Thursday, August 21, 2014

GUJARAT GOVERNMENT VIOLATES THE RIGHTS OF CHILDREN

20140821_181127.jpg
GUJARAT GOVERNMENT VIOLATES THE RIGHTS OF CHILDREN
-Fr. Cedric Prakash sj*

The Gujarat Government has done it again! That it does so, is on expected lines; but that it is doing so, by throwing all caution and Constitutional propriety to the wind, should be a cause of great concern to every citizen who values the principles of democracy and pluralism, which are the heart and soul of India. The topic in question is the approval and introduction of nine books (eight of which are written and edited by Dina Nath Batra) in more than 42000 Government-run primary and secondary schools all over Gujarat. 

In a circular dated June 30th, 2014, the Gujarat State School Textbook Board (GSSTB) states, “These books on supplementary literature are aimed at imparting quality education. They will be provided free of cost to all government primary and secondary schools, public libraries and will be also available at GSSTB, Gandhinagar, for individuals interested in these books.  These are to be incorporated from this academic session.”

Dina Nath Batra has earned his “fame” as the founder of the Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti and who thinks that he and his organization will “save” the Hindu religion and culture. Sometime ago, he succeeded in getting ‘Penguin’ to pulp the famed historian Wendy Doniger’s book on ‘The Hindus: An alternative History’ and later because of his threats, ‘Orient Black Swan’ undertook ‘a comprehensive assessment’ of Megha Kumar’s book, ‘Communalism and Sexual Violence: Ahmedabad since 1969’.

Batra, at 85 years - has become the rallying point for the right-wing forces in the country; today they leave no stone unturned to seize every opportunity they get to mainstream the Hindutva ideology; manipulating the educational system is an easy first step for them.

It is interesting to note that these books were officially published (in Gujarati) in January 2014 with laudatory messages from the then Chief Minister of Gujarat Narendra Modi (today the Prime Minister of India) and also from the Gujarat Education Minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama and his ministerial colleagues Prof. Vasuben Trivedi and Mr. Nanubhai Vanani. After a formal launching in March 2014, they were kept in cold storage till after the General Elections and very surreptiously introduced in the schools only early in July 2014!

The set of nine books are ‘Shikshan nu Bhartiyakaran’ (Indianisation of Education), ‘Tejomay Bharat’ (Shining India), ‘Prernadeep’ 1, 2, 3 and 4 (Inspirational Light), ‘Vidyalaya: Pravrutiyon nu Ghar’ (School: House of Activities), ‘Shikshan ma Triveni’ (Trinitarian Education) and ‘Vedic Ganit’ (Vedic Maths). The titles in themselves are seemingly innocuous but a careful analysis of these books indicate that their contents are capable (according to a well-known intellectual) of taking India “back into the dark ages”. The books are replete with myths and falsehoods, with superstitions and prejudices, with gross distortions and manipulations - propagating an ideology which is fascist and totally against the grain of all that Indian culture represents: inclusiveness, pluralism and the rights of all.

The books are clearly violative of Articles 28 and 29 of the ‘UN Convention of the Rights of the Child’ since their contents are not only sub-standard but are also not a source of qualitative, accurate and objective knowledge to a growing child. Unfortunately, the children who are targeted by these books are those who go to Government schools (and most of them are surely from the poor and marginalized sections of society); the major objective of those who propagate such pervert knowledge seems to keep these sections of society ‘in the dark ages’.


The contents of these books will surely shock any right-thinking citizen!

‘Racism’ seems to be high on the agenda.  An anecdote entitled ‘Courageous Gurudevsinh’ in Prernadeep – 2 (pg. 3) reads thus “An aeroplane was flying at a height of thousands of feet. A strong and well-built Negro reached the back door of the plane and attempted to open it. The air hostess stopped him. The strong Negro knocked down the delicate-bodied air hostess.  “Beware, if any one dares to move forward towards me”.  An Indian jawan (soldier) came forward and hit him such a sweeping blow that the Negro’s firm feet were shaken. The Negro tried all kinds of boxing stunts but the grip of the Indian youth was so firm that the Negro could not free himself.  In the meanwhile, the pilot also joined the jawan and both of them gave him a good thrashing and tied him up with a rope. The murderous terrorist struggled like a tied up buffalo. The plane landed at Chicago. All the passengers alighted safely and expressed their gratitude to the Indian jawan. The Negro turned out to be notorious criminal in the Chicago police records. The one who had the Negro arrested was an Air-India employee Gurudevsinh.”

In Prernadeep – 3 (pg. 8) there is an obnoxious passage citing our former President Dr. S. Radhakrishnan “Once Dr Radhakrishnan went for a dinner. There was a Briton at the event who said, “We are very dear to God.” Radhakrishnan laughed and told the gathering, “Friends, one day God felt like making rotis. When he was cooking the rotis, the first one was cooked less and the English were born. The second one stayed longer on the fire and the Negroes were born. Alert after His first two mistakes, when God went on to cook the third roti, it came out just right and as a result Indians were born!”

