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Kolkata Church Committee Elections

By Calcutta “Old-Timer”, 27 November 2013
Due to the length and content of the below commentary, we have posted it as a stand-alone article with the permission of the author, who prefers to be called Calcutta “Old-Timer”. To appreciate the references, refer to Thugs, Police at Calcutta Church Elections and the comments that follow.–Ed. This letter isn’t about whether Max is a “Galstaun” or a “Khachaturian”. Maybe he is officially a Khachaturian, maybe he isn’t. In this instance it is irrelevant, but one thing definitely undeniable is that his son Anthranick most definitely IS a Khachturian.

Anthranick Galstaun, by birth with a perfectly legal and legitimate name, changed it to Khachturian. He was baptized in the Armenian Church of Holy Nazareth, Kolkata. This the very church that  locked its gates to him as he attempted to peacefully and LEGITMATELY enter to participate in the elections run by the “moral-less” Susan Ruben and Sunil Sobti. They, in turn, were supported by the gutless, morally corrupt and very un-“celibate” Rev. Father Khoren, who allegedly is engaged in deplorable practices involving minors. The members of the Armenian community did not stand a chance against these exceptionally manipulative and highly skilled con artists.
No one can deny that for many years Max Galstaun was a lone voice banging on about the Kolkata Armenian Church’s lack of honesty, integrity and openness. He may, at times, have approached it in the wrong way, but one must agree that these recent elections with church funds used to bring in thugs and bouncers to keep members of the community out of their church and the election process is tantamount to mob rule.
Max’s long-term campaign has very sadly been proved correct: the Church in India is indeed corrupt, and it was a sad day on Nov. 10, 2013. It was proved to be so not just because forlorn Armenians were left standing outside the gates of an active church but because of the blatant religious thuggery and the fact that they were refused entry into a place of worship. Reconcile that with your Maker, dear elected members. It was also a sad day for the thousands of Armenians around the world who have a connection to the Armenian Church in India and who profess their love and support, who deplore what has gone on for years in the City of Joy and who voice their displeasure on social network sites such as Facebook and yet sit back and do nothing. And on this occasion they sat back and did nothing again.
There’s a community here which is dying because of Ms. Ruben and Mr. Sobti. Does anybody care?
There’s a community here which is being oppressed because of Ms. Ruben and Mr. Sobti. Does anybody care.
There’s a community here which is being suppressed, gagged and brow-beaten because of Ms. Ruben and Mr. Sobti. Does anybody care?
There’s a community here which is begging to be heard. Does anybody care? Sir Catchik Paul Chater left all his money to these newly-elected committee members. His legacy to the Armenian Church in Kolkata funds their cloak-and-dagger operation in which the only ones who benefit financially are Ms. Ruben, Mr. Sobti and the immoral Rev. Father Khoren.
Margaret Sarkies, daughter of the late Cha Cha Sarkies, who for years was the elder “statesman” of the Kolkata community but treated cruelly and with disdain toward the end of his days by the very church he loved and supported, shed an interesting light on the ongoing Korean-type iron grip that Ms. Ruben and Mr. Sobti are applying to the community: Susan Reuben and Sunil Sobti who have siphoned crores upon crores (10 million) of rupees. They have amended the Church Scheme (Constitution) without the knowledge, consultation or approval of the Armenian community of Kolkata. Two clauses that they have deleted enables these two wardens stay in this capacity forever. That is why they are blocking, barring, intimidating, and threatening persons such as myself, so that they and their cronies can keep getting re-elected and reign supreme, continuing to bribe, and steal from the Armenian church funds.
Margaret Sarkies, Anthranick Khachaturian, Sonia John, and other members of the community didn’t stand a chance against the above kleptomaniacs.
Meantime the community-crushing continues, Ms. Ruben hasn’t got a sympathetic and kind bone in her. While she’s in charge of the money, the community and its livelihood are at risk.
