No One Needs to Prove Their Nationalism, Catholic Church Tells BJP

Responding to the BJP's efforts to crowdsource its election manifesto, the CBCI said minorities feel unsafe and their rights must be protected.

New Delhi: The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) has told the BJP that because all Indians are equal stakeholders, nobody should be made to prove their nationalist credentials.

Responding to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for inputs to the sankalp patra – the BJP’s effort to crowdsource its manifesto for the Lok Sabha elections, the CBCI asked the party to recognise the contributions of the Christian community towards nation-building, especially in the field of education.

According to the Telegraph, the CBCI said, “Nationalism is in the blood of every Indian, whether belonging to majority or minority. No one should even doubt such a thing or alienate anyone by being suspicious. No one needs to prove one’s nationalism. We have all contributed towards the independence, development, progress and welfare of the country in its onward journey.”

It said minority communities should feel secure in the country. The credibility of the government has been dented by issues such as suppression of media and increased incidents of mob lynching. Minorities feel unsafe because of lynching due to differences in religious practices, food habits and culture, the conference said.

“The constitutional right to practise, preach and propagate one’s religion must be upheld,” it said.

The conference also asked the BJP to respect sacred days of all religions and promote them. This was a reference to the Modi government’s decision to designated December 25, the day of Christmas, as “Good Governance day” in 2014. The CBCI said the government should promote and participate in celebrations of minority communities too.

In the field of education, the CBCI flagged the “saffronisation” of text books and “distortion of historical facts”. There have been several instances of BJP state goverments altering facts in school textbooks.

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Notably, the Vasundara Raje government in Rajasthan made several changes. In one textbook, all references to Jawaharlal Nehru were dropped. In another, RSS ideologue V.D. Savarkar was idolised, while references to M.K. Gandhi were minimal. It also called the Congress a ‘nurture baby of the British’.

The CBCI also suggested that the BJP to recognise the Catholic Church’s contributions to education in India since 1542. It said that many sought after institutions in India are administered by the Catholic Church.

It said the Modi government should have used the Church’s expertise while drafting the National Education Policy.

Additionally, it asked the government to focus on building a hunger-free society, poverty alleviation, protection of farmers and promotion of agriculture. It said rural areas must receive special attention because “India lives in its villages.”

Last may, the Delhi archbishop wrote a letter asking priests to conduct year-long prayers citing a threat to the country’s secular fabric. This was interpreted as a comment on the ruling BJP, which reacted angrily to the comments.

The BJP claimed the letter called people to vote along communal lines, terming it unfortunate. BJP minister Giriraj Singh said “every action has a reaction”, while another leader, Vinay Katiyar, said the archbishop’s comments could lead to “communal tensions”.

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