March 27, 2015

TURKEY: Turkish Cartoonists Sentenced To 11 Months In Jail For ‘Insulting’ Muslim Brotherhood President Erdoğan. More Than 70 People Have Been Prosecuted For Insulting Erdogan Since Aug 2014.

BGN News
written by Staff
Wednesday March 25, 2015

ISTANBUL - The ever-increasing cases of ‘insulting President Erdoğan’ now hits two cartoonists from popular satirical weekly Penguen, who received 11 months in prison each.

Cartoonists Bahadır Baruter and Özer Aydoğan were sued for the Aug. 21, 2014, cover of the magazine, which satirized Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s election as Turkey’s president.

In the drawing, Erdoğan is seen asking whether officials at the new presidential palace in Ankara have prepared “any journalists to slaughter” referring to ritual sacrifice in Islam, to mark his inauguration.

Soon after the publication, a Turkish citizen named Cem Safcıer filed a complaint to the Prime Ministry, arguing that the “ball-shaped” hand gesture is used to imply that the person being addressed is homosexual.

A prosecutor then prepared an indictment to open a lawsuit, claiming that the hand gesture was “against the ethical and cultural norms of Turkish society” and “went beyond the boundaries of criticism, to an insult.”

Erdoğan’s lawyers, who stepped into the case, sided with the prosecutor, demanding that the court punish the cartoonists for “insulting a public official.”

The cartoonists, who faced a prison sentence of up to two years, defended themselves in the first hearing of the case at the 2nd Criminal Court of First Instance in Istanbul March 19.

“If you look at the whole picture, you see that the joke has got nothing to do with the gesture. There is no such comedic technique being employed,” Baruter said.

Aydoğan also pleaded not guilty, arguing that Baruter drew the picture as he conceived it and “such a simple thing could not be included in this joke.”

The court, however, sentenced both cartoonists to 14 months in prison on March 24. Considering the “good conduct” of the cartoonists during the trial, the court decreased the sentence to 11 months and 20 days, before converting it to a fine of TRY 7,000 for each convict.

The crime of “insulting someone” is normally punished by three months in prison according to Turkish law. However, if the complainant is a public servant, the possible prison term is extended to one year. If the “insult” is conveyed “publicly,” such as via a media outlet, the law stipulates an extra one-sixth increase in the prison term.

Risk of trial for insulting prosecutor, too

Despite the “good conduct” decrease in the verdict, Baruter now faces another trial due to his defense which prompted the court to file a separate criminal complaint. Baruter told the court in his March 19 defense that the “incorrect interpretation of the hand gesture by the prosecutor could be related to his subconscious.” The court considered the remark another insult, this time against the prosecutor.

This is not the first time Erdoğan has sued Penguen. He previously demanded TRY 40,000 in compensation from the magazine after they published a cover depicting the then-prime minister as various animals.

The magazine published that cover to support cartoonists from the dailies Cumhuriyet and Evrensel, who were earlier condemned to pay non-pecuniary damages to Erdoğan. A court in Ankara ruled to dismiss that case in 2006.

More than 70 people in Turkey have been prosecuted for “insulting” Erdoğan since he was elected president in August 2014. Cumhuriyet Editor-in-Chief Can Dündar testified in İstanbul on Feb. 26 over allegations that he insulted the head of state in an interview with a prosecutor who had been investigating corruption, describing the process as a “kind of deterrence policy.”

Most recently on March 9, a local journalist in southern Turkey was given a five-month suspended prison sentence, while the houses of two more journalists from the same city were raided by police, all for “insulting” Erdoğan on their social media accounts.

CZECH REPUBLIC: Czechs Import Wild Horses To Save Biodiversity. :) Meanwhile Our US Gov Is Rounding Up Wild Horses To Sell For Horsemeat. :/

CBS News
written by AP staff
Monday March 23, 2015

MILOVICE, Czech Republic -- Twenty-five years ago it was a military zone where occupying Soviet troops held exercises. Today it's a sanctuary inhabited by wild animals that scientists hope will improve biodiversity among local plants as well as save endangered species.

A herd of 14 wild mares from Britain's Exmoor National Park were moved in January to the former Milovice military base, 35 kilometers (22 miles) northeast of Prague, the Czech capital.

After an acclimatization period at a small enclosure, the horses were released Saturday to a 40-hectare (99-acre) area. Their task is to stop the spread of aggressive and evasive grasses - including bushgrass - that are delicacies for them. The invasive plants began to grow after Soviet troops withdrew in 1991, threatening the area's original plants and animals. A stallion will join the mares in April.

Dalibor Dostal, director of European Wildlife, the organization behind the project, said scientists decided that using big-hoofed animals such wild horses, which "maintained the steppe character of nature across Europe for thousands of years," could solve the invasive plant problem in the most effective way. That should also help some 30 threatened species in the area, including the Mountain Alcon Blue butterfly and the Star Gentian flowering plant.

"Alternatives to wild animals are very expensive and their impact on the environment is not very good," Dostal said.

Domestic animals such as sheep were ruled out because they would feed on the endangered plants, and mechanical cutting costs too much.

"(The horses) will move freely on the pastures the whole year. If they have a source of water and enough space, they don't need any care. They are able to care of themselves," Dostal said.

Environmentalists are already planning to expand the territory and use other big-hoofed animals such as European bison.

The Soviet army that stayed after the 1968 Soviet-led invasion of then-Czechoslovakia was the last armed force in the area. Dostal said the soldiers' activities actually simulated the impact of hoofed animals, a reason why "military zones in the Czech Republic are the places with the best biodiversity."

SAUDI ARABIA: Saudi Arabia Islamic Sharia Court Sentenced Woman to 70 Public Lashes for Insulting Husband on WhatsApp.

Breitbart News
written by Mary Chastain
Tuesday March 17, 2015

A Saudi Arabian court in Al-Qatif sentenced a 32-year-old woman to 70 lashes and a fine of 20,000 Saudi Riyals ($5,333.33) after she insulted her husband on the WhatsApp mobile app.

She wrote, “I pray to be patient enough to put up with you,” along with his initials. The husband found the message and told the court he was “‘embarrassed’ and felt his reputation was being ‘tarnished.’”

The status led to a divorce.

“We were already miles apart in our relationship so I decided to divorce her before she retold my entire life story on social media,” he said.

The court claimed the woman is “guilty of tarnishing the reputation of the complaint [sic] through the application.” The man filed the complaint after “an argument with the woman.” The officials did not explain the disagreement, but the woman “admitted she had insulted the man.” She also “rejected the court ruling.”

Saudi Arabia’s Anti-Cyber Crime Law under Article Three says that “whoever defames or inflicts damage upon others through various information technology devices ‘shall be subject to imprisonment for a period not exceeding one year and a fine not exceeding SR500,000 [$133,306.61] or to either punishment.’”

