By- John Dayal
New Delhi, India 5th December 2011
Dealing with Islamic groups in Kashmir on Christian persecution
The family of Rev C M Khanna, presbyter of the All Saints Church in Srinagar, of the Church of North India, phoned up Christian leaders and lawyers in New Delhi and elsewhere that the Priest had been arrested by the local police on Saturday, the 19th November 201 and taken to the Police station and was being interrogated. At first police told Khanna they were protecting him, then raided his home and church, and finally arrested him on charges of fomenting communal strife under sections 153 and 295 of the Ranbir Penal Code which is the Kashmir equivalent of the Indian Penal Code. The family was in a state of panic, as were the other Christians in the Kashmir valley, specially Srinagar city. The family was also apprehensive about the security and health of the Pastor, who is a diabetic, and the security of the parishioners, specially the new believers who had taken baptism.
Before the police action, a video had been in circulation on YOUTUBE on the internet showing Pastor Khanna baptism some people, whose faces were not clear on the video, in the baptism font of the All Saints Church in Srinagar. The voices were not clear, but occasional snatches of the Pastor’s voice as he spoke the liturgical phrases of a baptism were audible, as was the congregational hymn.
What was most disturbing were reports that Pastor Khanna had been summoned by, and had presented himself before, a Shariah court headed by Mufti Azam Kashmir [Grand Mufti] Bashir-ud-din, where he had been interrogated. To the best of our knowledge at that time, the State government had not notified or recognized this as a Shariah court nor had it passed any legislation defining its powers and jurisdiction., Anyway, it was clear to us, and to our legal advisers that the Shariah court had no jurisdiction over the Christian minority in the State, or elsewhere. And yet the State government had taken no notice of this development which could have serious repercussions for the state and its religious minorities.
Apart from the safety and security of Pastor Khanna, his family and his parishioners, old and new, we were also apprehensive of the state of Justice in the valley where the Bar Association had apparently announced they would not defend the Pastor. The local lawyers also disturbed proceedings when Pastor Khanna’s bail petition was eventually heard by the Judge, who eventually ordered Pastor Khanna’s release on bail on 1st December on guarantees of a personal bond of Rs 25,000 and directions that he not leave the State and not baptize anyone in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. It may be noted that Pastor Khanna is retiring from the Church of North India early in 2012. The reports in the English language Srinagar papers, as accessed on the internet from their web editions etc were equally disturbing, showing that an attempt was being made to vitiate the atmosphere by maligning Pastor Khanna in particular, and the church in general.
THE FACT FINDING TEAM was set up in the wake of our telephonic and internet demands to Mr Wajahat Habibullah, Chairman of the National Commission for Minorities, Vice Chairman Dr H T Sangliana, and the Union Minister for Minority Affairs, Mr Salman Khurshid. We also tried to contact by phone and email senior Muslim political figures and Islamic scholars and members of the Muslim Personal Law Board to seek their mature advice and possible intervention. There was no response from the Islamic leadership in New Delhi barring two senior civil society activists, Ms Seema Mustafa, New Delhi and Mr Javed Anand, Mumbai. Both of whom condemned the arrest and harassment of the Pastor, but said Kashmir was a sensitive state and had many issues (of victimization of the common people) and needed to be handled with sensitivity.
Mr Habibullah said the Commission was sending the Vice chairman, Dr H T Sangliana, ex MP, to go to Srinagar. We learnt that the visit was to be kept low key in view of the sensitivities involved. Dr Sangliana invited Dr John Dayal and Dr Richard Howell to accompany him.
The team did not go at government expense but in their private capacity, and paid for their entire visit themselves.
Finally the team consisted of the following, other than Dr Sangliana who was State guest:
Dr John Dayal, member, National Integration Council and Secretary General, All India Christian Council
Rev. Dr Richard Howell, General Secretary, Evangelical Fellowship of India and secretary, National Untied Christian Forum consisting of the CBCI, NCCI and EFI
Adv Rev Br. P J Marcose, human rights activist, Jharkhand and Kandhamal, Orissa
Rev Vijayesh Lal, human rights activist, secretary, Relgious Freedom Commission, EFI, New Delhi
The team was in Srinagar from 29th November to 2nd December, drove to Jammu on 2nd December and left the state on 3rd December 2011.
