India – Prashant: fighting for peace

Prashant, meaning ?all-pervading peace?, is a centre for human rights, justice and peace located in Gujarat, a state from which justice and peace seem in recent years to have taken wing and flown. Its Director, Fr Cedric Prakash SJ, has endured much while protesting, from being beaten to pulp to having slippers shied at his head. Arising out of beginnings in the St. Xavier?s Social Service Society and the Province Office for Social Integrated Development, Prashant is today one of the most high-profile human rights centres in the country, in the forefront especially after the Godhra riots last year. Essentially an advocacy and networking centre, it works at three levels: responding to minor cases of infringement of minority rights; documentation; and networking. Publishing leaflets on citizens? responsibilities and fighting draconian laws that target mainly Muslims are part of its work. ?I feel humble and small,? says this Jesuit who has received the Kabir Puraskar for communal harmony from the President of India and testified before the US Commission for International Religious Freedom in 2002, ?but am glad that the media seek our opinion on matters relating to justice.? He maintains that Prashant is concerned to uncover the roots of violence. Is it endemic? Can it be prevented? It goes beyond cosmetic attempts to ensure the safety and security of oppressed groups and works to bring the guilty to book. The Hindu right-wing State Government in Gujarat loves to hate Fr Prakash and Prashant; death threats have not been in short supply. He says that he had not expected the centre?s work to become as prominent at national and international levels as it has, and adds ?We are servants of Christ?s mission here—the ushering in of a more just and humane society—that is all.? [HL31101] Director Fr Prakash Cedric SJ: