Modi's Crackdown on NGOs Condemned; Christian Leaders Raise Protest

( [email protected] ) Jun 16, 2004 10:42 PM EDT

NEW DELHI – Prominent Christian Human Rights and civil rights groups recently condemned Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi's reported ‘crackdown’ on NGOs that were working for the people who were badly affected by the sectarian violence and ethnic cleansing that had taken place during the 2002 Gujarat riots which had claimed thousands of lives. Incidentally, these NGOs had taken up the cause of the post-Godhra riot victims and had strongly criticized the state over legal and human rights issues.

The All India Catholic Union (AICU), All India Christian Council (AICC), the United Christian Action and the Global Council of Indian Christians have expressed ''shock and concern'' at the alleged harassment of prominent Ahmedabad-based activist Jesuit father Cedric Prakash who was summoned by the Criminal Investigation Department of the Gujarat police on June 10 and interrogated. The Global Council of Indian Christians have lodged a protest with former prime minister and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee and appealed to him to restrain Modi from carrying out further “diabolic designs resulting in the loss of precious lives and communal divides.” Incidentally, it is reported that Narendra Modi has lately fallen out of favor with certain sections of the BJP camp who are pinning the blame of the Lok Sabha election debacle directly on him and his “modern day Nero-like” attitude and want him out of power.

According to news sources, the police interrogated Father Prakash, a Saraswati Samman awardee, reportedly following instructions from the Chief Minister's Office. Father Prakash was interrogated following an alleged e-mail from a Mumbai-based IT professional who quoted the Christian priest as telling a magazine that minorities in Gujarat feel ‘unsafe.’ He was also reportedly threatened that his passport would be impounded for his ‘anti-national’ act.

AICU National Vice President Dr. John Dayal recalled that Modi had particularly targeted Christian organizations and stated that Samson Christian, a noted social activist was physically assaulted for protesting desecration of graveyard and denial of holidays on Christian festivals.

Dr. John Dayal further said that the human rights groups would also bring the matter to the attention of the Union government and President of India, A P J Abdul Kalam, urging them to ensure that the rule of law was upheld in Gujarat and minority and civil liberties groups not harassed or persecuted.