Kerala reclaims its cultural identity – Organiser

 Mata Amritanandamayi

Sabarimala Karma Samiti“The controversy about young women’s entry to the Sabarimala Temple is unfortunate, and it emanates out of ignorance about temple customs and traditions.” – Mata Amritanandamayi

Sending a stern warning to the ruling CPM that has been incessantly trying to destroy temple traditions and Hindu customs in the state, the Sabarimala Karma Samiti organised a mammoth gathering called “Ayyappa Bhaktha Sangamam” in Thiruvananthapuram, the capital city of Kerala, on January 20. The meeting witnessed a huge number of sannyasins and spiritual leaders from across the South India and lakhs of Hindus, turning out to be the largest Hindu congregation ever in the history of Kerala.

Inaugurating the meeting, Mata Amritanandamayi urged the CPM led Kerala Government to respect the traditions and customs of Hindu temples. “The controversy about young women’s entry to the Sabarimala Temple is unfortunate, and it emanates out of ignorance about temple customs and traditions. Temples are the pillars of our culture,” she added.

Referring to the Government’s intervention in the temple affairs, Mata Amritanandamayi said that the situation is such that “the baby is thrown out with the bathwater”.

Presiding over the function, Swami Chidananda Puri said that temple traditions could not be altered by a secular government. Criticising the state government and the ruling party CPM, he said that Hindus should be thankful to Kerala Chief Minister Vijayan for organising the Hindus of Kerala against the backdrop of the Sabarimala issue. He also condemned the repeated verbal assaults made by CPM ministers against Hindu sannyasins and priests.

“Sri Ayyappa is not just the God of Kerala but of the entire country and the whole universe. Vijayan, being the chief minister of Kerala, can administer the people of the state, but he can’t administer Ayyappa Bhagwan, said Swami Paripoornanda. In a video message, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar underscored the need to protect traditions and urged the government to respect the sentiments of devotees.

Speaking on the occasion, former Director General of Police Dr T.P. Senkumar IPS urged the faithful to exercise voting rights vigilantly in the coming elections to give a fitting answer to all anti-Hindu parties and protect Santana Dharma. “All our problems will be solved if a small amendment is made in our Constitution that the majority too will be entitled to the same benefits enjoyed by the minorities in the country,” he said.

Bharathbushan, brother of Kanaka Durga, a CPM activist who trespassed to the Sabarimala Temple only to defile the traditions, was also present on the occasion. Apologising to devotees for the sin committed by his sister, Bharathbhushan broke down and said, “I apologise for the sin my sister has committed. We won’t allow her to enter our house unless she seeks an unconditional apology to Hindu society.”

While women formed the major chunk of the audience, a galaxy of senior Hindu sannyasins, including Swami Prakashananda and senior sannyasin of Sree Narayana Gurudeva order and Swami Golokananda of the Ramakrishna Math graced the dais. Sabarimala Karma Samithi national chairman former jurist N. Kumar, Smt K.P. Sasikala Teacher, O. Rajagopal MLA, RSS Prant Sanghchalak PEB Menon, and representatives of social and cultural organisations were also present. A Namajapa Yatra preceded the meeting from Palayam to the venue. The Hindus in large number thronged the Putharikkandam Maidanam, where the event was organised. A huge number of people, who participated in the Namajapa Yatra failed to reach the venue of the meeting, as the ground was jam-packed. – Organiser, 21 January 2019

Ayyappa Bhakta Sangamam


 

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Supreme Court threatens hereditary priesthood at Jagannath Temple – Priyadarshini Sen

Balabhadra, Subhadra & Jagannath

Priyadarshini SenThe government needs to do more for the priestly class if it is to stop the servitors from extorting payment from devotees and abusing their rights. – Priyadarshini Sen

For centuries, the priests at the Jagannath Temple in this city on India’s east coast have enjoyed unfettered control over the temple’s rituals. But in July, India’s Supreme Court proposed ending the hereditary rights of the community of more than 2,000 priests, threatening a livelihood that depends almost entirely on donations.

