The Catholic bishops of two Indian states are protesting against the organization of legislative elections in the middle of Holy Week, preventing any liturgical celebration in many rural areas. The context: anti-Christian propaganda from the ruling nationalist party that is hoping for renewed legitimacy.
The Federal Electoral Commission has planned a seven-phase timetable for the parliamentary elections to be held in India from April 11 to May 19, 2019. According to this timetable, voters in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka are expected to vote on April 18, 2019.
There is only one problem, and it is not a small one: the date scheduled for the election this year coincides with Holy Thursday, the day on which the religious practice of the Catholic minority is very high, celebrating the institution of the priesthood and the Eucharist.
"This is one of the most sacred and important days for Indian Catholics," Archbishop Antony Pappusamy, President of the Bishops’ Council of Tamil Nadu, told Ucanews on March 18, 2019.
The prelate has called for a change of date for the vote, for "hundreds of Catholics serving in government departments have been put on election duty and will not be able to join these important ceremonies."
Many schools run by the Church, especially in villages, are usually used as polling stations, but it is these same schools that small local parishes use to organize Holy Week ceremonies, due to the large number of people in attendance.
With one month to go before the start of the elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is in trouble in the polls. The party that brought him to power, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), whose official program is to eradicate all non-Hindu religions, has lost much support, particularly in the rural zones.
For several weeks now, the government has been trying to exacerbate nationalist and anti-Christian sentiments in order to rally its electoral base and try to maintain the levers of power.