Tuesday, March 10, 2009


-   Fr. Cedric Prakash sj *

Mr. Naveen Patnaik, the suave Chief Minister of  Orissa, has received the applause of several across the board for having pulled the carpet from under the feet of the BJP and now aligning himself with the Left.  This ofcourse, is a smart piece of political opportunism, but in order to actually shed his spots,  Patnaik has to come clean on several counts.
   Why did he allow first the Muslims and then the Christians, to be soft targets for Hindu extremism  in Orissa ?
   Why did he not reign in goons of the Sangh Parivar when they very strategically disrupted Christian lives and events in 2007 and created mayhem for the Christians for a good
      part of 2008 ?
   Why did he not have the courage to contain Togadia and his ilk when they spewed venom all across the State against the Christians ?  (He could have easily have emulated
      several other Chief  Ministers of other States who easily put a halt to Togadia's vicious march in their States)
   Why did he not ensure the safety and security of the Christians of Kandhamal District when thousands were languishing in the forests ?
   Why has he not guaranteed the safe return of those who have been dispossessed of their houses and lands from Kandhamal District ?
   Can he oversee a complete and just compensation package to the victims of the violence in Orissa ?
   Thousands of minorities, very specially Christians, have been disenfranchised in Orissa.  Will he come out with a very honest political decision to ensure that their names are
      on the Electoral Rolls and that they are able to exercise their franchise in an environment which is free and fair ?
Naveen Patnaik will have to answer and act on these and several other questions  immediately. 
There is tremendous pressure on him, we know, from the Western world; and being "a true Westerner", he really would not want to go into oblivion and be treated as an international political "Pariah" the way Narendra Modi is treated just now.  Given his situation, the best thing he could have done, was to distance himself from his political masters and mentors, the BJP and the Sangh Parivar.
Leopards really do not change their spots;  but  the age of miracles is also not dead !!!
Naveen Patnaik definitely needs to be given a chance but until such time, we should not be naïve......
(* Fr. Cedric Prakash sj is the Director of PRASHANT, the Ahmedabad based Jesuit  Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace)
9th  March  2009

Ahmedabad  380 009
Tel: 079 66522333,  27455913 
Fax:  079 27489018  
Email:  sjprashant@gmail.com     



Monday, March 02, 2009


       - Fr. Cedric Prakash sj *
It's exactly seven years since Gujarat witnessed one of the worst horrendous chapters of Indian history.  The burning of the S6 compartment of the Sabarmati Express at the Godhra Railway Station and the subsequent carnage has left an indelible impact  on the lives of many.  Plenty  has  happened since 2002 and many indeed would like to move on.....even perhaps, to forget that 2002 ever existed !!!  The fact however, remains, that the Gujarat Carnage was not only too traumatic for words but right from day one, there has neither been a political will nor a concerted civil society movement to address it. 
Seven years down the road,  there are still major concerns which have to be addressed immediately.  These include :
Justice :
Thousands of victims still yearn for justice.   Some of them want to get on with life but they really are unable to do so since  they still know nothing about their loved ones who are "missing" since those horrific days.  Many still yearn for a just compensation for the loss of life and property. 
Rehabilitation :  
Total  rehabilitation is fundamental for normalcy.  Many of the victims look forward to the possibility of going back to live and work in a place they once called "home"; they would like to  live as a matter of right, anywhere in Gujarat, without fear of discrimination and / or ostracization. 
Freedom from illegal detention :
Several Muslim youth were detained under the draconian POTA.  Inspite of POTA being repealed and Supreme Court Judgments negating these illegal confinements, they have still not been granted bail.
Access to basic amenities :
Vast sections of the minority population still live in dehumanizing conditions. In the wake of the Gujarat Carnage, many of them were provided hurriedly constructed shelters in areas which have no access to clean drinking water or primary health care. 
Attitudinal change :
Our city, our State have become extremely polarized.  There has to be a paradigm shift in the attitude of a large section of people.  Biases and prejudices seem to be mainstreamed.  Civil society is either too apathetic or too afraid to come out and take a stand for what is right.  Most do not want to have a minority as neighbours.  Minorities are consistently stereotyped and made the butt of ridicule.
The aura of Immunity:
Inspite of being named  by various Commissions (both national and international), investigation teams and others, the main perpetrators of the Gujarat Carnage still remain  scot-free  with an aura of immunity.  They cannot be touched, and their posturings  communicate this.
Political will :
Ultimately, at the heart of any change  is the political will to ensure that the rights and freedoms ensured in the Constitution are guaranteed and protected for every citizen. This political will cannot be reduced to cosmetic promises and mere rhetoric, but has to be seen in a very tangible desire to address and to change  what  is endemic.
Seven years down the line, the situation in Gujarat is far from normal.  While a good part of the violence has been institutionalized, the fact remains to be seen is whether civil society will have the courage to  usher in a new dawn by addressing some of these key concerns.  Gujarat needs a change for the better !
(* Fr. Cedric Prakash sj is the Director of PRASHANT, the Ahmedabad based Jesuit  Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace)
 26th February 2009
' PRASHANT ',  Post Box  4050,  Navrangpura,   Ahmedabad  380 009,  Gujarat
Tel: 079 66522333,  27455913   Fax:  27489018   Email:  sjprashant@gmail.com      www.humanrightsindia.in