter and clothing? Instead of destroying the secular fabric of cultural and religious inter-relationships, can't you stop fanning hatred by not supporting spurious ideas such as forced conversions and terrorism?

Your affiliates may assume, that by all this hate and anger, your party may gain more seats in the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections because of the disastrous polarizations between communities. But that may be far from the truth. People always see through such divisive politics.

Only economic development for the masses and the just practice of the secular constitution can promise you votes. So we appeal to you, as an educational institution of higher learning with a history of 126 years, that was a part of the
freedom struggle, to work for secularism, harmony, tolerance, and development so that together we may build a humane and progressive human community in Karnataka.

We as a college community urge you most sincerely to stop hate, stop destruction of Churches and educational institutions and restore peace and harmony in the state. We
assure you of our cooperation in the task of building a secular state in the true spirit of diversity and pluralism.

Of course, we shall continue to dissent in the true democratic spirit of the Constitution when the Constitution of the land is under attack.

Thanking you
Dr. (Fr.) Ambrose Pinto SJ
and 75 staff members.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Attacks on churches and Christians in Mangalore

Section 144 has just been clamped on Mangalore city.

Police resorted to lathi charge and throwing tear gas grenades at peaceful protesters where a number of nuns and women were injured and had to be taken to hospital.

What the hell is wrong with our country and its people? (I would not normally use such strong language in print, but it doesn't even begin to demonstrate how strongly I feel)

Today morning between 9am and 10am, Bajrang Dal activists attacked and destroyed 4 churches in Mangalore City.

Why? Because New Life members distributed pamphlets which said "Do not Worship Hindu Gods"
While I admit that this could be an incendiary statement, does this justify attacking people and churches who do not even agree with the methods used by the New Life preachers?
Does this justify attacking members of a church, who have not had anything to do with conversions or preaching and just listen?

Lets look at the issues here:
1. The Bajrang Dal resorts to violence because of something that is printed that they do not agree with.
2. When the Bajrang Dal says that conversions are illegal, (and all the other things they do with tis as their cause) aren't they infact enforcing that "you cannot worship any God other than a Hindu God"
3. The New Life Church is a relative newcomer, known to be more hardline than most other churches which distance themselves from them. Shouldn't the Bajrang Dal have at least distinguished that?
4. Even if they did not agree with what was printed by the New Life church in India, couldn't they try having a dialog with them first, before resorting to violence.
Looks like the hooligans behind these attacks are only interested in breaking bones and getting their adrenaline pumping rather than really trying to sort out any kinds of problems or misunderstandings.

The ruffians broke all the religious statues in the Sisters of Poor Clare's Adoration Monastery. They threw the Holy Eucharist on the ground and desecrated it.

Is this OK, just because it is being done against Catholics/Christians in India who have historically been as non-violent as the Jains and buddhists (other minorities) in India?

Concerned members of the churches gathered in the church grounds during and after evening mass in a peaceful way to seek assurance and guidance from the priests and other religious. Wasn't this a peaceful gahtering compared to mobs rampaging and torching buses because of some mud smeared on Meenatai's statue? or The countrywide riots following a desecration of an Ambedkar statue in Kanpur? The second incident was also of smeared mud. Both the desecrations happened on public roads. This does not make it right, but compare this to religious statues being broken on private property, the Holy Eucharist (which Christians believe is the body of Christ once it is blessed) thrown on the ground. Do not Christians have a right to congregate to discuss their fears following such incidents.

Remember the Christians were gathering in peace outside their place of worship (since the insides of the church were full) not going out and torching buses or hurting other innocent people.

To add fuel to the fire, the police arrived. No issues with their arriving where crowds had gathered, but they started lathi charging the gathered people and seriously injured nuns and women among the crowd and threw tear bombs inside the church where Sunday evening mass was being held. A religious ceremony, a peaceful ceremony, held everyday inside these churches.

Was this responsible on the part of the police to use force and violence against unarmed, peaceful members of the public?

People present at the scene said that the police themselves were pelting stones at the crowd and caning them, hurting both people and damaging property in the vicinity.

The news channels started to broadcast about this and then completely hushed up. I turned on my India feed of NDTV which promised for 15 minutes to show an update and news about Mangalore city and suddenly it stopped showing those banners without showing any news about what had happened. Looks like someone high in the political chain, got to them and yanked the news off the air.

Now take 2-3 other incidents into perspective.
On 29th August over 40,000 Christian Educational Institutions across India stayed closed to register a peaceful protest against the continuing violence against Christians in Orissa which has now spread to 13 out of 30 districts.

On the same day, the government of Karnataka announced its decision to take action against Christian schools in the state for closing without prior permission.

This same government has yet to take action against the Akhila Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishat and RSS workers, who had launched violent protests when the JD (S) failed to hand over the state reins to the BJP last year.

Is it any surprise that both Karnataka and Orissa currently have the BJP in power?

The VHP held violent protests in Madhya Pradesh and other places asking why the Christians had killed Saraswati? (by shutting educational institutions for a day) What about all the occasions when the BJP/VHP/Bajrang Dal/Shiv Sena and other Hindu organisations force schools, colleges and business to shut shutter for their own bundhs which destroy all normalcy in the cities?

Why are these double standards in play? Why are Christians being given the short end of the stick? Religious Christian institutions have a large role to play in education, medicine, caring for the orphans, abandoned, old and dying in India. Christians have been one of the most tolerant minorities in India (imagine what would have happened by now if by chance the Bajrang Dal hooligans had desecrated a mosque this morning) who have contributed immensely to the growth of the country. Why this treatment? Do they deserve it?

Do they deserve a government that is apathetic to their religious sensibilities being trampled upon?

Christians have always believed in being peace loving, patient and tolerant. Will the Christian youth of today continue to be as tolerant when they see the atrocities being committed against their brethren in Orissa and the North East?

Why are these atrocities against Christians being downplayed in the media? (Try googling for the attack against Christians in India and see how many Indian media links pop up) Why aren't they being given coverage? Is it because the powers-that-be know that they aren't doing a thing to control, controllable situations and the miscreants in their party? Is it because the powers-that-be know that the Christians haven't ever retaliated with violence? How long will the Christians community be able to react with tolerance and peace? (2 values that a lot of Indians in the news seem to have completely forgotten about)

Final note of irony: Union minister of labour and employment Oscar Fernandes (a Christian) was in Mangalore today to inaugurate the opening of a (Hindu) temple.

And so we debate endlessly in the media about terrorism coming in from across the border while we burn our own own citizens in their homes and places of worship.

Also Published on

Friday, September 12, 2008

Home Remedy : Sore eyes

A common remedy for sore eyes/Conjunctivitis/red eyes in Mangalore is corriander seeds soaked in water.

If you have sore eyes (red corneas often accompanied with sticky discharge which quite possibly crusts the eyes closed in the morning) this is a Manglorean home remedy.

Get a teaspoon of coriander seeds, wash them clean of any surface dirt. Tie them up in the corner of a clean handkerchief or muslin cloth. Soak the corner of the cloth with the seeds in about 100 ml of clean water (boiled and cooled or bottled water) for 4-8 hours.

Drop a few drops of the liquid into the affected eyes, 3-4 times daily (or more often if there is a lot of oozing). Make a fresh liquid at least every 24 hours.

The liquid from the coriander seeds is also cooling and soothing for tired eyes.