ISSUES BEFORE THE FACT FINDING TEAM: The issues before the fact finding ream were:
1. Establishing if the video of the pastor baptizing some people in the All Saints church was done in secret, or if the pastor new of it. Who leaked the video, made by mobile telephones, on YOUTUBE on the internet
2. Circumstances in which Pastor Khanna was summoned by Mufti Azam Bashiruddin Khan to present himself for an interrogation by the Shariah court, including validity of the court in the law of J and K State, and what transpired in the so called court. Was he under threat or pressure.
3. Circumstances in which Pastor Khanna was arrested by the Police and other related events including raid on the church and house of the pastor and of the people who ere baptized.
4. Was Pastor Khanna or his associates tortured by the police, and the conditions of his stay in the police station under remand to the Special Investigating team. As he is a diabetic, was he examined by doctors while in custody.
5. The situation of Catholic and Protestant families living in Srinagar and the Kashmir valley.
6. The course of the legal process and the role of the Srinagar Bar and lawyers in hampering justice.
7. The situation of the Christian managed schools
8. The action of the State government
9. The action of the Central Government
10. The situation of the Church in Kashmir,-- the Church of North India diocese of Amritsar, the Catholic church of the Jammu and Kashmir diocese
11. The role of the Srinagar media
12 The future of Church, evangelization and church schools in the Kashmir valley, specially Srinagar
Towards this, the delegation met with the following In Srinagar:
1. The superintendent of Police and the Inspector of the Police station where Pastor Khanna was incarcerated
2. The Inspector in charge of the Special Investigating Team interrogating Pastor Khanna
3. Pastor Khanna in his cell or room in the police station.
4. Mufti Azam [Grand Mufti] Bashir-ud-din, is home-office together with his general secretary, his son and other officials
5. The head Priest of Kashmir, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq in his home office, who is also chairman of the Jammu and Kashmir Muttahida Majlis-e-Ulema (MMU), together with the deputy Priest of the main mosque
6. Mr Parvez Kaul, principal Biscoe Tyndel school
7. Father Thomas Mathew of the Catholic Church and Burn School, Srinagar
8. Adv Jyoti Aggarwal from Delhi who came to Srinagar to defend Pastor Khanna after local lawyers refused to take his case
9. Former Member, Legislative Council, Mr Gill, a Jammu Christian, who accompanied the lawyers
10. Mr Nicodemus, businessman of Jammu, who accompanied the advocates
11. Mr Amal, prominent Kashmiri Hindu businessman
12. Retired Jammu and Kashmir High Court Justice Muzaffar Jam
13. Members if the Church council and parishioners of All Saints Church at a meeting in the Church.
14. Mohd Syed Mallik, senior editor and political analyst
15. Some police officers of the security department who will remain un-named
In Jammu, the delegation met with
1. Pastor Khanna after his release on bail
2. Mrs. Khanna and their son
3. Two of the men who were baptized by Pastor Khanna in Srinagar
4. Father Jim Borst of Baramullah who was in the St Mary’s cathedral
5. Architect Sydney Rath of Srinagar, currently in Jammu
We acknowledge and believe some senior government functionaries in Delhi and Jammu who said that they had worked quietly and behind the scenes to ensure that Pastor Khanna was not tortured. In Kashmir, we also acknowledge the readiness of the moderate Islamic leadership to meet with us and extend us common courtesies. We will report the substance of our talks with them later in this report and some of their spoken or implied “cautions”, “warnings” and “threats”. We called on senior editor and political analyst Mr Mohd. Syed Mallik at his residence. No Kashmiri journalist met our delegation, though one spoke with Dr Sangliana on the phone. Several English language papers covered the visit of the delegation, and attributed statements to us which we never said. This was in consonance with the type of reporting on the issue.
