By Pervez Bari, IndianMuslims.INFO , 24 Feb 2007
Bhopal, February 23 (IndianMuslims): Competing with the Sangh Parivar on the eve of the Assembly Elections, Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh seemingly wants to make the northern state the first Hindu province in the Indian Union.
This is the impression of the All India Christian Council secretary general Dr. John Dayal, after his two day tour to Himachal Pradesh. He drove to Shimla, met with about 150 Christian pastors of all denominations, interacted with Dalit leaders of all varieties, and faced a bunch of dyed in the wool religious fanatic Hindi journalists at his own press conference at the popular `Goofa' restaurant on The Mall. At the end of his tour he remarked: "I must admit of deep depression".
Dr. John Dayal in a statement said: "Going by available evidence, the former princeling and current Congress Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh apparently feels that unless he takes a page out of Gujarat supremo Narendra Modi's political manual, and makes Himachal Pradesh a `Deva-bhoomi' abode of gods and goddesses immediately, he will not return to power when the Assembly goes to the polls".
Dr. Dayal said that Virbhadra Singh has of course reason to fear his electorate. The arrogant chief minister had alienated almost everyone, including a large chunk of his own party men and women. Inner-party democracy, for which the state's founder Parmar was known, is thing of the past.
The statement said "Development is dead" as away from the prying and neutral eyes of human rights and civil society activists, the national media and television sting operators, the Shivalik ranges of the Himalayan foothills that constitute the so-called Shimla and New Shimla regions of the state, have in recent years become happy hunting grounds of timber mafia and project sharks siphoning of development funds into the pockets of politicians, bureaucrats and middlemen.
He said if the media is seen as communal, evidence from the massive documentation of clippings of hate-cacophony from the news pages of most Hindi newspapers, the personal experience of pastors and their lawyers puts even the judiciary in the dock. Some of the top judges in their obiter dicta expose themselves as great votaries of a single religion to the exclusion of every other one, he alleged.
Dr. Dayal pointed out that Virbhadra Singh has even defied, or hoodwinked, his party boss Mrs. Sonia Gandhi and her professed opposition to the so-called Freedom of Religion Acts, or anti-conversion legislation, to force such a law down the throat of the states minorities. And even when Governors of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, both ruled by the rightist Bharatiya Janata Party, (BJP), which is otherwise, and correctly known for its Hindutva bias, have so far withheld the Sangh pressure and have not signed similar bills into law in the two states, the Himachal governor, refusing to meet the human rights activists, quickly appended his signature to the Virbhadra legislation. The governors of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh are now in an awkward situation, and could sign their respective bills any day soon.
He said that the Himachal's chief minister seems to have convinced the Union Home Minister and others in New Delhi that there is large scale conversion to Christianity and possibly also to Buddhism going on in the state. He has no data, but at election time, data is not required, and in New Delhi's Home minister, there are many senior ears from the time when LK Advani was in the chair, to give credence to such a tale, the statement said.
Dr. Dayal said Virbhadra Singh has of course invited every known sect of Hinduism [defined not as religion but as a Way of Life by Supreme Court judgment delivered by the then Chief Justice J S Verma] to set up shop in the hills. From RK Mission and Hare Rama groups to Brahmkumaris and lesser known sadhus, ashrams and temples are blooming on the hilly slopes.
While at the same time, Christian pastors are physically threatened, by the police as much as the Bajrang Dal, their insitutions gheraoed, and their movements stifled up – almost on a daily basis. Complaints to the police fall on deaf ears, and the occasional challenge in court often meets an indifferent or hostile judge, Dr. Dayal charged.
Dr.Dayal said there is really have no alternative but to challenge the new Act in the High Court, purely on trust in the neutrality of the state's Bench.
Similarly, he said, there is no alternative but to move the State Information Commissioner, and if required, the Central Information, Commissioner, to wrench out such crucial data as the number of forced or induced conversions carried out by Christian evangelists, the so-called re-conversions in the various ashrams, the cases of harassment of pastors and of old and new believers, and the information that the state government had to have made it bring about such a law which jurists have rejected as violative of nationally and internationally guaranteed rights.
Meanwhile, the following is the text of the statement by All India Christian council secretary general Dr John Dayal, Member of the National Integration Council, Government of India, Christian Legal Association joint secretary Advocate Lansinglu Rongnewi, National Conference of Dalit Organizations North India Convener Rakesh Bahadur, SC ST Federation national secretary Madhu Chandra to the Press in Shimla, at the conclusion of the Meeting of Priests, Pastors and Dalit leaders in the Himachal Pradesh Capital. The meeting was called to discuss the Governor's assent to the notorious Himachal Freedom of Religion Bill, persecution of Pastors and activist in the Himalayan state and connected matters. The media was convinced of large scale and illegal conversions, and saw no point in his making a noise about the Freedom of Religion Act.
"The All India Christian Council and fraternal Christian, Dalit and mass movement organizations have decided to challenge the Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Act 2006 in the Himachal High Court.
We have also decided to take the issue to the Supreme Court in case we do not get urgent relief at the State level where we are still urging the Governor, Chief Minister, as well as the Congress leadership in New Delhi including Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, to rescind the Act which was given Governor's assent two days ago in a surreptitious manner without the matter being discussed at public fora, or even in the state assembly at any length. It is a matter of shame and concern to Democratic India that Congress-ruled state such a Himachal Pradesh has enforced mock Freedom of Religion Act to target Christians and Buddhists at par with the law in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh.
We are astounded that Himachal has gone ahead with the Act though Mrs. Gandhi in a letter to All India Christian Council secretary general Dr John Dayal last year had said her party was opposed to such legislation.
We wish to point out that Tamil Nadu, which had passed such an Act in similar haste under the then Chief minister Jayalalalitha had to withdraw it after she lost the general elections and the DMK came to power. That act was rejected by the people as it violated the fundamental rights of the common people, especially of the Dalits in the state.
It has been our experience that though this act has the misleading title of Freedom of Faith, its intention is just the reverse .It favors a particular religion and denies the people any freedom of faith. It encourages conversion to what is called religion of forefathers, without defining such a religion. The Act also encourages fundamentalist groups such as the RSS, the Bajrang Dal and the Shiv Sena to target Christian religion a
nd educational activities. It hinders freedom of movement, making it impossible for any Christian in fact to go to rural areas. This has been our experience in states such as Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh.
We welcome all efforts by state and central governments for improving the secular reality of India and bringing development to the poor. We have already welcomed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's recent statements committing development funds for the North East and other under developed areas. We have also whole-heartedly welcomed the report of the Justice Sachchar Committee and the Manmohan Singh government's action programme for Muslim welfare that has followed the Sachchar report.
Despite our several requests in the last two years to the Prime Minister and to United Progressive Alliance chairperson Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, the Christian community has been denied a similar assessment of its economic infirmity, rural backwardness, urban poverty and utter lack of financial resources. For want of such resource and such support, the Christian community has not been able to take steps to benefit from economic liberalization, self-employment and entrepreneurship resulting from economic liberation. The plight of the Dalit Christians continues to be abysmal because they have been denied all benefits of Scheduled Castes in a most illegal and criminal manner by past governments. We call on Dr Manmohan Singh to instruct the Indian government's Counsel to support the Dalit Christian cause in the Supreme Court when hearings are held on Dalit petition in April this year.
We also draw the attention of the Prime Minister and his government to the continued high pitched hate campaign against the Christian community in several parts of the country, in states ruled by the Congress as much as in states ruled by the BJP or its other communal allies.