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Appeal for safety of Christians in Dangs District , Gujarat

January 18, 2006

EFI NEWS

805/92, Deepali Building, Nehru Place, New Delhi - 110 019, India

Phone: +91 011 26431133; 26423726

We, at the Evangelical Fellowship of India are deeply concerned for the safety of the Christians in Dangs district of Gujarat, the venue of the Shabri Kumbha Mela.

On 11, 12 and 13 February 2006, an estimated six-seven lakh Hindus will gather at a remote area in Subir, Dang district, Gujarat to celebrate the Shabri Kumbh Mela, according to numerous media reports.

In Gujarat, the epicentre of the war against Christianity is Dangs district, with 92% tribal population, mainly Bhils and Warlis. This impoverished district gained notoriety in 1998, when as many as 38 acts of violence were recorded against a population of a few thousand and Christian clergy in the district. Independent investigations established that these attacks were a result of hatred and suspicion systematically introduced by activists of Sangh organisations like the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram and the Hindu Jagran Manch.

With the Sangh planning a Shabri Kumbh in Dangs in February 2006, there are fears of a repeat. There have been several such gatherings organised by Hindutva activists in the region in recent years, including a Vishal Hindu Mahasangam in Jhabua in MP in 2002, and another Kumbh in Bhilwada in Rajasthan in 2004.

As in Ayodhya, Hindutva activists claim precise knowledge of the exact location where Ram encountered Shabri — the spot where the Kumbh is being organised.

Traditionally, there can only be four Kumbhs at fixed locations in 12-year cycles, and this has been unchanged through the millennia.

Plans for the new Shabri Kumbh are thus a manipulation of mythology for sectarian objectives of terrorising the few thousand adivasi Christians, and to promote a false majoritarian Hindu identity in violent opposition to them.

By their own admission, Shabari Kumbh has been organized to deal a death blow to anti-dharmic (religious) and anti-national activities (read engagement of Christians in social and spiritual development of the tribals).

What is even more dismaying is the state\'s open support. Development funds in one of the country\'s poorest districts are allegedly being diverted for building roads, platforms and dams for the Kumbh reservoir.

The local administration refuses to act against the Sangh pamphlets and CDs, which make repeated venomous references to the Church, and ignores the mounting terror among the Christian adivasis, as well as the destruction of the fragile environment.
Instead, as per media reports, the district collector defends these as legitimate religious activities, with the added benefit of development. This overt partisan support of the state government needs to be combated, and the safety of minorities secured.

Suggested action:
The EFI is deeply concerned about this case and requests your immediate intervention.

· Please uphold the Christian in Dangs district, Gujarat in your prayers

· Please write a letter to the addresses listed below expressing your concern about this case. A sample letter has been given below.

Respectfully,

Rev Richard Howell

General Secretary

Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI)

EFI is a Charter member of the World Evangelical Alliance, an NGO in special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations

Sample Letter

Dear ___________,

I am writing to you to voice my concern about the developments in Dangs district, Gujarat, the venue of the Shabri Kumbha Mela scheduled for Feb 11th- 13th, 2006.

This impoverished district gained notoriety in 1998, when as many as 38 acts of violence were recorded against a population of a few thousand Christians in the district. Independent investigations established that these attacks were a result of hatred and suspicion systematically introduced by activists of Sangh organisations like the Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram and the Hindu Jagran Manch.

I am deeply concerned about the frequency in which religious minorities are suppressed and targeted being reported from India, and Gujarat in particular. I am equally concerned about the apathy of the concerned authorities to calm the fears of the minority community. I am also concerned that the local authorities have taken to action to check the distribution of pamphlets and CDs, which make repeated venomous references to the Church thereby creating religious animosity between Christian and non-Christian tribals in the region and hurting the religious sentiments of the former.

I therefore call upon you to take immediate action in this regard. Please order an independent inquiry into the incident and ask the local police to register cases against the perpetrators under the provisions of the Constitution of India and the Indian Penal Code.

Yours sincerely,

  1. President of India,

His Excellency Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam Azad

Rashtrapati Bhavan,

New Delhi - 110 004, India

Phone : +91-11-23015321,

Fax : +91-11-23017290/ +91-11-23017824

Website : http://presidentofindia.nic.in

E-mail : presidentofindia@nic.in

  1. Prime Minister\'s Office

Hon’ble Dr. Manmohan Singh

Office Address Room No. 152,

South Block,

New Delhi, 110001, India

Phone: +91-11-23012312

Fax: +91-11-23016857

  1. Governor of Gujarat

Honb’le Nawal Kishore Sharma

Raj Bhawan Sector-20,

Gandhinagar-382020 , Gujarat, India

Phone: +91-79-23243171-3

Fax: +91-79-23231121

  1. Chief Minister of Gujarat

Honb’le Shri Narendra Modi

Chief Minister Niwas, Sec-20,

Gandhinagar, Gujarat,India

Phone: +91-79-23232611 to 18

Fax :+91-79-23222101

E-mail: cm@gujaratindia.com

  1. Chairperson, National Human Rights Commission of India

Honb’le Dr. Justice A. S. Anand
Faridkot House, Copernicus Marg
New Delhi-110001,
India
Tel: + 91 11 23074448
E-mail: chairnhrc@nic.in

  1. District Collector, Dangs District

Shri R.M. Jadav

Phone: +91-2631-220201-02/

Mobile: +91-9825049112

Fax: +91-2631-220294

Email: collector-dan@gujarat.gov.in