Brief history of the situation of the minorities in the State of Jammu and Kashmir:
Ironically, among the more popular books in the bookstall at the Srinagar and Jammu airports is one volume that claims Jesus Christ came to Kashmir, and conjectures that there is a grave said to be His. Regardless of this, Christian presence in the Kashmir valley is documented from the middle of the Nineteenth Century, with Catholic and Protestant missionaries coming to various parts including the Valley and the Ladakh area, bringing with them education for the people. Christian schools are the most prominent in the valley, popular among both Shia and Sunni middle and upper class Muslim parents. They have a bare token number of Christian students. The massive Tyndel Biscoe school, for instance, has just four students in its pupil body of over 7,000 including the girls wing. Burn House, the catholic school, has three students out of over 2,000. Christians are also a small minority in the Faculty.
Kashmir was till after the Partition of India ruled by a Hindu King, the late Hari Singh, not much liked by the large Muslim population of the Valley of Srinagar, which is one of the three district entities that make up the state. The other two are the areas of Jammu, with a huge Hindu population and a record number of temples, and Ladakh, which has an almost entirely Buddhist Leh region and a Muslim Kargil region, Hindus and Christians. The tiny Christian minority in the State lives largely in the Jammu region which has about 8,000 of them in various denominations and are of Dalit and Punjabi or north Indian origin. There are about 400 in the entire Kashmir valley. There is an even a much smaller population in Ladakh which has the world’s highest altitude church in the Moravian mission. Srinagar may not have more than 300 Christians, less than 100 of them Catholic and the rest mostly of the Church of North India. Only a handful of Christians in the Valley trace their origins to Kashmiri Hindu Pandits, or to Islamic roots.
For some time after Independence and the ascension of the state to the Union of India, J and K, as it is known popularly, had its own prime minister and Sadr-e-riyasat, [head of state] Karan Singh, before they were designated chief minister and Governor respectively. Special status is accorded to the State under Article 370, many Indian institutions have no jurisdiction in the state and many laws have to be extended to the region through the state legislature. The State has its own Penal code, called the Ranbir Code.
India and Pakistan have fought four wars over the State, the last being at the Kargil glacier. Half a million Indian soldiers, by some counts, are in the valley tackling both the border situation and a continuing confrontation with terrorists as well as with the civilian population, The confrontation has been violent most of the time. Many innocents have been killed, entirely illegally. Women and children have been victims. A major victim of the communalised situation in the valley has been the exodus of the Hindu Pundit population to Jammu, Delhi and refugee camps elsewhere. A sad aftermath has been the rise of fundamentalism and the supremacy of a doctrinaire kind of politico-religious Islamic clergy. There is strong distrust between the restive Muslim population and the State and Union police and security forces. This has its implications for the micro minority of Christians because the state’s top priority is to prevent the flare up of yet another agitation by the Muslim youth irrespective of the concerns for religious minorities.
The seeds of the confrontation with the Christian community lies in the powerful segment of this clergy which is carving out its space in challenge to the established state government, the other political groups, the military and the political parties. Patently, the vast majority of Kashmiris in the valley, all Muslim, are peaceful people adhering to a soft and melodious Sufi Islam, far removed from the stridency of Wahabism espoused by the extremist groups.
There has been violence against Christians in the past too. Recent tensions began in March 2003 after local newspapers alleged that Christian missionaries were converting Muslim youth. Reports of conversions followed an article in an evangelical Christian website in the United States that claimed thousands of Muslim youths were converting to Christianity, which local Christians say was not true. In November 2006, a convert from Islam, Bashir Ahmed Tantray, was shot dead by Islamist extremists in Baramullah district. Tantray’s name had appeared in newspaper reports. In September 2010, Muslim mobs burned a school and a church in Tanmarg district after a television channel showed U.S. pastor Terry Jones burning the Quran. On 26 February 2011, a school run by a Christian family was burnt. The government helped with donating some pre-fab structures to run classes. the reconstruction. Before this the Tyndale Biscoe School Tangmarg was burnt , The Good Shepherd School of the Roman Catholic church at Pulwama was burnt. The All Saints Church, which is on land leased by the government, has been burnt twice by mobs protesting other issues, including the hanging of Pakistan former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto by the Pakistani military government..