The 12th-century shrine to Jagannath, a deity revered in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, draws thousands of pilgrims each year. Its priests are charged with sometimes dangerous duties such as tying flags to the mast of the temple and applying paint to statues of deities high on its walls, as well as playing instruments in religious parades and other tasks. Knowledge of the temple’s rituals has been nurtured within families and remained largely undiluted for generations.

The Supreme Court’s proposal, prompted by a local judge, aims to rein in the priests, who have allegedly been harassing pilgrims for money in return for bestowing blessings.

“If the court and government take away our only source of income, there will be nothing left. It will be the end of the road for us,” said Gadhadhar Pujapanda, a 32-year-old priest at the shrine.

The local judge who suggested removing the priests’ rights has suggested a new system by which priests are appointed, as was instituted at the Tirupati temple in Andhra Pradesh after legislation in the late 1980s overturned the hereditary rights of its priests.

Pujapanda and other priests worry that their jobs will disappear if the same system comes to Jagannath.

“We consider ourselves living relatives of the deity,” he said. “My ancestors served King Anangabhima Deva during the 13th century. Where do we go if our livelihood is taken away?”

It is believed King Anangabhima Deva III declared himself the sole deputy of Jagannath in the 13th century and to secure his spiritual bona fides introduced 36 categories of temple attendants to venerate the deity. Over time, ceremonies became more elaborate and by the turn of the 20th century, there were 119 categories of servitors, as the priests and other temple workers are known.

Devoted to the regimentation and austerity of their spiritual practice, the hereditary priests lost touch with the secular world, neglecting their education and the pursuit of practical skills.

“Traditional priests have dedicated their lives to a different lifestyle,” said Rabindranath Pratihari, a former priest and Sanskrit scholar. “If they are shorn of these rights, they might even be pushed below the poverty line.”

Some servitors have strayed into other occupations such as tourism, hospitality, politics and real estate. Others have gone on to pursue higher education. But most remain immersed in their religious traditions.

They believe replacement of a hereditary system with merit-based appointment of salaried priests might corrupt the priesthood itself.

A senior priest, Janardhan Mahapatra, says the Jagannath cult’s amalgamation of ancient tribal and Brahmin rituals makes it  unique. The servitors, he added, are not drawn from highborn Hindu families, making them a rare exception to India’s strict caste hierarchy.

“Hereditary priesthood has allowed for social harmony across caste lines,” Mahapatra said.

“In a merit-based system, servitors may be drawn from a specific caste. It will erode our identity and egalitarian spirit.”

The case against the priests originated in the 1970s, when some visitors to the temple complained that the priests were extorting their fees from devotees. In 1977, the state government of Odisha commissioned a probe into hereditary priesthood, but stiff opposition from the servitors prevented any change.

Earlier this year, a devotee from Maharashtra, India, was beaten up by two servitors for refusing to pay donations, prompting a local lawyer and social activist named Mrinalini Padhi to petition the Supreme Court to curb the priests’ aggressiveness. “There shouldn’t be any coercion in places of worship,” Padhi told Religion News Service.

In response, the Supreme Court directed a district judge to make recommendations for temple reforms. The judge’s report, released in July, charged that the temple’s “management committee and the government have failed to exercise effective control over servitors.”

The court’s interference in religious matters has rankled temple visitors and priests alike.

“The judiciary shouldn’t interfere in hereditary and customary rights,” said S.K. Makbul Islam, an associate professor of Bengali at St Paul’s Cathedral Mission College in Kolkata. “It’s the onus of the temple administration to check abuse of privileges.”

The proposed crackdown has spurred temple workers to demand guarantees of employment, education, housing and widow’s pension benefits from the government.

“I only get $11 from the government for my bimonthly ritual service and about $1,400 as health insurance per year,” said one servitor. “One-third of us live below the poverty line.”