There are several stories / examples that advocate shunning of anything that is ‘western’; so an Indian according to Batra’s philosophy should not blow candles on one’s birthday but instead feed cows and listen to songs produced by Vidya Bharati (the RSS mouthpiece); he cites the example of Swami Vivekanand who apparently told an Englishwoman that he wore foreign shoes because that was where foreigners were meant to be – on his feet! While trying to propagate a disdain for anything ‘western’, Batra’s fantasies include that the motor car was invented first by the Indians during the Vedic period; research on stem cell began in India thousands of years ago, because in the Mahabharata, it is said that a holy man was able to convert a mass of flesh into hundred babies or Kauravas; that India has been using television, centuries before the rest of the world invented it because again in the Mahabharata it is written that Sanjaya sitting in the Hastinapur palace would give a live telecast of the Mahabharata battle to Dhristarashtra (who was blind) by using his ‘divya shakti’ (divine powers).

In keeping with the general trend of these books, it is natural that the English language should come under attack. Sanskrit shlokas are freely used throughout.  He takes a categorical stand against the domination of the English language which he feels has sidelined the learning of Sanskrit.  When the children do not know Sanskrit, he believes they will not be able to imbibe the pure ‘Indian culture’ and the vast knowledge that comes from the great epics.  Added to Batra’s philosophy is the manner in which the Gujarat Government is also trying to promote Vedic Maths among the students. 

The books are very communal in nature. Muslims and Christians are sometimes blatantly and other times subtly denigrated. Prernadeep – 2 narrates how Swami Vivekanand systematically exposed the selfishness and evil deeds of Christian missionaries (pg. 45).  Tejomay Bharat emphatically states “it is better to die for one’s religion; a foreign religion is a source of sorrow” (pg. 118). The caste system gets legitimized in several ways; though the British are to be blamed for giving the lowly name ‘Shudra’. 



The books also suggest the redrawing of geographical boundaries.  Batra suggests that the students should now think of ‘Akhand Bharat’.  In Tejomay Bharat, he says “Students, how would you go about drawing a map of India?  Do you know that countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Burma are part of undivided India?  These countries are part of Akhand Bharat.”  (pg.49).  In another chapter, the students are told that “a divided India is a lie, whereas undivided India is the truth; the division of India is unnatural and India can easily be united again.”

Inspite of his unabashed attack on “western” culture, language, inventions, people and even on what he calls “non-Indian” religions, Batra seems to ignore the fact that all his books are being printed in printing presses invented by the West.  He does not call for a ban on the railways or on industries, he does not speak against cricket or tennis or for that matter against the computers, mobile phones and thousands of other things which India has happily adopted from the West. While PM Modi has blessed Batra and his books, it would be interesting now to see what is Batra’s take on Modi’s invitation to the rest of world “to come and make in India” from the ramparts of the Red Fort on Independence Day.  Very significantly, ‘Manogat’ (August 2014), the BJP mouth-piece, openly endorses Batra’s books and its contents; highlighting their two-pronged strategy, ‘to simultaneously run with the hare and hunt with the hound’.

Much of the content of Batra’s books are laughable and could even pass off as third-rate joke books; but the attacks both direct and subtle on several sections of society are certainly no laughing matter. Given the fact that they target formative minds should be serious enough for civil society to voice their protests strongly on this matter.  Mitali Saran in a very telling article entitled ‘Back to School’ (Business Standard, Ahmedabad August 2/3, 2014) sums it up “A poor education teaches children disdain, excessive pride, exclusionary or majoritarian thinking, outright fiction in place of facts, and an inability to tolerate dissent or to think for themselves.

Can we continue to remain silent when, the Gujarat Government violates the ‘Rights of a Child’ – in such a blatant manner?

21st August, 2014

(* Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ is the Director of PRASHANT, the Ahmedabad-based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace)

Address: PRASHANT, Hill Nagar, Near Kamdhenu Hall, Drive-in Road, Ahmedabad - 380052

Phone: (079) 27455913, 66522333 Fax:  (079) 27489018 Email: sjprashant@gmail.com     www.humanrightsindia.in

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Indian Muslims Condemn the Brutal Atrocities by ISIS against Minorities in Iraq and Syria; denounce religious intolerance, persecution and violence in the name of Islam




Statement
Indian Muslims Condemn the Brutal Atrocities by ISIS against Minorities in Iraq and Syria; denounce religious intolerance,
persecution and violence in the name of Islam 

