Namami Gange: Varanasi residents may be drinking their own sewage – Neera Majumdar & Kaveesha Kohli

Ganga at Varanasi

Almost four years since Prime Minister Modi’s promise, corpses and puja leftovers still pollute the river, while data shows the holy city might be drinking its own sewage. – Neera Majumdar & Kaveesha Kohli

Narendra Modi’s top electoral promise from the ghats of Varanasi was to clean the Ganga, a Herculean task attempted by several of his predecessors without much success.

Varanasi’s 84 ghats have seen considerable improvement since Modi, the Lok Sabha MP from the holy city, became Prime Minister. Steel dustbins dot the steps of the ghats, while IL&FS, a private company, has been given the contract to manage waste.

But that’s about as far as things have gone. “There have been no deep changes, only cosmetic ones. Ghat cleaning does not mean the Ganga has been cleaned,” said P.K. Mishra, professor of chemical engineering at IIT, BHU.

On a visit to the city, The Print found that the river itself is still chock-full of floating waste, pious refuse, animal and human remains, and sewerage.

Floating bodies

In 2016, the National Green Tribunal criticised the Uttar Pradesh government for allowing dead bodies to be dumped in the Ganga.

Locals said it was common practice among Hindus to not cremate unmarried girls or babies. Even hospitals sometimes dispose of bodies of patients that aren’t claimed, they said.

However, Anil Kumar Singh, Varanasi in-charge of the UP Pollution Control Board, insisted: “No dead bodies are disposed in the Ganga. Even the remains from the cremation ghats are carried away.”

The sewage treatment problem

Varanasi generates about 321.5 million litres of sewage per day (MLD). Sewage treatment plants (STP) can only treat 101.8 MLD, while the rest flows directly into the Ganga through the Varuna and the Assi, two rivers—now effectively drains—that flow across the city.

Many problems afflict the existing STPs, which were commissioned in Rajiv Gandhi’s time as PM. Outdated technology and lack of trained staff are two major ones, as is the interruption of electricity supply, which is acknowledged by the Central Pollution Control Board but denied by the Purvanchal Vidyut Vitaran Nigam, the local supplier.

B.K. Pandey, GM of Jal Kal, the water supply and sewerage system maintenance agency, said both the Assi and the Varuna will be intercepted and their water sent to treatment plants. However, this plan may take another year to implement, as two STPs are still under construction. The plan is to complete them by March 2018 and take the total number of STPs in the city to five. The new STPs are funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission.

Another STP has been initiated under the Namami Gange project, for which the foundation stone was laid by PM Modi on 22 September 2017, three years after the flagship Ganga cleaning programme was launched.

Is Varanasi drinking its own refuse?

Varanasi’s sole functioning sewerage system was created by the British in 1917. The 100-year-old pipes have deteriorated, and in the monsoons, storm water and drain water often mix and flow into these pipelines.

A new sewer network has been laid in Varanasi under JICA, but it has been built as a rising main—which means constructed against the natural slope. Pumping stations will have to pump the waste against gravity to STPs for treatment. It is not yet operational.

Sewage is discharged into the Ganga at six points in Varanasi. These disperse waste water under some of the most famous ghats like Assi Ghat and Harishchandra Ghat. Although river front development has been sanctioned Rs 27.28 crore under Namami Gange in Varanasi, the river itself is being polluted at these ghats.

Varanasi draws 270 MLD of its water needs from the Ganga. The Bhadani Pumping Station just downstream of the Assi nullah outlet draws most of this water. This means that at the intake point, there’s a very high level of faecal coliform bacteria, and that Varanasi may be drinking its own sewage.

The Sankat Mochan Foundation has been monitoring the Ganga and its water quality for over 30 years. Latest data collected by it in June 2016 shows faecal coliform (FC) levels at 41,00,000/100 ml near the Assi confluence (Nagwa canal) and 53,00,000/100 ml at the Varuna confluence. Normal FC level is 500-2,500/100 ml for bathing water standard.

About this problem, UPPCB’s Singh said: “Till untreated sewage is flowing into the Ganga, there can be no controlling of faecal coliform.”

How much longer?

The glacial pace of Ganga cleaning has led many to doubt if it can be finished in time for the Lok Sabha elections in 2019.

Vishwambhar Nath Mishra, current head of the Sankat Mochan Temple and Foundation, said: “If you do not do anything for the Ganga itself, there is no benefit to just cleaning the ghats.”

Modi had once said in Varanasi that “Mother Ganga is awaiting a son who will accomplish the task of cleaning the river”. The question is: how long will the Ganga have to wait for her ‘sons’? – The Print, 8 January 2018

Ganga at Varanasi Facts

National Cadet Corps at Patna

Ganga clean-up law plans armed force, prison terms and fines – Shyamlal Yadav

The draft Bill makes it clear that no person or municipal authority will establish any industrial or residential or commercial premises which may result in discharge of any sewage or trade effluent into the Ganga, otherwise he may face a five-year prison term or a fine of Rs 50,000 per day or both. – Shyamlal Yadav

An armed Ganga Protection Corps (GPC) whose personnel will have powers to arrest those who pollute the river; treating a slew of actions—from obstructing the flow to commercial fishing—as cognizable offences that may attract a prison term of up to three years and a fine of up to Rs 5 lakh.

These are among the measures in the draft Bill prepared by the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation which has sought opinion of various stakeholders.

The draft, accessed by The Indian Express, says that present environmental laws aren’t adequate to restore and protect the river. The Bill calls for a National Ganga Council and a National Ganga Rejuvenation Authority to enforce the law and protect the river which flows over 2500 km.