Padhi agrees the government needs to do more for the priestly class if it is to stop the servitors from demanding payment. “The government should figure out ways to uplift this class, so they stop abusing their rights,” she said.

Any reforms to the traditions of the temple seem to have as much to do with a way of life as with economic hardship. In October, Pujapanda’s father wrote to the chief justice of India, seeking permission to end his life if hereditary rights are revoked.

“If the Supreme Court takes away our time-honored tradition, there’s no point in living,” said Pujapanda. – Religion News Service, 21 December 2018

» Priyadarshini Sen is an independent journalist and researcher.

Jagannatha Temple at Puri


 

Ganga must become a political issue like Ram Mandir – Nivedita Khandekar

Sadhu at Kumbh Mela

Nivedita KhandekarA Central Pollution Control Board report found that all Ganga river locations where monitoring was carried out from Uttarakhand to West Bengal were “moderately” to “heavily polluted”. … Environmental and social activists and a group of sanyasis have been at pains to draw the attention of the government to their demands for a cleaner Ganga. – Nivedita Khandekar

Even as the Kumbh Mela kickstarts at Allahabad—now renamed Prayagraj—on Tuesday, January 15, with all the government paraphernalia advertising a cleaner Ganga for the devotees, activists and Opposition party leaders have come down heavily on the government’s failure on exactly the same.

Dams in the higher reaches of the Ganga, illegal sand mining, dumping of debris following massive road construction under the Char Dham Yatra project and, of course, the intermittent sewage—treated and untreated both—flowing directly into the Ganga in the plains—the list of all that is wrong goes on and on.

Environmental and social activists, not to mention a group of sanyasis, and a few leaders from Opposition parties have been at pains to draw the attention of the government to their demands.

In fact, Samajwadi Party leader and member of Parliament, Revati Raman Singh, has announced launching a jan andolan (people’s protest) at the Kumbh itself.

Carping on the Modi government’s attempt to turn the Ardh Kumbh almost into Maha Kumbh in an election year (Kumbh Mela is held every four years at four different places across India, with each of those places getting to host it once in 12 years in rotation; Ardh Kumbh is once every six years at Allahabad/Prayagraj, midway between the two Kumbhs), Singh said, “Our demand is very simple. What we need is Ganga’s aviral dhara (continuous flow). The government is talking only about treated-untreated sewage from smaller tributaries and nullahs flowing into the Ganga. Where is the Ganga jal then?”

Singh had first announced the jan andolan and court arrest (jail bharo andolan) too at a multi-lateral stakeholder meeting in December 2018.

“Today and tomorrow, there would be hundreds and thousands of people at the Kumbh venue for the Shahi Snan on the occasion of Makar Sankranti. Once that is over, I will definitely launch the protest there. People need to reach the Kumbh area to protest,” he told me over the phone on Tuesday.

The largest congregation of humanity

Advertised as the largest congregation of humanity, a great number of sadhu and sanyasis, Indians from across the country and abroad—and nowadays, several foreigners—reach the Kumbh venue, the Triveni Sangam, the meeting point of the rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati. Kumbh tourism has been on the rise as scores of non-believers, both Indian and foreign, also throng the venue, especially for witnessing and photographing the Shahi Snan by the myriad sadhus and sanyasis of various akhadas (schools of sanyasis).

According to government data, this year, the Prayagraj Kumbh is spread over 3,200 hectares land—about 700 hectares more compared to 2013’s Maha Kumbh. The area has been divided into 20 sectors. Eight km-long bathing ghats have been developed at the Sangam for the holy dip and similarly, several other ghats have also been developed along the banks of river Ganga in different sectors of the mela. About 12 crore pilgrims and tourists are expected during the Kumbh. Massive security arrangements are in place for the smooth passing of the first bathing festival and the Shahi Snan.

