Congress party workers take part in a victory march following an election in New Delhi in May 2019. (Photo: Bijay Kumar Minj/UCA News)
The laity council of the Indian bishops’ conference has urged the country’s election commission not to hold state assembly elections in several states during Holy Week.
Elections are due to take place in April in federal-ruled Pondicherry and in Assam, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal states.
“Holy Week begins this year on March 28 starting with Palm Sunday and goes through Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday on April 4. The entire week is of great significance to Christians all over the world,” laity council secretary V.C. Sebastian said in a statement on Feb. 16.
Sebastian said he submitted a letter a day earlier to Sunil Arora, the chief election commissioner, calling for Holy Week to be spared when finalizing dates for the state elections and suggested an alternative date after April 15.
Many Christian institutions and facilities are often used as polling stations, especially in rural areas, while Christians themselves are assigned election duties, which would be awkward if polls are held during Holy Week, he added.
“Assembly elections in Karnataka state last year were held at a time which meant observance of Holy Week became difficult,” he claimed. “Such factors should be considered while finalizing the election dates.”
Cardinal George Alencherry, the major archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church, also wrote to the election commissioner asking him to take Holy Week into consideration when deciding the dates for the state election in Kerala.
"Since Christian officials will have to discharge their election duties, the date should be on a day that will not clash with Holy Week services," the cardinal said in the letter dated Feb. 16.
A decision taken in this regard would be favorable and show consideration for the religious interests of Christian voters, election officials and politicians, he said.
The Catholic Church in India comprises the Latin rite and two Oriental rites called Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara.
The Latin rite follows the Roman liturgy introduced by European missioners in the 15th century, while the two Oriental rites, both based in Kerala, follow Syrian Church traditions and trace their origins to St. Thomas the Apostle.