After a letter by Delhi’s Archbishop Anil Couto calling Christians to pray and fast before the 2019 general elections, retired Mumbai Police commissioner Julio Ribiero, in his article for The Times of India, said, “A Hindu Rashtra would make my country nothing less than a saffron Pakistan.”
Couto was heavily criticised by the Bharatiya Janata Party for trying to polarise people around religion, after he wrote a letter to all parish priests and religious institutions in the Delhi archdiocese on 8 May.
Ribiero had earlier faced backlashed for his column in The Indian Express in 2017, in which he wrote about his fears of living as a Christian in India. A year later, in a piece for TOI, Ribeiro, while defending the Archbishop, wrote about the shrinking space for dissent in the country, especially for minority communities.
‘Archbishop Wanted Voters to be Careful While Voting’
The former police commissioner wrote that there were far too many Christians who had second thoughts about a BJP government, even before the 8 May circular was sent.
Christians who voted BJP in 2014 – and there were too many of them to count – have had second thoughts much earlier than May 8, when the Rev Anil Couto’s circular was distributed to all the churches in his diocese.Julio Ribiero in The Times of India
In his letter, the Archbishop had raised concerns over the current “turbulent political atmosphere” which has threatened the democratic institutions and social fabric of the country. However, Ribeiro said, “He is not the only Indian to have raised such concerns. I know countless Hindus, good, solid citizens of our country, who have condemned the covert and overt attempts to demolish institutions, attacks that portend the end of our secular fabric.”
‘What About a ‘Godman’ Becoming Chief Minister?’
Responding to Union Minister KJ Alphon’s statement urging ‘godmen’ to stay away from political comments, Ribiero pointed out that the BJP has appointed a ‘godman’ as the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh.
‘Modi Govt Doubts and Questions the Patriotism of the Minorities.’
Ribeiro wrote that the BJP government, led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, was different from the one that is ruling now. The current Modi government raises doubts and questions the patriotism of the minorities.
‘I’m Preparing for a Hindu Rashtra!’
Ribeiro noted that although he has lived and worked predominantly with Hindus, he is still trying to figure out what “Hindu Rashtra” really means.
‘Won’t Accept Being Falsely Accused of Being Anti-National’
He reiterated that, in a Hindu Rashtra, he being a minority, should be prepared for a second class citizenship without top jobs, but he is not willing to accept being “falsely accused of being anti-national and pilloried on that count.”
Former Finance Minister P Chidambaram tweeted, in response, saying that, “If Julio Ribeiro has to say, "I need to be prepared for second class citizenship", then we should all hang our heads in shame.”
Christians Not Sure of Their Future in a Hindu Rashtra: Julio Ribeiro to The Quint
Speaking to The Quint, Ribiero had said the letter was written as a fallout of the growing doubts about the future of the Christian community in a Hindu Rashtra. He said every government that came to power should protect the rights and freedom of the people.
Elections concern us. Therefore, when we talk, we talk about the elections because the government concerns us. We cannot be apart from the government. We pray that we have such a government that cares for the freedom of the people, rights and welfare of the Christian community.Julio Rebeiro to The Quint
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