Let’s Pray for India Before 2019 Polls: Delhi Archbishop’s Letter
In a letter addressed to all parish priests in the capital, Archbishop of Delhi Anil Couto called for a year-long prayer campaign to save India from the “turbulent political atmosphere”, which has threatened the democratic principles of the Constitution and secular fabric.
“Elections and government concerns us. We've to have such government that cares for the freedom of people, rights and welfare of Christian community. I'm not meddling in partisan politics. We're just praying that the nation should walk in the right direction,” said Archbishop Couto.
He added, “In all churches and institutions we pray and fast. We pray for our own renewal and that of country. Keeping in mind all that's happening in our country we said that we look forward to next election and next government. Every government should protect the people and the Constitution”.
Following the letter, a controversy erupted over the intention of the letter with many political leaders alleging that the letter was aimed at dividing people on communal lines.
No One in India Can Discriminate Along Caste and Religion: Rajnath Singh
Home Minister Rajnath Singh told ANI, “I have not seen the letter, but I want to say India is one of those countries where minorities are safe and no one is allowed to discriminate on the basis of caste and religion.”
What Does he Mean by “Defeat Hindu Forces”?: Savio Rodrigues
Savio Rodrigues, former senior Congress leader from Goa, who quit the party after the Vishwajit Rane fiasco, took to Twitter to express his objections to the Archbishop’s letter.
Rodrigues also penned an open letter to Archbishop Couto citing examples of atrocities during Emergency, on Kashmiri pandits, on Hindus, on minors, etc. "The game that the Catholic Church is playing of division is devious and demonic in nature. The democratic principles of this country is not only for us minority but for the majority as well.”
Although it is not immediately clear from where Rodriques is quoting when he accuses the archbishop of saying “defeat Hindu forces”. This phrase is not contained in his letter to the parish priests, nor in his interview bite.
Wrong to Instigate Caste/Communities: Shaina NC
BJP spokesperson Shaina NC also jumped into the controversy. Speaking to ANI, she said, “Wrong to try and instigate castes/communities. You can tell them to vote for right candidate/party but to suggest to vote for one party and not another and term yourself as secular vs pseudo-secular is unfortunate.”
Every Action Has a Reaction: Giriraj Singh
Minister of State Giriraj Singh told ANI, “Every action has a reaction. I won't take a step that disrupts communal harmony. But if church asks people to pray so that the Modi government isn't formed, the country will have to think that people from other religions will do 'kirtan pooja.’”
Letter Not Controversial: Archbishop’s Office Slams Allegations
After the controversy came to light, the Archbishop’s secretary, Father Robinson Rodrigues, told The Times of India that such calls for prayer campaigns is a regular affair before any general election, but this time the letter is being seen in a political light.
Reacting to the episode, Father Nigel Barret, spokesperson, Bombay Archdiocese, told ANI, “When a government has finished its term, and in elections a government is elected, it is a new government. Letter doesn't say a different government, it says new government. So, I don't see anything controversial with the term of the new government.”