Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh nominated Dr. John Dayal, Secretary General of the All India Christian Council (aicc), to continue as a member of the National Integration Council (NIC).
The NIC was created by India's first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, to promote social harmony in light of India's huge diversity of religions, castes, cultures, and languages. For example, there are 122 major languages in India and it is the birthplace of three major world religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, and Sikhism).
Dayal was invited to join the reconstituted NIC in a letter dated December 4, 2009 from the Minister for Home Affairs, P. Chidambaram. Dayal originally joined the NIC in 2005.
In his letter of acceptance, Dr. Dayal said, "The people of India and the Christian community in particular, continue to have great hopes in the NIC in ensuring and strengthening communal harmony and national integrity. Frequent meetings of the NIC will give us opportunity to brief the government on the ground situation and on our fears, hopes, and aspirations. We hope the NIC and its members will be consulted in the formulation of such laws as the bills to set up the Equal Opportunity Commission, to prevent communal violence, and similar legislation."
The NIC is being "reconstituted" after the United Progressive Alliance was re-elected in May 2009.
The Prime Minister is the chairman of the NIC. According to the last published list, the NIC contains 147 people including: Union Ministers, Chief Ministers of all states and Union Territories with legislatures, leaders of major political parties, chairpersons of national commissions, and leaders in media, business, labour unions, and women's organisations. The other Christian representatives on the NIC are Dr. Valsan Thampu, Principal of St. Stephen's College, New Delhi, and Roman Catholic Archbishop Vincent M.C. Concessao, New Delhi. Several leaders from other categories are understood to be Christians, but were chosen for their other roles (i.e. government leaders).
The NIC meets infrequently to discuss strategies for dealing with potentially divisive issues. It has met fourteen times since its first sitting in 1962. The last meeting was in October 13, 2008 after a wave of anti-Christian attacks, mostly in Orissa and Karnataka, as well as Maoist militant attacks across India.
Dayal is an experienced human rights activist known for advocacy of Dalit rights as well as freedom of religion and conscience. He regularly presents data to various Indian government commissions and departments including, in 2007, the National Commission for Linguistic and Religious Minorities on the plight of Dalit Christians. He regularly speaks about socio-spiritual developments in India to diplomats such as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief (2008) and the official European Union delegation investigating anti-Christian riots in Orissa state (2008). After helping birth aicc in 1998, he was the only India-based witness to appear before the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom in Washington, D.C. in September 2000.
In December 2008, he was awarded the "Maanav Adhikaar Paaritaushik (Human Dignity Award)", given in memory of Professor M. M. Guptara, for "helping individual cases of human rights abuse, as well as struggling against structural human rights abuse aimed at whole groups (such as Dalits, Muslims and Christians), and fighting organised human rights abuse."
Despite repeated death threats, he has led reconciliation and justice initiatives in Orissa to galvanize civil society and citizens of goodwill from all faiths. The goal is to restore communal harmony after the unprecedented anti-Christian attacks in Kandhamal District in December 2007 which spread throughout the state in 2008.
Dayal to continue as member of National Integration Council
Published 21 December 2009