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Indian Christians appeal for change of poll date

The election for Tripura tribal area's district council falls on Easter Sunday

Indian Christians appeal for change of poll date

Christians from northeast India hold a protest in New Delhi in August 2017 against the denial of the burial of a Catholic woman in Manipur. (Photo: Bijay Kumar Minj/UCA News)

Christians in the northeastern Indian state of Tripura have expressed disappointment over the date of the election for the Tripura tribal area autonomous district council (TTAADC).

The state election commission announced on March 2 that the election will be on April 4, Easter Sunday.

“Easter is the culmination of the week-long obligatory observance of faith for all Christians around the world. Elections held on Easter Sunday would certainly hamper their wholehearted participation in the electoral process,” Father Joseph Pulinthanath, spokesman for Agartala Diocese that covers Tripura state, said in a press note.

The diocese has requested the election commission to reschedule the dates so that it does not clash with the religious practices of a community.

In a letter to the commission, Bishop Lumen Monteiro of Agartala expressed the concerns of the Christian community.

“We are concerned about the Christian community's inability to participate in the polling process as the proposed date coincides with the universal festival of Easter,” he wrote.

“The election on Easter Sunday will also hurt the religious sentiments of the Christian community. To enable the people to exercise their franchise and to enable them to fulfill their faith obligations, we request you to reschedule the date of polling in the interest of the Christian voters of the state.”

Copies of Bishop Monteiro’s letter have been sent to the Indian government’s chief election commissioner, the Tripura government’s chief secretary and the chief election officer of the TTAADC.

The United Christian Forum for Human Rights has also requested a change to the election date.

Tapas Dey, the Congress party’s vice president in Tripura, said the scheduled date would “deprive” a section of voters on the basis of their religious identity. He urged the commission to change the election date.

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On March 1, the Election Commission of India turned down a request to change the election date in West Bengal and Assam states from Maundy Thursday.

The All India Catholic Union, the largest laity movement in Asia, had submitted a petition asking the commission to reconsider holding polls on April 1, the day before Good Friday, in the eastern and northeastern states.

However, Chandra Bhushan Kumar, deputy election commissioner, rejected the petition, saying “it is not possible at this moment as the necessary arrangements have already been done.”

The Diocese of Agartala has 23 parishes and a Catholic population of 47,000 among a total of 4.5 million people. About 30 percent of its population comprises indigenous people who come from 19 major tribes.

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