Judgment day will come to Ms. Ruben and Mr. Sobti as well as to the ambiguous clergyman who participated in the locking of the gates of the house of God. The rightful punishments will be meted out to them.
Armenian Election Woes in India: Millions in Assets at Stake
16:09, 26 November, 2013
By Anonymous*
On November 10, 2013, Armenian community of Kolkata (Calcutta) assembled to elect a new committee tasked with managing community assets running into the millions of dollars. Elections are held every four years. Allegations of vote rigging and thug tactics voiced by some in the community have marred this recent election. What follows are the views of one community member.
The local Armenians of Kolkata are today facing their biggest nightmare and challenge in the history of Armenians in India.
Simply stated – it is to protect and preserve their Indian Armenian identity and their fundamental right to bequeath their legacy to future generations.
Election fraud in the Armenian community isn’t new. It began due to a few unworthy scrupulous and greedy so-called Armenians who have elected themselves to positions of power by using unjust and inappropriate means.
All this stems from their overwhelming desire to stay in power for ever and to make money by fraudulent means.
What the self-elected Committee has done in order to win the recent election has included getting four clergymen and four Armenians from Armenia to cast a vote in their favor. In return, the foreigners would receive in due course of time a handsome kickback.
One may rightly ask – what was the reason for inviting these clerics six months prior to the November 10 election date.
Why have four clergymen voted for the first time in the history of the AGM (Annual General Meeting)?
Does this indicate that these clerics are paving way for the next 4 yearly elections, where they will bring 7 more clerics, and vote to oust even members of the present committee?
This is the very same committee that manages the multi-million dollar assets of the Indian-Armenian community.
It would be a dark day indeed and a 500 hundred year Indian-Armenian old legacy would be vanquished forever!
One might ask what four clerics are doing in India, where only 200 Armenians remain.
Why aren’t they in places where there are 40,000 Armenians and no priests – Syria, Ethiopia and elsewhere – where there is a need for holy men to save wandering souls?
These clerics are archimandrites and bishops. Such a situation leads one to speculate as to their hidden agenda.
There is also the question as to what these four clerics and four so-called teachers from Armenia know about the affairs of the Indian Armenians.
I am sure they don’t know the Indian culture or even how to hail a cab or read and write in English. Do they college degrees in management?
Why are they casting their votes in an Indian Armenian community election? They should not be involved in any way whatsoever! They are in India as clergymen and teachers. They are not here as Committee members or wardens or chairman of a committee that deals with Indian government regarding the management of Indian-Armenian community trusts, properties and assets.
There are petitions being made by some Indian Armenians in the courts, accusing the present committee of unfair elections and heavy-handedness. The accusations range from fraud to obstruction of justice, from autocracy to bank account discrepancies.
It is fair to ask why only defrocked clerics are sent to India. Is it because they are on the road to repentance or do they have a hidden agenda?
The existential problem lies with the present committee which is paying huge amounts of money as salaries and gifts to gain their support.
What exactly are the clerics doing in return for such luxurious salaries? While a cleric in Armenia on average receives, say, $100 a month, in India they receive $2000 to $3000, including benefits. All the while, many Indian-Armenians are deprived of the basic necessities.
The Girls School has been closed for 5 years now, and all the thirty girls are staying at the boys’ hostel. Does the school administrator intend to sell the girls school, which is a trust property? What about the safety of the young girls surrounded by celibate clerics and young teenage boys?
The destiny of the future of the Indian Armenians lies in the hands of a few who will have to keep on fighting till justice is served.
Indian -Armenians are trying to reach out to fellow Armenians all over the globe for support in this grave situation.
Hopefully, the situation in India will not end like the closing of Melkonian Institute in Cyprus or selling off the assets of the Armenian community in Addis Ababa.
According to a few Armenians, who wish to remain anonymous, describe the situation – “We are powerless to raise our voices. We are afraid that our pension and allowances with be cut if we speak out against the community wardens.”
