Wednesday, April 23, 2014



An insightful article  by Fr Frazer Mascarenhas sj ,Principal of St Xavier's College Mumbai!
It has also been given prime coverage in the Times of India(Mumbai) today(see link below) and other dailies there
Do share this with others too
warm wishes
Fr Cedric
Fr. Cedric Prakash sj
"PRASHANT"   (A Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace)
Hill Nagar, Near Kamdhenu Hall, Drive-in Road, Ahmedabad - 380052,Gujarat, INDIA
Tel :+91 (0)79-27455913/66522333
Cell : 9824034536
Fax:+91 (0)79-27489018
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In the background of Elections
What is human development?
The approaching elections have brought an interesting discussion to the public forum on what constitutes human development and how it is to be achieved. The Gujarat model has been highlighted for our consideration. That is very apt because it puts in stark contrast two current views. Is the growth of big business, the making of huge profits the achievement of high production – what we seek? Or is it the quality of life for the majority in terms of affordable basic goods and services and the freedom to take forward the cultural aspirations of our plural social groups that make up India?
Gujarat may be doing well in the first sense, although not as good as some other States in the country. But all the Human Development Index indicators and the cultural polarization of the population show that Gujarat has had a terrible experience in the last 10 years. Take the example of education: schools for the ordinary populace show abject neglect with a very high dropout rate in the last 10 years. Higher Education has not been allowed to move forward. To take just an example, St. Xavier’s College Ahmedabad, thrice NAAC accredited with an equivalent of the A grade, has not been able to gain permission from the Gujarat Government for Academic Autonomy, for the last 10 years and has finally won a battle in the High Court to approach the UGC directly for this status. Gujarat has also been the worst performer in settling claims and distributing title deeds to tribal people and other forest dwellers, as shown by the latest data put out by the Union Tribal Affairs Ministry. Till 2013, the State, with 15 percent tribal population, settled only 32 per cent of the claims, the lowest rate in the country. 
As opposed to this, efforts like the Rojgar Yojana and the Food Security Act have been  called “election sops”. However some of our best social scientists like Amartya Sen and Jean Dreze have supported these as necessary in the emergency economic situation  the country and the world is facing. The country is grateful that committed activists like Aruna Roy and Shailesh Gandhi have worked with the Government to initiate and sustain the Right to Information Act which makes accountability possible. Corruption still needs to be addressed effectively but since it is so prevalent at every level of society, it will take civil society long agonizing efforts to root it out.
A massive investment in health and education is sorely needed in our country of widening disparities and those who support big business and its unethical profits will never agree to such public expenditure for the masses. In fact, the worsening situation of environmental degradation and depletion, in the lunge for growth and profit, shows up the real intentions of the greedy. None can withstand this, as seen by the many clearances given in a week’s time after the recent change of guard at the Central Environment Ministry, which had earlier tried to hold the line under a different Minister.
So what lessons does a reflection on the approaching elections teach us? The prospect of an alliance of corporate capital and communal forces coming to power constitutes a  real threat to the future of our secular democracy. Support for people who pledge to work to take Human Development Indicators higher and who commit themselves to a pluralistic culture in diverse India – this is the hope for the future. No magic wand or divine miracles will come to the aid of the Indian people. Their reasoned choice of individuals and political parties who promise to work for a real quality of life for all, will see India prosper or flounder on the precipice. Choose well!

Dr. Frazer Mascarenhas S.J.


A prayer before casting my vote

A prayer before casting my vote
-Fr. Cedric Prakash sj*

Loving God,
I am about to cast my vote
in this General Elections of our country….

As I step into the polling booth
I humbly ask you,
Lord of wisdom,
to give me your discerning Spirit
that I may sieve the truth from the untruth
the reality from the myth
the light from the darkness
and the “propaganda”
which has overwhelmed me.

Give me above all
that courage I need
at this moment
to cast my precious vote
for that individual / political party
who is committed to the
democratic and secular character of India
and the guiding principles of our Constitution:
Justice, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity for all!

