Anything to oppose Modi. That’s been the story of Gujarat elections so far. So one Hardik Patel comes in with a message of pure casteism, distributing caps with “I am Patidar” written on them. Our so-called liberals immediately make him a youth icon. Because, you know, casteism is the new liberalism.
And then these liberals wonder how ‘babajis’ like Gurmeet Ram Rahim are able to keep their gullible followers blindly committed to them. One liberal was so taken in by the persona of Hardik Patel that she boasted openly about showing Hardik’s sex CD to her minor 12-year-old daughter. A mainstream magazine like the Outlook allows her to author an article about it.
And now comes a blatantly communal letter from the Archdiocese of Gandhinagar about the Gujarat elections.
Talking about how “nationalist forces are on the verge of taking over the country.” A letter from the Archdiocese requesting parishes and convents to organize prayers against this, telling them that governments in other countries have been tumbled by this!
Telling them that “power of prayer saved Europe from being taken over by people of another faith“.
Now we can fully expect our liberals to ignore the blatantly communal appeal in this letter. For good measure, we can also expect our liberal, humanist and feminist friends to fully ignore the Catholic Church boasting in this letter about its role in taking away a woman’s right to choose regarding her own body with respect to abortion. Liberals can only apologize to Archbishops, not stand up to them.
Fortunately, due to the recent rise of channels like Republic, we finally got to see such communal appeals by the Church discussed on primetime news. While these channels did rightly outrage about the letter, I feel that they missed the most frightening detail.
Because the outrage surrounding this letter mostly got caught up in the debate over mixing religion with politics.
But this letter is much, much worse. This letter is not merely an appeal from a person, one Thomas MacWan who just happens to be the Archbishop of Gandhinagar. This letter is on the official letterhead of the Archdiocese of Gandhinagar, signed by the Archbishop.
This is a letter written in official capacity.
This is not a letter written by a private person, Mr. Thomas MacWan, who is (presumably) a citizen of India.
Written on the official letterhead, it becomes the official view of the Archdiocese of Gandhinagar.
This is significant because the Archdiocese of Gandhinagar, or any Archdiocese for that matter, is part of the Catholic Church, administered by the Pope in the Vatican. You can see it right here on the page of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India.
The Vatican is not just in a foreign country, it’s a sovereign state and the Pope is the monarch of the Vatican, a foreign head of government. Like any other foreign country, the Vatican maintains an Embassy in India. It is located in Chanakyapuri area of Delhi. On the Indian side, our Ambassador in Berne, in Switzerland has traditionally been tasked with maintaining diplomatic relations with the Vatican (also called the Holy See).
Like any other Archbishop, Mr. Thomas MacWan was appointed to his position by the Pope, head of a foreign government, acting through his ambassador in India.
Therefore, following the official letter from the Archdiocese of Gandhinagar, it can only be surmised that this is the official position of the Government of Vatican City regarding a domestic election in an Indian state.
The gravity of this letter is immense and goes far beyond one night of outrage on cable news or a hashtag on Twitter. This letter is no different from, say, the American or French Embassy in India blatantly picking a side in Gujarat elections. Will the Government of India and the people of India tolerate such an insult to our sovereignty?
Whether the side they take seems to be Congress or BJP or even MIM is completely irrelevant. This is interference by a foreign government in our domestic election.
It is now up to the Government of India to lodge strong diplomatic protest against this, demand an immediate apology and severe consequences for the officer of the Catholic Church who has written this letter. We cannot have foreign governments interfering in our elections. It doesn’t matter which Government it is : that of America, France, Germany or Pakistan or the Vatican. The foreign government must back off.
It is also incumbent upon all Indian citizens of all faiths, Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Muslims, Christians to stand together and demand that the Government of Vatican City be censured for this outrage.
Our sovereignty is supreme.
Abhishek Banerjee is a math lover who may or not be an Assistant Professor at IISc Bangalore.