Cognizable offences marked in the draft Bill include: construction activities causing obstruction in the river; withdrawal of ground water for industrial or commercial consumption from the land fronting the river and its tributaries; commercial fishing or aqua culture in the river and its tributaries; discharging untreated or treated sewage into the river.

Sources said a Cabinet note has been circulated to Secretaries of departments concerned and their comments are coming in.

The draft Bill envisages the Ganga Protection Corps as an armed force “constituted and maintained” by the Central government. “If any member of GPC has reason to believe that any person has committed an offence punishable under this Act, he may take such person in custody to the nearest police station.” GPC will follow Code of Criminal Procedure.

Its personnel, the draft Bill says, will be provided by the Ministry of Home Affairs and will be deployed by National Ganga Rejuvenation Authority. While almost similar provisions are there in the Environment Protection Act 1986, creation of GPC is new.

The draft Bill says that commercial fishing or aqua culture activities in the Ganga and any of its tributaries shall be punishable with imprisonment for two years or a fine of Rs 2 lakh or both. Similarly, construction of permanent structure for residential, commercial and residential purposes in the active flood plain area of Ganga will be punishable with a two-year imprisonment or fine up to Rs 50 lakh or both.

The draft makes it clear that no person or municipal authority will establish or take any steps to set up any industrial or residential or commercial premises or structure which may result in discharge of any sewage or trade effluent into the Ganga, otherwise he may face a five-year prison term or a fine of Rs 50,000 per day or both.

In July 2016, a committee was constituted under retired judge of the Allahabad High Court Justice Girdhar Malviya who had submitted a draft Bill last year named The National River Ganga (Rejuvenation, Protection and Management) Bill, 2017. Subsequently, a four-member committee was set up by the Ministry to examine that and the Ministry has circulated a Cabinet note which includes a revised version of that draft Bill.

Incidentally, as judge of Allahabad High Court, Justice Malviya, in 1998, had called for a “River Police” to protect the Ganga. – The Indian Express, 5 September 2018

Ganga bank at Kolkata

49% of Ganga has high biodiversity, but rest is adversely affected: Study – Shivani Azad

In a 1,082-km stretch of the Ganga that runs from Haridwar to Varanasi, 21 wastewater inflow points were found, where untreated sewage and industrial discharge was being dumped into the river. – Shivani Azad

A survey of the 2,525 kilometre-long Ganga river in five states, conducted as part of the Centre’s Namami Gange programme, has revealed that aquatic life in 49% of the Ganga had recorded high biodiversity, but the rest may have been adversely affected due to sewage and pollution from industries and water being diverted for agricultural activities like irrigation.

A team of 100 experts from the Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India (WII) studied the river since 2016. Elaborating on the findings, director of WII Dr Vinod Mathur said, “The study shows that 49% of the river had breeding population of aquatic fauna such as dolphins, gharials, turtles and fish. Six high biodiversity stretches were identified in the river.”

The study also found that a 565 km stretch of the Ganga from Narora to Allahabad in UP was most vulnerable, and had very little presence of aquatic life. Syed Ainul Hussain, senior scientist at WII, said, “Scarce flow of water in the mainstream has impacted this 565 km stretch profusely. Excessive extraction of water for irrigation and reduced groundwater levels due to agricultural activities are particularly having an adverse effect on this stretch of the Ganga.”  Hussain added that the government should focus on promoting crop rotation and removing water-intensive crops in the belt to stop groundwater depletion.

The survey by the institute found that water in some patches had fallen down to alarmingly low levels. Water extraction from the Upper Ganga Canal at Bhimgoda, Haridwar, Middle Ganga Canal at Bijnor and Lower Ganga Canal and Parallel Lower Ganga Canal at Narora, in particular, had reduced the flow of the river to 10% of its natural flow, scientists said. Barrages at Bhimgoda, Bijnor, Narora and Kanpur have also restricted migration of aquatic species along the river.

The survey report said that most freshwater turtle populations were declining in the Ganga due to toxic chemical substances from agricultural fields and industries and altered natural flow regime by dams and barrages, which can cause nest inundation, among other factors.

Like the freshwater turtle, the golden mahseer is declining rapidly in its natural habitat due to urbanisation, and chemical and physical alterations of their natural habitats due to the growing number of hydroelectric and irrigation projects, the report stated. The report cited that Tehri Dam had acted as a barrier to migration of golden mahaseer, leading to a decline in its population.

“In the baseline survey, we found 1,400 dolphins across the surveyed stretch, whereas in Kanpur, a stretch of about 40 km reported no dolphins at all. It indicates adverse impact of pollution and water scarcity on the biodiversity of Ganga,” said Gaura Chandra Das, who was part of the study.

The scientists also found high pesticide contamination in the Ganga in 32 different sites that were surveyed. In a 1,082-km stretch of the Ganga that runs from Haridwar to Varanasi, 21 wastewater inflow points were found, where untreated sewage and industrial discharge was being dumped into the river. – TWC/TNN, 18 September 2018

Ganga (2018)


Hindus petition Modi Sarkar for equal rights – Swarajya Staff

Hindu group meets to petition for Hindu rights

Swarajya LogoThe group intends to petition the government to discuss and pass Dr Satyapal Singh’s Private Member’s Bill No. 226 of 2016 in the forthcoming parliament session. – Swarajya Staff

The Narendra Modi government rode to power in 2014 on the back of the promise of “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas”—development for all, appeasement for none. But in the last four years, that slogan has remained confined to speeches as the acute minorityism unleashed by Sonia Gandhi-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) coalition in its decade long rule remains to be undone. During the UPA era, the government passed critical laws in education like the Right to Education Act that exempted minorities from its ambit, started various scholarships exclusive for minorities and created bodies that outlawed Hindus from becoming its members. The religious institutions such as temples are taken over by the government while churches and mosques remain untouched by the writ of the law.

