The essence of spiritual festivals is the message of love, peace and co-existence. India has always held aloft before the world its plurality and maintained its rhythm by respecting the festivals and holy days of different religious comunities as common events. Hence for every Indian, Holi and Onam are national festivals – full of myths and legends as they are. So are Christmas and Eid too – being, and to be, celebrated as popular meeting points of love.
In a country where different religious communities lead an intermingling life, it is the primary constitutional obligation of rulers to view festivals of all as common happenings and make them the fabric of co-existence. Hence, the prime minister's choice of Christmas day for the inauguration of Delhi Metro's new line, runs counter to the spirit of plurality of the country – especially in an atmosphere where attacks against Christians and Christmas celebrations are on the increase.
At the time of Modi's assumption of office in 2014, the President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India, Rev Father Baselios Mar Cleemis, was one who visited the prime minister, gave him unstinted praise and promised co-operation. For this co-operation with rulers at the Centre, the bishop had even to face criticism from both within and outside of the church. And now in a news meet the same bishop expressed shock and grief at the increasing onslaughts against Christians and went to the extent of saying that the minorities have lost faith in the central government. In the first six months of 2017 alone, there have been over 410 communally spurious attacks against the Christian community - worse than the situation of 2016. And there is also the rising propensityto label Christmas celebrations as aprogramme of religious conversions and attack them, when the police which is duty bound to prevent them, was taking sides with the offenders.
The atrocities unleased by Bajrang Dal against the priests and seminary students conducting the Christmas carol following a 30-year old tradition there, were also based on the claim that the carol were leading to religious conversions. Not stopping there, the Sangh gang intercepted those who approached the police station with the complaint and put on fire the jeep of the priests. Even after all this, the cases registered were against the priests. In Pratapgarh in Rajasthan, the assault against the carol was made under the leadership of Hindu Jagaran Manch, but again the police arrested two Christians on charges of forced religious conversion. In Uttar Pradesh too, the Jagaran Manch issued an order that Christmas should not be celebrated in Christian churches. In Chennai, a local BJP leader was arrestedf or destroying a parish hall in the context of Christmas celebrations. What more, even in Thiruvananthapuram, a priest who led a carol was assaulted on allegations of forced conversions. All this are enough to prove that these are not isolated incidents but planned communal trouble by those convinced about the Sangh parivar-espoused ideology of hatred and about the blessings of rulers.
Instead of expressing solidarity with the Christian community, by choosing Christmas day for the inauguration gala of Delhi Metro, the Prime Minister and the Govrnment have given the dangerous message that Christmas is outside of national festivals. It is such indirect hints by the government that act as inspiration for attacks against carol. If the prime minister and the central government go ahead with a politically one-sided attitude, and start viewing even religious festivals from a majority vs minority perspective, the country is doomed for an abysmal tragedy. It is when the religious moorings of festivals rest with the respective community, and at the same time the humanity of festivals embraces all, that the journey to man's cultural consummation is realized. It is as much incumbent on democratic governments to treat festivals of all religious communities with equal regard, as it is an imperative to defeat at any cost the elements that are vowed to misuse every festival as an opportunity to spume the poison of hate.