Justice Dattu’s argument that the meeting was being held to save precious working days and meant no disrespect to the sentiments of India’s Christian minority has not gone down well among the Christians who have been facing violence from the forces of Hindutva. All across the country, churches have been attacked, vandalized, nuns raped, priests beaten up and threatened and prayer meetings disrupted. The RSS the fountainhead of rightwing Hindu nationalism and the ideologue of the BJP has started an aggressive programme of converting Christians to Hinduism. In defiance of law, the RSS and its affiliates are offering both money and other benefits like eligibility to Scheduled Caste and Tribe reservation quota to reconverted Christians and Muslims.
One does not need to be a rocket scientist to understand that the Indian Christians are a threatened and a frightened lot. Yet, when a brother judge, Kurian Joseph, a practicing Christian requested the Chief Justice not to hold the meeting on Good Friday, he told him rise above “individual interest” in the interest of the institution. Justice Joseph has expressed his deep sense of hurt by this arrogant self-righteous response of the Chief Justice. Justice Vikramjit Sen who also had requested Justice Dattu not to hold the official function on Good Friday, apparently received similar response. Justice Sen it seems has preferred not to share his reaction to the advice to rise above individual interest in public. As pointed out by Justices Joseph and Sen, Justice Dattu had not thought of holding this meeting on Friday March 6, which was Holi. March 6, 7 and 8 were holidays for the Supreme Court. He had also not thought of holding this meeting on Saturday, March 28 (Ram Navami) which offered two consecutive holidays. However, it is a moot point to ponder that it was only Christian judges who protested, while non-Christians remained silent. Sad that non- Christian judges did not think it was important to protest against Justice Dattu’s decision. How fast the number of dissenters is shrinking.
Why Good Friday? Perhaps a new precedent is being created. Chief Justice H. L. Dattu’s decision to hold the Chief Justices Conference on Good Friday seems to be motivated by Narendra Modi government’s decision to declare Christmas as the Good Governance day. In its first official move to downgrade the “Holy” days of the Christians, Modi government declared that henceforth December 25 would be observed as Good Governance Day, to commemorate the birth day of A. B. Vajpayee and Madan Mohan Malviya. As we may recollect the Department of Electronics and Information Technology had sent a notice to all government servants to attend a day- long programme, which was to be chaired by the Communications and I T Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad. The HRD Ministry had asked the schools to organize various events like debates and essay competitions to observe Good Governance Day.
May be Justice Dattu is encouraged by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whom he so admires. Following in the footsteps of Mr Modi, who decided that his government would hold official programmes on Christmas, the Chief Justice also decided to hold official of the Supreme Court on Good Fri Day. And as we know, it is not the blessings of Jesus Christ, but the blessings of “Lord Balaji of Tirupati” which has put Justice Dattu in the chair of the Chief Justice.
It is a matter of serious concern that voices of dissent, against such actions of the high and the mighty are becoming feebler. In January 2015, when Justice Dattu had praised Mr. Modi as, “as a good leader, good human being, a man with a foresight and one who wants good governance.” Only two voices of protest could be heard in the entire country. The bar Council had remained silent. I remember when Justice Bhagwati had written a letter of praise to Mrs. Gandhi in 1977, several judges, senior lawyers and the Bar Council had voiced concern and criticised him.
The success of a democracy depends on its ability to protect its minorities. We are living in days when leaders of the Hindu community, closely aligned with the government have started propagating that Hindus are facing the danger of becoming a minority. As we know the Hindus who constitute more than 80% of this country’s population. It is impossible for the Muslims who constitute 12% and the Christians who constitute about 1.5% of the country’s population to produce such huge number of children that would reduce the Hindus into a minority. Ridiculous. Yes. But scary all the same as history tells us that when the majority takes on the minority complex, it goes Fascist.