On March 5, Saudi Arabian authorities arrested an Indian national when he posted “a controversial photo of Mecca’s Grand Mosque juxtaposed with Hindu religious symbols on Facebook.” A citizen brought the evidence to the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, which is the Saudi religious and morality police. Authorities arrested the man at the airport, but he claimed he “‘liked’ a link just to see the picture and the photo automatically uploaded on his Facebook page.”

In January, authorities arrested the man who filmed a brutal video of a woman beheaded in public in Mecca. Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Mansour Turki told The New York Times via text message that “such matters fell under the country’s law against cybercrimes,” confirming the arrest.

The religious police shut down over 10,000 Twitter accounts “in 2014 over religious violations.”

“The crimes include religious or moral violations via the Internet,” said Turki Al-Shulail, the spokesman of the morality police. “The number of these accounts has increased during the last five years and there is a need to put an end to them and arrest the users who publish material against our religion and society.”

DEMOCRACTIC REPUBLIC of CONGO: Elephant Massacre Uncovered; 30 Animals Killed In 15 Days. >:/


Huffington Post
written by Ed Mazza
Thursday March 26, 2015

Dozens of elephants are being slaughtered at a national park in the Democratic Republic of Congo as armed militants aggressively move into the poaching business, using money from illegal ivory to buy food, weapons and ammunition.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) said this week that 68 elephants have been killed in Garamba National Park in the past two months, with AFP reporting 30 killed in just over two weeks.

"We have a group of north Sudanese coming inside the park, spreading in small groups and during 15 days they killed 30 elephants," African Parks conservation director Jean Marc Froment, whose group co-manages the park, told the news agency. "These are very experienced elephant hunters."

There are just 150 rangers patrolling Garamba's more than 5,000 square miles, AFP reports. As a result, the park's estimated 1,700 elephants have become an easy target for poachers and armed militants, some of whom are entering from neighboring countries.

From April 2014 through January of this year, 131 elephants were found dead in the park, according to the Enough Project. The group says Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony's Lord’s Resistance Army, renegade elements of the Congolese national army and armed poachers from South Sudan and Sudan have all been killing elephants in the park.

In some cases, gunmen using high-powered rifles have attacked from helicopters while men on the ground with chainsaws removed the tusks.

Enough Project said the black-market price of ivory in Asia is between $1,000 and $1,300 per pound, and that a single tusk can fetch between $20,000 and $175,000, depending on the size. The organization has prepared an interactive report on elephant poaching in Garamba National Park, which can be seen here.

In Africa, the tusks aren't always traded for money. Warlords will sometimes trade them for ammo; a single tusk can fetch 18,000 bullets, Sasha Lezhnev, Enough Project's associate director of policy, told the Daily Mail.

Last year, representatives from 41 nations signed a declaration in London, vowing to help protect endangered animals such as elephants. However, the IFAW said 15 of those countries haven't provided any evidence to show they were following through on that commitment.

“It is appalling that countries like Chad, Cameroon and Democratic Republic of Congo, with elephant populations under extreme threat from poaching for their ivory, can’t show any headway whatsoever in slowing the slaughter,” Jason Bell, director of the IFAW Elephant Program, said in a news release.

THAILAND: Thailand Toughens Trafficking Law With Death Penalty, Steep Fines.

Reuters News
reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat; written by Amy Sawitta Lefevre
Thursday March 26, 2015

Thailand's parliament voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to introduce harsher punishments for human traffickers, including life imprisonment and the death penalty in cases where their victims had died.

Thailand's move came a day after Britain passed a law that could see traffickers face life imprisonment, and marked the latest step to combat a multi-billion dollar trade in human misery.

Thailand's National Legislative Assembly (NLA) voted to amend the country's Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act in the third reading.

The changes will allow prosecutors to seek the death penalty and fines of up to 400,000 baht ($12,281) for those convicted of trafficking offences, Police General Chatchawan Suksomjit said.

"If the trafficked person dies in the hands of the trafficker then the sentence can now be life in prison or even the death penalty," said Chatchawan, who headed the committee responsible for amending the act.

If a victim of human trafficking is severely injured, those responsible can be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison and fined up to 400,000 baht, he said.

"The fine has now increased and goes up to 400,000 baht if the trafficker causes grievous bodily harm to the trafficked person."

The U.S. State Department last year downgraded Thailand to the lowest category in its annual ranking of countries based on their counter-trafficking efforts.

Thailand's military government said in January it was "confident" it had met the minimum standards to improve its ranking.

But a government report aimed at lifting Thailand from the list of the world's worst offenders showed Thailand identified fewer victims of human trafficking last year than in 2013 and convicted fewer perpetrators.

Thailand is a source, transit and destination country for human trafficking.

($1 = 32.5700 baht)

INDONESIA: 4,000 Fishermen Stranded On Some Indonesian Islands; Myanmar Slaves On Thai Boats Spark Controversy.

Associated Press
written by Margie Mason
Friday March 27, 2015

JAKARTA, Indonesia — An estimated 4,000 foreign fishermen are stranded on a number of remote islands in eastern Indonesia, including men revealed in an Associated Press investigation to have been enslaved, an aid group said.

Many of the migrant workers were abandoned by their boat captains following a government moratorium on foreign fishing that has docked vessels to crack down on illegal operators, said Steve Hamilton, deputy chief of mission at the International Organization for Migration in Indonesia.

"It is reasonable to expect many are victims of trafficking, if not outright slavery," he said, adding the group has been working for years with Indonesian authorities to repatriate trafficked fishermen.

About a quarter of the men are in Benjina, a town that straddles two islands in the Maluku chain, according to an Indonesian official who recently visited the area.

The AP reported Wednesday that men were locked in a cage at a fishing company in Benjina. Journalists interviewed more than 40 migrant workers from Myanmar who said they had been brought to Indonesia from Thailand and forced to work on trawlers with Thai captains. Some are runaway slaves who have lived in the islands for five, 10 or even 20 years.

They described horrendous working conditions while at sea, saying they were forced to drink unclean water and work 20- to 22-hour shifts with no days off. Almost all said they were kicked, whipped with toxic stingray tails or otherwise beaten if they complained or tried to rest. They were paid little or nothing.

The yearlong AP investigation used satellites to track seafood caught by the slaves from a large refrigerated cargo ship in Benjina to Thailand, where reporters watched it being unloaded onto dozens of trucks over four nights. The lorries were then followed to a number of processing plants, cold storage operations and the country's largest fish market. From there, U.S. Customs records were used to link the fish to the supply chains of some of America's largest supermarkets and retailers.

The report prompted the U.S. government and major seafood industry leaders to renew their calls on the Thai government to crack down on slavery at sea and to punish those responsible. Thailand's biggest seafood company, Thai Union Frozen Products, announced that it immediately cut ties with a supplier after determining it might be involved with forced labor and other abuses.

Thai and Indonesian leaders have said they are investigating and will take action to end slavery.

*****

Mizzima News, Myanmar/Burma
written by Staff
Friday March 27, 2015

A year-long investigation by Associated Press reporters has revealed hundreds of Myanmar migrant workers are being used as slaves on fishing boats in Indonesian waters.

