Indian Newspapers only Preach, Not Practise, Secularism

Education Minister Smriti Irani recently courted controversy by saying that Christmas Day will be observed as Good Governance Day in India, commemorating the birthday of former BJP Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.

That was a cause for concern among Christians. Will it be a holiday for schools and offices and will celebrations be hampered? Will any public festivities be marred by attacks from the Hindutva brigade? Some genuine questions though Christians could still go about celebrating the occasion with the usual fervour.

A Great Leader

Vajpayee, now ailing, was a great leader with a sense of religious balance, a statesman. So I would welcome the idea. He was born on Christmas Day, so as long as there is no hidden agenda Christians can join the nation in honouring Mr Vajpayee.

But Mrs Irani’s plans appeared questionable and that rightly backfired on her, a testament to India’s secular traditions.

Incidentally, December 25 is a public holiday in Pakistan, but that is on account of the birthday of its founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

Closed and Paid Holidays

I had through a post herein in May 2005 pointed out Christmas and the New Year were neither closed holidays nor paid holidays at newspapers, including at The Hindu.

Newspapers had only three or four closed holidays and they were for some Hindu festivals. There were a few paid holidays as well — that is, staff who work on those days will be paid an extra day’s wage. I think it was double the usual wage at The Hindu.

But Christmas or the New Year (January 1) or Good Friday did NOT come under any of the categories. They were just normal working days for the staff. Christians were just allowed to take those days off if they wished.

Newspapers only like to preach secularism, not practise it! That should call for some introspection among them!

G Joslin Vethakumar

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