NCCI: A Christian as President for Democratic-Secular India?

May 5, 2012 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

India, May 04, 2012: Please find the NCCI statement on a Christian as President and you will be happy to note that over 700 have signed The CSF Online Petition for the same. Those of you who have not signed, do click on the link and join the campaign:

Your brother in Christ – Joseph Dias

National Council of Churches in India Release: The Republic of India is about to elect its next President.  It is an appropriate moment for our political parties and elected representatives to ask and answer the question: What should be the background of the next President of India?  To arrive at a just and balanced answer the composition of Indian society and the practice of identifying and electing the past presidents can guide us.

India’s diversity viewed in terms of racial, regional, cultural (religious and linguistic) and social (caste) bases is mind boggling.  This stupendous heterogeneity is not at ease with the practice of representative democracy through the usual electoral process which invariably goes to the advantage of the majority community.  That is why the founding fathers of Indian Republic conceived a constitution which is not only democratic but also secular which has three fundamental features.  First, India has no state religion although an overwhelming majority of Indian citizens profess Hinduism as their religious faith.  Second, that all religions are equal before law and the state shall keep equal distance from all religious communities.  Third, all citizens are free to believe, practice and propagate their respective religions.  But secularism without equity in political representation and equality of socio-economic opportunities is a shell without substance.  Indeed diversity and inequality make a deadly combination.  That is why we need to transcend the limitations of representative democracy.
Fortunately the Indian praxis has by and large rectified the deficits of representative democracy practiced in India’s heterogeneous society in choosing its First Citizen, the President of India.  Most of our Presidents were Hindus, as it ought to be, given India’s religious composition.  The most populous religious minority, namely the Muslims, had three presidents.

The third numerous religious minority, namely the Sikhs, too had a president.  But alas, the second numerous religious minority, the Christians, has had no President in the last six decades of Indian democracy!  We believe that if the practice of mere representative democracy were allowed full play, India would not have ever got a Non-Hindu President which goes to suggest the internalization of secular values by the political class of India.  It is the practice of inclusive democracy which deepens the participatory process in democratic politics which made this possible.  But the incorporation of the Christian community into this process has been ignored so far, perhaps unintentionally.  Therefore we want to appeal to all the political parties to rectify this deficit by electing a Christian as India’s next President.  We want to underline here that the quality of India’s governance process and our country’s global standing among the comity of nations will increase manifold through this noble gesture.  It is also pertinent to recall here that the Indian Christian Community is spatially dispersed, culturally diverse and socially differentiated, indeed a microcosm of the macrocosm that is India.

We want to remind all our fellow citizens and political decision makers a historical fact and a contemporary reality.  The representatives of Christian community made signal contributions in the Constituent Assembly debates, which prescribed the norms and envisioned the value-orientations of our democratic-secular polity.  Christians did not demand any `communal’ representation, indeed they opted out of it, firmly reposing faith in the abundant goodness of their fellow citizens drawn mainly from other religious communities.  But this tacit understanding is not yet fulfilled and the Christian community of India is on the verge of a deep collective alienation, which remains unarticulated.  This emerging negative trend needs to be nipped in the bud itself.

The contemporary reality that we are referring to is the stupendous contributions that the Christian community made to the process of nation-building in multifarious fields, particularly in the social sectors such as education and health and in creating a vibrant civil society, the third pillar in any modern society, the other two being the state and market institutions.  True, the contributions of the Christian community are tacitly acknowledged but rarely rewarded viewed in terms of its representation in constitutional offices.  It is high time that our beloved country formally acknowledges both the historical and contemporary contributions of the Christian community by electing a President who belongs to that community.

Finally, in staking a legitimate claim of the Christian community for the position of the next President of India we do not want to compromise on quality.  We insist that the person identified and elected as the President ought to be of impeccable integrity, of high achievements in the field of his/her chosen vocation, with unimpeachable commitment to values such as democracy, secularism and pluralism, and whose qualities of head and heart are in tune with the majesty of Indian Constitution and the grandeur of the office of the President which the person is called upon to occupy.

This brief statement, we hope, will convince all those who are involved in the process of identifying and electing the next President of India that its intent is not demanding communal representation but deepening secularism.

– national council of churches in india (ncci)

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