The report by Robin McDowell, Margie Mason and Martha Mendoza entitled, AP Investigation: Are slaves catching the fish you buy? examines the fate of hundreds of migrant workers – mostly Myanmar nationals – tricked into working on fishing boats in Indonesian waters under bad conditions, unable to escape.

According to the report by AP, released on March 25, the men interviewed on the Indonesian island village of Benjina were mostly from Myanmar, one of the poorest countries in the world. They were brought to Indonesia through Thailand and forced to fish. Their catch was then shipped back to Thailand, where it entered the global stream of commerce. Many men are said to have died.

The report, which included video footage, shows men locked up in Benjina and includes men shouting at night from a fishing boat to the reporter that they were being held against their will.

The reporting suggests the workers primarily from Myanmar and Thailand are used on Thai fishing boats and the resulting marine catch ends up in Thailand and on dining tables in the United States and Europe.

The revelations are not new. Thailand’s ranking in the US Trafficking in Persons assessment has fallen and several media reports have covered the abuse of migrant workers in the fishing industry. However, the AP report comes out with more “smoking gun” evidence of slavery in the Southeast Asian fishing industry and covers the issue in depth. Thai fishing boats and their captains are painted as the main culprits in the affair.

Thai reporting on the slavery allegations has resulted in a harsh response from Thai junta leader Prayuth Chanocha.

General Prayuth said the government will summon Channel 3 journalist Thapanee Ietscrchai who has been carrying out her own reporting on the slavery revelations on Indonesia’s Benjina Island. She reported about hundreds of graves said to belong to Thai fishermen who died allegedly due to the poor conditions or abuse.

“Please don’t escalate this news,” he told the Thai media.

"I tell you Thapanee. Come see our officers. What good does it do to talk on the outside? If I cannot solve this problem because of your report, what would you say? Is it illegal?” said General Prayuth in an angry tirade, according to the Bangkok Post.

He asked the media not to report on human trafficking without considering how the news will affect the Thailand’s seafood industry and reputation abroad. Millions of dollars in business is at stake, he said.

The Thai leader lashed out at reporters on March 25, saying he would “probably just execute” those who did “not report the truth,” in a straight-faced comment that has further worsened his relations with the media.

- See more at: http://www.mizzima.com/news-international/myanmar-slaves-thai-boats-spark-controversy#sthash.tFUTqvQ4.dpuf

AFGHANISTAN: What a Mob Says About the State of Islam in Afghanistan. A Brutal Lynching of a Women Highlights the Intolerance Preached in Afghanistan. Excellent Piece!


CAUTION: VERY GRAPHIC: showing regular Muslim schmoes, NOT CIA or Mossad that Islamic tools like to blame for all of the atrocities committed by Islamist around the world.

Khaama Press, Afghanistan
written by Nushin Arbabzadah
Friday March 27, 2015

The brutal lynching of Farkhunda, has revealed a number of significant issues regarding the state of Islam in Afghanistan.

The most crucial is that a fanatic strand of Islamic has become normalized, and accepted by a mainstream audience. The imam who incited the violence, the mob who lynched Farkhunda, the bystanders who filmed it — they were not the disenfranchised. They were ordinary Afghans, members of the middle class, including shop keepers. The initial public reaction was approval, expressed by public figures representing the spheres of culture and education.

They included a female deputy culture minister, who said, in reference to the murder, that nothing can stand in the way of the pure faith of the people. Rahel Musavi, a presenter on Tamadon TV, provided another public message of support saying, “She deserved to burn in the fire of the people’s anger.” And then there was the sermon of the imam, Ayaz Niazi, whose message can be summed up as follows: The people who killed Farkhunda were correct and the police have no right to arrest them. If they do, the people have the right to stage an uprising. This imam has a doctorate in Islamic law from the most respected institution in the Muslim world: the Al-Azhar University in Egypt and he teaches at Kabul University in addition to being an imam at a mosque in an affluent area of Kabul. All three figures used the phrase “people’s sentiments and beliefs” to stress the legitimacy of the lynching. Initially, similar messages of support abounded before the voices of opposition made themselves heard.

What do we learn from this? A populist, fanatic strand of Islam appealing to base emotionality has become mainstream, finding an audience in all levels of society.

What Kind of Islam?

Listening to the preacher Niazi’s sermon, it is easy to learn what kind of Islam is disseminated to the wider population through the institutions of mosques, universities, and religious media outlets. A key characteristic of this version of Islam is that is encourages lawlessness. Niazi told the mosque audience, that their religious sensitivity is the supreme source of legitimacy, overriding the legitimacy of the state and law enforcement. But to what extent? According to the sermon, it would seem that the believer is entitled to kill first and ask questions later. Even if it turns out that the believer was wrong, the supremacy of his religious emotions are such that police has no right to arrest him. In other words, religious sentiment, not religion, is the supreme force and the prime source of legitimacy in Afghanistan. This was what Niazi was endorsing.

From this it becomes clear that what the mob did to Farkhunda was putting into action the lessons that they were taught in mosques and schools, in religious media and at universities: that their religious emotions entitle them to murder. Hence, the lynching was not a breach of “religious norms,” it was the practicing of these norms. It is also useful to bear in mind that Niazi is classified as a moderate Muslim.

The Consequence

Why do preachers and similar public figures, encourage, empower and legitimize the emotional aspect of religiosity? I’d argue that public figures like Niazi, the deputy minister, and the TV presenter do not lead by example, do not guide, and do not educate. They tell people what they want to hear. The result of this mutual charming is that everybody who belongs to this collective is kept happy, feeling understood and validated. At the top, public figures are ensured popular support. At the bottom, the mob is appeased that the enemy and the oppressor is outside, not within.

The Enemy Outside

Who is the enemy outside? In the first stage of the encounter, the crowd that gathered around Farkhunda while she was still alive, said the following things about her in her presence, as if she were not there: Americans have sent her. She’s French. She’s German.

This is how Farkhunda was declared a non-Muslim, which automatically turned her into an enemy. This, too, is a result of the interpretation of Islam that has become mainstream in Afghanistan. An outsider is automatically classified as an enemy and an enemy, in turn, is not seen as a fellow human being deserving of a life or a space to share with the Muslims in this world.

Later, the Afghan media rightly explained that Farkhunda was a victim of prejudice and that her protestations were ignored, and deemed insignificant. Farkhunda’s mother asked, “Why did they say she was foreign? Are these people not capable of recognizing their own language when someone speaks it?” Indeed, why did the mob not recognize a fellow Afghan girl, born, raised and educated in their own city?

There are two reasons. First, their perception of reality was not shaped by what they saw and heard with their own eyes and ears but by the words of the shrine’s imam. He said that Farkhunda had burnt the Quran. Caught between their own perception and the imam’s description of reality, the crowd was incapable of thinking for themselves. A Muslim could not possibly burn the Quran. She had to be a foreigner. The mob immediately believed the imam. After all, a man of god does not lie.

This is how brain-washing works. Afghan imams do not practice religious education. What they do is mass manipulation.

