Thursday, May 29, 2014

Act against Gujarat-based rights activist in the same way as cops pounced on anti-Modi Facebooker: Goa CM

Cedric Prakash
By Our Representative
A major controversy is all set to break out over verbal threats issued by Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar against Gujarat-based Jesuit human rights activist Father Cedric Prakash. Accusing Prakash of of “spreading religious discontent” during the elections, Parrikar justified police action against Facebooker Devu Chodankar following his anti-Narendra Modi posts, saying "similar action should have been taken against Prakash too." Prakash has called the Goa CM’s statement “extremely mischievous and very unfortunate”, saying, he enjoyed freedom of speech “both in Gujarat and in other parts of India”, as Parrikar, in airing his views on Modi's policies.
Recalling why is Parrikar so incensed, Prakash, in a statement, said, “I visited Goa in March 2014 at the invitation of the Catholic Council of Goa and the focus of all my talks was (and which will continue to be) the Constitution of India, the values enshrined in them and the fact that large sections of our people are deprived of their legitimate rights both in Gujarat and in other parts of India.” He added, Article 19 of the Constitution gives me the right of freedom of speech and expression.”
He insisted, “Apart from focusing on the Constitution, I have been consistent in saying that the Freedom of Religion Law enacted by the Government of Gujarat in 2003 goes against the letter and spirit of the Indian Constitution particularly Article 25 which guarantees every single citizen the right to freely profess, practice and propagate one’s religion. It also goes against Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which gives one the right to freely change his religion or belief to another.”
Further, he said, “I have always questioned the Gujarat model of ‘development’ which only caters to a section of society. There is sufficient research studies and statistical data to prove that what is being flaunted are half-truths and myths; social indicators of large sections of the poor and marginalized very strongly belie the development of Gujarat. It is common knowledge that Gujarat has always been a fairly industrialized state since the early seventies. It is not a “miracle” that has happened in the last ten years or so.”
Goa chief minister
“I have never used or abused any religion to create any ‘discontent’”, Prakash said, adding, “My closest associates and friends belong to all religions and particularly from the majority community. I have always been an advocate for communal harmony and peace but I do so within the framework of justice and human rights for all. I have never attacked or said anything against another’s religious beliefs. That CM Parrikar has compared me with one of his ilk speaks volumes of his mindset and the fact that fascism is gaining more and more ground in the country.”
Talking to media in Goa, Parrikar said, Prakash during his trip to Goa in March made “serious things which were not true", adding, “He accused Modi of religious intolerance and attacked the Gujarat model of governance. He further alleged that in Gujarat every one lived in fear.” Among other things, the Goa CM said, Prakash had alleged the the voice of the media has been throttled and muzzled in Gujarat, people lived in fear, and even IAS officers lived in in fear.”
Accusing Prakash of using “religion for politics", Parrikar went so far as to compare Prakash with Pramod Muthalik, head of the notorious right-wing Sri Rama Sene of Mangalore. Muthalik, who was expelled from the BJP immediately after he joined the party before elections, has been involved in controversy by attacking patrons of pubs in Mangalore for adopting "western culture", and exhorting Hindus to arm themselves with swords. "I count Father Cedric and Pramod Muthalik as the same”, said Parrikar.

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