(Note: CCV's Isaac Gomes elaborates on the wonderful article on Gifts for the New Year 2017, written by Fr Cedric Prakash. Isaac writes how the Gifts of Truth, Justice and Liberty are very relevant, particularly in the turmoil and corruption-filled world today).
Father Cedric Prakash, a Jesuit priest and prominent human rights activist involved in the welfare of the victims of the 2002 post-Godhra riots, now is based in Beirut, Lebanon, with the Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS) to work for Syrian refugees. The JRS, headquartered in Rome, is an organisation performing apostolic work of the Society of Jesus (SJ) — a congregation of the Catholic Church. Registered as a foundation in the Vatican, JRS’s mission is to take up the cause of refugees and other forcibly displaced people. In Beirut, Prakash will work for Syrian refugees in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, mainly towards formal schooling for children. Fr Prakash was Director of Prashant, Ahmedabad, a human rights organisation, which he established on October 2, 2001. Fr Prakash’s work will be now be taken forward by Father Francis Parmar, former principal of St Xavier’s College.
In the Herald 06-12 January 2017, Fr Cedric Prakash wrote a very thought-provoking article Gifts for the New Year 2017, on eight wonderful gifts, which one should give to oneself and to others, every day of the New Year. These are: Gift of Peace, Gift of Non-violence, Gift of Justice, Gift of Truth, Gift of Liberty, Gift of Joy, Gift of Love and Gift of Change. He adds that we must have the humility to share it with others!
Out of the above eight Gifts, the Gifts of Truth, Justice and Liberty are apt in today’s strife-torn and corruption-ridden world and in particular, the Indian subcontinent where there is a growing intolerance by powers-that-be (including religious authorities/groups), for differing opinion. Several Rationalists and Bloggers were hacked or shot to death in India and Bangladesh, for speaking out in the open in favour of these values.
Fr Cedric's article reminds me of his famous speech at the Indian Catholic Press Association (ICPA) Convention at Kanyakumari on 24th October 2014. Speaking on the theme “Prophetic Challenges before the Media Today” in the presence of Bishop Salvadore Lobo, Justice Cyriac Joseph and other dignataries, Fr Cedric in his resonant voice said that the media today was controlled by the five Cs – Corporatisation, Commercialisation, Co-option, Compromise and Communalisation.
Corporatisation: Big corporates have taken over both print and electronic media today. He mentioned the Statesman which has refused to take corporate sponsorship and may die a dignified death. Media is determined by the ideology of corporates, what they stand for. They pamper vested interests. Commercialisation: Front-page blow-up advertisements of political leaders, especially before elections. Who pays for these huge costs? Black money.
Co-option: Classic case is how parish councils co-opt parishioners who won’t be a threat. Co-option basically means losing one’s ability to stand up and to toe a given line, to ensure that the banner headlines, even if they are lies, are made to suit the wishes of their bosses.
Compromise: Most media houses compromise because of fear, sting operation. Very often paid media indulge in a lot of compromise. They are afraid to publish the truth.
Communalisation: Majoritarianism – Media takes up for the majority community and destroys the pluralistic fabric of our country.
Fr Cedric said we need to reinvent church newspapers which are full of cosmetic articles on I love you & you love me, garlanding and inauguration. He asked those in mainstream journalism “Do we take a stand? Are we unequivocal about truth and justice?” It is not about propagating Catholic faith. It is about standing up for Gospel Values, about unbridled courage to face the nation and imbibe it in the mainstream media. He said the Church today was very much lacking in taking a stand on core issues and was more concerned about land and buildings. He reiterated if we do not take an unequivocal and non-negotiable stand for Truth, Justice and Human Rights, we cannot call ourselves Catholic journalists.
Now let me elaborate further on the term Co-option, in light of some murky happenings going on in the field of Education, one of the holiest areas of human development. It is like playing with fire with the full knowledge of playing the dangerous game.
Co-option is the process to appoint additional members to an elected or appointed group by the members of a body (rather than by the electors or appointing body).
Ordinarily, the power to co-opt is given to the Executive Committee (EC) with a view to get, into a society, persons of expertise in specialized fields, with a view to strengthening the society to render better service to the community. But this noble purpose is wilfully being sacrificed by EC members who are grossly misusing this power to co-opt birds of the same feather who will be their “yes men". By co-opting people who will toe the dotted line, the EC members control an Association.
Now have readers heard of SELF-CO OPTION? Is it possible to co-opt oneself? This game of SELF-CO OPTION is being played by Societies registered under the Societies Registration Act where the Registrar lacks the inclination to monitor and control any wrongdoing. Such a game is not played in the case of Companies or Cooperative Societies where the monitoring authorities are quite vigilant.
Self-cooption is the biggest farce of all as the power to co-opt is used by the EC members on themselves! It happens like this: A few members are elected to a Society as representatives of a body as per the Society's memorandum. These members then contest the Society's elections and are voted into the EC. Once they become EC members, they exercise the right to co-opt a few members into the Society. It is then that the "game of self-co option" is played! Instead of co-opting experts in various fields, these EC members co-opt themselves reciprocally (you scratch my back, I scratch yours!) regardless of the fact that they are already elected members of the Society. So how can they co-opt themselves once more into the Society? Surprisingly, this is shamelessly practised and perpetuated by an All-India Educational Board where most of the members are heads sof institutions and church-going Christians! Once they become "co-opted members", they pass a resolution and announce there is are vacancies in the Society’s elected body. After a while, the number of members equivalent to seats vacated get elected (stage-managed) into the Society as representatives of their body. In this way, their group strength is doubled – they themselves as "co opted members" and the recent members elected to fill in the "created vacancy." Thus, they ensure that through their numerical superiority, they control the affairs of the Society. They can rule almost forever since they can go on co-opting themselves and standing for re-election as long as they are in the EC.
To aggravate matters further, this corruption-ridden All-India Educational Body, has made its syllabus and even published books for the elementary classes (I-VIII), without reportedly taking official clearance by the "appropriate State Government". Please read the relevant Section 29 of RTE Act reproduced below:
RTE ACT – SECTION 29. CURRICULUM AND EVALUATION PROCEDURE
(1) The curriculum and the evaluation procedure for elementary education shall be laid down by an academic authority to be specified by the appropriate Government, by notification.
This Board is not a minority institution. It is an all-India Board. So it cannot claim that RTE does not apply to it.