The Consequence

Making Farkhunda part of the “other” was the catalyst for the unleashing of an extraordinary high level of aggression. Watching the video, what we see is lustful violence. The release gives the murderers a physical high. Like all forms of intoxication, the feeling of elation need to be fed, so the violence grew in intensity, kicking led to beating with sticks and metal bars, followed by running the body over with a car, followed by throwing the body into the dry river bank, followed by throwing stones and finally, burning.

Many Afghans continue to believe that the supreme law is their own religious emotions. This belief is not natural, it’s carefully cultivated and sustained through collective effort. Some comply out of fear, others out of populist motivation, others because they are ignorant. Afghan activists are some of the few who have opposed the message. In return, they have received threats. The nature of these threats is summed up by the following statement that a TV personality working for a religious channel said that Farkhunda’s burning will be a lesson to the other whores. Many Muslims around the world share this view. The precedent was set in England with the Salman Rushdie affair, when, in December 1988, 7,000 British Muslims gathered in Bolton and set fire to Rushdie’s book in the name of offended religious sentiment Since then we have had the phenomenon of global terrorism carried out by individual Muslims who believe that their religious emotions are the source of supreme legitimacy, overriding any other law. The result is that we all live in fear of the Muslim next door.

March 26, 2015

INDIA: The Supreme Court Ruled Poor Christians Who Reconvert To Hinduism Will Be Allowed To Receive Govt Welfare Assistance. Otherwise, Christian Poor Are Outcast.

The Indian Constitution
OUTLAWED castes more than 60 years ago.

"The Hindu caste system is in many ways almost an ideal example of the autarkic separation of various groups of each other. Each caste has its own proper moral and social code and there is no presumption that there is a correct, universal code for all - other than the universal principle of adherence to the norms of one's caste [...] Because status groups are grounded in exclusion that is enforced spontaneously by norms of exclusion, they are inherently communal. Their norms therefore cannot survive outside the relevant community" (Hardin 2001: 219).

Nevertheless it has to be mentioned that the caste system has formally been abolished by the Indian Constitution: "Article 17 abolished untouchability and its practice in any form, while Article 15 outlawed discrimination based on religion, caste, race, sex, or place of birth" (Montgomery 2001: 187).
The Indian Express
written by Utkarsh Anand in New Delhi
Friday February 27, 2015

Amid the controversy over “ghar wapsi”, the Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that a person who “reconverts” from Christianity to Hinduism shall be entitled to reservation benefits if his forefathers belonged to a Scheduled Caste and the community accepts him after “reconversion”.

Citing articles by B R Ambedkar and James Massey, and reports by Mandal Commission and Chinappa Commission, the court said: “There has been detailed study to indicate the Scheduled Caste persons belonging to Hindu religion, who had embraced Christianity with some kind of hope or aspiration, have remained socially, educationally and economically backward.”

The bench of Justices Dipak Misra and V Gopala Gowda held that a person shall not be deprived of reservation benefits if he decides to “reconvert” to Hinduism and adopts the caste that his forefathers originally belonged to just because he was born to Christian parents or has a Christian spouse.

Expanding the scope of a previous Constitution bench judgment, the bench said the reservation benefits for the castes recognised under the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950, could not be confined to only those whose parents had converted to Christianity. “If a person born to Christian parents, who had converted to Christianity from the Scheduled Caste Hindu, can avail the benefits of the caste certificate after embracing Hinduism, there cannot be any soundness of logic that he cannot avail similar benefits because his grandparents were converted and he was born to parents who were Christians,” it said.

The bench, however, said the person must fulfill three mandatory conditions to avail such benefits after “reconversion” — there must be clear proof that he belongs to a caste duly recognised as a Scheduled Caste, that he has “reconverted” to the original religion to which his parents or earlier generations belonged, and that he has been accepted by the community.

The bench further clarified that marriage to a Christian person would not entail disqualification. “As far as marriage is concerned, in our considered opinion, it should not have been considered as the central and seminal facet to deny the benefit. When the community has accepted and the community, despite the marriage, has not excommunicated or expelled, the same would not be a disqualification,” it said.

The court ruling came on an appeal filed by a person whose caste certificate was cancelled in 2006 by the scrutiny committee, set up under the Kerala (Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes) Regulation of Issue of Community Certificates Act, on the ground that he was born to Christian parents and was not following the traditions of the community.

K P Manu’s great grandfather belonged to a Hindu community, and his grandfather converted to Christianity. Manu’s parents also practiced Christianity. However, when he was 24, Manu “reconverted” to Hinduism and got a caste certificate from the Akhila Bharata Ayyappa Seva Sangham — an institution recognised by the state government for issuing caste certificates.

He was employed in Malabar Cements, a state government undertaking. After his certificate was cancelled, the state administration ordered his removal from service and also sought to recover Rs 15 lakh paid as salary to him.

The bench, however, ruled in his favour, noting that he fulfilled all the three conditions required to avail the benefits. It ordered the state to reinstate Manu with all the benefits relating to his seniority and caste, and said he should be paid back wages up to 75 per cent within eight weeks.
Safeguards in the Indian Constitution for Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) [source: University of Washington, School of International Studies; Student Handout, page 50]

The important Constitutional safeguards for SCs & STs are mentioned below:

DIRECTIVE PRINCIPLES OF STATE POLICY

Article 46
A comprehensive article comprising both the developmental and regulatory aspects. It reads as follows:
“The State shall promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections, of
the people, and in particular, of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes, and shall protect them from
social injustice and all forms of exploitation.”

SOCIAL SAFEGUARDS

Article 17
“Untouchability” is abolished and its practice in any form is forbidden. The enforcement of any disability
arising out of “Untouchability” shall be an offence punishable in accordance with law.

Article 23
Prohibits traffic in human beings and beggars and other similar forms of forced labour and provides that any
contravention of this provision shall be an offence punishable in accordance with law. It does not specifically
mention SCs & STs but since the majority of bonded labour belong to SCs/STs this Article has a special
significance for SCs and STs.

Article 24
Provides that no child below the age of 14 years shall be employed to work in any factory or mine or
engaged in any other hazardous employment. There are Central and State laws to prevent child labour. This
article too is significant for SCs and STs as a substantial portion, if not the majority, of child labour engaged in
hazardous employment belong to SCs and STs.

Article 25(2)(b)
Provides that Hindu religious institutions of a public character shall be thrown open to all classes and sections
of Hindus. This provision is relevant as some sects of Hindus used to claim that only members of the
concerned sects had a right to enter their temples. This was only a subterfuge to prevent entry of SC persons
in such temples. For the purpose of this provision the term Hindu includes Sikh, Jain and Buddhist.
Time Magazine
written by Nilanjana Bhowmick in New Delhi
July 17, 2014

One third of the world’s 1.2 billion poorest people live in India, according to the latest Millennium Development Goals report by the U.N.

India only managed to reduce its poverty rate (the ratio of the number of people who fall below the poverty line and a country’s total population) from 49.4% in 1994 to 42% in 2005 and 32.7% in 2010. By contrast, regional rival China brought it down from 60% in 1990 to an impressive 16% in 2005 and just 12% in 2010.