One other elderly community member asks: “Who will defend us if we speak out. The wardens will stop my children’s education scholarship payments if we say anything or support the people who are trying to fight for the right cause. All we can ask is that all Armenians are listening and will act to rectify the mistakes.”
This would be an opportune time for Catholicos Karekin II to explain the reason for sending four clerics to India.
We have no choice but to amend the present election scheme and return it top its original form, so that the assets and properties don’t leave the country.
One should keep in mind that the present self-elected committee is elected for their allegiance and not their virtues.
The self-elected committees are: Mickael Dutta, Suzane Ruben, Sunil Sobtee, Robert Wilkins, Peter Hyrapet, Vatche Tadvosyan and Sevil Manukyan.
* – The author’s name has been changed. The author writes: “I am recipient of charity and speaking out against the current committee could jeopardize my financial assistance and put my well being in danger.”
Thugs, Police at Calcutta Church Elections Thugs, Police at Calcutta Church Elections Thugs, Police at Calcutta Church Elections Thugs, Police at Calcutta Church Elections Thugs, Police at Calcutta Church Elections Thugs, Police at Calcutta Church Elections Thugs, Police at Calcutta Church Elections Thugs, Police at Calcutta Church Elections
By Karen Mkrtchian
KOLKATA, India, Nov. 10, 2013–The age-old Armenian community of Kolkata (Calcutta) gathered today behind the closed doors of the Armenian Holy Church of Nazareth to elect a new committee that would manage the assets of the church which runs into millions of dollars.
Every four years the community meets at a general meeting to elect a committee that would manage the affairs of the community. This year’s election was remarkable as some Armenians were left behind the closed gates of the church.
“At about 10 am we arrived at the church and found the gates locked. We were denied entry,” said Anthranick Khachatourian, one of the Armenians kept out of the meeting. Khachatourian is a Kolkata-born Armenian who was baptized at the Armenian Holy Church of Nazareth. He is currently involved with NGOs in Kolkata and Jharkand.
“What is going on here is genocide without the killing,” said Khachatourian. “It is a well-concieved plan to wipe out our community. They have shut down the Davidian Girls School in the name of repairs and the doors of our Armenian clubs are always closed. The church seems to have money for the Hindus, the Anglo-Indians and the Buddhists, while the local poor Armenians are left neglected,” said Khachatourian, who said he wasn’t allowed entry because the committee knew he would expose them.
“At about 10:30 am, thirty minutes before the general meeting a truck full of some 40 young thugs arrived at the scene and threatened to beat us up,” said Max Khachadourian, Anthranick’s father who was also left out of the meeting. He said the thugs had said that the church authorities had called them to the scene and promised them refreshments for their services. There was also a big contingent of police force called at the scene. “Why did the church authorities have to bring around 50 policemen and policewomen against three Armenians? Were we such a danger to them?” questioned Max, who said the police had told them that they had orders to arrest them, if they tried getting in.
Margaret Sarkies-Keller was also not allowed to the meeting. She said she was informed that she did not have the right to be present at the meeting and to vote. “I am a full-blooded Armenian and my father Charles (Chacha) Sarkies served this church for 30 years until his death in 2011. I was baptized in this very church and
they won’t let me in,” said Sarkies-Keller who is an Australian citizen but has a Person of Indian Origin (PIO) card. She also alleged that she had received threats from the thugs called by the church committee.
“They did not offer appropriate care to my father when he was sick,” said a tearful Sarkies-Keller. “He was totally neglected and died with bed-sores all over his body. I will never forgive them,” she said and added that she wanted to restore dignity and respect in the community.
Calling the elections null and void, Sonia John, the former chairperson of the church, expressed her dissatisfaction about the state of affairs. “People like the clergy and the Armenian teachers who were not entitled to vote had been brought in to ensure that they win,” said Sonia John, who was not allowed entry to the previous general body meeting in 2009 on the grounds that she wasn’t Armenian. The wardens had brought a case against her regarding her Armenian identity in the Calcutta High Court which she won. That is why she wasn’t stopped from taking part this year.
