Explaining 377

gayThe Supreme Court has delivered its verdict on gay sex. It has set aside the judgement of the Delhi High court decriminalising Section 377. It is a major set back for gay right activisits
The verdict was following an appeal filed against the verdict of the Delhi High Court which had decriminalised gay sex a couple of years back.
What is Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code? For starters in the IPC it has been termed as an unnatural offense. It states,“Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with ‘[imprisonment for life] or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.

Penetration is sufficient to constitute the carnal intercourse necessary for the offence described in this section.” Continue reading “Explaining 377”

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Church attacks-Kar is at No.1

The past couple of months have seen an increase on attacks on Christians. Karnataka in particular had made headlines when synchronized attacks took place in Mangalore where some activists complained that this was done thanks to forcible conversions undertaken by some Christian missionaries.
While the debate on forcible conversions continue, here is a report which suggests that Karnataka has the dubious of reputation of topping the list where attacks on Christians are concerned.
Dr. Sajan George, President Global Council of Indian Christians(GCIC) whose team prepared an India wide report on such attacks says that in the midst of all  great progress achieved by India, the most painful thing is the systematic attacks against Christians by anti-Christian fundamentalists in different parts of the country.
Statistics collected through complaints lodged before the various police stations across the country would show that in the year 2011 alone there have been 172 incidents across the country in which Christians have been attacked. Karnataka tops the list with 47 incidents which is followed by Orissa with 25 incidents. The other states which have witnessed such incidents are Madhya Pradesh with 15 incidents, Kerala-10, Tamil Nadu, Chattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra with 6 incidents each.
As per the complaints lodged and also the report on hand these are incidents of murder, maiming of life by breaking their limbs, damaging their eyes and ears, in most cases with permanent life-time damage. Other incidents are those of demolishing Churches, burning down churches – wholly or partly, destroying or desecrating of Christian literature like the bibles, the Eucharist, and their hymn books, their vestments, musical instruments and furniture, useful household, Church items, destroying their vehicles – cars, motor cycles and ordinary bicycles. There have been also incidents of forcibly taking over of Church properties, burial places, their personal properties, destroying their means of livelihood etc. All this is done only because of their religious faiths and not for any other personal reason or enmities, though sometimes it may play some role.
Dr George points out that with regard to Karnataka, ever since BJP assumed power in the State, the incidents have been repeatedly very high since the various Christian baiting Sangh Parivar outfits could go about executing their dark deeds with impunity either openly or covertly supported by their political mentors in the State. Hence, ever since 2008 pogrom in the State, the figure of attacks against Christians has been very high year after year to this very year with its 47incidents.
Orissa on the other hand has witnessed 3 murders in the year 2011. The report states that there is an attempt being made to hush up those incidents hush up these murders though there are proofs, witnesses and all the evidence in the world to prove without any doubt that they are murders of innocent Christians.
It is indeed very sad and even tragic that certain forces in the country are determined to  carry on the cycle of violence . Otherwise, how can one explain the fact that the fundamentalists in Kandhamal could go to the extent of declaring the shut down of the whole district from 23rd to 27th only to obstruct and deny the Christians from celebrating Christmas(finally it was reduced to 26th but many small villagers were robbed of their Christmas).
In Bangalore where more than 200 fundamentalists attacking the Agape Bible Church just at the starting of the Christmas season is another similar example of trying to dampen the very spirit of Christmas among the Christians.There was a major attack on the new year eve and on 3rd of Jan2012 in Karnataka.
Justice M F Saldanha, who had prepared a detailed paper on the church attacks in the state recently points out that such incidents should be treated as acts of terror. Attacks on Churches are very much a reality and they continue even to this day and the last three months have also seen a lot of attacks on Christians and Churches.

Treat church attacks as acts of terror

Photo courtesy: Wikimedia

A furore has been created in Karnataka and this time its once again regarding the Church attacks. Justice M F Saldanha, former judge of the Bombay and Karnataka High Court created a storm when he said that attacks on Churches should be treated as terrorist strikes. He went on to say that such acts are nothing but a manifestation of terrorism and there are many forms of terrorism and attacks on minorities is one of them.

The Karnataka state Government has claimed that the situation is under control where such attacks are concerned, but the fact remains that three more churches were attacked only last month. Justice Saldanha says that this is becoming a difficult situation and during his very recent visit to Britain and France there was utter dismay over the situation. He even said that the top leadership has expressed dismay over these attacks.

Justice Saldanha who had prepared a detailed paper on the Church attacks recently says in this interview with rediff.com that if religious fanatism in Afghanistan is being treated as an act of terror, then I do not see any reason why attacks on Churches should not come under the same purview.

Have the attacks on Churches in Karnataka stopped?

Absolutely not. It continues to be a threat and even last month three churches in the Mangalore belt were attacked by miscreants.

How do you the state government of today dealing with the issue. Pre and post Yeddyurappa?

I feel it is a better situation. I really would not blame B S Yeddyurappa for the entire episode. It was his then Home Minister, Dr V S Acharya who is to be blamed for this thanks to complete inaction. He being a pracharak was answerable to the RSS and this is what led to the situation turning worse in these areas. All that Yeddyurappa did was support Acharya.

