07/09/2012, 00.00
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For Karnataka Catholics, the government is violating minority rights

by Nirmala Carvalho
The state's chief minister plans to limit minority rights to schools where at least 75 per cent of students belong to minorities. Most minority schools would be excluded. For the archbishop of Bangalore, the government is twisting the law to "harass minorities" and "turn Karnataka into a Hindu state."

Bangalore (AsiaNews) - Catholic believers and clergy plan to turn to the Supreme Court in an attempt to stop the state government from violating minority rights. Speaking to AsiaNews, Mgr Bernard Moras, archbishop of Bangalore and president of the Karnataka Region Catholic Bishops' Council (KRCBC), slammed some statements made by the former state's chief minister, D V Sadananda Gowda, which could cripple minority schools. For the latter, only schools where 75 per cent of the students are from minority communities would be granted "minority status". Otherwise, they would not be entitled the privileges provided by the Right to Education Act, which imposes compulsory education between 6 and 14.

On 14 April, the Supreme Court ruled that public and private schools must establish a 25 per cent quota for poor students. However, the court exempted minority schools that are not publicly funded. Such a rule would have imposed an undue financial burden on educational facilities that are already open to disadvantaged children and teens. If the proposed Karnataka state law were to be adopted, various minority schools would be forced to close, especially in rural areas, because they could not meet the 75 per cent non-Hindu quota.

For Mgr Moras, who will lead a delegation representing 95 Catholic educational societies before the courts, both diocesan and others, state authorities are only playing with the definition of minority schools in order "to persecute, intimidate and harass" the vulnerable Christian community.

"The Supreme Court has already ruled on the various points of the Right to Education Act and its decision does not need to be interpreted," the prelate explained. "A minority school is such by virtue of the composition of its management board, not of its student population."

The archbishop is equally critical of the state government's attempt to turn Karnataka in a Hindu state. "The authorities have introduced in school textbooks the word 'saffranisation' (Hindu nationalist colour) as well as elements of Hindu mythology and philosophy to shape the minds of young people. We challenged this, but no one has done anything, except the government, which has spent 111 million rupees (US$ 2 million) to print its books."

"We are not alone in this struggle," Mgr Moras noted. "Sikh and Muslim communities are also concerned. The government is after every minority. All we demand is to see our constitutional rights respected and guaranteed."

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