Widespread protests have forced the government in Christian-majority Meghalaya State in north-east India to restore the Good Friday holiday.
The coalition government, to which the Hindu nationalist BJP is a partner, had declared in a circular that Good Friday would be a normal “working day”, but the move was withdrawn on Tuesday, 27th March.
“We are happy that the government officials acted promptly and reversed the controversial order,” a senior Christian leader based in state capital, Shillong, told World Watch Monitor on 29th March.
PBM Basaiawmoit, a Presbyterian Church member and former vice-president of the National Council of Churches in India, said that he wrote a letter to key government officials as soon as he heard about the plan on Saturday, 24th March.
The circular was issued by the BSNL, an Indian telecom corporation, and the Indian Council for Agricultural Research, but only in Meghalaya, where Christians account for 75 per cent of the state’s population of three million.
In his letter, Mr Basaiawmoit said he had questioned why Christians were being denied the religious freedom guaranteed to them under the constitution, and asked whether the order was only “a fabricated one to create confusion and resentment”.
Meanwhile, the leaders of a political party called Khun Hynniewtrep National Awakening Movement met Rajendra Kumar, BSNL general manager for Meghalaya, to seek “clarification” on the order.
“We object to any central government offices declaring Good Friday as a working day,” KHNAM’s leaders said at a news conference on 26th March. “This decision was against the sentiments of the Christians and against the provisions of the constitution.”
Meghalaya state witnessed similar protests around Good Friday, 2017, after the BJP-led federal government chose Good Friday to launch ‘Digital India Day’. But following protests, three Christian-majority states in the north-east, including Meghalaya, were exempted from its observation.
Similarly, the BJP-led government in Gujarat in western India, the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, was forced to retract its bid to make Good Friday a “working day” in 2016.