So help me, God!

23rd April, 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: 79 27455913, 66522333 Fax:  79 27489018

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


(A Jesuit reflects)
-Fr. Cedric Prakash sj*

April 22nd 1541 (the Friday of Easter week) is indeed a historic day for the Society of Jesus. On that day, St. Ignatius of Loyola and five of his companions pronounced their solemn vows in front of an icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls in Rome. This took place exactly seven months after the Pope approved the Society of Jesus and two weeks after Ignatius was elected the first Superior General of the Jesuits.

April 22nd is commemorated by the Jesuits as the day of the birth of the vowed society and also the day on which the Society dedicated itself to Mary as Mother.

In a very rare coincidence, on April 22nd 1970, the first ‘Earth Day’ was observed in the United States to focus on the need for peace and at the same time ensure protection of the environment.  Today ‘Earth Day’ is by-and-large the most commemorated global event which transcends national borders yet preserves all geographical integrities. 

Significantly, in 2011, the Social Justice and Ecological Secretariat of the Society of Jesus gave to the Jesuits, to the Church and to the world at large – a path-breaking report on ecology entitled “Healing a broken world”.

On September 16th, 2011, in a letter to the whole Society, the Superior General of the Jesuits, Fr. Adolfo Nicolas wrote “GC (General Congregation) 35 marked a step forward in the Society’s stance towards ecology by integrating it in the decree on mission.  Just as we Jesuits are called to promote and serve right relationships with God and with other human beings, in the same way and with the same urgency, we are called today to restore and heal humanity’s broken relationships with creation”.  The document itself as Fr. Nicolas says “contains suggestions for examining our personal lives, our community lifestyles, and our institutional practices.  Likewise it can be a useful instrument to move us from written statements to concrete life and mission, so that in all these aspects of our lives, we contribute to the sustainability of the planet”.

The document gives seven significant recommendations which mainly emerge from GC 35 (Decree 3, #31 to 36) which mandate Jesuits to go beyond dealing with ecological issues in a cosmetic way, to move beyond doubts and indifference and to take responsibility for our home and earth.  GC 35 talks about environmental destruction, the displacement that is taking place and the need and importance for advocacy and research in the service of the poor and the marginalized. In the above mentioned letter, Fr. Nicolas emphasises that “there is much more we can do in this area using our present apostolic institutions, whether these be educational, pastoral, or social. We can adopt new ways of living, propose helpful practices, deepen understanding, promote research, and where appropriate engage in advocacy.”

A Jesuit today is therefore challenged not only by the powerful significance of April 22nd but the fact that one has received a non-negotiable mandate to protect and preserve Mother Earth.  In the Final Contemplation to obtain the love of God in the Spiritual Exercises, we humbly say, “take Lord and receive all…… because you have given all to me.”  This prayer finds resonance in the Earth Day anthem ‘Ode to Joy’, “now we must resolve to protect her, show her our love, throughout all time!”

22nd April, 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: 79 27455913, 66522333 Fax:  79 27489018

Monday, April 21, 2014

Feast of MARY, MOTHER of the Society of Jesus!