Indian Muslims are shocked and pained by the brutality and atrocities being perpetrated by the ISIS (Islamic State of Syria and Iraq) against Christians, Shias, Kurds, Yazidis and other minorities in the regions now under their control. We strongly condemn such barbarism which is against the teachings of Islam. We express our heart-felt sympathies and solidarity with the survivors of those whose near and dear ones have been mercilessly butchered, and the tens of thousands of Iraq’s minorities who have been dispossessed, forced to flee their homes and are now living in extremely difficult circumstances.
 The barbaric conduct of the ISIS is all the more reprehensible because its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, proclaims to be the ‘Caliph’ of the entire Muslim world and his armed group are supposedly acting in the name of Islam. We welcome the fact that most religious leaders and Islamic scholars from across the world, including India, have debunked al-Baghdadi’s claim of being a Caliph.
 Alongside the ongoing tormenting of common citizens and persecution of religious and ethnic minorities in areas under their control, the ISIS has been enforcing its own intolerant, extremist, violent, distorted interpretation of Islam on Muslims who are also Sunnis. This too deserves to be condemned in the strongest possible words. We call upon Muslim religious leaders in India and elsewhere to add their voice to that of Muslim organisations and individuals who have already denounced al-Baghdadi and his ISIS for distorting Islam’s message for peace and for their barbaric conduct.
 The unspeakable atrocities and mass crimes against Iraq’s minorities are nothing short of ‘crimes against humanity’, ‘religious/ethnic cleansing’. We appeal to the United Nations to urgently intervene, create the circumstances where those forced to flee feel secure enough to return to their homes and cities with full honour and dignity, and hold the ISIS accountable for its heinous acts.
 While the ISIS must be held fully responsible for its unconscionable acts, the United States, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait etc. cannot escape their share of the blame in fuelling the flames. The worsening plight of Iraq’s Christians is but a legacy of America’s illegal, unwarranted and criminal invasion of Iraq in 2003 and its subsequent engineering of sectarian strife to divide the Iraqi resistance to the occupation.
 Dictator Saddam Hussain was no angel but under him the country’s 1.4 million Christians were free to practice their faith. Many occupied high government posts. It is ironic that the US is now bombing the very ISIS to which it had earlier provided training, arms and ammunition in an attempt to dislodge Syria's authoritarian President, Bashar al-Assad. For their own myopic ends, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait etc have been backing an array of radical Islamist outfits of which the ISIS -- a monster now seemingly out of control -- was an integral part.
 We urge a global condemnation of the ISIS and all its allies, overt or covert.
 Endorsed by:
1.      A.J. Jawad, Advocate, Chennai
2.      Aamir Edresy, President, Association of Muslim Professionals, Mumbai
3.      Abbas Shamael Rizvi, Cinematographer & Photographer, Delhi
4.      Abdul Mannan Prof, Gauhati University, Assam
5.      Abdul Salam Prof, President , Justice and Equity Demand Samiti, Assam
6.      Abusaleh Shariff Dr., Executive Director, US-India Policy Institute, Washington DC
7.      Akhtar Husain Akhtar Gen. Secretary, All India Momin Conference, Kanpur
8.      Amir Rizvi, Communication Designer, Mumbai
9.      Amjad Ali Dr., Assistant Professor, Jaunpur
10.  Arshad Ajmal, Social Activist, Patna
11.  Asad Ashraf, Social Activist, Delhi
12.  Asad Zaidi, Writer and Publisher, Delhi
13.  Asif Iqbal, Director, Dhanak, Delhi
14.  Asif Naqvi   Professor, Aligarh
15.  Bader Sayeed, Advocate & Former Member Legislative Assembly Tamil Nadu
16.  Faizur Rehman, Islamic Forum for Promotion of Moderate Thought, Chennai