Every Kumbh witnesses a large number of visitors, devotees, tourists with the majority reaching there only for their faith—the faith in the Ganga, India’s national river.

In all their devotion, they take a dip in the Ganga waters, oblivious to the actual condition of the water quality, or choosing to neglect it for the time being, even if they do worry about it.

The people and their Ganga

How good is it to play with people’s aastha (faith)?

That is the question on the lips of the common visitor as activists harp on the fact that the Ganga can clean itself provided the government lets it flow continuously. Aviral (continuous) flow will ensure nirmal (cleaner) Ganga, the activists point out time and again. Only 80 kms of the Ganga witness this natural flow.

The meeting of the stakeholders in December at Delhi, where Revati Raman Singh had made the initial announcement to launch his protest during the Kumbh, was organised by Ganga Aahvaan, an organisation striving for a free-flowing, cleaner Ganga.

It was attended by activists and political leaders. Apart from Jairam Ramesh, Congress leader and former Environment Minister, and another Congress leader, Pradeep Tamta, the event was attended and addressed by Somnath Bharati of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Govindacharya, a former RSS ideologue.

Clearly unhappy with the Modi government’s October 2018 draft bill for protection of the Ganga, aiming to regulate minimum environmental flow in the river, the attendees discussed the People’s Ganga Bill 2018—which was initiated during the times of late Professor G.D. Agrawal, who laid down his life after fasting for more than 100 days for the Ganga in October 2018.

The cornerstones of the draft act are identifying the unique status and special features of the National River Ganga; identifying and recognising the self-purifying and bacterial properties that lend gangatva to the river; acknowledging the adverse role that developmental projects have had on the river and management and implementation of conservation plans through an autonomous body.

Environmental activists Mallica Bhanot, Ravi Chopra and Rajendra Singh dwelled on the draft act which proposes a primary core zone, a secondary zone and a buffer zone for the river. The primary core zone will comprise areas from the Himalayas, the secondary zone will be the Ganga floodplains and the length of the river from Dev Prayag till Gangasagar while the buffer zone will be the entire Ganga basin.

Ganga’s condition today

The government’s draft Bill does not talk about hydropower projects on Ganga.

There are 100-odd existing hydropower projects across the Ganga basin in the state of Uttarakhand alone, with more than 100 either planned or under construction, together targeted at more than 25,000MW (majorly from projects on the Alaknanda river).

The Modi government has been harping on its success of how it will clean the Ganga up to 80% by March 2019—but it does not talk about stopping the work on hydropower projects. “We are not going to build any new projects,” is all that the Ministry of Water Resources maintains.

At a time when solar power is increasingly becoming cheaper, why the need to harness so much from hydropower on the Ganga alone is beyond anyone’s understanding.

Underlining that there are only 5 per cent high-end power users, Govindacharya asked if indeed we need that much power production that leads to the devastation of rivers and suggested, “Congress aur BJP ko apna mann banana padega (It is for the Congress and BJP both to take it on themselves)!”

Out in 2019, none of the parties actively said anything about hydropower projects, even when there has been a lot of noise about the clean/nirmal Ganga initiative, from both sides. The centre duly tries to showcase pockets where very little or superficial action is taking place.

But on the ground, the scores of STPs are yet to be constructed, pipelines taking sewers away from the Ganga are to be laid and even the cosmetic ghat cleaning is yet to happen at all places.

In fact, a Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) report “Biological Water Quality Assessment of the River Ganga (2017-18)” found that almost all locations where monitoring was carried out in pre-and post-monsoon season from Uttarakhand to West Bengal were “moderately” to “heavily polluted”. Daily-O, 16 January 2019

» Nivedita Khandekar is an independent journalist based in Delhi. She writes on environmental, developmental and social issues.