The most recent tension against Christians has been brewing since Autumn. Many people told us that some extremist groups and vested interests were planning to use the Christian issue of alleged conversions and schools managements -- which are accused of proselytising through the school prayers and text books -- as an issue in their political confrontations with the state government and political parties on the one hand, and with other Islamic groups, specially the moderates, on the other. Many told us that such elements were perpetually looking to score political points against each other, and any excuse was good enough to foment trouble, stoning on the roads and widespread riots. This is why the government was jittery and would go to any extreme to ward off trouble from the Islamic groups. The arrest of the pastor had to be seen in this light, many said. It was also held that the writ of the government ran only superficially in the Kashmir valley and Srinagar where the Islamic groups and the leadership of the Hurriyat all party conference was the major forces who could mobilise the people in highly emotionally charged demonstrations and riots.
We were also told that the large schools, divorced from the Church leadership, remained a major social force and bargaining point as they were serving an influential section of the majority Muslim population. There could be moves to extort money from the schools by threatening them, several Muslim and others told us. The CD of the Pastor baptising some people, including those from Islam, were freely available as MMS videos on the mobile phones of students. Pamphlets against Christians and Christianity were also freely distributed among students.
There were unconfirmed reports that some students had in fact beaten up a Christian fellow student, a boy. No details were available. This report, however, was not denied by anyone in authority.
According to Rev Khanna, he had been approached many times by people of Islamic faith who asked to be converted. He had always questioned them as to why they wanted to convert to Christianity. Rev Khanna said they always replied that they were not getting any help or assistance from the Islamic leadership. They had heard that the church helped Christians materially. Rev Khanna said he had always turned away such people. Father Thomas Mathew of the Catholic Church had an identical experience with Muslims coming to him. He too turned them away. The Christian clergy also apprehended that some of those seeking conversion were police agents and others had been sent by the Islamic groups to trap the Church. In fact, there was the case of one man who converted to Christianity, said he wanted to learn more, and was sent to a seminary. He however could not adjust to the seminary life, and was asked to leave. He returned to Srinagar, re converted to Islam, grew a beard, and is currently said to be an activist against Christianity in Srinagar.
Then why did Rev Khanna baptise some people of the Muslim faith? Rev Khanna said this small group of about seven people had been coming to the church for ten months, regularly and with great piety. He was convinced of their motives. But even then, he questioned them and explained the difficulties they could face. They were firm in their new faith and insisted that he baptise them.
Eventually, he agreed. The baptism ceremonies were held on several days two months ago. Rev Khanna confirms that he carried out baptisms. He does not deny it. There is no anti conversion law in the state and he is not obliged under law to inform the government or the police about it. Rev Khanna has never spoken against Islam nor has he carried out any anti-government or human rights activity so as to anger the government or any of the Islamic groups. It is not clear why the police arrested Khanna under sections 153 and 295 which are for a person spreading hatred between communities. The police had first told Khanna they were taking him into protective custody as they had received information that the people and Islamic elements were getting restive and angry. Interestingly, they arrested him on Saturday, as no legal relief could be had on Sunday, a holiday, and they could interrogate him without disturbance from the judicial system.
Rev Khanna said he was aware that the baptisms, presided over by him with two assistant priests [who since then have been in Jammu] were being filed by at least three men using their mobile phones. The Fact Finding team was shown the visuals on the laptop of the Mufti Azam, or Head Mufti, Bashir-u-din in his residence. It is clear that the people were aware of the filing as they made space for the people with the mobiles. The mobiles also recovered the liturgy of the baptism, including critical phrases saying the people were shedding their old lives of sin and “shaitan” or the devil. This phrase has been used by the Islamic groups as blasphemous.
The Grand Mufti, Mr Bashir-u-din repeated this phrase often when he spoke to us. The Mufti heads the Shariah court which is yet to be acknowledged by the government. In his own mind and with other Islamic leaders, he is firm that the court is a reality and has jurisdiction in the valley, if not in the entire Jammu and Kashmir State. The Grand Mufti said he knew Rev Khanna and had summoned him after receiving complaints and after seeing the CD of the baptisms. He said by calling their converts” previous life in Islam in the same breath as “shaitan” or devil, Rev Khanna had also insulted Islam and had committed a blasphemy to add to the crime of apostasy of the people he had baptised. It is clear that the “court” interrogated Rev Khanna for more than six hours, repeatedly showing him the video on their laptop. More than one person interrogated rev Khanna. The Pastor however said he was not physically threatened or manhandled, and was allowed to go home, after being told that the court would give its verdict after some days.