17.  Farhat Amin, BIRD Trust, Cuttack
18.  Farrukh Warris Dr., Educationist, Mumbai.
19.  Fazlur Rahman Dr, Principal, Govt Degree College, Moradabad
20.  Feroze Mithiborwala, Muslim Intellectual Forum, Mumbai.
21.  Hanif Lakdawala, Executive Director, Sanchetna, Ahmedabad
22.  Hasina Khan, Women Activist, Bombay
23.  Imanul Haque, Prof, Kolkata
24.  Iqbal Ahmad Niazi, Retired Professor Emeritus of Zoology, University of Rajasthan
25.  Irfan Engineer, Director, Centre for Study of Society and Secularism, Mumbai
26.  Ishaq Dr, Social Activist, Azamgarh
27.  Jameela Nishat, Shaheen Women's Resource Centre, Hyderabad.
28.  Javed Anand, Muslims for Secular Democracy, Mumbai
29.  Javed Malick Dr, Retired Academic, Delhi University, Delhi
30.  Juzar Bandukwala Dr., Retired Professor, Vadodara
31.  K.K. Mohammad, Senior Archaeologist, Hyderabad
32.  Kamal Faruqi, Former Chairman, Delhi Minority Commission
33.  Kamal Siddiqui, Businessman, Khushinagar, UP
34.  Kasim Sait, Businessman & Social Activist, Chennai
35.  Mairajuddin Ahmed Dr. , Former Cabinet Minister, UP
36.  Mazher Hassain, Social Activist, COVA, Hyderabad
37.  Md. Aftab Alam Dr., Assistant Professor, Delhi
38.  Mike Ghouse, President, World Muslim Congress, Dallas, Texas
39.  Mohd Aamir, Human Rights Activist,  ANHAD., Delhi
40.  Mohammad Arif Dr,, Chairman, Centre for Harmony and Peace, Varanasi
41.  Mujataba Farooque, President, Welfare Party of India
42.  Mujib Kidwai, Marketing Management, Jeddah
43.  Mushirul Hasan, Prof. , Former Vice Chancellor, Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi
44.  Nasiruddin Haider Khan, Journalist, Delhi
45.  Navaid Hamid, Movement for Empowerment of Muslim Indians (MOEMIN), Delhi
46.  Noorjehan Safia Niaz, Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, Mumbai
47.  Ovais Sultan Khan, Social Work Professional, Delhi
48.  Qurban Ali, Journalist, Delhi
49.  R Jeibunnisa, Manitham Trust, Tamil Nadu
50.  Rahima Khatun, NSKK, Kolkata
51.  Rubina Parveen, Social Activist, Varanasi
52.  S. Akhtar Ehtisham Dr, Academic, Delhi
53.  SM Hilal, Social Activist, Kanpur
54.  S Irfan Habib, Prof, Maulana Azad Chair, National University of Educational Planning and Administration, Delhi
55.  Safdar Khan, Former Chairman, Delhi State Minorities Commission, Delhi
56.  Sahir Raza, Independent Cinematographer, Mumbai
57.  Salar M.Khan, Lawyer, New Delhi
58.  Sania Hashmi, Director, Anhad Films, Delhi
59.  Sarah Hashmi, Actor, Mumbai
60.  Semeen Ali, PhD student, University of Delhi, New Delhi
61.  Shabana Azmi, Actor, Mumbai
62.  Shabnam Hashmi, Social Activist, ANHAD, Delhi
63.  Shahin Ansari, Social Activist, Saharanpur
64.  SMS Firdausi, Advocate, High Court, Allahabad
65.  Sohail Hashmi, Filmmaker, Delhi
66.  Syed Shahid Mahdi, Former Vice Chancellor, Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi
67.  Syeda Hameed, Former Member, Planning Commission, Delhi
68.  Tanweer Fazal, Academic, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi 
69.  Tanveer Nasreen Prof, Academic, Bardman, WB
70.  Tariq Ashraf Dr, Academic, Delhi    
71.  Wahad Ahmad, Social Activist, Bijnaur
72.  Waris Mazhari Dr., Department of Islamic Studies, Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Hyderabad
73.  Wizarat Rizvi, Academic, Delhi
74.  Zafarul-Islam Khan Dr., Delhi
75.  Zaheer Ahmad, Social Activist, Varanasi
76.  Zaheer Ahmed Sayeed Dr., Neurologist, Chennai
77.  Zaheeruddin Ali Khan, Editor, Siasat, Hyderabad
78.  Zahid S Kamal, Retired Govt Officer, Delhi
79.  Zakia Soman, Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, Gujarat
80.  Zamser Ali, Journalist, Gauhati, Assam, President, BTAD Citizen Rights Forum, General Secretary, Centre for Minority Studies, Research and Development, Assam
81.  Zeenat Shaukat Ali Dr. , Director General, The Wisdom Foundation (World Institute of Islamic Studies for Dialogue, Mediation, Gender-Justice and Peace), Mumbai
82.  Zoya Hasan Prof. , Former Member, National Minorities Commission, Delhi


