Initiative for Justice & Peace
Update October 23, 2002
the BJP rode to power, alternate and brutal attacks on Christians and Muslims
have soured the climate fof Gujarat culminating in the
Gujarat Genocide of 2002.
Communalism Combat has tracked these events over five cover stories
thatcan be visited in our archives.
Now again, in the run up the forthcoming elections,
the cabinet ministers of Modi’s government are blatantly indulging in threats
and intimidation in Dangs in South Gujarat. In the run up the next election, we
will be sending regular updates on the Gujaraty situation.
Teesta Setalvad Javed Anand
*Urgent Alert* * Urgent Alert *
A repeat of 1999?
Threats amd intimidation on
Christians in South Gujarat
Fr. Cedric Prakash S.J.
ON THE SITUATION OF THE TRIBALS IN GUJARAT TODAY
Early this year, during the carnage in Gujarat, one
of the trump-cards of the BJP was to highlight the role of the tribals and
dalits in the attack on the Muslims. It is a known fact that only a very tiny
section of these groups were actually involved in the killing, arson and loot.
This too, after being literally bribed with liquor and money and provided with
trishuls and other arms.
There has been a consistent effort to divide the
tribals and to deny them of their fundamental rights. The latest is a circular
of the Gujarat Government insisting that the tribals leave the forest areas of
the State. This is in consonance with the move to call the tribals "Van Vasis"
instead of Adivasis. The latter provides them with an identity wherever they
are, the former denies them of the identity once they leave the forest areas or
if the forests are rampaged and pillaged as it is today by politicians and rich
The bogey of conversions is once again doing the
rounds in the tribal areas of South Gujarat, very specially in the Dangs.
Vicious pamphlets and inflammatory articles in South Gujarat editions of the
Sandesh and Gujarat Samachar are doing the rounds. The venom is towards the
Christians and the Christian Missionaries with absolute lies being propagated.
On October 22, 2002, a Ram Katha by Morari Bapu
began outside the Jesuit Centre of Subhir in the Dangs. This Katha was
inaugurated by Narendra Modi. There is plenty of tension in the air with efforts
now being made by the trustees of the Sabari Mata Mandir to forcibly take away a
land near the school which has been donated by a tribal woman to the Sisters to
start a dispensary and a Girls Hostel for tribals. At the moment, the temple
authorities have just gone and occupied the land for boarding and lodging of the
people who have come from outside to attend the Katha. The Katha is supposed to
last till October 30, 02 and already fears among the Christian community is high
because some of the tribal children of the boardings run by the Fathers and
Sisters have been threatened by the fascist elements.
“Would you like to live as Hindus or die like
Christians?” is the intimidation being directly used. Girls and Jesuits were
trembling with fear after the incident. This intimidation happened in the
presence of no less than a minister from the Gujarat cabinet Karsan Patel.
In the meantime, a massive campaign has been
launched by the Member of Parliament from Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Mr. Mohanbhai
Delkar (Independent), in most of the tribal areas of South Gujarat. He calls it
the "Parivartan Manch" and he is apparently flush with funds. He talks about
"the tribal identity" but his proximity to the Sangh Parivar is well-known. A
huge amount of orange stickers have been distributed to the tribal households in
which "Parivartan Manch" is emblazoned to be stuck on each of the adivasi
The situation is becoming alarming in the tribal
heartland of Gujarat !
Gujarat mantri threatens Dangs Christians
- By Deepal Trevedie
Ahmedabad, Oct. 21: The saffron
brigade on Monday threatened Christian missionaries in Dangs, telling them "to
give up luring tribals," and reportedly warned them to behave or "experience
another spell of riots, this time targeting foreign-funded Christians."
Five tribal children, boarders at a school run by
the Navjyot Social Service Society, have been threatened and told "to decide
whether they want to live as Hindus or die as Christians." A senior BJP minister
in the Narendra Modi government, Mr Karsan Patel, has warned Christians in the
sensitive Dangs area "to behave with restraint." The BJP minister is camping in
Dangs to ensure the Ram katha in his constituency is a success and "wants
Christians to cooperate or face the consequences."
Mr Patel, who ironically is the state minister
handling the welfare of the socially and economically backward classes, told The
Asian Age he "is not against Christians but they should behave like Indians, not
Italians. If they have the right to propagate their religion, we have the right
to propagate ours also. Why should they create a ruckus?"
Over 15,000 Ram bhakts have quietly converged on
Subir, a nondescript village in Dangs, to attend a Ram katha which begins on
Tuesday. The Ram katha is being organised by the Shabri Mata Seva Samiti headed
by Swami Aseemanand, the man who led the Vanvasi Chetna movement of the BJP and
"fought" against conversions leading to Hindu-Christian turbulence in 1998 that
drew international attention.
This Ram katha is being held to create awareness
amongst Hindus and to warn them of conversions which the Shabridhaam authorities
feel "have increased tremendously after Sonia Gandhi became powerful." However,
sources told this newspaper that the main Ramayana kathakar (Ramayana reciter),
Moraribapu, a well-known saint, is likely to reprimand the organisers for their
fundamentalism. He is Gujarat’s most popular Hindu saint and has mellowed over
the years. He recently took out a peace rally in Ahmedabad to protest against
However, after the riots in Gujarat, fundamentalists
like Swami Aseemanand have got more support. "Dangs is a Hindu area since Lord
Rama came here to look for Sita. It was here that Shabri waited for the Lord and
it is our dream to stop the conspiracy of vidharmis to lure tribals in this belt
for this is our Hindu legacy," said Mr Karsan Patel. Mr Patel represents Dangs
and on Monday evening "warned" half-a-dozen Christian missionaries "not to make
a mountain of a molehill."
The BJP minister told The Asian Age that he was
"personally camping" in Dangs just to make the Ram katha a stupendous success.
"It is bullshit that I threatened Christian missionaries. They are trying to
frame me. I just said that Hindus have the right to propagate just like
Christians do," he said, adding that he had "requested" district collector Mamta
Varma and DSP Raju Bhargava to hold a special "shanti samiti" meeting "to give
confidence to the Christians."
However, Christian priests and nuns claimed that
"tension was in the air" and that the minister had behaved extremely rudely at
the end of the meeting. "He told us, ‘You tried to rake up Dangs and got
international attention. Did Godhra ever happen in Dangs? Has a single Christian
died? Why do you people make a mountain of a molehill? And don’t dare talk to
the English media,’" the priests and nuns said. The minister, however, denied
Meanwhile, Christians have urged the local
authorities and the Gujarat government to provide them adequate protection.
"Already provocative and inflammatory statements are appearing. This morning our
boarders have been told by people setting up one of the pandals to leave the
school or be killed. Over 400 children live with us and are panicky," Father
M.A. Anthony, the president of Navjyot Social Service Society, told the district
collector and police superintendent in a written memorandum.
Father Cedric Prakash, the director of Prashant, a
human rights centre, deplored the "attempts made by the Sangh Parivar associates
to vitiate peace."
However, the locals feel there are less chances of
trouble with Mr Raju Bhargav heading the police. Mr Bhargav, a capable officer,
recently lost his post as Godhra DSP after the ruling Narendra Modi government
found him not very compliant. While Mr Bhargava was out patrolling, his office
said they had made adequate additional police bandobast to avert any trouble.