Mary, Mother of Society of Jesus

St Ignatius’s heritage sparked his devotion to Our Lady, which intensified during his period of convalescence following the injury he received during the battle at Pamplona. Major events in his life occurred on feasts or at sites honouring the Virgin: his vigil before the Black Madonna of Montserrat on the eve of the Annunciation, 1522; his first vows at Montmartre, Paris, on the feast of the Assumption, 1534; his first Mass in St. Mary Major in Rome on Christmas, 1538. On Friday of Easter week, April 22, 1541, seven months after papal approval of the Society of Jesus and two weeks after Ignatius was elected its first general, he celebrated Mass with the first companions at Our Lady’s altar in the basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls in Rome, during which all pronounced their vows. This feast thus commemorates the birth of the vowed Society and its dedication to Mary as its Mother. The first church that the Jesuits acquired was a small chapel named after a painting inside: Our Lady of the Way (Santa Maria della Strada). The painting would come to express the essence of Jesuit spirituality. The image, painted by an unknown Roman artist around 1500, probably decorated the church wall that faced Via Capitolina, part of the route of papal processions between the Basilica of St. John Lateran and the Vatican. The chapel dated back at least to the 11th century and for a while it served as a funeral chapel for the Astalli family who owned properties in the neighbourhood. In November 1540, Codacio, the first Italian Jesuit, was able to use his influence in the papal court to obtain what Ignatius really wanted: the title to the tiny Church of S. Maria della Strada. Early in 1541, the Roman Jesuits moved into rooms rented from the Astalli family right next to the chapel. When Ignatius died in 1556, the new church was still on the drawing board. Through the influence of Francis Borgia, the third Superior General and the patronage of the rich Farnese family, the church was almost completed in time for the Holy Year 1575. During the construction, the image of Santa Maria della Strada was kept in the neighbouring church of San Marco. Later, it was installed in a place of honour in the Gesù, where it can be seen today. As an Order dedicated to bringing the Gospel to every corner of the world, Our Lady of the Way was a highly appropriate Patron.

(taken from

INDIA: Disturbing trends for religious freedom and human rights in the ongoing Indian elections

INDIA: Disturbing trends for religious freedom and human rights in the ongoing Indian elections

Please see below news reports that raise alarm bells on the rise of xenophobia and intolerance in India vis-a-vis the ongoing elections and the prospect of a BJP ruled India. Senior BJP leaders are campaigning to implement anti-conversion laws across all of India and to drive away people opposed to Modi and BJP to Pakistan. Further, Hindu nationalist leaders that orchestrated the Muzaffarnagar mass religious violence in which over 100 minorities were killed and close to 50,000 people were driven from their homes, were felicitated and honored by the BJP in a public rally for a 'job well done'. This is not the end, veteran MLAs were denied tickets by the BJP to accommodate these riot accused leaders to run for elections from their districts, clearly demonstrating that religious persecution is considered an electoral and political campaign advantage in these ongoing elections in India. Finally, the last news item is most disturbing of all. Please do take a look at it.


BJP leader says those who oppose Narendra Modi will have to go to Pakistan post-polls
PTI | Deogarh/Dumka (Jharkhand) | Updated: Apr 19 2014

Poll rhetoric has again taken a turn for the worst with Bihar BJP leader Giriraj Singh stirring up a controversy saying that those opposing the party's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi would have to go to Pakistan after the Lok Sabha elections.

"Those opposing Narendra Modi are looking at Pakistan, and such people will have place in Pakistan and not in India," Singh told a poll meeting at Mohanpur Haat Maidan near the temple town Deogarh yesterday.

Attacking the Congress-led UPA government, Singh said, "The central government gives subsidy to those who export beef and not to those rearing cows."

This comes close on the heels of Narendra Modi aide Amit Shah being banned by Election Commission from campaigning, a decision which it revoked soon thereafter.

‘BJP will bring law against religious conversions if voted to power’
VISAKHAPATNAM, April 9, 2013

Bharatiya Janata Party senior leader M. Venkaiah Naidu has said BJP will bring an anti-conversion law to ban religious conversions in the country if it is voted to power in 2014 General Elections.

He said the country will be safe and sound only when Hindus are in a majority. Every citizen can practice his own religion but conversion from one religion to another will not be tolerated. It would also scrap religion-based reservations, make death penalty lawful to terrorists and withdraw special status to Kashmir apart from scrapping FDI, VAT and a host of anti-people measures initiated by the Congress led UPA government.

Addressing the ‘Praja Chaitanya Sadassu’ which was attended by party workers and sympathisers from the North Andhra districts of Srikakulam, Vizianagaram and Visakhapatnam at Swarna Bharathi Indoor Stadium here on Monday, he said nine years of UPA rule saw a total decline of values, development and a faulty policy towards the terrorists and anti-India elements.

