As millions of voters continue to visit the voting stations in India’s national elections, Christian leaders have urged Christian voters to vote for candidates who will promote religious freedom and a pluralistic sociality in India. In a post on his Facebook account, the bishop of Maharashtra said that India belongs to all people and the mark of a true democracy is the protection of minorities. He prayed that secularism and religious freedom win as a result of these elections. Please take time today to think and pray about India.
4/16/2014 India (Asia News) – “India belongs to people of all religions”, and “minorities in the country should be protected and promoted. That is the test of an authentic and healthy democracy. [. . .] so please look for candidates and parties who will take care of all the citizens [. . .] especially religious minorities. This is true secularism. Let us pray that secularism wins in the elections”, wrote Mgr Thomas Dabre, bishop for the Archdiocese of Pune (Maharashtra), on Facebook ahead of next Thursday’s vote, the 5th round in India’s 2014 general elections.
Maharashtra is one the country’s largest states with 48 ridings. For this reason, its residents can vote in three different rounds: 10 April (10 constituencies), 17 April (19) and April 18 (19).
This year, 17 April is Holy (Maundy) Thursday for Christians. Polling stations have been set up in a number of Church-run schools, raising concerns in the local clergy that Easter celebrations scheduled in their chapels might be perturbed.
For this reason, Mgr Dabre recently called on VS Sampath, chairman of the Election Commission of India, to change the date. However, this proved impossible.
In view of the situation, the bishop urged the faithful not to boycott the polls because “every vote counts.”
The prelate went to say that, “As a sacred duty, I will take the time to vote. May God show us all a candidate and a party who will take care of all its citizens, especially the poor and the marginalised.”
The latest opinion polls indicate that Narendra Modi is the odd on favourite to become India’s next prime minister.
He is running for the Hindu ultra-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is very close to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a Hindu extremist paramilitary group to which Modi belonged when he was a young man.
The RSS is inspired by Hindutva, an ideology that views Hinduism as an ethnic, cultural and political whole in the name of which it wants to create a Hindu nation (Hindu Rashtra).
For Mgr Dabre, “this is unacceptable because India belongs to people of every religion. Everyone has made the country what it is today.”