India also accounted for the highest number of under-five deaths in the world in 2012, with 1.4 million children not reaching their fifth birthday.

“We don’t have to be proud of what we’ve done,” admitted minority affairs minister Najma Heptulla to the Times Of India on Wednesday. “Poverty is the biggest challenge.”

INDIA: Hindus Strive to Mortify, Malign Christians In Jharkhand State. 4 Women Publicly Beaten, Forcing Them To Sign Paper Stating They Would Be Charged A Fine If They Continued To Pray To Jesus.

Morning Star News
written by Staff
Friday February 20, 2015

NEW DELHI – Hindu extremists in India this month sought to shame and malign Christians, as four women were publicly beaten in one village and a teacher was falsely accused of child molestation in another, sources said.

In India’s eastern state of Jharkhand, 11 assailants dragged four Christian women from their prayer meeting on Feb. 8 in Navardi, Chatra, to a public meeting site, where they beat them and partially stripped one, sources said. The women had just finished their meeting at a home when the Hindu extremists charged in, reviled them for praying to Christ and dragged them out to the road, said area church leader Rampath Nayak.

As the husbands of the four women worked in the fields, the extremists took Shanti, Samudri, Sonamati and Yasoda (surnames withheld for security reasons) to a public meeting place, placed them on a platform and started beating them with their hands and shoes, he said.

Later, saying Yasoda was the leader and responsible for more people joining the prayer meeting, the Hindu extremists stripped off her sari as they mocked and hurled obscenities at her and tore her blouse, the traumatized woman told Morning Star News.

“I asked them what crime did I do for them to do this to me and asked them to stop, but they would not stop and said that I should stop following Christ and stop praying to Jesus, and that then all this will cease,” the sobbing Christian said.

As they continued cursing at and slapping the women, the assailants tried to force them to sign a paper stating that they would be charged a fine of 50,000 rupees (US$800) if they continued to pray to Jesus. The extremists also said that they would falsely charge them with stealing and put them behind bars if they did not worship Hindu deities.

The women returned home with swollen faces, bruises and abrasions; their families took them to a local hospital later that evening.

“They are all recovering, except that Yasoda is still complaining of pain in the left part of her chest,” said Pastor Nayak.

Yasoda said she is refusing to show her face in public because of shame she feels over the mistreatment.

Area police Station House Officer Ajay Kumar Gupta told Morning Star News that officers have registered a First Information Report (FIR) against the attackers, and that further protection will be given to the Christians.

The four women and their families put their faith in Christ in 2010.

“We will give our lives for Christ, we are not frightened, we will only worship Christ,” one of them said.

Teacher Falsely Accused

Also in Jharkhand, Hindu extremists on Feb. 2 helped the mother of a student at a Christian school to accuse a teacher of molesting her daughter.

Shouting anti-Christian chants at Holy Family School in Barhawa, Sahibang, a large crowd of Hindu extremists damaged school and church properties as the mother of a fifth-grade girl, Keona Mondol, filed a complaint that teacher Bhim Kujur had molested her. The mother complained to the school principal and then went to the classroom and slapped Kujur as an angry crowd shouted “Jai Shri Ram [Hail Lord Ram].”

The throng of hundreds hurled stones and bricks at the school and at a nearby church building, calling the Christians “beef-eaters” and telling them to go back to their places of origin, according to the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI). They also threatened to break Christian statues.

“The accusation against Bhim Kujur was totally false,” said a representative of the Holy Family School, P.S. Chacko, according to EFI. “Most students, including Keona Mondol, gave Christmas cards to Kujur, and he happily accepted them.”

When school authorities interrogated all fifth-grade students, they said they saw no sign of their teacher misbehaving with the girl, he said.

“The town people are wondering if the sudden unprovoked attempt was staged to malign the Holy Family School and the Christian religion,” the school representative said.

If you would like to help persecuted Christians, visit http://morningstarnews.org/resources/aid-agencies/ for a list of organizations that that can orient you on how to get involved.

If you or your organization would like to help enable Morning Star News to continue raising awareness of persecuted Christians worldwide with original-content reporting, please consider collaborating at http://morningstarnews.org/donate/?

INDIA: Mumbai Christian House Church Leader Beaten With Iron Bars By Mob Of 25 Hindus After He Refused Their DEMAND To Worship A Hindu god. NO FREE WILL In Hinduism And Islam.

Morning Star News
written by Staff
Thursday February 5, 2015

NEW DELHI  – A Christian welder who oversees a home fellowship near Mumbai is on pain-killers with chest and back injuries after some 25 Hindu extremists on Jan. 24 beat him with iron bars, sources said.

Threatening to kill him if he continued preaching and practicing his faith, members of the Hindu extremist Bajrang Dal attacked 38-year-old Pramod Sahu at his workshop garage in the Nalasopara area, he said. Armed with long wooden rods and iron bars, they struck him further when he refused their demand to worship a Hindu god.

“The attackers abused me in foul language and used the picture of Jesus Christ in my garage as an excuse to beat me up,” Sahu told Morning Star News.

The mob tore the picture of Christ and shouted anti-Christian slogans.

Police initially declined to file a First Information Report (FIR) when Sahu approached them that day, which delayed and reduced the medical care he was able to receive, said the Rev. Vijayesh Lal, national director of the Religious Liberty Commission of the Evangelical Fellowship of India.

“It was only when interventions were made by lawyers and Christian leaders that an FIR was finally registered on Jan. 29,” Lal said. “Pramod Sahu had to approach a private hospital by himself to take care of his injuries. Had the police taken the case seriously, the medical examination would have been sooner.”

Sahu said that the assailants followed him to the hospital on the day of the attack and have continued monitoring him at his home.

“I spoke to Sahu while he was getting his treatment done at the private hospital, and he was in much fear,” Lal said. “He complained that people who beat him up were continuously following him and watching him closely. He feared for his life.”

Sahu said that a motorized rickshaw driver identified only as Tiwari led the mob into his workshop garage, where he does welding and spray painting. Tiwari had previously harassed him because of his faith, he added.

The United Christian Forum for Human Rights, which last month launched a toll-free helpline (1-800-208-4545) for reporting hate crimes and violence against Christians nationwide, received a call from Sahu on Jan. 25. Attorney Pramod Singh of the Christian Legal Association was able to connect Sahu with a lawyer in Mumbai, which ultimately resulted in the filing of the FIR.

Police promised protection after Sahu filed the FIR, but he said it has not been satisfactory. An officer was stationed to guard his residence on Jan. 29, but he left after a few hours; a replacement did not arrive for nearly 12 hours, according to local Christian leaders.

FIR No. 64/2015 was filed for outraging religious sentiments, rioting and assault, under the applicable Indian Penal Code sections 295 (A) for deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feeling of any class by insulting its religion; 143 for unlawful assembly; 147 for rioting; 323 for voluntarily causing hurt; 504 for intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of peace; and 506 for criminal intimidation. No arrests, however, have been made.

