Archbishop Anil Couto has requested the Christian community to pray and observe fast for the “spiritual renewal” of the country ahead of next year’s general elections.(HT file photo)
Archbishop Anil Couto has requested the Christian community to pray and observe fast for the “spiritual renewal” of the country ahead of next year’s general elections.(HT file photo)

Rajnath Singh says minorities safe in India after Delhi Archbishop’s letter cites threat to secular fabric

BJP and RSS leaders have criticised the letter sent to Delhi churches asking for a prayer campaign and a day of fasting every week “for the spiritual renewal of the nation”.
By HT Correspondent | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JUN 05, 2018 10:07 PM IST

India does not allow religious discrimination or casteism, home minister Rajnath Singh said on Tuesday, reacting to a circular released by Delhi’s Archbishop who says secularism and democratic principles are under threat.

Archbishop Anil Couto has requested the Catholic community to pray and observe fast for the “spiritual renewal” of the country ahead of next year’s general elections, news agency ANI reported.

Defending his government, Singh assured that “minorities are safe” in the country. Clarifying that he had not seen the Archbishop’s circular, Singh said in India “no one is allowed to discriminate on the basis of caste and religion”.

Union minority affairs minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said Prime Minister Narendra Modi was “breaking barriers of religion and castes” and his government committed to working for inclusive growth. He asserted that minorities in India were well protected and nobody should issue “fatwas and farmaans”.

“A season of fatwas and farmaans (diktats) has started. There is protection for minorities in India. There is constitutional protection, social security and religious freedom for minorities. Nobody should make such fatwas and farmaans and not harbour any misunderstandings,” Naqvi said.

Shaina NC, a leader of the Centre’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, said it was “wrong to instigate castes and communities”, objecting to the content of the circular.

The circular issued earlier this month also drew criticism from the right-wing, nationalistic Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

“This is a direct attack by the church on Indian secularism and democracy…,” ANI quoted RSS leader Rakesh Sinha as saying.

He also said in PM Modi’s rule, churches and NGOs linked to them are not getting enough funds for “religious conversions”.

In the circular, Couto said India was facing “a turbulent political atmosphere which poses a threat to the democratic principles enshrined in our Constitution and the secular fabric of our nation...”

“I request that we observe a day of fast every Friday of the week by forgoing at least one meal and offering our penance and all our sacrifices for our spiritual renewal and that of our nation.”

Opposition parties and BJP’s critics have accused the central government of disrespecting institutions and not doing enough in cases of atrocities against minority communities.

Facing backlash, Couto said on Tuesday: “We’re just praying that the nation should walk in the right direction.”

“In all churches and institutions, we pray and fast. We pray for our own renewal and that of the country. Keeping in mind all that’s happening in our country, we said that we look forward to the next elections and the next government. Every government should protect the people and the Constitution.”

(With agency inputs)

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