12/18/2008, 00.00
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Indian bishops: violence against Christians in Orissa is terrorism

by Nirmala Carvalho
The lower house of parliament has drafted an anti-terrorism law that does not satisfy the bishops' conference. According to the bishops, the attacks against ethnic or religious minorities are among the instances to be condemned. They are calling upon the government to revise the national security law of 1986.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) - The Indian bishops' conference is calling for an extension of the definition of "terrorism" and "terrorist activities," including among these attacks carried out "against ethnic and religious minorities."

In a note signed by Archbishop Stanislaus Fernandes, secretary general of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India, the government is called upon to take its cue "from the violence that has taken place in Orissa." This is characterized by "inflammatory speeches and hate campaign towards religious minorities by anti-social elements," making it "imperative that the definition of a terrorist [be] made more comprehensive."

On December 17, the lower house of the Indian parliament (Lok Sabha) approved two draft laws concerning the "prevention of criminal acts" and the creation of an "investigative agency on the national level." The interior minister has announced that, for the first time, the notion of "terrorism has been redefined in accordance with a general consensus": those who promote terrorist activities or centers of training for combatants will be judged on the basis of the measures adopted in the new legislation. And he promises a crackdown against the extremists, assuring that there will be no more cases of violence or discrimination "on grounds of caste, creed or religion."

The recent government provisions do not satisfy the bishops, according to whom "the definition of terrorist is limited" in comparison with the one indicated "in the National Security Guard Act of 1986," which they maintain is "much more precise" and should "be included in the new security bill drafted by the government."

Chapter I, paragraph Y of the 1986 law defines as "terrorist" any person "who, with intent to over-awe the Government as by law established or to strike terror in the people or any section of the people or to alienate any section of the people or to adversely affect the harmony amongst different sections of the people, does any act or thing by using bombs, dynamite or other explosive substances or inflammable substances or firearms or other lethal weapons or poisons or noxious gases or other chemicals or any other substances (whether biological or otherwise) of a hazardous nature, in such a manner as to cause, or as is likely to cause, death of, or injuries to, any person or persons or damage to, or destruction of, property or disruption of any supplies or services essential to the life of the community." This definition corresponds perfectly to the violence, crimes, and massacres carried out by the Hindu fundamentalists against the Christians in Orissa over the last four months.

"Keeping in mind the communal violence taking place in the country," Archbishop Fernandes concludes, "it is imperative that the definition of terrorist [be] made more comprehensive, as defined" in the 1986 decree.

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See also
Indian Church remembers Fr. Bernard Digal, martyr of the faith in Orissa
More homes burned in Orissa. Statement by the bishops
Cardinal Dias: Indian government should protect minorities and victims of massacres
Orissa: Christmas of Namrata, the little Dalit disfigured by a bomb
Bishop of Orissa: We are being persecuted like the first Christians


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