Please find the forwarded message. If there is no problem in publishing it
in our SOCM Forum, kindly do it.
Mem ID 1012
---------- Forwarded message ----------
A brilliant letter. Very elegantly and succinctly put. Needs to be
An Open Letter to the Chief Minister of Karnataka from St. Joseph's
We write to you as members of the Staff of St. Joseph's College and as
secular citizens of the state of Karnataka deeply distressed by the
recent attacks on educational institutions and churches in Mangalore
and elsewhere in Karnataka.
We are a college of 126 years, the very first private college of the
city with a rich legacy of educating generations of students of
different faiths in the ideals of democracy and secularism. Thousands
of citizens in the state owe their education into secularism to this
college where students have lived and learned as members of one human
family. We are also aware of your high esteem for the college. It is
due to that high regard for the institution that you had admitted your
son here and he had successfully passed out from the portals of the
Our contributions to the nation goes right back in time, to those dark
and frightful years of British imperialism. We as an institution,
perhaps the only one in the state, have participated in the freedom
struggle of the country.
The college had protested against British colonialism, raising the
National Tricolor as a banner of national revolt on our premises
against the British Raj. Our students were hunted and jailed by
British Police for participating in the Quit India movement.
The names of Ratnakar Rai and Kripakaran are synonymous with the early
struggles while Deendayalu Naidu and P.S. Sundaram Reddy were with the
Quit India movement. Several of our students were tortured and
repressed in these jails for their struggles for the freedom of the
Fr. Ferroli, the Warden was, interned in the jail in Whitfield. and
Fr. Boniface D'Souza, was the person who prevented the police from
taking students into custody during the last phase of the freedom
struggle. That spirit of secularism and nationalism still exists in
this campus and we have not deviated from that. It is this love for
the nation that prompts and urges us to write to you.
Over the years, we have educated a variety of students, pundits,
scientists, activists, journalists, technocrats, bureaucrats,
politicians, businessmen, sportspersons and women primarily from the
state of Karnataka though there have been students from outside the
state and the country. We have never imposed a world-view of our own
on the students.
Instead we have encouraged critical thinking and learning. Freedom of
thought and ex-pression has always characterized education in St.
Joseph's. We can claim with tremendous pride that we have produced
stimulating intellectuals, prominent change-makers at the grass root
level and provided able administrators to the nation and particularly
to the State of Karnataka.
M.P. Ghorpade, Kumara Bangarappa, M.P. Prakash, Bachche Gowda,
Narayanaswamy, Allum Veerabhadarappa and a host of bureaucrats are all
our former students. Many of our former students work in different
fields of life as innovators and policy-framers. Moreover we have
enhanced our services these many years to foster the needs and desires
of the marginalized.
We continue to admit and provide educational opportunities to a wide
community of educationally and socially backward classes, scheduled
castes and scheduled tribes. We have thus produced sensitive and
learned leaders among the Dalit and backward communities. We are
extremely proud of students from subaltern communities who have turned
into agents of radical social change. Our credentials as a secular and
progressive institution concerned about the well-being of all is a
truth well known to all.
St. Joseph's College belongs to no party. But we remain concerned with
what is taking place in the state. Inculcating social awareness and
increasing social concern is one of the main thrusts of the college.
As an educational institution with high moral and ethical credentials,
we are concerned about the divisive politics that polarizes people on
the basis of religion.
Your party has come to power on the plank of development. You have
also celebrated with great pride your hundred days in power claiming
that nearly 90% of your development manifesto has been fulfilled. We
may have different view of that but we will not debate that here. What
disturbs us is the mean claim that your party and your cadres make
that Christian institutions are involved in forced conversion just to
defame and malign.
Every citizen in this country has been given the right to practice,
profess and propagate one's religion by the Constitution. In fact, the
college is administered on the principles of egalitarianism, concern
for the weak and compassion to the suffering -- universal human
doctrines which are Christian as well.
If you consider commitment to a set of values as conversion, we are
quite proud. That has been our heritage. But when your affiliates
attack us on the issue of conversion, we are fully aware that you are
being frivolous. You do not believe in it. Nobody else believes in it.
You are simply using the community as a tool for political purposes.
In the last 126 years, lakhs have passed out from the institution. The
world famous scientist, Raja Ramana, former election commissioner of
India Krishna Murthy, large number of cricketers and hockey players
who have brought glory to the state have studied here. We also wish to
mention here Sri Sri Ravi Shankar of the Art of Living fame and
Veerendra Heggade of Dharamastala are our former students. There are
some monks of Sri Ramakrishna Mission and Buddhist monastries educated
Even today we teach a number of the children of your party
functionaries. Your cadres speak of conversion. Such divisive language
to defame institutions and the community for political purposes is
against the spirit of secularism and we do not appreciate that coming
from the head of the government of Karnataka.
In writing to you, we want to make it clear that we have no personal
interests. Our concern is the state of Karnataka and its people. This
state does not need debates on conversion or terrorism. What the state
needs is debate on development, inequalities, peace and harmony.
There has been in the last few days a campaign of hate that has been
systematically carried out by your affiliates and sometimes your own
cadres. They have victimized innocent citizens, harmed and destroyed
people and their lives. They have violated the dignity of women
including the cloistered religious nuns recently who spend time in
prayer and are out of touch with the rest of the world. They have
devastated neighborhoods and the everyday harmony of human existence.
Is this truly development? How can we build development without peace
and harmony? And how can we build peace and harmony without
Peace and harmony on the one hand and development and growth on the
other are mutual and inter-dependent. We could debate this issue and
other issues of marginalization of people, hunger and inequality
instead of the trivial issue of conversion.
Instead of encouraging your cadres and your affiliates to burn and
destroy churches and create disharmony, can you not encourage them to
work for literacy, employment, food, shelter and clothing? Instead of
destroying the secular fabric of cultural and religious
inter-relationships, can't you stop fanning hatred by not supporting
spurious ideas such as forced conversions and terrorism?
Your affiliates may assume, that by all this hate and anger, your
party may gain more seats in the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections
because of the disastrous polarizations between communities. But that
may be far from the truth. People always see through such divisive
Only economic development for the masses and the just practice of the
secular constitution can promise you votes. So we appeal to you, as an
educational institution of higher learning with a history of 126
years, that was a part of the freedom struggle, to work for
secularism, harmony, tolerance, and development so that together we
may build a humane and progressive human community in Karnataka.
We as a college community urge you most sincerely to stop hate, stop
destruction of Churches and educational institutions and restore peace
and harmony in the state. We assure you of our cooperation in the task
of building a secular state in the true spirit of diversity and
Of course, we shall continue to dissent in the true democratic spirit
of the Constitution when the Constitution of the land is under attack.
Dr. (Fr.) Ambrose Pinto SJ
and 75 staff members