 

Pseudo-scientific nonsense does not boost national pride – Ravi Shankar

Pushpak Vimana

Ravi Shankar EttethThe irony of India’s current rediscovery of itself is that its prototypes of superiority are Western—Kaurava test tube babies, Ravan airlines, Mahabharata internet, et al. – Ravi Shankar

To say that the Greeks first gave us history and mythology in one package would be a fair assumption. Traveller, adventurer, rebel and author of Histories, Herodotus is considered the father of history for laying the early foundations of the human narrative by recording what he saw and heard, to which he added the collective memories of nations. Euhemerus is the father of euhemerism, which applies real historical events and personalities to mythology.

India and Greece have the richest, multi-divine mythological heritage in the world. Their cartography was similar too: topographically adjacent deshas and over 1,000 poleis (city-states) stretching from Turkey to France respectively. But it is a section of India that is being euhemeristic now. Lack of evidence is challenging newly minted national pride. Evidence is not what we see. It is the conclusion we arrive at after examination.

Though the West is hated in neo-nationalist societies, its classical philosopher-scientists like Copernicus and Galileo had the temperament and curiosity to challenge established notions. They were rewarded with condemnation and prison. History in the Christian world was once purely Biblical and devout Christians even today believe Jesus got up two days after he died; to assume that his sidekicks revived him using stem cells and beamed him up in a spaceship to Kashmir where he learned yoga would make a fabulous, but unauthenticated story.

India’s mytho-historical crisis is a blowback of colonial intervention. British historians distorted Indian history to impose their culturally inferior, but scientifically advanced ethos. Commerce drives the West, enabled by the greed to conquer and subvert other cultures and markets. But it has also generated breakthroughs in medicine, space research, anthropology and engineering. Science makes the world explainable.

The irony of India’s current rediscovery of itself is that its prototypes  of superiority are Western—Kaurava test tube babies, Ravan airlines, Mahabharata internet et al. The colonial desecration of Indian history is responsible for this descent into nonsense for revalidating past pride: Indian history is seeking revenge by denying and discrediting Western progress and influences like English and Nehru, et al.

The side dish of parody is also on the table: the “scientific” claim that gravitational waves will be renamed “Narendra Modi waves” would undoubtedly embarrass the prime minister. Carl Jung notes that the human psyche needs mythology to find meaning and order in a seemingly chaotic and meaningless world. This is the time to leave mythology to the aesthetics of upbringing. By enabling the youth to script new history by becoming an industrial, innovative, scientific and literary powerhouse, India can own the future. The past is always around. – The New Indian Express, 13 January 2019

» Ravi Shankar is an author, cartoonist and columnist for The New Indian Express in New Delhi.

Indian Science Congress 2019


 

All about Makar Sankranti – FP Staff

Surya Deva

FirstpostOne of the most ancient of Hindu festivals, Makar Sankranti is celebrated in different parts of the country in different ways with great fanfare. Sankranti denotes the entry of the sun into the zodiac sign of Makara (Capricorn) as it travels on its celestial path. This transition welcomes longer and warmer days. The festival is associated with colorful decorations, spring harvest fairs, ritual bathing, kite flying, bonfires and elaborate feasts. – FP Staff

Significance

While most Hindu festivals are celebrated as per the lunar cycle, Makar Sankranti follows the solar cycle. Dedicated to Lord Surya, the day marks the onset of summer and beginning of auspicious period uttarayan. The connection with uttarayan dates back to the Mahabharata when Bhishma Pitamah lay down on a bed of arrows and waited for the sun to be in uttarayan to breath his last.

Cooking rice porridge (pongal) for Surya Deva

Harvest festival

For most parts of India, this period is a part of early stages of the rabi crop and agricultural cycle, where crops have been sown and the hard work in the fields is almost complete. The longer spell of sunlight is important for the crops, and also acts as a retreat for everybody who has been dreading the winter months. The harvest festival is celebrated across the country with much fervor and gaiety. While the harvest festival in Punjab is called as Lohri, in Assam its known as Bhogali Bihu and the southern states term it as Pongal.

