If the present ruling party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, is voted back to power in 2019, then, according to former Mumbai top cop, Julio Ribeiro, “I should be prepared for second class citizenship that denies top jobs like that of a judge in the Supreme Court, a governor of a state, the chief of defence staff or the intelligence bureau”. This harsh denunciation from the former Director General of Police was published in an article in a leading newspaper (The Times of India, May 28, 2018).
Ribeiro was supporting and justifying the letter written by Archbishop Anil Joseph Thomas Couto of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Delhi, a few days before the May 12 Karnataka elections, urging Christians to pray every Friday as the “turbulent political atmosphere”? was posing a threat to India’s “democratic and secular fabric”. After the uproar that followed, Couto tried to explain away the remarks, asserting that they were in no way a commentary upon the Narendra Modi government. However, the clear reference to the 2019 general elections could not be explained away so easily.
This column, however, is about Julio Ribeiro, IPS, a man who enjoyed the top most positions in his profession and was highly regarded as an epitome of professionalism and constitutionalism. Previously, Ribeiro wrote an article in Indian Express (March 17, 2015) stating that as a Christian, he suddenly felt threatened, unwanted and reduced to a stranger in his own country by proponents of the ‘Hindu Rashtra’. He was referring to a spate of attacks on Christian churches and schools, especially in Delhi. Such incidents also occurred in West Bengal and other places, but Ribeiro was pointing fingers at the new BJP dispensation. He did not wait for the police investigations; he did not consider the forthcoming elections to the State Assembly.
Ribeiro maintained a stoic silence when investigations showed zero responsibility of the Hindu organizations in the attack on churches. And when the culprits were caught – members of the ‘flock’ with personal grievances or just petty criminal tendencies – Ribeiro never returned to apologise, much less tell us if he felt comfortable in his own country once again. Joy Tirkey, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Delhi, himself a Christian, made the findings public. But Ribeiro refused to retract.
Scheduled Caste Christian converts filed a complaint in June 2015 with the United Nations accusing the Vatican and the leadership of India’s Catholic Church of caste-based discrimination. A delegation of 22 persons from the Dalit Christian Liberation Movement (DCLM) and Viduthalai Tamil Puligal Katchi (a collective of human rights activists) submitted the complaint to the UN Information Centre for India and Bhutan, in Delhi. Neither Julio Ribeiro nor Archbishop Anil Couto appeared to stand up for the rights of their maltreated brethren and get them their rights vis-à-vis the Catholic Church.
Discrimination against Scheduled Caste Christians by church authorities rocked the Tamil Nadu State Minorities Commission in June 2015. Representatives of various Dalit Christian organisations levelled serious charges against church authorities. They pointed out that 70 per cent of Christians in the district were former Scheduled Castes, but the churches continued to be dominated by so-called upper caste Christians, whose population was just two per cent. Christopher, a representative of a Dalit Christian organisation, complained that schools run by Christian Missions did not admit Dalit Christian students.
The BBC in September 2010 reported that India’s Scheduled Castes find no escape from caste in Christianity. It reported that in the town of Trichy in Tamil Nadu, a wall built across the Catholic cemetery clearly illustrated the perpetuation of caste-based prejudice. Converts among the Scheduled Castes were buried on one side of the wall, while upper-caste converts were buried on the other side. Neither Ribeiro nor his upper caste convert brothers felt humiliated about this indecency accepted and adopted by the Catholic church.
Such events raise serious doubts whether the Catholic Church is at all a religious organization. History tells us that the Catholic church has a long history of political intervention and intimidation. Two Papal Bulls, Romanus Pontifex (1454) and Inter Cetera (1493), confiscated indigenous lands and converted them into Christian Empires. The Papal Bull Romanus Pontifex was issued by Pope Nicholas V to King Alfonso V of Portugal, and confirmed to the Crown of Portugal dominion over all lands south of Cape Bojador in Africa.
The Inter Cetera was issued by Pope Alexander VI to Ferdinand and Isabella, sovereigns of Castile, and granted them all lands to the “west and south” of a pole-to-pole line 100 leagues west and south of any of the islands of the Azores or the Cape Verde islands. It gave Spain the right to colonise, convert, and enslave, and also justified the enslavement of Africans.
Those who attempted to controvert this Papal bull were threatened with incurring “the wrath of Almighty God and of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul.” Currently there are worldwide demands to Pope Francis to abolish this papal bull behind colonisation.
Scholars like David Kertzer argue that fascist ideology was inspired by Catholic tradition – the authoritarianism, the intolerance of opposition and the profound suspicion of Jews. The gripping story of Pope Pius XI’s secret relations with Italian dictator Benito Mussolini is now history. The first fascist movement to come to power, Italian fascism, rose in a country that was 99 per cent Catholic and the seat of the Papacy; ‘clerical fascist’ movements came to power in two overwhelmingly Catholic countries, the Slovak Republic (1939-45) and the Croatian Independent State (1941-45). Fascist movements and regimes in other European countries also entered into relations with the Roman Catholic Church, and many top Catholics were closely involved with fascist movements.
India’s former top cop Julio Ribeiro is not standing for a spiritual cause but flaunting the intimidation policy of a global political organization with a global political agenda, while hiding behind a mask of religious hurt. His regular public interventions in support of this colonising agenda of the Papacy are a disservice of the nation and the rich cultural diversity that ‘Hindu India’ is justly proud of.
Dr. B.S. Harishankar.
He has completed two post-doctoral researches in archaeology and was former Asst. Director, Indraprastha Museum, New Delhi. He has worked in various national and international projects in archaeology. He has six published works and numerous articles to his credit. Currently he is Member, Academic Committee, Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla, HP.