Special Correspondent

Union Minister’s pitch comes in the wake of attacks on religious minorities

Cites the recent attack on Christian institutions to highlight limited scope for Centre to intervene

Lauds the Christian leadership in the country for not issuing provocative rallying calls

CHENNAI: An amendment to the Constitution that will empower the Centre to take over the law and order administration of a communally volatile place in any State has become inevitable in light of the recent attacks on religious minorities, Union Minister for Parliamentary Affairs and Overseas Affairs Vayalar Ravi said on Sunday.

Inaugurating the ‘8th Malankara Catholic Church-Extra Territorial Region in India (ETRI) Malankara Catholic Youth Movement (MCYM) Convention,’ he cited the recent attack on Christian institutions and believers in Orissa to highlight the limited scope for the Union government to intervene to restore order.

The heated debates for Central intervention triggered by the Orissa incidents led to the realisation that while Article 355 vests the Centre with only the powers to shoot off a letter to the problem State, the invocation of Article 356 represented the extreme step of empowering the Centre to dismiss a government.

In this context, Mr. Ravi argued for a Constitutional amendment that would empower the Centre to take over maintenance of the law and order duties of a problem area, especially when some coalition governments had come to power with the help of fringe communal outfits.

“National shame”

Describing the attacks on Christians in Orissa as a “national shame and a dangerous precedent,” Mr. Ravi said he had written to the Prime Minister about the need for a suitable Constitutional amendment to give the Centre a larger role in such situations.

The Minister lauded the Christian leadership in the country for not issuing provocative rallying calls in response to the heinous acts. By praying for peace and the reforming of the oppressors, the leadership had epitomised the greatness of the church as an institution, he said.

LDF criticised

Taking pot-shots at the LDF government in Kerala, Mr. Ravi said the attack on mankind’s core beliefs could come from any quarter, sometimes from the State itself. Referring to the controversial attempts in the recent past by the Kerala government to amend the seventh class textbook allegedly by substituting atheism in the guise of secularism, he said the move had to be eventually abandoned in the face of widespread protests.

Church contribution

Commending the contributions of the church to education and healthcare in Kerala, Mr. Ravi urged the youth participating in the three-day convention to uphold the values enshrined in the gospel.

Pointing out that belief was the basis of harmony in family and society, he appealed to the youth against retaliating against any attack, and instead grow from strength to strength from their conviction.

Threat to Christians

In his keynote address, Geevarghese Mar Divanyasos said the threat to the Christian community came from two fronts—excessive materialism and religious fundamentalism.

While pursuit of worldly riches could be avoided by getting fixated on the transitory, the persecution of minorities had to “be fought and opposed in a healthy manner.”

Jacob Mar Barnabas, Apostolic Visitator, ETRI, outline the theme of the convention, ‘Arise and Build.’

S. Peter Alphonse, Congress MLA in Tamil Nadu; Lawrence Pius Dorairaj, Auxiliary Bishop of Madras Mylapore; Joshua Mar Ignathios; Shibu Mathew, MCYM president; and Johnson Parackal, Chennai Vicar, participated.