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE SUNDAY -AUGUST 17th 2014

we cannot eat money Lets Make it Clear: We Can Not Eat Money !
“Only when the last tree has died, and the last river has been poisoned and the last fish has been caught, will we realise that we can not eat money

Friday, August 08, 2014

JAI ADIVASI!!!!

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Logo of the indigenous people by Lebang Dewan.gif

2014-08-08 20:12 GMT+05:30 xavier Manjooran <rsss.narmada@gmail.com>:
Dear Adivasi friends and friends of Adivasis,

9th August was declared the international Indigenous people's (Adivasi) day by the United nations in 1994

12 October was celebrated in America as "Columbus Day" to comemmorate the so called "discovery of America" by Columbus. In fact this so called "discovery" had caused great injustice to the original inhabitants of America. They were subjugated, killed and pushed out of their own  land and made slaves. So the indigenous people and those who understood the real situation objected to the celebration of "Columbus day". They started celebrating "Anti columbus Day" which was later (in 1992) termed as "INDIGENOUS PEOPLE'S DAY". 

2 YEARS AFTER THIS EVENT, THE UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY DECLARED IN 19994, AUGUST 9 AS THE INTERNATIONAL INDIGENOUS PEOPLE'S DAY (ADIVASI DAY).

There is a misunderstanding, propagated and spread by some people, either knowingly or unknowingly,  that the logo of the indigenous people (Symbol of Adivasi ) is a LEFT FOOT.. This is unfortunate and unfair. Left foot in Indian cultural understanding is a sign of bad omen (apshukan). Besides according to Manu Smruthi (the scripture which explains  and supports  the caste system  says the 'varnashankar' (now called dalits) were born from the feet of Brahma. thus giving the lowest place to them in the caste hierarchy which also justifies the unjust system of caste discrimination and the untouchability practices. Therefore any . association of adivasis with left foot is to include them in the caste system and consider them the lowest group in the discriminative varna system. Adivasis do not belong to this system at all. 

So even if any body accepts foot as the symbol, the adivasis will not accept it as their symbol. Some people say it was the symbol adopted by UN when it announced 9 August as the international Indigenous day.This was surely not the case. There must be some mix up or wrong understanding  in this matter. If you search all over the net and all the portals you will NOT FIND anywhere even a mention of the LEFT FOOT AS ADIVASI (INDIGENOOUS PEOPLE'S) SYMBOL. So kindly do not mislead people and propagate wrong thing for adivasis. they are noble people, people of nature. .Caste system and hierarchical discriminations were not part of their culture. (Now unfortunately this attitude has got into adivasi communities also- ).Let us not add  "THE FOOT" also and aggrevate the matter and  insult adivasi community. 

I am enclosing the actual and official symbol for adivasis (indigenous people) declared and adapted by UN indigenous peoples forum. In fact the art work was done by Mr. Rebang Dewan, a Chakma boy,  of Bangladesh. Kindly open the attachment and communicate to people and spread the right information and idea about Adivasis and Adivasi day.

HAPPY ADIVASI DAY.......... JAI ADIVASI.........JAGO ADIVASI........FEEL PROUD OF BEING AN ADIVASI......

with best wishes and in SOLIDARITY,

Xavier Manjooran,SJ

આદિવાસી મિત્રો અને આદિવાસીઓના મિત્રો,

જય આદિવાસી 

૯ મી  ઓગુસ્ત અંતરરાષ્ટ્રીય આદિવાસી દિન તારીખે  સંયુક્ત રાષ્ટ્ર સંઘે ૧૯૯૪ માં જાહેર કર્યું હતું. એટલે આવતીકાલે અખા વિશ્વમાં 'આદિવાસી દિન' ઉજવાય છે. તમે પણ ઉજવાતા હશો. ઉજવણી માટે શુભેચ્છાઓ  અને જય આદિવાસી.

આદિવાસીઓ માટે અને આદિવાસી દિન માટે  અમુક જગ્યાએ અને અમુક લોકો  ડાભા પગનું ચિહ્ન  આદિવાસીના પ્રતિક તરીકે વપરાય છે.  તે ખોટું  છે અને ગેરમાર્ગે દોરનાર છે. ભારતીય સંસ્કૃતિ માં ડાબો પગ એટલે અપશુકન! અને વર્ણવ્યવ્સ્થાને સમજાવતા અને તેનો પ્રચાર કરવા મનુસ્મૃતિમાં એવું લખ્યું છે કે વર્ણશંકર (એટલે કે દલિતો) બ્રહ્માના પગમાંથી જન્મેલા છે.!!! તો આપણે આદિવાસીઓ માટે ડભા પગની નિશાની અપનાવીએ તો શું સમજવાનું? આદિવાસીઓ આ દેશમાટે  અપશુકન ??? તેને દુર કરવા જોઈએ?  અને આદિવાસીઓ વર્ણવ્યવસ્થામાં આવતા નથી છતાં તેમને પણ અંદર ઘાલીને એમને છેલું સ્થાન અને આભડછેદમાં ભાગીદાર બનવવા છે? તેથી કોઈ સંજોગમાં પગની નિશાની અપનાવશો નહિ.

વળી, એવું કહેવામાં આવ્યું છે કે સંયુક્ત રાષ્ટ્ર સંઘે આ પગની નિશાની અપનાવી છે. તે તદ્ધન ખોટું છે અને હકીકત વિરુધ છે. ઈન્ટરનેટ માં તપાસ કરો તો તમને કોઈ જગ્યાએ પગ કે પગની નિશાનીનો ઉલ્લેખ સુદ્ધા જોવા નહિ મળે. કોઈએ ગેર સમજથી કે ખોટી રીતે આ ગેરસમજ ઉભી કરી છે. તેથી મહેરબાની કરીને આદીવ્સીઓને અપમાન થાય એવી નિશાની વાપરશો નહિ.  સાચી નિશાની, જે સંયુક્ત રાષ્ટ્ર સંઘની સત્તાવાર નિશાની (logo) છે તે આ સાથે હું મોકલું છુ. attachment ખોલીને જોઈ લેજો અને વાપરજો.


