After a letter by Delhi’s Archbishop Anil Couto calling Christians to pray and fast before the 2019 general elections, retired Mumbai Police commissioner Julio Ribiero, in his article for The Times of India, said, “A Hindu Rashtra would make my country nothing less than a saffron Pakistan.”
Couto was heavily criticised by the Bharatiya Janata Party for trying to polarise people around religion, after he wrote a letter to all parish priests and religious institutions in the Delhi archdiocese on 8 May.
Ribiero had earlier faced backlashed for his column in The Indian Express in 2017, in which he wrote about his fears of living as a Christian in India. A year later, in a piece for TOI, Ribeiro, while defending the Archbishop, wrote about the shrinking space for dissent in the country, especially for minority communities.
The former police commissioner wrote that there were far too many Christians who had second thoughts about a BJP government, even before the 8 May circular was sent.
In his letter, the Archbishop had raised concerns over the current “turbulent political atmosphere” which has threatened the democratic institutions and social fabric of the country. However, Ribeiro said, “He is not the only Indian to have raised such concerns. I know countless Hindus, good, solid citizens of our country, who have condemned the covert and overt attempts to demolish institutions, attacks that portend the end of our secular fabric.”
Responding to Union Minister KJ Alphons’ statement urging ‘godmen’ to stay away from political comments, Ribiero pointed out that the BJP has appointed a ‘godman’ as the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh.
Ribeiro wrote that the BJP government, led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, was different from the one that is ruling now. The current Modi government raises doubts and questions the patriotism of the minorities.
Ribeiro noted that although he has lived and worked predominantly with Hindus, he is still trying to figure out what “Hindu Rashtra” really means.
He reiterated that, in a Hindu Rashtra, he being a minority, should be prepared for a second class citizenship without top jobs, but he is not willing to accept being “falsely accused of being anti-national and pilloried on that count.”
Former Finance Minister P Chidambaram tweeted, in response, saying that, “If Julio Ribeiro has to say, “I need to be prepared for second class citizenship”, then we should all hang our heads in shame.”