The Christian community on Tuesday took out a mammoth rally in protest against the rape of a 71-year-old nun in West Bengal and attacks on the Christian community and churches. According to estimates, 30,000-35,000 people, including sportspersons Dhanraj Pillay and Anjali Vedpathak, took part in the rally. A lot of people from as far as Talegaon and Lonavala were also among the crowd.
Teresa D’Mello, an economics teacher at Abeda Inamdar College who took part in the rally, said, “It makes a big difference if a woman stands up for her rights and be counted. Even if it means missing a couple of hours of office duty to show that we won’t tolerate injustice.”
Like D’Mello, teachers from convent schools — which remained closed on Tuesday — doctors, officegoers, representatives of Christian organisations, priests, activists and politicians participated in the rally that was flagged off by Bishop of Poona Rt Rev Thomas Dabre, Bishop of Pune, Church of North India, Rt Rev Andrew Rathod, Vicar General of Diocese of Poona Malcolm Sequeira and others.
The rally that commenced from St. Felix School at Boat Club Road made its way through Wadia College and winded up at Council Hall where a delegation of five leaders from the Christian community submitted a memorandum on the inaction by authorities to District Collector Saurabh Rao. The memorandum has been sent to Home Minister Rajnath Singh.
The unfortunate incidents that have taken place in the past few months in various parts of the country have hurt the sentiments of the Christian community. Such events have shaken our faith in the secular fabric of the nation, said Rt Rev Andrew Rathod of the Church of North India. The reconversion programmes such as Ghar Wapsi of Hindu hardline organizations, saffronisation of education and culture, and the demands for a Hindu rashtra are challenging to the secular ethos, he added.
No arrests have been made despite knowledge and proof of the culprits in many instances. We are feeling vulnerable and there is a sense of insecurity and fear that the state will not protect us against this wave of hate crimes targeting our peace loving and peaceful community, both Bishops said in the memorandum. They have demanded that the law enforcement agencies be held accountable for dereliction of duty and called for the protection of minorities by passing a law to protect the rights as guaranteed by the Constitution.
“After the atrocity on the West Bengal nun, the Christian community wanted to close its institutions across the country. However, we exercised restraint so that students appearing for the board examinations at our institutions as centres do not have to face hardships,” the Bishops said. On Tuesday, several convent schools remained closed in the city so that teachers and principals could participate in the rally.
Among others present at the rally included Anees Chisthi, General Secretary, All India Humanity Association, Colin Louzado, Doctor, Diago Almeida, President, Catholic Association of Poona, activist Kiran Moghe and politicians Ramesh Bagwe, Vandana Chavan, Balasaheb Shivarkar, Abhay Chhajed and Vinod Mathurawala.