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Scrapping of Easter holiday upsets Indian Christians

Govt move in strife-torn northeastern Manipur state seen as ‘rubbing salt in wounds’ of suffering community
Catholics in Delhi Archdiocese pray on Palm Sunday on April 4, 2017.

Catholics in Delhi Archdiocese pray on Palm Sunday on April 4, 2017. (Photo: Bijay Kumar Minj/UCA News)

Published: March 28, 2024 09:10 AM GMT
Updated: March 28, 2024 09:43 AM GMT

Christian leaders in India have slammed a government decision to declare Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday working days in strife-torn Manipur state, where 41 percent of the 3.2 million people are Christians.

The state government's March 27 order declared March 30 and 31 as “working days for all government offices including public sector undertakings, autonomous bodies, societies under the state government.”

The decision was taken, the order said, to ensure the “smooth functioning of offices in the last few days of the financial year.”

In India, the fiscal year starts on April 1 and ends on March 31, requiring all institutions to close their account books on March 31.  

“This decision is like rubbing salt in the wounds” of the riot-affected Christian community, said a Church leader from Manipur, who did not want to be named.

The pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party that runs the state government “has once again reaffirmed its anti-Christian stand,” he told UCA News on March 28.

The Church leader said the violence that started on May 3 last year has not subsided yet.

Officially 219 people have been killed and some 50,000 people are living in government-run relief camps as their houses were destroyed. Nearly 350 places of worship, including churches, have been damaged.

“The government is unable to restore peace yet. Instead, it is issuing this kind of divisive order,” the Church leader added.

The state has witnessed unprecedented violence between Hindu majority Meities and indigenous Kukis, who are predominantly Christian.

The Kukis are against a government move to accord tribal status to the Meities, which will enable them to avail educational and job benefits under India’s affirmative action program.

The United Christian Forum (UCF), a New Delhi-based ecumenical body has demanded the “immediate withdrawal of the unconstitutional order, which is contrary to all norms of a public holiday” declared by the Indian government in its gazette.

“With a 41 percent Christian population in the state, it is obvious that many among the minority community employed in government offices will have to forgo the Easter celebration,” the UCF said in a statement on March 28.

The government order “seeks to further suppress the already victimized Christians in the state,” it added.

Allen Brooks, spokesperson of the Assam Christian Forum based in northeast India, said Easter Sunday is a cornerstone of the Christian faith life and one of the holiest religious festivals for Christians.

“Not granting a holiday to Christians is an open negation of the Indian Constitution’s secular and democratic ethos,” he said.

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