The Big Story: Christmas grinches
Over the last few days, there has been a mounting scale of attacks on Christmas celebrations. First, in Mumbai, the Maharashtra chief minister’s wife and a Bharatiya Janata Party legislator were trolled on social media for promoting Christmas-themed events. Then, carollers in Aligarh were detained on charges of forced conversion and Hindutva groups proscribed Christmas celebrations in schools. In Rajasthan, alleged members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad stormed a Christmas function, alleging that it was a forum for forced conversions. Through all this, the BJP, the ruling party at the Centre and in these state, has maintained a studied silence, even as its own legislators were in the line of fire.
That such attacks by fringe groups are enabled by the BJP’s own tacit consent is a well-worn argument. That the BJP should speak because it is the duty of the party in government to ensure the security of all minorities is also a truism by now. But if the party does not consider it a responsibility, electoral calculations should induce it speak up. Three states in the North East go to polls early next year. Two of them, Nagaland and Meghalaya, are Christian-majority states where Christmas is arguably the biggest celebration of the year.
In Nagaland, the state Congress has lashed out at the silence of the BJP, which has emboldened fringe groups that were “no better than Taliban or ISIS”. Already the BJP has had to battle its image as the party of Hindutva. The party has been an old partner in the ruling Democratic Alliance of Nagaland, led by the Naga People’s Front. Earlier this year, when a faction of the Naga People’s Front wanted to signal that it had broken ties with the BJP, it did so by holding a beef party. In Meghalaya, the BJP’s own legislators were up in arms after the Central ban on trading cattle for slaughter in animal markets, taking it to be an implicit beef ban. Party leaders in the state quit in protest and party ranks were hollowed out after 5,000 workers left.
The BJP has so far tiptoed around communities in the North East, assuring voters that the politics and bans of the mainland did not apply there. During the Manipur elections last year, it refrained from playing the Hindutva card in most places, especially the Christian-majority hill districts. But the party should know that its actions do not take place in a vacuum. Its carefully crafted pitch for development and tribal interests in Meghalaya and Nagaland will not be insulated from its vicious communal politics in the mainland for long. If it is to retain any credibility, the BJP needs to stop the Hindutva mobs threatening Christmas in their tracks.
The Big Scroll
Shoaib Daniyal examines the war of Christmas waged by the saffron fringe.
Abhishek Dey reports on how alleged Vishwa Hindu Parishad members stormed Christmas celebrations in Rajasthan.
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Zinnia Ray Chaudhuri looks at Christmas food in India:
“’My grandmother cooked a big feast which typically always had pork, beef, a roast chicken, duck and potato curry and also some vegetarian dishes and, of course, the cake,’ he said. ‘The roast chicken was different from the regular roast chickens – my grandmother made it in a large kadhai, since ovens weren’t a part of Kerala’s cooking culture. The flavours of the roast chicken and duck curry are very specific to Christmas because these aren’t typically made any other time of the year.’
Zacharias has introduced the duck curry into his restaurant’s Christmas menu. ‘The duck curry is made with lots of black pepper, vinegar, coconut milk, curry leaves and thick cut onions and is served with egg appams,’ he said. ‘There is a great Portuguese influence in Kerala cooking. The use of vinegar in curries comes from there.’”