Mr. Venkaiah Naidu, who was elated at the good response to the ‘BJP Show’, said the country needed a stable government and a leader who can take tough decisions. “People say that Manmohan Singh is a good man, but the country needs good rulers and not good persons who cannot deliver,” he said.

BJP honours MLAs accused in Muzaffarnagar riots
Hindustan Times  New Delhi, November 21, 2013

The Uttar Pradesh BJP leadership on Thursday felicitated two of its MLAs accused of fanning Muzaffarnagar riots at its Vijay Shanknad rally in Agra, where the party's prime ministerial nomineeNarendra Modi spoke shortly after. 
The party felicitated Sangeet Som, the MLA from Meerut’s Sardhana constituency (under Muzaffarnagar Lok Sabha constituency) and Suresh Rana, MLA from Thana Bhawan constituency in Kairana (erstwhile Muzaffarnagar) and senior party worker Veerendra Singh Gujjar from Deoband.

Another BJP leader, Dr Sanjeev Balian, who also was to be felicitated, could not reach the venue.
The two MLAs were introduced to the gathering by BJP state president Laxmi Kant Bajpai and garlanded by former state BJP president Surya Pratap Sahi. Senior BJP leaders including former chief minister Kalyan Singh and Vinay Katiyar, Ram Ramapati Tripathi were present during this ceremony. 

Muzaffarnagar: Won’t allow riot refugees to vote, says accused BJP MLA
Firstpost, Mar 20, 2014

Riot accused MLA gets BJP ticket
TIMES OF INDIA, Mar 23, 2014

Karnataka: Pramod Muthalik, the Woman-beater, Minority-hater, President of Shri Ram Sena joins BJP ‘temporarily’

Evict Muslims from Hindu areas: Pravin Togadia
Vijaysinh Parmar,TNN | Apr 21, 2014,

RAJKOT: Vishwa Hindu Parishad's (VHP) president Pravin Togadia sent temperatures soaring in Bhavnagar on Saturday evening with a hate speech that targeted Muslims for buying properties in Hindu areas.

At night, Togadia joined a group of VHP and Bajrang Dal members on a street protest outside a house purchased by a Muslim businessman near Meghani Circle. While saffron groups have been regularly organizing 'Ram Dhuns' and 'Ram Darbars' to thwart such deals, Togadia went a step further by asking the protesters to take complete control of the house and put a 'Bajrang Dal' board on it. 

Togadia told the gathering that there were two ways to stop such deals. One is to pressurize the state government to bring in Disturbed Areas Act in Bhavnagar, which prevents inter-community sale of immovable property. The second is to take forcible possession of the house and fight a legal battle later which will go on for years. 

He gave the Muslim occupant 48 hours to vacate the house. "If he does not relent, go with stones, tyres and tomatoes to his office. There is nothing wrong in it. Killers of Rajiv Gandhi have not been hanged ... there is nothing to fear and the case will go on," Togadia told the charged-up gathering. 

"I have done it in the past and Muslims have lost both property and money," he said. 

He also said that this election is the best time to pressurize political parties to ensure safety of Hindus. "Don't be reluctant to pressurize Congress or BJP for the sake of Hindus' safety," he said. 

After the event was over, tension was palpable and police feared that the mob might attack the house. A team of policemen has been stationed outside the house to avert any trouble.

