The Christian community in the two Union territories of Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu are unhappy after the district administration decided to scrap the public holiday of Good Friday, for the first time ever.
The district administration moved the national Holiday from Schedule 1 of Public Holidays (Gazetted) to the schedule 2 restricted holiday category. This was reflected in an official notification on national holidays of 2019 that Dadra and Nagar Haveli (DNH) Collector issued on November 20.
The major Christian religious occasion has always been observed as a public holiday since the territory's accession to the Indian Union decades ago, as a large number of Catholics have been living there since the time of the Portuguese regime.
DNH priest Father Tony Lopes said there were seven churches in DNH and four in Daman and Diu, and that the congregation is unhappy about the government decision. "This has happened for the first time in the history," he said.
"The approximate population of Christians in DNH and Daman and Diu is over one lakh. With such a decision, the people are angry and unhappy with the local administrations," he added.
Priests and other community leaders have made a representation to the District Collector to reconsider the decision and declare April 19, a holiday.
"We have requested the District Collector to review the list and make changes and put Good Friday back in the list of public holidays in DNH," Christian community leader Malcolm Ferreira said.
However, DNH Collector Kannan Gopinathan feigned ignorance about the notification. "I am not aware about such thing, I will check it and get back to you," he said. "The general administration department of DNH might have done it."
On public holidays, all commercial banks, educational institutions, local bodies and government and quasi-government offices remain closed. In the case of restricted holidays, the establishments remain but employees are entitled to avail it, subject to a limit of two days in a year.
The administrator of Daman and Diu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli Praful Patel also said he was unaware of the government notification. "I am at my native place and I am not aware about the Public holiday of Good Friday being cancelled in DNH," he said.
President of Indian Christian Voice Dr Abraham Mathai, in a press release, condemned the scrapping of the public holiday as "unacceptable and unjustifiable". Good Friday is known universally in secular societies as a sacred Christian Holiday, he said. "The Government of India has also gazetted it as a national holiday. Hence scrapping it highly offends the sentiments of the Christian community in the country," the statement said. " We appeal to the Government to undo this injustice and take appropriate steps to reverse the unjustifiable decision."
The Christian community's memorandum to the DNH Collector has been sent to the President of India and the Union Home minister.
On Good Friday, apart from regular prayers in churches, several programmes and a religious ceremony is held in Silvassa in the evening.
Apart from all other states in india, DNH's neighbours such as Gujarat and Maharashtra also have declared Good Friday falling on April 19 this year as a public holiday.