By Felix Anthony
Guwahati, March 28, 2019: The Catholic bishops of northeastern India have issued a seven-point guideline to help people choose right leaders.
A pastoral letter addressed to Catholics of the region and issued by Archbishop Dominic Jala, president of the North East India Regional Bishop’s Council, called upon voters to exercise their franchise.
“Voting at every election is a sacred duty and obligation of every citizen,” says the letter that urges everyone to rise above many dividing walls in society such as religion, culture and caste.
Archbishop Jala clarifies that the Catholic Church does not identify with any political party but highlights some growing concerns in the country such as the huge gap between the rich and the poor, meager wage to the unorganized labor section, farmer distress, and corruption at all levels.
In this context, the bishops issued guidelines to elect a government that will:
• work for an economy that seeks to help the poor and under privileged, protecting their dignity, working for their uplift and enabling them to play a role in nation building
• promote probity in public life and thus seek to root out corruption at all levels
• ensure a safe environment for all people, particularly women and children
• safeguard the rights of tribals over land, water and forests
• take particular care of Dalits and ensure that they are not discriminated against, granting equal rights all Dalits
• promote communal harmony and a spirit of national integrity through inter-religious dialogue and understanding; and
• take steps to protect the environment, preserving the riches of nature for the future generations.
The letter ends with a prayer for the leaders from the region to work together to bring the concerns of the region to the national arena for the over-all development of the country.
The 2019 general elections will be held in seven phases from April 11 to May 19. Northeastern states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, and Tripura go to polls on different dates.
Manipur and Tripura will see two phases while Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Sikkim one phase.
Assam will see three phases with the third on April 23.
Moreover, the election poll panel has also declared assembly elections in Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim along with the Lok Sabha elections.