New Delhi: Lok Sabha MP Conrad Sangma, president of the Nationalist People’s Party (NPP) – a key ally of the BJP in the northeast – has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to uphold the “secular fabric” of the country and change his government’s plan to observe April 14 as Digital India Day to another date as it clashes with Good Friday.
The letter, sent to the prime minister’s office on April 12, said, “I have come to learn that Digital India Day, of this year, 2017, falls on Good Friday which is 14th of April 2017. I express my best wishes to the celebration of Digital India Day, but with my deepest sincere concern for the Christian communities of India who strongly believe that Good Friday is a holy auspicious moment, I humbly suggest you to kindly defer the Digital India Day, so that the secular fabric of India remains honoured, both in writing and spirit.”
Sangma, an MP from the Tura constituency of Meghalaya, hoped for the prime minister’s “matured indulgence in this regard”.
Speaking to The Wire, Sangma said, “I fully support Digital India Day; I think it is one of the good initiatives of the central government. However, to make the day successful, it would need full participation of all the government departments and my concern is that since it is also Good Friday, which is an important day for the Christians, it will not be possible for the Christian employees to do so. It will be unfair on them to engage them at work on a religiously important day for them. It also denies them the opportunity to participate in it fully and make it a success.”
Sangma’s letter to the prime minister has received wide support not only in Meghalaya but also in other Christian-majority states in the region like Nagaland and Mizoram. In 2015, the Modi government’s decision to celebrate December 25 as Good Governance Day also drew similar criticism in the region. Several religious and civil society organisations and political parties opposed the move for it would “hurt the religious sentiments of the people” and for “going against the spirit of the constitution of India”.
Now with Good Friday being declared as Digital India Day, many are see this as “a pattern”.
Referring to the 2015 issue, Sangma, however, said, “I wouldn’t look at it as a pattern as Good Friday just happens to be on April 14 this year; it is most likely not going to be so on the same day next year. April 14 is also Ambedkar Jayanti. So my suggestion to the government is to move the date for this year only.”
The NPP played a decisive role in the formation of the first BJP government in Manipur in March through the support of its four MLAs, which helped BJP reach the halfway mark of 31 seats in the state’s 60-member assembly. The NPP is also an ally of the BJP’s North-East Democratic Alliance.
Meanwhile, addressing the press in Shillong on April 12, Meghalaya chief minister and Congress leader Mukul Sangma said his government would not observe Digital India Day on Good Friday. He said the state government has already written to the union cabinet secretary in this regard.
“We have to be candid in asking: What is their agenda? Observing Good Governance Day on Christmas and now Digital India Day on Good Friday? Are they trying to marginalise the minority?” Sangma questioned. He said he would also write a letter to the prime minister in this regard.
Later that day the state unit of the BJP urged the central government to move the date.
“The state party has requested the Centre to change the date of this programme keeping in mind the local religious sentiments,” BJP spokesperson Basu Chakraborty said in a statement. He said Digital India Day was planned keeping in mind the 100th day of the Digi Dhan Mela, which is on April 14 and in sync with Ambedkar Jayanti.
“There was no intention to create any form of religious misunderstanding,” he added.