The three Armenians have filed a complaint at the local police station and have no intention of letting the matter go.
“We are going to stay and fight these people. We need to make sure our community is looked after and taken care off. All the money left by the benevolent Armenians are for the local Armenians. We want to make sure they get what is rightfully theirs. What is happening now is disgraceful and an insult to the rich legacy our forefathers left behind in this country. We may have lost this battle today, but the war to revive our community is still on,” said Khachatourian.
By late Sunday, Nov. 10, the Armenian church committee could not be contacted regarding the above allegations.
 Kolkota Armenian Clergyman Rebuts Charges of Mismanagement and Election Fraud
17:36, 4 December, 2013
The following letter was sent to Hetq by Very Rev. Father Zaven Yazichyan, Pastor and Manager of the Armenian College and Philanthropic Academy in Kolkota.
Father Yazichyan refutes a number of claims appearing in the November 26 Hetq Opinion piece entitled Armenian Election Woes in India: Millions in Assets at Stake.
Today it is not unusual for miscreants to create a scandal out of nothing and to tarnish a persons’ reputation without much deliberation. And what makes it worse is the readiness of the media to publish without proof of its veracity, articles written by such miscreants who do not have the courage to name themselves and instead assume the title of “Anonymous”.
Hence, it was not without anguish that I read the article titled “Armenian Election Woes in India: Millions in Assets at Stake” on hetq.am. I do not wish to demean myself to argue with a nameless person; however I would like to make some clarification:
The Armenians have been connected with India as traders from the days of antiquity. They came to this country by the overland route, through Persia, Afghanistan and Tibet and were well established in all the commercial centers long before the advent of any European traders. Nevertheless, the Armenian community prospered and developed during the 16th century. In the early 18th century the Indian subcontinent was faced with a severe crisis. Fierce civil strife between Indians and Europeans as well as between the European powers themselves (England and France), resulted in the victory and subsequent expansion of the British rule in India. It is during this period of political upheaval and unrest that the Armenian community sought to reestablish their socio-cultural identity and not just restrict themselves to be a vibrant commercial community. This was one of the reasons that urged them to build churches (there are five churches in West Bengal, the oldest one was built in 1688) in their settlements and invite priests from Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, Armenia. As always and everywhere in the entire world the Armenian Church was considered as the centre of all community activities, so the Armenians in India were and are not exceptions.
The Armenians in India considered it their patriotic duty to build churches and provide educational facilities (one of the most important phenomena for the Armenian educational and cultural life in the Indian-Armenian Spiritual Pastorate is the Armenian College and Philanthropic Academy (ACPA) and Davidian Girls’ School (DGS) of Kolkata. It may surely be said that it is one of a kind. It has been existing for almost two centuries and is still serving its noble purpose by educating students and imparting knowledge and wisdom to young Armenian children from India and abroad) for their compatriots in order to preserve their religion, language, literature and national identity. To the Armenians, Christianity is the religion of the heart and not of the head. It is evident from the gallant and simple records illuminated with the tears of saints and glorified with the blood of martyrs.
Among all the Armenian Apostolic churches in India, The Armenian Holy Church of Nazareth, is the oldest Armenian Church in Kolkata and plays a unique and important role as it is considered to be the Mother Church of the Indian-Armenians Spiritual Pastorate. And as in everywhere in all dioceses, parishes, pastorates, communities or in any organizations, armies, offices or in businesses there is a set of written rules that are accepted by all people living together; first to generate a degree of trust and coordination that is necessary for people to live together as well as to specify how the administration will be constituted, and who will have the authority to take which decisions.
The Indian-Armenian Spiritual Pastorate is subject to internal and external rules, order and discipline. Every aspect and institution of human civilization requires some form of government to prevent injustice and maintain order and govern a group properly It is said: that if men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, no controls on government would be necessary. Unfortunately, it is not like that.