It was expected that the Modi government will roll back these discriminatory laws and regulations which are stacked against the majority community but unfortunately, this has not been the priority of the Bharatiya Janata Party.

After waiting for over four years, a group of Hindu activists gathered in the national capital on the weekend (22-23 September) to press their demands. They deliberated upon various issues concerning Hindu society and passed a resolution issuing a charter which they intend to submit to the prime minister soon.

This gathering of prominent Hindus from all walks of life and throughout the country, included spiritual leaders, academics, authors, doctors, engineers, journalists, public intellectuals and concerned citizens. After a whole day of intense discussions and debates, a charter with a list of nine demands was agreed upon.

One of the most important demands includes ending legal and institutionalised discrimination against Hindus by the Indian State. The group intends to petition the government to discuss and pass Dr Satyapal Singh’s Private Member’s Bill No. 226 of 2016 in the forthcoming parliament session.

The bill is pending in the Lok Sabha and calls for amending Articles 26 to 30 of the Constitution to ensure equal rights to Hindus on par with minorities in the matters of

(a) Running educational institutions without undue interference of State;
(b) Removal of government control of Hindu temples and places of worship by restoring their management to Hindu society;
(c) Preserving and promoting Hindu heritage and culture.

Pointing to thousands of crores of foreign funding (Rs 18,000 crore in 2017-18) from institutions with ties to foreign governments and their agencies that goes into funding activities aimed at subverting Indian society and fueling conflict and separatism, the group is demanding that the central government completely ban all sorts of foreign contributions except those by Overseas Citizens of India (OCIs) in their personal capacity (in recognition of their emotional connect with India) by repealing the existing FCRA and enacting a new Foreign Contributions (Prohibition) Act.

To protect and preserve Hindu native cultural and religious traditions, practices and symbols from unwarranted interference by both government agencies (including courts) as well as others, the group has urged the government to enact a Freedom of Religion Act as soon as possible.

The group also demands that the government sets up a public sector undertaking, Haindava Samskruti Jeernoddhaarana Nigam (Hindu Culture Restoration Corporation) with an initial seed capital of not less than Rs 10,000 crores and an annual grant of a similar amount for undertaking reconstruction and restoration of all damaged, desecrated, abandoned and dilapidated Hindu temples and sacred places; revival, nurturing, patronising and promotion of Veda pathashalas, various traditional and folk art forms, dance, music, sculpture, architecture, painting, etc.

Other demands by the groups include giving the same treatment to Indian languages as English gets, a complete ban on meat and beef export, tripartite division of Jammu and Kashmir into three states of Kashmir, Ladakh and Jammu and an abrogation of Article 370 and a repeal of Article 35A.

The group will soon seek an appointment with the prime minister and submit its demands. – Swarajya, 24 September 2018.



Sacralising the cosmos, nature and life – Michel Danino

Sacred Ecology

Prof Michel DaninoMy own “belief” is that time will show the wisdom of the sacralisation of Nature early India systematically undertook. As the US astronaut Edgar D. Mitchell said in 1971, during the Apollo 14 mission, saving the planet will take nothing less than “a transformation of consciousness.” – Prof Michel Danino

If all things in this universe are impelled by consciousness — the master idea explored in the previous article in this series (“Consciousness, the Key to Indic Thought”, 6 August) — it stands to reason that all things are potentially sacred. The cosmos itself, to begin with, and this finds its way beyond India’s philosophico-spiritual texts: in his Aryabhatiya (early sixth century CE)the celebrated early Indian mathematician Aryabhata suddenly abandons his dry procedures and formulas to note, as though enthralled by the contemplation of this infinite universe, “Knowing the motion of the Earth and the planets on, one attains the supreme brahman after piercing through the orbits of the planets and stars.” Brahman (not to be confused with the creator god Brahma) is the supreme essence of this universe. Two centuries later, another fine mathematician, Lalla, will echo this thought: “He who acquires a comprehensive knowledge of the celestial sphere … sees, in front of his eyes as it were, the whole universe; he gets spiritually enriched and attains moksha….”

Let us return to earth, which must be equally sacred, as I wrote on “India’s own sacred ecology (5 December 2016); from that point of view, there is no distinction between heaven and earth, the creator and the created. (Indeed, Indian thought has enjoyed invoking such pairs of “opposites”, only to fuse them back together: Shiva-Shakti, Ardhanarishvara, Purusha-Prakriti, Harihara….) To hold nature and life sacred and occasionally to deify them has not been India’s prerogative: most other pre-Christian cultures did so too, from the Egyptian or the Greek to the Native American and aboriginal cultures, leaving behind moving invocations of Nature’s beauty and bounty as the sustainer of all life.

India, however, went further or deeper in giving this concept a body, not content with deifying oceans, mountains, rivers, animals and plants, but integrating all of them in her pantheons, worships, rituals, paintings, sculptures, monuments and literary compositions. It is easy enough to ridicule our “sacred cows”, but the same sacredness extends to all animals, even the humble rat, as Deshnoke’s temple to Karni Mata testifies, sheltering thousands of them. Before we snigger again, let us reflect on the concepts these beliefs attempt to express. Nanditha Krishna’s recent bookHinduism and Nature, provides a wealth of illustrations of this love story between the two.

