Political parties and labor unions have joined Christians in demanding that Good Friday be reinstated as a public holiday in India's Madhya Pradesh state.
Church officials and politicians said the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party state government has deliberately not listed the day as a holiday in the official gazette, following its policy of overlooking other religions.
"This shows the government's hatred towards Christians," said K.K. Mishra spokesperson for the state chapter of the opposition Congress Party.
Good Friday was recognized as a statewide holiday until a gazette notification issued on Nov. 26 failed to have it listed as one. Good Friday is a holiday in most of India.
The Bharatiya Janata Party, which came to power in the state 13 years ago, has been gradually promoting a Hindu ideology, critics have said.
"It deliberately made Good Friday a working day," Mishra told ucanews.com.
Father Maria Stephen, spokesman for Bhopal Archdiocese, said the government's move is unfortunate and will divide people along "sectarian lines, and eventually destroy peace and harmony."
The decision undermines the spirit of the Indian constitution, which is based on secular principles, the priest said. Such ideas will also sow the seeds of fundamentalism, said Father Stephen. The state government should reconsider the decision, he added.
Communists have also weighed in on the issue. Badal Saroj, state secretary of the Communist Party of India, said Good Friday is not just a Christian holy day. The crucifixion of Jesus Christ provides a message for everyone working for truth and human equality, he said.
The United Forum of Bank Unions said it sent a memorandum to state Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan to tell him that Good Friday should be a holiday.
However, Anthony DeSa, the state's chief secretary, said no political group or employees union have approached him so far about having Good Friday off.
There are 59 millions Christians in India which has a total population of 1.3 billion people.
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