આશા રાખું છુ કે આવતીકાલના આદિવાસી દિનની ઉજવણીમાં આ સત્તાવાર નિશાનીનો ઉપયોગ કરશો અને લોકોને સમજાવશો.

જય આદિવાસી અને આદિવાસી દિનની ઉજવણી માટે તમામ શુભેચ્છાઓ સાથે વિરમું છું.

ફ. ઝેવિયર  (ઝેવીયરભાઈ) 
__._,_.___

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Reflections on Hiroshima Day 2014



Reflections on Hiroshima Day 2014
-Fr. Cedric Prakash sj*

Today, August 6th 2014 marks the 69th anniversary of the atomic bombing on the city of Hiroshima in Japan. Three days later on August 9th, Nagasaki met with a similar horrific fate. News reports tell us that since early morning hundreds and thousands of people have gathered in Hiroshima for peace ceremonies. More than three hundred thousand people were killed and thousands more were maimed for life in one of the deadliest attacks on humankind.  The world will never forget this!

Today, Hiroshima and Nagasaki have become symbols for the anti-nuclear movement, the world over.  In 2011, an earthquake-sparked tsunami left more than 19,000 dead around the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant in Japan. The reactor melt-down spread radiation over a significant area and forced thousands of Japanese to leave their homes in the worst atomic disaster since Chernobyl.  The Chernobyl disaster (in today’s Ukraine) on 26th April 1986 apparently killed less than hundred people, but affected more than five hundred thousand with all kinds of radiation – related illnesses particularly cancer and other physical deformities. 

The lessons from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, from Chernobyl and Fukushima are amply clear: nuclear energy is not safe; that hundreds and thousands of people are not only killed but have also been affected for life by radiation. The land and the waters around nuclear plants are not able to sustain life; livelihoods of the poor and the marginalized are destroyed.

Closer home, a massive People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) attempted to shut down the Kudankulam nuclear power plant in Tamil Nadu, South India. Inspite of this people’s movement, and much other opposition to this plant, Kudankulam, had the go-ahead from the Supreme Court and the Governments of the day; to top it all, in June 2014, an Intelligence Report targeted among others, several of the anti-nuclear activists both in Kudankulam and other parts in India. 

On this day, we need to ask ourselves how safe is nuclear energy? Can we not learn from the lessons of the past?  It is true that our world today needs and consumes more energy and on this we need to ask ourselves, why do we not tap and harness more efficiently other sources of energy like wind, solar, bio-mass? These are safer and cleaner.  Could we take a cue from the German Government which announced that by 2022, it would close down all its nuclear plants?  In other parts of the world, anti-nuclear activists are neither hounded nor threatened. Governments respect the legitimate rights of people to take a stand on what they believe would be harmful to them.

In 1979, Fr. Pedro Arrupe, the then Superior General of the Society of Jesus spoke to hundreds of youth gathered in Assisi, Italy. In 1946, he was the Novice master of the Jesuits in Hiroshima. This is what he shared, “the atomic bomb had exploded at 8:10 on August 6, destroying the whole of Hiroshima, reducing it to ashes and killing at one blow eighty thousand people.  Our house was one of the few that remained standing, even though it was badly damaged. There were no windows or doors left, all had been torn away by the violent wind caused by the explosion. We turned our house into a hospital and assembled there around two hundred who were injured in order to nurse and assist them. On the following day, the seventh, at five in the morning before beginning the work of helping the wounded and burying the dead, I celebrated Mass in our house. It is certain that in the most tragic moments we feel nearest to God and the importance of his assistance. Actually, the external surroundings were not much adapted for fostering devotion during the celebration of the Mass. The chapel, half destroyed was fully packed with those who had been injured.  They were lying on the floor close to each other and they were obviously suffering from the torments of their pains.  I began the Mass as best I could in the midst of that crowd which did not have the least idea of what was taking place upon the altar. I cannot forget the frightful impression I had when I turned towards them at the “The Lord be with you” (Mass was then said with one’s back to the congregation) and saw that sight from the altar. I was unable to move and remained as if I were paralyzed with my arms stretched out as I contemplated that human tragedy: human knowledge, technical advance used for the destruction of the human race.  All looked at me with eyes filled with anxiety, with desperation, as though expecting that some consolation would come to them from the altar. It was a frightful scene!”

Do we have the courage to learn from the blunders of the past? Today, as we commemorate the pain and suffering visited on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, on Chernobyl and Fukushima, we all need to pledge and act in whatever way we can, to make our world safer for the generations to come.
6th August, 2014

(* Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ is the Director of PRASHANT, the Ahmedabad-based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace)

Address: PRASHANT, Hill Nagar, Near Kamdhenu Hall, Drive-in Road, Ahmedabad - 380052
Phone: (079) 27455913, 66522333 Fax: (079) 27489018 Email: sjprashant@gmail.com     www.humanrightsindia.in








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Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Challenges on being a Jesuit in India on the 200th anniversary of the Society’s Restoration by -Fr. Cedric Prakash sj

Challenges on being a Jesuit in India on the 200th anniversary of the Society’s Restoration
                                                                                             
                             -Fr. Cedric Prakash sj*


On August 7th 2014, the Society of Jesus will commemorate the bicentennial of its Restoration (after it was suppressed in 1773). The Article below is meant to be a reflection on the Challenges which the Jesuits in India face today in the context of this Commemoration.



