The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India has invited churches across the country to promote the Constitution and educate people about it, starting Republic Day on Sunday. Fr Nigel Barrett, spokesperson for the Bombay dioceses, told Scroll.in that programmes will be held through the year to emphasise and promote the knowledge of the Constitution.
According to The Indian Express, the Catholic Church in India plans to declare January 26 as the Constitution Protection Day, and has urged devotees to read out the Preamble to the Constitution after the Sunday mass. The church also said it will join the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act. Kollam bishop Paul Antony Mullassery wrote to all the parishes and Catholic organisations under his diocese, asking them to read the Preamble to the Constitution on Sunday and take a pledge to protect it.
“The country is going through an unprecedented social situation,” Archbishop Thomas D’Souza of Kolkata told The Indian Express. “The prime minister who took over charge by kissing the Constitution is leading the attempts to violate the values provided by the Constitution for this country. Most important among this violation is the division of society on the basis of religion. We should react strongly to exclude one particular community from the CAA.”
The Citizenship Amendment Act provides citizenship to refugees from six minority religious communities from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, provided they have lived in India for six years and entered the country by December 31, 2014. The Act has been widely criticised for excluding Muslims. Twenty-six people died in last month’s protests against the law – all in the BJP-ruled states of Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, and Assam.
D’Souza claimed that the government would eventually exclude Christians also. He cited the Centre’s decision to do away with the nominated seats for members of the Anglo-Indian community in the Lok Sabha. Apart from the 543 elected seats in the Lok Sabha, two seats are reserved for the community, making the strength of the House 545.
D’Souza also asked devotees to be part of a human chain that will be formed in Kolkata on Sunday, The Indian Express reported. The human chain will be part of a protest organised by the United Interfaith Foundation to express the “desire of all citizens of India to have and uphold the values of justice, liberty, equality and fraternity guaranteed by the Constitution of India”.
On Friday, the first Church-backed protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act was held in Goa. Thousands gathered from across the state at the Lohia Maidan in Margao to read the Preamble to the Constitution. The event was organised by three organisations – the Council for Social Justice and Peace, the social wing of the influential Goa Church; the Concerned Citizens for Goa and the National Confederation of Human Rights Organisation. CSJP Executive Secretary Fr Savio Fernandes even called for a resolution in the Assembly to revoke the controversial Act. “Refuse to share any documents connected to NPR,” he said.