MUMBAI, India – A Catholic bishop in India has denied he was trying to “polarize” people after the Election Commission of India asked him to explain his letter calling for prayers for the victory of ‘humane leaders faithful to the Constitution’ during elections in the state of Gujarat.
Archbishop Thomas Macwan of Gandhinagar wrote the letter ahead of elections scheduled over two rounds on December 9 and 14.
“The results of this election are significant, and they will have repercussions and reverberations throughout our beloved nation. It will influence the future course of our country,” Macwan said in the November 21 letter.
Gujarat is a state in western India, with a population of over 60 million people. India’s current prime minister, Narendra Modi, served as chief minister of the state from 2001-2014, and it is considered a stronghold of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has strong links to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a militant Hindu nationalist organization.
On Sunday, while campaigning in the state, Modi also attacked the contents of Macwan’s letter.
“Those who are releasing Fatwas against ‘nationalists’ should see the effort we undertook to get Father Tom back. Father Tom was guided by his love for Lord Christ. We got Father Tom back. We also got back Father Prem, who was kidnapped in Afghanistan,” the prime minister said.
He was referring to the release earlier this year of Father Tom Uzhunnalil, who was kidnapped by Islamists in Yemen on March 6, 2016, and Jesuit Father Alexis Prem Kumar, who was kidnapped by the Taliban in June 2014, and released the following year.
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