Christian majority Nagaland will boycott the one-hour voluntary sanitation work on Oct. 1 in honor of Mahatma Gandhi
A sanitation worker sweeps in front of a statue of Mahatma Gandhi on his death anniversary in Hyderabad on Jan 30. (Photo: AFP)
Christians in a northeastern Indian state say they will boycott a national cleanliness drive in honor of Mahatma Gandhi, on Oct. 1, because it falls on a Sunday.
The Nagaland Baptist Church Council (NBCC), Chakhesang Baptist Church Council (CBCC) and Naga Students’ Federation from Christian majority Nagaland said they have rejected taking part in the event as Sunday is traditionally regarded as a day of rest and worship by Christians.
They have written to Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio to defer the event, championed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in honor of the 154th birth anniversary of Gandhi, who is considered the father of the nation.
Modi on Sept. 24 called on Indians to participate in the one-hour of voluntary labor under an initiative called 'One Date, One Hour, Together,' from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Oct. 1, the day before Gandhi’s birthday.
The clean-up drive will be held at parks, riverfronts, and tourist and public places, which are earmarked by district administrations.
“NBCC appreciates the prime minister coming up with a nationwide cleanliness drive. However, since Oct. 1 is a Sunday, a day of worship for Christians, the Church in Nagaland will have to politely turn down the call,” Zelhou Keyho, general secretary of the NBCC, told UCA News on Sept. 27.
“For Christians, Sunday is not just a holiday,” Keyho said.
The NBCC has given instructions to its members to observe the event either on Saturday or Monday, he added.
Selecting a Sunday for work shows the “communal attitude” of Modi's pro-Hindu government, the CBCC said in a statement.
The CBCC instructed its members to abstain from taking part in the event to protest against "repeated attempts to disrupt Christian faith and practices in the country."
Modi’s pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party is often accused of targeting Christians with draconian laws.
The Naga Students’ Federation asked Christians to stay away from voluntary work on Sunday.
Christians account for 87 percent of Nagaland’s 2.2 million people.
India, the most populous nation in the world, generates 65 million tonnes of waste annually, which is expected to reach 165 million tonnes by 2030. Currently, less than 20 percent of it is processed and treated.
During his lifetime, Gandhi took the lead in forming good hygiene habits among Indians. Cleanliness and sanitation are integral parts of the Gandhian way of living.
India launched the Swachh Bharat Mission, a nationwide sanitation drive, on Gandhi’s birthday on Oct. 2, 2014, the year Modi came to power.
Five years later, Modi declared India open defection-free to mark Gandhi's 150th birth anniversary.
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