By Santosh Digal
Manila, October 29, 2019: Sajan K George is the president of the Global Council for Indian Christians (GCIC) that promotes freedom of religion and tolerance in the country. It advocates the rights of people, especially Dalits, the Other Backward Class, children, women and the religious minorities.
Matters India Special Correspondent in Manila, Santosh Digal, conducted an email interview with George about his work, experiences and GCIC.
Please tell us about yourself.
After working for a multinational company at the senior managerial level, I turned to the real estate and property development business in Bangalore (now Bengaluru) after disposing of our family plantation near Munnar, Kerala.
However, even at the peak of my success, I had not forgotten my college day ideals and working experience in Junior Chamber, as I always felt deeply for those who are denied of the minimum opportunities and the basic needs of life, the poor and the marginalized such as the Dalits, the Other Backward Class, children, women and the religious minorities in India.
But, the break came in my life only in 1993 when my dying little girl Ashy, the elder of the two of my children, who used to scribble in her school notebooks, “I am an able daughter of my noble father.” She told me just before breathing her last in the cancer ward to follow the path of Jesus wholeheartedly and do whatever he did for the last and the least, instead of spending my life only in accumulating wealth and worldly possessions.
What are the organizations you are associated with?
My child’s words were an eye-opener for me to decide to concentrate all my energies upon long-cherished goals of fighting for the cause of human rights of people in Indian society with a renewed vigor and commitment. Though I had already formed the Global Council of Indian Christians some years earlier, I was occasionally bringing out a bulletin to keep the public informed about the exploitations and the persecutions that kept occurring regularly in India.
In recent years, India has witnessed identity politics and religion-based polarization. What has GCIC done in this regard?
The prevailing circumstances had forced me to bring out a monthly bulletin called, “India Persecution Update” in 2005, to give proper coverage to the tragic incidents concerning mainly the minorities and the Dalits in the country. This was followed by a website in 2008 so that information could reach to the concerned, instantly.
Through these media, we were able to capture the attention of the larger section of people in the government and the public, state and national levels. That was our motto of engaging ourselves in the advocacy for freedom of faith and dignity for all God’s children without ever compromising upon the principles we have been adhering to. This brought us in contact with numerous national and international bodies that also work towards achieving the same goals as ours.
It is true India is passing through a difficult phase especially for the minorities which may or may not pass off in course of time. Our struggle must continue without a break. That would indeed be our real contribution to India.
GCIC is committed to promote freedom of religion. What have been your experiences in this aspect?
As a member of the United Nations Economic and Social Council, I have been able to highlight in their meetings at their headquarters in New York on religious intolerance and human rights violations, especially in South and Southeastern Asian countries. I was also one of the participants in the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance from in August 2001, held at Durban, South Africa, where I was also able to hand-over the compilation of details personally to the then Commissioner of United Nations Human Rights Commission Mary Robinson.
Back in India, in 2004, I was the lone Christian invitee to appear before the Parliament Standing Committee for Social Justice and Empowerment for the examination of the Constitution’s 103rd (Amendment Bill, 2004), and National Commission for Minorities (Repeal Bill, 2004).
Subsequently, I also started Mother Teresa Children’s Foundation to promote free blood donation and contribute our mite for the mitigation and the relief of the poor and the suffering by adopting the struggling victims and helpless families in India and abroad.
With a corps of volunteers in different parts of the country, GCIC was able to reach out to the affected people at the very places of attacks in the quickest possible time and guide the victims with regard to their treatments, legal matters and even assistance wherever necessary till they are bailed out, or discharged from the hospitals. Also, GCIC has been able to inculcate a sense of courage among the innocent victims to fight for their cause. Through our website and monthly bulletin, we have been able to create the necessary awareness also among both the victims and their well-wishers. The number of such cases dealt by the GCIC in India would run into hundreds.
More than 300 cases have been directly dealt with by the GCIC with the National Human Rights Commission, in New Delhi, with which also the GCIC has been able to develop a rapport through our regular communication, personal visits and contacts with the chairman and the members in New Delhi. We have also developed an excellent relationship with the National Commission for Minorities. At Karnataka level, we have directly dealt with and also motivated our people for close contact with the state Human Rights Commissions and the State Minority Commissions throughout the country so that they too could approach them directly whenever the need arose.
Kandhamal has been one of the most painful tragedies. GCIC was fully seized of from the very beginning. A large number of victims, including widows of the martyrs, were taken to New Delhi by the GCIC for a public protest in front of the Parliament, and also to other cities like Bangalore so that other people could grasp the extent of that tragedy. GCIC was also closely associated with the murder case of Graham Staines and his two children and subsequently also with Gladys Staines and her daughter Esther.
I was able to interact with, in personal audiences, eminent personalities such as Pope Benedict XVI in Rome, Mikhail Gorbachev, Moscow, Orthodox Syrian Patriarch in Lebanon. Current Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape is a strong supporter of us.