The Telegraph, Calcutta
15th September 2017
(Note: On 13th September 2017 CBCI Secretary General Bishop Theodore Mascerenhas wrote a letter "An Open Appeal to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to intervene to stop hatred in Jharkhand" to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The first paragraph of the letter read: "You might be aware that there is spiralling hatred being created by Chief Minister belonging to your party, which if not controlled immediately, could take the State and its people down the streets of violence and hate." The letter further states "Dear Prime Minister, the Church has as usual not responded to the provocations of the Chief Minister. It is not because we are afraid, it is not because we are weak. That the Christians have not responded should not be taken as a sign of weakness. We are not speaking about ourselves, we are speaking about the people of Jharkhand. It is not possible that so much money is spent by the Constitutional Authority of the State on front page advertisements sowing hate, when health facilities are so poor that stories of parents carrying children on foot for 10-12 kms, to arrive at the nearest hospital makes news." The 4-page letter ended as "I appeal to you, honourable Prime Minister, with trust and hope to intervene and curb the spread of hate created by the Chief Minister of Jharkhand. Jharkhandis and Jharkhand deserves better. If the Chief Minister is unable to control his ideological hatred, then it is time for him to go. Your party has many leaders who can do a better job on all fronts."
Now All Churches Committee Ranchi (ACCR) has debunked the Jharkhand government's claim on forcible mass conversions by putting up the Census statistics of 2011 that the Christian population has remained static at 2.3% of the Indian population. They have rightly asked "When the CM and his government are saying that the missionaries are forcibly converting tribals, why can't they show figures to prove their point?" It is time Christian leaders of all hues took up the matter with Prime Minister Modi. Isaac Gomes, Church Citizens' Voice).
ACCR Chairman Reverend A.K. Ekka (Centre) with other members at Ranchi on Thursday. Telegraph picture.
Ranchi, Sept. 14: All Churches Committee Ranchi (ACCR), an umbrella organisation of churches in the state, today threw numbers at the Raghubar Das government that say the Christian population in Jharkhand and across India is almost static to debunk the state government's claim that forcible mass conversions necessitated new legislation on religious freedom.
According to ACCR chairman Reverend A.K. Ekka, Census figures show that the Christian population in Jharkhand was 4.10 per cent of the total population in 2001, after the state was born, and 4.30 in 2011. Across India, Christians comprised 2.34 per cent of the total population in 2001 and 2.30 per cent in 2011.
"If these are the kind of growth figures, where are the forcible conversions that the government has alleged missionaries have conducted?" Ekka, who led a six-member delegation this morning to Raj Bhavan to submit to President Ram Nath Kovind a memo on their concerns related to the contentious Jharkhand Religious Freedom Bill, 2017, and Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, said.
"When the CM and his government are saying that the missionaries are forcibly converting tribals, why can't they show figures to prove their point?" he asked.
The two bills passed by voice vote in the Jharkhand Assembly on August 12 have been slammed by Opposition parties, churches and tribal outfits for their alleged disregard towards the masses, one for chaining religious conversions in draconian rules and the other for doing away with the clause of studying social assessment impact in land acquisition.
The ACCR memo comes a day after the chief minister questioned the motives of missionaries for protesting against the land and religion bills before Ranchi journalists even as in Delhi, the Catholic Bishops Council of India (CBCI) wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking his intervention to stop Das from spreading "hatred".
Countering the chief minister, who said missionaries put tribals at the forefront to block development, Ekka said missionaries had been going to the remotest of places for ages to provide education and health services to empower adivasis. "If they (the CM and the government) are targeting Christians and missionaries, it is because they know that if tribals are aware and educated, they can't be misled."
ACCR stressed today what it had said in forums earlier, that the two bills would drive a wedge between Christian and Sarna followers in tribal society and dilute tribal rights to land. The memo requested President Kovind to safeguard tribal rights granted to them in the Constitution.
Ekka also pointed to "genuinely frightening figures of displacement" that governments did not speak about.