“Only when culprits of such an attack are booked will there be some fear instilled in the minds of communal goons, and it will act as a deterrent,” Abraham Mathai, former vice-chairperson of the Maharashtra Minorities Commission, told media.

Sahu and his wife converted to Christianity six years ago, and they maintain that they have never pressured anyone to convert to the Christian faith.

Nalasopara is part of Palghar District, which has had a history of anti-Christian violence. In 2011, a group of unidentified men broke into the homes of Christians at Dasturipada in Palghar during Easter celebrations and beat them, resulting in at least one person sustaining a fracture in his hand, according to published reports.

Hindu extremists targeted Christian tribal people in the district again in December 2012 and January 2013. After being denied food rations and water for months, the Christians were beaten en masse, causing many families to leave the area for months and seek shelter in relatives’ homes.

Additionally, in Pune, four hours from Mumbai, Hindu extremists on Jan. 24 threatened to attack a church. The hard-line Hindus warned church leaders to discontinue worship services in the area.

2014 Persecution

The Evangelical Fellowship of India on Wednesday (Feb. 4) reported that there were at least 147 cases of persecution against Christians in 2014, many of them taking place after the National Democratic Alliance government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, headed by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, came into power on May 26.

“Vicious hate campaigns, physical violence, police complicity and state impunity contribute to the persecution of the Christian community in many states of India,” EFI leaders said in a statement accompanying the report.

At least two Christians were killed for their faith, one in Odisha state and the other in Andhra Pradesh, they said. Physical violence made up 24 percent of all cases, according to the report, while 54 percent of incidents involved threats, intimidation and coercion, often with police looking on. Violence against Christian women, an increasing trend since anti-Christian carnage in Kandhamal, Odisha state in 2007 and 2008, constituted 11 percent of the cases.

Breaking statues and crosses and other acts of desecration were recorded in about 8 percent of the cases, “but many more were also consequent to other forms of violence against institutions,” they said. “A disturbing trend was violence against Christians in West Bengal, where, though one case was formally reported, there have been increasing incidents of hate speech and intimidation.”

The state with the highest number of incidents was Chhattisgarh with 28, followed closely by neighboring Madhya Pradesh with 26 and Uttar Pradesh with 18, they said. Telengana, newly carved out of Andhra Pradesh, registered 15 cases.

“Much of the violence has taken place after the new government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi came into power,” they said. “Police inaction and its [police] failure to arrest the guilty in most cases, its propensity to try to minimize the crime, and in rural areas especially, its open partisanship, has almost become the norm.”

If you would like to help persecuted Christians, visit http://morningstarnews.org/resources/aid-agencies/ for a list of organizations that that can orient you on how to get involved.

If you or your organization would like to help enable Morning Star News to continue raising awareness of persecuted Christians worldwide with original-content reporting, please consider collaborating at http://morningstarnews.org/donate/?

INDIA: Police Report Indicates The Gang-Rape Of Elderly Nun In Her Convent Was Premeditated. >:/


Morning Star News
written by India Correspondent
Sunday March 22, 2015

NEW DELHI – The rape of an elderly nun in West Bengal was a planned part of an attack on a Christian institution and not merely an after-thought in a robbery as portrayed in mainstream media, Christian leaders say.

A police report submitted to the state government said the suspects in the incident on March 14 at the Convent of Jesus and Mary at Ranaghat, Nadia District, were “not locals,” and that the attack was a well-planned targeting of the convent school and nuns.

Seven or eight gunmen stormed the convent compound at about 2:30 a.m. after overpowering a security guard, according to a police complaint filed by the school. After pointing a pistol at the guard’s head, the suspects tied him up and forced their way into the main building.

Earlier the attackers had disconnected two of the three telephone lines of the convent. They also tried to destroy a Closed Circuit TV camera near the gate but failed; four of the 12 CCTV cameras were functioning, recording the faces of four of the attackers.

The assailants proceeded to loot US$19,255 from the school. After they had taken the cash, the gang moved to the first floor, where the nuns working in the school reside, and forced a guard to call the sisters. As soon as a nun opened the door, they stormed in and demanded the senior-most sister; as the principal and other sisters pointed to the oldest nun, the assailants took her to another room and raped her, according to an investigating official.

The assault on her went on for more than an hour. The attackers also reportedly tied up three of the five nuns in the house before entering the principal’s room and ransacking it.

They then proceeded to the chapel and desecrated the Communion Host, throwing the wafers on the floor.

“The pattern of desecrating the chapel and the sacred Host is remarkably similar to the attack on the church in Vasant Kunj earlier in the year,” said the Rev. Vijayesh Lal of the Evangelical Fellowship of India’s Religious Liberty Commission. “There is no doubt that the incident is not merely an armed robbery as it is made out to be.”

A convent official in Ranaghat told media the attack deeply hurt the Christian community.

“It is not a mere dacoity [robbery by dacoits, or gangs in India and Burma],” the official said. “It is an attack on the religion. They assaulted a consecrated woman who devoted her life to service, and they desecrated the church.”

Herod Mullick, state working president of the All India Christian Council, said the attack appeared to be part of a trend.

“It is evident that the attackers had a motive other than robbing the place,” Mullick said in a statement. “There are similarities to incidents in Delhi and Bengaluru.”

After reportedly looting the money, desecrating the chapel and raping the nun, the attackers treated themselves to imported chocolates, cake and pastries meant for the students. They ate for about one hour, leaving the convent around 4:30 a.m.

“They threw away the food they could not eat and trampled on them before leaving,” the Indian Express reported. “They broke open all the doors and cabinets.”

As word of the rape spread, angry parents of children studying at the convent and other residents of Ranaghat took to the streets. They blocked trains on the Sealdah-Ranaghat route, as well as traffic on National Highway 34.

As the protests continued the following days, protestors blocked the convoy of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who arrived at Ranaghat to meet the nun. Shouting, “We want Justice” and “We want CBI [Central Bureau of Investigation],” the crowd delayed the chief minister for over an hour, upsetting her.

Later police registered a suo motu case against the protestors, mostly students of the convent, their guardians and other local people. Police also announced a cash reward of US$1,600 to anyone who can provide any information about the attackers.

The unnamed nun, who had to undergo surgery because of her wounds, said she forgave the young men who raped her.

“My heart is broken,” she reportedly said from her hospital bed, adding that she prayed that the assailants be forgiven.

Hospital Superintendent Atindranath Mondal told media the nun was more concerned about the security of the school and its students than her own trauma.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Union Home Ministry and the National Human Rights Commission have sent notices to the government of West Bengal registering their concerns and asking for reports.

Parliamentarians protested in Delhi on Tuesday (March 17), shouting, “We demand justice.” The uproar prompted Chief Minister Banerjee to hand over the case to the CBI.

She commented on Twitter on Wednesday (March 18) that the government would provide all cooperation and assistance to the CBI. At press time 17 people had been detained for questioning, but no arrests had been made. A four-member team of the National Commission for Women (NCW), which visited the convent on Saturday (March 21), pointed out the lack of arrests.