Ominous Signs

Ominous Signs 

Cedric Prakash
Three seemingly unconnected incidents took place in various parts of India recently that have ominous implications for India.
On Friday, April 18, a leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Bihar, Giriraj Singh, made a categorical statement that “those who opposed Narendra Modi had no place in India. They would have to go to Pakistan after the elections.”
Earlier on April 8 in Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh, BJP’s senior leader Venkaiah Naidu said that “the BJP would bring in an anti-conversion law to ban religious conversions all over the country if it is voted to power in 2014 elections.”
And on April 21, (Easter Sunday), the International Working President of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP, world Hindu council) Dr. Pravin Togadia, in a vicious speech in Rajkot, Gujart, demanded that Muslims vacate houses in the Hindu areas of the city. Targeting a Muslim businessman, Togadia gave him 48 hours to vacate his house “if he does not relent” he told the Hindu mobs “go with stones, tires and tomatoes to his office” (reported in the Times of India ed. Ahmedabad, pg. 1, April 21, 2014).
Very interestingly on March 21, 2013, in the Maninagar area of Ahmedabad, Togadia gave a call to a large gathering for the establishment of a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ (nation) stating that by 2015, Gujarat would be the first ‘Hindu State’ of the country.
Incidentally, Maninagar is the constituency of Narendra Modi, the BJP prime ministerial candidate (who still hopes to swear by the Constitution of India) but till today has had no courage to take on Togadia and to denounce what he has been saying and doing. Though sections of the media make of an animosity between the two, the fact that they have the same mindset and are born to the same ideology, leaves no one in doubt.
The three incidents in very different parts of the country have much in common. They primarily reveal the core Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) ideology which has spawned the BJP. It is no secret that the BJP prime ministerial candidate Modi was decided upon by the top brass of the RSS. That the ultimate desire of the RSS is the establishment of a ‘Hindu nation State’ is without a shadow of doubt. Naidu’s comments in Visakhapatnam must be seen in the same context.
In 2002, Modi raised the ‘bogey of conversion’ during his election campaign in Gujarat and in 2003, he brought in the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act which must be easily ranked as one of the most draconian laws in the history of any democracy anywhere in the world. The law very blatantly says that “if one wants to change his / her religion, one must first seek the permission of the civil authority (the Collector).” This law clearly violates Article 25 of the Constitution of India and Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Giriraj’s threats are not empty ones. In his ten-year plus rule in Gujarat, Modi has been vindictive and vengeful. This can be exemplified by several instances.
In a hard-telling article in Live Mint (April 19), entitled ‘Narendra Modi critics Expect No Quarter, No Mercy” states “What should we expect from Modi Sarkar? I predict no quarter and no mercy. He will continue his tyrannical (I use the word in a classical sense) ways as he has in Gujarat.” So when Giriraj speaks the obvious, however silly it sounds, he is only manifesting the fascist agenda of those who seek to rule us.
One cannot help but be reminded of that immortal poem by the German Bertold Brecht (1898-1956) ‘In Dark Times’…..In hope, the struggle will continue indeed; even if the signs are ominous!
(Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ is the Director of PRASHANT, the Ahmedabad based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace. He could be contacted at

Saturday, April 19, 2014

"EASTER IS......!"

Easter Is……..!
-Fr. Cedric Prakash sj*

In his Spiritual Exercises (#299) St. Ignatius of Loyola invites the exercitant to contemplate on Jesus’ first Apparition after his Resurrection: to his beloved Mother. It is the most natural thing that Jesus would do - to spend value-time with the one woman who accompanied him throughout his life. St. Ignatius reminds us ‘Scripture supposes that we have understanding, as it is written, “Are you also without understanding?”’  This apparition was undoubtedly a very personal and profound experience both for Mother and Son. Easter is....a personal and profound experience of our risen Lord!

Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene: a woman is chosen to be the first communicator of the ‘Good News’, the prima Evangelizer.  Jesus consistently took a stand for women. He broke down taboos and challenged the mindset of a highly patriarchal society.  Appearing to Mary Magdalene, early that Easter morn, was his powerful statement and appreciation of the significant role women had to play in his Church and society.  Easter is....a deeper realization that all women and men are created equal in the image and likeness of God!

Pope Francis highlights this powerful recognition of women by Jesus when he says, “The Church acknowledges the indispensable contribution which women make to society through the sensitivity, intuition and other distinctive skill sets which they, more than men, tend to possess.” (Evangelii Gaudium #103)  Easter is....the courage to accept the indispensable role of women in Church and society!

On Maundy Thursday, Pope Francis once again gave the world a very moving example as he washed the feet of differently-abled persons of different ages, ethnicities and religious confessions - among them were four women and a Muslim. The Pope gave the world a powerful reminder of Jesus’ commandment of love “if I your Lord and Teacher have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.”  Easter is....the humility and love we need to be inclusive - to bend down and wash the feet of the others!

