04/27/2009, 00.00
INDIA
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Bishop Dabre: defending "the sacrosanct principle of secularism" in order to save the country

by Nirmala Carvalho
Bishop Thomas Dabre talks about the elections that are underway, and about the task of the next government. Religious and cultural minorities represent one sixth of India's population. "You cannot have progress and development" when entire segments of the population are "languishing in underdevelopment." India's moral authority on the international level is tarnished by persecution and discrimination toward minorities.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - Defense of secularism, recognition of the rights of minorities, and the fight against poverty. These are the three requests that Bishop Thomas Dabre, bishop elect of Pune and apostolic administrator of Vasai, is making to the future government of India.

While the country faces the long electoral marathon for the renewal of the Lok Sahba, the lower chamber of the national parliament, the bishop tells AsiaNews about his expectations for the result of the vote. "Minorities should be given just and fair treatment in our beloved mother India," Bishop Dabre asserts. Referring to the limitations and privations inflicted on the Christian communities and on the religious minorities in the country, he recalls that article 25 of the Constitution guarantees all believers of every religion "the freedom to practise and propagate their religion."For this reason, he hopes that the next government will work to affirm "the sacrosanct principle of secularism."

About 200 million of India's inhabitants, almost one sixth of the population, belong to cultural and religious minorities, "and these cannot be neglected or marginalised in a nation." For Bishop Dabre, this is a heritage that must not be lost. The contribution that minorities can make in the construction of Indian society "is not a favor that is granted to them, but a right to be respected," in order to guarantee "the unity and integrity of India" and "contribute to the strengthening of the bonds and cooperation among the peoples of the states."

For the bishop elect of Pune, the future government must secure the foundation for the development of an inclusive society. And if secularism is the basic principle in affirming this process, the fight against poverty is a necessary duty for democracy and the respect of rights to be extended to all components of society. "You cannot have the progress and development of a country," Bishop Dabre asserts, "with minorities languishing in underdevelopment."

India's influence on the global stage is itself connected to its ability to promote coexistence and integration for minorities, and the differences that they bring to society. Bishop Dabre says that the country's reputation as "the world's largest democracy" can be defended and upheld only through the safeguarding of secularism and the inclusion of the minorities. "Our moral authority on the international platform," the bishop explains, "will be weakened, if our minorities are persecuted and marginalised in the country. And our image will be tarnished."

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