The Grand Mufti spoke with the fact finding team in soft tones. The team told him their final intention was to see that peace was maintained, that the Christian community was not threatened and that its security, as those of the schools and other institutions, was assured.
The grand mufti repeatedly demanded that the fact finding team give him assurances on behalf of the church – written assurances – that there would be no more baptisms in the valley of Kashmir. He made it amply clear that this would be one of the demands in his judgement.
He also had a long litany of complaints against the Christian schools. He said he was keeping an eye on the schools, their principals and their staff and they would hear from him soon. He demanded that the schools stop their morning prayers, which according to him were being used to spread Christianity and insult Islam. He also accused the Christians schools of encouraging drug addiction among children. He did not adduce any evidence, apart from saying that this was well known. Incidentally, the local Urdu, Kashmiri and English language press have by an large been speaking in the same language, and repeating the same charges. The accusers had not bothered to lodge formal complaints with the police in this entire episode. The police action – the arrest of Rev Khanna – was done suo moto on the orders of the superintendent of police and investigation handed over not to the local police station but a Special Investigating Team headed by an inspector.
The Grand Mufti occasionally raised his voice when talking with the Christian team. He said he would prove “that we are men, not impotent persons”. He also said the Community had to be prepared for his judgement. There may be need for the Christian community “to approach the government and police authorities.” His sentence was “we will do what we have to do, and others will have to do what they have to do.” Under the veneer of his politeness and through the occasionally raised voice, it was clear to the team that the Grand Mufti was contemplating a denunciation of the Church if not actually calling for mass action against the church and the schools. He did assure there would be no violence.
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, the head priest of Kashmir, and Chairman of the Hurriyat Conference, a political entity, was even more polite and somewhat circumspect. He began by assuring that the religious minorities were safe in Islamic Kashmir Christians and Church need have no fear of violence. He also said that at meetings of the Ulema, he had impressed upon the Grand Mufti the need to be also circumspect and not do take any action in haste. The Mirwaiz, the more respected of the two, however maintained that the Church and the school had committed many mistakes. The Mirwaiz said he was himself a student of Burn hall catholic school. However, he said, things had changed since he was a student. The Mirwaiz asserted that some NGOs, on the pretext of welfare, took advantage of the turmoil and offered monetary inducement to gullible people for conversion. The Mirwaiz said he had also seen the CD of the baptisms and was disturbed by it, specially the references to the past Islamic life of the neo converts. The Mirwaiz said there was freedom of religion in Kashmir and people were free to change their faith, but not under allurement or false promises. “Nobody would be allowed to inspire apostasy through monetary inducements.”
It was not very clear when would the Sharia court of Grand Mufti deliver its “judgement’
Our talks with the school principals and staff were fruitful. They denied there was anything sinister about the morning assembly. They also denied there was any attempt to tutor the students in Christianity, pointing out that the schools had been running for decades without any complaints an almost exclusively catered to the Muslim majority community barring a handful of students from other communities. Principal Praveen Kaul said he had made it clear to the government and the Islamic leadership that he was not a priest and had no links with the church other than the fact that the school was owned by the Amritsar diocese of the Church of North India on a leader of land from the government, and he was a member of the staff. Burn Hall catholic school is however on private land donated by the former maharajah, and the principal is a catholic priest. Father Mathew however also agreed there was nothing sinister in the school curricula or morning assembly, and there was no case of drug peddling in or around the school
Other Hindu and Muslim intellectuals we met spoke of vested interests and groups who were looking to “fish in troubled waters” while other had used the Christian issue to divert attention from pressing issues of poverty, jobs and development. Political analyst Syed Mallik was hopeful that the crisis would pass and there would be no more trouble. The schools have been closed for the winter vacation and reopen in February 2012.