“The pictures of the perpetrators are there on the camera, the faces are seen, but still no arrests; why?” NCW member Shamina Shafiq told media. “This is one question that needs to be answered.”

The Christian community has held several demonstrations and silent prayer vigils in support of her in Delhi, Mumbai, Chandigarh and Pune.

The nun recovering from her injuries left West Bengal for an undisclosed location early Friday morning (March 20).

If you would like to help persecuted Christians, visit http://morningstarnews.org/resources/aid-agencies/ for a list of organizations that that can orient you on how to get involved.

If you or your organization would like to help enable Morning Star News to continue raising awareness of persecuted Christians worldwide with original-content reporting, please consider collaborating at http://morningstarnews.org/donate/?

INDIA: Christian Institutions To Hire Armed Guards To Protect Themselves From Hindu And Muslim Persecution. Incidents against Christians in India Jump 55 Percent Under PM Modi, EFI Figures Show.

The Times of India
written by Staff
Wednesday March 25, 2015

KOLKATA: Christian institutions have been advised to strengthen security, and hire armed guards if possible, in the wake of the Ranaghat horror.

No formal instructions have been issued but the two churches under whose tutelage various Christian congregations function in the state have sent out advisories to have a structured security in place — a far cry from the elderly durwans, armed with a stick, at best.

"We cannot ignore the urgency of this any more. Armed security is the need of the hour. We never thought that things would come to such a pass," said Father Dominic Gomes, vicar general of the Roman Catholic church, second in command to the Archbishop who heads the church in Bengal.

"Many congregations, especially those in remote areas, do not have that kind of money, but security cannot be compromised with any more," Gomes said.

Bishop Ashoke Biswas of the Church of North India has already issued a circular to all CNI schools on this. "From private security guards to CCTVs and view cutters, we have taken a large number of measures because our schools have big campuses," said Supriyo Dhar, secretary, La Martiniere Schools.

The home department has asked Kolkata Police to keep a close watch on religious institutions and nearby localities. Beat officers have to keep records of their rounds of such places, say sources. The local police will vet the security staff of these institutions.

Police have been told to increase their presence at the various hostels and ensure that more armed cops are on duty at night near such "sensitive" locations.

The church heads are happy at the concern showed by the state government. "But we cannot accept the fact that the accused in the Ranaghat tragedy are still at large. The fact that they were at the spot in close proximity of police is just unacceptable. Private and armed security is our only answer to the changing situation. We cannot take any chances," said a church official.

**************

Morning Star News
written by Staff
Tuesday March 24, 2015

NEW DELHI (Morning Star News) – The number of incidents against Christians in India has increased 55 percent since Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi became prime minister in May 2014, according to figures from the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI).

During a protest by religious minorities near India’s Parliament House on Thursday (March 19), rights activist and Christian leader John Dayal said there have been 168 incidents against Christians in Modi’s first 300 days in power. That figure compares with 108 such cases in the 300 days before Modi took office on May 26, 2014, according to the EFI.

Reported attacks against the Christian community in January totalled 20, with another 20 in February and 13 so far in March, according to the EFI. By comparison, in the first five months of 2014 there were only 32 anti-Christian incidents before Modi took power.

Dayal, former member of the National Integration Council, told Morning Star News that the number of incidents in Modi’s first 300 days pertains only to reported cases and that the actual number is higher. Cases ranged from false accusations of “forcible conversion” to desecration of church buildings to violent attacks on Christians.

“Illegal police detention of church workers and denial of constitutional rights of freedom aggravate the coercion and terror unleashed in hate speeches and campaigns of ghar wapsi [‘homecoming,’ or reconversions to Hinduism],” he said. “Since 2014, there has been a marked shift in public discourse.”

During the first 300 days of the Modi’s government coalition led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the state of Chhattisgarh topped the list of incidents against Christians with 28, followed by neighboring Madhya Pradesh with 26, Uttar Pradesh with 18 and Telengana, newly carved out of Andhra Pradesh, with 15, he said.

The tone set by Modi’s National Democratic Alliance government has emboldened Hindu extremists in several parts of the country to attack non-Hindus, Christian leaders say. Coercion to convert to Hinduism continues.
“The fact that Christmas celebrations of 2014 in India were sought to be diluted by the government’s call to observe ‘Governance Day’ on the day most sacred to the Christian community in India is a matter of great concern,” said the Rev. Dr. Richard Howell, general secretary of the EFI.

On Christmas Day, 20 Christians were arrested and police stopped four Christmas functions in separate incidents across the country, according to EFI.

About 2,000 people from 80 civil society groups participated in the protest in central Delhi, asserting that the secular nature of government has been regularly under attack as Hindu extremist assaults on religious minorities have jumped to alarming numbers.

Incidents included vandalizing, burning and robbing church buildings, burning Bibles, disrupting worship meetings and Christmas functions, beating pastors and evangelists and stopping church construction.

Of the anti-Christian incidents, Dayal said 54 percent came in the form of threats, intimidation and coercion, often with police looking on. Physical violence accounted for 24 percent of all cases, including 11 percent against Christian women. Breaking of statues and the cross and other acts of desecration were recorded in about 8 percent of the cases, “but many more were also consequent to other forms of violence against institutions,” Dayal said.

“A disturbing trend was rising communal violence in West Bengal, where the BJP and the RSS [Hindu extremist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, of which Modi is a member] have redoubled their efforts to fill what they see is a political vacancy following the decline of the Communist Party of India Marxist and the Congress party in recent times,” he said.

Dayal said the list of violent incidents against religious minorities, including unreported ones, could well exceed 800.

A pastor of Good Shepherd Community Church in New Delhi, Joshua David, told Morning Star News that at every Sunday worship meeting since Christmas day, two policemen have been posted outside his church.

“Initially, it created a different kind of feeling among the church members, raising some sort of suspicion among them of the possible danger in attending church services, but we are getting accustomed to it,” he said.
Social activists at the demonstration said the Sangh Parivar family of Hindu extremist groups have relentlessly attempted to create a divide between Hindus and all others.

“The Sangh Parivar and the present Bharatiya Janata Party government, which is part of the Sangh Parivar, do not believe in diversity and wish to have everyone follow their own dictates,” said Navaid Hamid, general secretary of the Movement for Empowerment of Muslim Indians. “The basic tenets of the Indian constitution – the secularism and the pluralism – therefore are constantly under attack, and minorities are a part of that.”
The BJP has abused, ridiculed and threatened minorities, activists said, including hate statements by Union and state ministers and threats by members of Parliament and state politicians.

Renowned journalist Seema Mustafa said the main objective of the protest was to show solidarity and ensure that action is taken against perpetrators of violence.

“While communal incidents have taken place in the past as well, the difference now is that the BJP itself is in power,” she said. “Now the continuing violence and statements supporting the violence is vitiating the atmosphere and terrifying the minorities.”

If you would like to help persecuted Christians, visit http://morningstarnews.org/resources/aid-agencies/ for a list of organizations that that can orient you on how to get involved.

