Northeast Christian Groups Oppose Move To Celebrate Good Governance Day on Christmas

There are concerns among the Christian community in the region about the gazetted holiday being diluted on account of government functions in celebration of Good Governance Day.

Christmas celebrations in Northeast. Credit: PTI

Christmas celebrations in Northeast. Credit: PTI

New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government’s decision in 2014 to mark December 25 as the Good Governance Day has met renewed opposition from a number of Christian organisations in the Northeast, reportedly leading Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Pema Khandu not to go ahead with it, and the Mizoram unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party to demand that the Congress-run state government announce that it would not celebrate the day on Christmas, an auspicious day for the Christian-dominated state.

Earlier this week, the Arunachal Christian Forum (ACF) submitted a memorandum to the state chief minister Khandu urging him not to celebrate Good Governance Day on December 25 since it is a gazetted holiday for Christmas. ACF general secretary Toko Teki told local media that the state government should not allow any official function on the day of Christmas, as it would hurt the religious sentiments of the Christian community.

On December 5, while addressing a press meet in Itanagar, ACF president Khoda Apik said, “If the Good Governance Day is celebrated on December 25, the state government employees who are Christians will be obligated to work on Christmas. They will not be able to celebrate Christmas.”

He further added, “It will not only hurt the religious sentiments of the people but will also be against the spirit of the constitution of India, particularly Article 25 which is enshrined in the fundamental rights.”

He clarified that the community “has no issue with the government’s decision to celebrate Good Governance Day on any other day.”

Reacting to it, the state unit of the BJP issued a statement saying, “There is an unfounded misconception among some section of people in Arunachal Pradesh that December 25, which has been declared as Good Governance Day, is going to clash or usurp the Christmas Day, which is a gazetted national holiday. December 25 will continue to remain as Christmas Day for the followers of Christ across the country including Arunachal Pradesh.”

The statement issued by BJP spokesperson Nalong Mize clarified that December 25 was declared Good Governance Day by the central government in 2014 to commemorate the birthday of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

“As Vajpayee championed transparency and accountability in governance throughout his public life, it was only apt to declare his birthday as good governance day to reiterate the vision and values of the former prime minister,” the BJP statement said.

“It is just a coincidence that the birthday of Bharat Ratna Atal Bihari Vajpayee also falls on the same auspicious day as that of Jesus Christ. There is no reason for apprehension that December 25 will be a working day on account of Good Governance Day celebration.”

Since the People’s Party of Arunachal is an ally of the BJP, there have been concerns among the Christian community living in the state about the gazetted holiday being diluted on account of government functions in celebration of Good Governance Day.

Teka later told the media, “The state government has decided not to observe Good Governance Day on December 25. The chief minister has assured the community that his government will not observe the day at the cost of hurting their religious sentiment.”

In 2015, when the then state governor J. P. Rajkhowa greeted people on Good Governance Day, the Arunachal Pradesh Congress Seva Dal issued a statement condemning the move saying, “This is an attempt to directly or indirectly lessen the importance of Christmas or disrespect the sentiments of Christians.”

Quelling a similar apprehension among the church bodies in Mizoram, the BJP told local media on November 24 that the Good Governance Day would never be celebrated in the Christian-dominated state.

“The BJP-led union government had declared December 25 as Good Governance Day to mark former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s birthday. We would like to assure the people of Mizoram that the day will never be observed in Mizoram on December 25, which is Christmas Day,” BJP president for the state J.V. Hluna told the media in Aizawl.

He said, “We demand Congress chief minister Lal Thanhawla to announce that the Good Governance Day will not be observed in Mizoram on Christmas Day.”

Mizoram Kohhran Hruaitu Committee, a powerful body of church leaders of the state, has reportedly written to President Pranab Mukherjee to revoke the Centre’s decision.

The Nagaland Baptist Church Council (NBCC) has also issued a statement saying, “The decision was an attempt to dilute the importance of the day and unless rectified, will go down in history as a discriminatory move against religious minorities.”

“Today, the government has played with the sentiments of the 24 million plus Christians in the country, what will be next? Peace and harmony of the country should be the utmost priority and responsibility of any progressive government but such instances that disturbs people’s mindset will only undermine the nation’s secular fabric.”

“It will also amount to the establishment of the tyranny of the majority, whereby the majority places its own interests above, and at the expense and to the detriment of those in the minority,” NBCC said in the statement released in Dimapur on December 5.

The powerful civil society body Naga Hoho has also released a statement against it. The president of the body Chuba Ozukum said the “declaration is against the constitutional provision of secularism in general and the Christians in the Northeast in particular.”

A delegation of Naga Hoho met the minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju on November 30 to express their “displeasure” at the Centre’s decision.

Interestingly, the ruling Naga People’s Front (NPF), in its central executive council meeting on November 29, also resolved to appeal to the central government not to impose the Good Governance Day on the state “as the day is most revered by the Christian community.”

BJP is an ally of NPF in Nagaland.

Meanwhile, on December 6, the Hills State Demand Council in the Karbi Anglang district of Assam also issued a statement to the press opposing the Modi government’s 2014 decision.

“Christmas is the greatest festival of Christians not only in India but all over the world. The BJP is organising this programme to highlight its theory of ‘one nation, one culture, one language and one religion’. It is against secularism. The framers of the constitution of India have guaranteed the right to freedom of religion to all its citizens of the country’.”