By Sudhansu Digal
Bhubaneswar: The Odisha Minority Alliance (OMA) has honored John Dayal, a leading lay Catholic human rights activist and senior journalist, for his lifetime contribution for the cause of religious minorities in India.
The award was given on December 18 by Ramesh Chandra Majhi, Minister for Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Caste Development, Other Backward Class and Minority Welfare, Government of Odisha, on behalf of Odisha Minority Alliance (OMA), Bhubaneswar in Bhubaneswar.
More than 300 religious minority leaders, human right defenders, social workers and academicians coming from different parts of Odisha attended the function organized on the occasion of International Minority Day.
OMA, a coalition of religious minorities in Odisha, Eastern India, comprises Christians and Muslims, the state’s major minority groups.
Barendra Kumar, convener of OMA, hailed Dayal as a multi-faced human rights crusader, towering leader of the religious minorities in India. His contributions to the commitment and dedication for the cause of minorities remain unparalleled, he added.
Jugal Kishore Ranjit, co-convener of OMA, said Dayal was the first recipient of the award. The alliance plans to award every year a distinguished person for the cause of the minorities.
Dayal, a former member of the National Integration Council, is the founder general secretary of All India Christian Council, past president and current spokesperson of the All India Catholic Council. He volunteers to probe atrocities on any communities anywhere in the country and defends the rights of violated minority communities on both print and electronic media, Ranjit noted.
“Moreover, he does not mince his words and writings while defending the cause of the minorities. He leads from the front and remains an inspiration for minority communities,” the OMA official said. Dayal has shown equal commitment in defending the cause of other religious minority communities; be it Sikh or Muslim. “Hence, the Committee honored Dayal so that the next generation continue his mission and spirit in the challenging times ahead in the country,” he added.
Majhi stressed the need for everyone to cooperate in building up society. “It is a good sign that state government has taken initiative to construct 100 hostels for minority students and 25 multipurpose sectors in Odisha,” he pointed out.
The Odisha government, he added, would study the possibility of setting up a State Minority Commission. He invited minority community leaders for consultation to decide special budgetary allocations for the minorities welfare according to their priorities.
Dayal, while acknowledging the honor, stressed the need for sustained and collective efforts to address the issues and concerns of the minorities in India. Today they seem more vulnerable than before, he added.
The Catholic lay leader urged minority leaders to come forward to check attacks on their communities. Odisha has witnessed several such attacks, he pointed out.
“We need to multiply our efforts to foster peaceful co-existence of all communities. Challenges have soared up as religious minorities are under threats in several parts. So, we need to be on guard ourselves as seemingly the discourse is not saner for the minorities,” Dayal said.
Fr. Ajaya Kumar Singh, human rights activist, urged all to work for the realization of constitutional rights that provide them equal and equitable opportunities as equal citizenship.