There is fear that the Constitution may be tampered with to seriously erode safeguards, fundamental rights, secularism, cultural diversity and freedom of religion and belief
NEW DELHI – Senior academics, activists, student and youth leaders as well as clergy across denominations and across states have called upon the Christian community, especially its youth and students, to come together, and also work with civil society to ensure an India safe for Dalits, Tribals, minorities, and the poor, including vulnerable women and children.
Almost 100 women and men on Sunday issued a “Solidarity Statement” seeking a Christian response on issues that face the people post-Covid, including threats to livelihood leading to starvation-cum-death, public medicare, education, and targeted hate and violence against religious minorities. There is fear that the Constitution may be tampered with to seriously erode safeguards, fundamental rights, secularism, cultural diversity and freedom of religion and belief.
The signatories of the Solidarity Statement under the name Indian Christians for Democracy include AC Michael, Virginia Saldanha, Virginius Xaxa, David Selvaraj, Walter Fernandes, Verghese Thekkenath, Roweena Robinson, Alwyn D’Silva, Dorothy Fernandes, John Dayal, Cedric Prakash, Anastasia Gill, Sebastian Kallupura, Aasha Ramesh, Tony Dias, Vijayan, Joe Athialy, Anil and Prakash Louis.
The following is the text of the statement:
As Indian Christians, we have always continued to uphold the Constitutional Values of our country, as a Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic and Republic. We believe in, and practise, the Principles of Justice, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, enshrined in the Constitution. Christians as individuals and their institutions have been in the forefront in times of disasters and natural calamities.
As the coronavirus struck India, the Christian community and its institutions collaborated with the local administration, people’s groups, NGOs, and civil society in extending relief to the affected masses. They also were at the service of the migrant labourers returning home, providing food, water, shelter, space for quarantine. Many frontline volunteers risked their lives to stand in solidarity with the people.
As citizens of this country, we are troubled by the lack of empathy for the millions rendered jobless, many of them returning to villages they had left to find work in towns and cities to feed their hungry families. Government schemes do not always reach the poorest of the poor. Hence, we are concerned that a vast segment of the excluded and the marginalised are made dependent on succour from and wonder what their plight would be in this pandemic.
We are also aware of the fact that Dalits, Adivasis, the most backward castes, poor and single mothers are the worst affected by the consequences of the pandemic, and the continuing lockdown. We know many of the vulnerable and high-risk persons and families are on the verge of starvation, some close to even death.
The government says it is converting the crisis into an opportunity. The opportunity seems to benefit the same people from the skewed, unequal and exclusionary Indian socio-political, economic and cultural order, while the poor, the working class, women, rural masses and migrants contribute their lives and sweat to uphold the edifice of the country for the benefit of the privileged.
The number of citizens affected by the virus continues to grow by the day. Tens of thousands have already lost their lives. Medical and healthcare facilities are inadequate.
Adding to the crisis are floods in several regions of Bihar and North East, which also faced the fury of a cyclone.
This seems an odd time for governments at the Centre and some of the states to be involved in religious functions such as the Bhoomi Pujan at Ayodhya.
On the other hand, we are greatly concerned that the emergency that Covid-19 has created has been taken as an opportune moment to exacerbate cultural policing and mob lynching by self-styled protectors of the cow. The State’s silencing of political dissent and even mild criticism of the regime on social media is deeply disturbing. Scores of students are being detained, refused bail, or targeted for their political opinion. Important laws with serious consequences for the environment, health and education have been pushed through without public interface.
In this situation, as Indian Christians,
- We join with fellow citizens to uphold the values of the Indian Constitution.
- We call upon the government to provide food with dignity, and livelihood options to the poor, the vulnerable and high-risk persons and families.
- We seek healthcare facilities for these people, both for existing ailments as also for Covid-19-related vulnerabilities.
- We call for an immediate end to intimidation and arrest on false and unverified charges.
- We encourage peaceful co-existence of all the citizens irrespective of caste, class, gender, religion, geography and orientations.
- We call for ending all forms of exploitation, oppression, exclusion and marginalization at this time of crisis.
- We demand strict implementation of existing laws to deal with and prevent violence to women which is increasing with impunity.
- We call upon the Central and state governments and the corporate sector to generate employment and empower students and youth, so they become sentient and involved citizens of our great country.
- We stand in solidarity with the people of Jammu and Kashmir for their Constitutional rights.
- And in particular, we call upon the religious, social, academic and institutional leaders of our own community, and as well as our youth and students, to join civil society in the common struggle to achieve these goals.
This statement emanates from interactions and two large web-based national consultations in July 2020.