But are these mere “beliefs”? They resulted, as every student of history knows, in ecological practices ranging from wildlife and forest conservation to water management and traditions of food growing and sharing—practices we are groping back towards in the current ecological crisis. Indeed, contemporary environmental thinkers, especially those of the “deep ecology” school, have often acknowledged finding inspiration from Hindu, Buddhist and Jain concepts—even as they have rejected the biblical legitimisation of man’s God-given dominance and exploitation of all creation. My own “belief” is that time will show the wisdom of the sacralisation of Nature early India systematically undertook. As the US astronaut Edgar D. Mitchell said in 1971, during the Apollo 14 mission, saving the planet will take nothing less than “a transformation of consciousness.”

The transition to the land is but a small step: imbuing the geography with sacredness began in early Vedic times. Pilgrimage sites and routes, networks of landmarks connected with the two Epics were some of the devices used with great efficiency; in today’s Tamil Nadu, villagers sometimes point to hillocks sitting in the plains as being detached lumps from the mountain Hanuman carried back, flying, from the Himalayas to Lanka. Rocks, caves and shrines were visited by Agastya or Rama or the Pandavas—anyone, in fact, as long as the place and therefore the society living there can somehow be attached to a Greater Story. This construction of a sacred geography, studied by a few scholars such as the anthropologist K.S. Singh or the geographer Rana P.B. Singh, finds no place in our textbooks, even though it was a major contributor to the cultural integration of early India and the building of an Indian identity.

Enough has been said and written on India’s classical arts: the temple builder, the sculptor’s mastery, the dancer’s body or the musician’s instrument. The artists strive to convey through their medium something of the divinity, or to connect us to it by creating a range of emotions in us. In the process, the borderline with profane art is often blurred: even a humble residence can invoke cosmic principles of vastuvidya. Ultimately, nearly nothing of daily life seems to be left out of the exercise: from birth to death, with marriage and childbirth on the way, every stage is an occasion to reconnect to a greater purpose beyond the drab daily routines. Even sexuality can be part of the sacred, as the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (no, not the Kama Sutra) makes clear.

 Food production, sharing and consumption are also part of this vision in which nothing, ultimately, is “secular”. An old legend concerning Thiruvalluvar, the author of the celebrated Kural, narrates how, whenever he sat at his meal served by his wife, he would always keep next to him a toothpick, but would never use it in the end. His wife was intrigued, but perhaps too shy to ask. After a few decades of this ritual, however, curiosity got the better of her and she asked her husband the burning question. “My dear,” he answered, “should you ever have spilled a grain of rice while serving me, I would have picked it with the toothpick, since food is a gift of the gods and not to be wasted; but I never needed to do so, since you never spilled a single grain.” Are there not some lessons here for our current cult of unbridled consumption and wastage? – The New Indian Express, 3 September 2018

» Prof Michel Danino is a French-born Indian author, scholar of ancient India, and visiting professor at IIT Gandhinagar.

Karni Devi


The terrors of the confessional – Alexander D. Samuel

Confession Booth

Alexander D. SamuelThe Church needs to allay our anxieties over undue secrecy and our concerns that public crimes will henceforth not be settled privately with impunity. Otherwise, the Church would only invite comparisons with the much derided, extra-legal khap panchayats. – Alexander D. Samuel

In 2011, two advocacy groups filed a criminal complaint against the Vatican before the International Criminal Court (ICC) for alleged commission of crimes against humanity. The crime related to the nearly 5,000 instances of sexual abuse of children and vulnerable adults committed by predatory Catholic priests. The Vatican, as the seat of the Holy See and the Catholic Church, was sought to be held responsible for allegedly covering up this extensive abuse. But the case did not stand a chance of being ruled upon, as the Vatican was not a party to the Rome Statute that created the ICC and the court consequently lacked jurisdiction.

Why then did the advocacy groups file this complaint that required intensive research and documentation? In the words of Mark Ellis, the executive director of the International Bar Association, “when you look at the concept of why and how the ICC was created, I just don’t think this (case) fits. But the filing does something that’s important. It raises awareness.” An awareness that becomes essential given the nature of the appointment, functioning and the social roles of the perpetrators involved in the abuse.

In July 2018, the chairperson of the National Commission for Women (NCW) submitted a 25-page report to the Union Home Ministry in which she recommended steps to scrap the custom of confession. This recommendation came in the wake of the allegations against priests of Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church who were accused of blackmailing and subjecting a woman to give sexual favours to them, using certain confessions she had made to one of them. The Catholic Church vociferously criticised the NCW’s recommendation.

In the words of the president of Catholic Bishops Conference of India Cardinal Oswald Gracias, abolishing confession is a “direct infringement on our freedom of religion guaranteed by the Indian Constitution.” He also stated that the state must concentrate its attention on women empowerment and domestic violence instead of “dabbling in religious matters about which it understands nothing”.

In her defence, the NCW chairperson had earlier stated, “if religious customs and practices are coming in the way of security and safety of women, NCW can definitely seek remedies. The women should not confess, especially before men. If we do not raise such issues and try to make changes, who will?” She also noted that many churches make confession compulsory to conduct marriages and baptise children.

Under Canon 989 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law, each member of the faithful, after having reached the age of discretion, “is obliged to confess faithfully his or her grave sins at least once a year”.

There have been many calls around the world, in the last few decades, for streamlining the “penance of confession”. In a gruesome murder and rape case dating back to 1960, a young schoolteacher, Irene Garza was last known to have given confession to a young priest, outside the confessional in the South Texas border town of McAllen in the United States. Her body was later found with evidence of having been raped while in coma from blunt force trauma and suffocation. But because of shoddy investigation and reluctance of elected officials to investigate a priest in the year of presidential election bid by Catholic candidate John F. Kennedy, the case went cold (The Washington Post, December 8, 2017).