The police has been polite with Rev Khanna after asking him firs to sign on a blank sheet of paper. But their behaviour with the neo converts has been far from police. We met two of them in Jammu where they are in hiding. Their names are being kept secret because it is feared they may be targetted by both the police and the Islamic groups. They are masons and were eking out a living. One said he had turned to Christianity after the miraculous healing of his pregnant wife. Both said they had become Christians without any allurement and without any threats, of their own free will, and fully knowing the repercussions of their action. Both said they feared from the police as much as from Islamic groups. They want to go back home, or elsewhere where they can earn a living. One of them has passed senior high school.
Delhi Advocate Jyoti Aggarwal, who as a member of the legal team that argued in court against the arrest of Rev Khanna – and ultimately won his temporary freedom on a bail bond after two days of court drama – narrated how members of the local Bar had disturbed the proceedings of the court speaking against the Pastor. Thier behaviour tested the patience of the judge who at one staged remark “Do you want me to hang him!” The judge eventually ruled that Rev Khanna be released on Bail on condition that he does not carry on baptisms and that he does not leave the state. Proceedings are expected to continue in court once the police submits its charge-sheet or admits there is no case against Rev Khanna under the law. Rev Khanna can be asked to present himself before the court as and when required.
In its editorial, The Kashmir Times observed in moderate tones “In the case of Kashmir, handling sensitive issues like this one calls for a greater degree of caution. Two universal basic considerations need to be kept in mind by all sides: The process adopted to decide the communally sensitive case must appear to be fair and just and, equally important, in consonance with imperatives of the Valley's age-old traditions of amity. Till now, by and large that is how the issue has been handled and that is why it has not gone out of hand. The same restraint and sense of responsibility is required to be maintained in taking the matter to its logical end. There can be no two opinions about the desirability of the issue being finally resolved. It cannot be allowed to hang fire indefinitely or generate animosity and hatred. It is the duty of the state authorities to show sensitivity and engage with all parties concerned towards exploring an early end of the dispute. Induced conversion is patently against the law of the land and penalty for the crime is also specified. However, the process adopted in the case has to be fair, just and transparent in order to make it convincingly acceptable to all concerned. Responsibility for ensuring that proper defence is available to the accused and that the charges against him are proved beyond reasonable doubt devolves equally upon all sides. Issue of forcible/induced conversion has been agitating the minds of various communities across the country. In certain cases mishandling of the dispute over religious conversion has resulted in violence and loss of human lives. Zealots find it as an opportunity to cause mayhem. Ultimately it is the society at large, comprising all faiths and communities, whose legitimate larger interests need to be protected. In any case, the consequences of letting this particular issue end up in some sort of law-versus-religion or Islam-versus-Christianity controversy is too frightful even to comprehend. The maturity and wisdom displayed so far needs to be adhered to on all sides and till the matter ends. “
1. The Christian population of Srinagar, numbering less than 400 men, women and children, are in state of panic, fearful of their security, uncertain of the future, uncertain of thier jobs.
2. The Christians also regret they have not received help and assurances from senior church leaders. The priest, Rev Khanna, was left to his own devices during the entire episode. His wife and family are shaken.
3. It does not seem likely that Rev Khanna, who retires early next year, will ever be able to go back to his church. The community is afraid there may be no priest to celebrate Christmas this year in the All Saints Church. The church hierarchy ahs to reassure the community on this point.
4. The police are patently partisan on religious lines although they have not harmed Rev Khanna. They have acted on behalf of the political leadership. It is quite clear they will have no qualms in restricting the religious freedom of the minority Christian community if they feel it necessary to keep the major groups in good humor. The first desire of the police is to see there are no demonstrations in Srinagar. Everything else is secondary, according to one security department official.
5. The state Governmnt has failed to act in the matter other than through the action taken by the police in arresting Rev Khanna. There has been no effort to reassure the frightened Christian community. As officially the State government has shifted to its winter headquarters in Jammu, there is no senior officer in Srinagar to meet with the Christian community and to give them any assurance.