Sadhu offering water to the sun at the Kumbh Mela (2013)

Holy dip

Makar Sankranti also marks the beginning of six months auspicious period for Hindus known as Uttarayana period. Every twelve years, the Hindus observe Makar Sankranti with one of the world’s largest mass pilgrimages and bathe in the holy rivers at the Kumbh Mela.  This year, the Ardh Kumbh Mela at Prayagraj will begin from January 14 and continue till March 3 at the Triveni Sangam—the holy confluence of river Ganga, Yamuna, and Saraswati. Many thousands of devotees are expected to arrive in the city to take a holy dip in the Triveni Sangam.

Sesame Seed Ladoos

Food

Sesame seeds (til) are used in almost every Makar Sankranti recipes. As per the Hindu view, sesame seeds helps to cleanse the soul and improve spiritual awakening. In Maharashtra, the practice of exchanging sweets made of til such as tilgul ladoo and gulachi poli is common. The exchange is considered as a token of goodwill, while these foods give energy as well as helps to keep us warm. While exchanging, people greet each other with the words, “Til gul ghyaa, goad goad bola!” meaning “eat tilgul and speak sweet words”.

In Delhi and Haryana, people cook ghee churma, kheer and halwa. In Punjab, it is a tradition to consume khichdi and jaggery. Sankrati is one of the major festivals of Rajasthan. The day is celebrated with special Rajasthani delicacies and sweets such as pheenitil-paati, gajak, kheer, ghevar, pakodi, puwa, and til-laddoo.

Enthusiasts flying kites various shapes of kites on the second day of International Kite Festival, in Ahmedabad on Monday (2018).

Kite flying

The morning of Makar Sankranti witnesses colorful kites wafting in the sky. In Gujarat, flying kites and competing with others is regarded as one of the biggest festivals. Scores of people from not only around the country, but across the world, come to participate in the annual International Kite Festival (Uttarayan), the preparations for which begin months in advance. – Firstpost, 13 January 2019

Arunachala Hill


 

Church Of South India caught in a web of irregularities – M.R. Subramani

Church of South India Synod

M.R. SubramaniChurch of South India assets across South India are in the region of Rs 1 lakh crore. It reportedly receives at least Rs 1,000 crore annually in the form of donations and various other offerings, and it manages over 5,000 educational institutions across southern India. –  M.R. Subramani

India’s second-largest Christian Church—Church of South India (CSI)—is in the eye of a storm. Its administrators have been charged with committing irregularities to the tune of thousands of crores. CSI’s cash and properties have been unlawfully stashed away and this has led to the arrest of its former official.

The CSI is the largest Protestant denomination in the country. It is a union of Churches of Anglican, Methodist, Congregational, Presbyterian and Reformed. It was formed in 1947 after long negotiations between Churches and has 24 dioceses, each supervised by a bishop.

The Church is governed by a synod that is headed by a moderator or presiding bishop, elected from among those heading the dioceses, every two years. Thanks to the generousness of its members, the CSI has a huge amount of money and properties. Besides, it manages and runs over 5,000 educational institutions across southern India.

CSI assets across South India are in the region of Rs 1 lakh crore. It reportedly receives at least Rs 1,000 crore annually in the form of donations and various other offerings.

The CSI has formed a trust called CSI Trust Association (CSITA) under Article 25 of the Companies Act as a non-profit organisation. The functioning of the trust is now proving to be its nemesis as Church members are now utilising the provisions of the Companies Act to question the various irregularities within the CSI.

A tug of war has been going on between the Church administrators and its members for over a decade now. Efforts of the members bore fruit on 18 November 2016 when the National Company Law Tribunal removed all its directors and managing committee when Dr G. Dyvasirvadam, who has retired as bishop of Vijayawada diocese, headed the organisation as its moderator.

The tribunal asked the management committee to hand over all the documents and books of accounts besides other records to its registry. It also appointed retired Madras High Court judge K. Sampath as chairman of CSITA.

