04/25/2014, 00.00
INDIA

The Church in India calls for freedom of expression for all

Nirmala Carvalho
Card Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Mumbai, and other clergymen speak out against the reaction of Hindu nationalists to the principal of a Catholic college, a Jesuit priest who posted online his reflections on the so-called Gujarat model. In it, he calls on people to promote "human development" for everyone, and not only profits for the few.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - The Church in India has come out in favour of the principal of a Catholic school in Mumbai, saying that "everyone has the right to express their opinion."

This follows a controversy caused by Fr Frazer Mascarenhas SJ, principal at St Xavier's College, who posted his reflections on India's current election on the school's website.

Reacting to the post, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) asked the Election Commission to have the post deleted.

In his article, the Jesuit clergyman raises questions about "what constitutes human development and how it is to be achieved."

In so doing, he focused on the Gujarat model, a state ostensibly on a path of development free from communal tensions.

Narendra Modi, the BJP's prime ministerial candidate in this election, has been Gujarat's chief minister for the past ten years, after winning three consecutive elections.

However, Fr Mascarenhas debunks the myth spread by Modi's propaganda machine.

For the priest, India has some questions to ask itself. "Is the growth of big business, the making of huge profits the achievement of high production - what we seek? Or is it the quality of life for the majority in terms of affordable basic goods and services and the freedom to take forward the cultural aspirations of our plural social groups that make up India?

In the first case, which corresponds to the Gujarat model, "The prospect of an alliance of corporate capital and communal forces coming to power constitutes a real threat to the future of our secular democracy," words that elicited the BJP's reaction.

For Card Oswald Gracias, archbishop of Mumbai, "Fr Frazer gave an objective analysis. An educator educates his students to examine situations in an objective manner. It is a shame that the issue has been politicised."

"In a democracy everyone has a right to state his or her opinion," said Fr Errol Fernandes SJ, principal of the Commerce Section at the same college. "This must always be done with dignity and without any attempt to malign the name of another."

"Fr Frazer has not imposed his view on anyone," Fr Fernandes explained. "Those who have read him are welcome to have their own point of view and even to differ."

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