APPEALING TO Prime Minister Narendra Modi to uphold the “secular fabric” of the country, Lok Sabha MP and key ally of the BJP in the northeast, Conrad Sangma, has asked him to defer the central government’s plan to observe April 14 as Digital India Day, as it falls on Good Friday.
“I have come to learn that Digital India Day, of this year, 2017, falls on Good Friday which is 14th of April 2017. I express my best wishes to the celebration of Digital India Day, but with my deepest sincere concern for the Christian communities of India who strongly believe that Good Friday is a holy auspicious moment, I humbly suggest you to kindly defer the Digital India Day, so that the secular fabric of India remains honoured, both in writing and spirit,” Sangma wrote in a letter sent to the Prime Minister Wednesday.
Sangma’s National People’s Party (NPP) played a crucial role in the BJP forming its first ever government in Manipur last month, with its four MLAs enabling the national party to cross the halfway mark of 31 seats in the 60-member assembly. Sangma, MP from Tura in Meghalaya, is the younger son of former Lok Sabha Speaker and NCP leader, the late P A Sangma. The NPP, which has two MLAs in Meghalaya, is a part of the BJP-led North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA).
Speaking to The Indian Express, Sangma said, “My concern is that Digital India Day is an occasion in which the government and its employees would have to be active and working. All the departments will obviously have to be functioning. I have nothing against Digital India Day. In fact, it is good for the country. But it happens to be on Good Friday, a religiously important day for Christians. In fact, it is one of the two most important days for the community.”
He said, “It will be inappropriate not just for Christian-dominated states but also for the community across the country. It’s a national holiday and it is bizarre that the country has to observe Digital Day on that day.” Sangma took part in the NDA meeting in Delhi on Monday but said he did not raise the issue then because it was not meant to be a day for criticising the government but reinforcing its good governance initiatives.
Responding to a question on April 14 being B R Ambedkar’s birth anniversary, too, Sangma said: “Sentiments of communities have to be taken care of and their important days have to be respected. For Christians, it is the most critical day… we are not happy with this and the Prime Minister should consider our request and defer the date.”
On the other contentious issue of a beef ban being imposed in several states, Sangma said that his party, like other parties in the northeast, have strong reservations about the move. “We are clear that we will not follow it. There is no question of any such ban in the region because beef has been the major source of protein for us,” he said.
Incidentally, the Meghalaya government, led by Congress leader Mukul Sangma, has already made it clear that it will not observe Digital India Day on Good Friday. On Digital India Day, the Centre is planning to highlight its initiatives to promote digitisation in operations and popularise its digital platforms. It also plans to mark the day with a lucky draw on Grahak Yojana and Digi-Dhan Vyapar Yojana; the launch of an e-agri market to enable farmers to sell produce at a better rate anywhere in the country; and, the setting up of another platform for Aadhaar Pay, allowing Aadhaar-linked account-holders to carry out all banking transactions with their thumb impressions.
The government’s move to declare Christmas as Good Governance Day two years ago had drawn criticism at the time. In 2015, at least two Supreme Court Judges had taken exception to the decision of the then Chief Justice of India H L Dattu to hold a conference of judges on Good Friday. One of them, Justice Kurian Joseph, had said that he was “deeply hurt” and “shocked by the tenor” of the response from the CJI while rejecting his suggestion for a change of date.