The tribunal gave Sampath the freedom to make his recommendations on directors and office-bearers. It, however, made it clear that the nominees should neither be the respondents nor petitioners in the case.

The CSI management moved the Madras High Court and obtained a stay. After a legal battle lasting two years, the high court vacated the stay last month.

Petitioners, mainly Coimbatore-based E. Prem Kumar, pointed out to the Madras High Court that it could not entertain the CSI management petition seeking stay as the latter should have approached the law tribunal appellate board.

The tribunal’s actions were in line with the findings by the Registrar of Companies (RoC) that submitted a report to the Ministry of Corporate Affairs on 12 January 2016. The RoC pointed out to quite a few irregularities in the functioning of CSITA.

The RoC filed its report based on complaints from 34 CSI members, including Prem Kumar. The report was presented after the CSI offered its responses to various explanations sought by RoC.

One of the major complaints against CSITA was that the memorandum of association (MoA) and articles of association (AoA) were amended without the approval of the central government. In particular, the moderator, general secretary and treasurer of CSI Synod were, respectively, made ex-officio chairman, ex-officio general secretary and ex-official treasurer of CSITA.

While the association said it could not provide details since a dispute was pending in the economic offences court, Egmore, Chennai. The RoC, citing various provisions of Companies Act, said CSITA should have obtained the Centre’s permission and then amended both MoA and AoA. The registrar said the association had violated the Companies Act that invited revocation of licences granted by the Centre.

The RoC reported that the complainants pointed out that despite various cases pending against a section of the association officials, they continued to remain in key positions of the management. It also found irregularities in elections to various dioceses, including the bishop of Coimbatore diocese.

Another complaint was that bishops and people close to them incurred huge expenditure on rent-free accommodation, cars and world tours. The RoC said a verification of the record books was necessary to find out the truth.

The complaints, in particular, pointed out that CSITA was getting about Rs 2,000 crore as income tax exemption annually. In such circumstances, strangers were operating the association’s bank accounts.

Lack of proper accounts for foreign contributions received, failure to present a consolidated balance sheet, unclear transactions in three accounts of the associations in banks were other problems in CSITA and non-filing of statutory returns for 2013-14 and 2014-15.

The RoC, in its report, objected to involvement of bishops of various dioceses in financial administration when constitutionally they only had powers of general oversight. The objection was mainly the view of 21 CSITA officials of Coimbatore and Kanyakumari dioceses, including their bishops, facing criminal cases. The cases against the 21 were that they allegedly misappropriated of funds and illegally sold CSI properties.

The RoC said the bishop of any diocese should obtain the permission of CSITA for sale, transfer or purchase of any property. But this has not been done, particularly in the case of a sale by the Coimbatore diocese. In view of these shortcomings, the RoC recommended investigation by the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO).

In short, the RoC found the CSITA violating provisions of Companies Act, Income Tax Act and Foreign Contribution (Regulations) Act. From July last year, the SFIO has begun probing various discrepancies in CSITA accounts since 2010 as a follow-up to the RoC report.

The complaints were filed against 10 officials of CSITA in 2015, including Dyvasirvadam. Incidentally, the Andhra Pradesh crime branch police arrested Dyvasirvadam on 22 December for alleged irregularities in a sale of church property.

Apart from the case of irregularities in the property sale, Dyvasirvadam has been charged with 10 other cases of alleged fraud, theft and sexual assault. The former bishop’s nephew G. S. Sudhir and five others also figure in the complaints of irregularities.

Dyvasirvadam was arrested in January last year for investigation over the alleged irregularities before being let out on bail. Police have told a Vijayawada court that irregularities committed in the alleged cases against Dyvasirvadam amount to Rs 530 crore.

The CSI Coimbatore diocese, which has come under scrutiny for various allegations made against its officials besides the complaints filed with the RoC, has also been in the news recently.