But her family was persistent and the case was reopened in 2015. One of the points her family highlighted was the unusual and the inappropriate manner of taking her confession by the priest, who was the last person to have seen her (Under canon law, Can. 964 §3, “confessions are not to be heard outside a confessional without a just cause”). Father Feit, who had taken that confession was eventually held guilty last year on account of, inter alia, his own confession to the rape and murder to another priest, Father Dale Tacheny. Father Tacheny had taken Feit’s confession in 1963 but kept this confession to himself out of “a religious obligation”. He changed his mind in only 2002, after leaving the religious life and notified the police. This fact raises the other issue relating to confession—the breaking of its seal to notify temporal authorities.

Private Confession, Private Absolution

According to the Church, a confession made under the sacrament of confession/penance, is one that is made before God, even though it is a priest who hears it and he, again, absolves only in the name of God. But what this view does not factor into, is that this “private confession followed by (automatic) private (read divine) absolution” turns problematic when it involves a public crime.

Today, the Church’s earlier practice of recognising the distinction between private delicts and public crimes has whittled down. Writing in the context of requirement of breaking the seal of confession in child sexual abuse, noted theologian Joseph Grayland said that current practice “tends to equate the confessing of sin with restitution; grave sin with non-grave; grave public sin with private misdemeanour; and all restitution with the spiritual good of the penitent and not the rehabilitation of the victim” (2004:167).

He further notes: “granted that the rites of sacramental reconciliation/penance … insist on the reform or conversion of the sinner, nevertheless we are confronted by the unpalatable consideration that we may have created out of the sacrament of reconciliation/penance a culture of secret, private confession followed by a quasi-automatic absolution that has, in its own turn, so influenced the methods by which the Church is administered that the culture of secret, private confession and private absolution is now a normative part of Church governance.” (2004:155).

The case of Father Arockiaraj, accused of the murder of a 16-year-old girl, is a case in point. He had voluntarily confessed to the murder on surreptitiously recorded phone conversations with the victim’s mother but later attempted a cover-up together with his higher-ups. In fact, many priests convicted or accused of sexual abuse have often confessed to their crimes to fellow priests. The priests who take those confessions are constrained by the religious obligation of not breaking their seal and hence do not report them to the police.

This conundrum was studied in-depth by the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, that was appointed by the Australian Government in 2013. The commission that was made up of judges, a retired police official, a psychiatrist among others, recommended that laws be passed to create the criminal offence of failure to report information on child sexual abuse that is disclosed in or in connection with a religious confession made to a priest (2017:103).

The commission also recommended that religious confession for children should be conducted in an open space within the clear line of sight of another adult and if another adult is not available, the rite of religious confession for the child should not be performed (2017:59).

Both these recommendations have relevance for India. In Father Arockiaraj’s case, his actions were looked into by a “private” Canonical Court constituted by the Church. Before that body, Arockiaraj admitted that he had “bodily contact” with the victim and that he had “used her” (The Indian Express, 21 August 2016). But the Church authorities failed to report it to the police. In a statement to the media, Father John Joseph, the Vicar General of the Coimbatore Diocese, stated that the Church had acted immediately against Arockiaraj “as per the canon law”. But when asked why the Church hadn’t reported sexual abuses against a minor to police, he replied, “That was a mistake…. We are innocent…. It was a very, very unfortunate incident. There were mistakes on the part of the Church too. But we didn’t do it on purpose.”

But maintenance of secrecy seems to have sanction from the very top of the Church hierarchy. The Vatican for its part has done well to have long recognised the possibility of misuse of confessional statements by priests, similar to what has been alleged in the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church case. The 1962 Vatican document Crimen sollicitationis specifically provides for dealing with cases concerning sexual advances made by priests during or using the sacrament of confession. But ironically, not only the procedures for dealing with such cases were to be confidential but this document itself was to be kept a secret. Unfortunately, its successor document Sacramentorum sanctitatis tutela of 2001 also does not provide for reporting the crimes to the police.

In an interview with the BBC, canon lawyer Thomas Doyle said that the secret procedures amount to “an explicit written policy to cover up cases of child sexual abuse by the clergy, to punish those who would call attention to these crimes by churchmen”. In such circumstances, the Church needs to allay our anxieties over undue secrecy and our concerns that public crimes will henceforth not be settled privately with impunity. Otherwise, the Church would only invite comparisons with the much derided, extra-legal khap panchayats.

The other recommendation of the Royal Commission mentioned above, relating to reform of the procedures for taking of the confessions given by children, highlights how legal regulation of confessions given by vulnerable persons may sometimes be in order. On the other hand, the Indian NCW chairperson’s recommendation that confessions be done away with, goes beyond regulation into the realm of abolition/prohibition. But legal progress and social awareness is often achieved by quixotic undertakings—tilting at windmills as it were—as had happened in the case of the complaint lodged against the Vatican before the ICC.

When the NCW chairperson asserts, “the women should not (be compelled to) confess, especially before men”, it appeals to our logic. But in the case of a religious order where women (read nuns) are not allowed to take confessions and only men are ordained as priests, the taking of confessions of women by male priests needs further scrutiny. – Swarajya, 12 September 2018

Catholic Church must practice what it preaches – Balbir Punj

Nuns Protesting

Balbir PunjWhy has no tangible action been taken against the Bishop Franco Mulakkal and Cardinal George Alencherry, who has been accused of a cover-up of a heinous crime? – Balbir Punj

While a part of the Christian clergy is busy pontificating on the falling moral and ethical values in the country, the Catholic Church itself has been in the news for the wrong reasons, both in India and abroad.