If you or your organization would like to help enable Morning Star News to continue raising awareness of persecuted Christians worldwide with original-content reporting, please consider collaborating at http://morningstarnews.org/donate/?

INDIA: Police Arrested 2 Monsters In Connection With The Gang-Rape Of A 71-Year-Old Nun In A West Bengal Convent. Police Still Looking For The 4 Others. She Was Gang-Raped By 6 Monsters.

Hindustan Times
written by Avijit Ghosal
Friday March 27, 2015

Police arrested two people on Thursday in connection with the gang rape of a 71-year-old nun in a West Bengal convent nearly two weeks ago, in the first breakthrough in a case that shook the nation and triggered widespread protests.

Officials said one of the suspects, a 40-year-old man named Sikandar Shaikh alias Salim, was arrested in a Mumbai slum while the other, an illegal Bangladeshi migrant named Gopal Sarkar, was nabbed in North 24 Parganas district on the outskirts of Kolkata for harbouring the attackers.

Authorities used cellphone records to track down Shaikh who sources said has links with a top criminal in Bangladesh, although they did not officially comment on the identity of the members of the gang.

“Salim used to work in Mumbai and would shuttle between the city and West Bengal. He was staying in a rented place and was arrested from there,” said Mumbai police commissioner Rakesh Maria.

He was handed over to West Bengal Police and whisked away to the scene of the crime in Nadia district’s Ranaghat. He was sent to judicial custody for 14 days by a Nadia court with no lawyers willing to represent him.

“Originally from Bangladesh Sarkar was staying illegally from the year 2002. He gave shelter to the miscreants prior to the incident," said a West Bengal’s Crime Investigation Department (CID) statement.

The arrests are a major relief for the state detectives who faced intense criticism for failing to arrest anybody despite CCTV footage showing four of the eight suspects.

Speculation has intensified over the past few days that the gang, which looted Rs 12 lakh and vandalised a chapel on the convent campus, split into groups and fled to Bangladesh. The Ranaghat railway station is a mere 10-minute walk from the spot of crime and has direct links with border towns such as Bongaon and Gede.

Despite the two arrests, West Bengal’s CID did not have details about the motive for the attack, which caused major embarrassment to the state government and forced chief minister Mamata Banerjee to hand over the probe to the Central Bureau of Investigation. The national agency, however, is yet to formally take over the probe.

After the chief minister’s announcement, CID sleuths intensified search operations. The agency’s pride was hurt, senior officers told HT, as the message embedded in the communication was that the head of government did not have enough trust in the state detectives.

The rape came against the backdrop of a string of attacks on Christian churches across the country that prompted Prime Minister Narendra Modi to express concern over the incident.

The Financial Express
Death threats at Christian school before nun was gangraped in West Bengal
written by Reuters staff
Wednesday March 18, 2015

In the days before the gangrape of an elderly nun in an armed assault that has shaken India, death threats and extortion attempts had already shattered the peace at her Convent of Jesus and Mary school, police and school officials say.

For 19 years, the Catholic school in the town of Ranaghat in West Bengal state had been teaching children of workers at a nearby jute factory without incident. But three weeks ago, the school received death threats and demands for money in anonymous phone calls just days after the nuns had an altercation with the father of a boy who was expelled.

The attack also comes amid a trend of worsening security for India’s Christian minority, less than one year since the government of Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power.

Police are investigating if there was a link between the expulsion of the boy, the threats and Friday night’s attack, when a group of ten men broke into the school offices before heading to the nuns’ quarters.

“This is a well-planned attack and conspiracy cannot be ruled out,” said a police officer in Ranaghat contacted by telephone, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the case. He said it was not yet clear if the three incidents were linked and that police were also investigating the religious angle.

While the rape and robbery did not have clear religious overtones, it took place against the backdrop of Hindu nationalistic rhetoric from groups allied with the government that critics believe provides a sense of impunity for attacks against minorities.

The assault also marks a disturbing convergence of two social currents in contemporary Indian, violence against women and attacks against minority religions.

A rape is reported on average every 21 minutes in India, and acid attacks, domestic violence and molestation against women are common.

About a fifth of India’s 1.27 billion people identify themselves as belonging to faiths other than Hinduism. Muslims make up the largest minority, about 14 percent of the population, while Christians comprise about 2.5 percent.

Since December, half a dozen churches have been vandalised, at the same time as conservative groups have campaigned to convert members of “foreign religions” such as Islam and Christianity to Hinduism.

In the Ranaghat attack, the men roamed around the school and damaged a bust of Jesus Christ in a chapel before breaking into the nuns’ quarters. Two attackers grabbed the 75-year-old nun who was in charge of the school’s finances and demanded the keys to a cupboard, the officer said, citing a report given by another nun who was an eyewitness.

When she refused, she was raped by one man, the officer said. Other nuns were threatened with similar consequences unless they handed over gold chains and cash. In total the men made off with more than 1 million rupees ($15,950).

THREATS AFTER EXPULSION

Police have detained nine men, but no arrests have been made.

“We have never had to face a painful situation like this in India,” said Sister Janet, who supervises a network of 40 Convent of Jesus and Mary schools in India.

She said nuns in the school told police about the telephone threats in late February. They came days after the nuns argued with the father of a boy who was expelled for posting photos of a girl student online and making lewd remarks on her Facebook page.

Rather than opening an investigation into the threats, the police registered their concerns in a book reserved for minor complaints, Sister Janet said.

“Police should have provided protection to the nuns but they did not take the complaint seriously,” she said.

Modi said on Tuesday he was deeply concerned about the rape. Hardline Hindu nationalist groups that support him also condemned the rape, but said it would not affect their mission.
“We speak the truth and mobilise support to fight for the well-being of a Hindu society,” said Surendra Jain, spokesman for the radical Vishwa Hindu Parishad or World Hindu Council.
Hindus and Muslims DO NOT believe in, promote or defend FREE WILL. No one is FORCING ANYBODY to become a Christian. BOTH Hindus and Muslims have been murdering people who have left their religion, er I mean cult. (emphasis mine)
“Why should we stop from promoting what we believe is the absolute truth? This is a Hindu nation and Christians and Muslims should acknowledge this fact.”

MOTHER TERESA

The leader of the Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a group that is the ideological parent of Modi’s ruling party, said in February the charitable work of Mother Teresa was aimed at conversion.

While there is no suggestion that the school attack was carried out because of this, some commentators have noted that Mother Teresa, a Nobel peace laureate who has been beatified, also was a Catholic nun doing charitable work in West Bengal.

Despite a commitment to the preservation of the Catholic faith, and religious classes for Catholic children, many of the Ranaghat school’s 800 pupils are Hindus.

“If they would be converting our children then none of the Hindus would have ever admitted their children to this school,” said Abiram Gupte, whose three sons study there.

“We cannot blame anyone,” said Sister Janet. “But the statements by leaders of hardline Hindu organisations do make an impact on the society, they want people to start viewing our charitable work as a strategy to expand Christianity.”