01/25/2022, 16.58
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Mgr Menamparampil calls on Indians to rediscover the democracy of their Founding Fathers

by Nirmala Carvalho

On the eve of Republic Day, which also coincides with the promulgation of the Indian constitution, the archbishop emeritus of Guwahati speaks out. In his view, the country is slipping into the hands of the “earning” elite to the detriment of the poor and minorities. How can the authorities repeat that religious freedom is guaranteed when government interference in conversions is increasing, along with words that sow hatred between faiths?

Mumbai (AsiaNews) – On the eve of 26 January, the day when the Indian constitution was promulgated, Mgr Thomas Menamparampil, archbishop emeritus of Guwahati, 85, one of the best-known voices of the Indian Catholic Church, issued a warning.

“It Is Time to Rethink,” he told AsiaNews in an interview. “Republic Day is an occasion when we rejoice together over the achievements of the nation. It also offers us an opportunity for self-evaluation as a people and ask ourselves in what respect we may have failed the expectations and hopes of our Founding Fathers.”

Mgr Menamparampil, in recent days a report by Oxfam has highlighted the growing gap between rich and poor in India. During the pandemic, 84 per cent of families saw their income drop, while the number of Indian billionaires has increased from 102 to 142. What does this situation reveal?

“While we are proud of the democratic traditions that they [Founding Fathers] have handed down to us, the mounting inequality between different sections of people today, on which Oxfam has recently reported, is a cause for increasing anxiety for perceptive citizens.

“Seventy percent of wealth-increase is going into hands of the top elite who know how to take advantage, not only of market fluctuations and political bias, but also of natural calamities and global disasters like the pandemic. What is even more worrying is the closeness between the ‘ruling elite’ and the ‘earning elite’.

“The future of the nation seems to be slipping too fast into the hands of the latter. It is time for responsible citizens to think.”

This trend comes with rising tensions between the majority embodied by Hindu nationalists and various minorities, with very little respect for what is written in the Indian constitution.

“Early proponents of democracy in history who called for respect for majority perspectives trembled at the prospect of a ‘dictatorship of the majority’.

“The memories of pre-war dictatorships along nationalistic lines, which led the mightiest nations of that period to a suicidal war, should stir a sense of responsibility in our policy-makers, who today seem to be more committed to the exaggerated claims of the majority community than shared common welfare.

“The insensitivity that was evident in recent community clashes where members of minority groups and weaker sections of people were victimised with the police standing by and authorities silent has set a worrying precedent.

“Dominance by the majority is not a healthy democratic trait. Domination and belittling of minority communities and fragile groups must give way to mutual respect and collaboration.

In this context, hostility towards Christians in India continues to grow; anti-conversion laws are now in force in as many as 10 Indian states.

“One of the hardest tasks for Indian authorities is to explain to global society how they can claim that freedom of religion in the country is perfect when there is official interference in citizens’ personal religious decisions.

“The Freedom of Religion Act in fact limits the freedom of religious choice in many ways. And to these are added further interference imposed by the administrative bureaucracy.

“While the constitution gives freedom to ‘propagate’, today we feel that even the right to ‘practice’ is being restricted, with prayer groups and religious gatherings being disturbed.

“Instances of harassments have multiplied. Hate words and hate-spreading vigilantes are reported in a variety of places. Republic Day is an occasion for all citizens of the country to reaffirm that they fully stand by the constitution.”

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