Church officials in Mumbai are hotly disputing a new directive that Christian schools should follow Hindu traditions and culture more closely.
The Brihanmumbai (Greater Mumbai) Municipal Corporation passed a resolution on May 18, calling on Christian schools to give holidays for Hindu religious festivals and to allow girls to wear bangles and the traditional bindi on their foreheads. The resolution also states that school board seats should be automatically offered to elected councilors.
The corporation is dominated by two pro-Hindu groups, Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party. The chair of its Education Committee, Rukmini Kharatmol, insists that Catholic schools who seek government funding should follow Hindu traditions, as most students in them are Hindus.
Father Gregory Lobo, secretary of the Bombay Archdiocesan Board of Education, which coordinates 150 Catholic schools around the city, says most of their schools do give days off for important Hindu festivals and allow girls to wear the bindi and bangles. But he went on to add that “the corporation has no jurisdiction over our schools and only the state education department can issue instructions.”
Joseph Dias, general secretary of the Catholic Secular Forum, went further by saying his group “will not tolerate interference” and may seek legal counsel.
Dolphy D’Souza, president of the Bombay Catholic Sabha, dismissed the directions as a political gimmick and warned that Catholics could take to the streets if the corporation fails to withdraw them.