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"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened."
- Matthew 7:7-8

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Augmenting a Pluralistic Society CSI SEVA

Reporters without Borders, an International Non-Government Organization released its annual World Press Freedom Index (WPFI) in May 2018. The index ranks 180 countries based on a consolidation of qualitative and quantitative analysis that examines pluralism, media independence, media environment and self-censorship, legislative framework, transparency, quality of infrastructure for news production, and violence against journalists and media persons. India ranked 138, ranked 136 in 2017, and 133 in 2016. Although the Press Council of India has rejected the Reporters without Borders ranking, citing “lack of clarity” in the methodology deployed.

The US state department's 2018 International Religious Freedom Report shows bias of the local media in favour of a particular party in India. The report, released on 21st June 2018, alleged that some senior leaders of the Ruling Party made inflammatory hate speeches against the minority communities. It also exposes that "mob attacks by extremist groups against minority communities which continued throughout the year amid the rumours that victims had traded or killed cows for beef.” The media is also playing a major role in diverting the attention of the public from major issues like unemployment, rapes, mob-lynching and the weak economy of our country to other issues which have no relevance for the country and its people.

In challenging situations like these, there is a necessity to continue research and documentation to bring into the notice of the Government agencies and human right institutions to safeguard the interests of minorities. This planned exercise involves acquiring information from newspapers and magazines, government records related to minority issues, human rights concerns, and reports/records of the government on incidents/matters related to FoRB (Freedom of Religion or Belief). However, most of the present documentations are fully dependent on the secondary sources like newspapers, magazines and so on. FoRB monitors are primarily meant to collect evidences from grass root level which are important to get a clear picture of incidents. It is envisaged that the FoRB monitors will complement the ongoing work of research, documentation and the fact finding by adding more stories of violation of FoRB from the local contexts which are not covered by our mainstream media.

The Mandapasalai Peace Center – Madurai Ramnad Diocese and other fifteen locations from all over India were identified and two people from each location who are working towards peacebuilding and communal harmony were trained to act as FoRB Monitors. The role of these FoRB Monitors is to analyse the violations and document them for the above-mentioned purpose. They may also expose them to the public through media intervention including social media and other sources. The three-day workshop had various input sessions predominantly on Fact finding – introduction, methods and steps, Introduction to various National and International mechanisms – Right to Information, Universal Periodic Review (UPR) – unique mechanism of the Human Rights Council (HRC) aimed at improving the human rights situation on the ground in the 193 Member states of United Nations. The History and constitution of India was highlighted to help the team remember the magnificence of ‘Unity in Diversity’ in the Pluralistic society that we live in. This kindled hope among the key people in order to rebuild a dream like community where there are no inequalities based on Caste, Gender, Class, etc. The preliminary training took for these key players jointly organized by National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) and Centre for Study of Society and Secularism (CSSS) took place between the 1st and 3rd of February 2020 at the premises of NCCI, Nagpur.

Praveen Daniel S
Program Executive – LCP