Therefore, our ancestors being well aware of it, created bylaws for Indian-Armenian Spiritual Pastorate which we call Scheme. In which it is clearly stated who and how Indian Armenian identity has to be protected and preserved and passed to future generations.
According to the Scheme every four years in the Indian-Armenian Spiritual Pastorate the Armenian community of Kolkata assembles to elect a new committee who will protect and preserve the Armenian inheritance and pass it to future generations. The practice of the Armenian community in Kolkata of assembling together to elect a new committee is not new and the gossip surrounding it is also quite an old ritual, something I believe will unfortunately, continue forever and never stop. What astonishes me is the disposition of some people to escalate such baseless gossip into a sensational mudslinging affair, by trying to lend it credibility through publications in the media. Either such individuals have a lot of spare time, or they do not know how to utilize the limited time in our lives in a prudent and righteous manner, knowing very well that the day of the Lord will come.
The Scheme clearly states who are eligible for election; who can vote and can be elected. Hence I would like to talk about specifically what has been written in this article. In my opinion whosoever wrote this article is either a preposterous liar trying to undermine the peace of society or is himself/herself not aware of the rules governing the election procedure in the Indian-Armenian community.
“…recent election has included getting four clergymen and four Armenians from Armenia”
Firstly, the clergy robe or vestments do not prevent the clergy from being Armenians and hence a part of the community. The clergy have been in the community from the first day when the community was established, because it is their duty to be present wherever there is an Armenian establishment, to guide them to happiness and partake in their sadness. Yet again according to The Scheme, whosoever, lay or clergyman, receives charity from the church or lives in the property of the Church is not eligible to vote. Manager, Assistant manager and Armenian teachers are employees of the Armenian College and Philanthropic Academy (ACPA). None of them receive any charity from the church and none of them live in the property that belongs to the Church. ACPA is a totally separate body with its own rules and constitution. Secondly, there were four clergies in Kolkata during the summer months and now there are only two. Moreover, there are other strict criteria in The Scheme that one must meet before he/she can be allowed to vote. Only two clergies took part in the election.
The Indian-Armenians I am sure are proud and truly happy to have two priests because there are so many Armenian communities that desire to have at least one visiting priest, so they can have Divine Liturgy at least once a month, but due to shortage of the number of Armenian priests, they are unable to enjoy the benefits of having one.
“…what was the reason for inviting these clerics six months prior to the November 10 election date… these clerics are archimandrites and bishops. Such a situation leads one to speculate as to their hidden agenda”
Again there is no archimandrites and bishops in Kolkata and no one was invited six months prior to the November 10 election date; there is one married priest with his family who has been living in Kolkata for more than three years and there is the newly appointed manager who had to come to Kolkata almost a year before his actual appointment, to learn and understand 3 the cultural differences and responsibilities of the managerial position for a smooth transition of chair.
It is a complete lie that it in the history of the Annual General Meeting it is the first time that the clergymen have participated in the election. Research the history, who advised the community to have a Scheme, a written document, so Indian-Armenians could keep their identity so far from Motherland.
“One might ask what four clerics are doing in India, where only 200 Armenians remain. Why aren’t they in places where there are 40,000 Armenians and no priests – Syria, Ethiopia and Syria, and elsewhere – where there is a need for holy men to save wandering souls?”
Honestly, this is too much. I am wondering whether this person (whoever he or she is) has ever seriously thought what s/he wrote or is able to show on the map where Syria, Ethiopia is or tell how many Armenian Churches we have there or how many priest are currently serving there.
My suggestion to the writer would be to get his facts correct before saying, writing or let alone publishing anything.
“What exactly are the clerics doing in return for such luxurious salaries? While a cleric in Armenian average receives, say, $100 a month, in India they receive $2000 to $3000, including benefits.”