The Church in Kerala is in turmoil. A 44-year-old nun has lodged a complaint with the state police alleging that she was first sexually abused in 2014 by Jalandhar Bishop Franco Mulakkal, who summoned her to a convent in Kerala where he was on a visit, on the pretext of discussing an important matter.  According to her, she was subsequently raped 12 times by the bishop in the following two years.

In the last week of June this year, the Kuravilangad police in Kottayam district had registered a case of rape and unnatural sex against the bishop.  The nun has alleged that the bishop, a native of Thrissur, sexually exploited her at the Missionaries of Jesus house at Kuravilangad in Kottayam. As the Jalandhar bishop is the patron of the Missionaries of Jesus, he had easy access to the congregation’s house in Kuravilangad.

Why was there such a delay on the part of the nun in lodging a complaint? She told the police that she had informed superiors of the church last year. As there was no action, she approached the police. The Kuravilangad house of the congregation has six nuns—the victim among them—police said. “Apart from the complainant, four other nuns of the same house have given statements against the bishop,” a police official told a newspaper.

Some laypeople belonging to the Ernakulam archdiocese have fielded a complaint in Kochi demanding legal action against Cardinal George Alencherry, who according to reports, has allegedly tried to protect the accused and threatened the victim to take back her complaint.

The decision to summon the highly placed accused was taken after five nuns along with their supporters, including priests from other churches, held a sit-in outside the Kerala High Court under the banner of Joint Christian Council. But why has no tangible action been taken against the bishop and the cardinal, who has been accused of a cover-up of a heinous crime?

Flash back to 1998. Four nuns were raped in Jhabua district in Madhya Pradesh. There was global uproar and Hindu organisations (read BJP and RSS) were accused by some of the ghastly crime. Many prominent Christian and so-called human rights activists started a tirade against the then NDA government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

In the wake of this dastardly incident, “social activists” appealed to the US and the UK for sanctions against India and in the process maligned the country’s image the world over. Later on, many of the rapists were found to be Christians, mainly tribals who had been converted to Christianity. Soon after, Jhabua was history. But the damage was done.

The rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Kathua, Jammu, and the rape of a 17-year-old girl in UP’s Unnao are two incidents that have shocked the nation in recent times. In the first case, a girl child was kidnapped on January 10 this year and her body was subsequently discovered near the village temple. The police promptly made some arrests; the local populace claimed there were gaping holes in the police theory and demanded a CBI inquiry. The plea for a CBI probe was termed as standing with the rapists.

In the Unnao case, the girl was raped on 4 June 2017. Two separate charge sheets, one by the CBI on 11 July 2018 naming Kuldeep Singh Sengar, a BJP MLA from Uttar Pradesh, and another on 13 July 2018 naming Sengar and his brother, three policemen and others for allegedly falsely implicating the father of Unnao rape survivor in an Arms Act case, were filed. The accused had a high status in the ruling dispensation, but this did not stop the police from taking action against them.

The Catholic Church “stood” with the rape victims of Kathua and Unnao. In a statement issued by the Archdiocese of Bombay, its spokesperson, Fr Nigel Barrett, urged the laity to speak up. He said, “Evil exists and perpetuates because good people are silent.” He said the Church has always stood in solidarity with victims of injustice. “Too often we are silent to the pain and suffering around us. Many people tend to think that if it does not affect me then it’s not my problem.”

In Thane, Bishop Allwyn D’Silva said, “Not just Catholics, people of all faiths are urged to come and raise their voice against the growing culture of intolerance and violence against women. The culprits must be brought to book and victims must receive speedy justice and compensation.”However, there is deafening silence on the part of all such votaries of ‘human dignity and moral values’ in the case of the Kerala nun. Where are the rent-a-cause activists who take to the streets at the slightest pretext? Why is there no public outrage against the tardy investigation in the Kerala nun case?

It is not only in India that the scourge of sex crimes has hit the Church. The situation at the global level is alarming. Thousands of cases of sexual exploitation, including the abuse of hapless children, by Church officials are being reported from dozens of countries all over the world. Is it not the time that the Church does some introspection, takes corrective measures and heeds its own words rather than pontificating to the rest of the society? – The New Indian Express, 20 September 2018

» Balbir Punj is a journalist and columnist and vice-president of the BJP.

Church Sex Abuse


A ten-point Hindu agenda for the BJP – R. Jagannathan

Modi & Shah

R. JagannathanDespite being labelled a Hindu party, the BJP does not seem to understand what a Hindu agenda should include beyond periodic assertions about building a Ram temple in Ayodhya. … The BJP cannot hope to become a permanent party in power without consolidating the Hindu vote. – R. Jagannathan

The eruption of Dalit violence on 2 April in protest against what was perceived as a dilution of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act following a Supreme Court judgement showed the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) inherent political weakness whenever the caste cauldron is stirred. Whether the cauldron is stirred by Dalit assertion or Opposition forces, or the two in combination, is immaterial. As a Hindu party, the BJP will feel the tremors as long as caste remains a major fault line in India.

The problem with the BJP is that it has got carried away by its 2014 rhetoric of “sabka saath, sabka vikas”, without creating its own narrative of what it is all about. Vikas (development) is a necessary condition for political success, but never a sufficient one. Vikas needs to be topped up with issues that glue its constituencies together. The Narendra Modi government, and the party under Amit Shah, have not asked themselves a simple question: what is my core constituency, and how can I not only serve it but also expand it through my policies and actions?

