Thought Box



by HUMRA QURAISHI April 13 2024, 12:00 am Estimated Reading Time: 5 mins, 51 secs

Humra Quraishi comments on the troubling times lying ahead because accountability and transparency usually practiced by authorities are elusive in the prevailing situation, especially in Uttar Pradesh.

The circumstances surrounding Mukhtar Ansari's demise are deeply troubling. When a prisoner dies, it's imperative that the public is informed of the reasons and provided with a clear rationale. However, the explanation given by the government of a 'heart attack' has been met with scepticism, particularly from prominent politicians and Ansari's own family. This scepticism only exacerbates the concerns surrounding his death.

Presently, there is a palpable sense of fear in the air. Citizens are hesitant to speak out or question authority, fearing repercussions, especially in the current environment of heightened communal tensions. What's perplexing to political observers is the apparent immunity enjoyed by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, despite facing numerous criminal allegations. The lack of scrutiny in such cases raises serious questions about the state of accountability and justice in our society.

Last summer, a report by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) shed light on a concerning reality: nearly half of the newly appointed ministers in the Uttar Pradesh cabinet had pending criminal cases, some of which were of a serious nature. Particularly noteworthy is the fact that Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya faces criminal charges, yet retains his position.

Adding to the apprehension, a few years ago, reports surfaced indicating that the government led by Yogi Adityanath was exploring the possibility of withdrawing nine cases against BJP members accused in the Muzaffarnagar riots of 2013. According to one news report, a letter dated January 5 was sent to the district magistrate by Uttar Pradesh Department of Justice Special Secretary Raj Singh, seeking information on various aspects, including the potential withdrawal of cases in the interest of the public. Although the leaders involved were not explicitly named, the letter referenced the file numbers related to their cases. Such actions raise serious concerns about the impartiality and integrity of the legal system under the current administration.

The individuals implicated in these cases include Uttar Pradesh Minister Suresh Rana, former Union Minister Sanjiv Balyan, Bijnor MP Bhartendu Singh, Budhana MLA Umesh Malik, and party leader Sadhvi Prachi.

This concerning development comes as these accused individuals face charges under various sections of the Indian Penal Code for violating prohibitory orders, obstructing public servants from performing their duties, and engaging in wrongful restraint. It's crucial to note that these accused participated in a "mahapanchayat" and delivered speeches that incited violence during the last week of August 2013. The communal clashes in Muzaffarnagar and surrounding areas during August and September 2013 resulted in over 60 fatalities and displaced more than 40,000 individuals. Among the two riot cases, 22 activists, including Mr. Rana, are currently on trial, with charge sheets filed by a special investigation team (SIT).


Jesuit priest, Father Cedric Prakash, just sent this detailed ‘Statement of Concerned Catholics’ regarding the screening of ‘The Kerala Story’ by the Diocese of Idukki…

On Thursday 4 April 2024, Pope Francis in a very incisive message to the participants in the First Colloquium between the Dicastery for Interreligious Dialogue and the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, held in the Vatican said, ‘We need to support each other in fostering harmony between religions, ethnic groups and cultures. In particular, I want to emphasize three aspects...’respect for diversity, commitment to our common home and the promotion of peace.’  Unfortunately, on that very day, in Kerala, the Idukki Diocese of the Syro-Malabar Church screened a controversial film ‘The Kerala Story’. The film was shown to students of Std. X to XII, as part of the Annual Summer Catechism program. On 8 April, several English and vernacular media both in Kerala and elsewhere, detailed this event under the title, ‘Idukki Diocese screens 'The Kerala Story' for Catechism Students’. A spokesperson of the Diocese has gone on record saying that the film was ‘shown to Christian students to raise awareness about the issue of Love Jihad'. That a Catholic Diocese has screened this film, defies logic! First of all, the movie is clearly a propaganda film created to further the Hindutva narrative that is trying to destroy the secular nature of our country. Secondly, it is replete with lies, factual inaccuracies and half-truths; so much so, that the director of the movie, publicly admitted falsehood and had to correct the figures given in the original curtain-raiser from “32,000 girls embracing Islam to just THREE!” Besides ten obnoxious scenes had to be deleted before the Censor Board gave its certification! Thirdly, and far more importantly, this is a film which goes against the teachings of the Church and the person and message of Jesus.”

The statement  goes on: The decision by the Church authorities to screen the film is deeply concerning because it actively sows seeds of hatred, intolerance and prejudice, among children, instead of promoting peace, compassion, and acceptance, which are the core values of Christianity. By screening such a propaganda film that is filled with lies, the Idukki Church is instilling negative emotions and discriminatory attitudes towards people of other faiths and failing to teach children about love and respect for all religions and cultures. Such actions can have adverse effects on the future generation and society at large, particularly in the present politically charged context where hate is being weaponized to destroy the country…Besides, the film has been given an ‘A’ certificate by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC). How could this film be ever shown to children? Will the Diocese of Idukki now be prosecuted for screening the film to children?...The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue has emphasized the importance of strengthening and building good relations between Christians and Muslims during this Holy month of Ramadan; the Diocese of Idukki, on the other hand, seems to have chosen to promote conflict and tension between the two communities. Like in the time of Hitler, there are always those in authority in the Churches who wish to kowtow towards those who have political power in order to keep their own ‘little empires’ safe…a contextual adaptation of Mathew 23:15 could serve as a reminder to all of us, “woe to you bishops and religious authorities, pharisees, hypocrites! For you cross sea and land, to try to ensure that your flock does not desert you, but in the bargain, you make the members of your flock twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.”

The statement  of the concerned Catholics ends  with  this  crucial message: “We the undersigned, whilst strongly condemning this insensitive and unchristian act of the Diocese of Idukki, earnestly urge all Church authorities to do all they can to promote inter-religious, dialogue, reconciliation, fraternity, harmony and peace, remembering that our future as a country, is at stake!”

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The writers are solely responsible for any claims arising out of the contents of this article.