BHOPAL, August 19: The presence of certain vocal supporters of Vishwa Hindu Parishad and its sister groups caused a furore at the National Workshop organized by the National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities and the Tata Institute for Social Sciences at Mumbai on Friday, on conferment of Scheduled Caste status on converts to Islam and Christianity.
This seems a sinister design by some one to divert the issues, said former JNU professor Imtiaz Ahmed. Other scholars and activists also took umbrage at the presence of the Hindutva brigade some of whose members continuously heckled the speakers representing minority groups.
Reports reaching here said that Christian Bishops, Priests and social activists issued a joint statement at the seminar questioning its methodology and expressing their distress at the apparent effort to coerce the minorities and divide communities.
The statement said: "We are surprised at the adversarial structure of the Workshop based on participation of elements that are extraneous to the issue and have no locus standi".
"We reaffirm that the demand for justice under the Constitution of India by the Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims is addressed to the Government of India and not to political or religious groups. Our appeals and arguments are directed towards the National Commission which is an instrument of Government of India", the joint statement said.
"We are surprised at the confrontation sought to be generated in the Workshop between communities, between elements of a community, and by certain political elements who seem to have been specially invited for this purpose", the joint statement added.
The signatories to the joint statement included Bishop Deva Sahayam, Church of South India, Chennai, Rev Father Lourdusamy, former Executive Secretary for Dalit Affairs, Catholic Bishops Conference of India (Vellore), Rev. Fr. Philomen Raj, Executive Secretary, CBCI, Dr John Dayal, Member, National Integration Council, [National President, All India Catholic Union and Secretary General All India Christian Council], New Delhi, Advocate Edward Arokiadoss, National Secretary, All India Catholic Union [Madurai], Fr. J X Bosco, former Provincial, Society of Jesus, Hyderabad, and Dr M Ezaz Ali, (AIUMM). A representative of the Tata Institute, who wished to remain anonymous, said the Institute was under tremendous pressure to invite the Hindutva groups.