Indian PM turns Good Friday into launch of ‘Digital India Day’
World Watch Monitor
Ignoring protests from Christians, the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, launched Digital India Day on 14 April – Good Friday – as part of his government’s campaign to promote widespread use of electronic products and services.
India’s Christians said they felt marginalised by the move because it fell on an important day in the Christian calendar.
When India’s second-most populous state, Maharashtra, launched Good Governance Day in 2015 and asked its employees to conduct training programmes on Christmas Day, the decision was met with similar concerns. Soon, it became a national issue when the federal education department issued directives for the whole nation.
Now, Christian state government heads have joined church leaders in openly appealing to Mr. Modi to defer the launch of the new digital campaign.
“I have written to the [federal] union cabinet secretary because it is necessary for me to express concern on behalf of the people, with special reference to the north-east, which has a significant Christian population,” said Mukul Sangma, Chief Minister of Christian-majority Meghalaya state, three days before Good Friday.
Treating religions with equal respect
Addressing a news conference, Chief Minister Sangma made public his opposition, saying that the launch of the campaign on Good Friday was an attempt to “dilute the secular fabric of the nation”. (In India, talk of “secularism” relates to treating all religions with equal respect, rather than the separation of religion and politics.)
“We have to be candid in asking: ‘What is their agenda?’ Observing Good Governance Day at Christmas and now Digital India Day on Good Friday. Are they trying to marginalise the minority?” questioned Sangma.
Three quarters of Meghalaya state’s two million people are Christians. Similar protests came from other Christian-majority states in the region, Mizoram and Nagaland, while the local BJP leaders (part of the coalition government in Nagaland) pleaded with their federal colleagues to defer the move.
The federal government, led by Mr. Modi, had created an international furore in December 2015 when it declared that Christmas Day would be Good Governance Day. It announced a series of measures, ordering educational institutions to be open and government officials to report for duty, even though Christmas Day is a national holiday in India.
Following widespread protests, the government modified these measures. However it still went ahead with Good Governance Day on Christmas Day, giving the excuse that it is the birthday of Atal Behari Vajpayee, former Prime Minister and one of the BJP’s founders.
Conrad Sangma, MP, is an ally of the BJP in the north-east, where he helped it form the government in Manipur state in March. Supporting Christian pleas, he also wrote to the federal government, requesting Digital India Day be deferred.
The post Indian Christians protest at Good Friday launch of ‘Digital India Day’ appeared first on World Watch Monitor.
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