This year 2014 is a special moment of grace for Jesuits all over the world as we commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Restoration of the Society of Jesus, by Pope Pius VII in 1814.

At the outset, it is important to have a glimpse at the historical context and some of the facts which led to the suppression of the Society of Jesus in 1773.  Ignatius of Loyola was a person with a difference. Because of his vision, his spiritual depth and apostolic zeal, he had the courage to translate his dreams into action. In 1540, the Society of Jesus was born and a little over 200 years in 1750, Jesuits numbered 23,000 worldwide! 

In those 200 years Jesuits had established themselves and involved themselves in all kinds of apostolic activities from becoming ‘the school masters of Europe in 1600’, to accompanying individuals and groups in their spiritual growth through the Spiritual Exercises. They became synonymous for their loyalty to the Pope, and for their bold and creative initiatives. They also had important connections with the high and mighty of Europe.

They demonstrated an uncanny ability to go like their founder Ignatius where others dared not go.  The theology of the Jesuits was pastoral and liberal, unlike the rigidity which was espoused by the Jansenists of the middle ages. Philosophers like Blaise Pascal, a Jansenist, took on the Jesuits who were exhorting people to be loyal to the demands of faith. In the late 17th century and early 18th century, the Jesuits had established several missions called ‘reductions’ in South America. This was done with the approval of Spain. However, in 1750 the Treaty of Madrid redrew the boundaries between the colonies of Portugal and Spain in South America. Seven of these reductions (now in Portuguese territory) had to be dismantled and relocated. What ensued was terrible violence and bloodshed between the native Guarani tribe from the Jesuit missions and the troops from Europe.  Portugal laid the entire blame on the Jesuits who had taken the side of the tribals.

In 1758, there was an attempt to assassinate King Joseph I of Portugal. The Jesuits were also blamed for this and charged with treason and in a matter of time, Portugal became the first country to expel all Jesuits from its territories which included its colonies in South America.

In 1762, France banned the Jesuits for some frivolous reason but also because of the influence of the Jansenists and other anti-Christians in the country.  On April 2nd 1767, a royal decree was read out to all the Jesuit communities inSpain expelling them from that country and their colonies, because of Jesuit involvement in the riots against taxation. This led to tremendous pressure on Pope Clement XIII to abolish the entire Society of Jesus throughout the world. He steadfastly refused to do so and continued to champion the Society of Jesus till his sudden death on February 2nd 1769.

Pope Clement XIV who succeeded him was apparently a pawn in the hands of powerful vested interests of Europe. Threatened with a schism in the Catholic Church, he finally gave in and on August 16th 1773, through his brief Dominus ac Redemptor, he suppressed the Society of Jesus. Very strangely, the document begins with a text from Jeremiah that is not sufficient only “to plant and to build” but it is also important “to uproot and to destroy”. The document goes on to assert that the Society of Jesus had always been an object of dissension clearly implying that the Jesuits are trouble-makers and rebellious!


Thanks to Catherine the Great, the Empress of Russia, the Society of Jesus was not wiped out. So when Clement XIV issued the brief of suppression, Catherine refused to obey it and did not permit the Bishops in her Empire to endorse it. It was due to her patronage and later on because of Ferdinand the Duke of Parma, the Society never died. Above all, there was Joseph Pignatelli with his undaunted zeal and total commitment to the life and mission of the Society, the Jesuits continued to survive.

Towards the end of the 18th century, Europe went through a tremendous amount of violence and mayhem. The Napoleonic wars and the French revolution brought about great suffering to the people. More and more, the Church and Society of Europe clamoured for the return of the Jesuits fully aware of the way they had contributed to every dimension of society.

Finally, on August 7th 1814, Pope Pius VII through his brief Sollicitudo Onnium Ecclesiarum ((the Care of All Churches) restored the Society of Jesus completely.  For forty-one years, the Jesuits were suppressed. The most powerful of Europe did everything they could to destroy the Jesuits once and for all. Today 200 years later, we need to thank God for those great men who refused to give up, who refused to be discouraged and who refused to die!

It is important at this juncture, therefore to look back at some of the dimensions that led to the suppression of the Society. If one got to carefully analyse, then they would fall under the following:

  • Commitment
Commitment was the hallmark of the Jesuits.  A commitment to the vision and mission of the Society, to the poor and to the signs of the times – the Jesuits were neither pushovers nor people who could be compromised. Their unflinching zeal ensured, that there were enough of enemies who would try to put them in place at any time. 