6. The State government has not investigated the charge against the schools and NGOs so as to end rumour-mongering by Islamic groups and mischief makers,
7. The political leadership of all hues has not bothered to intervene to reassure the community or to get Rev Khanna’s freedom or to question the right of the Islamic groups to question the Christina priest. No major or minor political leader met the victim or the Christian community. No one has questioned the powers of the Shariah court.
8. Despite their quoting from the Islamic scriptures in the safety of minority communities under an Islamic majority, the leadership has not issued any public statements to reassure the Christian community which they know is very frightened as it lives in areas where ht family maybe the only Christian one and cannot get police help if need.
9. There has been much muscle flexing and loose talk by various groups who seem to be competing with each other in vowing to teach the minority communities a lesson.
10. Government, police, administration, Islamic groups and clergy have not considered what repercussions their actions will have in Jammu or in the rest of India where Muslims are not in a numerical majority.
11. Islamic groups in the valley appear not to be concerned by the fact that in the rest of India, Christians and Muslims are both a small minority and need each other and the civil society at large to face the challenge of Hindutva fundamentalist elements.
12. Barring one honourable exception, the role of the media has been suspect. Its reporting and editorializing has been one sided and without any reference to the truth as seen by the religious minority.
13. The role of the Srinagar Bar brings disrepute to the legal profession. This is similar to the role of the bar in various states in India where Muslim victims have been denied legal help.
14. The total absence of human rights organisations and the absence of a state Minorities Commission makes monitoring of human rights violations – of which freedom of faith is an important right – makes it difficult to listen to the problems, fears and perceptions of the religious minority communities.
SUGGESTIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS:
1. The police case against Rev Khanna must be withdrawn.
2. The government of India must show its commitment to secularism in all parts of the country by acting with alacrity when it comes across incidents such as those of Rev Khanna. It took more than twelve days before the NCM vice chairman could finally come.
3. Despite Article 370 and the special position of Jammu and Kashmir, it remains a part of India and the security and safety of the minority communities, whichever they are, must have primacy with the authorities including the judiciary, administration and the police and security forces.
4. The role of the State government of Jammu and Kashmir has come in for criticism. It has much to explain, specially why it has failed to act decisively in Srinagar in this matter. The panic among the people is a sign of the failure of the government in assuring security and safety.
5. The police must follow the law, and not allow themselves to be coerced by mobs.
6. Police and civil authorities must also train themselves in matters of secularism and a multi cultural society of India, including that of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. They must ask religious authorities to explain things which are not clear them, including the liturgy for baptism a the meaning of baptism. They have jumped to conclusions.
7. If they have some other information, the State Government must come out with a White Paper on this issue.
8. There is no question of Christian priests coming under the jurisdiction of the Shariah courts.
9. The National Commission for Minorities must urge the state government to set up a State Commission for Minorities.
10. Principals of Christians schools too have to do some introspection to ward off charges that they are charging high fees and “donations”, which make them seem as mercenaries in the eyes if the parents who want their wards to get the good education a Christian school promises.
11. In a hostile environment such as the Kashmir valley, Christian priests, pastors, NGOs and religious workers must tread cautiously les they infringe unwritten rules and cross invisible lines in social interaction.
12. No one can take away the right of any person to change his or her faith, a right guaranteed both by the Constitution of India and the Resolutions of the United nation. But pastors must do rigorous examination of those coming forward to embrace Christianity. They must always remain on guard against people sent as spies to trap the Pastor.
13. There is patent need for a deep introspection in the church on the spoken word, the language of evangelization and the translations of various Biblical verses. We have seen many verses whose local translation entirely mutilates the real meaning and lends itself to misinterpretation. This is a serious exercise which the collective church must carry out as early as possible not just for the sake of the Kashmir valley but for the country as a whole.
14. Christian NGOs have become suspect in the eye of the people. They too must introspect, and if they feel it is required, they must take urgent steps to win back the respect of the people most of whom are very poor and who need the educational, health and welfare services the State cannot provide.
15. The senior church hierarchy must provide a supportive leadership to the lonely pastors an spriest working in the valley.
16. Above all, the Christian community in India must continue to keep the Christians of Kashmir valley in their heart and in their prayers.