PUCL Bulletin,

August 1985

Fear of religious minorities
- By M. M. Thomas

I am glad to note that after making many ambiguous statements in the past, the Christian Union of India, under the leadership of J. R. Chandran and V. H. Devadas, has come out on 13 February, strongly in favour of immediate removal of the emergency for two reasons:

1. It has not achieved either greater justice or greater discipline in society. 'It was hoped that the emergency would create an atmosphere for promoting justice for the weaker sections of our society and bring greater discipline in the life of the nation. But we have observed that apart from some marginal and temporary benefits, the weaker sections on the whole faced greater insecurity and economic hardship. The youth of the nation, instead of being engaged in programmes of radical restructuring of society have been directed to programmes which tough good, are of peripheral character. Some of the objectives of the emergency like discipline, control of prices, improvement of production and productivity etc., any responsible government should be able to accomplish without emergency'.

2. It 'will prevent the coming election from being free and fair'.

The delegation of Bishops Nasir (CNI) and Mitchell (Methodist) and representative of YMCA, St. Stephen's College and some other Christian institutions in Delhi was in the queue at the prime minister's residence soon after Jagjivan Ram's resignation to express their loyalty to the person of Mrs. Gandhi. It is their right to do so. But I am surprised that the statement read by the moderator of CNI and published in the papers sees no moral issue in the coming elections. No political naivete can go beyond that. In the framework of our secularism, no religious leaders can have the right. The Guardian and some daily newspapers have rightly condemned this arrogance; many individuals have written in protest. I add my own.

Recently I came to know of the notice of eviction served on the Bombay Urban Industrial League for Development, by the Bombay Diocesan Trust Association because of the link of some of its staff members with the resolution of the staff conference of the Urban Industrial Rural Mission in Madras, in support of the opposition parties. To prevent exercise of freedom in elections is to do violence to citizen's rights. No trust association has the authority to coerce people by threats of eviction.

The fear of religious minorities is under standable. If existed at Independence, and it was allayed by making religious liberty not a special right of religious minorities but a common civil rights of religious minorities must be seen as coupled with the struggle for the rights of all minorities - regional, cultural and most of all political. Political freedom indeed is the guardian of all other Freedoms. It is sheer immaturity which concentrates on Christian minority rights without any reference to the issue of civil liberties and democratic rights of all citizens. The basic issue in the coming elections is whether we should give legitimacy to a state executive which has become a law unto itself and thus lawless, and uses the machinery and even welfare programmes as instruments of their arbitrariness.


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