By Matters India Reporter
New Delhi, Dec. 18, 2018: Jesuit-managed Indian Social Institute (ISI) and several Christians were among 100 human rights activists, advocates and journalists honored by the Delhi Minorities Commission.
The commission selected individuals, institutions and organizations from diverse categories for their commitment and contribution in upholding the rights of the minorities.
The award ceremony was held during the commission’s annual conference on December 17, the eve of the International Minority Rights Day, at New Delhi’s Vigyan Bhawan.
The Christian awardees included nonagenarian educationist Jesuit Father Tom V Kunnunkal, veteran journalists John Dayal and Anto Akkara, senior Supreme Court lawyer Colin Gonsalves, human rights activist Tehmina Arora and interfaith activist Jesuit Father Victor Edwin.
“The awardees list was big, which I think it is an attempt to showcase the exceptional representation of work ‘for and from’ the minorities. The diversity is needed to respond to the violent waves of homogenous majoritarianism,” Dayal told Matters India.
The award for ISI was received by its executive director Jesuit Father Denzil Fernandes. It was given for taking up a number of serious studies on many aspects of the social situation in India.
The citation praised the Institute for engaging with policymakers at the highest levels on behalf people at the grassroots. The commission lauded the institute’s commitment to sustainable development and social transformation.
The institute collaborates with academicians, people’s and ecological movements and human rights organizations nationally and internationally to bring about the integral development of marginalized communities through relevant research, training, publication and advocacy. Its beneficiaries are Dalits, Advasis/tribals, women, minorities and unorganized and landless laborers.
The commission honored Father Kunnunkal, 92, for his contribution to education. He headed the Central Board of Secondary Education of the Government of India from 1980 to 1987 and was a consultant to the Ministry of Human Resource Development for the turn-key project to establish the National Open School, New Delhi. When the institution was opened in 1989, Father Kunnunkal was appointed its chairperson, a position he served until 1992.
Father Edwin, director of the Department of Islamic Studies at Vidyajyoti College of Theology in Old Delhi, says he honestly felt embarrassed to receive the award because “I have not done much.”
The award citation hails him as the champion of communal harmony. “I humbly accept this award with an understanding that this is given not for what I have done, but what I must do with much greater conviction and compassion in the field of interfaith understanding,” he told Matters India December 18.
Another Jesuit honored was Father Arunmozhi for his legal interventions on behalf of the poor.
Ovais Sultan Khan, former managing trustee of ANHAD (Act Now for Harmony and Democracy), an Indian socio-cultural organization established in 2003 as a response to the 2002 Gujarat riots, welcomed the Delhi Minorities Commission’ new trend to honor champions of human rights.
“Nine of us received this honor today,” he told Matters India after the function.