10 Sep 2017 05:56am IST
By Soter D’Souza
The timing of the malicious attack and a veiled threat by fascist forces to the Catholic Church after the election results were declared, by taking the excuse of an article and report published during elections by Bodies affiliated to the Catholic Church and accusing it of being polarising, should not be dismissed as one of those political gimmicks but needs to be seen as part of the larger communal design in the run up to the Lok Sabha polls in 2019. What Goa is witnessing is not merely an attack on the Catholic Church but contempt for the constitutional rights and duties of Goa’s civil society by politicians in government. The tactic of the communal forces of ‘removing a thorn with a thorn’, by pitching Catholic v/s Catholic or Muslim V/S Muslim, is so obvious considering the fact that the accusation against the Church is extraneous as the references in the article were of general nature affecting law abiding citizens across all faiths and social classes with no adverse effect on the already concluded elections. When it is the accepted norm that in any such publication it is the editorial which defines the policy of the publisher and not the independent articles, the attempt to employ Catholic politicians to play up the issue belatedly by implying false motives to the Church actually manifests a script to polarise society. The usual approach adopted by governments to diffuse possible tension in society on controversial issues is to play down the issues and not give them publicity. But what Goa has seen is the manifestation of a typical fascist trait of ‘identification of enemies as a unifying cause’, fanning of hatred by proxy and terrorising the civil society into ‘Maun kibaat’ - an indirect ‘Shut Up’. The fascists need to project an enemy in order to survive in Goan politics.
Portraying the victim as the villain and projecting the motives of the assailant as that of the victim is a tool long employed by communal forces with impunity in independent India and sufficiently manifests even to this day whether in gauraksha, rape or even in the recent Ghorakpur massacre of children. The mischievous ploy of projecting a political party as synonymous with a religious community and criticism of the government formed by such party as offensive to particular religious sentiments exposes yet another trait of fascism wherein ‘religion and government are being intertwined’. And so it should not surprise Goans that a bunch of Catholic politicians and political pimps are noisily touting a claim that ‘religious institutions should not interfere in politics’ but cunningly stop short of condemning the use of Catholic priests to secure votes, imposing of a Head Priest as the Chief Minister of the State and Sadhvis as ministers, importing of priests into Goa from Delhi during elections to scout for minority candidates for party tickets of an alleged fascist outfit or, politicians taking priests to the political party headquarters to lobby for a party ticket. What we actually see happening in Goa is more like a trailer of how a bunch of opportunistic catholic politicians capitulated to Nazism in Germany. The Catholic politicians need to get their facts correct and remember that Germany was 67% Protestant and 33% Catholic when Nazis took over and attempted to impose State control over the Church, but failed.
The Catholic Church in Goa is not an isolated voice in decrying the rise of fascism in the country or State. Besides the media and eminent jurists from different faiths, recently even the Election Commissioner, OP Rawat cautioned against the new normal emerging in politics whereby ‘winning at any cost’ gets viewed as a sign of “resourcefulness” and “smart political management”. He criticised the “strategic introduction of money for allurement and tough-minded use of state machinery for intimidation” and the emerging idea that “the winner can commit no sin; a defector crossing over to the ruling camp stands cleansed of all the guilt as also possible criminality.”
In the recent violence by followers of a religious cult in Haryana even the Courts were furious and compelled to point out that “National integrity is above parties” and "He is the Prime Minister of not the BJP but of India"; and ask questions like “Why do you (the Centre) treat the region as colonies?”and “Are we one nation or a party nation?” But the fascists are shameless and seem to care less and go about their job of terrorising the opposition and silencing the various institutions in this country. This fascist culture becomes evident when a politician even threatens to meet the Archbishop and ask him to censor all opinions published by the Church. There are 14 characteristics of fascism which are nakedly on display in governance, from hyper nationalism and disdain for human rights to the disdain for intellectuals and the arts along with rampant cronyism and corruption. And whether the fascists like it or not, even Gandhiji said that “politics divorced from religion has absolutely no meaning.” By ‘religion’ Gandhiji meant spirituality, and this is exactly the mind of the Catholic Church which holds that the Catholic faith is not merely about devotion but also about the duty to promote social justice in society.
If at all the Church is guilty of omission and commission in this regard, it is the failure to sufficiently instruct its faithful, including the Catholics in politics, on the Catechism of the Catholic Church (Part 3, Chapter 2, Article 1-3) and other social teachings of the Church. It is not sufficient for a Catholic politician to thump his chest and boast of his Catholic identity on TV when the 4 guiding principles of the social apostolate do not reflect in his political actions. This is also a wakeup call for the Catholic community to be less reactionary and abusive against these black sheep but instead to become proactive by taking on their individual social responsibility and desist from shooting over the shoulders of their Church leaders. Coincidentally, the Pastoral Year 2017-18 in the Archdiocese of Goa is dedicated to Social Justice. Politics in Catholicism is a domain entrusted to the lay persons and for priests to behave as ‘dalals’ of politicians is an aberration. So, instead of Catholic politicians beating around the bush and resorting to a futile exercise of harping on the timing of the Church article and report and alleging motives, it would be morally appropriate for them to rebut or endorse the contents therein in the spirit of Article 51A(h) of the Constitution of India.