Thursday, March 29, 2007

Archbisop Concessao to Sonia: cleanse Congress of communal elements

["Communal" in India means divisively sectarian.] Also from the Fides news service, this report:
Congress Party with its centuries old democratic, secular tradition, tolerant, respectful of individual freedom and human rights should cleanse itself of poisonous elements of fundamentalism and communalism. Archbishop Vincent Concessao, Catholic Archbishop of Delhi, has asked the leader of Congress party Sonia Gandhi to cleanse her party of communal elements. He said this would restore the confidence of India’s minorities in the century-old political party that led the country to freedom from foreign rule.
Archbishop was speaking in the context of the Himachal Pradesh Freedom of Religion Bill 2006 which was passed into law after the governor signed it last month. The Congress party rules the State of Himachal Pradesh in the foothills of the Himalayas. The Bill is one of various anti-conversion laws which make it difficult for Indians to change religion. India’s Christian community strongly opposes similar laws which it sees as violation of individual freedom of conscience. This is the first such Bill approved in a state ruled by Congress Party. So far these measures have been passed only in states governed by the rightwing Hindutva group of the Baratiya [sic] Janata Party.
The Archbishop pointed out that “there has been not even one proven case of conversion by fraud or fraudulence in the country”, and he questioned the need for the Bill.
The anti-conversion Bill went into force in Himachal Pradesh on 19 February. Some Christian organisations are thinking of pressing for the repeal of the Himachal Bill on the grounds that it is unconstitutional, since India’s constitution guarantees freedom of belief and religion for all citizens. Observers say Congress party approved the Bill to win more popularity in view of elections in 2008.
It is indeed disturbing that the Congress would resort to passing an anti-conversion Bill to bolster its fading fortunes, but it is hardly surprising. "The ends justify the means" is not just the mantra of Indian politicians, it seems to be one of the general guiding principles of Indian culture as a whole. And while it may appear that the Congress is the secular (in the Indian sense of the world) alternative to tbe BJP, I don't know. The Congress seems to exist solely as the base for the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty to operate. If the good Archbishop gets a response, it will be a sympathetic tut-tutting from the President of the party (who is herself a Catholic, incidentally). And if the Congress or any other party really needs to be cleansed of anything, it is of the high number of criminals that serve from the lowest functionaries to Members of Parliament and even Cabinet Ministers.

[And a nitpick: The Congress party doesn't have a "centuries old" tradition of anything. It was born in 1885.]

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