An Indian human rights group that monitors atrocities against Christians has expressed opposition to a directive by Daman's administration requiring the mandatory veneration of the Hindu goddess of knowledge.
The New Delhi-based United Christian Forum (UFC) has also urged the administration and the Directorate of Education of Daman to immediately withdraw the circular.
The circular issued on Feb. 11 directed all government, government-aided and private schools to conduct prayers and veneration of goddess Saraswati and to submit compliance reports and photographs by Feb. 17.
The circular stated: “We know that the Vasant Panchami is celebrated as the birthday of goddess Saraswati, who symbolizes knowledge, wisdom, purity and truth.”
All principals and educational heads of Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu are requested to celebrate the festival of Vasant Panchami on Feb. 16. and organize programs at school level.
“The directive gravely impinges on the right to freedom of religion and freedom to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice as guaranteed and protected in the constitution of India for all minorities,” A.C. Michael, convener of the UCF, said in a press note on Feb. 15.
“It is pertinent to note that the secular ethos of this country places a constitutional embargo on the government from giving preferential treatment to any one religion.
“Even in 2019, the same administration of Daman and Diu, as well as Dadra and Nagar Haveli, attempted to cancel Good Friday as a gazetted holiday. However, the Christian community approached Bombay High Court and succeeded in reversing the order. The community sees this present order as yet another way of restricting the practice of their faith as well as the right to administer their institutions.
“In the case of SR Bommai versus the Union of India, the Supreme Court held that religious tolerance and equal treatment of all religious groups and protection of their life and property and places of worship are an essential part of secularism enshrined in our constitution.”
The press note said that while the patriotic contributions of the Indian Christian community during the freedom struggle are well documented, post-independence Christians have played a major role in nation-building with their contributions to the armed forces, health care and education. - UCA News