Indian Catholic News

Assam bishop 'praying' as BJP forms government

Party often accused of being biased against religious minorities wins Assam state for the first time.

 
A security guard looks at an election poster outside the Bharatiya Janata Party head office in New Delhi May 19. The Hindu nationalist party won the Assam state elections, the first in northeastern India. (ucanews.com photo by Bijay Kumar Minj)
New Delhi: 

The church in Assam, where a Hindu nationalist party for the first time won state elections, is "praying and hoping" that there will not be any anti-Christian violence, said a local archbishop.

"We expect a good relationship with the new government," Archbishop John Moolachira of Guwahati in the northeastern state of Assam, told ucanews.com.

The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party and its local alliance won a majority in Assam, one of five states electing new governments.

The win is seen as historic as it is the first time for ethnically diverse Assam and the northeastern region for the party to form a state government. Assam was ruled by the Congress part for the past 15 years.

The Bharatiya Janata Party has often been accused of being biased against religious minorities in the country that has seen numerous attacks on Christians ever since the party swept the national polls in 2014. The party is considered the political offshoot of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the socio-religious organization that promotes India as a Hindu country.

"It may not work in Assam because of the multiplicity of tribes and cultures. We do not expect any serious problem in the state," said the archbishop. "We are praying and hoping so."

Assam has 31 million people, but Hindus are about 60 percent against the national average of 80 percent. Christians are a minority forming 1.1 million or 3.7 percent of the total population. Assam has some 600,000 Catholics spread over five dioceses, including Guwahati Archdiocese.

Besides Assam, the states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Pondicherry also went to the polls but the BJP besides making some inroads lost the assembly elections there.

In Kerala, which has a sizeable number of Christians, the Bharatiya Janata Party opened its account with one seat in the 140-seat state assembly but gaining 15 percent of the voting share. This state is traditionally ruled either by the Congress or the Communist Party alliance that now has won the elections.

In West Bengal, the regional Trinamool Congress party led by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was returned to power.

"Religious minorities are specially happy with Mamata. In many constituencies it is their minority votes that count in the final analysis," said Jesuit Father Irudaya Jyothi, who has been part of a right to food campaign for poor people in the state.

"She is particularly close to Christians. She never misses Christmas midnight Mass, the Christmas in Calcutta is now sponsored as a state celebration," he said.

Although a Hindu, she spend three hours at the funeral Mass for Sister Nirmala Joshi, who succeeded Mother Teresa as head of the Missionaries of Charity congregation that is based in the state, he recalled.

Source: UCAN

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