The decision of the Punjab government to celebrate Christmas at the state level at Dera Baba Nanak on January 4 instead of December 25 has invited sharp criticism from a large section of Christians and even other communities from across the region.
Since Christians are in sizeable numbers in Gurdaspur and Amritsar districts, the government generally holds the annual Christmas function in either of these districts. A Christian leader of the Congress, Kanwal Bakshi, was the first to oppose the decision of the state government to hold the Christmas function on January 4. Reacting to Bakshi's criticism, All-India Christian Dalit Front president and Akali leader Monawar Masih said the spirit of participation in Christmas celebrations mattered more than the day the function is organised. He had also listed the steps taken by the Parkash Singh Badal government for the welfare of Christians.
Masih's statement, however, invited a sharp reaction from Christians of various denominations across the region, who expressed their resentment through emails to Hindustan Times.
Devendra Kumar, a pastor from Solan, wrote, "Why is this celebration taking place in January? Is it for political benefit?"
"Is chief minister Parkash Singh Badal celebrating Christmas in the real sense or ridiculing Christians and their festival? He should not politicise religion for political benefits. Do not try to fool the Christian community," said Alexander, secretary, CNI Church, Subathu.
Shaheen Bakshi, a student of MTech at Chandigarh, had this to say, "Well said, Mr Masih. I just guess if you would like to do the same with your birthday! The occasion that is being celebrated the world over on December 25 since 300 AD has become a bone of contention for reasons best known to the people in authority. Has the CM done so because Christians are in minority in Punjab? Why does he not hold a Diwali function in May?"
"It is a shame on the part of some Christian leaders in power who are supporting these meaningless celebrations," said Armaan, a student of law at Panjab University.
"Is it a late Christmas or an early Christmas for 2013? People have celebrated their festivals on time. They don't wait for a politician to oblige them. Badal can call it whatever he likes, but it is certainly not Christmas," wrote Ashutosh Vermani, an advocate at the Punjab and Haryana high court in Chandigarh.