  • Contemplation
Thanks to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the Jesuits were encouraging people to become more and more contemplatives in action. They insisted on a spiritual depth but at the same time in the service of the others. This was in complete variance to the hollow ritualistic religion that was meted out and propagated at that time. This dimension gave new meaning and purpose to several, very specially to the youth of the day.

  • Courage
In GC35, we are reminded that “Jesus confronted the powers that opposed his kingdom and that opposition led him to the death on the Cross, a death which he freely accepted in keeping with his mission” (D3#14). This is exactly what the Jesuits prior to the suppression were doing. They confronted the rich and powerful of their times, they took sides with the Guarani Indians in South America, they sided with the ordinary folk when they were over-taxed, what mattered most was that the faith that does justice becomes a reality in their lives and in the lives of others.

  • Conscience
GC34 in Decree 3 “Our Mission and Justice” highlights new dimensions of justice which include the full range of human rights.  This powerful Decree reminds us that “The promotion of justice requires, before all else, our own continuing personal conversion – finding Jesus Christ in the brokenness of our world, living in solidarity with the poor and outcast, so that we can take up their cause under the standard of Cross.  Our sensitivity for such a mission will be most affected by frequent direct contact with these “friends of the Lord,” from whom we can often learn from faith. Some insertion into the world of the poor should therefore be part of the life of every Jesuit.” (#17)

In the days prior to the suppression of the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits very effectively touched the conscience of the world they lived in. They had rich powerful friends but the Jesuits had no fear to take these friends on and these latter soon became their deadliest enemies.

  • Creativity
Another reason why the Jesuits were suppressed was surely because of their ability to have creative and contextual responses.  They were able to transcend the narrow confines of the status quo. The context at that time challenged them to go to new frontiers. They easily became a threat to those who would rather have confined them to the Church or their particular institutions.  The same applies to us today. The new context in which “we live our mission today is marked by profound changes, acute conflicts and new possibilities”. (GC35 DC3 #8)

Having reflected on a bit of history and some of the characteristics that were the hallmark of the Jesuits - pre-suppression, during the forty-one years of suppression and immediately afterwards - it is necessary for us to see how the Society of Jesus can and should “restore” itself today in the 21st century.

In the last fifty years, we have had the Second Vatican Council which “opened for all, the doors and windows” of the Church; historic General Congregations particularly 32, 34 and 35 and as recently as March 2013, a Jesuit has become Pope Francis and he seems to have embarked on the restoration of the Church and very significantly through his first Apostolic Exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel)”.

For us Jesuits in South Asia, restoration of the Church and Society could and should mean the following:

  • Availability
How available are we to go to new frontiers? to go to places where no one dares to go? to think “out-of-the-box?” and as Pope Francis reminds us “to be priests without frontiers and to literally “smell of the sheep?”  Availability pre-supposes an attitude of self-giving; that we are not tied down or tied up with our pet projects or institutions. At the same time, we need to identify ourselves with the poor and marginalized and create space for them in our own lives.





  • Articulation
We are not sufficiently articulate in highlighting the context, the challenges and concerns of today.  Many of us seem to be compromised (cfr. Jesus’ temptations in the desert) with power, privileges, possessions and positions!  As long as we can remain in our comfort zones, we fight shy of serious research, objective analysis and having the courage to communicate our stand to the wider world.  If we seriously do so, many of us will surely lose our places of privilege and the patronage from powerful vested interests. It is also important for all of us to do a reality check and to see who are our friends, with who do we / or institutions identify with.

  • Action
Any meaningful action for a Jesuit necessitates contemplation and our closeness with Christ means “to follow Christ bearing his Cross means opening ourselves with him to every thirst that afflicts humanity today.”(GC35 DC2 #12) As Jesuits, we need to act to respond constructively and positively to the context which challenges us and beckons us.  The substantial actions of the Jesuits was a clear reason for the suppression of the Society but these men were not afraid, they were able to give and not count the cost.

Fr. Adolfo Nicolas , the Superior General in a letter dated November 14th, 2013 wrote “I pray that our grateful commemoration of this 200th anniversary of the Society’s reestablishment might be blessed with a greater appropriation of our way of life and a more creative, generous and joyful commitment to give our lives in service for the greater glory of God.”

This Jubilee Year indeed challenges every single Jesuit to make important and greater strides towards the ‘Magis”.  We can surely do so through greater Availability, courageous Articulation and committed Action.




(* Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ is the Director of PRASHANT, the Ahmedabad-based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace.)

Address: PRASHANT, Hill Nagar, Near Kamdhenu Hall, Drive-in Road, Ahmedabad - 380052
Phone: 79 27455913, 66522333 Fax:  79 27489018
Email: sjprashant@gmail.com     www.humanrightsindia.in