The controversy over the Narendra Modi government’s decision to observe December 25, the day of Christmas celebrations, as national Good Governance Day refuses to die down. The Christian community feels this is a deliberate attempt to dilute the importance of the day. While it describes the move as ‘discriminatory against minorities’, political parties see it as a design of the Bharatiya Janata Party and its ideological fount Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) to promote communal agenda.
“After attempting to appropriate the legacy of Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Patel, the Modi government has now set an eye on Christmas Day,” John Dayal, national secretary of All India Catholic Union and national convenor of the United Christian Forum for Human Rights, told Firstpost. He said Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains, Zorastrians, Bahais, Jews and Christians must be left free to observe their holy days and holidays “without the interference of governments and non-state actors.”
“I think Prime Minister Modi should have observed and celebrated his birthday nation-wide as ‘Good Governance and Development Day’, with all schools and offices open and bureaucrats, police and teachers taught the fundamentals of Raj Dharma, about which revered former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee reminded the then chief minister of Gujarat in 2002.”
Terming the government’s controversial decision a “deliberate mischief”, Dayal added, “Since December 25 is the most important day of the year for Christian, the move effectively erodes the balanced approach to minority sentiments and customs built over the years. I see it in context of Union minister Venkaiah Naidu’s remarks (during debate on forced conversion in Lok Sabha) that he is ‘proud of his RSS background’, I see it in context of conversion drives and hate campaigns, I see it in context of the saffronisation of CBSE syllabus. It is deliberate sheer discrimination against minorities.”
He said he will approach a court to seek ban or stay on the implementation of the circular, which may lead to communal discord in the country. At the same time, he would oppose Christian calling for a ‘Black Christmas’ to protest the government’s action. “Christmas is a festival of joy as this is the day our saviour - Jesus Christ - was born. It is a day of rejoicing. No one can hijack or dilute Christmas,” he added.
Anguished over the government’s circular that had also asked all CBSE-affiliated schools and Navodaya Vidyalayas to remain open on Christmas eve to celebrate the ‘Good Governance Day’, Delhi Archbishop Anil Couto said, “It is a violation of constitutional rights and guarantees to citizens of India such as the freedom of faith and the freedom of movement, expression and the freedom of movement, expression and association.”
Condemning the decision, Delhi Catholic Archdiocese spokesperson Father Emmanuel argued that the act is aimed at undermining the importance of Christmas in the country. He said by issuing such a controversial circular, the central government is testing the waters. “If they find that there is no resistance, they will implement it in all the schools across the country,” he speculated.
When reminded that the proposed ‘Good Governance Day’ will be observed in honour of former Prime Minister Vajpayee, he riposted, “We respect Vajpayee from the bottom of our heart and even he will never support such a decision.”
Alleging that the order is aimed at lessening the importance of the holy day, Emmanuel said, “After trying to cut down Mahatma Gandhi to size by celebrating his birthday as cleanliness day and not his jayanti, they are now attempting to repeat the same with Christmas.”
Although the office of the Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani has issued a clarification that there will be a holiday in all schools on December 25 and the essay competition is “online and voluntary”, the statement is in contradiction to the Navodaya Vidyalaya circular.
The official press statement issued by the HRD ministry says, “Navodaya schools are residential schools. As the vacation pattern in JNVs (Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas) depends on climate conditions, the 25th December 2014 will be celebrated in those schools which do not have any winter break. In such schools, since it is a public holiday on 25th December, the schools will also remain closed that day as no classes would be held. As a residential school, however, the school functions because children continue to remain there and these children will have the opportunity to participate if they so wish in the essay competition. Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti has clarified that no other activities for this competition are being held except the opportunity to submit their online voluntarily.”
However, as per the circular issued by by Navodaya Vidyalaya, a range of activities will be performed on December 25 to mark the occasion as ‘Good Governance Day’in its ‘true spirit’. In addition to essay competition, the activities, in which students from Class I to X will participate, include quiz contest and documentary screenings, which would require the students to be present at the venue, and innovative programmed pertaining to problem-solving relating to day to day functioning of the school.
Alleging that HRD Minister Smriti has “backtracked after outrage”, Congress Rajya Sabha MP Shantaram Naik told Firstpost, “Very soon, most of the schools in the country will be run as per the ideology of the RSS. The Modi government is already following the path dictated by the Sangh.”
The CPI (M) and the Janata Dal United or JD (U) also criticized the government for the controversial decision. “The instruction is communally motivated. This is a crude interference in the schedule of schools which go on Christmas vacation from December 24 and is an assault on the religious right of the Christian community. The decision is offensive and unjustified,” said CPI(M) in a statement.
JD(U) leader Ali Anwar said, "It is a design of the BJP and the RSS. They are deliberately selecting major days and making it important for themselves. We will strongly oppose it."
“The government has played with the sentiments of 24 million Christians in the country who celebrate the Christmas on December 25. Today, it is Christmas and tomorrow, it would be Eid or Guruparb. Instead of selecting holy days of minorities, why did not the government declare Diwali as Good Governance Day?” he asked.
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Updated Date: Dec 17, 2014 16:27:16 IST