Dadra and Nagar Haveli (Dnh) and Daman and Diu are both former Portuguese colonies. The local Christian community is made up of about 100 thousand faithful. In all, there are 13 churches. Secretary of the Catholic bishops: " I hope that the majority community will once again stand by us and nullify the discriminatory acts of a small fundamentalist divisive people."
New Delhi (AsiaNews) - For the first time in the country's history, two Indian territories have abolished Good Friday as a national holiday. These are Dadra and Nagar Haveli (Dnh) and Daman and Diu, both former Portuguese colonies on the west coast of the country.
For Msgr. Theodore Mascarenhas, general secretary of the Indian Bishops' Conference (CBCI), "is very sad". He told AsiaNews: " This is very very sad. A clear discrimination is being practiced by the Administrator. We appeal to all including the Administrator of these centrally administered territories to respect the sentiments of the people and to avoid their divisive methods".
The bishop goes on to explain that the cancellation of Good Friday as an official state holiday is even more serious because "only two Christian feasts are public holidays. Earlier there was an attempt to declare Christmas as Good governance day". Christians, he adds, "are a small minority in the area. But that is exactly the reason why their rights must be respected".
Specifically, the local authorities downgraded the Type 1 celebration of official holidays published in the Gazette (Schedule 1 of Public Holidays) to Type 2 in the restricted category (Schedule 2 Restricted holiday category). This means that while previously banks, schools and public offices remained closed, from now on employees will have to request leave.
The Christian community residing in the two former colonies is composed of about 100 thousand people; in Dadra and Nagar Haveli there are seven churches, in Daman and Diu four. The faithful learned of the removal of the holiday, as preparations began for the Good Friday party, which this year is celebrated on April 19th. In the same period there will also be general elections for the re-election of the Government and the Lower House of the Indian Parliament (Lok Sabha). The vote in the two territories is set for April 23rd.
Local Christians do not understand the reasons that prompted the authorities to cancel the holiday and for this they protest: priests and religious leaders have written an appeal to the district magistrate and the central government. " I have also written to the Union Home Minister Mr. Rajnath Singh - declares Msgr. Mascarenhas - to intervene and withdraw this notification. I hope he listens to us as people both Christians as well as others are very upset over the notification".
In the past, the secretary of the Catholic bishops remembers, "there was a similar attempt: the government wanted to declare Christmas only as Good Governance Day [always celebrated on December 25th, but to remember the day of birth of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee - ed.] It failed because the majority community stood by us. I hope and pray and I am quite confident that the majority community will once again stand by us and nullify the discriminatory acts of a small fundamentalist divisive people ".