In April last year, the Madras High Court allowed the Coimbatore judicial magistrate to go ahead with the proceedings against the Coimbatore diocese officials, including its then bishop M. Dorai, based on a complaint filed by Prem Kumar in 2008. The complainant had alleged that CSI funds were misappropriated during 2005-06 and the Coimbatore police had found evidence against seven persons in the case.

The CSI Bishop in Coimbatore was in the news again after police in Tirupur filed a case against the current incumbent and 11 others for alleged misappropriation of funds from St Paul’s church in the hosiery town. The irregularities are said to be around Rs 15 crore.

There are similar cases of irregularities in other dioceses like Kochi. In Kochi, a land deal has courted controversy and the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) is probing it.

As and when the SFIO completes is probe, it will help culminate the efforts of the Church members that began in 2007 when they moved the Coimbatore police alleging irregularities in CSI.

CSI members say that it is time for the central government to step in on this issue and ensure that the chairman appointed by the tribunal gets CSITA rid of all its illness and cleanses the system. – Swarajya, 9 January 2019

» M.R. Subramani is an executive editor at Swarajya magazine.

CSI Synod Secretariat Chennai


 

Catholic Church threatens to expel nun for protesting against rape-accused bishop – EWD

Sr. Lucy Kalapura

“I don’t think my acts, as mentioned by the Catholic Church in its notice, are wrong. If I’d known they were wrong, I would have never committed them. …  There’s no doubt that this is an act of revenge.” – Sister Lucy Kalapura FCC

The Catholic Church in Kerala sent a warning to Sister Lucy Kalapura, a nun who was at the forefront of protests against rape-accused Bishop Franco Mulakkal, for “attending channel discussions”, writing articles in “non-Christian newspapers” and “making false accusations” against the Catholic leadership.

The canonical warning with the threat of dismissal from the congregation has been issued by Sr Ann Joseph FCC, Superior General of the Franciscan Clarist Congregation (FCC), and is widely seen as an act of retribution against the nun for participating in the protests against the bishop.

Mulakkal, who spent three weeks in the sub-jail at Pala before he got bail, has been accused of raping a nun belonging to the order of Missionaries of Jesus several times between 2014 and 2016. Though Mulakkal was divested of his pastoral duties at the Jalandhar diocese in Punjab, the Church leadership has steadfastly backed him.

Sr Kalapura and a few other nuns of the order had staged a hunger strike near the High Court premises in Kochi for weeks last year demanding the arrest of Mulakkal. The protest was seen by the Church leadership as questioning and bypassing its authority.

The letter to Sr Kalapura, accessed by Express Web Desk, read, “Your deeds on 20th September 2018 and on the following days were of most grave external scandal and harm to the Church and the FCC. You went to the Ernakulam High Court junction and participated in the protest held by the SOS Action Council on 20-9-2018 without the permission of your superior.”

“You have published articles in some non-Christian newspapers and weeklies like Mangalam and Madhyamam etc gave interviews to Samayam without seeking permission from the provincial superior. Through Facebook, channel discussions and articles you belittled the Catholic leadership by making false accusations against it and tried to bring down the sacraments. You tried to defame FCC also. Your performance through social media as a religious sister was culpable arising grave scandal.”

The Superior General has asked the nun to come in person and meet her in Kochi on January 9 to “rectify her faults”. The next canonical steps as per norms of law will be taken against the nun, the letter mentioned, if she fails to appear in person before the Generalate.

Speaking to Express Web Desk, Sr Kalapura said, “I don’t think my acts, as mentioned by the Catholic Church in its notice, are wrong. If I’d known they were wrong, I would have never committed them. I did them knowing fully well that they are right. I have no clarification to give regarding that matter. We will see what happens.” “There’s no doubt that this is an act of revenge,” she added. – The Indian Express, 9 Jan8ary 2019

Bishop Franco Mulakkal