The answer is that the BJP is a Hindu party without actually doing much for the cause of Hindus. It does not have to be anti-minorities to be a Hindu party, but it has to be demonstrably Hindu to retain its core constituency. Without this core, it has no bargaining power with the other parties that it may need to form a government at the Centre in 2019.

Just as the United Malays National Organisation cannot lead a coalition in Malaysia without commanding the allegiance of Malay Muslims, or the Congress cannot lead the United Democratic Front (UDF) in Kerala without the backing of Nairs and Christians, the BJP cannot hope to become a permanent party in power without consolidating the Hindu vote with a positive agenda.

The BJP has managed to transcend its upper caste origins by extending its reach to Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in many states, but it is yet to cross the final emotional barrier with Dalits. This will take years, especially since there are many Dalit parties with a greater claim to their allegiance. The fact that significant sections of the upper castes are still not willing to accept Dalits as equals in many states means the BJP needs to do much more on this front. In the short run, it has no hope of attracting too many Dalit votes. The 2014 elections were an exception.

Logically, the BJP should find success by being a Hindu party for the forward and backward classes first, for, this is the constituency that is closest to emotional integration under a religious identity. The Dalits, who have been forcibly kept out of Hinduism, are unlikely to find the umbrella of Hinduism adequate for their political aspirations right now. For that to happen, the social distance between them and the rest of the Hindus has to narrow down first – and that is a tall order.

If the BJP is slipping badly on the road to 2019 (losing by-elections and allies on the way), it is because it has not kept its core constituency intact. The party lost Lok Sabha by-elections in Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh because it foolishly hoped that the caste combo it wove together in 2014 will remain permanently intact. But Indian castes are always chasing better deals. In the two UP by-polls at Phulpur and Gorakhpur, the BJP lost to a coalition of Yadavs, Muslims and Dalits. The emergence of a truly Hindu party depends on how the BJP welds all castes into a politically combined powerhouse. If the BJP does not do this, some other Hindu party will emerge and complete the process.

Unfortunately, despite being labelled a Hindu party—a label owed more to its opponents than itself—the BJP does not seem to understand what a Hindu agenda should include beyond periodic assertions about building a Ram temple in Ayodhya.

This is apparent from how it is trying to gain the Hindu vote in states like West Bengal and Kerala, where the invocations ought to be to Maa Durga, Maa Kali, Mahabali, Ayyappa and Guruvayoor Krishna. While Ram Navami and Hanuman Jayanthi have resonance everywhere, it is the stronger local rallying cries that will find you the Hindu vote. Even in UP, consider the potential of the cry “Jai Shri Krishna among the Yadavs compared to “Jai Shri Ram.

In Karnataka, the BJP behaved like a deer caught in the headlights when faced with Congress attempts to divide Hindus by giving Lingayats a separate religious identity. The logical counter to this attempt should have been a simple statement from the BJP that it will amend the Constitution to give all communities the same rights as minorities, whether they actually are one numerically or not.

This confusion comes when you are a Hindu party without being able to figure out what ought to be a Hindu agenda that is not anti-minority or bigoted.

A truly non-bigoted Hindu agenda that will unite most major castes and religious denominations ought to include the following:

#1 – Equal rights to autonomously administer educational and religious institutions, including temples, for all communities, and not just those deemed minorities.

#2 – Abolition of minority commissions along with the strengthening of human rights commissions.

#3 – Abolition of Article 370 along with greater devolution of powers to all states, both economically and politically, making India a real “union of states”.

#4 -Moves towards a uniform civil code, by giving every community the right to its own cultural practices, but with individuals having access to uniform Indian civil and criminal laws.

#5 – A ban on foreign contributions to religious bodies, which makes the funding of churches and mosques easier than temples.

#6 -An explicit commitment to prevent illegal immigration and demographic changes from destabilising India’s current religious mix. Indic religious refugees (Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Buddhists) from Pakistan and Bangladesh should be given preference for asylum and citizenship over communities from other religions. Reason: there is only one place in the world with an Indic majority, and this majority is vital for the safety and security of Indic peoples everywhere.

#7 – The Pandits who fled the Kashmir Valley must be resettled within reasonable time, with or without the consent of Kashmiri Muslims. Jammu and Ladakh need to be separated from Kashmir and given autonomy, either within the current Jammu and Kashmir Constitution, or as Union territories. Indians anywhere should be freely allowed to settle and buy properties in J&K.

#8 – Illegal immigrants from Bangladesh must be disenfranchised, but they can be given work permits so that their livelihoods are not disrupted.

#9 – The Right To Education (RTE) Act, which targets only majority institutions, must be made optional, with subsidies being offered to all institutions to take on students from the economically weaker sections. RTE should be incentive-based, not a compulsion.

#10 – The resultant Hindu party should offer power sharing deals with those who represent Dalits and Muslims. This is the road to permanent power for the BJP. Pretending it is all things to all people will not work. – Swarajya, 1 September 2018

» R. Jagannathan is the editorial director of Swarajya Magazine.

Gods are awaiting 2019


Hindus and Hindu Gods are not safe in Tamil Nadu – Team PGurus

Ganapati (with caption)

PGURUSNews gathered by Team PGurus proves beyond any doubt that Hindus could live in Tamil Nadu only under the laws and conditions prescribed and decided by the Islamic and Christian fundamentalists (Chrislamists). 

Hindus and even Hindu Gods are not safe in Tamil Nadu. While the Dravidian officials of the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment Department (HR&CE) controlling the temples in the state are vying with one another in illegally disposing of the idols of the temples across the State,  the Tamil Nadu Government is bent upon destroying the vestiges of Hindu religious festivals.