As the Pastor of Indian Armenian Spiritual Pastorate and Manager of Armenian College and Philanthropic Academy, I would refrain from disclosing the modest salary we receive and yet how I wish this allegation was true, not that I would know what to do with that monumental a paycheck.
“The Girls School has been closed for 5 years now, and all the thirty girls are staying at the re staying at the re staying at the re staying at the boys’ hostel. Does the school administrator intend to sell the girls school, which is a trust property? What about the safety of the young girls surrounded by celibate clerics and young teenage boys?”
The DGS is currently under construction and the delays are due to the long process of obtaining legal permission for renovations under the Indian Government laws. Hopefully by the beginning of 2015 we will have all necessary paperwork done and will start construction of Davidian Girls’ School which will reopen in 2017, wherein it will have the capacity to accommodate more than 200 Armenian kids. No one has any intention of selling the DGS, for it is a trust property and it is under the kind donation of the Church committee that this renovation project will become a reality.
We as school administrators understand and leave no stone unturned in providing safety to the young Armenian girls on the highest level. We have appropriate women staff appointed 24/7 to look after the girls.
To a few Armenians, who wish to remain anonymous:
I am not upset that you lied; I am just upset that many readers believed and got upset and from now on the person who would think logically cannot believe you anymore.
For the senior Indian-Armenians we have the Old Age Home which is situated near The Armenian Chapel of St. Gregory the Illuminator near the Park Circus. This Home caters to the welfare of the needy. The church and the Home are taken care of by the Church Committee of Holy Nazareth as well.
Dear author please verify your information, because even in the list of committee member you mentioned have erred, you have named people who are not in the committee and never were. Furthermore, I wonder how you being a recipient of charity from the Church can say such hurtful things to the Church and His servants who have helped you in times of need. Your way of thanking them appalls me.
As the Pastor of Indian-Armenian Spiritual Pastorate and manager of Armenian College and Philanthropic Academy I invite everyone to come and see for themselves how we live in the ACPA. It is open to everyone and at all times. All Armenians must be proud that we are trying to do our best to keep the Armenian heritage and flag flying high and shining brightly in India. We are open to comments and advice for improvement and development, but lies and dishonesty will always be rejected. I implore Indian Armenians not to be misled by the words of people who are simply trying to divide, confuse, and ruin the bonds of love within the community. I pray to God Almighty to grant everyone wisdom and to forgive people who lie and show them the right path in life.
May God the almighty have mercy on you and grant you forgiveness of all your transgressions of the past and the present. May he deliver you from those that are to come, confirm you in all good works, and give you rest in the life of the age to come. Amen
With love and blessings, ——————————————
Very Rev. Father Zaven Yazichyan
Pastor and Manager
Armenian College and Philanthropic Academy 56B, Mirza Ghalib Street (Free School Street), Kolkata – 700 016, West Bengal, India Tel: +91 (033) 4010 9051 / 22299051 Fax: +91 (033) 22275869 E-mail: contact@armeniancollege.edu.in Website: www.armeniancollege.edu.in
“I am sure they don’t know the Indian culture or even how to hail a cab or read and write in English. Do they college degrees in management?”
After this article I hope there will be no doubt on my English reading/writing capabilities. And hopefully if my duty permits me free time to step outside the ACPA, you’ll surely see me hail a cab, or better still use the more humble public transport like the metro, bus and auto-rikshaw. And with regard to the college degrees, I invite everyone to visit my office where there are three diplomas hanging on the wall. It is not like some people tried to false their baptism certificate prior November 10; I have earned them throughout my hard work.
Being a Pastor is not a “privileged clergymen” it is a duty, when one of the senior Armenian was having a health problem, no one where next to him, even his own children, because there were living their lives overseas in calm and peace that “privileged clergymen” who donated his own blood in the middle of the night and save him, and that Church committee who took care of all his hospital bills and expenses. The hospital has all records, thank God.

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