Regarding your discussion of this issue with the international community. You have been asked whether you are an Ambassador of the country to discuss our country’s problems abroad. Your thoughts on this sir.

Yes this question has been asked to me several times. Let me tell you I was not in the UK and France to discuss this matter. I was there to deliver a lecture. If the people there come and express their concern, it is not my fault. You may remember that the report that I have prepared is treated as an authentic one and this is what people want to know about.

Speaking of the discussion abroad. What do they really think of the Church attacks?

They are obviously concerned and treat some areas as unsafe. The states which come to their mind are Gujarat, Karnataka and Orissa.

Do you also feel that these three states are the worst hit where safety of Christians are concerned?

As of today the problem is only in Karnataka. The other states have taken stock of the situation and such attacks have stopped. I have been told that the Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi has been doing an excellent job where the development of his state is concerned. Now when this is the reputation that every one has don’t you think a Church attack would only ruin it. Why should a prosperous state be known for negative incidents? Karnataka should also bear this in mind.

Is it even right on the part of the international community to sit in judgment about the issues over here?

They have expressed concern. Even we do express concern if there is violation of human rights in other nations. The fact is that the eyes of the world are on us and we cannot afford to set a bad precedent. Countries have been issuing advisories while travelling to India. If we portray to them that we are an intolerant state then such advisories would only increase and in the long run we would only lose in terms of revenue. Do we need this?

Now coming to your controversial statement about equating the Church attacks to terrorism. Could you explain that a bit to us?

These are not just incidents of communal violence. These are ways of terrorising a community and hence it should be treated as terrorism. Look at the manner in which the fanatics in Afghanistan behave. Has that not been treated as terrorism? Hence the same rule of law ought to be apply here as well.

Although repealed, are you trying to say that acts such as POTA or a TADA should be applied in such cases?

There are enough laws on hand to deal with terrorism. I feel the similar laws should be applied here as well. All I am saying is these cases should not be treated as cases of communal disharmony. The culprits tend to get away easily and the punishment should be such that it should act as a deterrent for further incidents.

Is there a change in the manner in which the Christians in Karnataka feel today after all these incidents?

That is my biggest worry. Do you really think the Christians will not fight back if they are terrorised this way every now and then. What do we gain at the end of it? Reaction and counter reaction. It will be absolute chaos and this is very bad in the larger interest of the state. Safety of a community being threatened is secondary, but the repurcussions is what we must worry about.

Has the Christian community started looking to the international community for help?

No they have not. Discussing the issue abroad does not mean we are looking for help. If the state government fails then we always have the union government to look up to.

Are you hopeful that the recommendations in your report will be acted upon?

Let us hope. But it has created an awareness.

SIT for black money probe-its unique

The Supreme Court of India issued a very unique order today when it directed a Special Investigating Team be set up to monitor the investigation into the issue of black money.

Former judges say this order is a commendable one and the intention was obvious that it wanted to set up a body which is independent of any political interference.

Justice M F Saldanha, former judge of the Karnataka and Bombay High Court says that the Supreme Court does appoint panels to over see matters and the order that was passed was very much within the right and powers of the Supreme Court. However setting up an SIT is unusual in nature since the Supreme Court has not done something of this sort before.

However what we need to look at is that the Supreme Court has made its intention very clear. They have clearly stated through this order that it does not trust anyone but itself to monitor the investigation. Usually the Supreme Court in earlier cases has said that it would monitor the investigation directly and the investigating agency would report to it directly. However now what it has done it has set up an exclusive body which would monitor the on going investigation. This body is independent of any agency and would report exclusively to the Supreme Court of India.

In the case of black money the allegation is that each and every political party has some stake in it and the court took into account that precious little was happening because of this.

What setting up an SIT would do is that it would dedicate itself to this case. The situation where black money is concerned is grave and hence such a body was needed. It is unusual and innovative on part of the Supreme Court since such a thing has not happened before.

The SIT appointed by the Supreme Court would act as a watch dog. Although it would only monitor the investigation it would still have powers to order the investigating agency the manner in which the probe needs to be conducted. More importantly it can pull up and also question the investigating agency about the probe and also ask it to look in the direction it would want it to. It can call for records and also direct the investigating agency to speed up the probe.

However this body would have to report to the Supreme Court from time to time and can only disclose details regarding the probe to the court. However it would all depend on how the Supreme Court handles this committee. The government as we have seen in the past is quite capable of frustrating the process and the Supreme Court as well as the SIT would have to deal with these aspects.

We need to see whether this innovation on part of the Supreme Court would work or not. But I must add that it is a very important and innovative order on part of the court.

This team would be slightly different when compared to the rest of the committees appointed by the Supreme Court. The other committees have been more of fact finding institutions which go into issues by itself and also rely on the rest of the agencies. However the SIT is an independent body which will be an authority over all the agencies which are looking into the issue of black money. Basically one would have to say that the jurisdiction of this SIT is very vast.