At the Last Supper, Jesus took bread, broke it and shared it among his disciples. He does a fairly similar exercise with the cup of wine. Not all present are able to grasp the totality and meaning of this supreme act of love. Later, on the road to Emmaus, the disciples are unable to recognize Jesus along the route but they finally do so at the breaking of the bread. Easter is....the ability to recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread and in doing so – to heal the brokenness of our world!

The Risen Lord brings peace to all those whom he meets after his Resurrection!  The world we live in today is becoming more and more fragmented, torn apart by violence, sectarianism, hatred, divisiveness, inequalities and injustices.  This is our context and none of us can abdicate the role and responsibility that is given to us by the Lord, to be channels of his peace, to sow love everywhere. Easter is....the commitment to be communicators of the Lord’s peace to all around us!

Easter is....ALL THIS and much more!

19th April, 2014

Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday Reflection on “I Thirst”

Good Friday Reflection on “I Thirst” 

"I Thirst"
Good Friday commemorates the suffering and death of Jesus Christ on the cross. While hanging on the cross shedding even his last drop of blood Christ cried, “I thirst.” People such as Mother Teresa who have tried to understand that cry have brought revolutionary changes in society.
Here Jesuit Father Cedric Prakash reflects on what that cry means for the current world.
“I Thirst!” …. when I hear the cries of my people; millions of them all over the world! Cries which are barely audible, cries which are ignored. They are the cries of the poor and the marginalized; the vulnerable and the exploited; those who live outside the periphery of society; those who struggle day-in and day-out for their existence, for dignity and for equity.
And I say: “But Lord, when were you thirsty?”
“I Thirst!” ….when I experience the helplessness of children. The unborn child about to be aborted; the child who has been denied her childhood – no school, no recreation, no nutritious food; the child who labors hard in the mines to bring in a little money for the family; the child who is sexually abused – by family members, by outsiders and even by so-called ‘holy’ men.
And I say: “But Lord, when were you thirsty?”
“I Thirst!” … when I feel the pain and trauma of so many women today. They weep all the time! They are not treated as equals nor respected in a male-dominated society; many of them are condemned to drudgery. They are trapped and trafficked and become victims of terrible crimes. Society at large just doesn’t seem to care about their safety and security.
And I say: “But Lord, when were you thirsty?”
“I Thirst!” … when I see the ravages caused by communal violence. People kill, rape, burn, loot and plunder in the name of ‘religion’. God does not permit such heinous acts. The victim-survivors are relentless in their pursuit for truth, justice and peace. But the main perpetrators still roam scot-free with impunity and immunity.
And I say: “But Lord, when were you thirsty?”
“I Thirst!” … when I walk with those who are dispossessed and displaced. I remember the journey to the ‘promised land.’ Today mega projects like shopping malls and river-fronts for the rich, polluting industries for the profiteering corporates, mighty commercial establishments of the builders lobby, has robbed the ordinary and poor citizens of what is rightfully theirs.
And I say: “But Lord, when were you thirsty?”
“I Thirst!” … when I observe the struggles of the dalits, adivasis and other minorities. They continue to be systematically targeted; denied in subtle ways of what is rightfully theirs. They no longer have access to their, ‘jal, jungle and jameen’. A fairly large group of them is still condemned to manual scavenging. When they are thirsty they are not permitted to drink from ‘the well’ even today!
And I say: “But Lord, when were you thirsty?”
“I Thirst!” … a million times in today’s world – and you keep on gazing at me dying on the cross. You are afraid to show the courage to quench my thirst in the world you live in – to accompany the poor and the unloved; the dying and the destitute: the old and the sick; to take a stand for Truth and Justice; to give and not to count the cost; to serve with love.
And I continue to say: “But Lord, when were you thirsty?”
(Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ is the Director of Prashant, the Ahmedabad-based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace.)