More than 6,000 idols, dating back to thousands of years have been reportedly stolen from the temples with the active connivance of the senior officials (these antique and ancient idols command billions of US dollars in the global market). The HR&CE officials move around the State in high-end limousines and own acres and acres of farmhouses in places like Kodaikanal ( கொடைக்கானல்), Ooty (உதகமண்டலம்) and Courtallam (குற்றாலம்) purchased with the booty mobilised by “selling” Hindu Gods and temple lands. It is another story and we will discuss it later.

The news gathered by Team PGurus proves beyond any iota of doubt that Hindus could live in Tamil Nadu only under the laws and conditions prescribed and decided by the Islamic and Christian fundamentalists (Chrislamists). The Dravidianism propagated by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and the followers of anarchist E. V. Ramasamy Naicker states that Hindus are second-class citizens in Dravida Nadu.

This is no exaggeration of any kind. The events witnessed in Tamil Nadu during the last three days in connection with Vinayaka Chathurthi prove beyond doubt that Hindus could survive and the State only by the charity shown by the minority groups which are slowly and stealthily overtaking the Hindu population.

Let us come to Operation Brass-tacks. The festival season in Tamil Nadu gets going by the Tamil month of Aadi and culminates with Pongal, which falls on January 15. While the month Aadi marks festivals in various Amman (Durga) temples across the State, the month of September stands out because of Vinayaka Chaturthi, a  festival quite sentimental to anyone with a little bit of Hinduism in him/ her.

Idols of Ganesha, the removal of all obstacles and symbol of prosperity and education, are installed in public places, poojas are offered and taken out as a procession with the chanting of “Pillaiyaar, Pillaiyaar, Perumai vaayndha pillaiyaar” (Pillaiyaar, Lord Ganesha, the famous one who lives under the Banyan tree). And immersed with reverence either in the nearby sea or river.

The Vinayaka Chathurthi is important to the Hindus because it is this festival which brought together all Hindus to overcome and surmount the British law of 1892 which had banned the festival. The event was revived by Bala Gangadhara Tilak, with the famous slogan “Ganapathy Bappa Moriya” as a community festival and to inculcate the spirit of nationalism among the Indians. It has been celebrated since then with gaiety and fervour.

Over the years, the Dravidians at the instance of Muslims and Christians started enforcing rules and laws to kill the spirit of Vinayaka Chathurthi. The local Jamaat and Churches started dictating to the Hindus the routes through which they could take the procession to immerse the Ganesha idols. The chanting of Ganapathi Bappa … and even Bharat Matha Ki Jay was declared illegal by the police, court and the secular brigade.

On Wednesday, September 12, the serene landscape of Shencottai (செங்கோட்டை), 70 km south of Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu lost its peace as threats of communal riots loomed large over this town bordering Kerala. The 2018-2019 festival season in Tamil Nadu began in a shocking note on Saturday (September 15) as Hindus in Shenkottai municipality decided to economically and socially boycott their Muslim [neighbours].

The Vinayaka Chathurthi began in a tension-filled atmosphere as the idols of Vinayaka had to be immersed in the picturesque Gundar River on Friday and Saturday amidst heavy police security.

“Lord Vinayaka could not come out of temples in this town without the police escort. Even Gods are not safe here,” said Shenkottai Sriram, a writer who was born and brought up in this town.

Though there were some skirmishes between the communities in the year 2011, they were sorted out and peace was restored thanks to the timely intervention of the district administration. But over the last seven years, things have gone from bad to worse as the number of outsiders who had made Shencottai their home has increased manifold, according to a police official.

Trouble erupted this year on Wednesday as a Vinayaka idol was being brought to be installed for poojas in a locality which has some Muslim population. “Nearly a dozen Muslim families reside here and they opposed the procession with the Vinayaka statue. But there are no mosques in this particular street and their opposition was to express their dominance over the area,” said Gauthaman, a local resident.

But the intervention of the district administration and deployment of police saved the situation from getting worsened. To ensure peace, the district collector declared Section 144 and this helped in maintaining law and order.

“Friday, the day of immersion, saw many incidents of rioting, stone pelting and shops being set on fire by miscreants,” said the police official. More than 30 Vinayaka statues were immersed in Gundar River. ‘By the time the devotees came back to their homes after the immersion function, someone had hurled petrol bombs at a house as well as demolished a small Vinayaka temple. This further aggravated the situation,” said Shriram.

A police official on condition of anonymity said that Islamic domination is visible all over Shencottai though the Hindus constitute the majority. “The Muslims have a commanding  position in the town’s economy and it is also discernible. But the Hindus should learn to adjust with their counterparts in other community. Isn’t it possible to avoid high decibel music and drum beating during the processions?” asked the official. He also pointed out that deployment of police during religious procession shows that the situation itself is not conducive for peace.

The rioting of the last three days resulted in many houses and business establishments owned by Hindus getting charred. Saturday saw H. Raja, the BJP national secretary entering into a verbal duel as police in Puthukottai district prevented Hindus of the locality from installing Ganapthy idols under the pretext of executing orders issued by the Madras High Court.

Though the Court has not set any stringent rules for installing Ganapathy statues, the DMK fundamentalists went around the Chennai city creating a reign of terror. From next year onwards, Lord Vinayaka may have to submit an advance application form to the State Police to get a reasonably good pooja as well as immersion. – PGurus, 16 September 2018

» Team PGurus are an association of focused individuals with expertise in at least one of the following fields viz. Journalism, Technology, Economics, Politics, Sports & Business. We are factual, accurate and unbiased.

Shilpa Prabhakar Satish